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TODAY

Wednesday, June 28

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Another Lakeview man murdered in his home

A man's body was found dead in his Boystown apartment yesterday morning, and this afternoon police ruled it a homicide. Forest Cowley, a businessman who ran Cubs souvenir stands in Wrigleyville and had recently opened a storefront in Century Centre, had been missing for two weeks before his body was discovered in his apartment at Cornelia and Broadway. Police aren't necessarily linking Cowley's murder to that of Kevin Clewer, who was stabbed to death in his apartment on Elaine Place, a block away, in March, or to Brad Winters, who was killed in his Lincoln Park apartment last August, but it's hard to resist making a connection. Both Clewer and Winters were gay men who brought home a stranger from a Boystown bar before they were found murdered; police are still searching for the main suspect in Clewer's murder, and Winters' death remains unsolved. Whether Cowley's death is related or not, you might want to be careful who you bring home.

Originally, the last line of this post read, "Whether Cowley's death is related or not, gay men, you might want to rethink your one-night stands." We received a couple of e-mails of complaint in , accusing me and/or Gapers Block of being "presumptuous," "insulting," and "possibl[y] homophobic." If I may, I'd like to respond.

This is the sort of thing I'd post on my own blog and no one would bat an eye—in fact, I did post it on my blog, and no one batted an eye—but I should have realized that GB readers don't all know me that well. I am myself a gay man who lives in Lakeview/Boystown. My exhortation to "reconsider your one-night stands" was intended as a humorous way of saying, "be careful who you bring home." Here's what I wrote to the first respondent Wednesday night:

"It’s true that there’s no hard evidence that the Clewer case was a hookup gone wrong. But the 'person of interest' the Chicago PD has been looking for in that case, the one whose sketch you see posted all over the neighborhood, was upgraded to 'prime suspect' last week. Clewer was not just seen talking to the suspect; two witnesses told police that Clewer and the suspect left the bar together and headed in the direction of Clewer’s home. Several news stories have also noted that the suspect is known to work as a hustler, although police have stressed that this was not *necessarily* the case that night. All of this information can be found in this story at NBC5 and this one at the Trib.

"Police have also stressed that there is no physical evidence linking Clewer’s murder with Brad Winters’, but there is a perception in the community that the deaths were certainly similar, in that both men were found dead in their own apartments, naked, with multiple stab wounds, and no evidence of forced entry (link).

"After some community activists drew attention to the similarities, the CPD met with community leaders and 'issued community alert warnings against taking strangers home,' as recounted in Laura Washington’s Sun-Times column here.

"I’ll grant you that very little information has been released yet regarding Forest Cowley’s murder, but given the proximity and surface similarities to Clewer’s death, my thoughts went immediately to a connection. I’m not alone, in fact; I made the post on GB after overhearing a conversation this afternoon on the very subject, and some gay media outlets are making the connection as well, as in the headline 'Has Gay Man’s Killer Struck Again?' here.

"Also, for what it’s worth, I’m a gay man myself. I’m not trying to hide behind some double standard of 'I can say it but they can’t,' but I would like you to know that what I wrote came from being a part of the community concerned by this. While I certainly didn’t want to be seen as insulting, I realized I was walking a fine line of stereotyping with what I said. But stereotypes do come from somewhere, as they say; I decided 'better safe than sorry' was the way to go.

"I hope I’ve answered some of your concerns. Thanks so much for taking the time to write us about this. It’s great to know we have readers who care so deeply about what we say."

- (KV)

Design Competition

Submit a tee shirt design to Threadless before July 15 for the chance to win $2,500 in cash and a whole bunch more. The competition is already underway and several designers have submitted pieces, which you can currently check out and vote for on the site. A winner will be chosen by by August 1st. Visit the Threadless website for more information or to submit your designs (you can enter up to three).

One (Really) Good Thing

Having had many unhappy experiences in suburbs and pseudo-suburbs of this fine city and others, and loving this fine city so very much, I'm inclined to never move to a suburb. However, Flea tells us a story (June 26th entry) which makes me understand the draw of the suburbs a wee bit more than I do now. It's all about the kids.

Best. Name. For. Daley. Ever.

"I like to say he's a janitor with a vision," has to be one of the most original descriptions of Daley ever. It's from an article in Metropolitan Magazine, a pub devoted to sustainable policies and design. Has great details about what the city is doing to make itself the greenest in the country.

O'Hare expansion may mean increase in wetlands

The Tribune reports that the planned expansion of O'Hare could mean an increase in the amount of wetlands in the surrounding area, because the US Army Corps of Engineers requires the creation of 1.5 acres for every acre of wetlands destroyed. The expansion project is set to take away 150 acres of wetland space, and so the city is requesting bids for wetland migration work along the Des Plaines River.

Pick a Fair, Any Fair

Now that it's warm, there's an art fair or exhibition going on every weekend. The Chicago Artists' Coalition makes it easy to find the one for you with its Illinois Art Fair Directory. Cosponsored by the Illinois Arts Council, it's searchable by city or month.

Ryan Refund

Did you give money to the Jack Ryan senatorial campaign? I hope you kept a receipt: he's offering refunds to donors who gave since he won the Republican nomination.

$2.00, here we come...

The Sun-Times reports that Mayor Daley hasn't ruled out another hike in CTA fares to solve its financial crises. He would only say that the CTA is "looking at many alternatives," which at this time seem to be (1) increase fares, (2) cut service, or (3) both. Hey, on the bright side, if the fare goes up to $2, we can all start using those super-cool redesigned $2 bills.

Black Gay Pride

The debris from the Pride Parade may have been cleaned up, but that doesn't mean the party stopped. Tonight marks the beginning of festivities for the Windy City Black GLBT Pride Week. It kicks off with a free party at Zentra tonight at 10pm, and doesn't stop till the Red White and Blue Party on Monday. Check the site for more details. And you thought Pride Week was just seven days long.

