Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Wednesday, October 4

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Bloodshot Records 10th Anniversary

Local label Bloodshot Records is also marking a milestone as they celebrate their 10th anniversary. Known for putting "insurgent country" on the musical map, Bloodshot Records will kick off the anniversary with a concert Feb. 7 at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Read the full story about the label at Metromix.

Oprah Turns 50

Yesterday was Oprah Winfrey's 50th birthday. The Chicago Sun-Times has the full wrap-up of the star-studded celebration for this "Garrett-popcorn-eating, lakefront-jogging, North Michigan-Avenue-shopping" Chicagoan.

Rock Over London! Draw on Chicago! is collecting the many, many drawings by famed outsider artist and musician Wesley Willis. Got there or I will headbutt you! (And if you've got any of his artwork, send them a photo.)

Paper and a Muffin, Please

Soon you'll be able to grab breakfast at the El. Crain's reports that the CTA is planning new concession stands in 28 El stops, including the UIC stop on the Blue line and the North & Clybourn stop on the Red -- which will be getting a "gourmet coffee shop." (Wonder if they'll finally get rid of their rule against food and beverages on trains now.)

Fannie May not

Several aldermen have called for a Valentine's Day boycott of Fannie May/Fanny Farmer candy, to show support for 625 employees involved in a severance pay dispute with parent company Archibald Candy Corp. That shouldn't be hard to do, as Chicago Public Radio reported on NPR last week that the Fannie May stores in the city have pretty much been cleaned out of all the good candy.

Thank you again!

A big hug, a happy dance and a "Boo-Ya!" to donor and supporter The Infinite Stitch. Thanks.

Old Cook County Hospital

Cook County Hospital is one of the busiest healthcare centers in the country. The old building, vacant since the completion of John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, is in danger of destruction. Preservationists want to keep this beautiful Beaux Arts building intact, but it's an uphill battle; the building came close to being razed, and isn't in the clear yet. Read about the building and the reuse plan (PDF) offered by the Landmarks Preservation Council.

One Hundred or So Ways...

...To Get an Ulcer is a relatively new weblog described as "A glimpse into the mind of an Chicago inner-city high school teacher". It's captivating reading.

Magikist Goodbye

"For generations of kids who grew up in the suburbs, the Magikist lips were the sign that you'd reached Chicago." The last pair of huge neon lips (did you know there were originally three?), part of an ad campaign for a carpet cleaning company, came down from their perch above the Kennedy at Montrose this weekend. Eric Zorn laments the loss. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Too cold to shop

If you've said to yourself recently, "I'd love to get The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, but it is too cold to go shopping," then Women and Children First has a solution. If you buy the hardcover version from them online, they'll ship it for free. They'll also ship you hardcover versions of It's Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson or The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler for free. It's the first time they've offered this, so make it a huge success so they'll keep doing it. Winter doesn't end till April or so anyway.

Do we look fat?

Men's Fitness has named Chicago the fifth fattest U.S. city, which is an improvement over last year, when we were No. 2. We score well for athletic participation -- huzzah for softball and biking -- but flunk when it comes to nutrition, air quality, climate, commuting and access to parks.

40 Minutes from Allstate to Downtown!?

Last December, our very own Librarian took on a daunting task: writing a guide to Chicago traffic reports. In a shrewd move, executives at Clear Channel Radio have handed down a new edict. No longer should on-air talent report travel times from O'Hare airport. Instead, more corporate product placement may enter our lives, as this traffic point shall now be the Allstate Arena.

Chicago in Film

Spurred by a question in our most recent Fuel discussion, a quick search revealed a list of movies filmed in Chicago. There is more where that came from featuring movies with Chicagoans and movies that are intrinsically about Chicago. The All Movie Guide also offers a list of everyone involved in film who was born in Chicago (strangely, Winnetka native Chris O'Donnell is on the list, but the Evanstonian Cusaks and Wilmette-ian Bill Murray are not).

Fooey On You

Chicago-based Fooey t-shirts for hip kids (and infants!) make you wish you could fit into a real "baby tee." You can't help but love the old-school banana-seat bikes and 18-wheeler designs. (Thanks Anne.)

Overeager fan ruins show

The Onion reports on a recent show at the Empty Bottle. [ Hats tipped to Fancy That ]

Your Virtual Newsstand

City Newsstand, 4018 N. Cicero in Chicago, and Chicago-Main Newsstand, 380 N. Chicago in Evanston, are great resources for hard-to-find magazines and newspapers, but little did you know they also have a pretty good website. Check out their Top Tabloid Headlines of 2003 -- FEBRUARY TO BE CANCELED!

Fast Forward

There's still time to sign up for the Fast Forward Film Fest no. 12 "Out of Context"! Participants in the fest will be given 21 hours to make a three minute film using scenes and/or clips taken from well known or unknown films and TV programs. Register your group at Atomix Cafe (1957 W. Chicago). Groups can be any size and there's room for 30 groups. The registration fee is $20. Participants will be meeting at Atomix January 30 at 7:30 for their topic assignment. The deadline to complete the movie is 5pm the next day (January 31). A public screening of the submissions and awards ceremony will be taking place at Open End Gallery (2000 W Fulton) at 8pm January 31. If you have any questions please call 773.263.7057.

Our Own Bridget Jones?

The adventures of Mimi Smartypants have caught yet another eye. The Sun Times asks is Mimi the new "everywoman"? Whatever that means...we just love to read her musings.

City makes Wrigley Field landmark

The Sun-Times reports that the City Council's Landmarks Committee approves Mayor Daley's plan to landmark "historic elements" of Wrigley Field. Since the landmark designation doesn't cover the entire building, it allows the owners to start on plans to build three rows of premium-priced seats behind home plate. "Even more important, the landmark vote signals that a deal is in the works for the Cubs to play 30 night games by 2006 -- up from 18."

