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Saturday, December 20

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Ride CTA on the Cheap

As in past years, you can ride CTA busses and trains for one cent until 6:00 AM New Year's Day. (Also note extended hours on some routes.) Happy New Year!

Rock On, Chicago

After the death of rock'n'roller/chronic schizophrenic Wesley Willis, his friends started a campaign to raise money for a tombstone for his remains. The Chicago Journal has an update on the plan, which involves burying his ashes in Rosehill Cemetery under a tombstone with the image of a train.

Purdue-Calumet Gets an 'F'

Purdue University Calumet, a Division I NAIA school and a member of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, has cancelled the remainder of its mens' basketball season after more than half of the team's members were declared academically ineligible after the fall semester. The Peregrines' entire coaching staff resigned.

Jazz Showcase closes doors

Another Chicago landmark will be closing its doors this weekend: the Jazz Showcase, an important jazz club that's been running for 59 years. Although its Website says that it's relocating, the latest news is that they still don't have a new location to re-open in. There will be some fundraising in the new year, so keep your eyes out for news on the return of the Showcase.

New Year, New Laws

Starting January 1, a host of new laws will become active. A couple of laws that are likely relevant to you: one will require most Illinoisans to install a carbon monoxide detector in their home, while another will require state phone systems to give callers an early option of talking to a real person.

Barbershop Blues

The Hyde Park Hair Salon, which cut Harold Washington and Mohammed Ali's hair and still give Barack Obama a weekly trim, will be looking for a new home after the University of Chicago bought its building with the intention of selling it to developers.

Podcasting Your Muse

Add the Art Institute to your list of local cultural centers with podcasts. Musecast will deliver stories and info about the museum's current and upcoming exhibits and events every six weeks.

Year-end lists

If you haven't made your New Year's Eve plans yet, here's some ideas on what to do from Metromix, Newcity and Centerstage.

President Ford and Chicago

While I'm sure you've read several national tributes to President Ford, his local connections deserve a mention.

Chicago Film Critics winners announced

The Chicago Film Critics award winners were announced today. Winning films include The Departed (Best Picture and Best Director), The Queen (Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress) Little Children (Best Supporting Actor) and An Inconvenient Truth (Best Documentary).

Home-town Representin' -- and Not

Trib TV critic Maureen Ryan names Shawn Ryan (no relation) "Chicagoan of the year in television" for his role on "The Shield." In the meantime, Keep Going's Geary Yonker would like Jim Belushi to quit playing The Face of Chicago on TV.

Transmission Feature: A Look Back Over Our Shoulders

Over at our sweet lil' Chicago music blog, Transmission, we've got our best musical memories from 2006 laid out for you. Enjoy the nostalgia as we look forward to another great year in Chicago music, just around the corner.

Even Green Sidewalks

Solar powered bus stops and recycled tire sidewalks are being tested by the Chicago Department of Transportation. Will they make the cut?

Chicago's Video Game Influence

Online gaming magazine Gamasutra just released the final installment of its five-part series on Chicago game studios. The final stop is Midway.

Shop at Threadless

Fairly soon, you'll be able to shop at Threadless in person (besides stopping by their Ravenswood headquarters, that is). The first store has been spied at 3011 N Broadway, the old Leather on Leather Ltd. location in Wrigleyville.

Spend All Night With Gurlesque Burlesque

What are you doing Thursday the 28th? Spending it with your other fave GB crew, Gurlesque Burlesque. These sexy performers will start the night at Sidetrack at 9 p.m. then head to up to Crew for shots, specials and a DJ set from our own Kris Vire. Show up for a chance to win tix to Gurlesque Burlesque January sextravaganza featuring Margaret Cho!

Robots in the Library

Wired has a brief story about the robots being used at Chicago State University to retrieve and shelve materials at the library's storage facility.

You are interviewed

Over at Centerstage: an (anonymous) interview with the artists behind the long-running You Are Beautiful art project.

