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« June 2009 | Main | August 2009 »

July 31, 2009

The [Friday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

The White House got what it wanted with those photos of the beer summit on newspapers, websites and TV stations across the country. But reporters were kept away from the actual conversation.

If this was anything but a cynical political stunt, the president would have miked everyone up and broadcast the conversation to the nation.

Burger Baloney
"And only Chicago, I'd wager, would have been the incubator of The Cheeseburger Show, my colleague Kevin Pang's entertaining TV program about, yes, burgers," Mary Schmich writes today.

I'll take that wager!

I'm beyond certain that other cities have or would dare to produce a TV show about cheeseburgers.

I'm not certain, however, that in any other city would such a highly paid newspaper columnist make such a claim.

Itemization
Item: "Pursuit of Happyness Writer Explains How To Find A Job."

First, get homeless.

Item: "Killer Mistakenly Freed From Jail Turns Himself In."

Will wait to escape when the economy is better.

Item: "Ald. Danny Solis to lead aldermanic group to learn about Beijing's experience and study ways to maximize the benefits of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Games."

First, get totalitarian government to pick up the bill . . . er, wait a minute . . .

Item: "Urlacher calls Cutler a pussy."

Child support payments to follow. Maybe.

Item: City budget worse than expected.

That is the joke.

Budget Baloney
"There are no obvious sources or revenue that have not already been tapped," Civic Federation President Laurence Msall told the Sun-Times.

Not so.

Mikva's Challenge
Calls on U of I trustees to resign, but they're hardly the most heinous of the bad actors in this scandal.

Mikva's Nonsense
Says Patrick Fitzgerald could have tainted the Blago jury pool by saying that the former governor's "conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave."

How incredibly inflammatory!

By the time there's a jury in this case, no one's gonna remember such weak tea. We barely remember it now.

Challenging Mikva
We do remember what Mikva wrote in the Sun-Times in 2006, though (largely reprinted here because a link isn't available; let's call it fair comment - the comment part is what you imagine me screaming as you go along):

"I don't like seeing public officials accused of wrongdoing when there is nothing to substantiate the accusations.

"I worked on Gov. Blagojevich's transition team to advise the incoming administration on how to set up systems for running state government efficiently and transparently. From the beginning, the administration indicated that it wanted to clean up and improve the state's massive bureaucracy so as to better serve the public. When Blagojevich took office in January 2003, there was massive turnover in personnel. No one knew how many employees were really functioning, and how many were supernumeraries. Many employees had been given promotions and locked into their positions. On top of that, Illinois was in the midst of a widespread investigation into corruption under the former governor, George Ryan. Public trust was at an all-time low.

"Blagojevich began turning things around, from reducing administrative waste and redundancy to providing more funds for critical services. The governor sought the input of government watchdogs and respected public servants in developing landmark ethics legislation that he later signed into law. For the first time, an independent inspector general - not some political lapdog - was appointed to investigate wrongdoing in state government. There is a functioning Board of Ethics to review the complaints of wrongdoing. Because of the reforms, state officials can't leave government on a swinging door to work for businesses they once regulated. We have a gift ban that prohibits lobbyists from using trips and expensive presents to influence lawmakers. No, we didn't get all that we suggested enacted into law. But most of the proposals that were made by the advisory group are now the law. And yes, that means we now see and hear about more investigations. That is exactly how the system is supposed to work.

"The governor was able to control headcount of employees by holding agencies accountable for hiring only for positions necessary to the mission of the agency. That reform helped reduce the size of government by 13,000 positions. While that is not popular in all quarters of a state nurtured on political plums for favored people, it has made government more efficient and saved hundreds of millions of dollars. He changed the personnel tracking system so that candidates for Rutan-covered jobs - those that by law are required to be free of political influence - are reviewed on the merits without disclosing the names of applicants.

"Those are the facts. But you wouldn't know it by reading or listening to the media. The emphasis there is on vague allegations that 'some' employees have been hired improperly. There are 'lists' of open positions that have gone through various persons in the governor's office. But there are no specifics as to whether such positions are 'exempt' or Rutan-covered, or evidence that people whose names may be on lists were actually treated differently than anyone else. Every administration has the right to fill certain positions with people they think will best help them implement their agenda. And for those positions where politics cannot be a factor in the selection of a candidate, there is no prohibition against anyone making recommendations for the jobs. There is, however, a very clear testing and interview process that must be used to select the best candidate. The newspaper stories over the past few weeks do not offer any evidence that those processes were violated.

"In fact, most of the recent allegations seem to come from disgruntled ex-employees. No one has even checked as to whether the disgruntlement is about loss of the job or something fishy on the job. If there are credible charges of improper hiring, they should go to the inspector general, state law enforcement and the U.S. attorney's office.

"Vague allegations of improper employment practices tar and feather the whole state work force. We need state government workers who take pride in their reputations, in their work efforts, who get 'psychic' income from their jobs, to make up for the gap between their pay scales and those of the private sector. We aren't going to encourage those kinds of applicants if we don't acknowledge reforms that are working and instead beat up on everybody who goes to work for the state of Illinois."

*

And this.

More Costco, Less Walmart
Running into red tape.

Republic Stand
From the second part of our excerpt from Kari Lyderson's Revolt on Goose Island:

"I have a friend who drives trailer trucks. We could steal the trailers, then they would have to negotiate with us," Robles suggested to Meinster. "Or we could deflate the tires." The union rep appreciated Robles' fearlessness but talked him out of his schemes. They hit upon another idea, one with a long and glorious history in union lore: they could occupy the plant. Robles immediately liked the idea. In other countries, including his native Mexico, factory occupations are fairly common. But in the United States the tactic had not been used other than in a few scattered cases since organized labor's heyday in the 1930s, when auto workers brought the industry's top companies to their knees with sit-down strikes. Occupying the factory would likely mean that people would be arrested, Robles realized, and there was no guarantee it would work or even gain popular support. But these were economic times unlike any in the past 30 years, and drastic times call for drastic measures.

Bloodshot Briefing
"I like Chicago, but the traffic is horrendous," Dex Romweber tells Beachwood Music. "I always try and avoid traffic getting in and out of town. Playing in the big cities can be a drag. I prefer not to play in big cities, but I play them anyway.

"But Chicago's interesting, an old town. Lots of little bars, lots of nooks and crannies. It has a certain vibe to it."

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Vibratory.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:51 AM | Permalink

Revolt on Goose Island: Part Two

The second of a two-part excerpt from Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover and What It Says About the Economic Crisis. Published by Melville House.

Part One: It was like they were mocking us.

By Kari Lyderson

The workers organized a surveillance team that would keep watch outside the factory after hours and on weekends, when the plant was closed. One Saturday, Robles and Revuelta were lurking in the parking lot north of the factory, Robles with his wife Patricia and their young son Oscar in tow. They could see the plant's front entrance on Hickory Street, where boxes were being loaded onto two trailer trucks. They hopped into their cars: Revuelta drove out after the first trailer, and Robles followed the second one. He wasn't frightened or intimidated, only determined to see what the company was up to. The union's contract covers any activity within a 40-mile radius of the plant, and rumors were circulating that the equipment was being moved to Joliet, an industrial town exactly 40 miles outside Chicago.

goose1.jpgThe two men took note of the trucks' license plates and followed them for about 15 miles to a truckyard on the southwest side of the city, an industrial, grimy swath of land next to the highway. They parked just outside the yard and, keeping their eyes on the now-stationary trailers, Robles called international union representative Mark Meinster, a 35-year-old Philadelphia native who had been an activist since high school. After studying history at a small college in Pennsylvania, Meinster worked for the national community organizing group ACORN in Washington D.C. But he became convinced organized labor was the best realm to press for larger social change, and in 2002 he moved to Chicago to work for the UE as an international rep, responsible for collective bargaining and worker education in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Meinster asked Robles if they could hold tight for an hour. Robles wasn't planning to go anywhere. By the time Meinster arrived it was getting dark and cold. They sat inside the car for almost four hours mulling over what they should do. Robles was mad. He has a bright smile and is quick to laugh, but when he senses injustice or unfairness he is equally quick to anger and has no qualms about speaking his mind. That's one of the reasons his co-workers had voted him president of the union local a year and a half earlier.

"I have a friend who drives trailer trucks. We could steal the trailers, then they would have to negotiate with us," Robles suggested to Meinster. "Or we could deflate the tires." The union rep appreciated Robles' fearlessness but talked him out of his schemes. They hit upon another idea, one with a long and glorious history in union lore: they could occupy the plant. Robles immediately liked the idea. In other countries, including his native Mexico, factory occupations are fairly common. But in the United States the tactic had not been used other than in a few scattered cases since organized labor's heyday in the 1930s, when auto workers brought the industry's top companies to their knees with sit-down strikes. Occupying the factory would likely mean that people would be arrested, Robles realized, and there was no guarantee it would work or even gain popular support. But these were economic times unlike any in the past 30 years, and drastic times call for drastic measures.

Over the following days, Meinster and Robles bounced the occupation idea off other workers, and they quickly found six people ready and willing to risk arrest and occupy the plant in the case of a closing or mass layoff. Some workers were not citizens, on probation for minor criminal offenses, or had no one to take care of their children, so they couldn't risk it. But most everyone who heard about the idea was enthusiastic and vowed to be outside picketing if a takeover started. "I said, 'Let's do it!' We had to do something to get some respect," said Revuelta. "We don't know why some bosses just treat the workers like nothing, but we can't let them do that."

Meinster was aware the Canadian Auto Workers union had in recent years undertaken several dramatic factory occupations or blockades. In July 2008, an auto parts factory near Toronto closed abruptly; workers only learned about the shutdown from news reports, and they received no severance pay. "We were just thrown out on the street to go straight to the garbage bin," a machine operator told the media. The company, Progressive Moulded Products, had closed a dozen plants, axing more than 2,000 jobs. Workers blockaded the entrances, preventing Ford, Chrysler, and GM from removing equipment, as the auto giants had been doing at a number of recently shuttered Canadian parts plants. As in the United States, the workers would have been last in line for pay as the company went into bankruptcy. Though these workers were non-union, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) supported their blockade. The previous year, union Canadian auto workers had occupied a parts plant that had closed in Scarborough and prevented the removal of equipment. That occupation ended victoriously, as the major U.S. automakers who bought their parts from the company put up several million dollars for the severance pay mandated in the Canadian workers' contracts.

Meinster had never undertaken anything like this before, so he began to do his homework. He made a few calls to his Canadian counterparts to visualize the nuts and bolts of occupying a factory. This included logistics - how to get food into the plant, how to bail people out in case of arrests - and strategy. What would their demands be? Who would be their target?

Over the next few weeks, the workers kept making windows and doors at the factory, but the uncertainty and tensions heightened each day. Plant operations manager Tim Widner told workers he was quitting to become a fifth grade teacher in Ohio. Workers didn't buy it for a second; they figured he must be going to the same place as all their machinery. "When he said that was when we really knew they were lying through their teeth," said Meinster. The situation was obviously coming to a head. Over Thanksgiving weekend, the plant would be closed for four days. The union organized four-hour surveillance shifts to run around the clock. Most of the workers were looking forward to big family get-togethers over the holidays, but the situation at the factory cast a pall over everything. It's hard to look forward to Christmas when you're afraid you won't have a job.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:11 AM | Permalink

Bloodshot Briefing

By Matt Harness

Dex Romweber's been around the block.

As one half of the seminal roots-rocking Flat Duo Jets, Romweber made his name throughout the 1980s with his axe, inspiring Jack White, among others, along the way. These days, the Chapel Hill-based guitarist/singer teams up with sister Sara as part of the Dex Romweber Duo. This year's Ruins of Berlin is the pair's first record with Bloodshot Records.

Beachwood Music caught up with Dex while he was taking a break from the road and relaxing at his North Carolina country house, not too far from the University of North Carolina campus.

Beachwood Music: How are you spending your vacation?

Dex Romweber: It's always a little strange when you're off tour. You have to discipline yourself. I try to exercise once a day. I have a pool at my house, and I try to swim. Me and my sister also are trying to make a video. We have meetings for that.
But it's mainly a lot of the free-wheeling life, and I am left to my own devices. It's just important to be up and doing things. I'm always trying to pull myself together.

Beachwood Music: How was the last tour?

Dex Romweber: Strange. We did the U.S. by ourselves and then hooked up with the Detroit Cobras for another tour. We went all the way out to Portland. We just traveled intensely. Some of the drives out West were a drag. Overall it went by without too many problems.

Beachwood Music: Your name has come up a lot in recent years as you have influenced several younger musicians out there today, most notably Jack White. Who inspired you?

Dex Romweber: Most of them aren't well known. When I was younger it was Elvis Presley. I've gotten away from that, even though I still dig him. Benny Joy, a rock-and-roll singer from Tampa is big. Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash. I don't try and copy them; I just draw inspiration.

I'm always finding obscure artists, like The Lonesome Drifter from Louisiana. A friend was playing his stuff over the phone, and it was rocking. Pretty incredible.

I like the artists that are unsung and not many people know about. I have an endless fascination with that and am always on the lookout.

Beachwood Music: Do these artists ever find their way into your work?

Dex Romweber: This new one ends with a song "It's Too Late" by a Durham honky tonk singer Ray Howell. I heard it on a 45 I found, and we decided to close with that.

Beachwood Music: Your last four titles as Dex Romweber are on four different labels. Any significance to that?

Dex Romweber: I can't explain it. Labels contact me, like Yep Roc Records and Manifesto. With Bloodshot, my manager went after them and sought them out. They agreed. Usually, I just sit and wait.

Beachwood Music: You were last in Chicago on May 6 playing at the Double Door with the Detroit Cobras. What are your impressions of the city and its music scene?

Dex Romweber: I like Chicago, but the traffic is horrendous. I always try and avoid traffic getting in and out of town. Playing in the big cities can be a drag. I prefer not to play in big cities, but I play them anyway.

But Chicago's interesting, an old town. Lots of little bars, lots of nooks and crannies. It has a certain vibe to it.

Beachwood Music: How about the music scene?

Dex Romweber: I remember a gig we did with the Squirrel Nut Zippers at the House of Blues last year. Some of the audience wasn't quite into our material. I guess I haven't always found it a welcome town in that respect. But you're always playing under different circumstances, in front of no people, in front of a lot of people. In that way, I guess it's like any other town.

Beachwood Music: How are you received in Chapel Hill, your adopted hometown?

Dex Romweber: I still play around here, doing solo gigs. Me and Sara play here once every five months or so. The reception is good, and it's been better over the years. But a lot of people have grown up and settled down. We have older fans.

Beachwood Music: Read where you spent some time in Athens, Georgia, an underground music mecca. I went to school there at University of Georgia. Good memories?

Dex Romweber: I was there for a full year in the late 1980s. Just a very wild town, lots of bands and artistic people all around. I was there for the music scene and to play some gigs. That town had some energy. I just docked there for a little while.

Beachwood Music: Time for name your tunes. Give me five songs worth your jukebox money.

Dex Romweber: There's a place in Chapel Hill with a good jukebox. Lots of North Carolina artists. A couple of my records on it. If I had to pick . . . Ace of Spades by Link Wray, Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotten, Dark Night by Flat Duo Jets, Ninth Wave by the Ventures, Rocket by George Jones.

A little taste . . .

-

And back in the day . . .

-

Bloodshot Briefing appears in this space every Friday. Matt welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:22 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2009

The [Thursday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"If the beer summit President Obama is hosting tonight puts to rest the latest national debate over racial profiling, the White House would consider it a success," Mary Mitchell writes this morning. "But the summit would still be a cheap political trick."

I hope the White House is smart enough to know that the summit isn't going to put anything to rest. In fact, it will probably extend the tiresome discussion for another few days - or until the next incident comes along that we can all chew over.

"If Obama were serious about tackling this explosive issue, he would have called a town hall meeting in Cambridge that brought together black members of the community, law enforcement and the media to hash out what went wrong here," Mitchell writes.

I don't know about that, but I do find it interesting that no one seems to be invoking at this particular moment the supposedly brilliant speech on race that Obama gave to get past the Jeremiah Wright imbroglio.

What was it he said again?

I do like the idea of including the media in a town hall meeting, though. They seem woefully ignorant of basic police procedure.

And it's a shame, because African Americans are getting their teeth kicked in by cops every day and no one seems to care as long as they aren't Harvard professors facing the excruciating humiliation of being asked a few questions to ascertain the facts in response to a concerned phone call.

"The Cambridge police were wrong to lure Gates outdoors to arrest him after establishing that Gates was in his home - even if the haughty scholar was hysterical," Don Terry writes today in the Sun-Times.

I'm not sure that sentiment comports with the facts.

Police officers don't like to talk to folks through a door. It could be dangerous. They want to see where your hands are at all times, and have you within reach. That's entirely reasonable.

And showing someone identification doesn't establish anything. If Gates had indeed been a burglar, he might have gotten a driver's license from inside the home - or from the body of the homeowner stuffed in the closet.

Crowley was doing his job - protecting Gates's home.

Cops can be assholes, just like anyone else, but there is a certain way to behave when dealing with them.

For starters, do what they say (as long as it's legal) and show them some respect. You will not always know what kind of case they are pursuing or why they want certain pieces of information. It's not always about you.

Unless you are Christopher Hitchens. It's always about him.

"Last Memorial Day, I was going in a taxi down to Washington, D.C.'s Vietnam Memorial when a police car cut across the traffic and slammed everything to a halt. Opening the window and asking what the problem was and how long it might last, I was screeched at by a stringy-haired, rat-faced blond beast, who acted as if she had been waiting all year for the chance to hurt someone. (She was wearing a uniform that I had helped pay for.)," Hitchens writes in his syndicated column, reprinted today in the Sun-Times.

Imagine yourself as a police officer with reason to cut across traffic and slam everything to a halt being interrupted by Christopher Hitchens from the back of a cab wanting to know what the fuck was taking so long.

Yes, this story is as much about elites as it is about race.

Hitchens, for example, is white.

But he has important places to be.

And he can't imagine the inconvenience - the gall, even - of being questioned in his own home by a police officer responding to a report of a possible break-in.

Because after all, who wouldn't recognize Christopher Hitchens - or Skip Gates?

*

Kass: "Teachable Moment On Tap At O'Bama's."

Clout Spout
"Two state lawmakers testified Wednesday that the University of Illinois admissions process ought to be insulated from outside influences, including any show of political muscle by elected officials," the Tribune reports.

"Yet state Senators Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora) both defended their own information requests as legitimate constituent service, not an attempt to tamper with the admissions review."

Stealth Health
Snippets from today's AP story about the latest changes to the health care provisions being negotiated by the House:

* " . . . an increase in employer-sponsored insurance . . . "

* " . . . would reduce the federal subsidies designed to help lower-income families afford insurance . . . "

* " . . . Instead of the federal government picking up the full cost of an expansion of Medicaid, states would pick up part of the costs . . . "

* " . . . In his appearances, Obama stressed that any legislation he signs will include numerous consumer protections, including a ban on insurance company denials of coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions. A White House fact sheet left room for insurers to continue charging higher premiums based on prior health problems . . . "

Teachable Moment
"When Barack Obama and fellow state lawmakers in Illinois tried to expand healthcare coverage in 2003 with the 'Health Care Justice Act,' they drew fierce opposition from the insurance industry, which saw it as a back-handed attempt to impose a government-run system," the Boston Globe reported during the campaign.

"Over the next 15 months, insurers and their lobbyists found a sympathetic ear in Obama, who amended the bill more to their liking partly because of concerns they raised with him and his aides, according to lobbyists, Senate staff, and Obama's remarks on the Senate floor."

Health Care and Skip Gates Reader
* "No, isn't Obama's fault. But good lord! What strange goal!"

* "In a neighborly gesture, King helps a bogus claim thrive."

* "Wealth and fame are bad for good people at that 'nexus of power'."

* "For us, the incident's first 'teachable moment' concerned Matthews, Page and Dyson."

* "It's not just for white people anymore."

Wal-Mart's Phony Poll
Don't fall for the smiley face.

Cook County Neglects Dead People
Their cemeteries aren't great shakes either.

Worst Stimulus Site Ever
Illinois gets 0 points, ranks last.

Revolt on Goose Island
"It's like they were mocking us."

In part one of our two-part excerpt from Kari Lyderson's book.

Chubby Chaser TV
In What I Watched Last Night.

Purple Rain Revisited
Better than Thriller.

At Ring Lardner's Table
"In truth, the journalism era of Lardner, Grantland Rice, and Damon Runyon was long on storytelling, short on actual probing, and done with a very selective use of facts," Mike Conklin writes.

Ode to a Chicago Pizzeria
How hast thee possibly stayed Zagat rated?

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Stay alert.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:51 AM | Permalink

Revolt on Goose Island: Part One

The first of a two-part excerpt from Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover and What It Says About the Economic Crisis. Published by Melville House.

By Kari Lyderson

"Turn out all the lights right now," a supervisor at Republic Windows & Doors told Armando Robles as he was wrapping up the second shift at the factory on Goose Island, a small hive of industry sitting in the middle of the Chicago River. It was about 10 p.m. on November 5, 2008. Robles thought the order strange, as other employees were still finishing up. "Everyone has to leave right now," the supervisor said. For a while Robles and other workers had been suspicious about the health of the company and strange occurrences at the factory. They knew business had been bad for the past two years. The housing crash meant not many people were in the market for new windows and doors, neither Republic's higher end ornate grooved, wood-framed glass panes nor their utilitarian vinyl- and aluminum-framed windows. At monthly "town hall meetings" that the company had started holding over the past year, managers were constantly bemoaning how much money they were losing. And the workforce had been nearly cut in half in the past few years, from about 500 to 250. Something seemed to be up, and Robles felt sure it wasn't good.

goose1.jpgHe alerted fellow worker Sergio Revuelta, a union steward with eight years at the company. The two left the building as if nothing was amiss, then huddled outside the plant. They watched as the plant manager and a former manager came out and looked around carefully. Five cars drove up. That was strange. "It was all faces and cars we recognized, former employees and former supervisors," said Revuelta later. Robles and Revuelta watched as the men began removing boxes and pieces of machinery from the low-slung, inconspicuous warehouse. They crept around to the back, where they saw a U-Haul truck waiting with its lights off. Over the next few hours, they watched a parade of objects being loaded into the truck. They were shivering by this time, as they had been sitting in Revuelta's car, and he had sold the car's ailing heater to a junkyard. The only illumination came from the light on a forklift. They stayed all night; it wasn't until almost 5 a.m. that they finally headed home to their families. "We knew something was going to happen, we wanted to watch and see if we were right," remembered Revuelta, 36."When we saw the stuff coming out, I said, 'Bingo!'"

Revuelta was among the many workers who suspected that Republic management was trying to move their operation elsewhere and deprive them of their jobs. It was a highly disturbing thought. Most of the Republic employees had been there for 10 years or more. The most senior employee had 34 years at the plant. And almost three-quarters of them had come to the United States from Mexico, leaving families and homes behind. Some might have paid thousands of dollars to "coyotes" to lead them across the border, may have walked for days through the stifling heat of the desert, trudging through a seemingly endless landscape of barren, rocky hills and deep arroyos where feet sunk into the soft crumbly dirt. Thousands of Mexicans every year spend this money and take this risk - an average of more than one person per day dies crossing the border - in hopes of getting jobs like those at Republic, earning decent enough wages to bring their families to the United States and also send money to relatives back in Mexico. Many immigrants work at temporary jobs, waiting on street corners on blazing summer days or in the freezing winter to be picked up for construction or transient factory work. Those who land steady union jobs like the ones at Republic, with health benefits and paid vacations, would not give them up easily.

The news of the suspicious night quickly spread to other workers. Robles' friend Melvin "Ricky" Maclin later heard a similar story from a distraught secretary who said most of the office furniture had been removed. "There was nowhere for them to sit, all the tables, chairs, computers, and file cabinets were gone," remembers Maclin. He laughed at the bizarre predicament described by the office worker faced with an empty office, but the woman told him it wasn't funny. The atmosphere had become so tense and strange at the factory that the clerical staff were afraid to speak up, and as they weren't in the union like the shop-floor workers, they felt they had no one to speak up for them. In the following days, Robles and other workers were ordered to load heavy machinery from the factory onto semi-truck trailers. Sometimes, they were first told to replace components on the machinery with new ones. They saw deliveries being unloaded at Republic that weren't intended for their plant. One time, a brand-new and mysterious piece of machinery was dropped off after a plant engineer's mother said it could not be stored in her garage, Robles remembers. The workers knew this equipment wasn't going to be used at Republic, so what was the company up to?

When they asked managers what was going on, they got vague answers about the machinery being sold to raise money or being sent away for repairs. On Monday, November 17, a whole team of workers who normally made the "Allure" line of windows arrived with no jobs to do, since the machines they usually worked on were gone. Union representatives started filing written requests for information; under their collective bargaining agreement with the company, the union had the right to be advised of major operating decisions or changes. The workers were represented by Local 1110 of the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America, or UE, a scrappy, progressive union with a storied activist history. But they got no response. Workers got more and more suspicious and angry.

"I asked my supervisor, 'How can I work when I don't even know if you can pay me?'"said Rocio Perez, a single mother of five and union steward. She felt like the managers viewed them as gullible and naive since they expected them to keep working as the factory was obviously being dismantled under their noses. "It was like they were mocking us."

-

Tomorrow: An audacious idea takes hold.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:56 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

By Scott Buckner

There's a point during every network TV season where we'd have little problem throwing up our hands, turning our television sets into fish tanks, and joining the Amish. Or if we were really disgusted about things, become total Luddites living in cardboard refrigerator boxes in the woods next door to the Unabomber's old hovel. I believe I've moved closer to that point with Fox's More To Love, a reality-contest show about a guy built like a linebacker in search of love and happiness with a woman built like a linebacker.

In this age of political correctness, I'm not exactly sure how to address this show beyond my friend Kathy's description of, "Holy shit! It's chubby-chaser TV!" It's not that there's anything terribly wrong with giving a national TV audience to a guy like Luke Conley, a real estate developer who proclaims on the show's promos, "If she's got a big behind, she's a friend of mine!" I can see how Luke might think some women might find sentiment like this endearing, but paying homage a woman's expansive booty even in complimentary ways like this is like saying, "She really fits if she's got big tits!"

Nonetheless, I imagine Luke will become a national hero adored by women everywhere because he's not worshiping at The Altar of Barbie like the rest of us knuckle-draggers.

For sure, quite a few of the women on this show look damn fine. Personally, I don't mind if there's a little junk in the trunk, but I don't go making a public crusade out of it, or think anyone might care if I did. If I did, though, I wouldn't simply reheat The Bachelor by hijacking the crowd from Dance Your Ass Off. That's because - just like with The Bachelor - we really don't care who jamokes like Luke Conley end up with in the final episode because if The Bachelor is any guide, we know damn well nobody's going to be living happily ever after. Or even a month after. Jeez, if a guy like Bret Michaels still hasn't found his dream girl after blowing through a few seasons worth of hot, relationship-minded groupies on Rock of Love, Luke Conley is surely doomed, too.

So, since American TV is secretly wishing it could be Japanese TV anyway and there seems to be no shortage of women willing to jump through hoops to humiliate themselves in front of a national audience, I'd make More To Love an American version of I Survived a Japanese Game Show because there is no contest more entertaining than something involving contestants of any girth being launched against a wall of foam rubber dressed as a human ball of Velcro or racing about on little tricycles.

But I'm not running the show, so what we got Tuesday night - besides my son begging me endlessly to change the channel - was The Bachelor, except with women who range in size from curvy to the La Chola crying and getting all emotional about how hard it is to get dates and find someone to love them for who they are on the inside and how they're constantly judged by their appearance and blahblahblah. If the rest of the world was anything like me Tuesday night when all the chubtestants stepped out of their limos to meet and swoon over Luke like he was George Clooney as they entered the Ton of Love Mansion - where they will all spend the next few weeks synchronizing their periods and drinking too much and sniping at each other and scheming how to rope in the only guy on Earth who will pay this sort of attention to them ever ever ever again - our judgment was revolving more around why none of these women seem to own any fashion sense. Or a bra that fits.

But this wasn't the most disturbing part. That prize belonged to the fact that pretty much every single chubtestant is beyond any rational definition of the word "needy." We're not talking I-need-my-best-friend-to-go-to-the-grocery-store needy. We're talking the kind of crawl-all-over-you-at-first-sight needy that makes Glenn Close's character in Fatal Attraction seem like, well, Glenn Close's character in Damages.

At first I thought it was just me, even though I gave up on this show after a half hour because, really, there's only so much whining coming out of a 10-year-old boy anyone can put up with over a show that his 48-year-old dad found to be just as tortuous. So to be fair, I again consulted my very close, personal friend Kathy - who saw the entire episode beginning to end - to fill me in on what I missed. Believe me, if anyone could give a balanced assessment of More to Love, it would be Kathy, for two big reasons: Number One, she's a self-professed Size 12 girl who knows what it's like trying to live in a Size 2 world. Number Two, she once tried to bail out of my car at 40 miles per hour at 2 a.m. one weekend and then stood in the driveway of a cemetery kicking the living hell out of the passenger-side door of my car because she thought I didn't like her anymore. So she's pretty much my go-to authority these days whenever I need to know anything about crazy, needy women.

Her assessment of More to Love was not good, which surprised me because I figured if anyone could scrounge up some sympathy for even one of the chubtestants, it would be a Size 12 girl who has more than a passing familiarity with mental imbalance. But her take turned out to be worse than anything I could have ever come up with. "Oh my fucking God, this isn't even low self-esteem bad," she said, in summary. "You know those stories you see in the newspaper where some bus driver in India rolls a bus over a side of the cliff? Same thing. Only here it's a busload of fat chicks who swear nobody loves them that gets run over by a train at the bottom of the cliff. That's what this show is. I'm telling you, someone's gonna crash and burn on that show, so I hope they have a whole team of psychiatrists just waitin' in the driveway, because if there was ever a reality show where getting eliminated ever made someone want to go kill themself, this would be it."

As the very weighty comedian John Pinette - one of the funniest men left in America - might say about anyone who goes grazing at the buffet of love: "You been here four hour! You go now!"

Seems like good advice for everyone.

Overheard on TV
Judge, to defendant: Maybe you like to freak. The good news is, you're not alone.
- Judge Mathis (Monday 7/27)

Buz: What about the sandwiches?
Tod: I hope you choke on the salami.
- Route 66 (Tuesday 7/28)

Audience, chanting: WE LOVE STRIPPERS! WE LOVE STRIPPERS! WE LOVE STRIPPERS!
Jerry, to guest: You are certainly welcome on our show, yeah.

- The Jerry Springer Show (Tuesday 7/28)

*

Visit the What I Watched Last Night archives and see what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:55 AM | Permalink

At Ring Lardner's Table

By Mike Conklin

In between firing Dale Tallon and getting booed at the recent Blackhawks convention, John McDonough found welcome relief at the Union League Club. The occasion was the Ring Lardner Awards, where McDonough gave a speech to toast Harry Caray. The awards are held to celebrate sports journalism in Chicago and raise money for charity, which this year was the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. McDonough, who knows a lot about all of the above, was excellent.

It had been several years since the Lardner Awards were held, owing as much to the closing of the Chicago Athletic Association club, where the dinner was enthusiastically embraced, as the state of the industry. The event always has been fun, a chance for the city's sports insiders to reminisce in a public setting and outsiders to listen and be entertained. This is exactly how the old Sportswriters radio show, granddaddy of sports talk in Chicago, got started back in the 1970s, when customers at the Billy Goat eavesdropped on Tribune and Sun-Times scribes swapping stories.

Over the years, notables such as Ray Sons, Bill Gleason, Brent Musburger, Bob Costas, David Halberstam, Jerome Holtzman, and Bill Jauss have been on hand at the Lardner event to give speeches. Honored posthumously - typically with eloquent, stand-in speakers - have been local media legends such as Tim Weigel, David Condon, John Carmichael, Wendell Smith, and now Caray.

On this night of revival, Pat Foley won a well-deserved Broadcaster of the Year award, though it could just as easily been called the Comeback of the Year, considering his career of late. Don Pierson, former Tribune sportswriter who retired several years ago, was the honoree for print journalism and the only real journalist on the dance card.

Caray and Foley have high profiles, but few sportswriters commanded more respect from peers, management, coaches, agents, and athletes in his four-decade reporting career than Pierson. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers Association, championing the rights of locker room access at some key points in league history. He also has been influential as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

Chicago fans were as well informed of developments as those in any NFL city when Pierson had the beat. His Sunday notes column was must-read Gospel. To many in the sports business, his quiet departure from the Tribune three years ago remains the biggest hole in the paper's coverage.

Former Chicago Bear and Northwestern football star Mike Adamle, now at WMAQ-Ch 5, jumped at the chance to be his presenter. As someone whose own career was covered by the former Tribune sportswriter, Adamle noted admiringly: "Don is a person who wrote thousands of stories and never used the word 'I.'"

Ring Lardner was one of Chicago's most famous sports columnists, having worked for the old Inter-Ocean, Examiner, Tribune, and Sporting News in the Roaring 20s and the years leading to them. Lardner's name, to those who know it, never fails to evoke images of journalism the way it used to be, when writers wrote and editors simply "hooked the 'graphs," sent the copy to the typesetter, and tried to come up with a snappy headline.

In truth, the journalism era of Lardner, Grantland Rice, and Damon Runyon was long on storytelling, short on actual probing, and done with a very selective use of facts. Figure it this way: The White Sox tossed the 1919 World Series, but it was not until almost a year later that the details were aggressively pursued by newspapers, which were a monopoly when it came to forming public opinion. It is no coincidence some of the best reporters of that era went on to become Hollywood screenwriters and novelists.

Now, the slumping economy and rampant technological changes have altered radically Chicago's sports landscape - just as radio and then TV did decades ago. Not even Lardner was creative enough to blow these changes by readers and, despite an entertaining program featuring McDonough, Foley, and Pierson, some in the Union League crowd that night wondered whether this was really last rites as much as a celebration of great careers.

But despite being gutted by layoffs, retirements, and buyouts, there do remain excellent writers and reporters working full-time on Chicago newspapers - whenever they're allowed to practice the craft by editors, who now hold the upper hand. In fact, the Tribune, in a touch of class, mustered a full table at this event to applaud their former colleague.

There is no reason to believe there won't be new waves of Chicago sports reporters. The Lardner Awards could continue to honor them, but serve as a reminder of what should be valuable in journalism.

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Mike Conklin, who spent 35 years at the Tribune, teaches journalism at DePaul University. He welcomes your comments.

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Previously by Mike Conklin:
* Webio Warnings Wasted
* Missing The Soccer Beat

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:43 AM | Permalink

Purple Rain Revisited

By Steve Rhodes

The Wikipedia entry for Purple Rain categorizes the landmark album's genre as "Pop, rock, R&B, funk, neo-psychedlia, new wave, Minneapolis."

You got that right.

Purple Rain is all of those things and more. It's a better record than Thriller, as far as 80s blockbusters go, though not always as daring - and mindblowing - as some of Prince's earlier work.

Sometimes - "let's get nuts!" - there are moments of schmaltz.

But it is an undeniable record with far more imagination, musicality, and indivdual brilliance than anything Michael Jackson and his team of songwriters ever managed.

Local rock critics Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot performed one of their Classic Album Dissections on Purple Rain last weekend on Sound Opinions on the occasion of its 25th anniversary.

The big surprise to me was how involved Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman were in the creative process.

The way Wendy and Lisa described it to Greg and Jim in an interview, they were tight with Prince at the time, forcing a potent triad that opened up new possibilities to an artist who was already miles beyond his years.

Let's take a closer look.

Release date: June 25, 1984

Charts: 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart

Track Listing:
Side One

1. "Let's Go Crazy" - 4:39
2. "Take Me with U" - 3:54
3. "The Beautiful Ones" - 5:13
4. "Computer Blue" - 3:59
5. "Darling Nikki" - 4:14

Side Two

1. "When Doves Cry" - 5:54
2. "I Would Die 4 U" - 2:49
3. "Baby I'm a Star" - 4:24
4. "Purple Rain" - 8:41

Test Pressing:

November 7, 1983:

1. "Let's Go Crazy"
2. "The Beautiful Ones"
3. "Darling Nikki"
4. "Wednesday"
5. "Purple Rain"
6. "I Would Die 4 U"
7. "Baby, I'm a Star"
8. "Father's Song"

Contemporary Reviews:

Lynn Van Matre, Chicago Tribune, July 8, 1984: "Like Michael Jackson, who ended up copping the crossover crown [at least for the moment], Prince is a strikingly beautiful young man who seems made for video exposure; like Jackson, his forte is fusing 'black' and 'white' styles into a sound that cuts across musical lines."

Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune, July 22, 1984: "This is a summer of pop idols, every one of them bathed in mystery. Michael Jackson spends time shuttling between his mansion of mannequins and blockbuster mobs. Bruce Springsteen, as hugely popular as ever, talks rarely and stays away from camera crews. Now comes Prince, the flashy, sexy, musically innovative singer whose new album, Purple Rain, raced up the pop charts to give Jackson and Springsteen an unfathomable run for their money."

Robert Palmer, New York Times, July 22, 1984: "For the first time on one of his albums, Prince has chosen to work primarily with his band, and presumably to accept musical input other than his own.