Billy Corgan's day job redux

As previously reported at GB, Billy Corgan has a new job as Cubs reporter for XRT these days. And according to the Trib, his new job is going pretty well. Corgan sez: "I don't take it seriously. I view it as entertainment. I'm by no means an expert, but then again, I think most 'experts' aren't experts either." Well said, Billy!

Clean, classy, Coudal.

Our friends Coudal Partners have launched a widescreen version of their site of Internet wonders. Looks great and hey, there's also a new Western State (#4) with Jason Gnewikow of ye olde midwestern emo-popsters The Promise Ring. Three cheers to the gang at CP. As we say around these parts, "Looking good, looking fresh, big pimpin'."

Wilco settles suit

Espionage is alive and well and living on shortwave radio bands. Secret messages are broadcast all the time, using encryption that makes it sound like jibberish to normal folk. It's this jibberish that London's Irdial-Discs has recorded and published in a 4-disc collection called The Conet Project. And it's one of these recordings that Wilco mixed into their track "Poor Places" -- a woman saying "yankee, hotel, foxtrot." Tweedy thought it was an uncopyrighted recording, Inter-Disc thought otherwise, sued, and now Wilco has settled for an undisclosed amount, though it's clear Irdial-Discs will at least get a royalties from that song.

Bean? No, Cloud Gate.

The new sculpture (that hasn't even been completely constructed!) at Millennium Park nicknamed "The Bean" now has an official name: "Cloud Gate." The sculpture's creator, Anish Kapoor, predicts the sculpture will not be finished until September. (Of which year, Kapoor did not say.) In the meantime, don't forget that you can always keep an eye on "Cloud Gate" via webcam.

We're Back!

Thanks for your patience while we changed servers! Everything should be back up and working now -- let us know (inbox@gapersblock) if anything is awry.

One programming change to let you know about: Kim Conte's restaurant review column, Drive-in, now has a name that better matches its mission: Fork It Over. Stay tuned for other changes and additions coming soon.

Thanks,
--the editors

12 Dumbest Comic Overs

Your Humorous Moment of the Day: The 12 Dumbest Covers of American Comics brought to you by "Chicago's Finest Comic Shop", Atlas.

Firecraker Kustom Kar and Hot Rod Kruise

Chicago native George Barris will be appearing at the Volo Auto Museum this weekend for the first annual Firecracker Kustom Kar and Hot Rod Kruise. Barris is the self-described King of Kustomizers, and he is responsible for the creation of many memorable cars for TV and film including the original Batmobile, the General Lee from the "Dukes of Hazzard," and Kit from the "Knight Rider" series. So head out to Volo, IL where Barris will be signing autographs and sharing customization tips. Or is it kustomization?

Popular restaurants are also pricey

The Sun-Times reports that Chicagoans are going out more often to eat, and paying more for the experience. The latest Zagat survey shows that the most popular restaurants in Chicago -- Tru, Charlie Trotter's, and Everest -- are some of the priciest places to eat in the city. In addition, a survey of Chicago diners indicates that nearly 2/3 are paying more at restaurants than two years ago.

Free Comic Book Day

July 3 is Free Comic Book Day at participating comic book shops across the country. Participating Chicago locations include Chicago Comics at 3244 N. Clark and Graham Crackers Comics at 69 E. Madison. Enter your zipcode at the Free Comic Book Day website to find the participating comic book store nearest you.

Make 'em laugh

Have you harbored a secret desire to run away and join the circus? Now you can run to the Circus Factory at 4430 N. Western Avenue for a full range of circus arts classes for adults and kids. If you don't want to commit to an 8-week session, drop by on Tuesdays for their weekly Juggle-Jam from 9-11pm. For just $5 you can learn to juggle, practice your juggling moves, and meet up with other Chicago area juggling enthusiasts. Check out the Circus Factory website for more information.

Give me a bike!

Feeling lucky? Bike Town USA, sponsored by Bicycling magazine, is giving away 50 free bikes to folks in Chicago and several other cities. For your chance to win a free bike, describe, in 50 words or less, how biking will change your life. Visit the Bike Town USA website for complete rules and application. The deadline is June 30 (and you can fax your entry) so hurry up and enter!

New Miss Illinois hauntingly familiar

Michelle LaGroue of Naperville has been crowned Miss Illinois -- for the second time. Miss LaGroue was first runner-up in 2002, but the winner that year, Erika Harold, won the Miss America pageant, allowing Miss LaGroue to serve out the remainder of the term as Miss Illinois. So this is actually the first time that she won the pageant. But don't worry, all you former Miss Illinois'ers out there; you can enter again if you've won, but you have to sit out at least one year before competing again.

1/5 of the Jackson Five

Poor Tito Jackson. Despite all the weirdness in his family, he's still singled out for having a funny name. Nevermind that he's in the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, nevermind that he's built a successful career in the blues, he's (snicker) Tito! Anyway, you can catch the lead guitarist of the Jackson Five perform at 6:45pm this Sunday at Fitzgerald's American Music Festival, along with Waco Brothers and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, among others. Check out the full schedule for the four-day fest, which kicks off Thursday.

When it rains, it pours

It seems we're back after our hosts' service provider got hit with DOS attacks. In what seems like a multitude of issues, suffice to say, we will be moving to a new server/host soon. Thanks for your patience and support. There'll be some exciting stuff happening in the weeks to come so look out for that.

Veggie bike and dine

If you're a vegetarian bike enthusiast, consider buying an early ticket for the July 24 Veggie Bike and Dine event, a nine-mile ride with stops at four restaurants: Karyn's Fresh Corner, Chicago Diner, Lula Cafe, and the Handlebar. Advance registration is required, and limited to the first 25 riders.

Mmm, Chicago...

Summer is once again here, and that can mean only one thing around these parts: the 24th annual Taste of Chicago. Dozens and dozens of local restaurants offering samples of their regular menus, a "wireless cafe" operated by US Cellular with fancy WiFi hardware, a bunch of free concerts, and people. LOTS OF PEOPLE. Tip to hardcore Taste fans: the food tickets, which cost $7 per pack, can be purchased at local Dominick's for $5.50 through this Thursday.