Squatting on Hester

Devin Hester is a top contender for Rookie of the Year, but the contest to squat on his name on the web has already been won, apparently by these guys. At least second place, DevinHester.net, was nabbed by someone local.

From Hannukah To Boxing Day

Sara Paretsky has a great blog post about her journey from Hannukah in Kansas to Boxing Day in Chicago.

Foie gras ban continues to be ignored

The Sun-Times reports that despite the citywide ban on foie gras, a number of restaurants are intent on serving up the delicacy for New Year's Eve patrons. One chef even comes up with a good word to describe the restaurants flouting the law: "duckeasies".

Another Chicago building in edible form

If you're hungry for more Chicago-themed gingerbread houses after seeing the Francisco Brown Line stop, feast your eyes on a gingerbread version of the Pilgrim Baptist Church, the Louis Sullivan church that suffered a fire in January. Some design notes and photos are up at the builder's blog.

Scared of Santa Again

If you're looking for a holiday laugh, check out the Tribune's reader-submitted "Scared of Santa" photo gallery. (Link pops due to window resizing.)

Holiday Food Goodness at Kitchen Chicago

Kitchen Chicago has gracefully opened its cafe for a chance for customers to sample some of the incredibly tasty treats that come from its kitchen: pie from the Hoosier Mama Pie Company, scones from SconeWild, and truffles too! Can't choose? Try the "Taste Of Kitchen Chicago" with a bit of all of the above. Plus free coffee with any purchase -- it's open Friday and Saturday from 11am-5pm at 4664 N Manor, just steps from Lawrence Ave. and the Brown Line.

Holiday Choose Your Own Adventure

A seasonal diversion from Schadenfreude & AlphaZeta.

Away in a Manger

Posting will be light(er) here on Merge for the next few days, as most of the staff is scattered to the winds, visiting family and friends. Hope you have a very happy holiday!

Case Settled, Journalist's Notes Protected, First Amendment Untested

The First Amendment lawsuit against online journalist Jamie Kalven has now officially been dropped [starts on bottom]. Kalven refused to hand over his notes about a police brutality case, testing journalistic privilege for online reporters; however, because a settlement was reached between the city and the woman alleging abuse, the First Amendment issue was never fully tested.

Transmission Contest: Who's a VIP?

The short answer is: you. The long answer is: whoever follows the steps over at Transmission.

Transmission Feature: Chicago Roots

It's not hard to think that Chicago's musical past is still very much actively influencing bands today, but the Chicago History Museum has made it much easier to explore that history in a new exhibit, "Chicago Roots Music." Check out the Transmission feature today to learn more about how everything from the pulpit to the street corner has influenced our local sound.

Dave Matthews Band could be Number Two

The Cubs are trying to set up a new pair of live concerts at Wrigley Field. These concerts, the second in two years, would be on Fourth of July weekend of next year, and would feature the Dave Matthews Band. Insert your own joke about 800 pounds of human waste here.

The Nativity News

Hey, remember how the City decided not to show the trailer for The Nativity Story at the Christkindlmarket back in November? Well, a church group apparently decided it was important to take a stand, so it's now showing on a continuous loop at the fair, although with the sound off. And 32 Baby Jesuses, stolen from nativity scenes around the city, turned up in a St. Symphorosa Church parishoner's yard, sorted by design.

"Good King Lovie Smith"

Some revised Christmas Carols for you, mostly Chicago-related, courtesy of the Beachwood Reporter.

Go Green

Know anyone who's living the green lifestyle? Chicago Magazine wants to hear about them. Nominate people for the Green Awards.

Another Vote for the Big Box Ordinance

The Wal-Mart in south suburb Evergreen Park sold a woman a Microsoft Zune full of gay pornography.