"In solitude, even the work of a prodigally gifted, self-made genius must eventually become constricted. On Purple Rain, the band's contributions do make the music sound more alive and more sensual. There are dazzling musical moments - the synthesizers and guitars that rave and rage at each other, yet remain almost frighteningly controlled in 'Let's Go Crazy,' or the strutting, almost-scat vocalizing on 'The Beautiful Ones.' 'Darling Nikki' features some of the most unrestrained piano- thumping and leather-lunged screaming since Little Richard. The album's closer, the cathartic 'Purple Rain,' sets a gospel rap and jazz borrowings into the framework of a country-rock ballad, decorated with Nashville-style, Floyd Cramer-like piano arpeggios.

"For the first time, Prince has stepped beyond the image he so obsessively constructed for himself on earlier records, and the result is exhilarating. What the film critics will make of all this remains to be seen, but the album Purple Rain is a winner, creatively and commercially. It may lack the Jacksons' multiformat sophistication and Bruce Springsteen's single-minded vision of America's hopes and failures, but this listener suspects that long after this summer's hits are forgotten, and the Jacksons and Springsteen albums are packed away, Purple Rain will still be remembered, and played, as an enduring rock classic."

Where Are They Now?

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:32 AM | Permalink

At Your Service: Ode To A Pizzeria

Oh, local Chicago pizzeria, how I loathe thee!
With thine poorly tipping guests
And ne'er enough of the most popular beers -
I have never met one that drove me so crazy.

Oh, local Chicago pizzeria, you surely kid!
Surely no busser would use Sprite in the place of table wipes -
But alas! 'tis true, for a guest phoned and complained.
How hast thee possibly stayed Zagat rated?

Aye, thine servers are tipsy -
We must drink along with the guests,
For there is no other way to get through a shift
Of serving you and your family.

Nights on the patio are spent chasing away bums
From my high-maintenance tables
Then I get a kind young couple that wishes me the bes t-
And discover their sole motive was to ask for a threesome.

Why is it then, that in this madness I stay?
Perhaps it is the dollars it puts in my pocket -
Mark my words! When I get my degree,
I will be quitting this hell hole the very next day.

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The pseudononymous Patty Hunter brings you tales from the front lines of serverdom every week. She welcomes your comments. Catch up with the rest of this series and its companions in our Life At Work archive.

-

You can also listen to Patty Hunter's recent interview on Outside the Loop Radio. Her bit starts at 22:25, but the whole show, as always, is worth checking out.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:01 AM | Permalink

July 29, 2009

The [Wednesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

I have a busy morning, I may nor may not get a column out later today, you'll just have to check back. Sorry. I have a ton of Beachwood material in our other sections to post as well. I'm doing the best I can!

For now, though:

* Tony Cole Calling. Phone records show he was in constant contact with Donna Dunnings.

* Dear Obama: Chicagoans Break. Let us count the ways.

* Daley: Scandal Shows Schools Work! The mayor's wacky world.

And new on Beachwood:

* Hold on to Ted Lilly. In Fantasy Fix.

* Earth, Wind & Fire was originally called the Salty Peppers. In Trivial Pursuit.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Sweet and sour.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:11 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix

By Dan O'Shea

The MLB trading deadline draws nigh, and it seems quite possible that the biggest deal already has been made. It involved a player named Holliday rather than one named Halladay (totally different name, startlingly similar pronunciation). The deal we speak of is the one that sent OF Matt Holliday from the Oakland A's to the St. Louis Cardinals. It is still quite possible that starting pitcher Roy Halladay could be moved to Philadelphia, though his Toronto Blue Jays reportedly were holding for too much.

Among other possible moves, the C/1B Victor Martinez could end up at a new address, and any number of smaller deals could be done, but at least as of Tuesday night not much was happening. The only other trade of note in recent days sent 1B Adam LaRoche from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Boston Red Sox.

The Holliday move must be considered a serious boost for Holliday owners. It takes him out of a ball-eating canyon in Oakland, and puts him in a park friendlier to homerun hitter, and in a line-up stocked with menace.

Here's a quick take on some recently traded players and other names in the news, complete with Fantasy Fix Action Ratings:

Player:Adam LaRoche, 1B
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: He's only 28% owned in Yahoo! leagues and could see his stats balloon in a better lineup the same way Jason Bay's did last year when he arrived in Boston. Though, watch closely to see how many at-bats he's getting.

Player: Mark DeRosa, 1B/2B/3B/OF
FFAR: HOLD
Comment: He also recently was traded to St Louis, and is already having an impact with 5 HRs, but watch him closely, as he just came back from a wrist injury.

Player:Mark Kotsay, 1B/OF
FFAR: SKIP
Comment: He came to our own Chicago White Sox in the trade that sent Brian Anderson to Boston. Kotsay probably will see more playing time than Anderson, but most of his value lies in his glove and arm, not his bat.

Player: Josh Willingham, OF
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Wow, two grand slams in two innings this week, and he was only 21% owned as of Tuesday. He's got a lot of power, and tends to be a strong second-half player. Not in a great lineup, but take the power boost if you need it.

Player: Mark Buehrle, SP
FFAR: HOLD (Duh)
Comment: A perfect game in what could be his best season yet. Always a marginal fantasy pick because he doesn't collect many strikeouts, but he could end up with a Cy Young.

Player: Ted Lilly, SP
FFAR: HOLD
Comment: On the disabled list until mid-August, but he's a gamer, and will do good things toward the end of the seaon.

Player: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
FFAR: TRADE
Comment: 3 HRs and 5 RBIs in the last week, but he's coming off a long fade after a very strong open to the season. Was poised for a career year, and could still finish around 27 HRs, 90 RBIs, but you are better off trading him for speed, more power/lower average or maybe a pitcher.

This Week's Expert Wire:
* Roto Arcade has a closer look at SP Joe Blanton, who is usually a bottom-of-the-rotation guy in fantasy terms but is humming along for a Phillies team that always scores runs for him.

* USA Today has a lesson in "fanalytics" that suggest players who cross from one league to the other at the trading deadline - like Holliday - don't assure happy returns. It's a decent thesis, but not really proven, or at least not proven last year, when Bay, CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez all changed leagues in July and produced stellar half-seasons that looked like full seasons. I think there is every reason to believe Holliday can finish with around 23 HRs, 90 RBIs, 20 stolen bases and a .300-plus average.

* Bleacher Report also looks at the impact of the Holliday trade on the big man's numbers, making the case that it doesn't change a whole lot for him, which is actually okay. I don't know why more fantasy baseball watchers aren't more excited about this trade.

*

Next week, we'll give out our Fantasy Fix monthly awards for July (sorry, we have a couple days left yet, and don't want to cheat anyone). Also, our initial fantasy football ratings (which are mostly all set, but now we need to scratch out Brett Favre's name and possibly add Michael Vick's.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:33 AM | Permalink

July 28, 2009

The [Tuesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"An Illinois man is accused of stealing more than $45,000 worth of glasses from Milwaukee-area stores because he enjoys being around eyewear," AP reports.

Well played, AP.

*

From Newsradio 620:

"[Jerry] Lowery admitted to police that glasses have been a problem for 15 years, saying he likes to wear them, look in a mirror, then give them away, throw them away or sell them.

"Lowery was not supposed to leave the state of Illinois after a parole in January of this year on a 15-year- prison sentence for armed robbery in 2002.

"Illinois court records show he has been convicted for nine different armed robberies in that state."

Well played, Mr. Lowery.

Dunkin' Skunkin'
"Alex Holmes couldn't even look at the $167 he took from a Hinsdale Dunkin' Donuts, the remorseful teen says."

Well played, Alex.

Cops Rules
"I'm not saying I'm brighter than the average street criminal, but there are 12 very important Lessons For Dummies I've learned from watching Cops that I'll forever carry with me," Scott Buckner writes today in What I Watched Last Night.

This is very well played.

Clout U
"The chairman of a state panel investigating University of Illinois admissions abuses and two of the school's former presidents have joined a chorus of voices calling for the ouster of university trustees in response to a scandal they say has jeopardized the integrity of the institution," the Tribune reports.

"'My own feeling is that the board needs new voices and new faces,' former federal judge Abner Mikva said Monday after listening to five hours of testimony before the Illinois Admissions Review Commission.

"His comments came after former Presidents Stanley Ikenberry and James Stukel said they would support the replacement of all nine governor-appointed trustees, and after the current university president for the first time called the admissions scandal a 'crisis' for the state's top public campus."

And only after conducting a poll to see which way the wind was blowing.

Chart Dart
I guess you have to buy the print product to see the chart.

Or you can look here and see how it compares to a chart about the making of a baked potato.

*

Jon Stewart vs. the Tribune editorial page. You decide.

Duncan's Cloutgate
"News from Chicago is that some children have been getting 'clouted' into competitive elementary and high schools based on connections rather than through merit or the lottery," Alexander Russo writes at This Week In Education. "Duncan's replacement has ordered an investigation. I've asked whether Duncan knew about this and what he did to address it."

*

Russo has also filed a FOIA in his quest to find out just what Duncan does every day.

Blago's Book
Brimming With Bull.

Daley's Newest Tool . . .
. . . is Robert Maldonado.

Madigan's Drug War
Making pharma pay.

Bullpen Bankshot
"Tribune Co. Wants More Time On Bankruptcy."

Seeking left-hander to sign final papers.

*

I know there's a better line than that out there, but I'm too tired to figure out what it is. Suggestions welcome.

*

UPDATE 1:27 P.M.: And here they are:
- A few more bonus-seeking executives still warming up in the pen.

- Waiting on priest to come bless the balance sheet.

- Seeking approval to turn shuttered McCormick Freedom Museum into another Captain Morgan Club.

- Goes out to feed meter but finds Tower has been towed.

- But pushy kid with four rolls of quarters forces it to find a new game.

- Marilyn Ferdinand, Beachwood reader Mark

Quinn's Constitution
"As social-service providers reduce programs and turn away clients during the current budget crisis, a religious summer camp in the Wisconsin Dells is slated to receive $150,000 from Illinois taxpayers," Eric Zorn writes.

"Specifically, Page 61 of the recently signed $31 billion capital spending bill calls for a construction grant for a new cabin at Camp Chi, a facility in Lake Delton operated by the Jewish Community Center of Chicago. The direct recipient of the grant is Keshet, a Northbrook-based organization that serves Jewish children with special needs.

"Meanwhile, Page 101 earmarks $250,000 for renovations to the Friendship House of Christian Service in Peoria; Page 341 earmarks $150,000 for 'facility improvements' at the Salaam Conference Center of Muhammad's Holy Temple of Islam in Chicago; Page 176 earmarks $700,000 for capital improvements at St. Malachy School, presumably the Catholic elementary on the West Side, though the bill doesn't specify which of the Illinois schools named for St. Malachy is to get the money.

"And on and on."

Wherefore art thou, Jay Stewart, former executive director of the BGA who is now on Quinn's staff of lawyers?

Hurly Buehrle
"'Well,' I thought to myself last Thursday afternoon, 'I'll never convince him to be a Cub fan now.' My 10-year-old son Noah had attended Mark Buehrle's perfect game with fellow campers and counselors from his day camp and it seemed clear the experience would seriously strengthen the foundation of his Sox fandom. His dad the Cub fan wasn't excited about that of course but the boy had witnessed baseball history - the kind that only happens a time or two every decade."

- Jim Coffman in SportsTuesday

*

Even with his perfect game, Buehrle's ERA is still higher over the last three games than that of the Twins starter he'll face tonight, Scott Baker: 4.12 to 3.72.

Not that I wouldn't rather have Buehrle . . . I just thought it was interesting.

Party On, Wayne
I guess clouted kids don't party very well.

*

Dudes, you're killing the ratio!

Yellow Brick Wrigley

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: America's top party tip line, that is.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:47 AM | Permalink

SportsTuesday

By Jim Coffman

"Well," I thought to myself last Thursday afternoon, "I'll never convince him to be a Cub fan now." My 10-year-old son Noah had attended Mark Buehrle's perfect game with fellow campers and counselors from his day camp and it seemed clear the experience would seriously strengthen the foundation of his Sox fandom. His dad the Cub fan wasn't excited about that of course but the boy had witnessed baseball history - the kind that only happens a time or two every decade.

And Noah is the kind of kid who could at least start to appreciate what he'd seen. As I waited to pick him up, I saw some fellow campers I had met previously and greeted them with things like "You saw a perfect game! There have been only 17 of those in 120 years of major league baseball! Congratulations on witnessing one of the biggest things ever for the White Sox! A few of them perked up a bit but they were also battling the after-effects of a long bus ride back from U.S. Cellular.

Noah was on the final bus and while he didn't exit the vehicle jumping for joy, he did have a big smile on his face. "People kept saying the no-hitter was still going and I told them, 'it isn't just a no-hitter, it's a perfect game,'" he said.

I had worried going to the pick-up site that perhaps the day hadn't proceeded perfectly. But it quickly became clear that all was well, especially when he confirmed that he had kept his ticket stub.

I must admit I have struggled with just how much of a hard time I should give the boy for his fondness for the South Siders. Shortly after Noah achieved major league baseball consciousness, one of the teams in Chicago won the World Series. The games ended way after his bedtime and we didn't go to the parade, but he still felt the excitement day after day.

He also identified a favorite player - Scott Podsednik. In the intervening years, Podsednik has continued to be his No. 1 guy despite his departure from the scene relatively shortly after the World Series run.

And so his return to prominence for the White Sox this season seems almost miraculous. Injuries initially cut short his Sox tenure and seemed to have cut short his major league tenure before all of the candidates for the South Side centerfield job struggled earlier this season, prompting the signing of Podsednik as a free agent.

Meanwhile, we've been going through what would be described as the Golden Era of Cub fandom but for post-season flameouts in three of the last six years (but at least they made the playoffs in three of six years! We would have killed for that when I was a kid).

Still, there was that delightful century of losing milestone we passed last year and with that, there was a little bit of a question of, "I should rag on my kid for deciding not to sign up for this?"

He still goes to a half-dozen or so Cubs games a year with me and he's not wearing black to Wrigley (not that I would let him if he wanted to sit in our seats). There's still a ways to go before we'll have a final decision. But perfect games don't help. Maybe if the Cubs could somehow find a way to win a playoff game this year, then I might dial up the recruitment effort.

*

If the Sox had managed to lose Sunday's game, that would have completely killed off the last little bit of buzz resulting from the perfecto, wouldn't it? It was too bad they not only had to play the day after Buehrle's gem, they had to play a twin-bill. And while Clayton Richard gave them a boost Sunday, they were back to their under-achieving (especially with the bats) ways on Monday in the Twin Cities. I wonder how long Ozzie's going to wait before he moves Beckham up in the lineup. They need for him to have more at-bats with guys on base.

*

How 'bout those Cubbies. Everyone will play up Soriano's 13th-inning game-winning grand slam last night, especially after he didn't run out a ground ball to third earlier in the game. He seemed to have thought it had tipped off the protective pad covering his lower leg, but the ump didn't see it that way and as Soriano stood there, he was thrown out at first, eliciting some boos (Bob Brenly pointed out on the TV broadcast that "You've at least got to sell it." In other words, the least Soriano could have done was to grab his leg and roll around on the ground for a while).

But the play that set up the final rally was Derrek Lee easily going from first to third on Aramis Ramirez's no-out single, forcing the Astros to walk Milt Bradley to set up a force at home and bringing Soriano to the plate.

Manager Lou sent Lee on two straight 3-and-2 pitches to Ramirez and it paid off on the second - Astro shortstop Miguel Tejada might have had a chance to flag down Ramirez's single through the left side of the infield if he hadn't been cheating a bit toward second.

Piniella sent Lee despite the concern, also voiced by Brenly, that a running Lee could distract Ramirez. Piniella also made one of his coolest calls off the season earlier in the extras when he called for Mike Fontenot to try to put down a suicide squeeze. It didn't work, but it surprised everyone. A little more exciting baseball like that and maybe even Noah will take notice.

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Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday, except when he does it on Tuesdays. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:24 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

By Scott Buckner

You'd think after almost 20 years of being on for an hour at the same time every Saturday night, we'd be sick of Cops. But we're not. Sure, copping is tough business, but I think the real reason why Cops still hasn't worn out its welcome is because week after week, the show illuminates one enduring, immutable fact:

People are fucking stupid. And boy, do we love stupid people.

It's not like Cops is some obscure little public-access show aired at two in the morning in the cable TV stratosphere. Heck, I'm willing to bet it's been a Saturday-night favorite for years in the TV rooms of county jails everywhere. That's why after all this time, you'd think people would have learned how not to get arrested the same way over and over again. But no. Which is a good thing, because then Cops would just disintegrate into an hour of upstanding citizens getting tickets for jaywalking and parking in fire zones.

I'm not saying I'm brighter than the average street criminal, but there are 12 very important Lessons For Dummies I've learned from watching Cops that I'll forever carry with me:

1. Rule 1: Shut the hell up. Rule 2: Sit down and shut the hell up.
I've seen a surprising number of people not even involved with whatever the cops got called for end up in handcuffs because they thought the calendar said it was National Fuck With A Cop Day. That's why running your mouth and heaping on piles of raging hostility over something as simple as a traffic citation can be a good way to meet Mr. Taser. Also, you won't be in less trouble if you figure as long you're going to jail anyway, you might as well try taking a swing at a cop while you're at it.

2. Guns always win. Don't even try.
A gun in the hand of a cop can fire bullets at screamingly high and potentially life-ending velocities from hundreds of feet away. A knife, machete, or box cutter in yours doesn't. Duh.

3. Nobody outruns Motorola.
Things to keep in mind the next time you get pulled over and begin to think trying to outrun the cops might be a fantastic idea:

A) Cops communicate by radio.
B) Police departments own more than one radio - and usually more than one cop.
C) Radio waves travel at the speed of light.
D) The speed of light travels roughly 670,616,629 miles per hour. The space shuttle's speedometer doesn't even go that high.
E) Drunks and carjackers can't hold a curve at 50 miles per hour, much less keep a car pointed straight at 120 miles an hour. So unless you've already made it around the earth's equator in less than thirteen one-hundreds of a second without having plowed whatever you're driving into a ditch, you won't either.

4. Fake manners don't earn points.
If you're gangbanger in handcuffs, calling a cop "sir" for the first time in your life is as believable as saying you have absolutely no clue where the nine pounds of smack crammed into every available nook and cranny behind your car's dashboard came from. Just be yourself.

5. If you can't be good, be invisible.
The world is full of nosybodies. So if you're going to have public sex with someone who isn't your wife, the worst place to do it is parked behind a strip mall after closing time. The second-worst place is in the front seat while parked on a side street. If you really want to impress your crack whore, go for the best abandoned building you can find. If you're a big spender, spring for the nearest roach motel with a nap rate. Bring clean sheets and she'll love you forever.

6. Know who you are.
If your wife just left you or you've lost your job - or hell, it's just Saturday night - nobody's going to blame you for getting your drink on. But if you're going to turn yourself into a shit-faced, incoherent mess, leave the house with some sort of identification, even if it's just your name and address scrawled on a piece of paper jammed into your sock. Having identification on hand will immediately put you a cut above the usual riff-raff. In fact, having a driver's license that isn't suspended or revoked will put you in a class all by yourself. It'll also make everyone's day go faster if your drunk ass falls into a creek and your corpse isn't discovered for a long time.

7. A cop-car glass 1, skulls 0.
Slamming your head repeatedly against the back-seat window of a squad car is always pointless, because a trip to the hospital for a self-inflicted crushed skull never, ever trumps a trip to jail after the emergency room staff has washed its hands of you. If you want to turn yourself into a brain-damaged piece of angry psychotic work, that's just fine with the cops. They'll just stick you in with the other angry, brain-damaged psychotic pieces of work at the county jail when you get there eventually.

8. "Public intoxication" doesn't have to be a synonym for "public asshole."
A drunk crab-walking down the street who has managed to hold onto some shred of decency will always be treated better than a mean one who has to be Tasered. Saying "I love you, man," singing Irish whaling songs, and not pissing on the leg of whoever rolls up in the squad car might not actually keep you from going jail, but at least you won't end up with dislocated shoulders and a knee in the back of your neck mashing your face into the pavement. Waking up in the tank with a hangover isn't nearly as painful as waking up in the tank with a hangover and three fewer layers of skin.

9. Being poor is no excuse for poor housekeeping.
Even people with good jobs are cutting back on everything these days, so any cop answering a domestic disturbance call at your place won't hold it against you for not replacing that bathroom door with a huge fist- or shotgun blast-hole in it right away. But if you insist on having the cops make your place a regular stop, the least you can do is have your crapshack kind of presentable. Sweep the floor. Swat the roaches. Change the flystrip hanging from the bare light bulb when it gets loaded. Swipe some abandoned wire hangars from the laundromat and hang up those giant piles of clothes on the floor. And for chrissakes, when the cat dies in the corner of the front room, find some neighbor's garbage can.

10. That's why public transportation was invented.
Unless you have X-ray vision, you'll never be sure whether your best friend or the drunk-ass floozy you're scoring with at the bar is carrying around a big bag full of weed or rock to stash under your seat and say it's yours when you get pulled over for a burned-out taillight. So don't give anyone a ride anywhere in your car. Ever. Not to your crippled elderly mother or even the pope if you see him hitchhiking in the rain. Sure, they might be pissed at you for awhile, but have them take a tour of Cook County Jail and they'll be more understanding in the future.

11. Cop dogs love hide-and-seek.
Some of the worst places you could possibly hide from cops looking for you: Inside a clothes dryer. An overturned plastic kiddie wading pool. Beneath a hump of piled-up clothes in the corner of a closet. Even if they give up trying to find you, the dog they call in won't. When the dog finds you - and it always does - it will eat you. That's what they do.

12. Dress appropriately. Or inappropriately. Just dress.
For your own sake, gentlemen, if you're intent on violating a few misdemeanors or felonies, wear some clothes while you're doing it. We at home don't care one way or another whether you choose to show up on national TV in drag or being yanked naked by your ankles from underneath a car parked in someone's driveway; you'll be equally amusing either way. We just know road rash is never kind to whatever you've got between your legs swinging in the breeze. Just sayin'.

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Visit the What I Watched Last Night archives and see what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:47 AM | Permalink

July 27, 2009

The [Monday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

* Andrew Reilly writes in The White Sox Report:

"It's tempting to use events like Mark Buehrle's perfect game as a foundation for projecting how the rest of the season might go, an especially stupid proposition considering just how much of an aberration the event really is; you might as well say Jim Thome's seven-RBI outings show a team that's finally turned the corner. But what Buehrle's tremendous achievement does give us is a guarantee of some degree of fond remembrance of the 2009 season.

* Marty Gangler writes in The Cub Factor:

"How meaningful is it that the Cubs are in first place in the NL Central? Well, we here at The Cub Factor think it's sort of like being the tallest Fontenot. Or the largest shrimp in the basket. Or the least corrupt politician in Illinois. Oh yeah, we've got a bunch of 'em."

* SportsMonday will appear on Tuesday this week.

Illinois Leadership . . .
. . . continues to distinguish itself. Between our statehouse pols and our state university president, weve got enough to fill a thimble.

Electric Avenue
ComEd is losing customers.

Apologies & Reparations
Slavery's legacy.

Corruption Index
If you have to rely on a bizarre and wide-ranging scheme allegedly involving three mayors, two legislators, rabbis and internal organs to argue that your state isn't the most corrupt in the nation, then it is.

"There's a casual acceptance of corruption in Chicago," Chicago FBI chief Robert Grant tells the Sun-Times. "It's significant here, it has always been significant here. I don't mean just politicians. I mean business people. There's a culture in this state that believes the only way to do business is to delve into the corrupt areas."

That said, New Jersey and Louisiana have always rounded out the top three.

*

Cubs or Saints?

The Jews Did It
Just like they killed Jesus.

The Baffler Is Back
Is my subscription still good?

Obama's BFF
I'll get to Valerie Jarrett tomorrow.

Arlo Guthrie Is . . .
. . . a registered Republican.

Blago's New Book . . .
. . . is called The Governor.

Here's the ad copy from Phoenix Books:

The Governor, by Rod Blagojevich, pulls the curtain back on the shadowed world of politics and exposes the conspiracies and transgressions that so often compromise the basic tenet of American life: with liberty and justice for all. It is a proclamation that the governor's side of the story must be heard. And that the fight for American liberties and freedom must sometimes occur within its own borders.

Harp Tarp
"When it comes to government wasting your money, the song remains the same, but there's nothing as depressing as the Missing Harpsichord Concerto in the mournful key of eBay."

- John Kass, "Missing Harpsichord Concerto Really A Dirge"

More McCourt
"Mr. McCourt was an idea factory. Maybe he'd create a board game, Squabble, for divorcing couples. Or he'd write a bodice-ripper about Mordecai O'Callaghan, the nonexistent first Jewish Irish pirate on the high seas."

- "A Marriage That Made A Masterpiece Appear"

Reforming Reform
"When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything?" Bill Maher writes. "When did that become the new patriotism? Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what's in it for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

"If conservatives get to call universal health care 'socialized medicine,' I get to call private health care 'soulless vampires making money off human pain.' The problem with President Obama's health care plan isn't socialism, it's capitalism."

Is Mark Buehrle . . .
. . . a Hall of Famer?

Flying Dumbo in West Chicago

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Elephantine.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:33 AM | Permalink

The White Sox Report

By Andrew Reilly

It's tempting to use events like Mark Buehrle's perfect game as a foundation for projecting how the rest of the season might go, an especially stupid proposition considering just how much of an aberration the event really is; you might as well say Jim Thome's seven-RBI outings show a team that's finally turned the corner. But what Buehrle's tremendous achievement does give us is a guarantee of some degree of fond remembrance of the 2009 season.

Even if they keep losing so badly to the teams they're supposed to beat, the perfect game was still awesome.

Even if Clayton Richard insists on only pitching well with a gun held to his roster spot, the perfect game was still awesome.

Even if Scott Linebrink can't return to the form that made him such a valuable free agent signing not so long ago, the perfect game was still awesome.

Even if Carlos Quentin never quite gets his monstrous swing back, the perfect game was still awesome.

Even if Alexei Ramirez refuses to limit his endearing craziness to his bat, the perfect game was still awesome.

Consider 2007, for example. The Sox that season treated us to not one but two of the finest moments in any of our sports-watching lives, yet ended up collectively delivering one of the absolute worst seasons in collective memory. The team was awful, but that was okay because in the end we still had something to cheer about, and those things kept it from becoming just another hollow summer for the South Side faithful - but they only did that because nearly everything else added up to a whole lot of nothing.

So perhaps this latest major event in franchise history doesn't have to mean much. Or, perhaps, it's going to have to mean the world. Only time and another two months of mostly-imperfect baseball will tell.

Week in Review: An eight-game week found the Good Guys taking down a good team from a tough division yet staying home for a series against a weak team from a terrible division. Typical.

Week in Preview: A three-set under the world's largest garbage bag and then hey Joey, lookadisguyovaheah, those hated Yankees come to town for a four-spot. May both of those ballclubs burn for all of eternity, or at least until next Sunday. No, actually, let's stick with all of eternity.

The Q Factor: Late Wednesday afternoon, Carlos Quentin showed teammate Mark Buehrle an arm slot for a change-up he'd discovered several years ago while traversing the Zinat Mountain range through northern Morocco. On Thursday, Buehrle threw this pitch once. Twenty-seven times.

That's Ozzie!: "I wish I was his father, I wouldn't have let him take it." - Guillen on how to raise Jim Parque.

The Guillen Meter: With the offense and bullpen folding at the worst possible time, the Guillen Meter reads 8 for "throwing his hands up in disgust."

Underclassmen Update: With Wednesday's call-up of Carlos Torres, the First Aaron Poreda Dynasty comes to a gentle close.

Alumni News You Can Use: In addition to making good players into great players, human growth hormone can also make a so-so pitcher into a terrible pitcher. Perhaps former future Hall of Fame Sox prospect Gio Gonzalez could use some of Dr. Parque's assistance in raising his already astronomical 7.75 earned run average to epic new heights.

Hawkeroo's Can-O-Corn Watch: Baseball history is rife with legendary calls of great moments, from "There is a new home run champion of all time, and it's Henry Aaron!" to "The mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world" to "I don't believe what I just saw!" This past Thursday, Sox fans had their latest moment in the sun immortalized as follows: "Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! History!" A veritable Shakespeare, that Hawk of ours. Expect similar works of literary beauty in praise of Nemesis Carlos Gomez and Sworn Enemy Derek Jeter, both easily, if we're talking about baseball players here, not guys who play baseball but actual baseball players, guys who go out there and find a way, day in and day out, to make teams win the games they don't lose, the single greatest baseball player ever, no question. No question.

Endorsement No-Brainer: DeWayne Wise for old-timey handwear manufacturers: "It's a glove, that's all you need to know."

Cubs Snub: They're not really in first because beating the Reds doesn't count.

The White Sox Report: Read 'em all.

The Cub Factor: Know your enemy.

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The White Sox Report welcomes your comments.

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Andrew Reilly is the managing editor of The 35th Street Review and a contributor to many fine publications.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:07 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

By Marty Gangler

How meaningful is it that the Cubs are in first place in the NL Central? Well, we here at The Cub Factor think it's sort of like being the tallest Fontenot. Or the largest shrimp in the basket. Or the least corrupt politician in Illinois. Oh yeah, we've got a bunch of 'em. It's sort of like being . . .

* The most honest lawyer in the phone book
* The best golfer at the Putt-Putt
* The best episode of Real World: Cancun
* The best reporter on your local TV news
* The world's strongest 80-year-old man
* Homeless but with a kickass cardboard box
* The best movie on Lifetime this year
* The best Coldplay song
* The smallest check you'll bounce this week
* The first team that will get knocked out of the NL playoffs

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Week in Review: The Cubs are 8-2 since the All-Star break, sweeping the Nationals and Reds but losing two of three to the Phillies. Winning eight of 10 is impressive. Winning the series against the Phillies would have been impressiver. I think we'll just take impressive at this point.

Week in Preview: The Cubs stay home for four against the Astros, then head to Florida for three against the fighting fish. If they stay on a roll it will continue to be impressive, maybe even impressiver.

The Second Basemen Report: Mighty Mike Fontenot has started eight of 10 games since the All-Star break. Jeff Baker has the other two starts. Andres Blanco (Andy White) has disappeared. So, the guy who was supposed to be the starting second baseman at the beginning of the season has taken the job back. Well, until the trade deadline gets here and the Cubs pick up someone else. Which really could happen, you know. Just like Jim Hendry drew it up.

In former second baseman news, Mark DeRosa is hitting .244 so far with the Cardinals. Ronny Cedeno is hitting around .177 for the Mariners. Mark Grudzielanek, last seen hitting .299 for the Royals last year, has signed a minor-league deal with the Twins. They are all missed. Except Cedeno.

The Zam Bomb: Moving into first pace puts a little more wick on the ol' Zam bomb. He is Getting Angry for the first time in a while.
zam_gettingAngry.jpg

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Lost in Translation: Richio Hardini-san is Japanese for a box of chocolates. Because you never know what you are going to get.

Endorsement No-Brainer: Geovany Soto for Jenny Craig, depending on the "After" pictures.

Milton Bradley Game of the Week: Because Uncle Lou has taken Milton under his wing to reinvent his swing, the game of the week is Boggle Reinvention 2009.

Sweet and Sour Lou: 53% sweet, 47% sour. Lou is up three points on the Sweet-O-Meter due to being in first place. And just like your real crazy drunk uncle, Lou is glad you passed your drivers license road test but don't think he's going to give you the keys to his prized 1969 GTO. You still have too many issues and can't be trusted.

Don't Hassle The Hoff: Getting in the way of the Hoff could be a hassle. But not in this case.

Over/Under: The number of Cub fans who still think Soriano should lead off: +/- none of the smart ones.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that the Cubs are definitely better than the bottom half of the league.

The Cub Factor: Unlike Soriano, you can catch 'em all!

The White Sox Report: Now with a weekly Cubs Snub.

Fantasy Fix: All-Star illusions and Paul Konerko.

The Mount Lou Alert System: Mount Lou remains at Green, but don't be fooled by that calm exterior. Astros and the Marlins have a way of slicing into veins of lava that could quickly rise to the surface; conditions this week could change quickly.

mtlou_green.gif

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Contact The Cub Factor!

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:21 AM | Permalink

July 25, 2009

The Weekend Desk Report

By The Weekend Desk B Team

Editor's Note: Natasha Julius is on assignment deep inside the bowels of the American dream factory. She will return next week with her special report.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does
The general consensus that President Obama "acted stupidly" at his press conference about health care and Skip Gates last week will continue to prove fodder for pundits unable to grasp and unwilling to read the health care reform bill now moving through the House, fueled in part by the president's unwillingness to just admit he screwed up.

On the other hand, we don't understand the health care bill either.

1. "President Obama said today that he was 'surprised by the controversy surrounding' his criticism that Cambridge police 'acted stupidly' when they arrested Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.," the Boston Globe reports.

After all, who would've thought it would be a big deal to call a local police department stupid without knowing the facts in a racially charged case?

2. "I think it was a pretty straight forward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who is in his own home."

After all, it's not as if police officers nationwide are required to handcuff every person they arrest regardless of age, health, wealth, or friendship with the president.

3. "Let me be clear, he was not calling the officer stupid," Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said with a straight face.

Though it's sort of true; he was calling the whole department stupid.

4. "I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. Crowley specifically," Obama said on Friday.

Let's go to the videotape: "Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof he was in own home."

5. Gates wasn't arrested for breaking into his own home. He was arrested for disorderly conduct.

According to the police report, which has been online from day one, apparently unbeknownst to most reporters:

"On Thursday July 16, 2009, Henry Gates, Jr. ([redacted], of [redacted] Ware Street, Cambridge, MA) was placed under arrest at [redacted] Ware Street, after being observed exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place, directed at a uniformed police officer who was present investigating a report of a crime in progress. These actions on the behalf of Gates served no legitimate purpose and caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed."

*

"As I turned and faced the door, I could see an older male standing in the foyer of [redacted] Ware Street. I made this observation through the glass paned front door. As I stood in plain view of this man, later identified as Gates, I asked if he would step out onto the porch and speak with me. He replied, 'no I will not.' He then demanded to know who I was. I told him that I was 'Sgt. Crowley from the Cambridge Police' and that I was 'investigating a report of a break in progress' at the residence. While I was making this statement, Gates opened the front door and exclaimed, 'why, because I'm a black man in America?'. I then asked Gates if there was anyone else in the residence. While yelling, he told me that it was none of my business and accused me of being a racist police officer."

*

Gates went on to say "You don't know who you're messing with!"

Again, you can read the whole report for yourself.

6. Do I trust police reports as the authoritative version of an incident? Of course not. But I've read a lot of police reports in my time and it's hard to see that the police officer acted stupidly in any way, shape or form. The police report also rings truer than Gates's account.

7. Did race play a role in this incident? Yes, but in a way I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere: the original call from a witness described two black men who appeared to be breaking into a home. Why did the witness refer to their race? It's possible it was simply to assist officers in identifying suspects. On the other hand, maybe the call doesn't get made if they are white men.

UPDATE July 30: Audio of the 911 call confirms the witness' contention that she never mentioned the race of the apparent "suspects." Crowley says she mentioned race in a subsequent conversation; she denies it.

8. Still, Gates's personal history (as well as all of American history) must be taken into account to understand his mindset. Still, he may have been the one guilty of presumptions.

9. Did Crowley have to arrest Gates? When someone is as uncooperative, belligerent and, well, suspicious as Gates acted, according to Crowley's report, yes. He seemed unusually agitated; who knows what was going on.

10. It turns out that Gates had previously had a break-in at that very home.

Ponzi Pinheads
Who knew Ponzi schemes were the Beanie Babies of the Oughts?

Perfect Pitch
The best column by far written about Mark Buehrle's perfect game is worth another read.

TFLN
* (801): The only way im leaving this casino is in a golden chariot or an ambulance.

* (218): I think I might be in your shoes. Except they are actually my shoes. Either way these shoes are wasted.

* (859): I'm not to broken up about it. Our relationship was worse than a coldplay song.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Like a golden chariot.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:36 AM | Permalink

July 24, 2009

The [Friday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

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UPDATE 3:06 P.M.: Geez, take me out of my routine and my whole day falls apart. I'm filling in for Natasha on the Weekend Desk tomorrow so I'll just deliver today's expected column as part of tomorrow's report, it's too late to catch up because, well, I just don't feel like it. I'll make tomorrow's report extra special. See you then.

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I have to go downtown this morning to tape an appearance on NBC5's The Talk, which will air on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. I'll be talking about the mayor's reaction to the Cook County board's new ordinance lessening penalties for small-time pot possession to a ticket and a fine rather than jail time. If you missed it, the mayor went bonkers.

I'll have a column upon my return.

For now, though, a sampling of today's Beachwood:

* "You might argue that the problem in American racing is that there are so many variations from state to state of raceday and non-raceday medication for horses that it's almost impossible for any trainer to keep them straight and abide by the law," Thomas Chambers writes in TrackNotes. "But it's really another smokescreen, and the U.S.A. is great at smokescreens. The problem is that there are no efforts or discussions to achieve a drug-free game. No drugs should be allowed in racing, as is practiced in virtually every other racing country on earth. Yet megatons of energy are being wasted on how to streamline the drug system."