Jenny Jones Case Appeal Rejected

You might remember the case in 1995 when Jonathan Schmitz murdered Scott Amedure after Amedure revealed he had a crush on Schmitz during a taping of the Jenny Jones show in Chicago. Although the episode never aired, Amedure's family "won a $29.3 million award against Warner Brothers and the talk show, but the decision was later thrown out." Today the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the family to reinstate the award. Schmitz, on the other hand, is currently serving 25-50 years in prison.

Watch for road workers

If you haven't seen the signs when travelling on one of the city's fine expressways or highways, then you should know that if you hit and kill a road worker, you're likely to face 14 years in prison for reckless homicide. It has happened for the second time (a hit-and-run) in less than a week on the Dan Ryan. It's not just a coincidence either. Slow down around those construction areas.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

The Joliet Arsenal, once the world's largest TNT factory, has been transformed into the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Developed as part of the Openlands Project, Midewin is the country's first national tallgrass prairie. Midewin is located at 30239 S. State Route 53 in Wilmington, Illinois. The prairie has several hiking trails and also holds tours, including the unusual Ghosts of the Ammunition Plant tour. Call 815-423-6370 for more information.

Not so homicidal

We're doing better it seems. Last year we had the dubious honor of being the nation's leading city of murder, but it seems we may be a little less prone to be harmful to our fellow citizens this year.

Blue light's special on El trains

The CTA, having installed signs and special metal rings surrounding the emergency contact buttons that are in each train car, have now added an additional feature to identify the buttons: blue lights above the buttons. The blue light should make it extremely easy to spot the buttons, which were installed to allow passengers to contact the train driver. (But only in emergencies! So don't be pushing the button just because you're lonely and need someone to talk to. And if you accidentally push the button, just let the driver know it was an accident.)

Cheap books!

Who likes books? I bet you do. This weekend, you're in luck in Lakeview, as you'll find a used book sale going on at the Second Unitarian Church at 656 W. Barry. 10:00 to 4:30 Saturday, Noon to 4:30 Sunday. Go find some bargains!

Chicago Peace Activist Jailed

The June issue of Conscious Choice has an interview with Chicagoan Kathy Kelly, a peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Kelly is currently serving a three-month sentence at a federal prison in Pekin, Illinois for "trespassing during a protest at the School of the Americas" at Fort Benning, Georgia. Voices in the Wilderness is also posting Kelly's letters from prison.

GB Chicagoist Smack-down

So, some of the GB staff got together last night for a quick meeting at The Handlebar, and who do we see at the next table? The Chicagoist gang. Well, of course we all sprang into action, testing each other's fighting skills. Turned out amicably though; they bought us a round of Schlitz and we put away the katanas.

A Saturday in the Art Institute

It's probably one of the most widely-known and easily-recognized paintings in the Art Institute's collection. And tomorrow it's the centerpiece of the museum's new exhibition, Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte. Early Seurat works will be featured, as will pieces by artists that inspired Seurat. But the main feature will of course be the 1884 painting A Sunday on La Gande Jatte. Researchers have put together an alternate color-corrected version of the painting that supposedly represents how the painting appeared when it was first unveiled. This alternate version hasn't been shown to the press, so you have to go to the exhibit to see it. The exhibit runs from June 19 through September 19.

Vintage Chicago Postcards

Old Chicago: History and Architecture in Vintage Postcards takes you on a virtual tour of the city through postcards from the late 19th and early 20th century. Browse dozens of vintage postcards by street, category, or architect. The site was created by Pat Sabin who lives in Atlanta, Georgia and, ironically, says she has never actually been to Chicago.

25 years of Svengoolie

The Tribune has a write-up today on Rich Koz, who has been dressing up as horror movie show host Svengoolie since 1979. Today Koz is honored with the Silver Circle Award from the Chicago chapter of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and tomorrow night on Channel 26, a Svengoolie 25th anniversary special will air, with plenty of clips from past years and a classic horror film (The Screaming Skull) to show as the main feature.

Make No Little s

A new, experimental class at Northwestern called "Using Technology, Making History," is planning on taking the 95-year-old Plan of Chicago, Daniel Burnham's groundbreaking treatise of urban planning, and re-publishing it using technologies available on the Web. Co-taught by an urban historian and a professor of computer science, the class will have students not only digitizing the contents of the original document, but also creating dynamic versions of the maps, including comparisons of the Plan to the realities of urban development over the last century.

Healthcare for All Rally

Head out to Lincoln Park this Saturday at noon for the Healthcare for All Rally. Former presidential hopeful Howard Dean will be joining the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others to talk about "a national healthcare program that covers everyone." The rally will be taking place just south of the Lincoln Park Zoo. Visit the Chicago Jobs for Justice website for more information.

Caving In

Do you enjoy dark places? Like squeezing between rocks? Are some of your closest friends bats? Then the Windy City Grotto is for you. The local chapter of the National Speleological Society meets every month to plan caving trips and other activities.

betterPropaganda

Everyone likes free music. I just can't say no myself. And everyone likes listening to new artists. My penchant for new, new, new is unsatiable. Well, betterPropaganda is here to fill that void. Their model focuses on showcasing indie artists both known and a little less known and making mp3's available to download and it's all legal baby. Jointly co-produced in Chicago and San Francisco, they're here to make the world a better place with better music and betterPropaganda.

Mob Takes Over City Music Clubs

Hundreds of music industry folks descend on the city's music venues tonight through Saturday to catch dozens of local and regional acts hoping to hit the big time. That's right, it's Mobfest weekend again. Illinois Entertainer has more info, and The Reader has the schedule; get out there and catch the next Kill Hannah or Disturbed.

Piper's Alley = Art Gallery

The New York Times writes about computer generated art called "Imagination Environment". Using text from the closed-caption, the program/piece searchs the internet and an image database to create associations with what is being said. Conclusion: Fox News' "bolder language yields stronger images". So Fox News is good for something after all. Check it out at Piper's Alley in Old Town.