Find A Spot

ParkWhiz is another site to help you find a parking spot, with a rating system and distance gauge -- find a parking garage within a five-minute walk of your destination, for instance. They're rolling out a new "marketplace" early next year, which will allow drivers to reserve and pay for parking spaces in participating garages online, well before they arrive at the ticket box.

Book Club: Holiday Book Bash

What happens when you get together a bunch of authors, their books, a silent auction and a dinner buffet? Judging by the Holiday Book Bash 2006, not a whole lot. This week's Book Club feature offers some suggestions to better this ho-hum literary event, made even more disappointing by its ample ticket price. (Number one suggestion? Nix the Roeper invite.)

Another Day, Another CTA Problem

Expect trouble tonight if you're heading out on the Orange Line train to Midway, or the Green Line. Around noon today, an Orange Line train derailed on the northbound tracks near the Roosevelt Road station. Around 150 people were safely evacuated via the fire department's "snorkel basket" (who knew?), and no one was seriously hurt, but commuting is not going to be pretty tonight.

Moto imitates Morimoto

Chef Homaro Cantu, founder of the adventurous Fulton Market restaurant Moto (you can eat the menu!) and Ben Roche, Moto's pastry chef, will be on Iron Chef America at the end of January (via Hungry Magazine).

Daley Remembered

The Sun-Times remembers the first Mayor Daley today as we near the 30th anniversary of his death. They've reprinted both the original story and Mike Royko's tribute, which ran the day after his death. (The tribute is also printed in the 1988 editon of Royko's Boss, which I expect all of you to be reading for January's Book Club.)

Transmission Contest: Utah Carol redux

pssst! Look over at Transmission. (In fact, you may want to keep checking all week long.)

Tut's final days

Don't forget, the Field Museum's King Tut exhibition closes on January 1. The show has been wildly popular, and to accommodate an expected final rush of visitors the museum will extend its visiting hours for the last two weeks of the exhibit.

No, We Don't Take Myrrh (or Discover)

Good to know that even Jesus has trouble shopping for some of his relatives this time of year. Check him out as he hits the Mag Mile. [via and by]

FountainCam Redux

The Tribune picks up on the story of security cameras installed atop the Crown Fountain, a story that was first posted at Chicago Carless. Millennium Park director Ed Uhlir is quoted in the story as saying that the cameras are only temporary until they can install a more permanent solution next summer. UPDATE: "Millennium Park cameras removed after outcry"

Experience Quimby's from Your Computer

I don't know how many times I've been to the Quimby's site, but I'd never noticed the "live at quimby's" section until this morning. It has audio recordings from almost two-dozen events, although the one I really wanted to hear (Al Burian) is broken.

Great Lakes Safe and Open for Now

The Coast Guard's plan to establish 34 permanent live-fire zones in the Great Lakes has been withdrawn due to citizen concerns.

Night Life in Chicago

...circa 1959. [via]

Stitch into the new year...

...at Stitchfest 2, held January 1, 2007, from noon to midnight. Join other crafty folks (and your tools; they'll supply the yarn) in a show of support for the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline. More in Slowdown.

The hot 100

Pitchfork's top 100 tracks of 2006 list is up.

What Would Jesus Bomb?

Anybody else spot these anti-war posters mimicking T-Mobile's "Fave 5" campaign on the Red Line this weekend?

Deck the halls with DJ Lo-Fi

The most recent episode of Chicago Public Radio's Sound Opinions featured their annual visit from DJ Lo-Fi, aka Andy Cirzan, who played the most amazing Christmas mix of obscure songs from his record collection. His 2006 holiday mix is now available for downloading at the Chicago Public Radio Website for you to use at your Christmas party. And for some more great Christmas songs, don't forget to check out this week's Out of 5.

City Spits on Crown Fountain

Mike at Chicago Carless noticed that, sometime recently, the City installed security cameras on top of Crown Fountain.

The CTA in Gingerbread Form

You must see Wendy McClure's rendering of the Francisco brown line CTA station in gingerbread. It has everything, right down to its peppermint turnstile. I wish my CTA commute could be this yummy.