* "We do not have an easy word to describe these transient bursts of attention, in part because we often categorize them differently based on their object," writes Bill Wasik, inventor of the flashmob, in his book And Then There's This, from which we have an authorized excerpt today. "When this sort of fleeting attention attaches to things, we tend to call them 'fads'; but this term, I think, conjures up too much the media-unsavvy consumer of an earlier era, while underestimating the extent to which our enthusiasms today are entirely knowing, postironic, aware. If there is one attribute of today's consumers, whether of products or of media, that differentiates them from their forebears of even twenty years ago, it is this: they are so acutely aware of how media narratives themselves operate, and of how their own behavior fits into these narratives, that their awareness feeds back almost immediately into their consumption itself."

* "Bloodshot alum Neko Case must have made up with the Grand Ole Opry folks after she was banned for life when she took her shirt off during a performance on the Opry plaza seven years ago," Matt Harness writes in Bloodshot Briefing. "She is scheduled to appear on stage at the famed Ryman Auditorium for the first time as a solo artist on Saturday."

* "So why did unappreciative ingrates like me keep tuning in every week?" Scott Buckner writes about the return of Hell's Kitchen in What I Watched Last Night. "For the gasket-blowin', meat-throwin', trash-can-kickin', bitch-slappin' verbal abuse nobody else on TV has tried using as a motivational tool since Gunnery Sgt. Hartman met Pvt. Leonard Lawrence and his fellow worthless maggots in Full Metal Jacket."

* These are Obama's Olympics too; he's been behind Daley every step of the way.

More later.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Postironic.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:18 AM | Permalink

Obama's Olympics

By The Beachwood Olympic Smackdown Affairs Desk


vs.



Back Story
- "U.S. Sen. Barack Obama today endorsed Mayor Daley's re-election bid, asserting that City Hall corruption is being cleaned up and that Chicago has 'blossomed' under the mayor's 'innovative' and decisive leadership," the Sun-Times reported on January 22, 2007.

- "Hours after U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) announced plans to seek his party's nomination for President, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley endorsed the freshman senator's campaign for the White House," the Tribune reported on February 10, 2007

And back to that Sun-Times story:

"In August 2005, Obama nearly ran into trouble with Daley when he hedged on whether he'd support the mayor for re-election in light of the corruption investigations at City Hall.

"Asked then if he planned to support the mayor or if the corruption probes might have given him pause, the senator replied, 'What's happened - some of the reports I've seen in your newspaper, I think, give me huge pause.'

"An hour later, he called the Sun-Times saying he wanted to clarify his remarks. Obama said the mayor was 'obviously going through a rough patch right now.' But he also said Chicago has 'never looked better' and that 'significant progress has been made on a variety of fronts.' The senator said then it was 'way premature' to talk about endorsements because the mayor had not yet announced his candidacy."

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:04 AM | Permalink

Bloodshot Briefing

By Matt Harness

In the news.

1. Bloodshot alum Neko Case must have made up with the Grand Ole Opry folks after she was banned for life when she took her shirt off during a performance on the Opry plaza seven years ago. She is scheduled to appear on stage at the famed Ryman Auditorium for the first time as a solo artist on Saturday.

"For an aspiring alt-country singer, Neko Case made a major faux pas," Rolling Stone wrote at the time. "She took her shirt off at the Grand Ole Opry plaza party. 'I wasn't trying to be sexy or rebellious - I was just getting heatstroke up there,' she says of her now-infamous topless performance last year, which got Case permanently blackballed from the same Nashville auditorium where Hank Williams and Patsy Cline launched their careers."

Case recalled the incident to The Guardian earlier this year:

"I was pretty depressed for a couple of months after that happened, but I got over it. Ultimately I realised there's nothing I could have done differently - I was playing on a black stage in Tennessee in July. It's one of the hottest places in the country, I'm standing in front of a barbecue pit and I had heatstroke and I went to get water and they wouldn't let me leave the stage and I kinda flipped out. I apologised profusely, I wasn't trying to be cool, I wasn't trying to be Johnny Cash kicking out the footlights."

2. Exclaim is calling Scott H. Biram's "Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue" the country song of the year.

The one-man band plays the Empty Bottle on Sunday.

3. "Over the course of a handful of albums and EPs, Pickett and the Eggs (later the MC3) whipped up a noisy stew of roots music, garage rock and punk that placed them in a pot with better known acts such as X, Jason and the Scorchers, The Gun Club and The Beat Farmers," writes My Old Kentucky Blog.

Charlie Pickett isn't scheduled to come to Chicago any time soon, but is on the bill for several of Bloodshot's anniversary parties across the country.

4. Another moniker for the music of Split Lip Rayfield: thrash-grass.

5. Wayne "the Train" Hancock fills up the notebook of a Colorado Springs Independent writer, telling him he's surprised Michael Jackson lived as long as he did and calling American Idol "like watching a bunch of clowns on the Bozo Show."

6. "Like every good, honest independent label should, it allows artists on the roster to propose their own contracts, which can range from 50/50 oral deals to more formal, long-term investments," IndiePit writes. "And that carries over to making records as well: Artists can turn to Miller for production help, as countless bands have done in the past, or hand-deliver their already-finished albums directly to the label - like Robbie Fulks recently did."

Plus, there's this, from the label:

"All Bloodshot recordings are created without the use of pesticides, toxic fertilizers or ionizing radiation. They are 100% free of antibiotics, hormones and extended bass solos. All our artists are free-range and have access to the outdoors 24 hours a day where they can roam freely on our expansive mixed-grass pasturelands."

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Bloodshot Briefing appears in this space every Friday. Matt welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:56 AM | Permalink

Going Viral

By The Beachwood Nanostories Affairs Desk

"You might have seen Bill Wasik's byline in Harper's, where he's a senior editor," M.J. Fine writes in the Philadelphia City Paper. "Or maybe you don't recognize his name but remember one of his Web projects: a satirical one-off called The Right-Wing New York Times, the short-lived buzzkill blog Stop Peter Bjorn and John, or the political-smear repository OppoDepo. But, as his publisher has realized, Wasik's most notable as the guy behind 2003's flash-mob craze.

"In And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture, Wasik connects the dots between the overstimulation that we perceive as boredom and our Internet-driven culture's short attention span. He covers multitasking and memes, compulsive clicking and corporate co-optation of viral ads, and the sped-up news cycle that turns nonentities into microcelebrities and nanostories. (How's Jon and Kate Gosselin's marriage today?) And he makes keen points about what our tastemakers' relentless appetite for the next big thing means for artists and creators as their efforts are disseminated out of context and with more emphasis on novelty than on talent or importance. Witness the backlash that starts almost as soon as a band's been discovered. (Of one indie-rock group's debut album, Wasik quotes a DJ saying, 'This is a great movie - I hope there's not a sequel.')"

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Well put. And with that we bring you an excerpt from And Then There's This, reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright Bill Wasik.

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I begin with a plea to the future historians, those eminent and tenured minds of a generation as yet unconceived, who will sift through our benighted present, compiling its wreckage into wiki-books while lounging about in silvery bodysuits: to these learned men and women I ask only that in telling the story of this waning decade, the first of the twenty-first century, they will spare a thought for the fate of a girl named Blair Hornstine.

Period photographs will record that Hornstine, as a high-school senior in the spring of 2003, was a small-framed girl with a full face, a sweep of dark, curly hair, and a broad, laconic smile. She was an outstanding student - the top of her high-school class in
Moorestown, New Jersey, in fact, boasting a grade-point average of 4.689 - and was slated to attend Harvard. But as her graduation neared, the district superintendent ruled that the second-place finisher, a boy whose almost-equal average (4.634) was lower due only to a technicality, should be allowed to share the valedictory honors.

At this point, the young Hornstine made a decision that even our future historians, no doubt more impervious than we to notions of the timeless or tragic, must rate almost as Sophoclean in the fatality of its folly. After learning of the superintendent's intention, Hornstine filed suit in U.S. federal court, demanding that she not only be named the sole valedictorian but also awarded punitive damages of $2.7 million. Incredibly, a U.S. district judge ruled in Hornstine's favor, giving her the top spot by fiat (though damages were later whittled down to only sixty grand). Meanwhile, however, a local paper for which she had written discovered that she was a serial plagiarist, having stolen sentences wholesale from such inadvisable marks as a think-tank report on arms control and a public address by President Bill Clinton. Harvard quickly rescinded its acceptance of Hornstine, who thereafter slunk away to a fate unknown.I stoop to shovel up the remains of Blair Hornstine's reputation not to draw any moral from her misdeeds. Of the morals that might be drawn, roughly all were offered up at one point or another during the initial weeks after her lawsuit. She was "just another member of a hyper-accomplished generation for whom getting good grades and doing good deeds has become a way of life," wrote the Los Angeles Times. The Philadelphia Daily News eschewed such sociology, instead citing more structural causes: "With college costs skyrocketing, scholarship dollars limited and competition fierce for admissions, the road to the Ivy League has become a bloody battleground." MSNBC's Joe Scarborough declared that "across the country, parents are suing when the ball doesn't bounce their child's way," while CNN's Jeffrey Toobin went somewhat more Freudian, branding her judge father as another example of "lawyers . . . inflicting it on [their] children." Nonprofessional Internet pundits, meanwhile, were every bit as incisive. "The girl's father is a judge," wrote one proto-Toobin on MetaFilter, a popular community blog. "Guess he's taught her too much about the legal system."

Echoed another commenter: "Behind every over-achieving student here are usually a pair of over-achieving parents who want their child o live up to their ridiculous expectations."

No, I offer up Blair Hornstine to history simply for the trajectory of her short-lived fame, the rapidity with which she was gobbled up into the mechanical maw of the national conversation, masticated thoroughly, and spat out:

wasikchart.jpg

This telltale spike, this ascent to sudden heights followed by a decline nearly as precipitous - it is a pattern that will recur throughout this book, and it is one that even the casual consumer of mass media will surely recognize. To keep up with current affairs today is to suffer under a terrible bombardment of Blair Hornstines, these media pileons that surge and die off within a matter of months, days, even hours.

Consider just one of the weeks (May 25 through June 1) that Blair Hornstine was being dragged through the streets behind the media jeep; tied up beside her were a host of other persons or products or things, in various states of uptake or castoff - in the realm of politics, Pfc. Jessica Lynch (on her way down, as her rescue tale was found to have been exaggerated) and Howard Dean (on his way up in the race for president, having excited the Internet); in fashion, the trucker hat (on its way down) and Friendster.com (on its way up); in music, an indie-rock band called the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (down) and a new subgenre of "emo" called "screamo" (up); all these and more were experiencing their intense but ephemeral media moment during one week in the early summer of 2003.

We do not have an easy word to describe these transient bursts of attention, in part because we often categorize them differently based on their object. When this sort of fleeting attention attaches to things, we tend to call them "fads"; but this term, I think, conjures up too much the media-unsavvy consumer of an earlier era, while underestimating the extent to which our enthusiasms today are entirely knowing, postironic, aware. If there is one attribute of today's consumers, whether of products or of media, that differentiates them from their forebears of even twenty years ago, it is this: they are so acutely aware of how media narratives themselves operate, and of how their own behavior fits into these narratives, that their awareness feeds back almost immediately into their consumption itself.

Likewise, when this sort of transient attention falls on people, we tend to describe it as someone's "fifteen minutes of fame." But is celebrity really what is at work here? The majority of the tens of millions of people who pondered the story of Blair Hornstine never knew what she looked like, or cared. What they knew, instead, was how she fit handily into one or more of the various meanings imposed on her: the ambition-addled generation, the lawsuit-drunk society. Most people who remember Blair Hornstine today will recall her not by name or face but simply by role - as "that girl," perhaps, "who sued to become valedictorian." No name need even be invoked for her to do her conversational work.

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Commentary/Resources:

* "[I]n the book I use the example of Blair Hornstine, and you see a similar thing more recently with Susan Boyle, where people become instant celebrities," Wasik says in this interview. "But what's really at work there is the way they become not just celebrities but symbols. To a certain extent, you don't actually have to be famous - your face doesn't have to be seen - in order for you to perform this function in the churning media conversation."

* "Poised somewhere between meta-gonzo reporting and Malcolm Gladwell-esque pop psychology, And Then There's This charts how 'nanostories' reflect today's competitive, often consumer-driven media and just how easily they can be manipulated," David Fears writes at Time Out Chicago.

"Though Wasik's no stranger to first-person tomfoolery in the name of the Fourth Estate, his entertaining journey through the world of snarky blogs and DIY hipster tastemakers occasionally suffers from one too many servings of 'gotcha!' gimmickry. Yet his thesis about the supernova rapidity of news cycles certainly has merit; you could easily see the book becoming a momentary sensation before the next big nonfiction thing arrives."

* BillWasik.com

* Nieman Journalism Lab video

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:54 AM | Permalink

TrackNotes

By Thomas Chambers

In baseball or football or basketball, it's easy.

We see those guys, many obscenely overpaid, dog it and style it and then try to explain it and we know they're just mooks. We know who they are and what they are.

But in Thoroughbred horse racing, you have the supreme intangible, the more than half-a-ton beast that has served man for millennia. Who knows which came first? The race, or the idea of betting on it.

And there's one more thing we know. Thoroughbred racing in America has nearly lost site of the very essence of its own sport. The bedrock, the basics. A good, healthy horse; a fearless and crafty rider. And later, a pari-mutuel betting system built primarily on integrity.

It is the best and most thrilling game, when played properly. But it's like the throes of divorce: you still love her, but nothing gets through. There are so many missteps, so many lost opportunities, and so much selfishness, that trust is paper-thin and communication is lost. We horseplayers stick around, hoping for reconciliation, often blinded by the gamble, the wager.

But we all know Thoroughbred horse racing in America is not listening. And we know we're probably fooling ourselves to think that it ever will. These two things, we know.

The rants are as long as your arm. Here are just a few:

Take the Drug Laws
You might argue that the problem in American racing is that there are so many variations from state to state of raceday and non-raceday medication for horses that it's almost impossible for any trainer to keep them straight and abide by the law. But it's really another smokescreen, and the U.S.A. is great at smokescreens. The problem is that there are no efforts or discussions to achieve a drug-free game. No drugs should be allowed in racing, as is practiced in virtually every other racing country on earth. Yet megatons of energy are being wasted on how to streamline the drug system.

In no particular chronological order, you've got the trainers, many of which, including the biggest names, have either been suspected of or suspended for drugs. If there is a drug minimalist among trainers out there, do we know who it is? Do we really believe it?

We have Marty Wolfson. He's one of those guys you've heard ad nauseum about "He's on the up-and-up, a real horse whisperer." Well it seems his It's a Bird was on Aleve (!) when he ran in the Oaklawn Handicap in April. Got caught. $500 fine.

In the report on the inevitable appeal, the lawyers are having more fun with the law than naked Twister.

"The basis (of the appeal) is going to be they did not establish a violation of the regulation and that entire enforcement of the regulation is arbitrary and capricious because it is prosecuting someone who, everyone agreed, did not affect the outcome of the race," [Lexington attorney Mike] Meuser said. "His vet tells him what the longest withdrawal time in the country is [for naproxen] and he turns up positive and it is a level everyone agrees had no effect on the outcome of the race."

And, "The rule has to have some relationship to what is being regulated," Meuser said. "If it doesn't have anything to do with protecting the integrity of the sport, then it is arbitrary."

Apparently, it is agreed that the levels of naproxen found probably would not enhance the performance of the horse, so therefore, the action by the Racing Commission is "arbitrary." But the point is, naproxen is flat out banned in Arkansas. Can't be half married or half pregnant when it comes to naproxen in Arkansas.

We have Steve Asmussen, recent Eclipse Award winner as trainer of the year and trainer currently of Rachel Alexandra and previously Curlin. Oh, and winner in 2008 of more races in a year than any trainer ever. He's fighting the folks in Texas over a race at Lone Star Park after they found a metabolite of lidocaine in Timber Trick in May 2008. But on this one, it really appears he might not have had due process. Again, lidocaine is strictly prohibited in Texas. But it seems you need proof of two metabolites to prove a positive, and they only found one. Asmussen reportedly wanted to submit a blood test to be sure, but was turned down. The commission figured if there's one, there's lidocaine.

I figure he's gonna beat it. Penalty: six months suspension (where his assistant becomes the trainer of record and he still profits) and $1,500. On hold pending the appeals.

We have Richard Dutrow. He's fighting a 30-day suspension over Clenbuterol in his horse Salute the Count, who won the Grade III Aegon Turf Sprint the day before Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby in 2008. You remember Big Brown. Kent Desormeaux bizarrely pulled him up in that year's Belmont Stakes, but much more about that later.

But you know what got Dutrow in trouble with racing authorities more than the drugs? The fact he bragged about milking the appeals process while continuing to train and rake in the dough. So they upped his sentence from 15 days to 30 days.

We have Jeff Mullins, notorious for performing "miracles" with horses he trains for the first time. He thumbed his nose at the game yet again on April 4, giving a breathing aid to Gato Go Win, and then playing dumb. That was the day before his miracle horse I Want Revenge won the Wood Memorial impressively.

I Want Revenge was scratched with an injury from the Kentucky Derby, as the favorite, and has not been seen on the race track since. Some say he'll never run again. His past and current owners are fighting it out about who knew what when. Oh, Mullins' penalty in just that one incident? Seven days, to start the Sunday after the Derby, and $2,500.

We have Patrick Biancone, working now to get back on his feet after completing a suspension after cobra (yeah, the snake) venom was apparently found in one of his barns. Cobra venom is especially bad because it deadens a local area on the horse, who then may hurt himself without even knowing it.

My point is that it's apparent the racing industry does not think it can continue without drugs. They say there's so much racing (too much racing, but that's another topic), drugs are necessary to fill fields. That is debatable. And the racing press, instead of calling for a flat ban on drugs, mires itself in the bickering about testing or the right drugs that can be used. Or waxes nostaglic.

Ban drugs. Now. A 3-year phase-in should be plenty of time.

Take the Stewards, And Then the Jockeys
I can hear Ralphie Wiggum saying it: "Officials in horse racing are called stewards; they're supposed to take care of us."

Seems veteran rider Joe Bravo pulled a fast one, according to New York Post columnist Ray Kerrison and pulled up his horse at a recent race at Monmouth Park. Remember Desormeaux doing the same thing with Big Brown at the 2008 Belmont?

Kerrison makes a good point. Are they saying that, basically, the jockeys never do anything wrong?

I am also convinced that there is an individual jockey at Arlington who either doesn't care to win, is the worst jockey who ever lived, or is trying to influence the final payouts. This winner of a few big races appears to put his horses so out of synch that they become confused. To me, it looks like he'll then make it look good to the wire, with no chance of winning and maybe a good-looking second, of course. Actually, I think he's a good rider, good enough to get away with this. I do not bet him or the races he's in anymore.

Back to the stewards, I'm tired of a horse getting cut off with the offender going scot-free. Once, recently, they declared a winner in what was a certain dead heat. You saw the nonsense if you watched Jockeys, where young Joe Talamo should have been sat down a week for both a bad riding infraction and also to teach the young guy a lesson. What kind of lesson will he take from it?

Let me put it this way. In every other racing jurisdiction in the world, jockeys are held completely accountable for their actions. In Australia, as Kerrison noted, a jockey was recently disciplined because he didn't do his best on a 20-1 shot that finished third. Imagine! We often see jockeys have to answer for their rides when we watch the festival from Dubai each March.

There has been so much inaction and lip service toward race riding in this country that jockeys must only feel as if they can do nothing wrong. The same stupid mistake by Calvin Borel or Stewart Elliott in the Belmont is one thing, but are most jockeys perfect most of the time?

These are the rants du jour. You've also got odds dropping during a race, high takeout, bad breeding, running half the Breeders Cup on a day I can't watch it, the irritating same-color saddle blankets in big races, and artificial surfaces. But the bottom line in the game is that betting handle is going down and it's not just because of the economy.

Civilians are upset about breakdowns and drugs in racing. Anecdotally, you hear of guys who play the game just to gamble, but are moving away from racing because they sense the ineptitude and the cards stacked against them. They're going to poker or something else. Anyone who wants a well-rounded knowledge of the game as a whole, like me, can only be alarmed at the way things are going and the lack of leadership. It's as if racing needs an individual who is so charismatic, they'll all listen to him. A commissioner.

In my own approach, I do not bet nearly as many races as I used to, preferring to bet more on bigger stakes races or competitive races where I know the runners. That eliminates half of each track's race card for me. They're not getting much churn out of me.

That's fine. But I wonder just how much longer the game is going to survive.

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Thomas Chambers is the Beachwood's man on the rail. He brings you Track Notes every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:51 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

By Scott Buckner

If you've been feeling lately like Fox has been neglecting its commitment to the verbal torture of the lazy, the clueless, and the inept, you might be happy to know that Chef Gordon Ramsay is back with a sixth season of Hell's Kitchen, a show that had become predictable in just about every way ranging from the cheftestants themselves, the head-to-head competitions, and the stinking or menial chores the competition losers are forced to endure.

So why did unappreciative ingrates like me keep tuning in every week? For the gasket-blowin', meat-throwin', trash-can-kickin', bitch-slappin' verbal abuse nobody else on TV has tried using as a motivational tool since Gunnery Sgt. Hartman met Pvt. Leonard Lawrence and his fellow worthless maggots in Full Metal Jacket.

The show's producers must have realized this because the new season began this week with back-to-back episodes featuring 16 cheftestants who have absolutely no clue whatsoever how to cook. Seriously.

We're not talking the usual Hell's Kitchen can't-cook-risotto or can't-master-scallops bad. We're talking can't-cook-nuthin'-no-way-nohow bad. We're talking so bad that Ramsay fires one cheftestant - a diner owner named Louie who was exactly what you might expect out of a guy named Louie who owns diner - on the spot without even the dignity of the show-closing Take Off Your Jacket/picture-burning ceremony.

We're talking so bad that Ramsay brings back Season 5 cheftestant Robert, a profusely-sweating mound of walking flesh who dropped out when he developed a heart-related medical condition, to replace Louie. As the night progresses, it becomes apparent that whatever cooking skills Ramsay admired in Robert (who Ramsay refers only to as "big boy") last season have evaporated.

And they all just keep getting worse from one episode to the next. Nobody's seasoning any of the meat before cooking it. Tennille attempts to "kill a pregnant woman" with raw shrimp. Tony (who keeps reminding me of Rick Moranis) doesn't know how to slice a grapefruit. Lovely starts overcooking things even before the restaurant opens, tries cooking things on a stove that isn't even lit, and wanders off to a corner like a wounded elephant to sit on her ass for 45 minutes in the middle of dinner service because she's dying of hunger or dehydration or typhoid or something. Amanda confuses a freezer with a refrigerator. Melinda's solution to her completely-acceptable appetizer dish that goes along with the scallops that Tek keeps screwing up is to dump it and start over until Ramsay digs a mound of wasted pasta the size of Mt. McKinley out of the trash bin next to her. Melinda, who works as a private chef on yachts when she's not wandering around with the same bug-eyed look you'd expect from a man getting a colorectal exam, gets bounced at the end of the episode for being the biggest space cadet Ramsay's ever seen.

It's not just me. When Ramsay shuts down the kitchen because nothing has gone out in almost two hours and serves the night's guinea-diners nothing but shrimp cocktail before sending them all home, you know things are batshit bad. "Congratulations! You've just turned my restaurant into a shrimp stand!"

We knew we might expect things like this, beginning at the point during the opening episode where the cheftestants present their signature dishes for Ramsay to sample. Melinda presents poached lobster tail that has no lobster tail. Amanda presents French toast with a side shot of tequila wine butter. Ramsay refuses to touch it, so Amanda grabs the shot and downs it right there. ("One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, four, gotta have a little more!" Amanda sings ditzily in her off-camera interview. I start to like her.)

This will probably mean that this season's grand prize - a head chef gig at Araxi, a restaurant in Whistler, British Columbia home page features what porn-movie soundtrack music could be if anyone in the porn industry gave a shit) - will be won by the first cheftestant able to cobble together a bologna sandwich without burning it. Whistler is a Canadian resort town notable for being populated by two of the worst names ever conceived for a newspaper and foraging black bears which have "learned to do things like open car doors or hold spring-closed gates open so they can reach food." Nevertheless, I'm guessing the wild bears roaming Whistler are more cordial than the ne'er-do-wells roaming Las Vegas who show up on Cops.

Still, I have to wonder whether anyone associated with Hell considered whether any of the cheftestants might actually qualify to live and work in Canada, but that's not really our problem. For all we care, the winner gets smuggled across the border in a car trunk or pushed out of an airplane flying low over the restaurant in the middle of the night.

This season also has two cheftestants with short fuses. One is Van, a fish cook - and I'm not sure what a fish cook is, exactly - from Dallas with a tendency to call everyone "bro" when provoked. He's becoming an I'm-going-to-strangle-you thorn in the side of Belgian maitre 'd Jean-Philippe, who takes a dim view of cowboys he can't understand in the first place because they speak Texas English sprinting all disrespectful-like through his dining room.

The second is Joseph, a onetime marine corporal on a mission that has more to do with kicking Ramsay's ass and telling everyone, "I'm not no bitch" than with actual cooking. Joseph is afflicted with more than just amped-up bad attitude; he also doesn't know how to answer a simple question. When asked by Ramsay at the end of the second episode to present two Blue Team cheftestants for elimination (Tony and Andy) and why, Joseph repeatedly refuses to answer the "and why" part with something simple and to the point, like "Chef, Tony keeps burning the grapefruit."

This leads to this fun exchange where Joseph - a man clearly haunted by flashbacks of his tour of duty as a USMC Food Service Specialist - tells a few of the other cheftestants to "shut your fucking mouth," tears off his cook's jacket, gets in Ramsay's face and issues The Chef his own kitchen challenge: "Let's go step outside, motherfucker!"

Up next week: A good ass-kicking, maybe! Disaster! Paramedics! Mayhem!

Notable cheftestant quote: "I thought bologna was illegal in California or something."

Notable Ramsay quote: "Look at this salmon! It's like a bison's penis!"

Around the Dial
Best lines overheard on TV this week:

"It's not easy to find a man who likes sauerkraut for breakfast."
- The Untouchables (Monday 7/20)

Ex-husband: "The next man that she dupes, good luck to him."
Ex-wife: "Bite me."
- Judge Mathis (Tuesday 7/21)

Plaintiff (to defendant): "You're hung, but it doesn't work. Get over yourself"
- Judge Joe Brown (Thursday 7/23)

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Visit the What I Watched Last Night archives and see what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:30 AM | Permalink

July 23, 2009

The [Thursday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

1. Pot Makes Daley Crazy.

2. Jim Parque juiced.

3. Sure, Stella Foster wants to know today "what's up" with all the young blacks and Latinos shooting each other, and that's pretty priceless, but even better is this:

"This columnist got a lot of e-mails regarding my waterboarding item . . . will run some next week."

Oh Stella, don't tease us so. Don't make the world wait!

4. McCourt's ashes.

5. "The most positive news coming out of Boeing Co.'s much-anticipated conference call with analysts following its earnings report Wednesday was that, as bad as the design troubles and production delays with the new 787 aircraft have been, the Dreamliner still should make money," David Greising writes today.

"If it ever flies, that is."

6. "It seems clear from the Tribune's analysis that 'inquiries' made on behalf of Category I applicants did, in fact, tip the scales for some," the Tribune editorial page says today. "As a group, the clouted candidates had higher acceptance rates - and lower credentials - than their overall freshman classes. That means applicants with clout were admitted at the expense of more-qualified students.

"But it turns out the special privileges didn't end at orientation. Trustees have used their influence to solve friends' housing problems or get relatives into oversubscribed classes, jumping over hundreds of others in line. One lobbied to get his niece into an honors program for which she had failed to apply."

7. "A key fundraiser at the University of Illinois defended the use of clout lists in the admissions process, telling a state commission Wednesday that it's important for school officials to know which applicants have ties to big donors," the Tribune reports.

"Sidney Micek, president of the University of Illinois Foundation, said his group's input helps admissions officers put applications into perspective.

"'They value friends of the university,' Micek said. 'They value that information as part of the process. It's appropriate information to pass along'."

Talk about Clout U.

This state is simply diseased.

"Often, he would include information about the donor's generosity, though he testified he never listed specific amounts. Admissions officers then would place the students on clout lists reserved for those with ties to elected officials, university trustees or important donors."

"I really don't see that, quite honestly, as influencing the decision," he said. "In the end, it's up to the university to decide what it values."

In other words, my attempts to influence admissions decisions are perfectly legitimate but I really don't see those attempts influencing admissions decisions - even though they should and all the evidence shows they have.

*

"He said all universities, both public and private, give preferential treatment to applicants backed by those with political or financial sway."

And if they don't, he added, they should!

7. Chicago's public schools have their own admissions scandal brewing - and it sounds eerily familiar.

8. In a decision that could have wide-ranging implications, a state apellate court has ruled that internal affairs records of police departments are public documents that should be available for anyone to read.

9. "If he feels so strongly about the need for jobs and shopping choices, Daley was asked why he refused to give Wal-Mart administrative approval to build a second store in Chatham," the Sun-Times reports.

"If I start doing that, you would write a headline, 'Mayor is arrogant. He's usurping his power. Mayor starts changing the law for his own benefit because, one day he likes Wal-Mart. The next day he's liking something else.' . . . I'm not gonna fall into that trap," Daley said.

And you didn't!

10. Red-light Robin Hoods!

11. We 'R' a sick culture.

12. Billy Ligue proud of what he did.

13. Speaking of Notre Dame . . .

14. "The mother followed him out the store, perhaps not knowing that she had set herself up for major grief ten years down the road," Jerome Haller writes in his latest installment of I Am A Security Guard.

15. "As Congress looks at ways to tighten regulations on financial institutions, some of the biggest recipients of the government's $700 billion bailout have spent substantial amounts of money on influencing legislators," McClatchy/Tribune reports.

"Bank of America, for example, has spent roughly $1.5 million this year lobbying on Capitol Hill.

"The bank, which has received $45 billion in taxpayer bailout money from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, has worked to sway lawmakers on more than two dozen pieces of legislation in the House and Senate.

"Other financial institutions that received TARP funds also are lobbying lawmakers. Among them, Citigroup spent $3 million so far this year, and Goldman Sachs spent $1.3 million. JPMorgan Chase spent nearly $1.8 million on lobbying in the latest quarter and $1.3 million in the first quarter. It repaid the $25 billion in bailout loans it received."

You can't blame Bush anymore.

16. "Two months after editorializing about a troubled financial company that doled out hefty management bonuses, a bankrupt news media company is doing the same thing," the Washington Times reports.

"'Money for nothing?' blared a Chicago Tribune editorial in mid-March, responding to news that American International Group Inc. planned to give $450 million in bonuses to its top executives during a very public federal bailout.

"But this week, the Tribune Co. - which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant and other dailies, along with 23 TV stations - received permission from a Delaware bankruptcy judge to pay out $13.3 million in bonuses to some 700 local and corporate managers.

"The payouts come as $2.7 million in severance pay to 68 employees who lost their jobs last year remains frozen."

CLARIFICATION: This link goes to a piece from May, when the Tribune's bonus plan was first proposed; my mistake, I thought it was new and pegged to the latest bonus request. Also, at the bottom of the link provided in the item here is a correction to be noted. Nonetheless, the sentiment still certainly applies - in fact, it's even worse that the Tribune editorial board actually approved of the AIG bonuses on the grounds that keeping key executives was crucial to the company's success going forward. Please. Executives in a position to enrich themselves first at the expense of everybody else always find a way to do so, regardless of merit. Everyone else is always asked to sacrifice.

Or, as Whet Moser puts it today, "this whole TribCo mess has seemingly been a process of simply transferring wealth upwards." See the rest of his post to see how, plus Whet's
follow-up, which says "If these bonus babies need to get paid above and beyond their salary just to stay 'motivated,' maybe it would be cheaper to find people with a better work ethic to replace them.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Bonus material.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:58 AM | Permalink

I Am A Security Guard: Mother and Child Reunion

As I walked toward my store on July 4, an acrid smell hit my nose. It was the smoke enveloping the area. Fireworks had produced the stench and haze. A mixture of sounds attacked my ears: fizzles, small pops, loud booms that set off car alarms. Apparently, the locals had decided to re-enact the Revolutionary War.

One weary cop walked in the store. "How's it going out there?" I asked. "Every day is a joy," he cracked. Another griped about manning the paddy wagon on one of the worst days of the year.

*

A small boy, about four or five, stood in the cashier's line with his mother and a cart of groceries. He spied the boxes of fireworks on a shelf and decided to join in the fun outside. He grabbed a box as his mother was paying for groceries. She said she did not have any more money, took the box and put it back on a shelf.

In many homes, that would have been the signal for the child to shut up. But the boy's mother had no such standard for her son. The little boy screamed and flailed his arms. He then buried his head in her chest. The drool from his mouth watered her blouse. He quieted down and grabbed the box again. The mother said no again. The boy repeated his performance.

The cashier, filling in for a co-worker who was running late, stood still. He did not even grimace while watching the show.

The boy's wails grew louder. Then he jumped up and down. The mother's soft voice did not settle him. So she relented and reached back into her purse. The cashier rang up the sale. The boy miraculously got silent. The mother followed him out the store, perhaps not knowing that she had set herself up for major grief ten years down the road.

*

The cashier left to empty waste baskets when the Nice Cashier arrived. The Nice Cashier, a short woman with nerves of steel, handled a rush of customers alone.

Shortly afterward, the Lazy Cashier sauntered into the store. She had arrived one hour late and sported blue jeans. The Nice Cashier glared as she walked by, and then whispered to me, "I thought we couldn't wear that here."

The rush had already ended, so the Lazy Cashier served only one customer before cleaning shelves in the back of the store. She split 90 minutes later, saying, "I'll be back." She returned with coffee and a bagel from Dunkin' Donuts and hid in the break room.

The Lazy Cashier would never get Employee of the Month. She often shows up late, takes long breaks or calls off. She gossips about co-workers and eavesdrops on conversations. Once, she conducted a personal call at the register while her line gradually grew longer.

She does not date any managers or possess incriminating pictures of them. But she's shrewd. She knows how to flirt with men, thus making friends with a couple of easily duped superiors. And she notches brownie points by feeding dirt about employees to the Head Manager.

That's why I said nothing while she wandered near my post around 2 a.m. and started snapping her gum.

By then the locals had exhausted their fireworks supply. But I dreaded the hour; usually this is when numerous social misfits emerge from the shadows to shop at our store.

Nothing changed on this night. A regular in a dirty white T-shirt and faded jeans passed me en route to the freezer. He had not changed his attire in at least two weeks. A familiar body order lingered in his wake.

He brought a carton of vanilla ice cream to the Nice Cashier. She rang up the sale. He lingered to chat. She held a tissue to her nose. The man, thinking she had a cold, suggested that Tylenol would help her. She shook her head after he left the store.

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A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain. Comments welcome.

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See more tales of security guards, pizzeria waitressing, barista'ing and office drudgery in the Life at Work collection.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:54 AM | Permalink

Speaking of Notre Dame . . .

By David Rutter

1. Creepy Caskets

Even for those of us lured into the murky, pained catacombs of Notre Dame football fandom, this is really spooky.

The monks at the Trappist New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, Iowa, hand-carve caskets just for Notre Damers. For $2,560, you can get a hand-made oak ship set sail down the river Styx, and it you have left this world with a larger-than-normal butt, they have an oversized model for $2,800. I may need the XXXL model.

The monks don't specify in the advertisements if there was a large run for Notre Dame caskets during the 2007 football season, but it wasn't as if some of us weren't thinking about checking out early.

Who can tell the market for handmade caskets for football fans? The monks seem prepared. They say there's a 1 to 2 business day delivery window. If you order right now, it can be on your doorstep before you even die. If you haven't died yet, you can pre-order with MasterCard.

They say the caskets are for "Notre Dame alumni and their families," which implies that those of us a few hundred SAT points and $200,000 shy of getting in to Notre Dame should just keep our money.

These monks also specialize in infant and toddler caskets. Creep-ee.

2. Real Men of Genius

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3. The Real Rudy

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One in a series of random observations about Notre Dame. Comments are welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:35 AM | Permalink

McCourt's Ashes

A roundup.

Immeasurable Awe
"Frank McCourt would have left this world full of accomplishment and regard had he never written a word, at least not for publication. That he survived the poverty and misery of his childhood, let alone wrote about it in such memorable and heart-piercing prose, stands out decades later as an act worthy of immeasurable awe," the Albany Times-Union writes.

Aged Perfection
"Like a rare Scotch that has aged for a lifetime in an oaken wine cask, the story that Frank McCourt served up in Angela's Ashes had aged in his bones until the moment of perfection had been reached," Tom Phelan writes in Newsday.

"At the age of 66 he threw Angela's Ashes into the wind with a 'like it or hate it' bravado and caused a publishing sensation. Critics loved the book. Millions of readers adored it. And yet more than a few despised it, because McCourt refused to polish the picture of the Ireland he grew up in - a country where fathers got drunk while their children went unfed, where living conditions were often dire, and where the clergy were often pompous fools."

