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TODAY

Thursday, October 17

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The Best Ever?

So, this college kid wrote an essay for an English class attempting to prove that the 1985 Chicago Bears were the best football team ever, with the next closest team being the 1972 Miami Dolphins. He put most of it online. More than a year later, the editor of a newspaper in Alaska reads it and writes a column defending his favorite team, the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers, as best ever. Boy, team allegiances run deep.

We thank you!

Just a quick note of thanks to everyone who's been reading, supporting and spreading the word about Gapers' Block. A big thank you from us! There are a few things we're planning in 2004, including another big party in February sometime. Details to be posted. A few changes to the site will be underway next month. Until then, be safe and enjoy tonight. Ride the el for a penny and be prepared for the fare increase tomorrow. And look out for the special Detour feature this Friday!

Winnetka to Restore Mural

The Chicago Tribune reports that Winnetka school officials are trying to raise funds to restore a mural painted in 1934 by artist Raymond Breinin. The 400-square-foot mural is located in Skokie School. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Bigger Share of a Smaller Pie

Channel 2, long the last-place finisher in the 10 o'clock news race, was the only station to gain audience in 2003. The Chicago Media Examiner takes a look at the numbers behind that gain and finds some interesting trends. In other news, the Chicago Red Face, a parody of the other Reds pubished by the brains behind CME, is going on hiatus after this week.

Chicago's finest, but not the fittest

The Chicago police department offered a $250 bonus to its 13,500 officers if they passed a physical fitness test. Only about 2,750 officers took the challenge.

Yojimbo's - a legend

Yojimbo's Garage, a legend within Chicago's bicycling community is facing some trouble. Competition is tough for Marcus Moore, owner, mechanic, ex-messenger with a Buddha-like exterior and calm man of the two wheel technique. His super dense shop located at 1310 N. Clybourn close to Cabrini Green is facing possible closure if sales aren't up. He's been the perfect example of how an independent venture should operate, but that may not be for long. This BikeForums thread posts all the details. A photo of Yojimbo's can be seen here (he has no site).

Yojimbo's details: 1310 N. Clybourn (& Division almost)
ph: 312 587 0878
fx: 312 587 0177
mon-fri: 8-6
sat-sun: 12-4
& by appointment

Knock when you get there, the door is locked otherwise, partly because of the high end stuff, partly because of the slightly sketchy surroundings. It also feels all cloak and dagger and once inside, you'll understand why.

Gigglesnort Hotel

Chicagoans who watched Saturday morning cartoons in the mid-Seventies may recall Gigglesnort Hotel, a puppet show featuring dragons, gorillas, a blob and the Lemon Joke Kid. Bill Jackson, the creator of the show, runs DirtyDragon.com, where copies of the episodes are available (on VHS only, unfortunately.) Local blogger Michael of RealLans.com was a puppeteer on the show for two seasons, as well as for many other projects, and has memories and photos on his site.

Pix of the South Side

Chicago Snapshot is a new photoblog that explores the less-documented areas of our fair city: the South Side and other points along the South Shore Line.

Intellectual Freedom Wars

After a flap over the unauthorized removal of copies of the Chicago Reader from the Cook Memorial Public Library District in September because of an alleged "obscene word," library board members believe residents of suburban Libertyville need a lesson in intellectual freedom. One board member, however, believes a suggested presentation by the American Library Association "would be a one-sided, liberal indoctrination" and is threatening to ask "a crowd of conservative-minded people to attend the meeting and express their views." Read the full story in the Daily Herald.

Iroquois Theatre fire anniversary

Today the city dedicates a new plaque commemorating the Iroquois Theatre fire, which happened 100 years ago today. One of the worst disasters in city history, the fire claimed the lives of 600 men, women and children -- twice the number that died in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The plaque will be located in the Loop's Oriental Theatre, a block from the Cook County Administration Building where six people died in a fire last October. [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

Jauron Gone

The Bears fired head coach Dick Jauron, leaving next year's team even more up in the air than it already was. Chicagosports.com has Jauron's official statement.

Recyclers

The mission is simple: provide good, working bikes to folks who can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars on new wheels. The Working Bikes Cooperative rescues old bikes, repairs them to great condition, then sells them to Chicagoans for cheap -- anywhere from $35-$65. They also ship bikes, tools, and parts to Ghana, Nicaragua and Cuba. The Tribune ran a profile of the group over the weekend, and they've been flooded with donation offers ever since. [Trib. log-in: gapers/gapers]

2003 Hall of 15-minute famers

The Sun-Times has an article listing 2003's people with their 15-minutes of fame this year. The usual suspects are on board.

Regarding Seas and Skies

To complement the excellent Manet exhibition, Regarding Seas and Skies at the Art Institute is an exhibit of "photographic seascapes by Gustave LeGray, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and DoDo Jin Ming." The show is on view until February 15, 2004 in galleries 2-4. Go on Tuesday when the museum is free.

Great Lakes Shipwrecks

Divers flock to the Great Lakes to explore shipwrecks, calling the Great Lakes one of the best places in the world to see them because the freshwater preserves wrecks better than saltwater. According to the story, "the Great Lakes hold an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 sunken ships. About 1,000 Great Lakes shipwrecks have been identified, and about 10 new ships are discovered annually."

Shedd's Seahorse Symphony stops Sunday

Shedd Aquarium is finally closing up its hugely popular Seahorse Symphony exhibit after 5 1/2 years. Originally designed to be an 18-month show, the seahorse display was one of the most popular exhibits at the aquarium, helping to bring in 10 million visitors over the years. If you haven't seen the exhibit yet, you have until Sunday, January 4th to check it out.

New traffic laws for 2004

The Sun-Times reports on a number of new traffic laws set to go into effect on January 1. These new laws will discourage people from staying in the lefthand passing lane too long, limit the number of passengers teenage drivers can have, and require children ages 4 to 7 to be in booster seats.