What, no Roctober?

In today's Tribune: the 50 best magazines. You'll know whether or not you're going to like this list after finding out what's #1: Wired. The usual suspects are in there (Time, People, the New Yorker and, yes, Chicago), but the token "alternative" pick is a good 'un: Heeb magazine makes it in at #45.

DIY Bloomsday

As you probably know if you looked at Google's header graphic today, today's the 100th anniversary of Leopold Bloom's ramble around Dublin, as chronicled in James Joyce's "Ulysses". Celebrate Bloomsday tonight at the Red Lion Pub (2446 N. Lincoln, across from the Biograph) with a "do-it-yourself Bloomsday reading" performed open-mike style in three-minute increments. The fun goes from 7:00 to 9:00 tonight, admission is $3, and it's 21+. So even if you can't completely follow Joyce's text, you can still drink.

Gentlemen, Cleanse Your Palates

This Saturday the world's finest competitive eaters will converge in Downer's Grove for the Bacci World Pizza Eating Championship. On the line will be the $2,500 in prize money, and the ultra-prestigious title of World Pizza Eating Champion. This will be the first IFOCE-sanctioned Chicago event (that’s the International Federation of Competitive Eating), and will draw a panel of competitors that includes Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, world ice cream eating champion, among other contenders.

"We Play Anything"

WRZA-FM, 99.9 on your radio dial, changed formats yesterday. It's now known as Nine FM, and is playing a mix of rock, pop, hip-hop and soul. We'll have to see if WXRT, who used to play "everything in no particular order." (No word on whether RZA will have anything to do with the station.)

Lincoln Thru a Lens

If you've been soaking up all of this fine photography weather in Lincoln Park (the big grassy area by the lake, not the neighborhood) you might already be a winner. The Chicago Parks District and Lincoln Park Cultural Center are sponsoring an amateur photography contest this summer for people snapping shots of Lincoln Park. Categories include people, places, animals, and plants. You can pick up an application at the Lincoln Park Cultural Center and submit photos anytime before June 30.

Outdoor Theater (in a good way)

The Chicago Park District's Theater on the Lake season opens tonight. Every summer, the Park District invites a group of local theatre companies to remount one of the past season's productions at the open-air theater on the lakeshore at Fullerton Ave. It's a great way to catch a show you may have missed. The season kicks off with Griffin's production of Picnic; later you'll find offerings from the Neo-Futurists, Second City, The House, and Teatro Luna, among others. Full schedule here.

Best of the Best: Spaces

The Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects released a survey completed by AIA Chicago members on what buildings and spaces are the best in the city. Some are predictable (Millennium Park) and some are relatively new (Sofitel). The Sun-Times has more. [via Gigantic]

Apes in the House

Finally, the apes have moved in to their new home in Lincoln Park Zoo. The Tribune reports that the gorillas as well as a group of seven chimps from Florida's Lion Country Safari have settled in, to be joined by the zoo's five-member chimp troop scheduled to return next week. A while back, the new habitat was tested for any chances the animals might get out of their pen, and changes were made to the design, but only time, and monkey know-how will tell. The exhibit opens to the public July 1.

The Magnificent Ambersons at the Music Box

The Music Box's Orson Welles Weekend Matinee Series starts rolling on June 19 & 20 at 11:30am with The Magnificent Ambersons, one of the few instances I can say that I've read the novel yet not seen the movie -- no film lover should miss seeing this on the big screen. His follow-up to Citizen Kane, Welle's adaptation of Booth Tarkington's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1918 novel, tells the story of a bratty rich kid who eventually gets the comeuppance he deserves against the backdrop of a rapidly changing, late 19th century America. While widely considered "mutilated" by studio cuts, my dad says it was still really good.

Gipper's Block

The renaming of 1-88 to the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway/Tollway is complete: The Illinois State Tollway Authority approved the name change for their portion of the road (it's maintained by several state and local agencies over its length) yesterday. The former East-West Tollway is not to be confused with Ronald Reagan Highway -- US Rte. 14, which most people still refer to as Northwest Highway.

Caught on tape

Our governor last year signed a law that required police to record homicie interrogations and confessions, despite stiff opposition from law enforcement. Now the New York Times and the Tribune report on a survey from Northwestern's Center on Wrongful Convictions that says police have come to embrace the practice: It saves time and money and heads off allegations of misconduct.

Chicago on Wikipedia

One of the niftiest things on the internet is the Wikipedia. It's a free open source (meaning you can add to and edit information!) encyclopedia. Since it's open source, it's kept up-to-date in real time. Chicago's entry is a nice neat nutshell that gives one a good overview of the city. At a glance it tell you about the history, geography, novels sets in Chicago, companies based here and much, much more. The best part? If you feel it's missing something, just go ahead and add your information. Power, in the hands of the user. Related: What is a Wiki?

Debate Over Mosque in Morton Grove

A neighborhood group known as the Morton Grove Organization is pursuing a lawsuit filed last September seeking to prevent the Muslim Community Center in Morton Grove from expanding their school to build a mosque. While the Organization claims the dispute is about parking and increased traffic, they are using statues of pigs to symbolize their protest. Read the full story here.

Grant Can't Dance!

Rarely do I read a press release and get chills. Of excitement that is. Yes, the city is offering dance lessons Thursday through Sunday in Grant Park again this year. Yes, the music varies from Ballroom to Classic Salsa to Swamp Pop. And yes, most exciting of all, they're going to have actual live electronic music on Wednesdays. No dance lessons though. Things get started on Thursday when the Bandeleros play Mediterranean Rumba music.

New Native American Literary Collection at UIC

Intrigued by U of I's possible mascot change, you can read more about Native American history in the Chicago area, and beyond, at UIC's library. A new collection, possibly the largest in the world, of Native American literary works, audio recordings, and other materials, is now on display. The collection includes work by Potawatomi Chief Simon Pokagon, whose father, Leopold, sold what is now Chicago to the U.S. government for 3 cents an acre in 1833. It also includes work by contemporary Native American writers, such as Cherokee poet John Rollin Ridge, Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, Martin Cruz Smith, and Gerald Vizenor.