B-Fest 2004!

Don't have anything to do Friday and Saturday? Perfect: Go to the 21st annual B-Fest, a marathon session of bad movies. Imagine a marathon Mystery Science Theater 3000 session: "McCormick Auditorium at 6pm Friday and the horrors don't stop until ". Tickets are $10 per day or $20 for the whole shebang -- buy the overnight tix in advance from the box office in the Norris Univ. Center and save $5. Reserve yours in advance (yes, they do sell out) by emailing

Librarians Rock!

Especially, our librarian, Alice. The owners of House in Progress were trying to track down info about their street. They asked Alice, and she answered them. Librarians don't know everything, they just know how to find it.


Crow's Nest, the essential record store for DePaul University students everywhere, is in the process of permanently closing its doors. After years of slackening sales and a failed attempt at a Lincoln Park store, the Nest is officially going out of business. Shed a tear, observe a moment of silence, then head over for significant savings on music and movies. Hint: They've excellent classical and jazz selections hidden in the basement.

Forbidden City Comes to Chicago

An exhibition four years in the making is being prepared at the Field Museum as curators unpack over 100 crates filled with objects from the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Many of these works have never been seen before outside of China. The Splendors of China’s Forbidden City: The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong opens March 12. Read the full story at ABC7Chicago.

Marin Returning to NBC?

Carol Marin may return to Channel 5, according to Crain's. She's in negotiations with the station to come back as a special correspondent (her old co-anchor Ron Majers joined WLS Ch.7 as a "special correspondent" and ended up anchoring again a couple years later, so for fans, this is pretty good news.

Unleash the power of soy

The Sun-Times reports that two University of Illinois scientists have developed an energy bar made from soy protein that they wish to develop for use by first aid agencies. These bars have an advantage over currently used energy bars because they are made with no animal ingredients. The scientists have contacted the Defense Department, which is expected to invite food companies to bid on production.


"In over 150 years of existence, the Republican Party has never had their convention in New York." Thousands of people will be protesting the event, most of them from NYC; wants to make sure the second largest group of protesters is from Chicago.

My kind of font, Chicago is

"They ought to be WORLD CLASS cities!" And so they were, the most prominent of which, natch, would be Chicago, the system font for the Mac and now the iPod.

Stay or go?

This week, Chicago Public Radio's program Eight Forty-Eight is doing reports on the question that has plagued Chicago artists for years and years: should you stay in Chicago to work on your art, or head to New York or LA to make your fame? They'll be doing reports on the state of Chicago theater, the visual arts, the music community, and film in Chicago every weekday morning this week (Eight Forty-Eight airs on WBEZ between 9:30 and 11:00), and a live call-in show will air this Sunday night at 7:00 PM.

How to make Chicago more sustainable

The Sun-Times reports that the winners of the first annual Chicago Sustainable Design Challenge have been announced. The competition was sponsored by the Foresight Design Initiative, an Illinois nonprofit organization. One of the more novel ideas that won the competition: planting tough strains of bamboo in landfills to absorb pollutants and provide wood for construction. The winners are all listed at the Foresight Design Initiative's Website.

Get your red carpet on!

If the Oscars at the MSI (and Bill Murray's Golden Globe win) have you jazzed for the red carpet, mark your calendar for Oscar night. The Gene Siskel Film Center is hosting Chicago's only official, AMPAS-sanctioned Oscar party. The soiree, featuring complimentary cocktails and buffet, silent auctions, and a red carpet with—no kidding—a Joan Rivers impersonator, benefits the Siskel Center and the Chicago Academy for the Arts; tickets are, ahem, accordingly priced. Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday morning.

And the Oscar comes from...

Chicago! The local firm R. S. Owens & Company manufactures the statuettes every year, and this year you can check them out before they're given to the recipients. An exhibition of the statuettes that will be used in this year's awards ceremony is currently going on at the Museum of Science and Industry. Check it out before February 18th, when the statuettes are packed up and shipped off to Los Angeles.

Rat Patrol

The ongoing cafeteria closings at Chicago Public Schools has prompted a top-to-bottom cleaning of all 600 Chicago public schools, reports. The cleaning will start on Monday at a reported cost of $2 to $4 million. Students will receive cold breakfasts and lunches from outside vendors instead of hot meals during the cleaning.

The Payphone Project

The Payphone Project is a collection of lists of (theoretically) every payphone in the world that is able to receive calls. The Illinois list is pretty huge; check out just the 312 phones.

First it's pinochle, then it's sock hops!

The Chicago Park District has a rule: no gambling on its property. Sounds reasonable, but is a meeting of a pinochle club to be considered gambling? The Park District says so, and pressed the club to change the ways that it collects antes and awards its winnings. Superintendant Jack Sebesta: "I know one or two dollars sounds so minor . . . but we're a government agency. No matter what my personal opinion is, it's the law." [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

School-time Radio

Chicago has one of the most interesting radio spectrums in the country, ranging from religious broadcasts to Spanish language sports coverage to such narrow musical niches as "smooth jazz." Several schools, at both the university and high school level, also compete with the commercial stations for your attention. For a list, click on...

A note about frequencies: Many of these stations overlap; because they're so low-frequency (usually 100 Watts or less) they don't cover much ground -- chances are you won't hear them if you're more than a couple miles from the transmitter -- so more than one station can easily share the same spot on the radio dial.