Beware the shrinkage

No nudity, no wetsuits, no whining. It's the fifth annual New Year's Day Polar Bear Swim. Come to North Avenue Beach at noon and put all that holiday flab to good use: insulation.

...and was he looking sharp!

Chicago author and Neo-Futurist theater member David Kodeski was featured on today's broadcast of NPR's "All Things Considered," with a condensed version of his 1999 play "Another Lousy Day." This documentary was produced by the Chicago-based group Long Haul Productions, a spiffy bunch of producers and editors that has made stories for NPR and other broadcast outlets for over 10 years.

Chi-town Ad for NYC Java

Chock Full O'Nuts coffee is a quintessential New York brand -- it even says so on their website. But guess what? Their new ad campaign was created right here in the Second City!

Bag it!

While I wish I could take credit for it, but Jen Gordon of Sojourn Bags beat me to it. She has created several bags (from handbag to mesesenger bag) named after Chicago neighborhoods. This Lakeview resident is donating 10% of all proceeds of the "Chicago's Finest" bag, which looks like a Chicago flag, to the Gold Badge Society which supports families of Chicago firefighters and paramedics who have died.

Crossroads of Empires

Looking for an escape from Chicago next spring? If you have an extra $9,000 lying around, why not sign up for Crossroads of Empires: From Cairo to Crete. Visit the Mediterranean and Near East, starting with the Pyramids and Sphinx of Egypt's Giza plateau and continuing with archeological sites in Cyprus, Turkey and Crete. The tour is being led by Emily Teeter, curator of Egyptian and Nubian Antiquities at the Oriental Institute. The trip takes place April 2-16, 2004, and you may register through either the Oriental Institute or the Field Museum.

State Profile: Illinois

BBC News Online profiles the state of Illinois. Once the leader in the meatpacking industry, now we boast the largest service and white-collar sector in the interior of the US. We are home to the world's second biggest airport and a university that employs more Nobel laureates than any other in the world. Interestingly, "in 2000 Illinois voted for the losing presidential candidate for only the second time in 80 years. Still, the record isn't bad: in the last 46 presidential elections, Illinois has picked the winner 39 times." Maybe next year we'll get back on track!

Chicago Christmas

WBBM reporter Jim Benes has written a book, Chicago Christmas: 100 Years of Christmas Memories. The AM station runs excerpts from the book during the holiday season; today's edition is a story from 1933.

Courts Ruling Protects Rights

Jose Padilla has been detained by the military for the past 18 months without charge, access to counsel, or any judicial forum in which to challenge the allegations against him. He had just gotten off a civilian airliner in Chicago, was wearing civilian clothing, and was unarmed. Yet he was labeled an "enemy combatant," which means you may be held without any legal process whatsoever until the administration sees fit. The court last Thursday ruled 2-1 that the government did not have the right to treat him as an enemy combatant and ordered him transferred to civilian custody within 30 days or released.

Apple in Chicago

According to the Sun Times [scroll down a bit for the relevant item], the most trafficked Apple Store in the world is on Michigan Ave.

Football v. Bowling on Boxing Day

Have you got Friday off and the willingness to travel to Detroit to support local college ball? The Northwestern Wildcats are in their fourth Bowl appearance in nine years, and are still looking for postseason win #1 (not counting that fluke in '49). With a 6-6 record and a seventh place finish in the Big Ten, the 'Cats earned the privilege of playing Bowling Green in the Motor City Bowl. B.G., by the way, was 10-3 this season and ranked 24th on the BCS chart. Tickets are still available.

Bearly Alive

The Bears managed to win yesterday against the Redskins despite (or because of) a couple of questionable calls. They're now one game away from .500 heading into their last game of the season (figures they'd get good after missing the playoffs). Still, that doesn't mean Jauron will keep his job.

Storefront theaters endangered?

In the wake of the deadly E2 nightclub trampling, Chicago's Department of Revenue has been cracking down on that most Chicago-y of entertainment venues, the storefront theater. Since Nov. 21, the city has issued cease-and-desist orders to five theaters with insufficient or outdated permits -- TimeLine Theater, Playground Improv Theater, Artistic Home, Profiles, and WNEP. Tribune theater critic Michael Phillips worries about the chilling effect on the city's independent theater scene. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Sweeeet!

The prairie garden on top of City Hall has about 200,00 Italian honey bees in it, and the city has apparently harvested about 120 pounds of honey from these bees. If you'd like to try some of the honey, stop by the Gallery 37 store at 37 E. Randolph; they're auctioning off some of the honey to benefit their programs for young artists.

Last Steve Bartman story ever?

The baseball that Steve Bartman didn't catch sold for $106,600 today to Harry Caray's restaurant. The restaurant owner said he plans to destroy the baseball in February.

Bar Specials

So you like a deal on your drinks. And you want to know where the specials are at on a particular night at bars in Chicago. Well, the good ol' interweb is good for these things. Ask, and people will build: ChicagoSpecials.com helps you to drink more for less.

Chicago Leads New Excavations in Egypt

A team of archaeologists from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute recently discovered three new buildings in Abydos, "a rich and important archaeological site near Egypt’s last royal pyramid." Now a team being led by Egyptologist Stephen Harvey is returning to the area to begin excavation. Read more about the project in the U. of C. Chronicle.

Free Gift Wrapping at Chicago Airports

City Aviation Department spokeswoman Monique Bond said complimentary gift-wrapping will be available at O'Hare International Airport and Midway Airport on Friday, Monday and Tuesday -- the three busiest travel days leading up to Christmas. Bond said travelers will be able to have items wrapped once they cross the security checkpoints. Bond also says that travelers should not bring wrapped items to the airport because they may be opened for inspection.