Epic Journey
"His journey from poverty-stricken emigrant to literary star was epic and wholly American: many Americans took him to their hearts, though the Irish were much less accommodating," the Guardian writes.

"However, fame and wealth did not go to McCourt's head: he remained to the end a genial, humorous, ironical, sceptical Irishman; witty, wry, charming and helpful to others, especially the young. He had an unswerving, almost utopian, belief in the value of education and its centrality in the culture, which he advocated all his life."

Divided Limerick
"Bitterness over Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes still continues in his hometown of Limerick. Residents of the western Irish city have never agreed on whether his Pulitzer-winning account of childhood survival amid soul-crushing poverty was more fact than fiction," AP reports.

"Limerick City Hall opened a book of condolence in memory of its most famous writer Monday, the day after McCourt's death and 13 years after Angela's Ashes put the city by the River Shannon on the literary map."

In His Own Words
"Of course you embellish and of course, you have fill in the blank spots of conversation," he told the Limerick Leader. "Nobody can argue with me, because these things happened in my family and these things happened in my head. There were things that happened to me which were beyond anyone's understanding or experience, so it's my story. They can argue as much as they like but I wouldn't dare intrude on their story."

Six Words
From Frank McCourt.

Education Reform
"When you do see . . . a panel on education, you see someone from the board of education, you see a professor of education, or you see a bureaucrat, someone from a think tank, a politician, but never a teacher," he once said. "Never. Imagine a panel on medicine without a doctor? The uproar there would be from the medical profession!

"But all the politicians think they own education . . . The politicians have the keys to the educational system, they control the purse strings, and they don't have a clue about what education is. I know they've been to school and all themselves, but what goes on in the classroom is another story."

Teacher Man
"My students forged the notes. I turned them into a lesson plan."

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:33 AM | Permalink

July 22, 2009

The [Wednesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"Mayor Daley today accused unidentified media naysayers of trying to sandbag Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid by reporting testimony from people at neighborhood hearings who don't want the Olympics," the Fran Spielman reports in theSun-Times.

So the media shouldn't report testimony from people at neighborhood hearings? Aren't the hearings being held to, um, hear from the people?

"You're against it. You were against Millennium Park. You were against 911. You were against Soldiers Field. You were against Meigs Field. What else were you against? You're against a lot. But, that's freedom of speech," Daley said.

Well, let's see.

Against Millennium Park, check.

Against 911, which I assume he means the shiny new 911 Center, sure.

Against Soldier Field, check.

Against Meigs Field, check.

And can anyone say the critics weren't right in every case?

"Some people don't want this ... That's part of American democracy. They can stand up and say anything they want."

Just don't report it!

"But, in the next five years, six years, tell me one [other] thing that can bring jobs and economic opportunities and, besides that, guarantee an investment by the federal government [of] billions of dollars in infrastructure. If you have something better, I'd love to see it."

Peotone?

"Newspaper editorials have been overwhelmingly supportive of the city's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games," Spielman notes. "Some of the television coverage has been so gung-ho, reporters sounded like cheerleaders."

Now, I have to admit that Spielman has toughened up her prose in the last few months. Maybe somebody got to her.

"Why is Tokyo for it?" Daley continued. "Why is Rio de Janeiro for it? Why is Madrid? They're all in recession. Why are they seeking it? Every other city prior to the announcement by the U.S. Olympic Committee that we were winners - everybody else wanted it."

Other cities have elites that wanna have fun, too. That doesn't mean hosting the Games is an economically sound venture for the rest of us. History, in fact, shows it's an economic nightmare.

"Besides that, it will help your industry tremendously," Daley added. "It'll help tremendously in your [media] industry as well."

Sigh.

It's the only way he knows how to think.

Worst Persons In Illinois
Richard Herman vs. Niranjan Shah.

*

Suddenly, we have a new contestant.

Day In The Life
I have less sympathy by the day for newsfolk bellyaching about their decimated newsrooms when I see how most of them spend their days.

Kennedy's Choice
"I got phone polled tonight by an outfit that was clearly field-testing messages for Chris Kennedy and against Pat Quinn," Beachwood reader Levi Stahl writes. "Despite my reservations about Quinn - seriously, though I know how f'ed up our state government is, I really thought this was our chance to change our f'ed up tax system - not a single one of their 'he's a business leader who's created jobs' messages was very effective."

Sneedling
When Sneed "hears rumbles" that Jermaine Jackson and his siblings may tour again, that means she fell asleep with the TV on again.

The Cicero Way
"A Tribune investigation has revealed that 121 appointed board and commission members in Cicero are paid salaries - at a cost to taxpayers of about $1 million annually - and are offered health and dental insurance benefits for themselves and their families."

Single-payer works!

Fantasy Fix
All-Star illusions and pick-up lines.

Hancock Name Safe!
Not going the way of Big Willie.

Another Millennium Park Muff
Pavilion problemo.

Here Comes Sunstein
Making conservatives and liberals nervous.

Corner Kicks
I've added a few comments to Mike Conklin's "Missing The Soccer Beat."

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HEALTH CARE COMMENT
From Beachwood reader "Pelham":

Very much appreciate your observations on the health care debate, though I part from you somewhat in my belief that only a single-payer or French-style system makes any sense whatsoever, practically OR politically, for reasons I won't get into here.

Anyway, here's my thought on why we're not going to end up with much of anything health-carewise: The Democrats have never been the least bit serious about delivering. Rather, what we're seeing is elaborate kabuki designed to dial down expectations because (here's the kicker) the lousy, cruel and costly system we have is about the best we can expect, given the permanently crappifying state of our economy. And here I'm not talking about the recession but rather ongoing globalization, which is a kind of reverse colonialism in which advanced economies (or at least our economy) are deliberately dismantled.

In this scenario, the key to any society-wide service is to preserve and even enhance what is available to the winners (the narrow class that thrives on globalization) while cramming down the benefits available to everyone else. This would include such things as "welfare reform" and new bankruptcy laws that make it much tougher for ordinary citizens to file.

But pre-eminently the cramdown includes health care. The one advantage of our current system is that it rations care by ability to pay without being too bloody obvious about it. That's why, I suspect, even in the unlikely event we do get some kind of public option, it will be so damned hard for ordinary Americans to get access to it that most of us will still be stuck with the private bloodsuckers whose main profit point is DEPRIVING people of care.

You might counter by noting that this is the richest nation on Earth and, surely, we can afford to cover everyone. But not necessarily. Per-capita GDP looks pretty good. But far too much of that wealth is concentrated way up at the tippy-top of the pyramid, the section with the floating eyeball. For most of us nearer the base, our incomes are unlikely to support anything other than a heavily rationed system that, while it might well make sense on a broad public-health scale, would be transparently unjust (especially by comparison with what the globalization winners would get) and therefore intolerable.

The fragmented and opaquely unjust system we have, therefore, is something that both Republicans and Democrats devoutly wish to preserve, especially if they can render it even more fragmented and opaque. Hence all the mixed signals and the Democrats' utterly mystifying emphasis on cost savings rather than security or justice.

But hey, that's just me, a feverish conspiracy theorist.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Conspire.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:54 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix

By Dan O'Shea

The week of the All-Star Game is a godsend for some and a bit of bad luck for others, the sort of week where you see cellar-dwelling fantasy teams beat top-clubs if they happen to have all their pitchers starting or enough position playesr with Thursday games right after the three-day break.

You also have to be careful about working the waiver wire, because you sometimes see the odd reliever or call-up get a start as teams try to re-arrange their rotations around the break. You also might see pre-trading deadline trades give no-name players a batch of starts, though that doesn't necessarily mean they will continue to start.

That's why some of the hot hands you have seen on the waiver wire over the last week or so might seem unfamiliar. Here's a Fantasy Fix Action Rating guide to some recent hot hands and what to do with them.

Player: Garrett Jones, OF
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Eight home runs in 13 games is not a pace you can count on, but with Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan out of Pittsburgh and the Pirates giving more starts to other outfielders, he will get playing time the rest of the way.

Player: Tommy Hanson, SP
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Eleven strikeouts Monday night, but a lot of fantasy owners had dropped him last week when the Atlanta Braves shipped him to the farm. Was it lost on everyone that the Braves were just re-arranging the furniture because they were going to need an extra hand elsewhere during the broken-up All-Star week? Apparently so.

Player: Angel Pagan, OF
FFAR: SKIP
Comment: Even though the Mets just traded for Jeff Francoeur, Pagan is getting starts because the Mets outfield is so decimated. Pagan hit .350 over the last week, and is capable of stealing a few bases, but you won't get any power, and while Carlos Beltran may be on the DL for weeks more, Gary Sheffield will be back sooner.

Player: Clint Barmes, 2B/3B/SS
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: A multi-position jewel for the Rockies, Barmes had 2 HRs, 4 RBIs last week, and has a career-high 12 HRs this year. He is getting regular play now for a very good team, and can steal a few bases.

Player: Nyjer Morgan, OF
FFAR: SKIP
Comment: He hit .429 over the last week with 4 stolen bases and 4 runs scored, though his main contribution on the hapless Washington Nationals will be defensive. His hitting will cool off, though if you really need the SBs . . .

Expert Wire:

* Bleacher Report has some ideas for starting pitcher waiver wire pick-ups. Randy Wolf is among them. A decent pitcher with a decent ERA and strikeouts-to-walks ratio, he should benefit from the amazing run the Los Angeles Dodgers are making toward the post-season.

* RotoTimes loves Ubaldo Jimenez, the Colorado starting pitcher who has been known in the past as an impressive, but also wild, flame-thrower. At 7-9, Jimenez is hardly the best pitcher on the most surprising staff this year, with Jason Marquis and Aaron Cook easily having better overall numbers, but his strikeouts and the likelihood the Rockies will get him more wins in the second half could make him a good choice to pick up or trade for.

* Sporting News Fantasy Source reports on a finger injury for Home Run Derby runner-up Nelson Cruz. Cruz started incredibly well this year, and is still among the home run leaders, but his overall hitting has been leveling off, and now the injury arrives. Get ready to sub.

* Sporting News Fantasy Source also takes a look at Paul Konerko's great season for the White Sox. I have a feeling the Sox are just getting started, and Konerko often has been a second-half stud anyway. A player who was supposed to be on the wane has the following line this far into the season: 18 HRs, 64 RBIs, .302 AVG. You won't get stolen bases, but who cares?

* ESPN.com's Eric Karabell writes about Matt Holliday, who has largely been a disappointment this season, but came up big with 2 HRs and 7 RBIs as part of the Oakland A's 12-run rally Monday night. Holliday could be on the move before the trading deadline, so stay tuned, because if he ends up in Philadelphia or some other bandbox, you can expect more performances like Monday's.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:28 AM | Permalink

Blink-182 Blows T-Mobile

From the Beachwood Music department's in-box:

With the upcoming blink-182 stop in Chicago this summer, I thought you might be interested in the "Live the Rock Life with blink-182" national sweepstakes.

T-Mobile Sidekick is sponsoring the entire tour and the sweepstakes to celebrate the return of the pop-punk trio. The grand prize will include:

* VIP trip to Los Angeles for the entire group with first class airfare and luxury accommodations at a private Hollywood estate

* Exclusive meet and greet with the band and visit to the closed-set sound check

* $20,000 spending cash

* $1,820 shopping spree at Barker's Los Angeles store, The Fast Life

* Ride on the official blink-182 tour bus

* Exclusive opportunity to be onstage with blink-182 at the band's Los Angeles concert

* Autographed band gear including Barker's drum kit, DeLonge's guitar and Hoppus' bass

* New 3G T-Mobile Sidekick LX devices

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EDITOR'S NOTE: If "socking each member of blink-182 in the gut" was an option, we'd be in! Or even just Barker.

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Along the way through the tour, Mark, Travis Tom will also interact with fans through Twitter scavenger hunts, a virtual guessing game to win tickets to shows, band merchandise and T-Mobile Sidekick LX devices. The scavenger hunt and trivia Q&A will lead fans on searches through concert venues, local landmarks and T-Mobile retail stores via clues given by the band members on their personal Twitter accounts using their T-Mobile Sidekicks.

Please let me know if you are interested in speaking with the band as part of the sweepstakes, we also have images and b-roll on hand to add color to your story.

If you want to check out a show in person, just e-mail me and we can coordinate press credentials.

The official press release is below - I look forward to hearing back from you on how we can work together on the blink-182 tour!

PS - Make sure to follow us all on Twitter at @ TMOBILE_USA, @markhoppus, @trvsbrkr, and @tomdelonge.

Peter Martin
BNC I Bragman Nyman Cafarelli
8687 Melrose Ave, 8th floor
Los Angeles, CA 90069
P: 310.854.4856
F: 310.854.4848

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T-MOBILE USA KICKS OFF EXCLUSIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH BLINK-182 FOR SUMMER 2009 NATIONAL TOUR

Tour Also Launches "T-Mobile Sidekick Live the Rock Life Sweepstakes" Offering Music Fans a Chance to Win the Ultimate Rock Star Experience

BELLEVUE, Wash. - T-Mobile USA, Inc. announced today the details of the exclusive partnership with punk band, blink-182, by supporting the group's first concert tour in five years. The nearly sold-out T-Mobile Sidekick Presents blink-182 Summer 2009 Tour will go coast-to-coast bringing an energetic rock show to the masses and unique meet and greet experiences for dedicated fans with a national sweepstakes opportunity, T-Mobile Sidekick Live the Rock Life with blink-182.

As the title sponsor for blink-182's reunion concert tour, kicking off on July 23 in Las Vegas and culminating October 3 at The Borgata in Atlantic City, T-Mobile will give Sidekick fans the chance to text to win seat upgrades, attend meet and greets with the band, as well as enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win the grand prize - all without leaving their spot in the pit to check out the band.

"We love that T-Mobile recognizes that the fans are a huge part of the music for us," said Mark Hoppus, bassist and singer for blink-182. "They are a great partner to help make the tour happen and we're going to go out there every night and give our fans exactly what they came for, an amazing concert experience."

Along the way through the tour, Hoppus, Travis Barker and Tom Delonge will keep fans on their toes with Twitter scavenger hunts, a virtual guessing game for fans to win tickets to shows, band merchandise and T-Mobile Sidekick LX devices. The scavenger hunt and trivia Q&A will lead fans on searches through concert venues, local landmarks and T-Mobile retail stores via clues given by the band members on their personal Twitter accounts using their T-Mobile Sidekicks.

In addition to the headlining blink-182 set, the tour will also feature a full line-up of supporting acts on select dates including Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Panic! At The Disco, The All-American Rejects, Taking Back Sunday, Chester French and Asher Roth.

For more information on blink-182's concert tour or how to obtain tickets, please visit www.blink182.com/tour. For more information on the T-Mobile Sidekick family of devices, please visit www.sidekick.com

Sweepstakes - T-Mobile Sidekick Live the Rock Life with blink-182
For fans who have always wondered what is was like to be a rock star, the T-Mobile Sidekick Live the Rock Life with blink-182 national sweepstakes promotion will offer one lucky winner and their five friends the chance to experience it firsthand.

The grand prize package features a VIP trip to Los Angeles for the entire group with first class airfare and luxury accommodations at a private estate and an exclusive meet and greet with the band.

To truly live in luxury, the winner will also receive $20,000 spending cash, $1,820 shopping spree at Barker's Los Angeles store (The Fast Life), a ride on the official blink-182 tour bus, and the exclusive opportunity to be onstage with blink-182 at the band's Los Angeles concert.

"T-Mobile Sidekick users have a real affinity to music, and our partnership with blink-182 is giving them an exclusive music experience that only T-Mobile can provide," said Mike Belcher, vice president of brand communications and experience marketing. "This sweepstakes is giving one lucky fan the opportunity to live out their rock star dreams - and best of all, they'll be able to share their one-of-a-kind experience with five of their friends."

Upon arriving in Los Angeles, the winner and their guests will have the chance to attend a sound check with blink-182 and take home their own complete set of autographed band gear including Barker's drum kit, DeLonge's guitar and Hoppus' bass. The winner and their faves will be able to capture and share photos, videos and messages about all of the weekend's events on their new 3G T-Mobile Sidekick LX devices.

From July 24 until September 27, fans can enter the sweepstakes by texting ROCKLIFE to 95495 or by visiting www.sidekick.com. No purchase is necessary to enter or win. For official rules, eligibility details, and additional information, please visit www.sidekick.com.

###

About blink-182
With more than 20 million albums sold worldwide, blink-182 is widely considered one of the best punk rock bands of all time. Formed in the San Diego suburbs in 1993, the band found gained international fame, multi-platinum albums and massive radio airplay success. They have newfound inspiration and creativity together, and are working to create the summer's best rock show. Known for connecting with their fans, blink-182 is out to prove that after five years apart, they can still deliver a massive show and become the highlight of the summer touring season.

About T-Mobile USA, Inc.
Based in Bellevue, Wash., T-Mobile USA, Inc. is the U.S. operation of Deutsche Telekom AG's Mobile Communications Business, and a wholly owned subsidiary of T-Mobile International, one of the world's leading companies in mobile communications. By the end of the first quarter of 2009, more than 148 million mobile customers were served by the mobile communication segments of the Deutsche Telekom group - 33.2 million by T-Mobile USA - all via a common technology platform based on GSM, the world's most widely used digital wireless standard. T-Mobile's innovative wireless products and services help empower people to connect to those who matter most. Multiple independent research studies continue to rank T-Mobile among the highest in numerous regions throughout the U.S. in wireless customer care and call quality. For more information, please visit http://www.T-Mobile.com. T-Mobile is a federally registered trademark of Deutsche Telekom AG.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:02 AM | Permalink

July 21, 2009

The [Tuesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

The Tom Toles editorial cartoon about health care reform in the Sun-Times today is amusing. But it's also misguided.

Toles shows a snail labeled the "Health Care Reform Ambulance" creeping along a path littered with the mile-markers of the past, starting with 1993 through today.

At the end of the path, between the 2009 and 2010 signs, a Republican (an elephant in a suit) is holding his hands up saying "Whoa there, pal! Slow it down!"

Yes. But no.

As I wrote in part yesterday, the Obama team's conscious strategy is to push separate pieces of health care legislation through the houses of Congress - almost regardless of what they contain - in order to get to a reconciliation meeting between party negotiators to iron out the differences and declare victory.

This is a very bad idea.

First, what Toles gets wrong is that while, yes, health care reform has been debated for decades, the current proposal(s) has barely been debated for weeks. As I understand it, the leading bill is 1,000 pages long. Nobody but the lobbyists have read it yet.

It's also not clear just what kind of reform we will get out of this process. Obama has not only ceded the writing of the legislation to Congress, he has ceded his multiple positions to whatever gets passed, regardless of the consequences.

Once for single-payer, Obama campaigned for the least progressive version of health care reform among all Democratic candidates. In the primary, he railed against Hillary Clinton's support of a mandate that would require every American to purchase health care insurance; in the general election he railed against John McCain's support of taxing health care benefits.

He has reversed field on both.

It's hard to figure out just what the president stands for, except a mysterious belief that somehow he will be able to pay for health care reform by "containing costs" so much that he will also find enough savings to start paying down the gargantuan deficit.

Does this sound like a well-thought out plan ready to kick out the door?

Obama himself recently said - disingenuously, of course - that he has been persuaded to support mandated insurance since he was elected.

Really? Just what was it that pushed you over the edge, sir?

And if it took someone like you this long to be persuaded, shouldn't ordinary American citizens get at least the same amount of time you had to digest just what is being proposed here?

I happen to favor mandates if we can't get single-payer or find a way to federally support states designing their own systems, so I'm not taking issue with that. I'm taking issue with what is no doubt a Rahm Emanuel-designed congressional strategy to just get the damn bills - any bills - to conference committee, where the White House can go in behind closed doors and do its thing, whatever that may be.

That's a long way from Obama's pledge to put health care negotiations on TV.

"C-SPAN would record every word, Obama said, while he and members of Congress, as well as representatives of the health-care industry, hashed out a plan to overhaul the health care system," the Los Angeles Times recalls.

But then, why should that campaign promise be any different than any of the others that have become inoperable with historic lightning speed?

"The discussions have not played out that way," the Times continues. "Obama has met repeatedly with lawmakers to discuss health care strategy. No cameras or reporters have been allowed to cover the talks. The White House has announced deals with hospital and drug industry executives - negotiated behind closed doors."

I wonder why Toles doesn't draw a cartoon about that.

The biggest enemy to health care reform right now isn't Republicans; it's the Obama administration's desire to say they've passed it rather than actually doing it.

Chicago Loses Millionaires
But not as many as other cities; 172,000 remain.

Cutler vs. Christ
We track the similarities.

Bud Man Jackson Slipping?
Yusef Jackson under pressure with North Side distributorship.

Cloutgate's Family Plan
Chairman of the board of trustees pulled strings for son-in-law.

Crystal Ball
Predicting the future is easy when you pay attention to the past.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: See your future.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:54 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

By Eric Emery

Is Jay Cutler the Messiah?

He's at least Messiah-like. He shares initials with the big guy, his middle name is Christopher, and he's done battle against non-believers. In his (His) senior year of high school, he led his team to the state championship against Zionsville. Oh, and he was born in Santa Claus, Indiana.

If that isn't enough for you, here are some other similarities between Jay Cutler and Jesus Christ.

J. Christ: There were many false prophets before him.
J. Cutler: There were many false quarterbacks before him.

J. Christ: The prophet Moses spoke of a savior of the Jews.
J. Cutler: The prophet Ditka spoke of a savior of the Bears.

J. Christ: John the Baptist spoke of a man greater than he.
J. Cutler: Bears fans spoke of a quarterback better than Jonathan Quinn.

J. Christ: Spent 40 days wandering in the wilderness before God called him home.
J. Cutler: Spent 40 days wandering in Denver before the Bears called him home.

J. Christ: Said: "Bring your children on to me."
J. Cutler: Said to Urlacher: "Bring your children on to me, and I will totally babysit them."

J. Christ: Feeds 10,000 on a few fish and loaves of bread.
J. Cutler: No way he feeds 10,000 Bears fans. Have you seen the way these animals eat during a tailgate party?

J. Christ: Walked on water.
J. Cutler: Due to a fragile psyche, you have to walk on eggshells.

J. Christ: Said God: "This is my son, with whom I am well pleased."
J. Cutler: Said Lovie: "Jay is our quarterback, with whom I am well pleased."

J. Christ: Said: "Love thy neighbor as yourself."
J. Cutler: Will love center Olin Kreutz as himself.

J. Christ: Attacked moneychangers at the temple.
J. Cutler: Attacked agent for scheduling so many autograph sessions.

J. Christ: Son of a carpenter.
J. Cutler: Constructed his way out of Denver.

J. Christ: Turned water into wine.
J. Cutler: Turned water into wine and Lance Briggs got totally wasted and drove down I-94.

J. Christ: Said to Peter "When the cock crows three times, you will deny me."
J. Cutler: Said by Bears fans "When you commit three turnovers in the red zone, we will call for Caleb Hanie to start."

*

Percentage of water JC turned to wine: 100%

Percentage of sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 100%, plus extra sugar at the bottom of the pitcher.

Recommended sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 75%

-

For more Emery, please see the Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report archives and the Over/Under collection. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:05 AM | Permalink

The $4 Million Fund

By The Chicago Community Trust

The Chicago Community Trust, metropolitan Chicago's community foundation, announces today a grant of $500,000 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that pushes the total raised for The Unity Challenge to over $1.3 million. The Trust has matched all Unity Challenge donations 2-to-1, making available $4 million to aid those hit hardest by the recession.

Following its first round of Unity Challenge grants in January that provided immediate relief for food pantries and homeless shelters, today the Trust also announces its second round of grant recipients from this special initiative. These grants in the amount of $675,000 will support a regional response to the foreclosure crisis and increase the capacity to provide legal assistance to families and individuals who are bearing the brunt of the economic recession and have the fewest resources secure their financial well-being.

"In the best of times the invaluable role provided by legal aid organizations goes unnoticed, but its value is amplified in difficult times. Legal aid is an important part of our community's safety net. We are pleased to partner with organizations like The Chicago Bar Foundation to advocate for those that need legal assistance. Thousands of people across the region now need access to legal protection from foreclosure, eviction and domestic violence, or elder abuse," says Terry Mazany, president and chief executive officer of The Chicago Community Trust. "In this time of great need these grants will help thousands of people gain access to these critical services to stabilize their families and their lives."

The Trust organized The Unity Challenge to motivate additional donor contributions to increase the funds available to organizations providing critical support to the residents hit hardest by the economic crisis.

"We exceeded our goal thanks to the generosity of many individuals, families, foundations, and corporations," says Jamie Phillippe, vice president of development and donor services for The Chicago Community Trust. "With the leadership of the Trust's Executive Committee the Trust has responded quickly to the region's needs. We are heartened to see many philanthropists supporting The Unity Challenge."

Data trends tracked by the Trust's Metro Chicago Vital Signs monthly reports show increased unemployment, foreclosures, demands for food assistance and homeless prevention resources. The Trust worked closely with The Chicago Bar Foundation to track trends in legal aid reflecting the needs of distressed families and individuals who inevitably find themselves negotiating resolutions for their legal problems due to a variety of circumstances, including loss of income as the result of unemployment.

Support from The Unity Challenge will allow key legal aid agencies to respond more effectively by expanding their capacity to meet the increasing demand for legal assistance from households in Cook County affected by the economic crisis.

* Coordinated Advice & Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS): A grant of $75,000 to add a full-time volunteer coordinator to recruit and support unemployed and under-employed attorneys in the Chicago area. These attorneys can be deployed to serve the unmet legal needs of low-income families in Cook County who have been disproportionately impacted by the recent economic crisis. By adding this position, the organization can serve 7,200 additional people - or 14% more clients - which it estimates at a cost of just over $10 per case. In addition, by partnering with members of the legal community, CARPLS will build stronger relationships with the law firms and individual attorneys participating in these volunteer projects, which can position CARPLS to significantly expand its service capacity.

* Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (LAF): A grant of $50,000 to support an expansion of its Bankruptcy Court Help Desk, Medical Debt Relief Project and Consumer Law Project. The Bankruptcy Court Help Desk is currently staffed by one part-time attorney; the Unity Challenge grant will enable LAF to increase this attorney's time and the hours of the Desk each day to help meet the increased demand for services.

* The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF): A grant of $75,000 to support court-based advice desks at the Circuit Court of Cook County, including:

1) The Chancery Division Advice Desk, operated by Chicago Legal Clinic, which assists low-income unrepresented or pro se litigants facing foreclosure on their mortgages and the loss of their homes.

2) The Collection Self-Help Desk which is operated by CARPLS and provides information, advice and referrals to people without lawyers whose bank accounts are frozen or wages garnished after the court entered judgments against them in debt collection cases.

3) The Expungement Help Desk through which attorneys with Cabrini Green Legal Aid provide assistance to individuals who are not able to find employment and/or housing because of their criminal records.

* Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing: A grant of $80,000 for its Tenants in Foreclosure Intervention Project. This grant will assist tenants whose apartment buildings are going through foreclosure proceedings or are at risk of it. The grant will strengthen a program through which 42 community-based organizations and over 2,400 individuals will receive training on how to deal with foreclosures in apartment buildings. The grant will allow 200 tenants to stay in their buildings, over 1,600 tenants to have adequate time and resources to relocate, and 18 buildings to access new property managers or receivers overseeing operations. Around 3,000 informational guides (including 1,000 in Spanish) will be distributed.

"The legal aid organizations supported by the CBF and the Trust are facing enormous challenges right now. As legal aid organizations face increasing demand for their services, there are fewer resources available to help them meet these growing legal needs," says Bob Glaves, executive director of The Chicago Bar Foundation. "The Trust's Unity Challenge grants could not come at a better time, and will help close this gap in services by enabling several key organizations to increase their capacity to provide critical legal assistance to the most vulnerable people in our community."

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:45 AM | Permalink

July 20, 2009

The [Monday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

From my Facebook feed:

"Ted McClelland loves this Wikipedia entry: Stewart Ernest Cink (born May 21, 1973) is an American professional golfer best known for screwing up the finish of the 2009 Open Championship."

God bless Wikipedia.

TARP Carp
"Many of the banks that got federal aid to support increased lending have instead used some of the money to make investments, repay debts or buy other banks," the Washington Post reports.

Bringing Sachsy Back
"I've always thought that the guys running Goldman Sachs were really smart, not only about making money, but also about projecting a classy image to the world outside of Wall Street," writes Allan Sloan, easily one of the best business writers in the nation.

"Clearly, I overestimated them. If there was ever a firm with the motivation - and the money - to be gracious to the U.S. taxpayers who kept it alive when the financial markets were imploding, it's Goldman. It had a chance to look good and do good for taxpayers and itself and Wall Street for a relative pittance - and has blown it. Horribly."

The Real Public Option
"[A] recent USA Today poll found that only four percent of Americans trust insurance companies. This is within the margin of error, which means it is possible that NO ONE trusts insurance companies," U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich writes in a letter to constituents reposted on the Beachwood today.

"Then why does Congress trust the insurance companies? A few days ago, HR 3200 ('America's Affordable Health Choices Act'), a 1,000 page-bill, was delivered to members. The title of the bill raises a question: 'Affordable' for whom?"

Healthy Debate
On the other hand, I'm not sure single-payer could ever get passed in America. Not that I don't think Democrats should try to ram it through. I do.

Too bad, then, that once again they are pushing a mediocre mish-mash not likely to go anywhere.

But there are alternatives - not that we're hearing about any because the Obama administration isn't interested in a real debate or fresh ideas.

"Despite budgets ravaged by the recession, at least 13 states have invested millions of dollars this year to cover 250,000 more children with subsidized government health insurance," the New York Times reports.

As I've wondered before, why not allow states to continue their experiments with health care - backed by federal funds and mandated minimum levels of coverage?

Seems like something conservatives and liberals could both get behind - particularly if big business is lined up under the tempting notion that they could get out of the health-care business that is shackling them.

CTA Fail
"Looking to cut costs at a time the mass-transit agency is strapped for cash, CTA President Richard Rodriguez says he'll take away employees' free take-home cars," the Sun-Times reports.

"The agency has been providing 68 employees with 'company cars' that they can take home, at no cost to them."

Wait, the CTA has been providing free cars to some of its employees?

"Those who have been getting the perk include 38 upper-level managers who make more than $100,000 a year."

Wait, the CTA has been providing free cars to exactly the people who don't need them?

*

The problem with every cost-cutting measure and "reform" announced by Rodriguez is that it makes his predecessor, Ron Huberman, now the head of Chicago Public Schools, look like a putz.

Blago Radio
Speaking of putzes . . .

Maxi Dweeb
And speaking of Huberman glitches, the Maxi car experiment has officially been declared a failure.

Airport Sleepers Hate O'Hare
Rated sixth-worst among world travelers.

Council Creep
Ocasio's Second Choice: His Wife.

Postcards From Pitchfork
"[T]he fifth annual Pitchfork Music Festival overall was again as great as an outdoor festival experience can be," Jim DeRogatis writes.

We've got Greg Kot's video review, Flaming Lips performance video, and Flickr photo set links, thanks to the glories of the Internet.

Holy Bat Fungus
"A fungus affecting several species of endangered bats is causing officials to close publicly owned caves, but instead of complaining, local cave explorers are donating to research funds and making sure they don't spread the fungus when they explore," the Daily Herald reports.

"Among them are the members of the Sub-Urban Chicago Grotto of the National Speleological Society, a caving club that meets in Naperville.

"'It's hard to explain to Chicago people who don't know or probably care too much about caves that this is a vital part of our ecosystem,' said Gary Gibula, chairman of the local group."

White Sox Report
It's about to get ugly.

Hawk Tawk
"Hey John McDonough, the next time you're going to fire a flat-out successful general manager (the Blackhawks improved every season Dale Tallon was at the helm, culminating in an exciting run to the conference finals this year), maybe you should do it before he makes so many moves in the off-season that your roster is just about locked in for the next year," Jim Coffman writes in SportsMonday.

"At least you should do that, John, if you hope to convince fans with at least an intermittent pulse that the move was due to anything other than a childish personality conflict."

Online Whodunnit
"Only a few gems shine out from amongst the eFeces, and Eliza Frye's online mini-comic The Lady's Murder is perhaps an exemplar for other would-be online comic artists," writes Beachwood comics correspondent Max Eddy, returning to our pages today after a too-long hiatus.

White Dreams
City of Brass Balls. Narcissus of Cloudgate.

Walter's Wisdom
Cronkite on the ruling class, media ethics, and MLK.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: A different kind of ruling class.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:28 AM | Permalink

Walter's Wisdom

1. On the ruling class:

-

2. Reporting MLK's death.

-

3. Integrity in the media.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:02 AM | Permalink

Postards From Pitchfork

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-

-

See also:
* Friday night on Flickr.

* Saturday sampler.

* The bus home.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:40 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday

By Jim Coffman

Hey John McDonough, the next time you're going to fire a flat-out successful general manager (the Blackhawks improved every season Dale Tallon was at the helm, culminating in an exciting run to the conference finals this year), maybe you should do it before he makes so many moves in the off-season that your roster is just about locked in for the next year. In fact, the Hawks are essentially locked in for the next couple years given all of their multi-year contracts and the NHL's iron-clad salary cap (a team has to keep its payroll below the cap even if an owner would be willing to pay a luxury tax, like he could if he was an NBA owner).

Beachwood Baseball:
  • The White Sox Report
  • The Cub Factor will return next week
  • At least you should do that, John, if you hope to convince fans with at least an intermittent pulse that the move was due to anything other than a childish personality conflict. McDonough's team was so lucky last year when it made another knee-jerk decision with significant consequences. That was when the Blackhawks waited until several games into the regular season before firing coach Denis Savard and bringing in Joel Quenneville. Of course, if they were even considering making a change early last season/pre-season, they should have done so well before training camp began, let alone the regular season. That's what competent teams do to give the new guy a chance to comprehensively implement his system. But they caught a huge break when the veteran Quenneville hit the ice skating and was successful immediately and over the long haul of last season.

    This time the Hawks went in the other direction, hurriedly anointing a whipper-snapper with no significant team-running experience. It is hard to be even a little optimistic about how that scenario is going to play out.

    The team also caught huge breaks when both Savard and Tallon played the roles of loyal soldiers, refusing to rip their employer. The fact that they were both reassigned rather than dismissed clearly had a great deal to do with that - so let's hope McDonough is at least giving wholehearted thanks to his owner's deep pockets. And the fact that Savard and Tallon both held their fire markedly reduced the fallout with the fans. We'll see if luck is a Blackhawk again in the aftermath of this move.

    *

    Hey Stan Bowman, congrats on the new general manager job (though I must point out - sorry - that it is disappointing that a Chicago franchise once again hired a cheap minion from within rather than going out and at least looking at who might have been available elsewhere - then again the Hawks made the change so late in the off-season that other candidates with promise were long gone).

    And congrats on being the son of hockey legend Scotty Bowman (who coached his teams to something like a half dozen NHL championships and who also named his son after the primary object of his desire - Lord Stanley's Cup).

    Bowman's hiring is a delightful milestone for me as well. At all of 36 years old, he is a full seven years younger than I am and I think that makes me officially middle-aged at least.

    I remember when I was covering sports in the western half of the North Shore for the Pioneer Press about a half-dozen years ago when two of the high schools where I plied my trade hired new athletic directors within a couple years of each other and both were younger than I was. That took more than a little getting used to.

    It was close when the White Sox hired Kenny Williams. He was born in 1964, a scant two years prior to my arrival. And John Paxson (I'm going to stick with Paxson as the guy most responsible for the Bulls' roster until he comes right out and says he isn't) graduated college five big years before I took home my diploma.

    Otherwise, the local teams have been run by grizzled veterans for a while now - from Jerry Angelo to Jim Hendry (Okay, okay, Hendry isn't as old as Angelo - but it seems like he has been around forever and is getting older in a hurry, isn't he?) to Dale Tall . . . whoops.

    There is also the question of Rocky Wirtz's role in all this. The fans have applauded since Bill Wirtz' older son took over the family team a couple years ago and made the obvious moves (increasing TV coverage, giving legends some money to end their feuds with the team and come back for regular appearances at the UC to name two). The fact that he agreed to give the reins to a guy whose primary asset is his family tree may not be surprising but it is troubling. You have to believe that sort of thinking is going to come back to kick the Hawks in the butt at some point.

    There is also the fact that if Rocky hadn't kept Tallon on the payroll he still would have had to pay him after the owner dim-wittedly spoke of the 20-plus year gap between Tallon and Bowman's ages as a factor in Tallon's dismissal (lawyers specializing in discrimination had to be salivating).

    So now you have an owner whose primary selling point is the fact that he won the family fortune lottery supervising a team president who hadn't worked in hockey before taking the job supervising a general manager with no significant managerial experience.

    The bright side?

    I'm thinking the consequences should be worth at least a column or two.

    -

    Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:18 AM | Permalink

    The White Sox Report

    By Andrew Reilly

    There are two ways to look at the upcoming weeks and the Sox' merciless schedule.