Where Will Finkl Go?

A. Finkl and Sons Co., the steel company located in the thick of the booming north side, recently announced it will be acquired by a German steel firm. Finkl simultaneously announced that it will build a new plant. Will it stay in Chicago, and what will happen with its current site?

The Life of a City Squirrel

UIC biologist Joel Brown wants to know how squirrels survive the dangers of city life in Chicago.

Santas In Chicago

Ever wonder what it would look like if a bunch of Santas took over Michigan Ave?

The Laboratory Influence

Crain's provides an interesting profile of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and their business and political influence. Bonus: Parker and Latin alumni get a little catty.

They Beat Us To It

Some of you may know that Naz and I are the guys behind El Boton (limited edition pins make a great gift, by the way). We're a bit jealous, therefore, that Coudal Partners beat us to this great idea.

Political Stock-picker

Via the comments on RotSC: Prediction markets for the 2007 aldermanic races, powered by locally based Inkling Markets.

Chicago Fashion Legitimized by NY Times

I know, I know: I'm a little slow getting through Sunday New York Timeses. In case you're even slower than me, Mayor Daley's appointment of "fashion czar" Melissa Turner was recognized in the Magazine section as one of the Ideas of 2006.

In Memoriam

Chicago Bauhaus Studios master craftsman Berthold Schwaiger passed away this week. (Thanks, Brenda.)

Lucky dog

Today's feel-good story: a golden retriever named Sam who ran away from his home in Florida two years ago was found in McHenry County this week. The dog's owner flew into O'Hare last night, picked Sam up at the airport, and took him back home to Florida.

Is Something Awry in Bearsland?

The house of Chicago Bears defensive linebacker Tank Johnson was raided today. No one's talking about what went down, but a man was led from the home in handcuffs and "items sought in the warrant were recovered inside the home." [Update: Johnson has been charged with firearms violations.]

Lies, Damned Lies, and...

Peter Bernstein's fifteen-year statistical analysis of the relationship between the Cubs' winning records and the yearly increase in ticket prices suggests that after the abysmal 2006 season, prices should remain basically the same next year. I'm willing to bet that between the Tribune Company's woes and the front office's free-spending offseason activity, the statistics won't hold.

Chuck's Tree

Evanston-based Pop Matters has a great story about the making of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Like MovieFone, But Faster

Jellyvision has launched the "Daily Dis or Dat," a quick flash trivia game based on their popular "You Don't Know Jack" series. Press buttons and win (virtual) cash!

Choose Your Own Card-venture

If you're just not finding a card that says it all for you, then why not fill in your own words? Loaded Blanks are a series of cards created by two Chicagoans: cartoonist Ezra Claytan Daniels and punk rocker Heather Kortan and drawn by young cartoonists where you can fill in the speech bubbles for the characters and items depicted on the front and inside.
Themes range from a spelunking Santa to a Hanukkah journey to that one card perfect for the Apocalypse. You can find them at Chicago stores Chicago Comics, Quimby's Books and Women and Children First as well as online.

Transmission Feature: Give This

The crunch is on for holiday gift giving, and what better to give to your Chicago music lover than Chicago music that they'll love? Check out the Transmission staff's picks for musical gifts for nearly every situation. Got a baby mama, a dub lover, a live music rocker or a Chicago noob on your list? We've got you covered.

Taco Town

New City Chicago is running a neat rundown of tacos in the city. It has some of the best-known, as well as many places that are a bit off the beaten path.

Who Could Have Known?

Marshall Field's shoppers haven't been shopping at Macy's on State, which hasn't gone unnoticed by Federated Department Stores. They're reaching out with coupons and newspaper ads, but it's probably too late to salvage this holiday season. Meanwhile, the folks at Fieldsfanschicago.org are encouraged.