Top Schools Ranking

The Sun-Times' annual rankings of schools were released today, with two public, non-selective elementary schools making the top 50. No non-selective high schools made the list. Of the selective high schools that made the top 50 only one, Whitney Young, is not located in the Loop or North Side.

Big Mayor of Little Italy

Oscar D'Angelo, the so-called "Mayor of Little Italy," is being blamed for using his clout with Ald. Danny Solis (25th) to stall legislation aimed at finalizing plans for an enormous mixed-income/public housing CHA development in the Little Italy neighborhood on the Near West Side. D'Angelo, who was disbarred as the result of the massive Operation Greylord investigations, apparently feels the project, which would be under the general direction of the CHA, LR Development, and Ald. Madeline Haithcock (2nd) would erode his power base.

O'Hare security: fast!

More good news for O'Hare! After recently getting good grades on the food it serves, it's now been recognized as having some of the shortest wait times among the nation's airports. Washington Dulles International and Dallas-Fort Worth International are also among the quickest, with a security screening wait time of less than two minutes; Los Angeles and Miami were among the worst, with wait times of about seven minutes.

More fees for all!

In their recent zeal to ticket Chicago cars without their precious precious city stickers, investigators for the city clerk's office have turned up another lucrative source of revenue for the city: a large number of motorists driving with expired plates. Does this mean more fines? You bet! "I can honestly say that there's millions of dollars in those parking garages in expired plate fees," City Clerk James Laski said on a WBBM radio program (hopefully he was not rubbing his hands in glee when he said this).

Secret Santa

Want to give something back to the community this holiday season? Consider donating to Santa for the Very Poor. This year the organization will deliver groceries, toys and knit goods to more than 800 families. Tomorrow is the last day to donate to Catholic Charities Toy Shower, and Toys For Tots especially needs presents for children ages 0-2 and 6-13.

Green City Holiday Market

The Green City Market is having a Holiday Market this Saturday at the Lincoln Park Zoo, 8am to 1pm. Entrance to the zoo is free, and the market will be held in the Lion House. There will be cooking demonstrations, children's activities, and of course, all the usual organic and sustainable merchants to shop from: fruits & vegetables, hormone-free meats (pork and beef), organic meats (lamb, turkey, chicken, and duck), breads, artisanal cheeses, mushrooms, caviar, cider, vinegars, mustards, maple syrup, honey, coffee, and more.

Chicago Tribune Photog Wages War

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is just one of many battlegrounds that have emerged between the Bush administration and environmentalists. Interior Secretary Gale Norton has referred to the potentially oil-rich land as "flat, white nothingness," but Chicago Tribune photographer Pete Souza found otherwise. During the past year, Souza documented eight such environmental hot spots, traveling from Alaska to Appalachia and various points in between. The results of his yearlong odyssey will appear in the Friday, December 19 edition of the Chicago Tribune, in a 12-page, full-color Special Photo Report, and online at chicagotribune.com.

Chicago Targets Camera Phones

As early as this week, the Chicago City Council is to vote on a proposal by Alderman Edward M. Burke to ban the use of camera phones in public bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. Burke wants to ban the use of camera phones in places where "the average Chicagoan would expect a reasonable right to privacy.'' The Chicago proposal, setting a fine of $5 to $500 for offenders, echoes restrictions adopted in several smaller jurisdictions.

Today's feel-good story

Tuesday morning, employees at Aberdeen's Wedding Flowers on the Northwest Side opened up their offices to find that they had been robbed of $3,000... and a stack of toys that was to have been delivered to children at a number of local area hospitals. After the story got reported in the local media, the offices were flooded with offers of replacement money and toys. Not too surprising, considering 'tis the season to be generous, but it's still nice to know that kids in hospitals will have a happier holiday season this year.

Ted Allen interview

eGullet has a two-part interview with Ted Allen, the food and wine expert from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Allen is from Chicago, used to be a restaurant critic for Chicago magazine, and talks a lot about splitting his time between Chi-town and NYC.

George Ryan Indicted!

Former governor George Ryan has finally been indicted in the "licenses for bribes" scandal that plagued his administration. Twenty-two counts of racketeering, mail and tax fraud, and giving false statements were levied against the ex-guv., the culmination of several years of investigations. More in the Trib and Sun-Times; read the official DoJ press release (PDF). [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Emptying the Bottle of Nazis

The Empty Bottle cancelled at the last minute a show by three pro-Nazi/racist bands, after receiving hundreds of angry phone calls and emails. The concert was moved to Déjà Vù, which also ended up cancelling after a similar outcry. But Jim DiRogatis raises some important questions: "Is a band guilty of espousing fascist opinions just because it uses fascist imagery? And, more pressingly, is censorship ever a valid response in protesting objectionable ideas?"

R, Not Just C, TA

The Regional Transit Authority has unveiled a lukewarm program to finally unify all regional transit -- the buses, the El, and the "commuter lines." State Representative Julie Hamos of Evanston doesn't think the convoluted program does nearly enough, and she seems to be right. ERSys provides a simple sort-of-audit of the CTA's service here.

Christmas tunes

One more jazzy rendition of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" just might send you into a frothing-at-the-mouth tizzy fit. But, if you'd like to listen to really good holiday music and support WLUW, then you should be at Schuba's tonight to sing along with Elizabeth Conant (don't worry, lyrics will be distributed) between sets from some great musical guests. The M's, John Upchurch and Mark Greenberg (two ex-members of the Coctails) with two VERY special guests, Steve & Liam of Frisbie, Grand Lunar (a new project from Charles Kim of Sinister Luck Ensemble), and the Detholz will sing three or four of their favorite carols. $10 will get you in the door; the bands begin the tra-la-la at 8:30.