    The obvious school of thought says it's all over, that the season effectively ended with the savage beating the Orioles handed down today. Not that losing to the O's means much in the scheme of things, but that the Sox' opportunities to fatten up on mediocre teams have all passed, the Good Guys left with nothing to show for it but a slightly narrowed distance between themselves and the Kittens and a Minnesota team filling more and more of the rear-view mirror with each passing day. It's as though these previous 91 games were a good time and all, but the Sox have to go home now and let the grown-ups get down to the business of playing serious, meaningful baseball.

    But you could just as easily say the real season starts now. The Sox, you could argue, get the chance to really prove themselves to the cynical masses and insistently cranky internet sportswriters. Their true weaknesses may be exposed, but there's still time to (hopefully) address and rectify those issues. Two weeks and seven all-important games against the Tigers and Twins beckon with the promise of showing all of us where we really stand; a stress test for the South Side, if you will, and a time for a spelled-with-a-capital-t Team to rise.

    Whichever school of thought you subscribe to, there still remains absolutely no way to deny it: the season is about to get ugly. The Sox have the toughest schedule of any of the Central's so-called contenders, and their track record suggests that whatever happens won't happen cleanly. This is still a team that can't beat anyone with a winning record, a team that usually loses one-run games, shut out once every seven losses and only scoring exactly as many runs as it allows. Their record and recent headlines paint a picture of success; their actual performance, however, shows a team averaging out to doing just enough to not lose. For all we know, that might be enough - but thanks to the horrid ineptitude of the teams they've already faced, we actually have no idea about anything.

    Week in Review: Short. It would've been nice to go for the kill by sweeping Baltimore but the O's, sadly, aren't really that much worse than the Sox. Oh, and hey, look at that, Jose Contreras has finally returned.

    Week in Preview: Four against the Rays followed by four against the Tigers. Death and glory are the only possible outcomes.

    The Q Factor: The Chosen One could return as soon as next week, the demons within him finally contained and his newfound power ready to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world, for he has been to the mountaintop and learned the forbidden secret of the Ancients. By Sunday evening, The Chosen One's average at Charlotte had climbed to .378 with a .467 on-base percentage; farmhands fear him and worship him at once, but he will not rest until the streets overflow with the blood of those pretenders to the throne who dare pitch to him.

    That's Ozzie!: "I cannot go on what he did today. Because I don't even know when the last time was he pitched." - Guillen on Aaron Poreda's rough showing in Saturday's game.

    The Guillen Meter: With the Twins hot on their heels, the Guillen Meter reads 4 for "oh sweet merciful crap, not this again."

    Underclassmen Update: Bacon Spice's batting average nears .300 while Jayson Nix inexplicably ranks second among AL rookies with six home runs.

    Alumni News You Can Use: Former Sox reliever Mike MacDougal has surrendered a scant five earned runs in eighteen innings of work for the Nationals, his belt-high fastball down the middle and wild pitches apparently too much for National League batters to handle.

    Hawkeroo's Can-O-Corn Watch: Rays pitcher Matt Garza and infielder Jason Bartlett played previously for the Twins, a fact we can reasonably expect Hawk to use as a springboard for a sermon on the awesomeness of the Minnesota Twins ballclub no less than four times, but no more than seven. No! Hell no!

    Endorsement No-Brainer: Bobby Jenks' struggles against Orioles hitters for rapper Ogun's contribution to the soundtrack of The Wire: What you know about Baltimore?

    Cubs Snub: Ted Lilly didn't get to pitch in the All-Star Game, which probably explains why the NL lost by one run rather than by six.

    The White Sox Report: Read 'em all.

    The Cub Factor: Know your enemy.

    -

    The White Sox Report welcomes your comments.

    -

    Andrew Reilly is the managing editor of The 35th Street Review and a contributor to many fine publications.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:55 AM | Permalink

    For A Real Public Option

    By Dennis Kucinich

    In mid-May, in an effort to reach consensus, President Obama secured a deal with the health insurance companies to trim 1.5% of their costs each year for ten years saving a total of $2 trillion dollars, which would be reprogrammed into health care. Just two days after the announcement at the White House the insurance companies reneged on the deal which was designed to protect and increase their revenue at least 35%

    The insurance companies reneged on the deal because they refuse any restraint on increasing premiums, co-pays and deductibles - core to their profits. No wonder a recent USA Today poll found that only four percent of Americans trust insurance companies. This is within the margin of error, which means it is possible that NO ONE trusts insurance companies.

    Then why does Congress trust the insurance companies? A few days ago, HR 3200 ("America's Affordable Health Choices Act"), a 1,000 page-bill, was delivered to members. The title of the bill raises a question: "Affordable" for whom?

    Of $2.4 trillion spent annually for health care in America, fully $800 billion goes for the activities of the for-profit insurer-based system. This means one of every three health care dollars is siphoned off for corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing and the cost of paperwork, (which can be anywhere between 15 - 35% in the private sector as compared to Medicare, the single-payer plan, which has only 3% administrative costs).

    Fifty million Americans are uninsured and another 50 million are underinsured while for-profit insurance companies divert precious health care dollars to non-health care purposes. Eliminate the for-profit health care system and its extraordinary overhead, put the money into health care and everyone will be covered, everyone will be able to afford health care.

    Three committees have begun marking up and amending HR 3200. In this, one of the most momentous public policy debates in the past 70 years, single payer, the only viable "public option," the one that makes sound business sense, controls costs and covers everyone, was taken off the table.

    In contrast to HR 3200, HR 676 calls for a universal single-payer health care system in the United States, "Medicare for All." It has more than 85 co-sponsors in Congress with the support of millions of Americans and countless physicians and nurses.

    How does HR 676 control costs and cover everyone? It cuts out the for-profit middlemen and delivers care directly to consumers and Medicare acts as the single payer of bills. It also recognizes that under the current system for-profit insurance companies make money by not providing health care.

    This is the time to break the hold that the insurance companies have on our political process. Tell Congress to stand up to the insurance companies. Ask members to sign on to the only real public option, HR 676, a single-payer health care system.

    Hundreds of local labor unions, thousands of physicians and millions of Americans are standing behind us. With a draft of HR 3200 now circulating, It is up to each and every one of us to organize and rally for the cause of single-payer health care. Change the debate. Now is the time.

    The time to act is now!

    Sincerely Yours,

    Dennis Kucinich

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:50 AM | Permalink

    Chicagoetry: White Dream

    WHITE DREAM

    Dreams come
    in clouds, floating through
    the blue

    brain. There goes fame,
    there fortune, there
    beautiful

    lovers. Light,
    lithe, invigorating
    clouds

    (quiet, not loud).
    Black clouds fly,
    white clouds

    float, each
    an invention
    of self.

    Many clouds
    borrowed money from their dad
    and came

    to Chicago.
    To invent
    themselves.

    There goes Augie Swift,
    there Louis Sullivan, there
    (MY FAVORITE) Montgomery

    Ward. So
    here I and I
    came.

    To the City of
    White Dreams, City
    of Inventors.

    Came
    to invent
    myself.

    Here is Billy
    Corgan, here
    Michael Jordan, here

    Oprah.

    I want
    to be cool,
    too!

    Aw, shucks.
    My cloud
    keeps crashing

    into the lake,
    baptized by
    failure.

    My dad
    is dead now so I can't borrow any more
    dough.

    Yet I and I
    persist, re-inventing
    ramp, breeze

    and brass
    balls. CITY OF
    BRASS

    BALLS.
    Narcissus of
    Cloudgate, sure, sure.

    I and I breathe
    to shine
    on you,

    seethe
    to shine
    on you,

    vying,
    though
    vexed,

    to
    glide.

    -

    J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

    -

    More Tindall:

    * Music on MySpace

    * Fiction: A Hole To China

    * Critical biography at e-poets.net

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:51 AM | Permalink

    July 19, 2009

    The Lady's Murder: An Online Whodunnit

    By Max Eddy

    I approach all links sent to me with trepidation, but it is with actual fear that I click on a link that I know leads to a webcomic.

    In some ways, the Internet is where comics go to die, as demonstrated by the seemingly endless parade of anime-inspired, video-game jokey grotesqueries that will go unnamed. The ease of web publishing apparently uncorked the latent artist in everyone, often burying the best stuff under a menagerie of vile and twisted creations. Only a few gems shine out from amongst the eFeces, and Eliza Frye's online mini-comic The Lady's Murder is perhaps an exemplar for other would-be online comic artists.

    lady1.jpg

    Updated on a page-by-page basis, The Lady's Murder covers the untimely death of a popular Parisian prostitute. The reader takes the perspective of detectives investigating the murder, meeting a cast of characters who each "knew" the lovely Marie Madeleine.

    It begins with a butcher, a man as emotional as he is corpulent and bloodstained. We meet a doctor, a waiter, an old patron, an artist with a macabre sense of humor, a flower merchant and a Peeping Tom. The story ends with one last encounter true to the form of the best Agatha Christie novel, in which all the suspects are gathered at Madeleine's funeral and the killer is quietly revealed. Along the way, the reader gathers clues to the killer's identity, but mostly we encounter Madeleine herself. Through the short monologues, we discover her questionable career, her habits, her faults and the details of her grizzly demise.

    lady2.jpg

    That's all. It's a short work, clocking in at just 32 pages, but each page speaks volumes. It's all about the characters as Frye effortlessly balances the demands of plot and character. Too often, creators seem to view these two as separate, instead of sides of the same coin. You know, like when an author shoehorns a short, awkward romance in the middle of an action story or when after an enjoyable slow-simmer, a story reaches a raging boil leaving nothing but the reader behind. Instead, Frye moves the story along by letting her characters speak for themselves.

    The true joy of The Lady's Murder is the quality of the art. Each page is painted with gouache, lending each panel a depth and texture not often seen in comics. The colors are vibrant, but don't scream at you from the page. Colors come back as leit motifs, establishing moods better than words could: the smokey reds of Madeleine's persona about town, the blues of her desolation, and the jarring yellows of outrageous eroticism (as well as snakes). Some of these images will likely stay with me for a long time - I revisited the twisted rictus on the jaundiced face of The Patron on several occasions.

    If you've found yourself drooling over Red Sonja covers, this comic will likely not turn your crank. While there is a lot of nudity, it is tasteful and never graphic. Frye knows how to use color, but more importantly, she knows when not to use it at all. In a clever use of negative space, Frye leaves Madeline's body white and empty, with only a few lines for her face. Ostensibly, Frye does this so that a naked woman can romp across nearly every page without being overtly obscene, which I think ramps up the eroticism without posing bodies awkwardly in efforts to conceal. But presenting Madeline as negative space also helps to underline her absence from the story. Though she slinks across nearly every page, Madeline never speaks for herself. She's empty, defined only by the stories around her.

    lady3.jpg

    What's most refreshing about The Lady's Murder is the sparse dialogue. Web comics are particularly guilty of verbal diarrhea, though print comics are far from innocent. In The Lady's Murder, some pages pass without a word, which is especially bold considering that these pages stayed posted on Frye's website for days before a new one emerged. Frye treats every spoken line with careful attention, obviously as purposefully chosen and designed as each image.

    Of course, The Lady's Murder is certainly is not for everyone. Fans of the BIFF POW action/superhero comics are going to feel left out in the cold. There's only one violent act in the whole comic, but it comes in a rumbling climax. In fact, the comic is so short that many readers may be disappointed by its brevity. It is well planned, well constructed, and well written; but epic it is not. It can stir the soul, certainly, but in a subtle way.

    Frye has produced a print version of The Lady's Murder, but I am unconvinced that it will be as impressive as it has been an internet experience. Perhaps I am biased, since I read the comic episodically - page by page, day by day. For me, the story unraveled over the course of weeks, giving me time to appreciate each frame and anticipate the next. But for a reader reviewing the website or in print today, this experience will take less than an hour.

    Frye's new comic Savannah & Georgia, is running in the same page-by-page manner as her previous comic. Though this one has stalled for several weeks, I can only patiently wait for its revival.

    -

    Previously by Max Eddy:
    * Invincible Iron Man #1
    * Deja Desolation Jones

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:04 PM | Permalink

    July 18, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Natasha Julius

    You can spend the weekend watching the action from Turnberry, or maybe even go out and pretend you're there. We'll keep our eye on the news.

    Market Update
    Despite a strong week overall, the key recovery industries of Truth and Integrity suffered a devastating loss.

    Ill Communication
    It's been a banner week for Illinois lawmakers, agreeing both that budgets are important and that Michael Jackson was a genius. Analysts expect the Springfield government can now turn their attention to import debates such as what programs to cut and whether Madonna bears any moral responsibility for the tragic stage construction accident at a concert site in France.

    South Slide
    An analysis of public opinion polls this weeks shows that President Obama's approval rating has dropped below 60% after his brazen display of partisanship. Sources close to the White House say the president was not fazed. "Our citizens are not stupid like Cubs fans," Obama was quoted as saying. "They know this health care reform package is [bleep]."

    In the Kitty
    Finally this week, scientists at last confirmed that cats are manipulative. They failed, however, to prove conclusively that payback's a bitch

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:10 AM | Permalink

    July 17, 2009

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    I've actually never been to Pitchfork, but that's not because I haven't wanted to - though I've never been a big festival guy. Too many people, and usually crummy sound and sightlines.

    But whatever.

    I've been a Flaming Lips fan since the early days when they would play the Empty Bottle, and I'm proud and grateful to be able to say I saw them there way back when.

    The Flips close the festival on Sunday night, meaning they are the kings of the Pitchfork universe.

    Here's some of my favorite Pitchfork preview commentary from our fine daily rock critics, Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot.

    From DeRo:

    Yo La Tengo, 6:10 p.m., Friday, Aluminum Stage
    The long-running, Hoboken, N.J.-based trio of Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew probably have done more with less than any band in the history of indie-rock.

    Fucked Up, 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Aluminum Stage
    After the Jesus Lizard, this anarchist art-punk group from Toronto has the potential to blow more minds than any other act on the bill, though pseudonymous band leaders Pink Eyes and 10,000 Marbles wreak their brand of chaos in a much more tuneful way.

    Doom, 6:15 p.m., Saturday, Aluminum Stage
    One of the most inventive and imaginative forces in hip-hop, the artist formerly known as MF Doom gets his look and persona from the super-villains of Marvel Comics and his gonzo sound from Mars by way of Venus. Live performances are a rare thing, so this could be something special.

    From Kot:

    Fucked Up, 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Aluminum Stage
    Bare-chested, Sumo-sized singer Damian Abraham is not someone you want to mess with. He will not be ignored, and despite their not-ready-for-a-family-newspaper name [both papers refused to use it], neither will his band, which plays a doomy, expansive variation of hardcore.

    Doom, 6:15 p.m., Saturday, Aluminum Stage
    A rare set by the masked villain of the hip-hop underground. His legendary rhyme skills, astutely chosen collaborations (with everyone from Gorillaz to Danger Mouse) and shadowy persona make him a must-see.

    Grizzly Bear, 7:25 p.m., Sunday, Connector Stage
    If blog entries equaled record sales, this quartet would be the Fleetwood Mac of 2009, and "Veckatimist" is their "Rumours." The new album consolidates the group's strengths: rich pop melodies, intricate arrangements, mid-fi intimacy.

    -

    Jock Itch
    "If you're a sports fan," Rick Morrissey writes today, "you have to feel good that one among us works in the Oval Office."

    Yeah, our last president didn't like sports at all!

    Obama Loses His Cool
    Teleprompter troubles, overseas goofs, and All-Star gaffes.

    Zoning Boning
    At least there'll be continuity.

    City Hall Ways
    Strangling small business in in their cribs.

    Good King Rich
    And company.

    Plus, special bonus tracks!.

    Arlington Eye Candy
    Just like that High Life commercial.

    Bloodshot Briefing
    There's now an app for that.

    Alaska Cool
    "I believe vacation is giving me too much time to think," our very own Scott Gordon writes today in his final installment of his beautiful Serenade Of The Seas series. "My activity today, the 'Glacier View Bike And Brew,' will at least bring some peaceful moments as our group cycles through Juneau to the Mendenhall Glacier viewing center. More blue ice, more dirt. In the van on the way to the bikes, I realize part of my group is the LBJ-Ken Lay Fan Club, as I have secretly named a group of three domesticated wisecrackers from Houston. The oldest one is in the 'gas and oil' business; the other two are his son and son-in-law. The first question the in-law asks our bike-tour guide is, 'What' the average house price in Juneau?'"

    Customer Relations
    Our very own pseudononymous Patty Hunter of our At Your Service series in our Life At Work feature is interviewed at 6 p.m. tonight on Outside The Loop Radio (WLUW-FM, 88.7).

    Also streaming on WLUW, and archived at Outside the Loop Radio.

    Brain Gap
    "It is the year 2009, folks, there is absolutely no reason why the National Center for Education Statistics should be releasing a report about a Black/White achievement gap for U.S. school children to the exclusion of Hispanic students, not to mention Asian and many other ethnicities," Esther Cepeda writes at 600 Words.

    "And no reason why newspapers and television and radio stations across the country should be reporting on this admittedly sad state of affairs (see Illinois numbers here) while excluding the context of every other struggling kid in the U.S. - be they poor and white, from a foreign country, or Latino."

    Librarian Types
    "When the American Library Association's annual conference kicked off in Chicago," the Washington City Paper reports, "some attendees wanted the world to know that librarian get-togethers aren't all about shushing and stacking: There's a lot of fucking, too."

    (Credit: I'm pretty sure that item came to me via Alexander Russo.)

    Wrigley Rawk
    I never need to hear this song again, but the scene at Wrigley looks pretty amazing, you have to admit.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Probably for life.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:47 AM | Permalink

    Good King Rich

    By The Blue State Cowboys

    Including bonus tracks!

    -

    Bonus track!

    -

    Hidden Bonus Track!

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:32 AM | Permalink

    Serenade Of The Seas: Part Five

    By Scott Gordon

    Last of a series.

    To get to breakfast in the Windjammer, I walk up one flight of stairs and turn a corner. As soon as I'm around the corner, the perky photographer from Day One's dinner springs at me bearing a life preserver labeled "JUNEAU" and yaps out some eager photo-command. I laugh her off and walk past another photographer who's working with a guy in an eagle suit. After you get through the morning's small gauntlet of photo ops, and in fact any time you enter one of the ship's restaurant spaces, you hit an appetizing wave of Purell scent. Two automatic Purell dispensers flank every doorway, and one attendant stands by them all day, gently urging people to sanitize their hands. Purell is fucking gross, but I want people to keep buying me drinks after the great flu pandemic, so I step up. The dispensers always give you a gratuitous blob of the stuff. I've developed a habit of just sticking one finger out into the sensor; the friendly Latin American lady who's always tending the Windjammer entrance has come to enjoy watching me do this.

    Previously:
  • Part One: Into The Well Of Cheese
  • Part Two: Douchey young people
  • Part Three: Hump-busters
  • Part Four: Skagway scams
  • I believe vacation is giving me too much time to think. My activity today, the "Glacier View Bike And Brew," will at least bring some peaceful moments as our group cycles through Juneau to the Mendenhall Glacier viewing center. More blue ice, more dirt. In the van on the way to the bikes, I realize part of my group is the LBJ-Ken Lay Fan Club, as I have secretly named a group of three domesticated wisecrackers from Houston. The oldest one is in the "gas and oil" business; the other two are his son and son-in-law. The first question the in-law asks our bike-tour guide is, "What' the average house price in Juneau?"

    Later, after we've gotten a buzz from free samples at Juneau's Alaskan craft brewery, we pile back into the van and the son proceeds to ramble on about a project he wants to do in his garage. This is what these guys talk about while they're drunk, mind you. Despite anything I might say about them, they're among the most cordial people I have met on the cruise so far, calling folks by name and spreading around an easy-flowing sense of warmth and invitation. On the way back, they also keep talking about the "Red Dog Saloon," a bar in downtown Juneau. "Gonna get dropped off at the Red Dog Saloon," one says as the van heads back in that direction. I think they just like saying "Red Dog Saloon," full of big crusty vowels for their Houston accents to dip to. I'm tempted to come along and join them at the bar, just for the sake of observation, but I decide against it. Instead, I end up in another building, where I find a dumpling shop called Pel'Meni that's just like Madison's now-closed Pel'Meni, bubbling pots and old records and crummy atmosphere and all. As the peace of the overcast woods wears off, depression comes back, and I start thinking maybe I should've bought that hoodie with a beer holder on the front at the Alaskan gift shop.

    I can't really chalk up my violent mood swings today to the monotonous weirdness of being on the ship. Tacky stimuli doesn't do this to people; people do this to themselves because they learned some twisted thought patterns as their minds develop. Still, keeping up activity makes it better, and if you're not careful, "being on vacation" can simply break down into a state of helplessness. You spend, you wander, you take photos, take videos, let the scenery pave you over. Maybe even eat at a buffet for a whole week. This is the Great Relax, and as much as it's supposed to get you away from your troubles, it can also leave you dangling over them.

    The Great Relax brings you into contact with only the most spartan and mild idealisms - preserving landmarks for our enjoyment, quality for our enjoyment, service for our enjoyment. Sure, the Serenade gives people many opportunities to donate to the Make A Wish foundation, but what's really at the heart of enjoyment? If you want to exercise, read, take this little spot of time to improve yourself somehow, you can, but you've got to take the initiative, and anything else would seem frivolous. You have to get the money to get there, arrange the vacation, and show up, but after that it's give-up time. You're getting away, but not necessarily recovering the best in yourself. You may in fact be sagging more fully than ever into your weaknesses and your uncertainties. Hit any tourist-trap shop, any cruise ship, any hotel, and you can see the lack of pride with which people carry themselves. At least a dozen times this week, my family and I have waited for an elevator for a good five minutes, because we had to pass up several full ones. The stairs are just as crowded, of course. There's less traffic flow here on vacation than on the most congested highways in America.

    Hell, you can even give up on the vacation and check back with work at any time. The Serenade comes equipped with a kickin' 1995-worthy array of Internet access options. I swipe my room key at a PC terminal to pay $28 for 90 minutes of web time on sluggish Internet Explorer. The ship has wi-fi at the same rate, but has of course decided to treat my Mac like a leper. (Stoners running coffee shops across the land have figured out how to hook up all comers, Mac and PC, but the crew of a hulking international marine vessel is still struggling with it.) It's not so much the cost or even the limited access, it's seeing an instance where the crew and the ship themselves seem kind of helpless.

    *

    We disembark tomorrow morning. This is our last full day on this ship. I have just heard, for the last time, the cruise director's voice gleefully thundering through the Well Of Cheese: "IIIIIT'S BINGO TIME!" We perform the slow, sad ritual of packing up, and we've got one more hectic dinner to look forward to. Then Vancouver for another day, then home.

    We took a tour of the bridge today. A little whiteboard inside counted some 2,000 passengers on our cruise. I guess we're all used to having that many people around without sensing an actual community anyway, right? Today I looked down into the Well to see a guy juggling a vodka bottle and a cocktail mixer. People were watching him from all the balconies. I'm glad my family aren't really suckers for such demonstrations. My little brother's watching Wall-E again, and I realize the Axiom is basically a mix of Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and, above all, cruise ship. Someone involved in that movie has been on one of these things (perhaps on Disney's own cruise line) and studied close.

    In what I regard as the trip's grand finale, we finally get to see just how deeply and needlessly our dinner servers are made to suffer. During tonight's meal, they have been forced to participate in a "musical number" that is dubbed both a "tribute to the nations of the world" and an expression of how much they've enjoyed serving us. They gather on the dining room's grand staircase, and, aided (I think) by a pre-recorded backing and vocal track, sing some ridiculous song to the tune of "Hey, Look Me Over" from the musical Wildcat. If this is what you have to give people just because they spent money on something, what's going to happen to real human warmth and affection? Give me the cocky, sales-polished friendliness of the LBJ-Ken Lay Fan Club, or even the boisterous "honey"-seeker of Day One anytime. At least they aren't forced to be desperately innocuous. But our servers are, and all you can do is offer your thanks and hope they'll detect some sympathy in it. There's no room in their well-trained mannerisms for a knowing wink or grin that says, "Yeah, just you and me, partner, we know it's all a bit silly, but we'll get through it." Maybe they're strong enough that the tireless service routine doesn't cut into their actual personalities. Not that I'll get a chance to take any of these people aside and find out. I feel helpless again, and that's why the Great Relax will always leave me a little anxious.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:19 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: There's An App For That

    By Matt Harness

    * In an effort to return to the town where he started his career, Andre Williams recently wrapped up the recording of his latest album, due out some time next year. From producer Matt Smith, via Metro Times, "Andre's new material is fantastic - just a great batch of songs. And you can imagine the great stories he told me over breakfast, about working for Motown in the '60s, spending time the early '70s hanging out with Ike Turner and Mick Jagger and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Elvis Presley showed up backstage at one his gigs. Just incredible stuff."

    * Justin Townes Earle rolls back in to town later this year in support of Black Keys' guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach, on tour to promote his rookie solo release. Catch them both Dec. 5 at The Vic.

    * Ben Kweller is party to a long list of musicians contributing to a 21-track album benefiting songwriter Mark Mulcahy due out Sept. 29. Others involved include Radiohead's Thom Yorke, REM's Michael Stipe and Pixies' Frank Black.

    * Bobby Bare Jr. was one of the performers at Monday's SHELebration, a party to recognize the life and works of Chicago native Shel Silverstein. You can listen to Bare's interview on WBEZ here.

    * Ha Ha Tonka recorded live songs at Shirk Music and Sound in Chicago that are now available for download.

    * The Blacks, who will reunite later this year at Bloodshot's anniversary party at the Hideout, are featured in indie film Lefty, which is premiering July 24 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, with other showings July 28 and July 30.

    * Blogger Brad has a post of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir's "Would You Still Love Me If I Was In A Knife Fight" off I Bet You Say That to All the Boys.

    * If you still aren't convinced that Lollapalooza is worth your money ($205 for a three-day pass or $80 for a single day), maybe Neko Case can persuade you. The lone Bloodshooter at the fest plays Sunday, Aug. 9.

    * For all you iPhone users out there, Bloodshot has rolled out an application just for you.

    -

    Bloodshot Briefing appears in this space every Friday. Matt welcomes your comments.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:56 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: Arlington Eye Candy

    By Thomas Chambers

    A few horseplayers in Chicago like to bicker about which is better, Arlington Park or Hawthorne Race Course.

    It's like Obama vs. McCain or Democrats vs. Republicans. There's no good one - they're all politicians. Or debating the merits as a metropolis of New York City versus Chicago. All I'll say here is New York had a 200-year head start and the put-upon munchkin running this city called our tallest skyscraper "Big Willie" this week.

    There is really no comparison and I don't say that because of the facilities or that Hawthorne is considered to be in an icky neighborhood.

    "Differences" is a better word to describe it, because Hawthorne's overwhelming focus is on racing now and forever, while Arlington is a sometimes-maddening place that tries to do all things to appeal to all people while Call it The House That Sensory Overload Built. Brought to you by The Churchill Downs Corporate Marketing Department.

    Bands between races, clowns and gags for the kids, Friday's happy-hour Party in the Park for the yuppie set, or it's OK to bring your own food. It serves me no purpose to get as steamed about this stuff as I used to, but I will say a few things:

    * The more interested you are in the racing, the further away from the track you are going to be. The General Admission gang under the overhang or on the picnic grounds, many of whom are not fully engaged in the races, monopolize the seating. The baby carriages can scrape your shins if you're not careful. And it sure is nice to have a phone-betting account when you go to the machine and see a puzzled newbie getting a wagering lesson.

    Most of the seats in the grandstand are just like those at Wrigley or Comiskey, so there's no place to put your Racing Form or charts except your lap. Unworkable. I wonder how much money they would make if they did as Oaklawn Park does and sell the tabled, video-ed boxes in the grandstand when their season-ticket owners are not using them. Hell, we paid $46 at Oaklawn for such a box and were happy to do it. This is the territorial snobbery I'm talking about.

    So for handicapping peace and quiet, I tend to end up in the Silks Lounge, coming outside to watch the actual race. It's a bummer because I don't see the point in going to the track and holing up inside. The Million Room is nice, but it's inside too.

    * The aural stimuli are too much. Commercials blare out of the speakers and off of the video screen. Or there must always be music, whether piped in or by the band between races. Why can't there be peace? Reflect on the last race and ponder the next. Or why not show the big stakes race from Belmont? The marketing department here is most definitely concentrated on the circuses, with racing being a smaller priority.

    * The food sure could be better. Comiskey Park is still the best in town, followed by the United Center. I was hungry and prepared to eat, but my internal cost/quality analysis told me no. So it was a big pretzel.

    It was Arlington Preview Day, the last local prep day for the big Arlington Million Day on August 8. With an early post of 12:15 p.m., I decided to take the 8:30 a.m. out of Northwestern Station (it won't be Willis Tower to me either), the better to get a spot before the gate opening stampede. My timing couldn't have been better as advanced scouting parties were constructing their outposts to the left and to the right of me using the square tables and those white stackable chairs. When the turnstiles began spinning, their follow-up reinforcements brought up the rear with large coolers and food. I find that audacious, but it is allowed.

    It ended up seeming like a pretty good, large-ish crowd. However, it's Churchill Downs Inc.'s "policy" not to divulge attendance figures. (I once had an editor who told us that if we ever used the word "policy" when talking to a reader or customer, we would be fired. And he meant it.)

    My original plan was to roam around and take it all in, but when I was able to set up a table just under the front of the overhang - in the shade - I sez to myself "let's camp here." The general admission crowd here is not too magnanimous, so I knew I'd never be able to get so much as one butt cheek on the edge of a seat near or at another hardly-occupied table. A little more on that later.

    This was a great spot for people watching, right on the sixteenth pole and smack in front of the video screen. I felt impending doom when, with very few people yet in the house, an old guy right near me was playing peek-a-boo around the pillars with a four-year-old kid dressed like a jockey. "I SEE you!" "SHRIEEEEEK!" The second time, I did a half-fake jump out of my skin followed by a dirty look. That was the end of that.

    So besides some very good racing and a very moderately successful day of wagering, the outing was mostly a melange of sights, sounds and people:

    Solitude: While the last horses are working out and then the tractors start grooming the track and the workers situate the turf rail, why do we have to listen to an insipid collection of canned music that combines the worst of Muzak and FM-radio playlists. I could go for a little piece and quiet. You know, hoofbeats.

    Half-Assed Handicapping: Track announcer John G.Dooley and Arlington's resident handicapper Jessica Pacheco (she had a cup of coffee in the bigs, getting better as the day went on when she contributed to the ESPN coverage of the Breeders Cup last fall) come on the video screen to give their analysis of the day's races. It was a combination of worst pacing ever and not enough time to do the show. They spent too much time on the early, nothing races, so when it came time to cover the big races, they started sounding like the fast-talking guy with the commercial disclaimer. It's a shame because they are knowledgeable. If you're going to do it half-assed, why do it at all?

    These Pretzels are Making Me Thirsty: Warm sun, running around, I'm dry. Water: $3.25. That's how Saratoga Springs became a vacation mecca, you know. Selling water.

    I WANTa Hat: A big reason I left downtown so early was to be one of the first 3,000 to enter to get a free Arlington Million hat. So 75 minutes after my arrival, the gates open and I go hunting. Nothing at the front gate, like at the ballpark. Nothing in the paddock, except the Ladies Day tent and a couple of private-party tents. YOU walk across that paddock like a chicken with . . . It's BIG. Looking desperate I'm sure, I ask a couple dressed like they have the horse kind of money "Where did you get that hat, please?" It was at this little unmarked window under the John Henry-The Bart statue. It didn't seem like Arlington really wanted to hand out hats, but I bought my ticket online in advance like they told me to. Hey, I could have brought the other two printouts I had, but I'm an honest guy. I wore it the rest of the day.

    Mrs. Illinois: A Web search revealed that there is more than one Mrs. Illinois. Who knew? Under her white sash, this knockout blond had a tiger-print mini-dress, high heels with a dainty lace hat on top of big hair. Precious. I thought I was back in Jersey. YOWSA!

    Hey, It's Enrico Palazzo!: I don't think it was him, but I'm not 100 percent sure it wasn't a Jimmy The Hat sighting! It was one of those instant things: that's him. I can call this guy The Hat anyway. With the classic two-tone bowling-style shirt, he had on the stylish and popular white straw porkpie and his kid, about 5 or 6, sported properly a blue-on-white plaid cloth fedora. Almost, but not quite, a tiny Edward G. Robinson, on vacation. The stylish blonde with them was hatless. She didn't look like Jimmy's girl who we saw on Jockeys.

    Rose and Emily: I mentioned the dirty looks I often got when looking to rest the dogs a bit on some chair or picnic table. It's not nice of the general admissioners. So when Rose from Niles and her daughter Emily visiting from Arizona asked me if the two chairs were taken and then tried to gingerly place the seats outside "my" social space, yet back in the shade, with a bit of a chuckle I invited them to share few square inches of "my" table. They were very nice about it. Their kids/grandkids, all the way down to a baby in a stroller, were elsewhere, watching the jockeys get weighed in the winners circle no doubt.

    Emily is an occasional horseplayer at an Arizona track - Turf Paradise, she thought - and Rose knew next to nothing about the game. As we played most of the second half of the card, it was all ups and downs. "You really study this, don't you," Rose observed. Rose hesitated all day but finally wagered on the 10th race before leaving. She made it count big by hitting Dee's Rose in the Pink Ribbon Stakes for a combined $22.80 win and place!

    To me, this is racing and Rose and Emily qualify as authentic horseplayers.

    Hey, It's Enrico Palazzo! II: In a sparkling green paisley dress, an Angelina Jolie look-alike, except she was blonde, walks by in fashion heels. Pushing a huge baby carriage.

    T-Shirts Worth Mentioning: Cubs shirt with a huge "Champions" emblazoned across the chest. In very small, nearly unreadable type just above it: "Central Division."

    * A nebbish out of a Woody Allen movie wearing a shirt he bought at a nasty looking fight club event in Las Vegas. Shouldn't this look stay in Vegas?

    * A committed couple. She with that pink t-shirt you've seen that says "Wrigley Field, Built 1914," he with a shirt plastered with pictures of the firehouse behind the left field pole at Wrigley. These two are plugged in to the Cubs.

    * Chicago Bears shirt with a ferocious grizzly bear roaring out of this guy's chest. That bear didn't look like Lovie at all. If only the Bears were really that mean.

    * And, backing it up, a guy with the simple slogan "I Like Beer."

    Oddjob: Coming back to the table and looking down at my losing ticket, a six-pack of young ladies in huge, wide straw hats rumble out the door, nearly slicing me. I told you to look out for those hat brims.

    What the . . .?: A lot of people began leaving as early as the ninth race. Too bad two of the biggest races of the day were the eleventh and twelfth!

    I can honestly say I had a good time. The racing was good. The 8:30 a.m. Saturday train out is certainly the way to go, but at the cost of a Friday night at the Beachwood? Hard to say if I'll be out there the rest of the season. I kinda can't wait for Hawthorne to open this fall.

    Horse Trading
    Two things puzzle me. Who said it was okay to arbitrarily designate a sporting event as "Premium" and then charge an arm and a leg for everything from parking to admission to concessions? And why do people pay it?

    I blew in a call to Arlington about three seats in the Million Room for Million Day. $110 each! Food and beverage of any kind not included.

    Then I get an e-mail from AP telling me about discounts from $10 to $30 for seats costing anywhere from $65 to $235 for a seat in the sun or in the banquet-event area or in what I think is a skybox. And they're more than doubling general admission to $15.

    I've never been there on Million Day, but do they seriously think a Breeders Cup-type crowd is going to be busting down the doors? And what about the suckers who pay it?

    Arlington Million Day is a fine day of turf racing in a country that emphasizes dirt and synthetic. Yeah, it's touted as one of the best grass courses in the world, but Colonial Downs is now doing some great things too. And it won't be a huge prep day for the Breeders Cup because the turf at Santa Anita is quite different from Arlington's. And the European horses often come over and kick butt anyway. I'd love to know how many people will fork it over on August 8, but CDI doesn't release attendance figures, as you know.

    Rest in Peace
    Lawyer Ron, the 6-year-old colt who helped legitimize the "Arkansas road" to the Kentucky Derby was euthanized last week week due to complications from colic. Named for attorney Ron Bamberger, counsel to owner James Hines, Jr. (who accidentally drowned just weeks before the 2006 Derby), Lawyer Ron won 12 races with four seconds and four thirds in 26 career starts, winning nearly $2.8 million. After winning the Risen Star Stakes at Louisiana Downs, and then the Southwest Stakes, Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby, all at Oaklawn Park, he finished 12th as one of the favorites in the 2006 Derby. He sat out the rest of that summer and came back to win the St. Louis Derby at Downstate Fairmount Park.

    Finally learning to parcel out his speed instead of just taking off, he came back strong in 2007, winning the Oaklawn Handicap, the Whitney Handicap and the Woodward Stakes. He was caught and beaten by four lengths by up-and-coming superhorse Curlin in that September's Jockey Club Gold Cup. The newfound maturity, combined with his raw speed and desire to win, helped him win older horse of the year for 2007. For fans, it was simply a treat to watch him run and improve at 4 years old after a successful three-year-old campaign. He'll end up with two crops of foals. We'll see how good they'll be.