On the high school front:
• Elgin Public Schools: WEPS, 88.9 FM
• Evanston Township HS: WKR, (cable/Internet only)
• Glenbrook North & South: WGBK, 88.5 FM
• Hinsdale South: WHSD, 88.5 FM
• Homewood-Flossmoor HS: WHFH, 88.5 FM
• Lyons Township HS (LaGrange): WLTL, 88.1 FM
• Maine Township HS (Park Ridge): WMTH, 90.5 FM (8 Watts strong!)
• New Trier: WNTH, 88.1 FM
• Downers Grove HS: WDGC, 88.3 FM
• Columbia College: WCRX, 88.1 FM
• College of DuPage: WDCB, 90.9 FM
• Elmhurst College: WRSE, 88.7 FM
• Illinois Institute of Technology: WIIT, 88.9 FM
• Lake Forest College: WLFC, 88.9 FM (formerly WMXM)
• Lewis University: WLRA, 88.1 FM (no site)
• Loyola University: WLUW, 88.7 FM
• Kennedy-King College: WKKC, 89.3 FM
• Moody Bible Institute: WMBI, 90.1 FM / 1110 AM
• Northeastern Illinois University: WZRD, 88.3 FM
• Northwestern University: WNUR 89.3 FM
• North Central College: WONC, 89.1 FM
• St. Xavier University: WXAV, 88.3 FM
• Triton College: WRRG, 88.9 FM
• University of Chicago: WHPK, 88.5 FM
• UIC: WUIC, 89.5 FM
• University of St. Francis (Joliet): WCSF, 88.7 FM
• Wheaton College: WETN, 88.1 FM
Also of interest is Radio Arte, WRTE 90.5 FM, run by the Mexican Fine Arts Museum.

Museum Madness

Having trouble keeping track of what Chicago museums are free on which days? Here's a good resource, which includes an astouding list of museums that are free every day. Take your next date to The Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows at Navy Pier. Scope out the Spertus Museum of Judaica. So many choices, there are no more excuses for not going.

Chicago film critics announce best of 2003

Yesterday the Chicago Film Critics Association announced their best of 2003 list. Big winners: LOTR: Return of the King and Lost In Translation, which got 3 awards each.

Forty Seven Oh Two

The Chinese New Year starts today, and wouldn't you know, it's the Year of the Monkey. (How to tell if you're a Monkey: if the age you turn this year is divisible by 12. Also: if you like hanging around with Dragons and Rats.) Consider heading down to Chinatown on Sunday for their annual parade, rife with floats, massive amounts of firecrackers, and very long dragons. It starts at 1 p.m. If you can't make it down to Chinatown, there's also a north-side parade, around Broadway and Argyle, on Saturday.

Old Chicago Neighborhoods

Combining more than 100 duotone images with stories from over 125 Chicagoans, "The Old Chicago Neighborhood: Remembering Life in the 1940s" looks back fondly at daily life, the war years, sports and recreation, and entertainment in Chicago’s neighborhoods. Over the last year, Neal Samors and fellow author, Michael Williams, have sold over $200,000 worth of copies. Visit to read more and order online. [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

Art Institute Picks New Director

The Art Institute of Chicago has picked James Cuno to replace James Wood as museum director. James Cuno has spent the last year as the director of London's Courtauld Institute of Art. [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

Birds lured by Matteson voles

In south suburban Matteson, the Bartel Grassland forest preserve has been restored to a more natural state, which in addition to providing a more hospitable home to various species of birds, apparently caused an increase in the vole population. So a number of birds that depend on the mouselike animal for food, such as the short eared owl and the northern harrier, have also returned to the preserve.

Call to Protect

Did you get a new cell phone recently? Or maybe you have a bag of cell phones that you don't know what to do with. There's nothing wrong with them, they're just. . . not cool anymore. Well, Call To Protect is willing to take them all off your hands. They'll then be refurbished and given to domestic violence victims who need phone access or sold to raise money for domestic violence prevention programs. There are plenty of drop-off places in Chicago. Alderman Vi Daley is the only alderman who is participating in the program.

Chicago Works

Bailiwick Repertory Theatre opens the second segment of its 16th annual Directors' Festival next week. "Chicago Works" features new works or Midwest premieres by Chicago playwrights. This segment of the fest runs January 26-28 and February 2-4, at 7:30 each night. See Slowdown listings for each night's program and ticket info.

Obit: Ray Rayner

The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago television personality Ray Rayner has died at the age of 84. Rayner is best known for his role as Oliver O. Oliver, the character he played on WGN's famous "Bozo's Circus" show, as well as his 1971-1981 show "Ray Rayner and His Friends," which delighted kids with such characters as Chelveston the Duck and Cuddley Duddley. Rayner left Chicago in 1981 to become a weatherman in Albuquerque. [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

Selling out with style

Phineas X. Jones, inimtable maker of photocollages is selling out in true style. Buy one of his classic photocollages. If you need to seem them in person, they're up for this month over at Uncommon Ground on Grace.

Passion in the suburbs

On Tuesday Mel Gibson sneaked into South Barrington to screen The Passion of Christ, his controversial new film about the death of Jesus. A hand-picked crowd of 4,300 people -- most of them Christian pastors -- loved the film.

Daley Calls for Illinois Caucus

Da Mare is at it again: he's now saying it's time for Illinois -- the whole Midwest, actually -- to abandon the primary and move to a caucus system like Iowa. "If the national Democratic Party is going back to a caucus [system], let's all go with caucuses. Let every state do their own caucus and let the state party pick up the cost and not the taxpayers. . . . You're not wasting taxpayers' money. Do all caucuses. Let the party run it. . . . I wish they could do that. It would be a much easier system and you'd save an enormous amount of money. An enormous amount of money is wasted."

CUFF calls for entries

Attention film-makers! The Chicago Underground Film Festival is now taking entries for this year's festival. They're looking for films that 'dissent radically in form, technique, or content from the "indie" mainstream.' The deadline for application is May 1, so you've got less than 4 months to get your indie self together!