Cook County Hospital Delays Vote

The former Cook County Hospital building will survive for another month, as the vote to determine whether to save or demolish the structure is deferred. The commisioners voted 10-7 to defer a demolition vote so developers have a chance to show what could be done with the building. Developers would like a chance to rehab the 89-year-old building, and preservationists made an impassioned plea to keep a building they call architecturally and historically unique to Chicago. Maintaining the structure is getting tough, so the developers must come up with some solid plans before a vote next month.

Win Richard Roeper's money

Looking for another movie to see, now that you've already seen Return of the King at the midnight showing? Try Jim Sheridan's In America, which has been getting fairly good reviews across the country (and is currently playing at Chicago's Pipers Alley, among other places). The Sun-Times' Richard Roeper likes it so much, in fact, that he's offering to refund your ticket price if you don't like the film. Act quickly: the offer is only for the first 100 people who respond.

LOTR Mania

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King debuts tonight at midnight. If you haven't gotten your tickets by now, you're probably out of luck, but here's a list of theaters showing the film. Metromix has a round-up of LOTR coverage, and serious fans may be interested in joining the Chicago Fellowship.

Lonely But Lovely

Paul Hornschemeier's comic goodness, Forlon Funnies, offers a beautiful view into a lonely world. The Chicago transplant finds the city the perfect working environment; the grey days offer plenty of introspection which is evident in the pages of his comics. He has received much praise for his work, including a nomination from the Harveys for best new talent and two nominations from the Eisners for best coloring and best new series. In addition to all the good vibes, Dark Horse Comics is releasing his graphic novel, Mother, Come Home on December 31st. The novel is based on a story from issues two through four of Forlon Funnies. You can orderMother, Come Home online or find it locally at Chicago Comics or Quimby's.

No Ikea in the City

Ikea, purveyors of semi-disposable Swedish furniture, has been trying to find a location within the city limits for a new store. But after an extensive search, the company has abandoned plans and will build a second suburban store instead. Why? The plot they had been looking at, on the near-South Side, would take until 2007 to develop, and Ikea wants the new shop open by 2005.

Corporate Groceries Fucked

Dominick's may be closing 25 of its 113 stores soon after parent company Safeway gave up trying to sell the chain last month. No word until January about which locations will be affected. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Mmm, Terminal 2...

The food at O'Hare International Airport has improved health-wise, according to a report from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. It's been moved up from dead last (in a list of the 15 busiest airports) to #3 in their list, according to the Sun-Times. The reason? Starbucks has been introducing healthier food in its coffee-terias at O'Hare, which apparently was enough to bump the airport up past such unhealthy flight destinations as Dallas-Fort Worth International, Minneapolis-St. Paul International, and even New York's Kennedy International Airport.

Roselle = Not Napa

I don't think anyone has every mistaken the DesPlaines River for the Rhone or the Rhine, but that doesn't mean there aren't a handful of vineyards in suburban Chicago. Lynfred Winery in Roselle has tastings every evening (tip: takes the edge off of that Woodfield experience); Valentino Vineyards in Long Grove also has tastings if you find yourself seeking vino in the wild edges of suburbia.

Dossier

There's a copy of Dossier on my coffee table at the moment. It's one of the new fashion and editorial hip magazines that keep getting published these days. It's based here though, and it isn't half-bad. The first issue is free at various places around the city, though if the $3.50 price tag by the barcode is any indication, it won't be soon.

'Chicago Christmas, 1984'

"John burned. They were going to see. They were going to see that the long years of wrongs done him had created a tremendous backlog of owed good luck, which was going to surge forward now, holy and personal." Gambling, losing and being a white roofer on the South Side: George Saunders remembers "Chicago Christmas, 1984." Related: Saunders discusses writing the story: "I think the main influence was the extreme Chicago version of satire. The way that all emotion was communicated through irony, punching in the ribs, insults to one’s mother, etc. And the way that all of this teasing masked deep, Eastern European levels of pathos, love for life, friend loyalty, etc."

Nonsmoking Restaurants

A good resource for people who like to taste their food: the Chicago Department of Health's Smoke-free Restaurant Recognition Program, an alphabetical directory.

Scuba Santa!

At Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park this weekend, about a dozen kids helped Santa decorate a Christmas tree ... underwater. The 10th annual decorating event is sponsored by a local scuba club, and is meant to encourage interest in scuba-diving (although the tree was eventually lifted out of the pool, so that non-swimmers could help decorate it).

Farnsworth House Saved!

Preservationists were successful in their bid to keep Mies van der Rohe's masterpiece building, the Farnsworth House, intact at its current location in suburban Plano. The groups, the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Friends of the Farnsworth House, plan to make the house a museum.

Chicago film awards back on track

The Trib reports that the Chicago Film Critics board is resuming its annual awards voting, after the awards were suspended to protest a recent decision by the MPAA to end the practice of sending out tapes and DVDs of Oscar-eligible films to critics. [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

A day in the laugh

The Times reviews the Second City's 24-hour improv and music marathon, a fund-raiser to buy Christmas gifts for needy children. Billy Corgan, Jeff Tweedy and Robbie Fulks were among the musicians who came to help the 11 all-night actors.

Pitchfork in Print

Our favorite local music reviewers, Pitchfork Media, have put together a book! Thesaurus Musicarium: The Pitchfork Year in Music 2003 is the first of what they promise to be a series of annual yearbooks, "featuring in-depth coverage of each year's greatest albums and singles, as well as the most noteworthy news stories, the site's best writing, and previously unpublished features written exclusively for the series by members of the Pitchfork review staff," with design work by Henry Owings. Preorder yours for only $8.95.

Go! Go! Go!

Maybe Risk and Othello struck your fancy as a child, but now you're too smart for them and find their strategy opportunities unchallenging. If so, you just might be a fan of Go. It's a game that involves two players, round chips and aboard that has a simple grid. The rest lives in your imagination. And, if a group in Skokie has their way, there just might be a place where you can pay to play. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Midwives being Forced out of Business

Despite the rising popularity of widwives, the the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System is closing the doors on its midwifery center after 18 years. Read more about widwifery and closings across the country at Women's Enews.