Korean Chicago

New City Chicago takes a look at a Korean-heavy stretch of Lawrence Avenue. Find out where to buy books, eat food, and shop for supplies -- all with a decidedly Korean bent.

Chief Illiniwek vote delayed

The U of I board of trustees is expected to introduce on Thursday a resolution to delay a vote on whether to keep the controversial sports mascot Chief Illiniwek. The resolution instead calls for a "consensus conclusion" to the Illiniwek debate. It is unclear as to what this compromise would entail; in a report delivered to trustees in March of 2002, former trustee Roger Plummer said that "after nine months of reviewing options presented for a 'compromise' resolution, including many unsolicited recommendations, it is abundantly clear that there is no 'compromise' available."

Congress Hotel strike 1 year old

The Sun-Times reports on the strike of 100 employees of the Congress Plaza Hotel, which started a year ago in part to protest a wage cut. Since the strike started, 30 workers have opted to return to their jobs, the hotel has lost more than $1 million as a result of the strike, and the two sides are no closer to a settlement than they were a year ago.

Not So Pricey

Next time someone complains about how expensive Chicago is, throw this factoid at them: we're not even in the top 25 worldwide. According to Mercer Human Resource Consulting's annual cost-of-living survey, we rank 35th... although we're be third in the U.S. behind New York and LA. Still, it puts things in perspective.

Canine distemper outbreak

If you have a dog that you frequently let outside, you should be aware of the recent rise in distemper cases in dogs. The respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological virus is transmitted through airborne contact, and can be fatal if untreated. The best treatment is of course, prevention: vaccinations are available through your veterinarian.

Chicago Draws Tomine

You may know the work of comic book artist and illustrator Adrien Tomine quite well. His tales of awkward and disaffected youth strike close to home. For those who don't, he's the creator of Optic Nerve, illustrates for The New Yorker, is featured in the current McSweeney's and if that doesn't ring any bells, you may have seen his regular strip in Pulse, the Tower Records magazine. Tomine will be appearing in his first Chicago event this Thursday the 17th at the Borders in Lakeview. He'll be talking about his latest, Scrapbook which collects all of his Tower Records strips as well as his illustration and design work and other ephemera. Not to be missed.

Paddling Along

Friday was a day off for me and I took one of the coolest trips ever - canoeing the Chicago River. Chicago River Canoe and Kayak rent canoes for $10/hr on weekday and $18/hr on weekends. We saw turtles, lots of wildflowers, herons, and a shipwreck (no joke!). If you want a little adventure without having to travel far, check out the park behind the Jewel at Western and Roscoe. If you want to try paddling other places, check out the massive http://www.chicagopaddling.org/ site, which has history, locations, pictures, and just about everything related to waterways in Chicago.

Footloose Chicago

Free walking tours of Chicago. Like all arsty and stuff, too. Certainly different than the Chicago Architecture tours.

Lawnmower Buyback Program

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has a program for people to turn in gas-powered lawnmowers for a $150 rebate towards the purchase of electric, rechargeable or push lawnmowers, and they also provide free exchanges for low-emission gas cans. The next exchange for the Chicago area is June 26 in Des Plaines at the State Police Headquarters at 9511 W. Harrison from 8am to 3pm. Visit the official Illinois EPA website for a complete list of dates and locations.

Architects' favorite Chicago buildings

The Chicago chapter of the Amrican Institute of Architects released the results of their best-of-the-best survey, as taken by over 300 Chicagoland architects. Best indoor space: the atrium lobby of the Rookery building. Best outdoor space: Buckingham Fountain. Best skyline view: Adler Planetarium. Check the link for the full list.

Daley heads north

The Tribune reports that Mayor Daley and his wife will be moving into a condo overlooking Millennium Park, meaning that Da Mare will, for the first time in his life, be living on the North Side. Not to worry, though, South Siders; Daley still pledges his loyalty to the White Sox.

Bike in the Nude!

Like Biking? Like hanging out in your birthday suit? Why not combine the two and join the World Naked Bike Ride tomorrow night!? The Chicago ride starts from 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave., kicking off with a pre-party and body painting session at 7pm, then hitting the streets around 9pm. More info here.

Tale of Two CTAs

Just weeks after This Is Grand is launched, a competitor appears. The CTA Tattler offers short vignettes and snippets of conversation witnessed on and around the city's train lines. Interesting.

CHA, photographed

Photographer Jack Bridges's site has some quietly moving pictures of Chicago's disappearing high-rise housing projects: Robert Taylor homes, Jane Addams homes, and Stateway Gardens.

Bring me your broken, your old, your G3 laptops

If you've got some tired and dusty CPUs taking up space in your living room, or if you've upgraded to a new computer and don't feel right just tossing the old one, you can recycle them and help out Chicago's schools, all in one trip. The City of Chicago, Computers for Schools, GM, the UAW, and Electromotive are co-sponsoring Chicago's first annual Recycle Day at the United Center on Saturday. You can even drop off those old cell phones that are bigger than a small child. The groups will clean up and fix donations, and use them where they can in schools in the Chicago area.

The Blacklist

The Blacklist is a well done online magazine produced here in good old Chicago. Publisher and crative director Ray Noland writes in the publisher's notes, "Coming from Chicago, I see a lot of talented individuals around this town that struggle to keep their lights on. Most of them decide to move either east or west to broaden their horizons. Such a shame." Keeping the Chicago spirit alive, Blacklist.

Coming Soon: Green Evening Farmers Market

On June 24th, the city will open the first evening farmers market, at 843 W. Randolph. The market will run through the end of October on Thursday evenings, from 4 to 8 p.m. The Sun-Times reports, "about 10 farmers will offer organic produce and meats, and specialty vendors will sell artisanal goods such as pastries and cheese. At least twice a month, chefs will prepare and sell to-go meals". The market is a direct response to the city workers who complain about the only other organic market, the Green City Market, held on Wednesdays mornings. Hooray for good city response!