    Rachel Rundown
    Super filly Rachel Alexandra will take on the boys again when she goes postward for the Haskell Invitational August 2 at Monmouth Park. It appears the Kentucky Oaks, Preakness and Mother Goose winner could face the likes of Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, Atomic Rain, Munnings and Papa Clem. Upon learning of Rachel's Haskell plans, connections for Big Drama said they will steer him to the West Virginia Derby.

    -

    Thomas Chambers is the Beachwood's man on the rail. He brings you Track Notes every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:18 AM | Permalink

    July 16, 2009

    The [Thursday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    I have to admit that when Andy Shaw was named to replace Jay Stewart - who joined the Quinn administration - as the executive director of the Better Government Association, I was skeptical.

    Andy Shaw?

    Just another blow-dried TV guy, I thought.

    Sure, he was a political reporter, but he never made much of a mark on me.

    I have to admit now that so far Shaw is terrific.

    I saw him earlier this morning on Good Day Chicago explaining the BGA's newly filed lawsuit against the Todd Stroger administration with aplomb, and I've just read his Op-Ed in the Tribune today about the state's sudden legalization of video poker and it's a perfectly executed argument.

    A few weeks ago I saw Shaw interviewed on, I think, Chicago Tonight, and he seemed to spell out a vision for the BGA that included a website chock full of investigative reporting; if I understood correctly, he sees the BGA as a news source in and of itself. He didn't mention ProPublica, but it sounded like - and again, I could be wrong - he was describing a local version as such.

    In any case, I've been turned around. He's off to an impressive start.

    *

    I just hope he's as aggressive with Daley as I'm sure he will be with Stroger.

    Willis Tower
    * Joe Plumeri, the chairman and CEO of Willis Groups Holdings, which is moving into the Sears Tower and changing its name, visited the local editorial boards on Wednesday and got results.

    Question, though, for the Tribune editorial board: So you'll be okay changing the name of the Tribune Tower to the Willis Tower if Plumeri moves in there too?

    * Yes, the difference is that Sears no longer occupies the Sears Tower. But shouldn't Tribune Tower always retain its name - just like the Wrigley Building and the Chicago River?

    * Can we stop with the Big Willie stuff now? A world-class city doesn't call its tallest tower Big Willie.

    * "[W]e've got a feeling that Willis Tower is going to work its way into Chicago's lexicon - and its heart," the Tribune editorial board avers.

    Really? A feeling? And not just into our lexicon, but our hearts?

    I think that's the feeling of Plumeri's oily salesmanship dripping on your conference room table.

    * Willis is donating $100,000 to Chicago 2016 today. So no, not working its way into my heart. But the mayor's heart, yes.

    * "The Olympic assistance will please Mayor Daley, whose administration already has pledged a $3.8 million subsidy for Willis' estimated $17 million move to Sears Tower," the Sun-Times reports.

    So taxpayers give Willis $3.8 million and Plumeri diverts $100,000 to the Olympic committee - and most assuredly a campaign contribution to the mayor to come. Who comes out worst in the deal?

    * Does This Tower Look "Blighted" To You?

    * "Shakespeare was wrong: A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet. Sometimes a name becomes inextricably linked with the pleasure of the thing."

    Fare Wars
    It now costs less to fly than it does to park at a downtown Chicago parking meter for more than two hours.

    Budget Baloney
    Pat Quinn is crowned the king of a sinking ship.

    Earning His Pay
    Richard Roeper gets the big bucks because it would never occur to anyone else in America to make fun of a town named Manville.

    Whistle Blowing
    Matt Damon is playing ADM whistleblower Mark Whitacre for laughs in a new movie based on The Informant, Greg Burns reports in the Tribune.

    I've read The Informant, by the way, and I highly recommend it. See how high-level corporate insiders really act behind closed doors.

    (On the other hand, it's just how you would imagine . . . with malice.)

    Porch Report
    "Six years after a catastrophic porch collapse in Lincoln Park killed 13 people and forced a Chicago-wide crackdown on dangerous porches, the city has returned to a more passive vigilance of their hazards," the Tribune reports.

    Burke's Shirk
    "Ald. Burke acted quickly, moving to suspend the city council rules to immediately consider this ordinance," Ald. Joe Moore writes in a note to constituents that we've adapted. "The brief debate which followed illustrates yet another example of the need for oversight at every step in the city's legislative process.

    "I carefully reviewed the proposed ordinance and noticed it did not require a review of the Olympic-loss insurance policy, so I offered that as a friendly amendment.

    "Hoots and calls came from several other aldermen on the floor.

    "'No, that's already included!' they yelled out.

    "But it wasn't."

    Clout Cafe Wins Again
    Park Grill: more and less than meets the eye.

    Lizard Leaps
    Greg Kot wrote the other day that Chicago's very own Jesus Lizard was the best live band anywhere for most of the 90s. We provide the video so you can decide for yourself.

    Fantasy Fix
    Find out where Milton Bradley and Carlos Quentin stand in our new Fantasy Fix Action Ratings.

    Skagway!
    "Skagway is one of those places where gift shops can get away with selling books about horrible things that happened right there," Scott Gordon writes in today's installment of Serenade Of The Seas. "Just as national park gift shops hawk dozens of books of bear-attack stories, Skagway's offer a biography of "Soapy" Smith, a confidence man who established a little criminal empire here as the town became a hub for the Yukon gold rush in 1898. Other titles include Rebel Women Of The Gold Rush and Oh No, We're Gonna Die! Skagway still has its wood-plank sidewalks and century-old buildings, but they now host the highest concentration of jewelry shops and gift shops I've ever seen in one square mile. The local historical museum is a bit more low-key, showcasing the hardiness of Skagway's settlers via such landmark creations as the 'Duck Neck Quilt.' I don't know what's so special about ducks' necks as opposed to the rest of the bird, but if I ever do a Captain Beefheart parody album, I've got my title."

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    The Beachwood Tip Line: Use before you die.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:53 AM | Permalink

    Serenade Of The Seas: Part Four

    By Scott Gordon

    Fourth in a five-part series.

    Well, the mystery dinner theater was not as big a trainwreck as I expected, but did involve a "gypsy" fortune-teller and a cursed diamond whose previous owners included Richard Simmons, and some backhanded small-penis jokes, just to establish that it was an adult-oriented sort of deal. But did the staff keep the red wine coming? Did they ever. I was blasted before the main course even arrived. Often I'd wave off one server's refill offer, saying, "Nope, I better slow down," only to have another swoop in minutes later and crank me back up without even asking. The best part was everyone had a nice buzz on by the time we spotted a pod of whales spouting water from their blowholes off to the port side. Consequently, today I am hung over from the mystery dinner.

    Luckily, it's a pretty low-key day at sea, so I'll recount our pre-Mystery Dinner journey to Hoonah, Alaska. The small town of local Tlingit natives also runs a fairly tasteful tourist outpost called Icy Strait Point, where we got on a bus for a nature walk of sorts. Our host and tour guide was a local woman with three kids. All around, the locals here manage an admirable balance. We didn't even get the sugarcoated version of Hoonah: Our guide spoke frankly about the area's history with logging and tourism on our way to the muskeg. After three straight days paved with hulking mountain views, this ecosystem feels like a mystical cove, a clearing in the forest where small scraggly northern hemlock trees coexist with muddy sinkholes and tall grass.

    Previously:
  • Part One: Into The Well Of Cheese
  • Part Two: Douchey young people
  • Part Three: Hump-busters
  • After the tour, my mom and I walk back from Icy Strait Point into downtown Hoonah for some lunch at The Office, a local dive bar driving the cruise patrons nuts with its fresh crab offerings. Before we order, a fellow cruise-ship passenger beams at us, "You have to get the crab! It's excellent!" Well, yeah, lady - it's the only thing on the menu you can't drink. In cruise-land, "crab," "salmon," and "seafood" are words to be sung, often, and always with the effect of throwing dozens of tourists into an awed hush. On some level, the stuff's as coveted as a whale or bear sighting, but more plentiful. For those truly desperate to take home some of Alaska's scaly bounty, gift shops around the state offer the ultimate portable food souvenir: salmon jerky.

    On the way to The Office, we met a friendly, if unstable local drunk named Jimjam ("my street name"). His conversation slides from the best time to spot whales to how he recently buried his grandmother to how he's blind in one eye to how somebody recently punched him in the side of the head but he blocked it because he was a veteran.

    Day Four mostly consists of the ship steering up a narrow fjord to the face of a glacier. We watch chunks of compressed blue ice fall off the dirty, ancient mass, and the tremendous cracking sound reaches the ship with a moment's delay. I wonder how the ship steers around all the ice chunks in the fjord, many of which act as lounge chairs for seals and sea lions.

    *

    Skagway is one of those places where gift shops can get away with selling books about horrible things that happened right there. Just as national park gift shops hawk dozens of books of bear-attack stories, Skagway's offer a biography of "Soapy" Smith, a confidence man who established a little criminal empire here as the town became a hub for the Yukon gold rush in 1898. Other titles include Rebel Women Of The Gold Rush and Oh No, We're Gonna Die! Skagway still has its wood-plank sidewalks and century-old buildings, but they now host the highest concentration of jewelry shops and gift shops I've ever seen in one square mile. The local historical museum is a bit more low-key, showcasing the hardiness of Skagway's settlers via such landmark creations as the "Duck Neck Quilt." I don't know what's so special about ducks' necks as opposed to the rest of the bird, but if I ever do a Captain Beefheart parody album, I've got my title.

    duckquilt.jpg

    The best part of Skagway is getting the hell out of Skagway on the historic White Pass railroad, which still traces its gold-rush route up into the mountains. This is easily the coolest part of the trip so far. You can't really see the whole sweep of the steep-edged valley through the train's windows, but you can ride on the platforms at the front and back of each car and get basted in fresh mountain wind and train exhaust. We speed up to an old, rusty trestle that workers somehow clawed into the gap between two sheer mountainsides, and are relieved when the train steers around it into a tunnel.

    On the way back, my brother and I stand on the platform, and he starts screaming, just for fun. He won't stop. With every scream comes a grin and taunting eye contact. Of course, it turns out everyone inside the train car can hear him. A mother and daughter join us on the platform for a second, but David's screams drive them back in. "Everyone thinks there's a dying baby out here," the daughter says. David keeps shrieking for no reason, and I keep laughing.

    As I said before, every public space back on the Serenade remains coated in a film of bland, uninvited music. In fact, someone managed to program different batches of tuneage for each area of the ship without actually picking out anything anyone would really want to hear. Elton John's "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" looms over us during an otherwise festive dinner at the ship's "Chops" steakhouse. The mini-golf course's (yes, the Serenade boasts a mini-golf course, right next to the 30-foot rock-climbing wall) speakers play some sort of weird workout-disco music that'd probably appeal to you if you think grey paintsuits are unbearably sexy. As for the Well Of Cheese, I've heard the jazz band play that "when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you" song at least three times, and by night the lounge-country act is turned up way fucking loud. Even on Deck 12, probably some 80 feet above the Well's bottom, I can't find an indoor spot where they're out of earshot. I hit the lounge chairs outside, the relatively low-key Safari Club, the Schooner Bar, the Windjammer dining room - music, music, music, a passive and numbing stream.

    Spotted on the ship's activities schedule one day: "Guess the price of the Picasso."


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    Comments welcome.

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    Tomorrow: A Tribute To The Nations Of The World!

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:30 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix

    By Dan O'Shea

    Could the start of second half of the baseball season mark a new beginning for your fantasy baseball team? Maybe, but remember, there is less time left in your fantasy season than in the real MLB season, and less time still to make any trades. It's definitely time to take stock of various underachievers, and do something about them one way or another. That means putting them on the trading block if you think you can get something, or maybe just on the chopping block if you think you can't. Of course, there might also be a few worth keeping in the hopes they turn their seasons around. Here's my take with a new Fantasy Fix feature, the weekly Fantasy Fix Action Ratings:

    Player: Josh Hamilton, OF
    Fantasy Fix Action Rating: TRADE
    Comment: Back from injury and hitting again, but no homers yet since his return. The promise of easy production in the Rangers lineup is still there, but you'd be better off with a mid-tier outfielder with a clear power streak.

    Player: Jose Reyes, SS
    FFAR: HOLD
    Comment: He should be coming back fairly soon - or maybe not. Actually, the Mets aren't saying much at all. When he does come back, he'll probably be great, and that's reason enough to keep him for your late-season run.

    Player: Carlos Quentin, OF
    FFAR: CHOP
    Comment: I could almost see a few Hamilton-for-Quentin trades out there, and you may want to give him a couple weeks after he returns this week from the DL, but he won't be playing every day right away, and he won't be stretching any singles into doubles on a sore foot.

    Player: Grady Sizemore, OF
    FFAR: TRADE
    Comment: Has been really picking it up of late, so it's the perfect time to sell high. The Indians seem like they are throwing in the towel, backing up the truck and exercising every other cliche for quitting that seems handy, which means a lot of his second half home runs will be solo shots.

    Player: Jimmy Rollins, SS
    FFAR: HOLD
    Comment: He's had the worst slump of his career this year, but he's finally coming out of it, and also running again, which is a huge part of his value.

    Player: Milton Bradley, OF
    FFAR: CHOP
    Comment: Yes, he will come around, or maybe is already coming around, but his power stats probably will be the last part of his game to recover, and with the Cubs pushing young guns Jake Fox and Micah Hoffpauir, he just won't deliver enough value.

    Player: Cole Hamels, SP
    FFAR: HOLD
    Comment: Who would have figured just five wins at the All-Star break? But, the Phillies will win a lot in the second half, as no one else seems to want the NL East crown, and Hamels should tighten up his game.

    Player: Joba Chamberlain, SP/RP
    FFAR: CHOP
    Comment: Go ahead and disagree with this one, but for all the talent and his comfy rotation spot on a winning team, he routinely fails to pitch deep into games and his once lofty strikeout totals have fallen off.

    Player: Francisco Liriano, SP
    FFAR: TRADE
    Comment: He is gradually improving, and his decent strikeout numbers could get you someone off the trade market who wins more, like Andy Pettitte or Mark Buehrle.

    Player: Brad Lidge, RP
    FFAR: CHOP
    Comment: He's got his closer job back, and will get you saves and strikeouts, but his game is still off and he will cause you pain in terms of earned runs. Drop him for someone like Fernando Rodney, who is only 76% owned in Yahoo!, or even Kevin Gregg, 73% owned and who could be in line for some frequent duty as the Cubs make their now-annual push to a winless post-season appearance.

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    From the Expert Wire:

    * Roto Arcade has Closing Thoughts on the injured closer Jonathan Broxton. The big man's consistency, frequency of strikeouts and four-out and five-out saves have made him the best closer in fantasyland this year - better than Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon or the surging Brian Fuentes. But Broxton has come down with a nagging toe injury that could limit his second-half use. Closing Thoughts proposes solid-but-unheralded Ramon Troncoso, the current Broxton replacement, as the hand-cuff pick for Broxton owners.

    * Rotoworld has a look at players who could be buy-low choices for the second half. The ship probably has sailed on some of them, like B.J. Upton and Alexei Ramirez. But Big Papi David Ortiz is still widely available, and Scott Baker could be a good pick-up for those who are ready to give up on teammate Liriano.

    * RotoExperts has more pick-up tips, and the one that caught my eye is at the very bottom of this post: Tim Hudson. Hudson has been so hard-luck the last few years, you shouldn't invest too much picking him up, and should definitely wait until he gets the call to action sometime in August, but he is capable of pitching deep into games with minimal ERA damage.

    * Bleacher Report has some outfield picks, including Colby Rasmus, the emerging Rookie of the Year candidate from the Cardinals. The strange thing is that I know a few people who drafted Rasmus way back in April as a last-round stunner, then dropped him along the way as Rick Ankiel returned for the Cards, Ryan Ludwick started hitting again and Mark DeRosa arrived in town. But, Ankiel and DeRosa are hurting, and that means more at-bats for the rook.

    * Finally, FanHouse has a Jimmy Rollins trade-talk roundtable. As noted above, I recommend J-Roll owners hang onto him, but if you must trade, I do like the suggestion by Matt Snyder to go for sleeper who has played like an early-round draft pick. I particularly like Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, because of the multi-position eligibility. His team, the Diamondbacks, is going nowhere fast, but Reynolds, with 24 homers right now, will easily eclipse his home run totals from last year (28), probably before the month is over. You also wouldn't sacrifice too many stolen bases, as Reynolds already has 15.

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    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears every Wednesday, except when it appears on Thursday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:06 AM | Permalink

    July 15, 2009

    City Council Follies

    By Ald. Joe Moore

    Adapted from Moore's e-mail city council report to constituents.

    You would have never known it from the newspaper accounts, but the most intense debate at our last city council meeting on June 30th was over the approval of furlough days in 2009 for all non-unionized city workers.

    For me, the core of the debate was not so much about the benefit to the city (15 furlough days would save about $10 million) or the pain to workers (considerable, but not as harsh as layoffs). Rather it focused once again on transparency and honesty by Chicago's executive branch.

    My colleague, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, initiated the debate. She explained how she and other aldermen had posed specific questions to the budget office about city spending the week prior. A two-page sheet of answers was distributed on the morning of the council meeting, with just bare bones information and no time to process it or ask for follow-up questions.

    Once again, we were being given key information at the very last minute, with no adequate time to review it. Ald. Preckwinkle made it clear that she would no longer vote for ordinances where information was incomplete or delivered at the last possible moment.

    When I took the floor, I added my own concerns. "As never before," I stated, "the legislative and the executive branches must work together - but this is still not happening. Taxpayers deserve more than a balanced budget - they deserve to have tough questions asked."

    As far as I was concerned, "enough is enough," and as long as aldermen are short-changed on necessary information to decide on their vote, I pledged to vote "no."

    After well over an hour of debate, a roll-call vote was called, and not surprisingly the 15 furlough days were approved. As a result, my office staff will be required to take 15 days off without pay between now and the end of the year, resulting in approximately a 10 percent reduction in their pay.

    I will also take a 15-day pay cut, although the furlough days are voluntary for aldermen.

    I am working with my staff to devise a process by which we will minimize the impact of the furlough days on service delivery in the ward office, and will send you a subsequent e-mail advising you of the plans.

    In other business, the only major issue was, once again, the Olympics. Several new ordinances were introduced, including one, which I co-sponsored, which would cap the city's liability for 2016 cost overruns at $500 million.

    Another ordinance - introduced at the behest of the Daley Administration by Alds. Edward Burke and Patrick O'Connor - called for the Chicago Civic Federation to review Chicago's Olympic bid. This ordinance was clearly a reaction to calls by me and others for an independent, third-party analysis of the 2016 Olympic Committee's cost and revenue estimates and the insurance policies allegedly designed to protect the city against cost overruns.

    Ald. Burke acted quickly, moving to suspend the city council rules to immediately consider this ordinance. The brief debate which followed illustrates yet another example of the need for oversight at every step in the city's legislative process.

    I carefully reviewed the proposed ordinance and noticed it did not require a review of the Olympic-loss insurance policy, so I offered that as a friendly amendment.

    Hoots and calls came from several other aldermen on the floor.

    "No, that's already included!" they yelled out.

    But it wasn't.

    Most of my aldermanic colleagues are so defensive of the mayor that they will automatically defend his Administration if anyone dares to bring up even an accurate criticism.

    Ultimately, my amendment was accepted, creating a stronger ordinance in the process.

    I voted for the final version of the proposed ordinance with some trepidation. The Civic Federation has been widely praised for its annual reviews of the city budget. They never pull any punches. But the Federation clearly has a pro-business bias, and most of its board members are business leaders who are supportive of the Olympic bid.

    Nonetheless, the Civic Federation and its executive director, Lawrence Msall, have a reputation for integrity, and I decided to support the ordinance as the only realistic opportunity for another set of eyes to review the Olympic committee's numbers.

    The next meeting of city council will be held on Wednesday, July 29th at 10 a.m.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:24 PM | Permalink

    Jesus Lizard Live!

    By The Beachwood Atomic Live Affairs Desk

    "For most of the '90s, the best live band anywhere was the Jesus Lizard," Greg Kot wrote over the weekend. "Its cutthroat music may not have been for everyone, but the Chicago quartet's performances were everything a rock 'n' roll show should be: a spontaneous blast of personality in which anything could happen, and often did."

    As a public service, we hereby provide you with a sampling of those live performances.

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    The Jesus Lizard will play its first hometown show in 11 years this Friday at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park, on an opening-night bill with Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill, and tortoise.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:10 PM | Permalink

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    No Papers column today, but still some Beachwood treats and NBCChicago.com posts.

    * If you haven't been reading Scott Gordon's "Serenade Of The Seas" series, you're really missing out. Today's installment: Hump-busting staff far up his ass.

    * Mike Conklin writes today about the giant missed opportunity local sports outlets had to bond with tens of thousands of underserved fans.

    * Rolling The Dice With Video Poker

    * Illinois Ink: Tattoo Law Finally Ready To Be Enforced

    * Tunney Caught Telling The Truth

    * Cozy Toes

    And . . .

    * Green Day in Chicago/American Idiot

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    * Green Day in Chicago/Boulevard of Broken Dreams

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    The Beachwood Tip Line: Idiots welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:34 AM | Permalink

    Missing The Soccer Beat

    By Mike Conklin

    Did you know the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has its headquarters in Chicago, is bidding to host the World Cup in 2018 only two years after the Olympics could be here? And that some important matches - possibly the championship contest - could be played at Soldier Field?

    Didn't think so. At best, soccer receives token coverage in Chicago.

    There was a reminder of this in June, when the U.S. men played Honduras - yes, the same Central American nation currently working its way through a coup attempt - in a World Cup qualifier here. Playing in poor weather, the contest still drew 55,647 spectators to see the U.S. win 2-1. Aside from Game Day coverage that got buried, the contest received little notice.

    Local newspaper and TV editors always argue soccer coverage reflects the interest of their audiences and it is not their responsibility to create interest - apparently overlooking the fact that nearly a third of Chicago is Hispanic and generally loves the sport. They do believe, though, in producing eight pages about every Bears game as well as a six-to-eight hour Game Day broadcast buildups.

    I'm not going to resurrect the arguments, but maybe there is another, more painful way for today's audience-hungry media bosses to look at Chicago's forgotten soccer fans - as a lost opportunity.

    Maybe there was a market there to be tapped. If local sports journalism, especially newspapers (broadcast always takes its cues from print), had paid more attention to them, it is possible they'd have 10-15,000 more readers. Today, that would look pretty good.

    There was a real window to build strong editorial bonds with these soccer followers in the 1970s in Chicago's ethnic communities, where the sport's hotbeds were hottest. This was the decade when the North American Soccer League came full-force to town with the Sting franchise and club and school programs started to burgeon. Nevertheless, little of the newspapers' then-abundant space got allotted to the sport on a regular basis.

    No ethnic community followed soccer more closely then and now than Hispanics. Some of the largest audiences in local soccer history - and we're talking 45,000 and upwards - always turned out to see Mexican clubs or any national team from south of the border play here. Top Spanish-speaking players on NASL teams always gave the old Chicago Sting team a spike in attendance.

    Now, let us fast forward to today. That Hispanic community, now in its second and third generations, has grown to more than a million residents in northern Illinois. Is it out of the question to think many of them would be loyal to the Tribune, Sun-Times, Channel 5, or Channel 7 if any of these news organizations had provided a strong connection to their favorite sport in their new home?

    Sound like a stretch? Is it any different than a Polish family always reading the Tribune because Grandpa Willy, who came here from Warsaw in the early 1900s, first learned to understand English by reading its wants ads and getting a job? Is it any different than a Jewish household embracing the late, lamented Daily News because Grandpa Izzy, a Russian emigre, liked its editorials? Or the family with rural roots that stayed glued to WGN-Radio because it provided farm news? Not really.

    Sports journalism in Chicago always has been short-sighted in this regard, afraid to stretch itself and look beyond the next locker room. This is not going to improve with so much institutional memory now walking out the doors.

    In the 70s, you could count on one hand the number of columnists ever attending a big soccer match - Rick Talley and Ray Sons. The others, whether they'd admit or not, were intimidated by having to show ignorance, when, in fact, all they had to do was act like reporters and ask questions.

    In fact, it was a lot of fun to be a soccer writer in Chicago in the 1970s and 80s. The Sting, and its colorful cast of international players, plus outspoken owner Lee Stern, was a never-ending source of intrigue and great stories whenever editors and producers would allow it to happen. They won most of their games, too.

    There were no more foreign players on soccer rosters than we find on today's baseball teams, but, unlike pro baseball, basketball, and football, the soccer stars generally were chattier, friendlier and more articulate. Can you picture Milton Bradley playing in Japan, communicating with its sportswriters?

    In the press box, journalists never knew whether it would be Time-Warner's Steve Ross, Henry Kissinger, Rod Stewart, Chef Hans, or the King of Norway sitting in the next seat. But even the gossip columnists generally ignored the sport.

    There never was a shortage of great material, but the lack of vision in sports journalism was stifling. Now, Chicago's news organizations could be paying a price in some Chicago area communities.

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    Mike Conklin, who spent 35 years at the Tribune, teaches journalism at DePaul University. Comments are welcome.

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    COMMENTS:

    1. From Michael Marsh:

    I enjoyed reading Mike Conklin's piece about soccer coverage, but a few concerns force me to question his thesis.

    1. I clearly remember that the local media covered the Sting when it won the league championship in the early 1980s. At the time, the other professional franchises in town were mediocre. The local scribes couldn't resist celebrating even the Sting.

    2. Both papers, especially the Chicago Sun-Times, have covered soccer at the high school level.

    3. It's not reasonable for Conklin to assume that additional soccer coverage would have generated new readers. Both dailies made huge investments in high school sports coverage (basketball, football, baseball, etc.) in the 1980s and 1990s without gaining many new readers.

    4. The Chicago Tribune's Hoy provides soccer coverage. I know the paper is grabbed in the Pilsen neighborhood.

    5. It's possible that Latino soccer fans got their information from community newspapers and/or broadcast outlets.

    2. From Mike Garcia:

    Good article but ironically Mike never mentioned that Chicago has a team in the nation's one and only top flight league recognized by FIFA. The Chicago Fire.

    The Chicago Fire have been here for over a decade and not even a hint of the club by Mike while he was making a point that Chicago's forgotten soccer fans need some coverage. The article left me scratching my head.

    In regards to pandering to ethnic audiences, the Chicago Fire signed Cuauthemoc Blanco a couple years ago, the biggest Mexican soccer star in the last 30 years and a Mexican National Team regular, and World Cup veteran for the entirety of that career. Unfortunately, it hasn't produced a sustained increase in the stands from the Hispanic/immigrant population. Not to mention that the current SuperLiga tournament which highlighted 4 top flight Mexican clubs drew under 9,000 to each of the three games played here this month.

    Is that the media's fault? Maybe. Maybe because English speaking media doesn't really understand the nuts and bolts of the game - top flight leagues around the world have their clubs play a regular season for a championship, with best performing teams also participating in a couple of tournaments that run concurrent to the regular season (MLS clubs play the regular season and at least two of the following three tourneys every year: US Open Cup, Concacaf Champions League, SuperLiga). The sports media here doesn't know how to cover all that much less when the Fire play "friendlies" against foreign clubs.

    Professional soccer is not all that different from the youth clubs that cover our nation's soccer fields where traveling teams play their respective seasons and a few tournaments every year. Unfortunately this doesn't make a whole lot of sense to the traditional American sports mind where both amateur and professional leagues play one fixed league schedule per year.

    So why aren't the Chicago Fire gaining more support from the Hispanic community or the tremendous number of soccer savvy fans already in Chicagoland who understand the beauty of soccer and its several meaningful games and tourneys? Well, it's an enemy you didn't focus because you never mentioned them in the article . . . the Chicago Fire themselves. It's not just the media, the Fire organization itself is contributing to the failure of coverage and lack of buzz for the game to Chicago's "forgotten fans."

    The club's management and ownership changed a couple years ago to much hope for growing the team, the league, the tourneys and the game in general; however, they've failed miserably to reach out and sell themselves to fans . . . American and immigrants alike. Soccer doesn't need to gain the casual sports fan, it just needs to capture the attention of the huge soccer fan base that are already sold on the game, but need a reason to follow their local side.

    MLS is much better and a huge improvement from the old NASL in terms of play, stadiums and growth and improvement of the American player which has fueled the US National Team's success.

    3. From Christopher May:

    Good article on the lack of soccer coverage in Chicago, but the same article has no mention of the Chicago Fire?

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:15 AM | Permalink

    Serenade Of The Seas: Part Three

    By Scott Gordon

    Third of a five-part series.

    My mom: "Some cultures don't have a sense of personal space."

    Me: "Yeah, like cruise ship culture!"

    The "luxury" cruise combines the corporate retail world's idea of "customer service" with an insecure three-star restaurant's notion of same to breed a helpful hydra, sprouting forced grins and goofy interactions that linger a bit too long. I truly feel bad for Royal Caribbean's hump-busting staff, but if they get any further up my ass, I will begin charging them rent. In what other situation would a complete stranger be allowed to waltz up to our breakfast table and feed my little six-year-old brother a few forkfuls by hand? I get the feeling most crew members might be required to have some kind of gimmick or trick, or that at least these people are pretty damn smart in their pursuit of tips and enduring loyalty to RC. While my dad and I were shooting pool yesterday, a server came up to the table next to us, tray in hand, and kept on balancing the tray as he wowed his customers by making a tricky shot with only one hand on the stick. A bartender the other night pulled out a magic trick in which a penny vanishes, then reappears, under a rocks glass.

    Our waiter Michael dutifully calls us each by name as he greets us at dinner, and keeping all his tables happy must be one of the most frenzied jobs on board. At least a couple times a night, though, the waiters' closeness can be maddening. Example: I first decide to pass on dessert, but, after he returns with my family's desserts, plus a plate of cookies, I change my mind. I get his attention as I start jamming my face with one of the cookies; he scoots over behind my chair, hands on my shoulders, puts his face right next to mine; I shield my mouth and make a grunting sound so he'll back up out of my cookie-crumb-spraying range; he takes this as a no; I have to bark him down in a split-second before he can sprint off to his next spontaneous act of up-close-and-touchy service. By this point all the stimuli has really started to overload my brain, so all I can manage is to blurt out "Grand Marnier thing!" and chase him off with an exhausted wave of thanks. Christ, the strain this man experiences just to make sure we all eat our weight in fancy cholesterol every night is unthinkable. Another year or so of this, and Michael will be ready to tear shit up in the busiest, most glitz-choked eateries in the universe.

    Previously:
  • Part One: Into The Well Of Cheese
  • Part Two: Douchey young people
  • Of course, even in the sick, degrading "customer service" mentality, it is implied that they, the workers, are the dancing monkeys, and that you, the customer - well, they call us "guests" now, even at goddamn Target - most certainly are not, that in fact you may expect the same caliber of dancing-monkey ass-buffing whether you can even be bothered to grunt out a word of greeting or thanks to this person who's probably straining harder than you and probably making less money. Ah, but sometimes this sacred border, passed from the fief to the plantation to your local mini-malls, is breached here on the Serenade Of The Seas. Our first two dinners have been interrupted by ambushes of camera-wielding staff hoping to snap more pictures that we can buy up later as souvenirs. Just after our entrees arrived Saturday, and before we could lift our forks, a young Asian lady, rancid with chipper professionalism, began chirping at us to pose this way and that and "act like we like each other." They wouldn't dare try to sell cruisers pictures revealing how they really look while eating, after all.

    The second night, formal night, an equally cheery-pushy young man bounces up right before dessert and even prods me into getting up out of my chair to stand behind my sister and grandmother, generating another "memory" my folks will surely give the cruise line a few more bucks for. Just when you think you've received the full treatment, they dare to take you for one more spin that's just a little too much, and you're too rattled to do anything but steady yourself with another swipe of that room-charge card.

    Just looked up from my writing to see an older woman in a zebra-print jacket shake her bony old back-end to some more lounge-country gushing forth from the Well Of Cheese. I don't want to be male anymore.

    Tonight, we are attending "mystery dinner theater." I have signed us up for this precisely because I know it'll be a trainwreck inside a nuclear meltdown tied to two heynas trying to fuck each other. I will report back on this, I hope while full of wine.

    -

    Making Memories

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Tomorrow: The Skagway Jewelry Rush.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:32 AM | Permalink

    July 14, 2009

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. "The South Side may just be the worst place to be buried in Illinois," the SouthtownStar reports.

    "In the wake of revelations of a massive grave-reselling scheme at Alsip's Burr Oak Cemetery, state authorities say they're being bombarded with complaints about misdeeds at other cemeteries - all on the South Side or in the south suburbs."

    2. University of Illinois trustee Lawrence Eppley (D-Blago) will try to explain himself today.

    *

    Former presidents blame trustees.

    3. Now cometh the Daily Herald with a monster package on red-light cameras, suddenly the media topic du jour:

    "[A] Daily Herald investigation reveals serious questions about whether cameras are being placed where they are likely to reduce crashes - or where they'll raise the most cash from unsuspecting drivers."

    And as I write today in Red Light Runaround on NBCChicago.com:

    "The DH also found that the cameras aren't taking dangerous drivers off the road; not a single license has been suspended among multiple violators despite millions of tickets being issued.

    "If a system was being designed with safety in mind, it wouldn't be designed this way.

    "But what 'works' about red-light cameras is the revenue they generate."

    4. "There's bad news for those who sell traditional marketing channels: Six in ten marketers surveyed by Forrester Research Inc. will increase their interactive marketing budgets by shifting funds from traditional media," DirectMag.com reports.

    "[O]nline display advertising, which currently stands at $7.83 billion, will rise by 17% annually, ending up at $16.9 billion in 2014. Search marketing, which currently sucks up $15.39 billion in spending, will jump by 15%, to $31.59 billion, and e-mail, now at $1.25 billion, will increase 11%, to 2.08 billion."

    *

    Local Ads Moving To Social Neworks.

    5. Dear Forbes: Take Peoria, Please.

    6. Greg Hinz's sources plus Ted Tetzlaff's comments equals the Chicago Children's Museum lying again.

    7. BidClerk: The Construction Project Search Engine.

    8. Hot Pursuit Specials at PropertyRoom.com.

    9. "The best view from indoors is on Deck 13's Vortex bar, but in exchange for its near-wraparound window you must suffer its 'douchey young people' atmosphere, complete with TVs and speakers blasting new staleness from bands like Seether and older staleness like that Rob Thomas-Carlos Santana collaboration. That said, the tunes are nothing against the blunt-edged coastal cliffs of northern British Columbia."

    - Our very own Scott Gordon in today's installment of Serenade Of The Seas

    10. Ed Burke: Daley's biggest enabler?

    11. "Perhaps face paint is a solution to a problem we needn't especially concern ourselves with," our very own Andrew Reilly writes in The White Sox Report.

    12. "The experiences of African American executives and Asian American contractors are an accumulation of everyday experience. I see my brother-in-law, whose credential as an attorney does not mean a thing to cab drivers who refuse to serve African Americans; or my father, who was turned away from a tax preparation job despite scoring at a 98 percentile on the test, due to his heavy Korean accent."

    - Our very own Kiljoong Kim writes in Affirmative Asian American Action

    13. "The decline in investigative reporting - the in-depth stories that hold the powerful accountable in a democracy - began long before the current economic collapse," reports PBS's Expose. "The crisis that has pundits worried about the survival of serious journalism in America began with what the journalism industry did to itself."

    To wit:

    "Expose analyzed the financial records of the five most profitable publicly-traded newspaper companies in America. Not only was each profitable during last year's apocalyptic financial collapse - averaging nearly $294 million in profits each - but when adjusted for inflation, the profits these media giants made in 2008 were higher than their 20-year average profits.

    "In other words, even in the worst economy since the Great Depression, these top media companies made more profit than they had on average for the past two decades."

    *

    "[N]ewsroom cuts, which Farnen said really began in the 1990s, hurt the quality of the news. When studies link quality and profit, most use a definition of quality that largely mirrors the bedrock attributes of investigative reporting: in-depth, accurate, fair, issues-oriented, enterprise reporting.

    "'In the newsroom, they began cutting good reporters - and investigative reporting really took a hit,' she said. 'They were liquidating the brand. They were selling it off. People began to say, well, why am I buying the newspaper?'"

    *

    "The connection between investing in the newsroom and making a profit in newspapers has been shown time and time again since then, Thorson said. Three decades' worth of research show more people buy a newspaper when the quality is high. Studies show the same holds true for television journalism."

    This isn't just wish fulfillment; just look at the auto industry - or any other industry, really - and see if quality matters.

    But when marketing, advertising and financial executives pressed their values onto newsrooms - and newsrooms sat back and took it, in part because they were intellectually unmatched in understanding their own business - quality became a fanciful notion of the hopelessly ideal instead of the core value of the product at hand.

    *

    "Circulation began to drop, long before the internet became ubiquitous."

    And sometimes at the behest of newspaper companies themselves looking to rid themselves of less desirable readers who brought down their demographics. But trying to serve a luxury audience wasn't met with, as we've seen, a luxury product, and thus, newspapers ended up in no-man's land.

    Textbook stuff.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Txtbk stff.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:53 AM | Permalink

    Reality TV Looking Up!