Neoconservatism's Chicago Roots

This week, Cecil Adams has the straight dope on former U of Chicago professor Leo Strauss. Strauss developed the "neoconservative" political philosophy, and many of his followers (Wolfowitz, etc.) are now running the show in Washington.

Yelodog

No idea why this excellent site featuring photgraphs of Chicago's great architecture is called YeloDog, but that's the quirky nature of the web for you. YeloDog also has an excellent page of black and white concert photography from the '70s to the present, with notable highlights including Frank Zappa, Sun Ra, Public Image Ltd., Gang of Four and more.

Historic Cook County, Etc.

The National Register of Historic Places has a listing of all the protected buildings, districts and other special places in Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry and Will counties. Plan your own tour!

Creepy Timing

An unnerving footnote to the Hammond, Indiana, teen murder case that's been in the news: the discovery of the murders occurs 25 years almost to the day after the discovery of serial killer John Wayne Gacy's eerily similar stash of victims' bodies in his suburban home's basement.

Elvis Spectacular!

To accompany this week's Detour, for that full interactive experience, pick up your tickets to the Elvis Birthday Spectacular!, just on sale at Ticketmaster. Or, visit Rock-a-Tiki and see the man himself up close.

Star Wars holiday cheer

What can you get a Wookie for Christmas, when he already owns a comb? Find out the answer to this and other disturbing questions this Sunday night at 6:00, when Delilah's screens the almost completely unbelievable Star Wars Holiday Special (review, screenshots). Probably the only holiday special ever to star Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Jefferson Starship, and Chewbacca.

The Gift of Music

For the first time, the Ravinia Festival has put their gift shop online - just in time for holiday giving. Proceeds help support the annual music festival and its community outreach and education programs. Buy posters, clothing, or get a Ravinia gift certificate for the discerning music-lover on your gift list - all at Ravinia Gifts.

Our New Poet Laureate

Kevin Stein, a professor at Bradley University in Peoria, becomes the new Illinois Poet Laureate today, succeeding Gwendolyn Brooks who died in 2000. Stein will serve a four-year term, and is required to perform four public readings each year. He most recently edited a book, "Illinois Voices," an anthology of 20th century poetry from the Lincoln state. (Those who wish to depose him in 2007, take note: the position is unpaid.)

Sitcom for Former Chicago Waitresses

Two former Chicago comics / waitresses, Dana Goodman and Julia Wolov, are in discussions with the WB to appear in a sitcom pilot set in Chicago, reportedly in the vein of "Laverne & Shirley" crossed with "Absolutely Fabulous". The ladies trained at ImprovOlympic and the Annoyance Theatre before shipping out to LA to work with Adam Sandler's production company, Happy Madison.

Bottomless Closet

If your New Year's resolutions include cleaning out your closet, consider donating your clothes and accessories to Bottomless Closet, which provides free interview suits and office attire for low-income women in Chicago. You can bring your "gently used" work clothes (on hangers) to 445 North Wells, Suite 301, the second Saturday of every month from 9 am to noon.

Hi Ricky Closes

Hi Ricky's three noodle shops are no more. With rising real estate prices in Wicker Park, Lakeview, and the West Loop, the owners decided to cash out and roll around in their piles of money, leaving Chicagoans with slightly fewer pan-Asian cuisine options.

That Big Pink Building

You know that big pink building up at Bryn Mawr and Sheridan? It's called the Edgewater Beach Apartments. It looks like it's been there forever (and it has, sort of -- built in 1926) but it's actually a replica of one of two buildings that made up the 1,000 room Edgewater Beach Hotel. The hotel was extremely popular in the '20s, '30s and '40s, but began to fail after the construction of Lake Shore Drive. The original building was closed in 1967. Read the recollections of people connected to the Edgewater back in its hey-day.

Onward, Neo-Futurism

Newcity reports that the Neo-Futurists are planning on opening a branch theater in Brooklyn early next year, ostensibly to perform a version of their long-running Chicago show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. The previous NYC incarnation of TML ran for a couple of years, but closed up when the heads of that company hit it big with the Broadway show Urinetown: The Musical. The Neo-Futurists are also considering opening branches in Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. Perhaps Neo-Futurism will replace the Harold as the next big theater technique exported from Chicago.

International Human Rights Day

Today is International Human Rights Day, and some Chicagoans are commemorating this day by having a rally at noon near the State of Illinois building (Clark and Randolph) to protest military occupations and human rights abuses around the world, while Amnesty International is holding a women's rights event at the Mexican Fine Arts Center, 1852 W. 19th St.

Deep Tunnel digging's over

Today marks the final work in the digging phase of the Deep Tunnel project, a massive 109-mile tunnel system designed to keep stormwater out of area basements and waterways. Digging started in 1976, in response to the 1972 Clean Water Act. Although today marks the end of the digging phase, concrete walls still need to be put into the tunnels, in the hopes of opening the project's tunnels by 2006.

Goodbye, Bow Tie

Bow Tied Democratic Hero and former Senator from Illinois Paul Simon died early Tuesday after surgery on his heart. Simon's relentless honesty and social/political brilliance-blending fiscal rationality with social and individual freedom -- was the model of modern liberalism, more so than any post-LBJ figure. He was a hero to many including myself and his death signals the passing of one of America's true great statesmen. My only regret is that I was never able to vote for him.

Jesus Saves

In Jesus Saves, five emerging Chicago artists tackle the iconography and beliefs of the Christian religion through the use of painting, photography, textile, installation, and a small dose of humor here or there. Featuring work by Katie Baker, Michael Coleman, Jeremiah Ketner, Dustin Mertz, and Gregory Shirilla. Showing at Buddy Gallery December 11, 2003 - January 11, 2004. Opening receptions: Thursday, December 11th, 6-10pm and Friday, December 12th, 8-12pm

Festive drinking

For some, this season's holidays brings together family and friends, love and cheer, and good times for all. And for others, it's a great time to get your drink on. In the spirit of this (pun intended), Metromix has published a guide to limited edition holiday beers for your enjoyment.