It's For You

Local IDM duo Telefon Tel Aviv got a great write-up in this week's Village Voice. "Every track on their second album carefully limns the silhouettes' enveloping absence of trust ('I Lied'), love ('Nothing Is Worth Losing That'), and memory ('What It Was Will Never Again')."

O'Hare leading in fired screeners

O'Hare is near the top of another list, only this one isn't so great. The Sun-Times reports that O'Hare and Los Angeles International Airport lead the nation in firing federal government screeners that were hired with incomplete background checks, and then had to be let go after subsequent checks found problems. Even Midway had problems in the past months with having to fire screeners. Just one more thing to be wary of as you stand in line for your next flight.

Chicago Charlie

The Salt Lake Tribune tells the colorful story of Chicago Charlie, a Greek immigrant known for tall tales, eccentric stunts and prolific correspondence with soldiers during World War II. Hundreds of his letters were recently found in a buried time capsule in Copperton, Utah.

Does he drive a minivan now, too?

Meet Chicago's newest suburbanite: Billy Corgan. He paid $7.5 million for a beachfront mansion on the North Shore, the 10th highest price for a Chicago-area home and the most by a Chicago entertainer. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Family Fun!

America's Most Fun Family (according to the makers of the boardgame Cranium) is the Wagners of Elgin. What makes them so fun? They throw pies in each other's faces on birthdays and celebrate holidays with color-themed meals. Fun!

Introducing the Orange Meadowbrite

Researchers at the Chicago Botanic Garden have created the Orange Meadowbrite, a new coneflower that has a scent, which is apparently very rare for the genus. So rare, in fact, that they're planning to sell 40,000 of the plants this year, at $17-20 per plant. The Sun-Times has the story.

Dr. James Watson Lecture

Interested in genetics? Head down to the Museum of Science and Industry tonight at 7pm to hear one of the founding fathers of genetics, Dr. James Watson, reflect on the history of DNA science, his seminal role in discovering the DNA double helix and recent breakthroughs in genetic science. Before and after the lecture, explore the Genetics: Decoding Life exhibition, featuring live cloned mice, transgenic frogs and mutant fruit flies. Tickets are $20 for non-members, $8 for members; reservations required at 773/684-1414.

West Side Film Studio?

A major Hollywood group is still looking to transform a mountain of debris into a West Side movie studio complex. With no major studio located off either the East or West coasts, it's only natural to pursue the opportunity on Chicago's West Side. However, Ald. Michael Chandler (24th) is getting tired of waiting. ''This is like the last shot. If it's not alive, we need to move on. We can put a Home Depot or a Wal-Mart in there. We need to do something else that's going to generate traffic and create jobs for our people and we need to do it quick,'' Chandler said.

And the Nominees Are...

The Bloggies, the longest-running weblog awards presentation (not that that's much of a boast), have announced the nominees, and there are two from Chicago in the running. Bookslut, a recent emigre from Austin, is nominated for Best Topical Weblog, and Sabrina Faire is up for Best Tagline. Go vote!
Alas, Gapers' Block was not nominated. Oh well, maybe next year.

Incidentally, Nikolai Nolan, the creator of the Bloggies, also codeveloped the Chicagobloggers blog map. Pretty nice of him, considering he lives in Michigan.

We'll always have haggis...

So what if Fannie May is closing up in Chicago? Stahly Quality Foods, a Scottish food producer, is starting production of tinned haggis in a Chicago facility, in the hopes of tapping into that lucrative North American haggis market. Right now, the plant produces only two types of haggis, traditional and vegetarian haggis (?), but the company hopes to expand to other products such as whiskey-flavored haggis (!) and clootie dumpling (!?). Amazing quote from company founder Ken Stahly: "Our working relationship with the Americans is excellent even though there is the odd translation quirk, such as the fact that, in the US swede is known as rutabaga."

A Prize for Studs

The National Book Critics Circle will be giving its lifetime achievement award this year to Chicago's favorite oral historian and national treasure Studs Terkel. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

No Pit Bulls

Alderman Virginia Rugai has proposed an ordinance banning pit bulls and pit bull mixes within the city limits. If the ordinance passes, dog owners would have 30 days to get rid of their pets. An online petition has been created that will be sent to Mayor Daley urging him to veto the proposal should it come to him.

Force-ful fashion

Would you like something flashy to wear that shows you support a winning Chicago sports team? The Chicago Force is sportin' some stylish threads, and you can buy them.

Garlic Makes Families Closer

The Chicago-based Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation presents a paper entitled Effects of garlic bread on family interaction. "Serving garlic bread at dinner enhanced the quality of family interactions. This has potential application in promoting and maintaining shared family experiences, thus stabilizing the family unit, and also may have utility as an adjunct to family therapy." (Via KIPlog's FOODblog.)

Oh, Mr. Black, tsk tsk.

As mentioned earlier, more on the developments with ol' Conrad. Salon has a little story about his removal and lawsuit concerning his making off with oh around $200 million. Oh Conrad, the kettle sure is black.

Acoustic Ecology in Chicago

The World Forum for Acoustic Ecology is in the initial stages of organizing an American chapter. The group "is dedicated to exploring the role of sound in natural habitats and human societies, and promoting public dialogue concerning the identification, preservation, and restoration of natural and cultural sound environments." Chicago already has a good auditory documentation contingent, and will likely play a role in the chapter's formation; to find out more, join the ASAE listserv by emailing with the word "subscribe" in the subject.

MLK Day at the U of C

African-American history scholar Dr. Michael Eric Dyson gives the keynote address at the University of Chicago’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration. Poet Thien-Bao Thuc Phi, who has been recognized for his unique blend of rap and poetry, will give a presentation as well. The commemoration begins at noon at Rockefeller Chapel, 1156 E. 59th St. For more information, call 702-7059.