Falling Concrete Snarls Commute

Concrete at a construction site hurt multiple pedestrians late this afternoon, but luckily none seriously. The cleanup, however, is hurting the evening commute, especially southbound buses in the Loop. A street closure at State and Randolph is forcing multiple routes, including the No.10, No.29, No.36, No.62, No.144 and No.146 to be rerouted. Northbound buses are not affected, according to the CTA. Update: The Trib's reporting that bus reroutes have been restored to normal, as of 6pm.

What Was Your Favorite Book of 2006?

At the Gapers Block Book Club, we want to know, "What was your favorite book that you read this year?" Maybe you rediscovered an old classic, were introduced to a great new writer, or read the book you think should have won that fancy literary award. Whatever it was, tell us about your favorite book read in 2006. Just tell us the title, the author and why you liked it in 150 words or less, and send it to bookclub[at]gapersblock.com before December 25. Responses will be published in our December 27 book club feature.

The Last Four Miles

Friends of the Parks has proposed a plan to connect the chain of lakeshore parks along the South Side, buying property and creating an archipelago of islands where the lakefront is built up.

Book Club: 2006 Fiction Review

2006 has been a properous year for fiction. With contributions from heavyweights like Ray Bradbury and George Saunders, newcomers like Todd Dills, and indies like Joe Meno and Sara Gruen, the city is certain to have produced something for everyone. To touch just the tip of Chicago's newest fiction, visit the GB Book Club page for the second half of our annual year-in-review.

Here comes the Ghet!

Over at the Chicago Reader food blog, there's news of an interesting culinary arrival in Chicago: The Ghetto Gourmet, an "underground dining experience" that's been going on in California for the last few years (SF Chronicle article on the Ghet). Unfortunately, the two Chicago dates are already sold out, but if you want to get alerts for any upcoming dates you'll probably want to sign up for the Ghet's mailing list on their Website.

Another National Museum

In other Pilsen news, the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum has a new name: The National Museum of Mexican Art.

WBEZ's 2007 Schedule

After much controversy, WBEZ released its 2007 schedule last month. It's important to note that music, the focus of most of the debate, was not eliminated. The Tribune provides an opinionated but informative summary.

Obama Makes with the Funny

If you were watching that killer Bears v. Rams game last night on ESPN's Monday Night Football. Your heart might have jumped a bit when Senator Barack Obama came on to address viewers. It was just a tease of course, which ended with the donning of a Bears cap and a big smile. Catch it [YouTube].

YoChicago's Pilsen Week

YoChicago is dedicating much of this week's coverage to Pilsen, with reviews, real estate coverage, and much more. Their YouTube Pilsen playlist is especially worth checking out.

Scrum Over Scrabble

Hey, just a reminder that GB staffers will be getting together at the Black Rock this Friday for the holiday edition of our monthly Get-Together. Now that we know that the bar exists solely to support a rugby team, we'll be putting together a quick scrimmage in the back room. Join us!

Rookie of the Year

Congratulations to Bears Safety Devin Hester, who now has two NFL records under his belt: a tie for longest return from earlier this season, and now the most returns for touchdowns in a single season. He ran back two in last night's win against the Rams.

Forget That It's a School Night

Biannual publication AREA Chicago is holding a fundraiser at Danny's Tavern, 1951 W. Dickens, tonight from 10pm to 2am. It's free to get in, but 25 percent of the bar proceeds will go to AREA -- so drink up!

Super Bowl Mumble

Chicago Magazine has posted the lyrics and a video for "The Super Bowl Mumble," this year's smash-hit update of the "Super Bowl Shuffle."

Vote Early, Vote Once a Day

The 2006 Weblog Awards nominees have been announced, and there are two local sites among them: Glorious Noise for Best Music Blog and The Becker-Posner Blog for Best Law Blog. You can vote for them and/or any others once a day from now until the 15th. (Thanks, Jake.)