Interview with Chicago Author

The new issue of Bookslut features an interview with Chicago writer and artist Audrey Niffenegger, author of the well-reviewed novel, The Time Traveler's Wife.

Ceremony of Carols

Music of the Baroque is one of Chicago's finest performing ensembles and like every other classical group in Chicago, they'll be doing a holiday concert. But in addition to the usual Baroque pieces by Schutz and Gabrieli, they'll also be performing Britten's beloved Ceremony of Carols - an unusual piece for boys chorus and harp. There are numerous recordings But seeing it live with the processionals is one of the best entrees into the world of 20th century music that you can get.

Bronzeville: Black Chicago

A photography exhibit chronicling life in the African-American community of Bronzeville in the early 1940s opened yesterday at the DuSable Museum of African American History. The exhibit features more than 120 photographs of from one of the most vibrant eras of the neighborhood. Can't make it to the museum? Buy the book.

Cheeseburger Cheeseburger, No Pepsi -- Lawsuit

Billy Goat Tavern, the grungy burger place that inspired the famous "Cheezborger Cheezborger" skit on Saturday Night Live, is suing a Florida based restaurant chain, called Cheeburger Cheeburger, for trademark infringement. The chain has existed since the mid-1980s, but a plan to open a store in Glenview spurred Billy Goat to sue. (In a related story, we neglected to report that Bill Churachas, the long-time cook at Billy Goat, died in late October. He will be missed.) [Trib. log-in: gapers/gapers]

Ross' Mythology

Wilmette resident Alex Ross paints comic-book characters so lifelike that they look like your next-door neighbor—if your neighbor wore spandex and had heat vision. Ross and graphic designer/author Chip Kidd will be signing their new book, Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, this Saturday at Chicago Comics from 3 to 6 pm.

A Gift from About Face

About Face Theatre presents their holiday offering, The Gift and Other Stories, this Friday and Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The show features About Face artistic director Eric Rosen's retelling of "The Gift of the Magi," a cabaret performance by Alexandra Billings, true-life holiday stories from About Face Youth Theatre, and more. Check Slowdown for full info.

The Value of Libraries

The Daily Herald writes that far from becoming obsolete, the demand for public library services is on the rise. Suburban libraries, such as the Round Lake Area Library, have seen 20-25% increases in their circulation every year for the past 3 years -- a trend echoed by libraries across the country.

A Taste of Brazil

Recording artist Paulinho Garcia came to Chicago "to stay for one or two years and play jazz." This was 24 years ago; now Paulinho tours the world representing both his home country, Brazil, and his adopted home, Chicago. Read about the many Brazilian attributes our city has to offer, from music, dancing, and food, just to name a few.

Getting Your Messiah On

'Tis the season for Christmas music, and if you haven't yet gotten your Messiah on, The Apollo Chorus will be mounting a pretty fierce production featuring uber-tenor Cal Metts and the stellar Ellen Hargis. Written on notoriously short notice, Messiah incorporates several tunes from Handel's Italian period, which are available on a cd featuring hottie baroque coloraturas like Veronique Gens and Patricia Petibon.

Money Problems at Poetry

Things are not good at Poetry
After inheriting Ruth Lilly's money tree.
For all this confusion
I have a solution:
Just give that $100 million to me!

Tough All Over

The recent economic downturn, to put it mildly, and the subsequent loss of "white collar" jobs have caused an unusually high foreclosure rate in some of the city's nicer neighborhoods, sometimes increasing at clips near 60%. This is a trend that usually precedes a real estate crisis -- which means it'll be a renter's market. Good for renters, bad for, well, everybody else.

Taste of Chicago -- the restaurant!

The residents of Port Huron, MI are getting their first taste of a Chicago hot dog; a restaurant named A Taste of Chicago has been serving the dogs up since last month, and plans to expand its menu with other Chicago-related food items. Tip to the owners: don't include Frango mints on the menu. They were invented in Seattle and are made in Pennsylvania.

Pinewood Derby!

Am I the only former Cub Scout with fond memories of the Pinewood Derby races? Yeah, I didn't think so. Artist John Wanzel has organized an exhibition in honor of the Derby's 50th anniversary, featuring cars made by 55 local artists. Fast Track: Race Day 2003 is at the 1/Quarterly space in Wicker Park through January 17.

Redmoon Winter Pageant

Redmoon Theatre's annual Winter Pageant opens tonight in their new space at 1463 W. Hubbard. The pageant is a unique work of spectacle theatre, involving art installations and scenic contributions from several community groups; the cast of 60 includes many community members as well, with only 15 professional actors. This year's pageant has a Western theme, following a cowboy named Old Pete as he searches for his missing horse. Tomorrow's benefit performance features a backstage picnic with the artists. For ticket information, call 312-850-8440 x111, or order online.

Blame Him

"One of the dirty little secrets of Chicago’s winter parking ban is that I started it." Scott Jacobs fesses up at The Week Behind.

Recognizing a Blocker

Folks if you're coming out tonight for the little shindig, we'd love for you to be able to recognize us and therefore some of us will be wearing some stickers with the four stars and GB on them. Be sure to say hello! We'd love to chat, drink, take lots of photos with our little digital cameras and be merry.

Sticker-free cars stuck with tickets!

The city has finally begun ticketing city-sticker-less cars in parking garages. After five days over 1,000 tickets have been written, and that's after patrolling less than 10 percent of the city-licensed garages. If this rate keeps up, the program is projected to bring in over $6 million for the city next year, and to make thousands of drivers unhappy.