Sniff, swish, spit

Like wine? I know you do. Thus, a list of wine events, tastings and dinners in our fair city for the year. May be updated as time goes on. Quite a list it is too.

Long Lost Fan

Sophie B. Hawkins is hoping to find a fan. Not just any fan, but this particular fan who was filmed on August 5, 2001 at the Northalsted Street Market Days. She wants to use footage of the fan in her "Beautiful Girl" video, but she needs to sign a release. If you know who she is, send Sophie an email.

Second Class Citizens?

Slate offers up an interesting take on the recent sale of Bank One to JP Morgan Chase. Instead of moaning about the loss of another big-time Chicago instition, we should focus on the positives: our highly diversified economy, with a mix of manufacturing and services, more closely resembles the economic makeup of the country than do cities like New York or San Francisco. In addition, over the last several years, we have performed better and more steadily than cities that rely disproportionately on particular sectors, like New York or San Francisco.

Vegan Victuals Redux

If you thought vegan/vegetarian food wasn't tasty, think again. Mr. PJ Chmiel has relaunched his Vegan Food section of mostly places in Chicago and now with 60% more content. Thorough, comprehensive and sure to make you super hungry this early in the day.

CTA card gets better

Have you seen those cool kids with their flashy Chicago Cards at the train turnstyle? Well, if you're considering joining their ranks, wait till Monday. That's when the Chicago Card Plus becomes available. With it you'll get the free $1 for every $10 you put on your card, it will still be protected in case you lose it, and now you'll be able to add money to it online. Oh yeah, no more missing a train because some tourist can't figure out how the machine works.

Not your mama's showtunes

Looking for the (potential) next big thing? This Monday, Theatre Building Chicago will host a one-night-only concert reading of Wild Goat, a new musical collaboration between Urinetown composer and Cardiff Giant alum Mark Hollman and Reader theatre critic and playwright Jack Helbig. It's part of TBC's Monday Night Musicals concert series. See Slowdown for ticket info.

Hope for Big Chicks

Organized public outcry -- and a proposed state amendment -- might save Uptown's beloved gay bar, Big Chicks. The bar's liquor license is threatened by a state law that says bars can't be less than 100 feet from a house of worship (Big Chicks shares an alley with a synagogue, and has for nearly two decades without incident). State Rep Larry McKeon is proposing an exemption for the bar. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Making History

The History Makers is a South Loop-based nonprofit "undertaking the largest African-American oral history project since WPA anthropologists collected narratives of former slaves in the 1930s." The Chicago Journal has an article on the project that includes a brief profile of Regina Baiocchi, an African-American opera composer whose work has been performed by the CSO.

Free stuff!

The Playground Theater is moving into the Halsted Street space recently vacated by WNEP, and they're having a moving give-away. They say: "We've got beat-up couches, we've got beat-up lamps, we've got telephones, we've got a piano, we've got seven banks of movie seats (four to a bank) we're willing to part with. Plus more stuff I can't even think of right now!" It's free for the taking from their old space at 3341 N. Lincoln this Saturday from noon to 5, as long as you bring a crew to move it yourself. E-mail for more info.

Don Norman on Emotional Design

Don Norman will discuss his new book, Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, at 7pm tonight at Evanston's Main Library, 1703 Orrington. According to Norman, a well-rounded product will "enhance the heart as well as the mind, being a joy to behold, to use, and to own." Free. For information, call 847/866-0300.

Instead of a Book, Give a Child a Library

As a follow-up to an earlier post, the Sun-Times has a brief commentary about the governor's plan to distribute books to infants while cutting library funding. Chicago's own Shifted Librarian also looks at the issue and urges library supporters to contact the governor about his "boneheaded idea." She writes, "Let's support our existing libraries and provide our children with more than just one book a month. We can do better than that, and guess what? Libraries already do better than that. Keep funding them."

Authentic Early Music in Hyde Park

Interested in super-authentic early music and chant? Schola Antiqua will be performing a concert of Dunstable, Dufay, and the Notre Dame Organum. A great introduction to Early Music in the beautiful, resonant space of the University of Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel.

She's Out

Former Illinois Senator and ambassador to New Zealand Carol Moseley-Braun is dropping out of the presidential race, citing low poll numbers and lower campaign funds. She's endorsing Howard Dean.

Bears Name New Coach

The Bears named St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith as the 13th head coach in franchise history. Smith, 45, agreed to a four-year deal and will be introduced by general manager Jerry Angelo at a Thursday news conference. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Not Fooling Anybody

The big-ass tourist trap Gino's East features prominently in a gallery of transparent store conversions at Not Fooling Anybody. (In case you're new to the city, it used to be a Planet Hollywood.)

Chicagoans you love to hate

Newcity's cover story: 10 Chicagoans we love to hate. Some great choices on their list: Ditka ("stands as the epitome of everything we fight against"), Ira Glass ("starting to sound like nails on a chalkboard"), Richard Roeper ("bland, bland, bland"), and Joan Cusack ("we stopped connecting with Cusack when she zeta-jonesed on us, and by that we mean started pimping for a cell-phone provider").

Candid Council Camera

Soon you'll be able to watch City Council do ...whatever they do, live on the Web. A $60,000 webcam system is being installed in the Council chambers in an effort to make city government more visible and accessible to the public. The system should be up by this spring.

Liberal Air Waves

Al Franken's much anticipated liberal radio program for Progress Media will air on Chicago's WNTD-AM 950, sources say. It is the company's first confirmed radio distribution deal. No launch date was disclosed. Franken said in an interview that he will have a co-host, whom he declined to identify, and that the show will include a mix of guests, produced comedy and listener calls. Get those dials ready, folks!