NPR spotlights Threadless

As their catalog and network of designers and friends increases, so too the public profile of Chicago-based Threadless. On today's "Morning Edition," NPR ran a business profile of the online company's success and popularity.

Trim the Tree, Southpaw-Style

(Or Rachel Ray-style, or Stacy Keach-style.) You've only got six days remaining to bid on anything that strikes your fancy in the Tribune's celebrity ornament auction.

Daley the 1st Lives Again on Stage (And Radio)

Hizzoner, the play, has been running at the Prop Thtr on Elston since springtime. Marking the 30th anniversary of his death, Weekend Edition runs an excerpt of Neil Giuntoli's rendition of Richard J. Daley.

Page Six on the Page (Not the Screen)

Jersey boy Mark Fitzgerald sure is happy to see the New York Post available in Chicago: it serves, he says, "as transportation" to the Big Apple, even as it "packs the same kind of sticker shock as searching for a hotel room in Manhattan."

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Weiner

In the spirit of the season, fRedhots, the other specialty-sausage-store-punning-on-the-owner's-name, is serving reindeer sausages.

Pop Over to Pops

Looking for something to do tonight? Head over to Pops for Champagne tonight after 9pm -- they're celebrating their 25th anniversary and the grand opening of their new location, 601 N. State in the Tree Studios building. Jazz Conspiracy performs, and lots of champagne will be served (duh).

Shooting Downtown

Three people were shot on an upper floor of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, leading to a lockdown of the building. If you take Metra from that station, you might want to dawdle awhile or take the CTA, which is honoring Metra passes. (Thanks, Carrie!)

Call for Nominations: 35 Under 35

The Community Renewal Society is requesting nominations for their 35 Under 35 Leadership Awards. This Chicagoland-oriented award recognizes individuals under the age of 35 who are "using fresh approaches to tackle pressing social issues."

Believe it or not, Chicago's gallows auctioned off

There was a macabre item up for auction this week: the Cook County gallows, which was built in 1887 for hanging some of the men convicted for the Haymarket Square riot. The Chicago History Museum wanted to purchase the item for their collection, but they were beat out for the item by the San-Francisco-based Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum. No word on where the gallows will be displayed, although a spokesperson for Ripley's promises the city's history will be a part of the ultimate display of the item.

Women, prisons, and abuse

Chicago author Sara Paretsky has a challenging piece on the great Chicago Crime Writers blog about the abuses women suffer in incarceration. One telling quote: "It costs anywhere from $30,000 to $75,000 a year to keep a person behind bars. Conservatively, that's about $6 billion a year we're spending to lock up—and, apparently, abuse—these women, most of whom are non-violent offenders."

Time for Another Vote

Looking for a time-waster? AOL Cityguide's Best of Chicago poll is open for voting -- go pick some winners.

Clash of the Titans

Following on Monday's Times article, the front page of Friday's Washington Post takes a look at the perceived power play between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton as they ponder their presidential possibilities. The dynamic between the two will be the subject of much scrutiny in coming months -- to the chagrin of some Democrats, who worry it will overshadow their legislative agenda. With "Don't tell Mama I'm for Obama" emerging as an unofficial slogan, Clinton and her camp are said to be surprised by her would-be rival's rise; fellow Illinois senator Dick Durbin responds, "'They ain't seen nothing yet.'"

Valet Secrets

The Trib takes a look at valet parking. Apparently I've been undertipping for years.

Let the Revisions Begin!

Now that Santiago Calatrava's Chicago Spire is moving closer to its groundbreaking, the project is changing.

Transmission Feature: Chicago mp3 blogs

It's way too cold to leave the comfort of your computer today, so click over to Transmission to read about our favorite Chicago mp3 blogs. There's a plea for dancing, a tasty mountain, a love of jam (bands), cake, polka, sunsets, cover songs and links to lots of music you'll want to hear before everyone else does.

Tracking the Tracked

From the team behind the political aggregator Real Clear Politics comes BuzzTracker -- as if you needed another way to keep up on celebrities. (To be fair, you can track lots of other stuff, too.)