God Bless Us, Every One

If "Sock-Puppet Showgirls" tickled your tittybone, you might want to check out Harvey Finklestein's latest extravaganza, A Puppet Christmas Carol. Saturdays at 10:30 pm through January 3 at Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark.

Facets en Français

Facets Multimedia, the city's best video store for independent and foreign films, kicks off its 7th annual Festival of French Cinema tonight. The Sun-Times has a brief overview of some of the 12 films being shown.

Gay Games coming to town?

Chicago is one of two cities likely to host the 2006 Gay Games, the 20-year-old sporting event that has been previously hosted in San Fancisco, Vancouver, New York City, Amsterdam, and Sydney. Chicago and Los Angeles were originally third and fourth in the voting for the next city, but negotiations broke down with the organizers' first choice, Montreal, and second choice Atlanta took itself out of the running.

Saving Flowers And What Have You

Despite opposition from Gov. Blagojevich for tax reasons, the state government over-rode his veto to provide the lovely Chicago Botanic Gardens with some much needed funding for repairs. Boo, Guv. Yay, State Gov!

Penguins, LT, and beer

Mysterious and venerable Chicago blogger Mimi Smartypants has a book out soon. Weirdly, it's only being published in the UK.

Trib's best books list coming on Sunday

Pick up this Sunday's Chicago Tribune for their annual best books of the year list. (Or just look at their site on Sunday, because the list will also be online.)

For Fun or Profit

Ever wanted to hypnotize people with your boobies, gals? Now's the time! Early to Bed, a lady-owned sex shop, is hosting a tassel twirling workshop tonight in their store. Pick up some pasties and spirt gum and try not to put an eye out.

City and Suburban Expansion

The National Museum of American History's "America on the Move" exhibit includes a chapter on the expansion of Chicago and its suburbs, including a hefty bit about Park Forest, one of the first planned communities. Very interesting read.

Po' Lazarus

In 1959, musicologist Alan Lomax recorded folk songs by inmates in Mississippi's prisons and work gangs. Four decades later, one of those songs, "Po' Lazarus," was selected for the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack. When the album became a best-seller, its producers spent more than a year searching for the singer of "Po' Lazarus." They finally found him living in a rundown Chicago apartment. He had never heard of the movie and had forgotten Lomax's visit. They gave him a $20,000 check, the first of several royalty payments, and paid for his first plane trip, to L.A. for the 2002 Grammy Awards. The singer, James Carter, died last week at the age of 77. [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

Tropicago

The Miami Herald reports that Tropicana is moving its corporate HQ to Chicago (yaay!), causing the loss of up to 300 jobs in its old locale of Manatee County, Florida (booo!). Fortunately (for Florida), Tropicana's manufacturing and distribution facilities will remain in Florida, along with about 1,900 jobs. The move is part of parent company PepsiCo's long-term strategy to "realign its North American beverages unit." Just in case you were wondering.

Judge Tosses Bias Suit

Federal Judge Matthew Kennelly tossed out an ill-conceived dismissal motion that sought to limit the scope of an important bit of anti-discrimination legislation. The dismissal motion pertains to a lawsuit an African-American couple brought against neighbors in Calumet City who had harassed them because of their race. The Hon. Mr. Kennelly wisely stated that in interpreting a statute, every word must be honored -- and therefore those "holding" property are as much entitled to protection as those pursuing it.

Mmm, rat-flavored meat

David Smith plead guilty to one charge of "improper meat storage" on Tuesday, for allowing 12 million pounds of animal flesh to reside in unclean conditions. More than five rats were being caught and killed each day at the mammoth West Side facility -- just imagine the ones that got away. Apparently, the meat was destined for "high-quality" restaurants in the Chicagoland area. Close to $7.5million in meat had to be destroyed.

BPI and Housing

The Business and Professional People For the Public Interest are a little heralded group, but they have been instrumental in offering legal assistance to those resisting the continued segregation of housing in Chicago. Since representing the plaintiffs in the landmark Gautreaux case, BPI-Chicago has rolled up its sleeves and pitched in to help communities better organize in order to have a more influential voice in CHA's plans.

This American Girl

A reporter for Newcity checks into the world of American Girl Place, and finds it disturbing. (Edit: this isn't the first time that Newcity has reported on the Chicago-based doll church; when AGP was casting its stage show, Newcity sent one of its employees to try and pass herself off as a 13-year old. Although she did not get to audition, hilarity of a sort did ensue.)

Google Defines City Of Big Shoulders

It's possible that one could wax poetic about Chicago using Google's new "define:" keyword. (Define: turns up definitions of words, and I find them quite comical.) For example: Microsoft codename / the original version of the four-bridge deal / the well-known rock band / a bustling Great Lakes Port. Not quite the same as the poem, which most of us are familiar with: "They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys."

Good To Be A North Sider

The North Side Boys keep getting better: the Cubs signed Minnesota Twins reliever -- and career White Sox Killer -- LaTroy Hawkins to a three-year deal Tuesday. In much less infuriating news, the White Sox acquired solid, lovable short stop Juan Uribe from the Colorado Rockies.

Chicago Emmys?

Did you know there were regional Emmy awards? I sure didn't. Anyway, Robert Feder's column has the rundown of the winners, including a breakdown by TV station (not surprisingly, the big network-owned stations won the most), and the somewhat surprising news that Winsconsin stations racked up some wins (apparently it's actually the Chicago/Midwest Emmy awards, which covers territory outside the city and state limits).

Young Weight Problem

The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children reported today that nearly one quarter of kids aged 3 to 7 in Chicago are overweight.

New Detractor Issue

The Saturnine Detractor, a Chicago-born quarterly web magazine of feature journalism, reviews, opinion, fiction, and artwork, recently published its second issue. Check it out.