Blues Fest Overflow

Blues Fest is underway, but Grant Park isn't the only place you can catch live blues this weekend. The Sun-Times offers a quick list of some of the shows at area clubs, (including pornstar-turned-chanteuse Candye Kane, Willy Kent and the Gents and Jimmy Johnson -- maybe they were going with some sort of sexy name theme).

Clinger Blooms on Stage

A couple of months ago it was noted that Will Clinger, longtime host of WTTW's "Wild Chicago", was leaving the show to pursue a career on stage. He's just showed up in his first role post-WC -- as James Joyce's Leopold Bloom in the Irish Repertory production of "A Dublin Bloom," a stage adaptation of "Ulysses". So far, it's gotten mostly positive reviews. The show runs through June 27 at the Victory Gardens Theater.

Pitchformula

Always thought music criticism was formulaic? Loren Jan Wilson wrote a computer program to analyze the frequency of words in positive and negative album reviews published on Pitchfork. He used the data to determine which words and phrases appear most frequently in positive reviews, and wrote songs to capitalize on the reviewers' collective preferences. The paper is Wilson's BA project at the University of Chicago.

Kup the Anachronism

Irv Kupcinet, along with Mike Royko, was the model of what a Chicago columnist was for many decades. By the time he died, though, his assistant wrote the copy and he was "a slightly embarrassing anachronism" from another time and place. Chicago Magazine has an interesting assessment of Kup's legacy.

Brown Line work on hold; Demon Dogs lives!

The Sun-Times reports that the CTA's plans to renovate the Brown Line are currently on hold, after they realized the construction bids that they received for the project were way too high. This means that businesses near Brown Line tracks that were due to be demolished for the construction have a bit of a reprieve (I'm looking at you, Demon Dogs!), although the CTA's Frank Kreusi promises they'll still be done by the original 2009 completion date.

Operation Last Rites

That's the name of the sting operation that nabbed another nine Gangster Disciples overnight, with warrants out on another four. The four-month operation broke up an "open-air heroin and crack cocaine market" in Englewood. Here's some background on the gang, including the long list of turf they claim. (Apparently, the Chicago-based BGDs have also started franchising in the Deep South, making police very nervous.)

Chicago Drive-in

If the rain keeps up, this won't be the weekend to do it, but Cascade Drive-in in West Chicago awaits you and your car. Unlike the B-movie fare of old, Cascade shows first-run flicks -- this week it's Shrek 2 and The Day After Tomorrow. And here's a list of all the drive-in theaters in Illinois.

Millenium Park Tour

Sal writes in with an update to his site, MilleniumPark.net. He recently went on one of two Millenium Park tours as part of the Annual Great Chicago Places and Spaces festival. He's got a ton of new photos and a great update.

Back, back, back.

Hallelujah! We're back in full effect y'all. Much rejoicing is being done around these parts as we're living la vida loca. It's been hellish with worry but now we're resting a little easy as we get columns, photos and new content to you as we speak. Thanks for checking in and we'd appreciate it if you spread the word. It's peanut butter jelly time!

Neighbors Connect Online

The Chicago Tribune writes about Chicago area residents who are creating active online communities to connect people in their suburbs and neighborhoods. For example, check out this MSN email group for the Logan Square neighborhood.

Candy comes to Chicago (but not for you!)

With the recent news of candy makers leaving the Chicago area, it's heartening to hear that the delicious-sounding ALL CANDY EXPO (slogan: "It's Candy Time!") is happening this week at McCormick Place. The expo, unfortunately, is not open to the public, but the schedule turns up one amusing event: children will be allowed into the expo for one hour only, on the final day of the expo. (And they'll have to go through a 15-minute "children's briefing" before admission. No doubt they'll also have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and be searched before leaving.)

Peek-a-boo!

We apologize to those that are trying to see the site but coming up with dead space. We're having technical difficulty — neither our host or us know what's going on. You can see the site, then you can't see the site. Apparently everything is kosher but we know the internet is playing a particularly twisted game of now you see it, now you don't. Your best best is to refresh.

Jeff Citations issued

The Chicago theatre community's Jeff Citations were awarded last night in a ceremony at Park West. The Citations wing awards of the Joseph Jefferson Committee honor achievement among the city's numerous non-union theatres. This year's big winner was Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, which took eleven awards for three productions, including best musical for "Dr. Sex." TimeLine's "Hannah and Martin" and Strawdog's "Detective Story" shared the award for best play—unlike the Equity Jeffs, Citations are non-competitive and there are often multiple winners in a category.

Transit of Venus

Tomorrow morning from 5:18am till 6:25am, Chicagoans will glimpse something that hasn't happened in more than 100 years: Venus will travel between Earth and the Sun. We'll only catch the last bit of the transit (best viewing is in the Middle East), but with the right equipment, anyone can watch. The Chicago Astronomical Society will be observing the transit at the Adler Planetarium, but if you can get up that early, all you have to do is head to the lakeshore to get an unimpeded view.

Electronic music events

Want to know more about techno and electronic music events in Chicago? Check out Chi-tech, a site that lists upcoming events, or sign up for m50's city-wide techno events list. In addition, you can check out sites for event promoters, such as Meiotic and Ill Measures, and sign up for their lists. And of course, we'll let you know about crucial music happenings on the GB calendar.

AIA National Convention and Design Expo

The American Institute for Architects is holding their National Convention and Design Exposition (NaCoDeEx for short, right?) this week from June 10-12. It's being held at McCormick Place and will feature a presentation by hot author Erik Larson (he of Devil in the White City fame). In their words, "Whether you’re an architect, designer, landscape architect, engineer, developer, builder, interior designer, educator or manufacturer, this convention brings together all members of the design and construction industry!" Woo-ha!