Eating on Someone Else's Dime

Chicagoist did some investigating into the Channel 5's LeeAnn Trotter departure from the station "Good Eats" segments and ethical concerns regarding her restaurant "reviews." [Correction/Update: Trotter's not leaving the station, and Chicagoist has a follow-up story up now.]

McBoosterism

You almost feel sorry for the Sun-Times when CJR Daily goes after its business section, accusing it of shilling for The Man. After all, this isn't the first time. Then you think, wait a sec -- this is a major newspaper in an international business center, and you get over it.

Know Any Orson Welles Fans?

Or fans of Nicholas Cage, Yoshiyuki Tomino, or US drug laws? Just in time for the holidays, you can bid on four very special autographed movie posters and benefit the Chicago International Film Festival. The auction runs until 15 December.

Cold + Precipitation + Tall Buildings = Trouble

What's the appropriate course of action when you see a "Beware of Falling Ice" sign? The Tribune helps you avoid an icicle in the head.

Beyond Education Sound Bites

If you'd like to know more about the Chicago Public Schools than what you can discern from short, mass media pieces, check out Catalyst Chicago, the local outpost of the urban education magazine. Be certain to visit the guide to CPS and research sections, which provide original content and links to research institutions.

NYC Beats Chicago to a Fat Ban

Well, we might have been the first city to propose a ban on the use of trans fats in restaurants, but we're not the first to pass legislation.

Drag ends, greatest hits begin

It's a big weekend for the Neo-Futurists. Their current prime time show, Drag, has its final weekend, and they begin their annual two weeks of greatest hits from their long-running show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. So if you like either drag shows or compilations of really good (but really short) plays, you know where to go.

Latin Kings King Collared

The Feds busted at least 21 members of the South Side Latin Kings gang -- including its "Supreme Inca," Fernando "Ace" King.

Aldermanic Debate

We don't normally carry a column over from one week to the next, but Richard Carnahan has the week off and his column from last week is still generating discourse -- including comments from one of the aldermanic candidates mentioned. So it's staying up.

2006 Chicago Nonfiction in Review

On the Gapers Block Book Club blog we are beginning our second annual year-end review of books published about Chicago or by local writers. This week's feature lists notable nonfiction titles published in 2006, including books by Barack Obama, Rick Kogan, Roger Ebert and many more. Then check back next week for our Chicago fiction round-up.

Art in America

United States Artists, a new nonprofit arts organization, announced its first round of $50,000 fellowship awards, and two Chicagoans are on the list: Nick Cave (no, not that one, this one) and Chris Ware.

The Reason for the Season

"Put Marduk back into Zagmuk."

Packing Them In

The New York Times continues its slow discovery of how great Chicago is with its latest installment, the West Loop.

Attendance is Optional

Optional Events is a colorfully presented event calendar, with more of an activist bent to the listings.

Matt's Law Coalition

Following the recent sentencing of an Urbana woman who killed a cyclist while driving and downloading a ringtone to her cellphone, the parents of Matt Wilhelm the deceased, have started a coalition to lobby for a law and education to reduce distracted driving. Looks like that cellphone ban hasn't been working out too well.

"How cool would it be to have Quidditch at Soldier Field?"

Plans are underway for a Harry Potter conference in Chicago in August 2008. It looks like it will be organized by these people.

Posh Gifts

I miss its old location on Southport, and I wish it still carried more real restaurant china instead of reproductions, but I still love P.O.S.H. Where else in the city can you find a cat butt plate and a vintage Italian army belt?

Meeting the Faces Behind Moving Beyond Congestion

A reminder of something we've posted before: the CTA, Pace, and Metra have teamed up to request more money from the state for public transit infrastructure at movingbeyondcongestion.com. They've announced the public meetings where citizens can provide feedback on the effort; here's the calendar. (Note to CTA et al: It'd be nice to have at least one "community dialogue" at an evening time too, not just from 1 - 2 pm.)