Rink of the Damned

The destruction of the Rainbo Roller Center (to make room for new condos, natch) has uncovered six bags' worth of human bones in the rink's basement. Police are investigating. Perhaps the new condos will be haunted....[Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Jorn Barger is Missing

Jorn Barger, creator of Robot Wisdom, one of the first weblogs -- in fact, he coined the term -- has been missing for two months. Barger moved to a small New Mexico town from Chicago last year, but hasn't been heard from online since October 1, and his housemate hasn't seen him since, either. Eric Wagoner is starting a search. UPDATE: Apparently his disappearance was the result of a domestic dispute. No need to panic, stop searching under bushes.

Matt O'Shea Drops Out

Huggable mayor of downstate Metamora Matt O'Shea dropped out of the race for the Democratic Nomination for Senate, which means all of the remaining candidates are Chicago-based. O'Shea, who was a Republican until he felt "betrayed" by the RNC, has backed former School Board chief Gery Chico, which means the other candidates will have to work even harder to carve out slices for themselves in Chicago. Can't wait until every every immovable object in the city is slathered with campaign signs.

First Friday This Friday

Don't want to spend the holidays alone, or, err, at least this Friday? Word on the street is that First Fridays at the MCA is a serious hook-up parlor. Sure there's art and free Wolfgang Puck appetizers and live music, but really, it's about the hook-up. With an after-party at Le Passage, you're sure to, umm, have some great discussions about art until 4am.

We're Tops

The Windy City came out pretty well in Condé Nast Traveler's 2003 Readers' Choice Awards, in the November issue of the magazine. Chicago was the fourth best US destination, behind San Francisco, New York and Charleston SC, and was the fourth best city for restaurants. And three Chicago hotels are in the top 10 for North America (#3 The Peninsula, #7 Four Seasons, #10 Ritz-Carlton). Go us!

Big Chicks: A Little Bit Longer

UPDATE: Michelle Fire's gay-friendly bar, Big Chicks, has gotten a brief stay by the city and will remain in business until at least January 13, 2004, when their next hearing will take place. There is a state law forbidding liquor sales within 100 feet of a religious institution, and Agudas Achim Synagogue is nearby. (There has been a liquor license at Big Chicks location since 1944.) You can still sign the petition to support Big Chicks.

Time Out Chicago

Time Out Chicago, the newest magazine endeavor of the Time Out Group, is set to start publishing next September. They face some pretty tough weekly competition from The Reader, as well as other resources like Metromix. If the Time Out Chicago Guide is any indication, they have a lot of catching up to do.

UIC Makin' Jaws

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the enormous, lavishly funded biotech research arm of the University of Illinois-Chicago has successfully crafted part of a human jaw using rat stem cells. [login: gapers/gapers]. They also proved that once the process becomes standardized, it will be relatively inexpensive (or as inexpensive as anything having to do with medicine ever is). But if they need more rats, I know a few nice rat families that have made quite a living under our deck.

Progress on Syphilis

Chicago Free Press is reporting that incidences of syphilis have declined by 33% in the city of Chicago, but have risen by 9% throughout the rest of the country. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 40% of that increase involves gay males.

StreetNotSoWise?

"There is absolutely no excuse for keeping 2, 3 and 4 year old children out in freezing weather to lift yourself up." The Chicago Report has strong words for StreetWise after seeing vendors hit the streets with children in tow.

Thanksgiving juxtaposition

One of the more expensive Thanksgiving dinners to be had this year was the $82 turkey-day buffet at the Peninsula. Read all about the extravagant dinner, and then compare it to some Chicago Chowhounds' Thanksgiving dinner: preparing 38 22-pound smoked turkeys, serving 512 people at the Salvation Army.

Add your own

Add Your Own is a new community site where the success depends on you, the user. It's nifty with just the essentials, reminiscent of Craigslist in it's utilitarian style. The Chicago listings are looking a little slim. I love that there's a Restrooms section as well as a Coffee Shops section too. Go now! Fill 'er up!

Hundreds towed!

As if we didn't have enough to worry about with the enforcement of towing legislation against cars without Chicago city stickers, now we've gotta worry about the winter parking rules on many of the city's streets. It's December 1, the day that winter parking laws go into effect, and the city went about its assigned task, towing hundreds of cars this morning. Violators face paying a minimum $150 towing fee and a $50 ticket. Buck up, kiddos, you've only got 4 months before winter parking ends on April 1. [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

Finding a Home

Homelessness is on the rise here and across the country, but the City has a new plan that aims to get more people off the streets than previous schemes. Chicago is putting weight behind a "housing first" initiative, encouraging homeless advocacy and support groups to provide a place to live before helping homeless people with their other issues. Starting next year the city will provide funding only to shelters that comply with this program. In the meantime, the Homelessness Prevention Fund gives families who are in danger of losing their homes small amounts (an average of $450) to help make ends meet.

Everything's coming up Bubba

A Springfield, Ill. man has legally changed his name to Bubba Bubba Bubba. Said Mr. Bubba, "I kind of like to laugh and joke, and it's something silly to kind of poke fun with." True dat.

Metra naughtiness

A former Metra train conductor has written a book called That's What I Call Commuting, which according to the Sun-Times is a collection of the most memorable moments from his 30 years of working on the trains. Most of the tales sound like out-takes from "America's Funniest Home Videos:" women taking their clothes off, children puking in the conductor's cap, and a guy who missed his morning commute jumping onto a slow-moving freight train and ending up in Iowa.

Another Lousy Day

Chicago playwright David Kodeski's "Another Lousy Day" gets the public radio treatment with a premiere event Dec. 10 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., 7:30 pm. (Call 312-948-4800 for reservations.) In the much-acclaimed monologue, Kodeski investigates the life a South Side woman whose diaries he found in an Andersonville thrift store. Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ, 91.5) will broadcast the play on Dec. 11, at 6 pm and again on the program Eight Forty-Eight on Dec. 16, at 9:30 am. Ding!

 

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