    By The Special Guests Publicity Service

    While the immense and still growing popularity of reality television has been a surprise in the entertainment industry, the cycle of its evolution has not. Just like with other genres, the proliferation of reality TV seems to be moving producers to push the envelope with each new series . . . hence, programs that seek to glorify or exploit promiscuous behavior, divorce and, though denied by a judge, corrupt Illinois governors.

    In the end, however, this sets the stage for originality that is much more positive and uplifting, which is precisely what audiences can expect from Inspired Ambition, a new reality TV series from Cloud Ten Pictures.

    godreality.jpgCloud Ten CEO, Andre van Heerden, is available for interviews to discuss the backstory of this reality saga that follows the life and "ambition" of Erica Lane, a singer pursuing a career in Christian music.

    In addition to exploring the storyline itself, van Heerden can comment on reality TV and the entertainment industry in general, and talk about why Cloud Ten - the production company built on Christian feature films such as the Left Behind series and Ving Rhames' Saving God - decided to make its first foray into television with this Inspired Ambition program.

    Time permitting, van Heerden can also discuss some of the other projects underway with Cloud Ten, including the distribution of a new independent Christian film, The River Within, and he can even refer to his depth of experience to discuss broader issues impacting the value of entertainment today, such as censorship and Christian persecution through political correctness.

    Call Special Guests now to arrange an interview.

    ABOUT ANDRE VAN HEERDEN
    Andre van Heerden has been working in practically every aspect of film and video production for more than 15 years. His very first documentary, done as a video thesis at Carleton University's prestigious Journalism school, was sold to the National Film Board of Canada. Since then he has produced, written, directed, and post-supervised numerous documentaries, dozens of TV programs, and countless numbers of commercials, trailers, infomercials, and special features.

    Most notably Mr. van Heerden directed the feature films, REVELATION, TRIBULATION, JUDGMENT and DECEIVED; wrote the features JUDGMENT and LEFT BEHIND: WORLD AT WAR; co-produced LEFT BEHIND: THE MOVIE and LEFT BEHIND II: TRIBULTION FORCE and produced LEFT BEHIND: WORLD AT WAR. He is widely respected and liked by the cast and crews that he works with and has become one of the most well-known and accomplished filmmakers within the Christian film market.

    ABOUT CLOUD TEN PICTURES
    Cloud Ten Pictures was founded in 1996 by brothers Peter and Paul Lalonde. The company is the market leader in the production and marketing of faith-based films.

    Its 2000 release of LEFT BEHIND: THE MOVIE, was the top-selling independent video of that year. Cloud Ten has produced and distributed 10 successful feature films and has strong distribution arms through KOCH Entertainment and CNI, as well as through Cloud Ten Church Cinemas.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:55 AM | Permalink

    Serenade Of The Seas: Part Two

    By Scott Gordon

    The second of a five-part series.

    This morning I'm sitting in the outside portion of the Windjammer dining area, next to the glass-walled corridor inside. To my left is a little fat kid, maybe 12 years old, sitting alone and reading a book. A man walks up to the glass on the inside, looks to where the kid is sitting, and begins tapping on the glass with a fat, hateful porky-finger. Having failed to summon his son the way one might summon a fish in an aquarium, he taps on the glass once more, makes eye contact with me, then points to his son. I ignore him and keep on reading my book. Sure, I like to help people out, but A) it's your kid, and I'm on vacation, and; B) if you're the kind of guy who tries to reach his kid by just plonking your finger on a pane of glass well out of your son's hearing, then you're probably a mean fat fuck, and I'd like to buy the poor kid another moment of fat-fuck-free solitude. Least I can do, don't thank me, and stop breeding.

    "Thanks," I hear him huff a second later, as he passes my table and picks up his kid. I ignore him and keep on reading my book. And that's mass-vacation for you: You meet some friendly folks, some folks who are off in a selfish vacation-bubble, some folks who make you want to be friendly, some folks who make you want to seal off your own selfish-vacation bubble. Now, I wouldn't mind popping that bubble open a bit more often, but social options are tricky here. Later on Sunday night, I find a couple of reasonably attractive staffers awkwardly running karaoke in the Safari Club, but I'm too nervous to do karaoke and staffers aren't really allowed to socialize with passengers, as far as I can tell.

    Previously:
  • Part One: Into The Well Of Cheese
  • By day and by night, the Well Of Cheese continues to overflow. It's hard to find a quiet, warm place to read indoors, since the music from the lobby bar - sometimes jazz, later a lounge-country-ish kind of outfit playing hokey covers of everything from "Hotel California" to "Folsom Prison Blues" - reaches you on every deck's central balcony, and putting on headphones would merely produce a brain-scrambling mush of their music and mine. Earlier in the day, there's an art auction going on at the bottom of the Well. Pieces include a very small Rembrandt etching (the auctioneer claims it's an original, I think?), a Thomas Kinkade, and what appears to be a Garfield print. They're all piled up against the lobby walls like discount prints at Linens N' Things. There's also a photo of Whoopi Goldberg down by the Guest Relations desk, for no discernible reason - turns out later that she's the "Godmother" of the ship.

    Since it's a little too cold to swim in the outdoor pool, all swimmers proceed to the Solarium, a pool flanked by two golden elephant heads, fake (?) plants, and chirping-bird sounds instead of Muzak. The ship is a living thing that doesn't know how not to be ridiculous.

    The best view from indoors is on Deck 13's Vortex bar, but in exchange for its near-wraparound window you must suffer its "douchey young people" atmosphere, complete with TVs and speakers blasting new staleness from bands like Seether and older staleness like that Rob Thomas-Carlos Santana collaboration. That said, the tunes are nothing against the blunt-edged coastal cliffs of northern British Columbia.

    This being an at-sea day, the ship's in full shopping mode as it churns the fuck out of the Pacific. I follow my dad down to the main shops area so he can find a digital camera, and we walk past banks of jeweled doo-dads, laid out in sloppy bulk arrays like fish at market. Naturally, the girl selling digital cameras is the cutest thing on board, a pleasantly not-too-bubbly blonde from Lithuania. That evening, I also spot her among the hordes of tuxedo-clad photographers who storm the dining room to help passengers easy-bake some memories of "formal" night. Women in their fussy dresses, heels, and shoulder wraps, men in their blazers and top-siders. Me, I've got my New Balance sneakers, brown dress slacks, and untucked kinda-plaid blue shirt over a green t-shirt, with a black sport coat. Ideally it says, "I enjoy both good food and cool music." Not that anyone is paying attention to such signals such in cruise-ship land, but it's as good a time as any to be vain.

    -

    The Windjammer Cafe

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Tomorrow: That Grand Marnier thing!

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:42 AM | Permalink

    Affirmative Asian American Action

    By Kiljoong Kim

    Editor's Note: Beachwood contributor Kiljoong Kim submitted this testimony last Friday to the Chicago City Council Subcommittee on MBE/WBE Affirmative Action Matters in support of proposed changes to the city ordinance. I added the links.

    I. Introduction
    My name is Kiljoong Kenneth Kim. I have been a freelance research consultant in Chicago for the past 11 years. My clients include various corporations and law firms in Chicago area as well as Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC), Northwestern University, and Chicago Public Schools. I have served as a faculty member in department of sociology for 12 years and also as research director for seven years at DePaul University. I have co-edited and co-written critically acclaimed book New Chicago: Social and Cultural Analysis in 2006; the same year I began writing online columns about demographic trends in Chicago on The Beachwood Reporter. My work has been cited by such prestigious academic journals as Harvard Law Review and has been positively reviewed by top tier journals in sociology, urban planning, and geography. Finally, I am a product of Chicago Public Schools, Clinton Elementary and Stephen T. Mather High, as well as University of Wisconsin-Madison and DePaul University. Currently, I am a doctoral student of sociology at University of Illinois at Chicago, where my dissertation will examine how ethnic communities in Chicago are formed and how they impact racial and economic segregation.

    In this document, I'd like to discuss Chicago's MWBE program and Asian American contractors. In order to do so, I'd like to revisit the larger historical landscape of Chicago. The history of Chicago is a history of underdogs, whether it be Irish, Italian, or Polish immigrants who built proud traditions of several generations of firefighters and policemen despite the fact that those were the only government positions they could attain when they were looked down upon by others; or African Americans who fought hard to elect their own mayor despite the fear and resistance of those who doubted that a black man could be the leader of this city.

    Despite the dramatic increases in the black middle class and vitality of ethnic communities, there are number of indicators of inequality. Sharon Collins, a professor at UIC, has studied African American corporate executives in Chicago and her study has found that many of these executives are in symbolic positions, such as vice president of diversity or community relations, which meant that many were in incredibly vulnerable positions during economic hardships or during the downturn of organizational or societal economies. A local university in Chicago has a fair number of minority professors; however, the institution has only a handful of full professors who are African Americans, Latinos, or Asian Americans. While the mobility of racial minorities has been great in this country for the past 50 years, it is a long way from achieving social equality.

    The answers to the questions why African American executives are more likely to lose their jobs and why minority professors struggle to obtain higher levels of prestige are rather complex. The barriers to equality we see today are no longer acts of overt racism where crosses were burned or separate water fountains were installed. Inequality is now represented by all of us who took, and continue to take, social dynamics and racial stereotypes for granted. It is all of us who became content with symbolic and ceremonial gestures that are ultimately hollow.

    II. Minority Experience
    The experiences of African American executives and Asian American contractors are an accumulation of everyday experience. I see my brother-in-law, whose credential as an attorney does not mean a thing to cab drivers who refuse to serve African Americans; or my father, who was turned away from a tax preparation job despite scoring at a 98 percentile on the test, due to his heavy Korean accent. While these anecdotes may be annoyances for most of us, for Asian American contractors, these simple, momentary interactions amount to their livelihood. Just as Irish and Italian immigrants resorted to dangerous occupations a hundred years earlier because all other doors were shut, some Asian immigrants turn to entrepreneurship because their human capital from their respective nations do not necessarily translate to comparable jobs in our society. And just as those African American corporate executives found their upper-middle class status to be vulnerable, Asian American contractors sustain their well-to-do status despite their daily struggles.

    While Dr. Blanchflower's report provides solid evidence supporting the City of Chicago's M/WBE program from an econometrics standpoint, I strongly recommend that the city also pay careful attention to the process and continue to support research, programs and policies that are conscious of sociological factors. The rationale behind sustaining the M/WBE program ought to be evaluated regardless of the economic condition. Though I could not agree more with Dr. Blanchflower's assessment that the current recession can be damaging to M/WBE contractors, it is important to note that discrimination - and not just the recession - causes harm to Asian American contractors; the disparities and discrimination found in Blanchflower's current analysis were also detected in past studies even when the economy was deemed healthier.

    Also, Dr. Blanchflower lists previous studies that have proven that the black-white disparity in self-employment can be attributed to discrimination. However, it is important to note that there is no study available to evaluate the Asian-white disparity in the same manner. Dr. Blanchflower cites a study that indicates that Asian firms outperform all other racial and ethnic groups, but the study does not measure the stability of their performances. At the moment, we have no reliable way of knowing the stability of minority businesses that participate in MWBE program.

    III. Conclusion
    The City of Chicago currently has a sufficient evidentiary basis to enact the proposed amendments to the M/WBE program and to include Asian Americans as a presumptive category in that program. However, government policies ought to be based on empirical facts obtained through rigorous scientific research. And these empirical facts ought to include a comprehensive evaluation of a program that measures the direct impact of discrimination. In the future, the city should endeavor to base its M/WBE program on more than revenues and profits. The city commissions should assess whether there are fair government contracting opportunities for all of those who are ready, willing, and able, and whether there are sufficient opportunities for minority contractors to branch out from their own network and enclaves to enhance the level of interactions and cultivate even greater networks.

    -

    See also:
    * There Are No Asian-American Aldermen Here

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:49 AM | Permalink

    The White Sox Report

    By Andrew Reilly

    I had the good fortune of attending the Leinster GAA Senior Hurling Final in Dublin last week, and for anyone not interested in learning the expectedly archaic rules and traditions associated with such an intricately-titled sporting event, the condensed version goes like this: soccer played with baseball bats.

    And it was awesome, but not just for the reasons you'd expect (although let's make one thing clear: dudes running at each other with wooden sticks is pretty amusing). The game was exciting and all, what with Kilkenny besting Dublin 2-18 to 0-18 (Up the Dubs!, as Dublin fans like to say), but as with most sports that happen outside of America the real entertainment was in the stands. Giant flags, painted faces, section-to-section call-and-response sing-alongs, prominently-placed signs strictly prohibiting air horns and flares (flares!) inside the stadium; the whole affair was less sports and more county-level rallies, the good people of Dublin County (Up the Dubs!) rallying their troops against the invading horde from the countryside and whatnot.

    A group of four Dubliners seated next to me, asking over and over if they could please be referred to as "concerned fans," insisted they didn't care about the outcome. "We're here," the Concerned Fans explained, "and we're going to lose but we're going to lose to the best and there's still plenty of other tourneys in hurling this year."

    And while their fondness for superobscenities too horrid for even the Internet suggested otherwise, it was hard not to envy the idea that their sport was this kind of free-form, amorphous league rather than the structured and regimented one we Sox fans cheer for. Our seasons always end; their seasons may end, but chances are another season or two is just getting started (if not already underway). Barbaric or not, psychotic or not, they have a game they don't have to wait for and a team they're always able to cheer for.

    Suddenly it all became clear: I wasn't really jealous of their idiotic songs and the elegant savagery of the game they loved; I was simply jealous of the fact that they, unlike I, could get excited about their second-place team. Perhaps we need year-round leagues, or enforcement of geographic affiliations between players and teams to liven things up. Perhaps we don't need things for the upper and lower decks to scream at each other besides "Cubs Suck" and "Boston Sucks" and "Cleveland Sucks" and similar types of South Side poetry. Perhaps more fights in the stands are not the answer. Perhaps face paint is a solution to a problem we needn't especially concern ourselves with.

    Or, perhaps, we just need a team that can gain some ground on the stupid Tigers. Up the Sox!

    Week in Review: Expected. Beating up on the Tribe is cool and all, but losing to the Twins in the Metrodome hasn't been funny for some time.

    Week in Preview: The Sox enjoy a veritable week off, with Mark Buehrle the lone representative in St. Louis and the team hosting the non-entity Baltimore Orioles, a series highlighted by a showdown between Orioles catcher Matt Wieters and Sox third baseman Gordon Beckham for the title of Best Rookie Ever.

    The Q Factor: In 2008, Carlos Quentin avoided his widely-expected All-Star snub and went on to become the American League's arguably Most Valuable Player. This year, Quentin bravely sacrifices a small bit of personal All-Star glory for inevitable MVP trophy glory. Most will agree this is a fair trade; those who don't shall be punished at the merciless hands of impending 2009 American League MVP Carlos Quentin.

    That's Ozzie!: "I knew this morning when I woke up that we were going to [beat] the Twins like we did today."

    The Guillen Meter: Guillen himself a four-time All-Star (three as a player, one as a manager), the Guillen Meter reads 8 for "secretly nostalgic, but saying something intense and weird when asked about it."

    Underclassmen Update: Rookie arm Aaron Poreda will remain in the bullpen for now, as the Sox will stick to their Nothing By Nobody strategy for the back end of the rotation in the second half.

    Alumni News You Can Use: Despite the best efforts of Yankee coaches and some inexplicably devoted fans, Nick Swisher remains both an offensive liability and a non-All-Star. A dual threat, if you will.

    Hawkeroo's Can-O-Corn Watch: Have you heard the news that Nick Markakis is not just an entirely awesome baseball player, but also a handsome man and flawless human being to boot? If not, you will. Repeatedly. As though we were witnessing some kind of Ichiro Suzuki/Carl Yastrzemski science experiment gone fantastically right rather than merely watching yet another player from a loser team show up the Good Guys. Smart money bets Nick Markakis will be described as "a good baseball player, maybe the best pure outfielder, now I'm not talking about guys who can just be good outfielders but among good, pure baseball players who play the outfield, he ranks right up there with Mantle and Mays in my book. There's no question about it."

    Endorsement No-Brainer: The Sox, on the occasion of their probable final visit to the Twins' home dome, for the Ramones' final studio album. Adios, amigos!

    Cubs Snub: Second-year disappointment Geovany Soto heads to the disabled list after straining an oblique muscle during batting practice, batting practice here taken to mean "a several-hour session spent as a human cloud factory."

    The White Sox Report: Read 'em all.

    The Cub Factor: Know your enemy.

    -

    Andrew Reilly is the managing editor of The 35th Street Review and a contributor to many fine publications. He welcomes your comments.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:24 AM | Permalink

    July 13, 2009

    The [Monday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Does everyone do it?

    That's what cynics always want you to think, but it's just not true. Ever.

    "Former presidents and chancellors of the University of Illinois are laying much of the blame for the current admissions scandal at the feet of trustees, calling for sweeping changes on the board and the way it is appointed," the Tribune reports.

    "The former university leaders said that while it's not new for the university to be pressured by outside interests, the response from the current administration is different."

    In fact, the behavior of the current administration has been dreadful - and bespeaks of the character of both the university's leadership team and its board of trustees.

    "In the current circumstance the integrity of the admissions process has been compromised," the former administrators wrote. "While concern and anxiety on admissions decisions at selective campuses such as Urbana-Champaign are nothing new, the weakened capacity to withstand those pressures and safeguard the integrity of the University is more recent."

    "Weakened capacity" is academic-speak for "lack of balls."

    Former president Stanley Ikenberry has already said that clout admissions did not occur on his watch and that he wouldn't countenance them.

    Now former chancellor Morton Weir - now a Knox College trustee - "said he would have quit before caving to political influence," the Tribune reports.

    "I would have objected strongly and hoped that would be enough," he said. "If they said, 'Admit or else,' I would have taken 'or else.' I wouldn't have stood for it."

    It's that simple.

    *

    I suspect that a chancellor who quit their job in just such an instance would have been rewarded elsewhere in academia or would have become enough of a public hero that they would have actually retained their job, if not promoted.

    Even if that wasn't the case, though, we all have to decide what kind of people we want to be.

    Red Light Running
    "Red-light cameras that generate millions of dollars for Chicago's suburbs were greenlighted with the help of Illinois political insiders working on a fast-trick," the Tribune reports.

    "The company that now dominates the suburban market is part of a British-based business owned by Israelis that does most of its business in Kazakhstan. But it made itself a home in Illinois, and quickly.

    "One suburban police chief recommended that his town hire the company a week before it even incorporated in Illinois."

    Not That Into It
    Maybe Bear just doesn't want to be a police dog.

    Riding Red Mountain
    "The third-largest adjustment went to Neil and Barbara Bluhm of Chicago on their 16,086-square-foot home on 3.8 acres on Red Mountain," the Aspen Daily News reports.

    "The prior valuation on the Bluhm residence was $23 million and it was bumped up to $38.7 million, which drew a letter of protest from their attorney, Preston Fox of Aspen.

    "Fox wrote that the 65 percent increase in valuation was too high compared to comparable properties and he noted 'there are numerous major problems' with the Bluhm residence."

    Apparently, for example, it stinks.

    "The pipes carrying the glycol for the driveway snowmelt have been leaking for more than year," Fox wrote to the assessor on May 29. "The glycol leaked under the home and into the foundation and has caused a pool of the material to build up under the home. This jeopardizes the structural integrity and foundation and also is causing a noxious smell that is unbearable to permeate the home.

    "The structural damage is still being evaluated," Fox wrote. "But there is no doubt that any potential purchaser of this home (and anyone else who would appraise it) would conclude that the home is almost un-sellable given the smell, which no homeowner seeking to purchase a home such as this one would be willing to purchase for $25,000,000, let alone $38,000,000."

    "Fox argued the value of the home should be $28.1 million.

    "After a review, the assessor's office lowered its initial valuation of $38.7 million by $9.2 million to $29.5 million."

    Data Storage Supercenters
    In Chicago.

    Cubs Grub
    "In terms of what needs to be done, well, a few things are painfully clear," our very own Jim Coffman writes in SportsMonday. "Piniella finally, finally, finally acknowledged reality recently and took Soriano out of the leadoff spot. Kosuke Fukudome gets deep into some counts and draws a walk or two at the top of the lineup but his spinning swings are still fundamentally unsound and his batting average will soon dip below .250 again. In the second half, shouldn't we have a long look at Sam Fuld, the lefty who went 2-for-3 Sunday evening and who can go get it in center? Also, Micah Hoffpauir needs to play against righties (heck, put him in left instead of Soriano - he cannot be much worse at it) and Jake Fox needs to play against lefties - re-arrange the defense in whatever way necessary to make this happen."

    *

    Paging Julia Zuleta, Jobu, and Walter Jacobson! In The Cub Factor.

    Startin' Somethin'
    How Michael Jackson stole the world's first disco song and made it his own.

    Best. Cheaters. Ever.
    "This episode's confrontation, though, has to be seen to appreciated because Tanina tuns out to be a $150-a-session dominatrix giving Joe the business," our very own Scott Buckner writes in What I Watched Last Night.

    "In the whole history of Cheaters, I've never seen anything more remarkable than Tanina being caught in mid-swing of her riding crop and Joe in the unenviable position of being handcuffed and wearing a leather hood."

    The Tamms Commandments
    Anti-supermax activists deliver them to the Tribune editorial board - and win a meeting inside the Tower. We have the inside story.

    On Whoopi's Ship
    "The Serenade Of The Seas is not designed with the loner in mind, nor the young single fellow," our very own Scott Gordon writes in the first of a wonderfully written five-part series that we're running this week. "In several of the public areas I've found, some kind of subpar background music is halfheartedly forced upon you. The outdoor pool deck is always playing some song that invariably sounds from a distance like Cher's 'Believe,' but never actually is. The central atrium has more of an indiscriminate smooth-jazz kind of vibe, and at dinner the Reflections dining room's muzak brought us an instrumental version of (no shit) Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On' - you know, the most famous song ever inspired by a cruise-ship tragedy - at dinner."

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: A safe harbor.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    Serenade Of The Seas: Part One

    By Scott Gordon

    The first of a five-part series.

    This past June, I took my first real vacation in nearly three years. I joined my parents, sister, little brother, and grandmother to seal myself away from work and the laid-back comforts of home in a container called The Serenade Of The Seas. A pompously named vessel "Godmothered" by Whoopi Goldberg and operated by the Royal Caribbean International cruise line, the Serenade churned us through a week-long journey from the port of Vancouver up to a few beautiful spots in Alaska. Of course, before I took off on the cruise, all my friends told me I should bring along David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and compare notes with Wallace's infamous account of mind-numbing quasi-luxury aboard a Celebrity Cruises ship in the Caribbean. I'd already read this and brought it along on the trip, but never once cracked it. Because once you step into the world of a cruise ship, not even such a monumental iceberg of bad PR can pierce through. People are dropping a lot of money to be there (thanks, family!), often with their family units in tow, generating a fixed mini-society with a weird balance of elderly couples and mid-40s parents with middle-school-aged kids.

    The cruise industry probably never had to worry about how Wallace's essay played with readers in general, because cruise-ship culture is not a culture in which objections can take root. Even while I noticed that little has changed - the cloyingly attentive service, the inescapable, almost surreal tackiness - it's mostly not even about that. What follows is merely an attempt to record the stimuli I experienced each day, but ultimately these thoughts are separate from what's important, which is that I benefited from a change of scenery and catching up a bit with my family. One way or another, the Serenade helped me do that, so I can't exactly stay mad at it. Plus, Alaska and British Columbia are stunning. So, indeed, I had a good time, but I also had way too much time to think about what exactly a "vacation" is and what it reveals about the vacationer. Since I've got to obsess over something at all times, I banged out the following ship's log of sorts.

    DAY ONE: Into the Well Of Cheese
    The Serenade Of The Seas is not designed with the loner in mind, nor the young single fellow. In several of the public areas I've found, some kind of subpar background music is halfheartedly forced upon you. The outdoor pool deck is always playing some song that invariably sounds from a distance like Cher's "Believe," but never actually is. The central atrium has more of an indiscriminate smooth-jazz kind of vibe, and at dinner the Reflections dining room's muzak brought us an instrumental version of (no shit) Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" - you know, the most famous song ever inspired by a cruise-ship tragedy - at dinner.

    Speaking of the central atrium, you can step to one of the balconies on each deck above it at any time, peer down, and watch something tacky as hell going on in the lobby bar below. I have dubbed it the Well Of Cheese. Our first night of sailing, a mixed group of middle-aged folks watched as a procession of staffers gave them a silly revue summing up all the different services available on the ship. I noticed a guy in a bear suit was involved, so I came down to sit and watch. While at the bar, I meet another younger guy named David, out on the prowl and asking me in frustration, "Where are the honeys?" I'm usually not inclined to hang out with dudes who refer to women as "honeys," but the environment's definitely a bit surreal for anyone who would want to meet girls at all. You see some pretty ones, but chances are they're 16-year-olds with their parents or, well, half of the kind of couple who goes on a Royal Caribbean cruise despite being young.

    Most lunch and breakfast is enjoyed at Deck 11's cock-tastically named Windjammer, a huge clusterfuck free-for-all of a buffet. It is divided up into many stations with names; my favorites are the condiment stand called "Ketchup please . . . " (their flowery itals) and the breakfast counter called "The Egg Harbor." The best part is the dessert area, which includes two self-serve frozen-yogurt machines. During lunch on our first day, I saw a man with a piece of chocolate pastry and an apple tart on his dessert plate come up and start drooglin' chocolate soft-serve all over it. I will increasingly observe this kind of behavior throughout the cruise: People in line for soft-serve, about to gloop it next to or on top of whatever they've already got, and presumably spoon it into some kind of sense-clogging dessert-trank-goulash. I'm pretty sure I would've gotten yelled at for such behavior as a child, but apparently a "luxury" cruise just frees people up to do that. For our purposes here, "luxury" is "fun" living in its own filth.

    We have the same table and same waiter, Michael, for dinner every night. Like just about everyone else on the crew, Michael really has to suffer us and kiss ass hard. Ideally, as far as I can tell, the actions, words, gestures of each crew member are supposed to beam the message, "Aren't you just fucking delighted to be on a cruise right now!?" Still, the waiter helps me out with David (my little brother, not the guy from the bar - Mom and Dad are doing a separate "wine dinner" tonight so it's me, sister Marie, and Grandma with David). An enormous painting looms over the dining room like an angry pastel sun. I'm pretty sure it's "Cheek To Chode," (1993, Jollabee McTitwhipple Vs. Gallagher), the medium being barf and windshield-wiper fluid on pizza crust.

    seas1.jpg

    Later on, after David-at-the-bar and I share a drink, I walk around one of the upper decks. We're passing between the mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island, and the view is incredible after dusk, especially when the ship turns down a rather narrow channel, probably only a couple hundred yards from shore on either side.

    -

    Tomorrow: Douchey young people on Deck 14.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:00 AM | Permalink

    SportsMonday

    By Jim Coffman

    As I was walking down the Wrigley ramps after the Cubs' delightful 7-3 victory over the Cardinals Sunday afternoon belting out "Go Cubs Go," I experienced a revelation (it was of virtually no consequence but I believe it still qualified as a revelation). I hate most of the cutie Cubbie crap - throwing home run balls back, the Harry statue and glasses above the press box, the love of Ron Santo no matter how monstrously incompetent he is on the radio - but you have to love a good sing-along after a win. Anyway, it dawned on me that if we made a small change, just this once the song would actually make sense. It is, of course, goofy that we sing "The Cubs are gonna win today" after the Cubs wins. But here was our chance, all we had to do was sing "The Cubs are gonna win tonight!" Get it? Because it was a day-night doubleheader! So I belted that out at the end of the first few choruses and hoped a few of my fellow fans would join in. I know, I know - I am the most clever ever.

    Beachwood Baseball:
  • The Cub Factor
  • The White Sox Report will appear on Tuesday.
  • Shockingly enough, I was still alone when I tried it a third time, at which point my 10-year-old son, who I think had found it at least slightly funny the first time I changed the lyric, turned on me with a "Daaaaaaaaaad!" I weathered his disapproval and belted out " . . . tonight!" one more time but that was it. Maybe it was just general indifference or embarrassment on display but probably it was something more. Probably it was the fact that no one thought the Cubs were gonna win tonight. And sure enough they didn't. And that was despite an unbelievable top of the ninth in which Lou Piniella out-LaRussa'd Tony LaRussa and the Cubs caught a giant break when Reed Johnson's stumbling, sliding trap of Cody Rasmus' shallow fly ball near the left field line somehow stuck in the middle of his glove (violating several laws of baseball physics) and was ruled the third out.

    Previously, after bringing in left-handed Sean Marshall with two on and no outs in the ninth and watching him walk the first hitter he faced, Piniella actually moved Marshall to left field, replacing Alfonso Soriano in the lineup with the right-handed Aaron Heilman. Heilman struck out the only batter he faced, righty Brendan Ryan, and then headed for the bench. Marshall returned to the mound to face the lefties who awaited in the Cardinal lineup (with Johnson taking over in left field). Except LaRussa then pinch-hit a righty (Jarrett Hoffpauir - no relation to Micah despite the fact that they are the first two Hoffpauirs, names spelled the same - to ever appear in major league games). And then Marshall struck him out anyway. And then Rasmus hit that fly ball down the line that Johnson somehow corralled despite tripping over his own feet moments before. Baseball is so boring isn't it?

    The Cubs lost mostly due to yet another pathetic offensive display (their fourth in their previous six games). Cardinal pitcher Adam Wainwright is very good, but the Cubs were very bad. Alfonso Soriano showed signs of finally busting out a bit with a big walk in the first inning of the opener and a couple hits later. But he was overmatched in the nightcap, as was Aramis Ramirez. Milton Bradley actually drove in a run with a double in the middle of the game and I suppose that was slightly promising, but of course the All-Star break comes at exactly the wrong time for him. It is impossible to be excited about the Cubs right now, but you also can't count them out.

    In terms of what needs to be done, well, a few things are painfully clear: Piniella finally, finally, finally acknowledged reality recently and took Soriano out of the leadoff spot. Kosuke Fukudome gets deep into some counts and draws a walk or two at the top of the lineup but his spinning swings are still fundamentally unsound and his batting average will soon dip below .250 again. In the second half, shouldn't we have a long look at Sam Fuld, the lefty who went 2-for-3 Sunday evening and who can go get it in center? Also, Micah Hoffpauir needs to play against righties (heck, put him in left instead of Soriano - he cannot be much worse at it) and Jake Fox needs to play against lefties - re-arrange the defense in whatever way necessary to make this happen.

    It actually looked good for both local baseball teams on Tuesday of last week. They had just wrapped up successful weekends and started mid-week series' with additional victories. One local columnist even went ahead and said the Cubs were on the verge of a surge (what a dope - oh wait, that was me). Then the Cubs blundered through two brutal losses to a weak Braves team with no one of real consequence in the lineup and dropped the opener to the Cards on Friday.

    And the White Sox had hope busting out all over after taking the first two from terrible Cleveland. But then Clayton Richard gift-wrapped a half-dozen opposing runs in all of an inning's worth of work on Thursday, D.J. Carrasco wasn't much better in long relief, and the South Siders managed to lose to the Tribe despite eventually scoring eight runs. A typical series in Minnesota (losing two of three) and they take no 'mo' into the All-Star break.

    * * *

    Maybe we'll look to the soccer scene for some sporting excitement as the summer hits its stride. Or not. The Fire, playing before its biggest crowd so far this season (more than 18,000), stumbled to a scoreless tie against the Columbus Crew on Saturday evening. I've noted before that I have some soccer chops (played in high school and a little lower-level stuff at my tiny college), but it seems as though every time I'm ready to hop on board and really promote the local team, they remind me again why what they play can be a terrible spectator sport.

    When you have fans in the stands and potential excitement building, you simply can't put up a double donut. Push tons of guys forward, take chances and make something happen. The opposing team should be doing this as well by the way . . . right? Except if they feel as though they needn't promote the sport. A 2-1 soccer game is often tremendously exciting. Scoreless ties always suck.

    * * *

    I loved the Bulls' signing of Jannero Pargo, a local kid made good who can really, really shoot it when he gets on a roll. He is a guy who can replace at least a little of the scoring lost with the departure of Ben Gordon (he'll play some minutes but there are three guys - Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons - who are deservedly well ahead of him in the guard rotation). As for his overall story, Pargo is tricky because he is the kind of guy who feeds thousands of undersized city kids' unreasonable dreams of eventual arrival in the NBA.

    Pargo, who stands barely six feet tall, attended Robeson High School, where he was a good player for a team that never did take up residence in the Public League elite. He went on to junior college and a decent two-year stint at Arkansas. He was an undrafted free agent who eventually hooked up with the Bulls, where he was a solid reserve (oftentimes held deep in reserve - i.e. not receiving much playing time at all) who showed just enough flashes of scoring ability.

    That was enough to entice the New Orleans Hornets to sign him to a contract and he had a decent run there. Last year he did not sign an NBA contract and instead headed to Europe. After an uneven experience abroad, he returned to sign with the Bulls for about two million bucks over one year.

    In other words, he has made it. Unfortunately, thousands of others who travel his path do not. One hopes that with perhaps a slightly higher profile in Chicago this time around, Pargo will do his best to remind kids that he is the rare exception as opposed to anything even approximating a rule. Then again, if he can provide needed scoring off the bench I don't suppose it will matter much what he says when he's out in the neighborhoods.

    -

    Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:36 AM | Permalink

    The Cub Factor

    By Marty Gangler

    As soon as you think this 2009 Cub team is going to turn it around they do something like, well, something like be themselves again. Even with the return of "leading man" Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs did little this week besides be themselves. And even though I rip the crap out of them most times, I'd really like them to win more and be, well, not themselves. With this in mind we here at the Cub Factor would like to throw out a few ideas based on some classic (and not so classic) baseball movies, you know, because in movies people aren't themselves, they act like other people. And there's some advice in these classics that could certainly help the Cubs.

    * Major League: Ask Jobu for ability to hit. Julio Zuleta will do, too.

    * Hustle: The Pete Rose Story: Put some skin in the game.

    * The Natural: Start storm-chasing looking for trees hit by lightning. Dusty and Rabbit can help.

    * Ed: The next second baseman is . . . a chimp. Or Sean Marshall.

    * Rookie of the Year: Special screening for Geo Soto - with fat-free popcorn.

    * Eight Men Out: Cheat.

    * Major League II: Ask Jobu again/re-acquire Zuleta.

    * The Kid from Left Field: Make the kid cop the manager. What's the worst he could do, put Sean Marshall in left field?

    * Bull Durham: Go with the candlesticks, they always make a nice gift.

    * Angels in the Outfield: Acquire Torii Hunter and Vlad Guerrero.

    * The Man from Left Field: And the new Cub manager is . . . Walter Jacobson.

    * Major League III: Back to the Minors: Swap rosters with the I-Cubs. We're halfway there already.

    -

    Week in Review: The Cubs went 3-4 for the week, losing two of three to Atlanta and splitting a 4-game series with the Cardinals. The Cubs take a perfect .500 record into the All-Star break. If this keeps up, the Cubs will have as many losses as they have wins. And that's pretty bad.

    Week in Preview: Ted Lilly gets to pitch in the All-Star Game because the rules of Major League Naseball require every team to have at least one All-Star, sort of how Alaska gets to vote in presidential elections. The rule was enacted so sucky small-market teams like the Kansas City Royals could be represented, but it's nice to see the rule also applies to sucky high-payroll teams too.

    The Second Baseman Report: The Cub Factor would like to officially welcome Jeff Baker to the report. Baker is the sixth Cub to get a start at second this year. And he wasn't just having a cup of coffee at the keystone sack either; he started four games there this week, proving once again that this report will never become obsolete as long as Jim Hendry is the GM. Just like he drew it up.

    In former second basemen news, just when Mark DeRosa goes on the DL, Ronny Cedeno pulls through by nabbing a starting job again. Both are missed.

    The Zam Bomb: Big Z is no all-star and that makes him furious. So he is furious.
    zam_furious.jpg

    -

    Lost in Translation: Supero wastingy clocky-io is Japanese for the Home Run Derby.

    Endorsement No-Brainer: Milton Bradley for Sham-Wow because wow, is this guy a sham.

    Milton Bradley Game of the Week: Trivial Pursuit. Because trying to milk a walk in every at-bat is a trivial pursuit for a supposed run producer batting in the middle of the lineup.

    Sweet and Sour Lou: 50% sweet, 50% sour. Lou is down three points this week on the Sweet-O-Meter due to things out of his control. And just like your crazy drunk uncle, Lou can teach you how to bait a hook, tie a knot, and cast a rod, but you have to want to fish. So fish, or don't, he can't do it for you.

    Don't Hassle the Hoff: There's another dude named Hoffpauir on the Cardinals but stop asking if they are related because they aren't and that's a hassle.

    Over/Under: The number of additional Cubs who will get a start at second base in the second-half of the season: +/- 2.

    Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that playing .500 ball isn't going to win the division.

    The Cub Factor: Unlike Soriano, you can catch 'em all!

    The White Sox Report: Now with a weekly Cubs Snub.

    Fantasy Fix: Man-Ram and trade deadlines.