Wooden Chicago, Model Trains

I'm not a big fan of holiday schmaltz, but the Winter Wonderland exhibit at the Chicago Botanical Gardens is actually worth it. They've built elaborate recreations of Chicago landmarks using twigs, leaves, acorns, nuts, and other natural elements. Unlike art in other venues, there's a visceral reaction: it smells fantastic and is permeated by the sound of running water and model trains. Plus, the greenhouses are open in the new Regenstein Center if you want to feel tropical despite the cold temperatures. There's something neat about looking at cactus when the ground around you is covered in snow.

Give a Little Piece of Chicago for Xmas

Now you can shop for Chicago skyline ornaments, calendars and El map neckties from the warm comfort of your computer. Three City of Chicago stores have gone online to bring you Chicago-themed holiday items, apparel, audio and video, and even some relics from the city's past including wares from the Cultural Center, Gallery 37 and the City of Chicago store on Pearson. Proceeds from sales support the Department of Cultural Affairs, free public programming and the programs of Gallery 37.

CSO Returns to the Airwaves

Gramophone reports that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is recording albums again -- under its own label, CSO Resound. January's release of Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and mezzo Michelle DeYoung will be the first since 2001, and will be available on iTunes. The CSO also announced a return to radio broadcast in '07 with the debut of the BP Chicago Symphony Orchestra Radio Broadcast Series on WFMT. Read the official press release here.

A final recommendation

On the Chicago Reader's food blog, they report that on the night before he died, New York Times writer R.W. Apple, Jr. sent an email to colleague Jill Santopietro in response to her request for examples of great American pancakes. Apple recommended the pancakes at the Bongo Room. Santopietro tried them and reported in the Sunday Times: "As was often the case with food, Apple was right."

Local Product, Small Business, Xmas Season?

If you have any of the above, perhaps you might want to advertise here on GB on our new-ish Text Ads. We've got spots open for December, so why not get the word out about your goods or services, just in time for the holiday season?

Protest Diplomacy on 59th Street

The upheaval surrounding the recent Mexican inauguration has played itself out locally, albeit more peacefully. Although Chicago hosts an official consulate for the country, supporters of the PRD opposition have set up an "alternate" to what they see as an outpost of the Calderon government. With over 1.5M persons of Mexican descent living in the area, such a move could have an impact on the country's political landscape. NPR's Cheryl Corley has more.

Not a City of Chicago Headline

Apparently, it's news when there's graffiti in Blue Island.

An Obama By Any Other Name

As the Hardball discourse picks up on to the fact that Hussein holds the middle position between Barack and Obama, Maureen Dowd asks, "What's in a name?" [sub. reqd.]

"Woman" is Sentenced for Cyclist's Death

Jennifer Stark of Urbana kills a cyclist while downloading a ringtone on her phone while driving. She gets the maximum penalty... for improper lane usage! Six months probation, $1K fine and traffic school. Oh yeah, she has a myspace. A bizarre, tragic and ridiculous event.

Nice Holiday Cards

Picked out your holiday cards yet? If not, consider a set created by one of the students in Marwen's after-school art education program. (Thanks, Maureen!)

Snow Day

While you were asleep, it snowed. Then it snowed again, and it's still snowing. The Illinois Department of Transportation has asked Chicago area residents to not get on the roads if it's not necessary. Many schools are closed and most flights from O'Hare are canceled. Stay home, Chicago, but if you cannot, the CTA and Metra are running mostly on time.

Don't forget the taquerias

In this week's Reader, you will find the last part of a 6-part series by local writer David Hammond on authentic regional Mexican food in Chicago. EatChicago.net has links to all 6 parts, along with a rousing essay on how our Mexican cuisine always seems to get overlooked by food critics (and even Chicago residents!) looking for eating options.

 

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