[un]scene is a...heck, why don't I just post what they wrote? "[UN]SCENE² is a functional urban guide that celebrates the less mainstream, more innovative establishments in your urban area. Working directly with this dynamic website and music CD's, it enables people to navigate through the city's streets, seeking out the most interesting commercial and cultural hot spots. One in a series of urban guides, [UN]SCENE² promotes those who continue to push all that is unique in contemporary American culture." Not bad and useful, but could be better designed.

To Have and Have Not

Governor Blagojevich wants every child in Illinois to have a book in his or her hands, yet at the same time, his state budget cuts are forcing some public libraries to reduce their book budgets and their hours and increase the wait for interlibrary loan materials. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

What Are You, A Comedian?

Think you're funny, do ya? Here's your opportunity to show America just how funny you are: NBC's "Last Comic Standing" reality show/contest will hold open auditions at 10am on Thursday, January 29, at Zanies Comedy Club, 1548 N. Wells. For more information, call Zanies at 312/337-4027.

Chicago Dating Trends

Chicagoans date longer and wed later than they used to, a UofC sociology study reports. We're also more suspicious of our partner's fidelity. And, not surprisingly, we tend to be insular in terms of where we find our mate(s): People who live in Lincoln Park are more likely to date someone who also lives in Lincoln Park -- as opposed to, say, Hyde Park.

Zulkey and Stein, tête à tête

Local blogger (and author of a brand new book) Claire Zulkey interviewed Time magazine's Joel Stein recently and got some interesting responses.

Dominick's store closings

The Tribune has a list of the Dominick's grocery stores in the Chicago area that will be closing on March 13th. The dozen closings are part of a cost-cutting plan by Dominick's parent company, Safeway. [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

Book and paper arts classes

The spring class schedule for the Center for Book and Paper Arts has been published. Evening and weekend classes are available on such subjects as Paper marbling, Asian bookbindings, Letterpress, and Silkscreening.

FFFF registration

Today is the first day of registration for the next Fast Forward Film Festival. Teams will be given a topic on January 30th, and have 24 hours to complete a five minute film, to be screened on the 31st at the Open End Gallery. Sign-up is $20, at Atomix; teams can be any size.

More Cops on the Beat

Expect to see more cops on the streets of Chicago in the coming months. Superintendent Phil Cline ordered 1,000 cops assigned to office jobs to sit in marked cars at the worst spots in the city for at least one eight-hour shift a month. Intended to curb the "open air" drug markets and illicit gang activity, residents are already noticing the changes in their neighborhoods. Hopefully the new chief in town will work to remove our city's name from the top of the murder list.

Chicago or Springfield?

With Governor Rod Blagojevich deciding to keep his home in Chicago, rather than moving downstate to the governor's mansion in Springfield, many downstaters are worried that the state government might be moving to Chicago. But even with the number of state agencies and offices in Chicago, Springfield is still home to many trade groups and industry associations that lobby state officials, and most of themsay they have had no difficulty in working with the administration in either city.

On your marks, get set, snow!

Sunday morning kicks off the 2004 Tour da Chicago, a six-stage alleycat bike race. This weekend's time trial will start in stages from the Bahai Temple in Wilmette and race to YoJimbo's Garage at 1310 N. Clybourn. Entrance is $10 for the race or $45 for the series. Register at 1461 W. Chicago at 7 a.m.

Hope springs eternal

Season tickets for the Cubs went on sale Thursday morning at 6:00. The people at the head of the line took their place at 9:00 Wednesday morning. If you didn't get a chance to purchase your tickets, fret not. Starting today, you can order season tickets by phone: (773) 404-2827. Expect to pay at least $2,000 for the tickets. The most expensive tickets in the park go for $3,300 each, but they've already been sold, dangit.

Sex and the Windy City

A new study from the University of Chicago suggests city residents aren't getting enough play, to the detriment of their communities and cultural institutions. Between later marriage, the prevalence of divorce, and domestic violence, Chicagoans spend about half their lives single and half of their single lives alone. Researchers also found neighborhood, ethnicity, sexual preference and friends could significantly limit people's sexual behavior. Research leader Edward O. Laumann -- hailed as "the new Kinsey" for his studies of modern sexual health -- will release a book on his findings in the spring. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Touring the Servers

Here's a decidedly different way of exploring the city: the Virtual Tourist was a project begun in 1995 that intended to map all the servers in a geographic area. Obviously that became an impossible task pretty quickly, and the original project gave way to a general travel site. But somebody in UofC's CS department saved the original maps for Illinois, and they offer and interesting snapshot of the server landscape. The project offers several layers of detail, moving in from statewide to Chicagoland to the city to the Loop.

Be sure to wash those sheets

80 years ago, the Orrington Hotel in Evanston opened its doors for business. Last week, they closed them in preparation for a major $22 million renovation. But first, everything in the hotel is being sold off. Everything. Chairs, lamps, sconces, barstools, clock radios, bedsheets, bellman's carts, armoires, every last plate, glass and napkin. And it looks like it's going for relatively cheap. The sale started today and will continue for 30 days or until everything sells out.

2003: Year in Review

This site has collected over 250 "best of" lists for the year 2003. The lists are divided into 26 categories and include such local delights as the Hip-Hop Top 10 and the Top 10 Worst Reality TV Shows for 2003 -- both from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Digital History

Digital History is a collaborative effort between the University of Houston, the Chicago Historical Society and other institutions to support the teaching of American history in at the elementary, high school and college levels. This beautiful and well-designed site includes an online textbook, encyclopedia, an interactive timeline, online exhibitions, and much more. The site also features a searchable database of over 1,500 annotated links to additional American history resources, audio archives (Real audio), and an image archive. Really fantastic stuff.