Whoops! Cubs don't own parking lot

The Sun-Times reports that a plot of land currently being used for a parking lot at Wrigley Field was bought in 1982 from a railroad company that didn't have the right to sell it. The Cubs are currently working on a deal to purchase the land for real this time, because they're hoping to turn the lot into a parking deck, a Cubs Hall of Fame and a sports-themed restaurant.

Impress Friends and Influence Others

The webzine Subsystence invites you to Sonotheque, 1444 W Chicago Ave., at 9pm tonight for INFLUENCE, a new monthly music series. This first installment features friend-of-GB Atomly, celebrating his record release, along with Snuggles, Matt Hellige and Ken Meier. To sweeten the deal, there's no cover and PBR is $2. Yum.

Make Friends, Fight Asthma?

"If you live in a close-knit neighborhood, the kind where your neighbors have got your back, you're less likely to have asthma." The Sun-Times reports that a study of 338 Chicago neighborhoods found a correlation between neighborly trust and asthma prevalence. So I guess knowing your neighbors lets you breathe easier in more ways than one.

Madison to Chicago Relay

Speaking of running, the Great Midwest Relay is coming up in a couple days. Twelve-person teams run from Madison to Milwaukee to Chicago -- 175 miles total -- in 36 legs over two days (June 10 and 11). Registration is still open, so get your buddies together and see how far you can go!

On the road again

Anyone considering this fall's Chicago Marathon should lace up now. Hal Higdon's celebrated 18-week training schedule kicks off today, as do CARA's group training sessions.

Federal Investigation: Chicago-style

As Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from the the Valerie Plame investigation (a CIA operative who may have been outed by the Bush administration), he's been replaced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the US Attorney from Chicago. According to John Dean, "This has resulted in an investigation that is being handled Chicago-style - not D.C.-style. That's significant because in Washington, there is more of a courtesy and protocol toward power than exists in the Windy City."

Chicago ethnic markets writeup

The Washington Post has a good article on Chicago's ethnic food markets (registration required). Unfortunately, all of the shops mentioned are on the far north side, including Rogers Park Fruit Market, Middle East Bakery, and Thai Grocery. Regardless, it's still nice to see independent grocers getting recognition, a subject I care a lot about.

See the lakefront at 5 mph

The Sun-Times reports that a new tour company is offering a three-hour, seven-mile tour of the Chicago lakefront on a Segway. $65 gets you access to one of the scooters, which you can use to visit Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain and the museum campus. You also get an instructional class on the Segway's operation -- and a helmet, just in case.

Chicago in Black and White

Chicago Photography Center's 2nd Annual Chicago in Black and White event is taking place this Saturday June 5th. This year's fundraising shindig will include silent and live auctions, fabulous photographs, and many other prizes, including plane tickets and gift certificates. In addition, there will be dinner, an open bar and live entertainment. There are still a few spaces left, so hurry and sign yourself up before it's too late!

Dear Mary, won't you come out to play

Dear Mary is a project of DontAmend.com, the national effort against the proposed federal anti-same-sex-marriage amendment. Dear Mary focuses that effort through public letters to Mary Cheney, the vice president's openly gay daughter and campaign manager. Tonight at the Hideout is a benefit concert for Dear Mary, featuring a quartet of queer Chicago musicians. Christopher Becerra, Ellen Rosner, Dylan Rice and Scott Free will perform at 10pm, with DJ hb rayker spinning after midnight. Great acoustic music for a great cause.

Needle House

606 Magazine profiles the Needle House, 3259 S. Union St. in Bridgeport. Formerly a "cop hangout bar," then a drug lair, its current occupants have transformed it into a punk concert venue, skate ramp and home to the band Raise the Red Lantern.

By the way, 606 is looking for photographers, designers/illustrators and writers to contribute to the mag; they're holding an open house over at 1259 N. Milwaukee Ave., Apt. 2, from 3pm to 9pm today. Stop in and show'em what you got.

Don't Shoot

Apparently, the FBI doesn't want you photographing the city's federal buildings anymore. Chicagoist passes on the story of a photographer who was harrassed for taking a shot of the Dirksen Building.

Mugged, with Gun

Our own NH and JC were robbed at gunpoint last night. Read the play-by-play at Absenter.org.

Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

This weekend is the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer which is an event where fundraisers will walk between a 26.2 and 40 miles in the Chicago area over two days to raise awareness for Breast Cancer research. The Avon Foundation sponsors walks in six cities across the country and had donated more than $300 million to breast cancer research and care organizations to date. Each of this weekend's more than 1,300 participants raised at least $1,800 per person in order to walk. If you want to cheer them on, here are some "cheering sections" you can head out to. You might even see me walking with them. (I'll be the one in pink.)

LTH forum

Attention foodies: there's a new bulletin board in town. Some of the core posters from the Chicago Chowhound board have started the LTH Forum, which has a much more usable interface and relaxed atmosphere. There's already a great chow community in this city, it'll be nice to contribute to this new resource and watch it grow.

Books!

Just in case there weren't enough book related events to keep you busy this weekend. The publishing industry's three day extravaganza, The Book Expo, is being held at Mccormick Place over the next few days. The event kicks off tonight with a keynote address from former President Bill Clinton. There will be more than 2,000 exhibitors, 500 authors and over 100 conference sessions. Some of the highlights include appearances by Art Speigelman, Amy Tan and David Sedaris. Unfortunately the event is open only to industry professionals. Call 1-800-840-5614 if you have any questions or need additional information.

Genovese Studios

Michael Genovese is the man behind Genovese Studios, which produces some amazing work blending graf styles with typography. The custom signage is very cool too, including the hand painted swimming pool logo for a swanky downtown apartment building -- but it's the collaborative section that really gets my blood pumping.

Lit 50

NewCity Chicago announced its list of the top 50 movers-and-shakers in Chicago's vibrant literary scene. Included are newcomers like Audrey Niffenegger and mainstays like Studs Terkel, in addition to organizers of book fairs, readings, and more. Check out the complete Lit 50.