Chicago's Not That Bad

The Rockford Register Star's Pat Cunningham has leapt to the defense of our fair city: We're neither the "murder capital of America," as has been widely reported (that title goes to Gary) nor are we the fattest city in America. So feel free to have that ice cream cone in a dark alley tonight.

The Votes are In

...and tonight is WXRT's Listener Poll special on the best music from 2003. Listen in from 7-9pm at 93.1 FM. Or, you know, don't.

Bring out yer trees! *clank*

Still got a Christmas tree up? No worries. The city has a tree-recycling program in place, where you can cart your tree over to a Chicago park to have it mulched (yes, you may keep the mulch). The program had been scheduled for only one day (this Saturday, January 10) but the city has added Saturday the 17th to its schedule, making it twice as easy for you to take advantage of the service. There's a list of participating parks (in PDF form) on the city's Website.

Award-winning Club Scene

New City reports that in the current issue of URB magazine "listed Smart Bar in a tie as the best club in America, Vision in a tie as the best mega-club in America, and drum 'n' bass guys Bass By the Pound as the best club promoter in America as well as tied for the best party promoter."

Charity Knitting

I know I'm not the only one who has been cuddling up with my yarn and knitting needles. But there are only so many hats and scarves you can make for yourself. So if you've got the urge to make simple projects, but are running out of people to give them to, why not make some for charity. Woolworks has created a great list of charities that take handmade items. It is organized by state with all the details and contact info you need. So enjoy your time with your craft, and let someone else enjoy your craft, too.

City to Help Fannie May Workers

As reported Monday, the Fannie May plant will be closing in the coming months. WBBM reports the city will assist those workers when the plant shuts down. "Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says the city is prepared to offer the affected workers the assistance needed to get back into the work force quickly. The assistance to be offered include career counseling, job search assistance and direct job placement opportunities at locations around the city."

Greatest living author tells all

Robert Birnbaum interviews Neal Pollack, who discusses his Chicago influences and the lessons he learned as a staff writer at the Reader.

Tech-Enabled Libraries

The Chicago Sun-Times profiles Jenny Levine, Internet development specialist for the Suburban Library System in Illinois, and talks about the work she does to bring area libraries into the digital age. Although the article strangely does not mention her site by name, webloggers know Jenny Levine as The Shifted Librarian.


You have to go-go to Chic-a-go-go. Why? It's Chicago's very own fantastic cable access dance show and the next taping is January 24th, 2004 from 3pm-6pm. You can dress casual, but why? Clearly this is an event for costumes. Dancers in both costumes and casual wear bust moves your grandma couldn't do to the likes of Tribe Called Quest and cheesy Lawerence Welk polkas and it's all good fun. You have to see it to believe it, check out the schedule. The show tapes at 322 S. Green Street, one block west of Halsted.

Bad News Cubs

Baseball's Hall of Fame inductions were announced this afternoon, and once again former Cub greats Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson didn't quite make it to Cooperstown. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Uncovered: Artists' Books at the MCA

Uncovered will present recent acquisitions from the MCA's renowned Artists' Books holdings, which includes artists' books, periodicals, records, stamps, postcards, and T-shirts. On view will be works by international, national, and Chicago-based artists, including Felipe Ehrenberg, Nan Goldin, Damien Hirst, Ed Ruscha, Lorna Simpson, Stephanie Brooks, Jason Peot, Sally Alatalo, and Karen Reimer. Also presented for the first time is 8.5 x 11, a project coordinated by Gabriel Fowler for which twenty local artists created 8.5 x 11 inch works. The show opens this Saturday and runs until February 1.

Now that's dedication

ESPN Magazine mentions in its 2003 wrapup that Chicagoan and serious Cubs fan Bill Murray, who was in Italy filming the next Wes Anderson movie during the October baseball playoffs, had it written into his contract that he'd get a satellite feed of the Cubs.

Scam artist

Craigslist Chicago's Missed Connections has quite a few interesting posts concerning a female scam artist who seems to operate on the Red Line from Rogers Park down to Lincoln Park. Read the Mugged Lady @ Thorndale SCAM! posts. Be careful not to get suckered.

Audrey Niffenegger

Local author Audrey Niffenegger will read from (and sign) her best-selling book, The Time Traveler's Wife, at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St., Thursday night at 7:30pm. Call 773/769-9299 or check here for more information. To bone up beforehand, read this Bookslut interview with Niffenegger.

The Angry Waiter

Don Woolf, a waiter with 15 years of experience and a graduate of the master's program of Public Affairs Journalism at Columbia College, is angry! He's created to serve (no pun intended) as an outlet for all the other angry restaraunt employees in the world. If you want to be a whistleblower and tell the public that Chez Crape has a fly infestation problem, or that the owner of the Dog-Diggity-Dugout is a sexually harrassing jag-off, send your story to The Angry Waiter.

Very Sketchy

Chicago Sketchfest, billed as the largest festival of sketch comedy in the country, kicks off this Thursday at the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont. Performances by more than 60 troupes will be performed over the next two weeks, including something called the Octo-Sketch: The 8 Hour Project -- next Monday, four teams will be given eight hours to develop a half-hour sketch show to be performed that evening. Tickets are $10 per performance or $60 for a festival pass; visit the site for a $2-off coupon.

Photocollages - In the flesh

Phineas X. Jones presents his wonderfully amazing and beautiful Photocollages at Uncommon Ground all through January. Meet him and other photography collage afficionados in the flesh at the official opening this Wednesday, January the 7th where there will be... Wine! Cheese! and lots of brou-ha-ha and general hipster elitist behavior. We're kidding about that last one but bring your Hipster Bingo Card! There's bound to be a digital camera somewhere. From 5-8pm at Uncommon Ground in Wrigleyville at 1214 W. Grace (Grace and Clark).

Sharon Quattrin in Concert

Sharon Quattrin is one of Chicago's few rising young operatic sopranos who retains a genuinely intimate air in chamber settings. This weekend she'll participate in a concert of Jewish music ranging from Sephardic love songs to Copeland pieces in an inexpensive concert at KAM Isaiah Israel. KAM is the oldest congregation in the midwest, and their beautiful Hyde Park synagogue is a historic landmark worth a visit itself.

Farewell to Fanny Farmer

Archibald Candy Corp., makers of Fanny Farmer and Fanny May candies, announced today that it's shutting down its West Loop plant, putting 625 employees out of work, and that it's selling off the candy brands to an as-yet-unnamed buyer. But with the loss of Fanny May/Fanny Farmer (and the loss of Frango mints manufacturing jobs in 1999), Chicago still has quite a few candy makers in town: Tootsie Roll, Ferrara Pan Company (makers of Lemonheads, Red Hots, Black Forest Gummies, etc.), and Blommer Chocolate Company are just some of the candy-makers still headquartered or making their products here in Chicago. [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

Coming Out Against Cancer

Chicago's Lesbian Community Cancer Project had a rough year in 2003, with funding cuts leading to staff layoffs. But LCCP hopes to make up lost ground this year, starting February 7 with its 13th annual Coming Out Against Cancer Ball, one of the Midwest's largest LGBT social events. Dance the night away -- with special DJ Meshell Ndegeocello -- at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 South Shore Drive. VIP reception begins at 6:30 p.m., and the Ball runs from 8:00 p.m. to midnight.

State of the Arts

The Chicago Tribune takes a look at how Chicago's major cultural institutions are expected to fare in 2004 in a still uncertain local economy and a changing national climate for cultural funding. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Fishy Names for Cartoon Sharks

You recall a couple years ago an Italian-American group picked a fight with The Sopranos for perpetuating the stereotype that all Italians are in the mafia? Well, now the Italic Institute of America is up in arms about Shark Tale, a new Dreamworks animated feature starring several sharks with names like Don Lino, Vinny and Luca -- voiced by Robert DiNiro, Martin Scorsese and other Italian-American Hollywood types. Read their complaint here.

Kerry James Marshall at MCA

This is your last chance to see "Kerry James Marshall: One True Thing, Meditations on Black Aesthetics" at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition closes January 18. Though he is known primarily for his large-scale paintings depicting African-American subjects based on the genre of narrative history painting, this show from Chicago-based artist Kerry James Marshall also includes sculpture, drawing, photography, and video.

About time

We finally got our first decent snowfall, and Tom Skilling says there's more where this came from, so it's time to brush up on shoveling skills. If you feel any tightness in your chest, stop immediately!

Force Tryouts

Hey, ladies! If you think you've got what it takes to strap on 50 pounds of protective gear and fight to get a football from one end of the field to the other, then the Chicago Force wants you to try out for the team. Take your padded shoulders, your best snarl, and your proof of health insurance to the Broadway Armory (5917 N. Broadway) on Saturday. You've got a chance to work for a successful Chicago football team.

Elvis Lives This Weekend

Start your Elvis-themed weekend with a tribute concert to the Elvis of the Seventies, starring Frank LaFon, tonight at 8pm at the Anthenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport. Then head back to the Athenaeum same time tomorrow for Cooking with Elvis, a play about "sex, food and rock-and-roll" by Lee Hall, who wrote Billy Elliot. Thankya, thankyaverymuch.

Handicapping the Dems

While our Revenge of the Second City column teaches you about the various candidates for the Senate seat being vacated by Peter Fitzgerald, Stump Connolly of The Week Behind handicaps the Democratic presidential race in this week's issue.

Museum to move U-505

This weekend will be your last chance to see the U-505 submarine at the Museum of Science and Industry before the German U-boat is moved to its new $35 million underground home. The Daily Herald reports that "crews will move the 252-foot-long, 37-foot-wide boat from its current spot at the south end of the museum to its new location at the museum's northeast corner, about 500 yards away. Doesn't sound too difficult, until you consider that the boat weighs 700 tons and has been rusting away for the better part of the last 50 years." The process is expected to take more than a week, but the new exhibit location won't be opened until next year. Find out more about the history of the submarine, including a virtual tour, at the museum's website.

Murder count down in 2003

Chicago's murder count in 2003 was 599, the lowest since the 1960s, according to the Sun-Times. Unfortunately, that number was still higher than the counts for New York (596) and Los Angeles (about 499).

Grass-fed is best!

The recent Mad Cow epidemic has driven myself and others to investigate organic food alternatives. Joining one of the many organic vegetable co-ops available in the area is a start. But if you're not ready or willing to be a vegetarian, Eat Wild has a list of Illinois farmers who meet certain farm-raised criteria. If you're not convinced, you can read why they say grass-fed is best.

New Laws for 2004

More than 200 new laws take effect in the city and state today, including ordinances to increase the minimum wage, institute Sunday parking meter fees, make popcorn the official snack of Illinois, forbid anyone but a doctor or dentist from splitting your tongue, and create a drug discount card for seniors. Get in the know! [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Chicago is a Killer

The annual number of shootings and homicides are steadily decreasing around the country. But for the second time in three years, Chicago leads the nation in murders -- 599 in 2003, compared with 594 in NYC and fewer than 500 in LA. Our city's murder rate is actually three times New York's because of our smaller population. Happy new year! [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Happy freakin' New Year

Hope you enjoyed the penny fares overnight; as of six a.m., CTA fares go up to $1.75 per standard ride.



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