Chicago from Space

Coudal and Things point us to NASA's incredible Cities Collection, photos of the world's cities taken from space. They've got a whole lot of shots of Chicago and its environs, including some of the city at night and interesting cloud patterns.

Walking about Art

Speaking of things to do this weekend, tomorrow is the first Friday of the month, which means many of the city's galleries will be open late to show off their newest exhibits. Check out Chicago Gallery News for a list of openings and maps to the several gallery districts around town.

Ride Around the 35th

Saturday, join Rey Colon on a bike ride around the 35th Ward. The 35th is home to Logan Square, rumored to be bike-cooler than even Wicker Park. The ride is free. The first 50 to the start will get a free t-shirt. Start time is 10am from Palmer Square, between Kedzie and Sacramento on Palmer (two blocks south of Fullerton). After the ride will be a free lunch in Palmer Square. This will be a short (8 miles) ride.

Unicorns, Aisle Three

It's time for another DEPART-ment show, where all the cool people buy their handcrafted products from independent artists and crafters in a department store-like environment. Opening night is tomorrow from 7pm to 11pm at Open End Gallery, 2000 W. Fulton. It runs through Sunday.

New blood in Chicago

New Blood is a print magazine dedicated to exposing talented artists that are 21 and younger. The inaugural issue, edited by a couple Chicago area residents, is due out this summer.

National Hunger Awareness Day

Thursday, June 3 is National Hunger Awareness Day. Eat Chicago lists several ways you can participate here in Chicago, such as bringing two non-perishable food items to any Chipotle for a free burrito, and bringing this ticket to any Dominick's to have 5% of your shopping total donated to the Chicago Food Depository.

Doors Open on the Right...

This is Grand, an online journal devoted exclusively to non-fiction stories about public transportation in Chicago, has officially launched. Check it out or submit.

And now for that other sport

As a once obsessive badminton player in Kuala Lumpur, I've been interested to find out what one can do to remedy a long period of non-playing here in Chicago. It seems Illinois does have a few places to play and that the University of Chicago has a club and team (that has won college tournaments). However, I'd like to know more. Send tips and info to nh at gapersblock.com.

Midway / O'Hare Blunder

A reporter, in town for the Mac Design Conference, mistakenly flies into Midway, though his hotel and the conference itself are at O'Hare. Hilarity ensues.

Harlem Ave = Subcontinental Drainage Divide

So I was surfing the pages to find out how to report a problem with water in the city. Answer: Call the (no-joke) Leak Desk (312-744-7038). While visiting, I found some neat facts about sewage, including this really neat presentation about the history of sewage in Chicago. Not as boring as it sounds.

State of Illinois Gallery

The State of Illinois Gallery features a collection of more than 500 photos of Illinois places and people, past and present. Photos are divided into categories such as Culture, Environment, Historic Sites, Chicago, and Natural Wonders. The site also includes links to webcams around the state, a virtual tour of the governor's mansion, and much more.

8th Graders Test Well

Finally, some good news for Chicago Public Schools: Iowa test reading and math scores for eighth graders were at the national average. The Tribune offers this convenient PDF of test scores by school.

Joe Wilson at Borders

Joe Wilson, one-time Republican diplomat, current W. bane and author of "The Politics of Truth," speaks Thursday at the State Street Borders at 12:30 p.m. Perhaps the Sun-Times' Robert Novak will be able to attend.

Time Out, out next year

"I need to ... hire a sex columnist and also look for someone to do horoscopes." So says Chad Schlegel, the new editor of Time Out Chicago, a weekly entertainment guide co-published by Time Out New York and local mutual-fund wonk Joe Mansueto, now scheduled to launch in early 2005. Contrary to what its name suggests, Time Out will not be a gay lifestyle magazine. Instead it will lure readers currently unserved by the Reader or Metromix by combining entertainment listings with a $2 price tag and, um, horoscopes. Sounds to this observer like the target audience will be Gold Coast bluehairs who like to party.

Car-Safety.org

Before you hit the road this summer, check out the website for Car-Safety.org, a non-profit, volunteer based organization, operated in conjunction with the DuPage County SAFE KIDS Chapter. Car-Safety.org includes information about the proper installation of carseats, a vehicle features buying guide, and excellent collections of links to additional resources regarding carseats and car safety. According to the site, motor vehicle crashes are the #1 cause of death for children and adults, ages 1 to 34, so buckle up and drive safe!

Hot New Hollywood Trend: Teen Art

You can be successful artist, with the right patronage. Just ask Anna Pamasa. The Lane Tech senior sold a painting to Brad Pitt (yes, that Brad Pitt), who saw it in a exhibit of local student work at the MCA. She'll be putting the $800 toward tuition at Columbia College next year.

Mall Includes Wetlands

This past weekend marked the grand opening of a new gargantuan outlet mall in Aurora. However, the mall is earning kudos not for its 430,000-square-feet of shopping but for its 80-acre wetland habitat that was designed as part of an environmental deal that could become a national model for future business development.

Foundation's got it going on

Foundation Gallery, an art space, is gearing up for the summer. Their upcoming show is presented by Total Gym and is called Primal Secrets. Here's the dilly: "Total Gym is a social network that presents artwork produced within various multimedia projects which transform an immediate environment through visual, aural, and physical interaction. From June 11-18, Total Gym will occupy Foundation Gallery and implant, implant, implant, implant, implant. Projects include experiential drawings large and small, audio environments where beast and atmosphere collide, cheap manifestations of primal symbols and logic, along with elaborate masked and costumed visitors." You know, sort of like "Eyes Wide Shut." Maybe. They're also having an upcoming fashion show in July featuring local t-shirt makers Syndrome.

Area Man Hates Spam

Rocky Mosele hates spam. But unlike the rest of us, he took that hatred and turned it into a mission: Ethical Email. Enter your email address at ethicalemail.com and it will be included in the start-up organization's "do not contact" database. According to the press release, Mosele plans to deliver the database of names to the bulk email houses that are responsible for billions of emails being generated on the Internet. By law, the bulk email houses will have 10 days to remove those email names from their databases.

 

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