    Mount Lou: Mount Lou stays at Green despite some weather patterns this week that could have disturbed its surface. The angry magma will stay dormant as the cool streams of the Falstaff Mountains will flow through the canyons of Mount Lou this week. Next week is a different matter.

    mtlou_green.gif

    -

    Contact The Cub Factor!

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:50 AM | Permalink

    What I Watched Last Night

    By Scott Buckner

    If I've learned anything about daytime network TV, it's that an hour of Cheaters (noon, WCIU-TV 26.1) provides one of the bigger bangs for the buck you're not spending on cable. If you tuned in last Friday, you were able to witness what was undeniably the best episode of Cheaters ever to be aired in the entire history of Cheaters because it turned into the darkest, most twisted cookie jar any married guy exposed on this show so far could possibly be caught with their hand in.

    The subjects of this half hour were Christine and Joe, married three years with children. Joe, it seems, has been spending his quality time with an extremely tall woman with a knockout body named Tanina, who - as we discover later - looks good from afar but is far from good since she resembles Fox-TV football analyst Michael Strahan if Strahan wore a wig and dressed like a hooker. But this isn't a one-night-with-a-drag-hooker mistake. As we see from the surveillance footage, this is an ongoing relationship dedicated to doing whatever nasty stuff you can manage to accomplish in a compact car or a Chevy Suburban. Tanina doesn't even seem to get too excited when, at one point, Joe accidentally sets her hair on fire when his cigarette gets too close.

    Of course, the payoff on any episode of Cheaters is The Confrontation, where the jilted and a storm-trooper film/security crew ambush the cheaters on their dates with all the finesse of a federal drug raid. This episode's confrontation, though, has to be seen to appreciated because Tanina tuns out to be a $150-a-session dominatrix giving Joe the business. You can start at the beginning to see the surveillance footage being shared with Christine, or you can fast forward to the 3:10 mark, where Christine and the film crew bust in on Tanina and Joe's hotel room. In the whole history of Cheaters, I've never seen anything more remarkable than Tanina being caught in mid-swing of her riding crop and Joe in the unenviable position of being handcuffed and wearing a leather hood that, if decorated right, could make a really cool Mexican wrestling mask.

    Joe's apparently quite partial to this piece of headgear - even though it makes him look tremendously silly - because he never takes it off during the rest of the episode. Still, Joe's black bikini underwear doesn't help a brother like this out, especially when he goes running up and down the hotel hallway like a panicked rat trying to figure out how to get off a sinking ship. Christine, not surprisingly, goes ballistic. It's one thing for The Confrontation to interrupt your husband and his hoochie-mama on a date in a bar or knock on the car window while he's porking his co-worker in some dark parking lot, but something like this tends to draw an entirely different level of pissed off.

    So what does a cowering, half-naked dude in a silly mask say while using one of the security crew as a shield from a wife gone completely berserk? "She's helping me work on intimacy issues!!" You've got to give the guy points for using something more original than the old standby, "It's not what you think!" At one point, Joe suggests a threesome could help put those intimacy issues to rest: "It could be between all three of us! We could make this work!" Granted, there are times during a relationship when the suggestion of a threesome might actually fly, but those times are before your mate wants nothing more than to rip off your genitals and feed them to the dog. When you're at that point, the best you can hope for is - as one jilted mate on a different episode of Cheaters put it - "What? Are you fucking retarded?"

    Timing is everything, folks.

    Meanwhile, Tanina is more concerned with getting an explanation from always smug-and-smarmy Cheaters host Joey Greco about how a pack of strangers managed to swarm the room without so much as the sort of courtesy announcement you'd get from the DEA a nanosecond before your front door explodes into a pile of kindling:

    TANINA: You gone one, wha - how the fuck did y'all get in here?

    GRECO: The manager gave us a key.

    TANINA: Well - I need to talk to the fucking manager!

    The episode is filled with other little moments that surpass other little moments just like them on other episodes. It wasn't just Tanina dealing with the the standard "get that camera outta my face" moment by snapping her crop at a camera jockey. It's not the moment where it occurs to Joe and Tanina that neither one of them have the key to get back into the hotel. Rather, it was the conversational exchanges:

    JOE (pointing at Greco): Who the fuck are you?

    GRECO: Well, I'm Joey Greco with Cheaters.

    JOE (to Christine): Is this your new boyfriend? You're questioning (me in front of) a guy that wears turtlenecks and leather? That's in bad taste.

    GRECO: This is in bad taste?

    TANINA (to Greco): You have a irritating face. Please don't say anything to me. You just look irritating.

    GRECO: You know what? I - I apologize. This was the face I was born with.

    TANINA: Well, I'm sorry too.

    *

    DRIVER: How you gonna work things out with her?

    JOE: Well, I probably woulda had a much better shot before you fucking showed up, huh?

    *

    In the end, Tanina spends some time looking very much like someone who hasn't the foggiest idea how she's going to get home, but is most likely wondering what a dominatrix is supposed to do when a client runs off with an expensive leather hood. "This is all fucking fucked up," she says.

    Of course it is. That's why Cheaters is still the best reality-based entertainment there is on free TV.

    -

    Visit the What I Watched Last Night archives and see what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:08 AM | Permalink

    Tamms And The Trib

    By Tamms Year Ten

    Editor's Note: The folks from Tamms Year Ten won a meeting last week with the Tribune editorial board to discuss a recent editorial (reprinted below) it took issue with. Here is their account.

    tamms.jpg

    Five advocates for changes at Tamms supermax prison met with editorial page editor R. Bruce Dold and other members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

    The meeting began with a discussion, led by attorneys Malcolm Young and Jean Maclean Snyder, about the absence of clear criteria for transfer to Tamms and for transfer back out. Dold wanted to hear from Johnnie Walton, a former prisoner at Tamms, about what it was was like to be held in isolation for five years. Mr. Walton, 58, said he had been a gang leader since 1968, but after his son was murdered in 1988, he cut himself off from gang activity, and changed his life to work for peace and unity. By the time he was sent to Tamms in 2003, he had been a model prisoner for 18 years, working for prison industries, which is considered a privilege. He emphasized that you cannot have a disciplinary ticket when you work for prison industries. He described the agony of staring at a wall all day every day and how many prisoners spent as much as 20 hours per day sleeping as a way to cope with numbing boredom, and the effects to the mind. He did not know why he was sent to Tamms, or why he remained there for five years.

    Jean discussed the recent death of Robert Foor, a mentally ill prisoner who had been in isolation at Tamms for 10 years. He deteriorated at Tamms. He self-mutilated, bit and tried to hang himself, but became more violent. He died at age 33 of unknown causes. She used this as a symbol of the problem with Tamms. Even if there were due process for sending someone to Tamms, what is the goal in keeping them in isolation for ten years? Fifteen percent of the prisoners receive mental health treatment.

    Dold and board member Pat Widder asked several questions about whether the state needed a supermax at all. Dold additionally asked what sort of prisoners required long-term isolation, and whether existing maximum security facilities were adequate to contain them. Several members of the reform group fielded these questions, answering that Tamms Year Ten was focused on reform of an institution that is not working and has many negative unintended consequences.

    When asked by Widder whether the the group agreed that the opening of Tamms led to a decrease in violence in Illinois prisons, Stephen F. Eisenman, a professor at Northwestern University and author of a book about torture at Abu Ghraib prison, stated that there was no empirical data to support that claim. Laurie Jo Reynolds added that system-wide reforms in Illinois prisons began before the opening of Tamms supermax. Walton, who had been incarcerated during the 180-degree change in policy, summarized the impetus behind the re-establishment of security "in two words: Richard Speck." Revelations of the serial killer's brazen promiscuity behind bars shed national attention on lax rules in Illinois prisons, and led to a crackdown well before the opening of Tamms in 1998.

    Widder and Dold indicated that the original editorial was not intended to imply that there were not problems at Tamms, only that they questioned a legislative remedy, and thought that the executive branch is a more appropriate venue. Reynolds explained that the original legislative impetus for the prison was from Governor Edgar's task force, which had actually specified that specific objective criteria should be mandated by statute to ensure humanitarian safeguards and avoid long-term isolation.

    In answer to the question, "Will you publish a new editorial on Tamms?" Widder replied "Yes, we will certainly return to this issue after we meet with new IDOC chief Michael Randle." The meeting adjourned after a little more than an hour, and reform advocates joined their fifty supports who formed a picket line on the plaza in front of the Tribune Tower.

    *

    Ten Corrections To Mistakes In The may 13, 2009 Tribune Editorial, Plus Discussion Of Two Omissions And One Misleading Summary.

    MISTAKE 1: "Men are sent to Tamms for violence and disruption."

    Tribune: To get there, someone already in prison must commit sexual assault or attempt a violent act that results in death or serious injury. An inmate also can earn a trip to Tamms if he tries to escape or frequently disrupts prison operations. That can include running an organized gang, possessing a weapon or engaging in other illegal activity.

    Correction: The criteria named by the Tribune do not correspond to the Illinois Administrative Code about the supermax. Although the code does indicate that violent acts, escape attempts, and other disruptions are reasons to be sent to Tamms, these are included "among other matters." This clause makes the criteria so broad as potentially to include every prisoner the IDOC. And, in fact, the IDOC has housed many men at Tamms who do not fit the Tribune's stated criteria. More importantly, the newspaper is not in a position to know why anyone has been sent to Tamms and neither are legislators, prisoners, or their attorneys. Reasons for placement are secret and not open to review.

    MISTAKE 2: "Prisoners who behave are transferred from Tamms."

    Tribune: Many Tamms inmates serve their time, learn to modify their violent or disruptive behavior and transfer out.

    Correction: Many prisoners who modify their behavior are not transferred out. In fact, many are earning good-time and have better disciplinary histories than men in regular Illinois prisons, yet have remained in Tamms for years! An example: two men with indeterminate sentences were granted parole by the Prisoner Review Board directly from Tamms supermax. They spent years in Tamms with good behavior, and would undoubtedly still be there if not for intervention by the PRB. Furthermore, the underlying premise here is false. Research indicates that supermaxes don't offer lessons; they worsen behavior, especially among mentally ill people, and increase recidivism.

    MISTAKE 3: "Tamms prisoners know why they are placed in Tamms."

    Tribune: "They know exactly why they're being held. They know how they can get out of Tamms," said state Rep. Jim Sacia, a 30-year veteran of law enforcement who opposes the bill.

    Correction: Not even the IDOC can say how a man can get out of Tamms because, as they have stated repeatedly, their transfer review is an entirely subjective process. The IDOC also is not required to, and normally does not, give prisoners a reason for their placement. The fact that they don't tell at least some prisoners is confirmed by IDOC staff. In sharp contrast, prisoners sent to disciplinary segregation in a regular prison for even one week know the reason for placement, and have a right to a hearing and an appeal. The placement hearing required by HB2633 is not significantly different than the hearing a prisoner would have for a disciplinary ticket in a regular prison.

    MISTAKE 4: Misrepresentation of the Ohio Supreme Court case.

    Tribune: A similar issue arose in a legal battle over placement of inmates in Ohio's "super-max" prison. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2005 that the state's "first obligation must be to ensure the safety of guards and prison personnel, the public and prisoners themselves." The justices determined that "courts must give substantial deference to prison management decisions" against the "brutal reality of prison gangs . . . Prolonged confinement in supermax may be the state's only option for the control of some inmates."

    Correction: It is misleading to suggest that the Ohio case restricts due process protections and supports the status quo at Tamms. Here's why:

    (1) In Wilkinson, the Supreme Court said that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause affords prisoners a liberty interest in avoiding placement in the state's supermax prison. The Court found that right to due process was consistent with its mandate that safety was the first priority for prison officials.

    (2) The Supreme Court also observed that when the Ohio State Penitentiary first became operational, the placement policies were inconsistent, resulting in haphazard transfers. This is precisely the current situation in Illinois, which is why there is need for legislation. Tamms inmates currently lack due process rights (notice of transfer and the opportunity to contest it), which the proposed legislation provides.

    (3) The system the Court approved in Ohio is in some ways more protective of prisoner rights than our legislation. The Ohio system, for example, includes a pre-transfer hearing and three levels of review; if a prisoner wins at any level, that's the end of the Department's attempt to transfer him to the supermax.

    MISTAKE 5: Misleading summary of HB2633.

    Tribune: We hope that the governor's move helps to defuse a push for legislation that would force the Corrections Department's hand on Tamms. The bill would limit terms at Tamms to one year in almost all cases, bar the state from transferring mentally ill inmates there and force quarterly reviews of each inmate's case.

    Correction: According to the legislation, terms at Tamms would not be limited to one year if the IDOC determined that the prisoner posed a significant risk to staff or other inmates. Quarterly reviews of inmates already take place, but are merely pro forma. The idea of a presumptive, one-year limit is in keeping with Governor Edgar's 1993 Task Force Report recommendation that the supermax be a short-term placement. When the prison opened, IDOC officials claimed that length of stays would be one year. Mississippi and Ohio have presumptive one-year limits on placement in their supermax prisons.

    MISTAKE 6: "The legislation imposes arbitrary limits on the IDOC."

    Tribune: The proposed legislation would arbitrarily limit the Corrections Department's authority to use Tamms as an option to maintain control in the prison system.

    Correction: The legislation does just the opposite: it creates clear criteria and standards for transfers, but allows the IDOC near complete discretion to keep prisoners who pose a risk. It ends the IDOC's arbitrariness.

    MISTAKE 7: "It is a risk to curb IDOC discretion."

    Tribune: It's a risky idea, though, to curb the Corrections Department's flexibility by state law.

    Correction: The bill allows IDOC tremendous flexibility to keep people in Tamms. (See MISTAKE 5.) Nevertheless, the idea of the state law comes from the original Task Force Report, which specified that: "our Super-Max facility be required by statute to conform to certain requirements concerning constitutional and humanitarian safeguards." It was considered a risk not to curb IDOC discretion, since "these highly restrictive environments, if misused, can create conditions tantamount to long-term isolation." The report also warned, "To serve its purpose, inmates must move in and out based on some objective classification and standards." One third of the prisoners now at Tamms have been there since the facility opened eleven years ago, clear evidence that the IDOC has drifted far from the original legislative mandate for this prison.

    MISTAKE 8: "If it doesn't affect very many people then . . . "

    Tribune: Illinois has sent 541 prisoners to Tamms in 11 years, according to Corrections Department figures. That's just .14 of 1 percent of the people who have gone to prison in that time. (Tamms' population usually hovers around 250.)

    Long-term isolation is a violation of human rights, whether the number of victims is 500 or 5,000. And it is contrary to the goals of public safety and effective management.

    It is unclear what the editors intended to imply by quoting this statistic. However, we do know that the IDOC frequently presents this number as evidence of their restraint and discretion in the use of the supermax, which it is not: the only way to insure discretion is to establish clear criteria and due process. Furthermore, a pending lawsuit indicates that many of these prisoners may have been sent to Tamms in retaliation for filing grievances against the IDOC. In addition, most of the long-term prisoners have no disciplinary history that would warrant a trip to Tamms.

    MISTAKE 9: Narrow assessment of the Tamms controversy.

    Tribune: The Tamms controversy focuses on long-term inmates - 156 people in the prison have been there for more than eight years, including 69 who have been there for more than a decade.

    Correction: The controversy is much broader. It concerns: 1) the fact that long-term isolation is a form of torture; 2) the lack of due process, transparency, and standards in transferring men to or from Tamms; 2) the special cruelty of subjecting seriously mentally ill prisoners to isolation; 3) the danger of returning to society men who have been isolated for years; 4) the great expense to Illinois taxpayers for questionable results; and 5) the fact that the IDOC has defied original legislative intent in the operation of Tamms - it was intended for short-term placement, and there were supposed to be humanitarian safeguards by statute to avoid long-term isolation, considered a misuse of this facility. NOTE: Our numbers indicate that 87 people have been at Tamms for more than a decade.

    MISTAKE 10: "Tamms has curbed gang violence across Illinois prisons."

    Tribune: Tamms has allowed the department to regain control over a prison system that had been virtually taken over by criminal gangs. Many of the long-term Tamms inmates are still active or trying to be active with gangs, even if they've committed no violent acts.

    Correction: Gang violence in prisons has been steadily declining since 1996, when IDOC implemented system-wide reforms. But Tamms didn't open until 1998, and there's no evidence that its opening caused so much as a blip in gang violence. The Tribune's assertion that some long-term Tamms inmates are still active gang members, no doubt obtained from IDOC, is not backed up by any verifiable information. It is also defies common sense. How can prisoners in 24 hour per day solitary confinement, whose letters are censored, and who lack contact visits or access to phone calls, remain active gang members?

    MISTAKE 11: "Supermaxes deter violence."

    Tribune: Tamms is an ugly place. But the other Illinois prisons could get much uglier - and more dangerous for guards and inmates - if this legislation is passed.

    Correction: This is not supported by facts. States that have sharply reduced their supermax populations, such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi and others, have reported no concomitant increase in prison or other violence.

    MISTAKE 12: Failure to address mentally ill prisoners at Tamms.

    Tribune:

    Correction: The Tribune neither acknowledges the cruelty of housing mentally ill prisoners at Tamms, nor defends the practice of sending them there. Prisoners with pre-existing mental illness are especially prone to the disorders that strike prisoners in all supermax facilities: hallucinations, paranoia, psychosis, and self-harming behaviors. Isolated from human contact and from other markers of the human world, they lack the ability to engage in "social reality testing" and become increasing estranged from reality.This is true of prisoners with both Axis I and Axis two psychological disorders. Exclusion of the seriously mentally ill is a major element of HB2633.

    The recent, unexplained death of a mentally ill prisoner at is emblematic of failures at the supermax. Robert Foor, incarcerated for residential burglary, had lived at Tamms Correctional Center for 10 years where his behavior worsened, marked by frequent acts of self-mutilation. According to a grievance written just three weeks before his death in June, Foor stated that Tamms staff had withheld medications and therapy since March as punishment for filing a grievance against the IDOC's contracted psychiatrist. (The IDOC concedes that he was not on medication.) Foor was 33 years old and would have been paroled in 2012.

    MISTAKE 13: Failure to talk to the advocates.

    Tribune:

    Correction: The Tribune editorial board talked extensively with, and quoted from, IDOC officials. But no one on the editorial board talked to advocates of the new legislation. We believe this is indicative of a bias in favor of big government bureaucracies and against grassroots organizations.

    Finding out what the "other side" has to say should be fundamental to a news-gathering organization. In this case, it would have helped the board write an informed editorial, and created the appearance of considering both points of view.

    *

    The original editorial, reprinted in full here because I could not find it online.

    Getting out of Tamms

    May 13, 2009

    Tamms Correctional Center, Illinois' only "super-max" prison, has been controversial almost from the day it opened 11 years ago in the small town of the same name at the far southern tip of the state. Tamms was built to house what its first warden, George Welborn, called the "worst of the worst" - violent and disruptive prisoners who posed a danger to other inmates and guards.

    "Conditions are harsh - and meant to be," the Tribune's Gary Marx wrote earlier this year after he was allowed a rare visit inside the prison. "For at least 23 hours a day, prisoners sit in solitary confinement. ... There is no mess hall - meals are shoved through a chuckhole in cell doors. Contact with the outside world is sharply restricted. ... There are no jobs and limited educational opportunities." Officially, it is called a "CMAX" prison, which stands for "closed maximum security." Just mention "Tamms" and every prisoner in Illinois knows what you're talking about.

    Tamms has been the subject of numerous lawsuits alleging prisoner abuse and today is the target of a legislative attempt to alter who gets sent there and for how long.

    Gov. Pat Quinn said Tuesday that he will appoint a new head of the Illinois Department of Corrections this week and the new boss will review how prisoners are treated at Tamms. That's good. You would expect any prison director to regularly review operations at a place as tough as a super-max prison.

    We hope that the governor's move helps to defuse a push for legislation that would force the Corrections Department's hand on Tamms. The bill would limit terms at Tamms to one year in almost all cases, bar the state from transferring mentally ill inmates there and force quarterly reviews of each inmate's case. The premise behind the bill is that there are no clear rules for getting in and out of Tamms and that is unfair and psychologically damaging to prisoners.

    No inmate is sentenced directly to Tamms. To get there, someone already in prison must commit sexual assault or attempt a violent act that results in death or serious injury. An inmate also can earn a trip to Tamms if he tries to escape or frequently disrupts prison operations. That can include running an organized gang, possessing a weapon or engaging in other illegal activity.

    Illinois has sent 541 prisoners to Tamms in 11 years, according to Corrections Department figures. That's just .14 of 1 percent of the people who have gone to prison in that time. (Tamms' population usually hovers around 250.) Many Tamms inmates serve their time, learn to modify their violent or disruptive behavior and transfer out. But not everybody gets the message - 38 inmates have served two stints, two inmates have been in three times and one has been sent there four, count 'em, four times.

    The Tamms controversy focuses on long-term inmates - 156 people in the prison have been there for more than eight years, including 69 who have been there for more than a decade.

    The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Julie Hamos, and critics such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are well-intentioned. They argue that the prison was intended to be used to modify prisoner behavior during stays of a year or less. Keeping prisoners there indefinitely without giving them clear rules to get out is unfair and cruel, they say.

    It's a risky idea, though, to curb the Corrections Department's flexibility by state law. Tamms has allowed the department to regain control over a prison system that had been virtually taken over by criminal gangs. Many of the long-term Tamms inmates are still active or trying to be active with gangs, even if they've committed no violent acts.

    "They know exactly why they're being held. They know how they can get out of Tamms," said state Rep. Jim Sacia, a 30-year veteran of law enforcement who opposes the bill.

    The bill would arbitrarily limit the Corrections Department's authority to use Tamms as an option to maintain control in the prison system.

    A similar issue arose in a legal battle over placement of inmates in Ohio's "super-max" prison. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2005 that the state's "first obligation must be to ensure the safety of guards and prison personnel, the public and prisoners themselves." The justices determined that "courts must give substantial deference to prison management decisions" against the "brutal reality of prison gangs. ... Prolonged confinement in supermax may be the state's only option for the control of some inmates."

    Tamms is an ugly place. But the other Illinois prisons could get much uglier - and more dangerous for guards and inmates - if this legislation is passed.

    *

    Photo and video by Ten Years Tamms.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:50 AM | Permalink

    How "Soul Makossa" Started Something

    By The Beachwood Fair Credit Affairs Desk

    Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" is essentially a rewrite/upgrade of the 1973 song "Soul Makossa" by Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango; "Soul Makossa" is often credited as the world's first disco song. Dibango was not, however, credited on the record.

    While the African chant is the biggest giveaway, the distinctive cymbal flow is also obviously cribbed. Here's the original.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:07 AM | Permalink

    July 11, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By The Weekend Desk B Team

    Natasha Julius is indisposed this weekend working on her special Beachwood investigation into the effects of Xanax on drug-addicted pop stars without human faces. We eagerly await her return. In the meantime, the rest of the Weekend Desk staff remains on duty to keep an eye on things while you conduct your own drug experiments for a couple of days.

    Corruption Bluster
    President Obama is exhorting Ghanians to fight corruption and embrace democracy just as he did as a Chicago legislator and United States senator who put his arms around Mayor Richard M. Daley and said that he'd leave talk of corruption in the city to editorial writers and the likes of John Kass. Obama, who later brought half the Chicago Machine to the White House once he became president, told Ghanians they should watch what he does more than what he says if they want to catch his drift.

    Obamanomics
    The president is also defending the gargantuan stimulus bill that he insisted had to be passed immediately to save the American economy from total collapse by saying it's really not going to kick in until later this year. Who would've thought that Joe Biden would come off as the truthful one in this administration?

    *

    In other news, Joe Biden will no longer be invited to the president's barbecues.

    *

    Our crack staff will also stay on top of AssPeekGate for breaking developments.

    BREAKING!
    This just in from our Oregon bureau chief.

    *

    Our St. Lucia bureau also checks in.

    Auto Erotic
    "General Motors emerged from bankruptcy yesterday, with chief executive Fritz Henderson promising that the fallen corporate giant will be revived and that 'business as usual is over'," the Washington Post reports.

    GM then unveiled its new logo.

    National Security Alert
    As Natasha would say, "Duh."

    Crypt King
    But he reserves the right to file an amended statement later.

    Governor Goofy
    But he reserves the right to change his mind later.

    Flu Furor
    This can only end badly.

    Now Trending
    #unacceptable.

    Missing Link
    Funeral service cheats fans.

    Weekend Pick

    -

    The Weekend Desk Comment Line.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:55 AM | Permalink

    July 10, 2009

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Note: I'll be guest bartending tonight at the Beachwood Inn from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

    1. Welcome to the World of Motion Sicktures!

    2. The news this week from Bloodshot Records, including the 411 on Exene Cervenka's solo project.

    3. "Now I walk among these downtrodden of our Tourist Economy," our man on the rail Thomas Chambers writes of River North. "I will reach out to these souls of limited disposable dollars, providing guidance to true neighborhood spots unique to Daley City. Watch locals drown sorrows, and with good food. I'll recruit the microphone preacher from Washington and State, for he'll become our human Green Sheet and spread the word on pace scenarios and false favorites and PolyTrack tendencies. If one should have a need to testify with $2 on a horse, one of His great creatures, as such a man, from Ohio, did last Saturday, we will remain true to our calling and show him the way."

    4. David Greising catches Lori Healey, president of the Chicago 2016 bid committee, in a web of lies.

    *

    Anyone who believes anything the city or Chicago 2016 has to say at this point is a stone cold idiot whose drinking, driving and voting privileges should be revoked.

    *

    Olympic Darts Landing.

    5. Utah? Oregon?

    -

    6. For the life of me, I can't figure out why Tribune baseball writers Paul Sullivan and Dave Van Dyke were defending Alfonso Soriano on Chicago Tribune Live last night.

    Host David Kaplan - one of the smarter guys in the local sports media world - is right: He's just a terrible baseball player.

    *

    Sullivan and Van Dyke also challenged Kaplan's account of Steve Stone telling Lou Piniella on his first day of practice to give Ryan Theriot a chance because no one else in the organization believed in him.

    But that squares with the accounts I've read about how the organization handled Theriot.

    Evaluating minor league talent has never exactly been a strong suit for the Cubs organization. Why is Kaplan's anecdote so hard to believe?

    *

    Kaplan recently said that, without a doubt, it was Kerry Wood who smashed Sammy Sosa's boombox.

    Kaplan also said that some teammates urinated in Sosa's locker.

    *

    "Is [Bradley] a .321 hitter with .563 slugging ability, like he showed in Texas last year? No, he was a .280 career hitter who never had hit 20 home runs in a season at any level when the Cubs signed him and more than 30 points worse left-handed than right-handed," Gordon Wittenmyer points out today.

    *

    "At the end of last season, when Milton was a free agent, it was difficult for me to see a National League team signing him, because he would not have gotten the at-bats for us last year without the DH," Rangers TV analyst Tom Grieve recently said on The Mully & Hanley Show (via Fred Mitchell).

    "He was injured off and on all season long , and there were plenty of games where he was okay to DH but not okay to play in the field."

    7. "Buildings Commissioner Richard Monocchio also moved to fire Richard Bivins, a $66,556-a-year project manager who reviews plans before permits are issued," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Bivins is accused of accepting a fee to provide expert testimony as part of a lawsuit between two outside parties, in violation of the city's ethics ordinance, which prohibits employees from soliciting and receiving money for their advice and assistance.

    "Bivins was fired in August 2005 for granting zoning approval to build a 44-unit condominium building where residential units are forbidden.

    "But the Personnel Board overturned the firing and reduced it to a one-year suspension, which Bivins served."

    8. "Two-thirds of the country lives in large metropolitan areas, home to the nation's worst traffic jams and some of its oldest roads and bridges. But cities and their surrounding regions are getting far less than two-thirds of federal transportation stimulus money," the New York Times reports.

    9. Chicago Hedge Fund Enters Espionage Fray. Secret codes and non-competes.

    10. "Perhaps someone should introduce an ordinance changing our motto to City of Coincidences, because we have so many of them around here, it's like being blessed with a rare natural resource.

    "In fact, the Chicago Coincidence - a subset of the Chicago Way - is even more eerie than those Cubbie Occurences."

    11. Daley: Out Of Ideas. But we're not.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Fresh and fluffed.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:56 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: In The News

    By Matt Harness

    * Exene Cervenka, recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, has finished her solo record for Bloodshot, though she is touring with X this summer.

    "It has the passion of X without all the loud," she told her Bloodshot minders.

    It's called Somewhere Gone and is scheduled for release in October.

    * Bloodshot is hosting parties across the country to celebrate its 15th anniversary. The first was last weekend in Pittsburgh. Chicago will get its party on Sept. 12 at the Hideout (lineup TBA). Some other party dates:

    When: Aug. 22
    Where: Madison, Wis.
    Lineup: Justin Townes Earle, Bottle Rockets, Bobby Bare Jr., Ha Ha Tonka, Deadstring Brothers and Deano Waco and the Meat Purveyors

    When: Aug. 23
    Where: Minneapolis, Minn.
    Lineup: Bottle Rockets, Waco Brothers, Bobby Bare Jr., Ben Weaver, Ha Ha Tonka, Deadstring Brothers and Deano Waco and the Meat Purveyors

    * In case you didn't catch the Deadstring Brothers or Ha Ha Tonka while they were in Chicago, you can listen to streaming broadcasts of their tunes this month. Deadstring Brothers will be on WNMC out of Traverse City at 5 p.m. CST on July 17, while Ha Ha Tonka is live in studio at Seattle's KEXP at 2 p.m. CST on July 31

    * Just got word that Andre Williams, fresh off spirited shows at Taste of Chicago and FitzGerald's last month, is in Detroit working on a follow-up record to his 2008 Can You Deal With It? Oh, he's 72.

    * "All signs point to a favorable verdict" on the Bottle Rockets' new project, Lean Forward, according to Rick Teverbaugh of Country Standard Time.

    * "A pretty manicure and a frilly skirt never stopped Rosie Flores from tossing off a rippin' guitar solo," Rolling Stone once said. Rosie is set to release Girl of the Century on Bloodshot this fall, according to this Rush PR News release.

    * Ben Weaver "explores territories not traditionally associated with the singer-songwriter" on The Ax in the Oak, according to Aullidos Howls. "These are slow, quiet songs where wild animals and urban landscapes coexist."

    * Bloodshot Records has 930 Facebook friends.

    * Bloodshot Tweet of the Week: "Coast to coast with tatter and toast!"

    -

    Bloodshot Briefing appears in this space every Friday. Matt welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:59 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes

    By Thomas Chambers

    I get the heebie jeebies in River North.

    I'm thinking of opening a ministry there, like the Save-a-Soul Mission in Guys and Dolls. My apostles will walk the sidewalks telling the tourists that just because it's bigger - maybe the biggest - it's still just a McDonald's, with higher prices. Don't be tempted by the frog on the roof, and you'll be disappointed that it's not very hard rock. No, there's no gangster museum here anymore. And the chicken-wing girls aren't any different from the ones you have out by your airport.

    Now I walk among these downtrodden of our Tourist Economy. I will reach out to these souls of limited disposable dollars, providing guidance to true neighborhood spots unique to Daley City. Watch locals drown sorrows, and with good food. I'll recruit the microphone preacher from Washington and State, for he'll become our human Green Sheet and spread the word on pace scenarios and false favorites and PolyTrack tendencies. If one should have a need to testify with $2 on a horse, one of His great creatures, as such a man, from Ohio, did last Saturday, we will remain true to our calling and show him the way.

    At any rate, it felt like the first day of sixth grade Saturday as it was my first time setting up with the regular gang at the Stretch Run OTB on LaSalle Street, at Ohio, since the closing of Jackson Street. You know the feeling. It's the first day and the seating arrangements have to be figured out and the space and the staff are different. But like grades 1-5, it's still just an OTB. The TVs and the betting stations and the people are the same. Nevertheless, it felt weird, with the grizzled players pronouncing their likes and dislikes at every turn.

    At Jackson Street, everyone knew where everyone else sat and it was respected. That's not so easy at Stretch Run because the place is so small. Jackson had several open areas where horseplayers could stand, as many preferred to do, but the new place does not.

    But my question is this: How on earth are they going to be able to handle the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders Cup crowds? This Saturday's clientele consisted of us usual suspects and we filled the place! Or so it seemed unless they have other rooms we couldn't see.

    I'm not sure of that grand marketing plan, but the net result of closing Jackson, it seems to me, is that both Stretch Run and Mud Bug will be packed for such days and because it is smaller, Inter-Track Partners will not do the wagering handle it otherwise might have with both Stretch Run and Jackson open. I can see how Inter-Track Partners might have been looking to boost its weekday crowd at Stretch Run, which must now be getting the guys who wager nearly daily.

    Bottom line is that there is not enough OTB capacity in this city.

    Calvin's Choice
    Triple Crown goat/king Capricious Calvin Borel appears to be off Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird for good. 'Bird's connections wanted him to make a commitment through the Breeders Cup and apparently Borel wasn't willing to do that.

    The immediate conflict was with Warrior's Reward in the Jim Dandy or Mine That Bird in the West Virginia Derby the same day, August 2. Borel appears to be on the side of Warrior's Reward. But Reward's next race will be interesting because he stumbled very badly out of the gate Saturday in the Grade II Dwyer at Belmont. Despite the misstep that put him last, Borel and 'Reward did get up to finish third, less than four lengths back. That's a watch-out-in-the-next-race angle if I ever saw one.

    This jockey jockeying can have implications throughout these summer stakes races. While Borel is a good jockey, he's not considered among the elite. And remember that Mine That Bird's connections are not considered among the top trainer/owner combinations in the game, so what future spoils could that barn offer? But whoever takes Mine That Bird could tip the dominos. I wouldn't mind seeing a Martin Garcia or Joe Talamo from the West or Alan Garcia or Ramon Dominguez from the East. Or could they possibly get Edgar Prado?

    Red's Right
    It was a fun wagering Saturday at the aforementioned Stretch Run, with a full slate of good races.

    I must acknowledge my old friend Red for keeping me on the straight and narrow with Kensai in the Dwyer. "It's Prado, you know." Red loves jockey Edgar Prado, and on this horse, one of my angles was that Prado was a jockey upgrade. I also liked Convocation. I tossed Warrior's Reward from the exacta, inserted Kensai and enjoyed the race; $119.50 worth of exacta enjoyment, to be precise. Red was beside himself. "Fifteen-forty ($15.40 paid for the win) on Prado and I didn't bet him! You always take 7-1 on Prado." Then I felt a little bad. But that's how this game goes and nobody seeks any sympathy.

    Prado came through again in the 10th, The Suburban Handicap (Grade II). I went contrarian as It's a Bird and Asiatic Boy got all of the pump all week and nothing is a lock in this game. 'Bird had a few giant Beyer Speed Figures, but against lesser company I thought, and six-year-old Asiatic Boy was in his second American race since a tough winter-spring campaign in Dubai. So after Prado's Dry Martini came in for $23.60 and $8.30, I was up exactly one dollar on the day.

    It regressed as I felt good and stayed for the nightcap 10th at Arlington. Informed Decision had made a joke out of the Chicago Handicap in the feature ninth at Arlington - trainer Jonathan Sheppard even thanked the AP racing secretary for scrounging up five horses to run against him in the sure win - so that one was unbettable. Long story short, lost a few bucks on that last race and left.

    Arlington's Million
    It's a big day of racing at Arlington Park as Turf Mahal hosts Arlington Million Preview Day, the last local prep card for the August 8 Arlington Million Day races. And you've got your frou frou too as it's also Ladies Day, so watch out for fast-moving hat brims, they'll take our eye out. I just printed out my online ticket - they're promising a free Arlington Million hat - so I guess I'll see you out there.

    The notable races, in post-position order:

    * The Modesty Handicap (Grade III, 1-3/16 mi., fillies and mares, three and older, turf)

    Pure Clan will be the big favorite in her second race of the year. This prep for The Beverly D. will also include Tizaqueena and Dynaforce. I'm going to gawk at Inez Karlsson on Ciao. Some things against, but maybe Frank Kirby and Inez can at least sneak her into the exacta. Take a look at Colina Verde too.

    * American Derby (Grade II, three year olds, 1-3/16 mi., turf)

    Illinois' own Giant Oak takes the next step in this prep for The Secretariat. He's already won the Arlington Classic, so if he adds this and then wins The Secretariat next month, it's a $500,000 bonus. Dakota Gypsy and Oil Man figure to challenge and I also like No Inflation.

    * Arlington Sprint Handicap ($200,000, three and older, 5.5 furlongs, turf)

    Chamberlain Bridge invades and should be the favorite. He's a turf sprint specialist who's on a 9-5-1-1 roll since last August, including a clunker at Tampa, which is quite different as a turf course. Our special gray Fort Prado goes, just off a thrilling win in the Black Tie Affair June 20. He doesn't seem to figure here in this big distance cutback, but that's what I said June 20. Also take a look at Yankee Injunuity, a big run from St. Joe, and Shrewd Operator.

    * Arlington Handicap (Grade III, 1-1/4 mi., three and older, turf)

    This Arlington Million prep is a balanced field that will take me a while to gauge. But look for Plan, Just as Well, Ordination, Stream Cat, Cosmonaut, and Thabazimbi. Old warrior Silverfoot will go, coming out of The Tin Man at Arlington along with Public Speaker, Embossed and Telling. Last, but not least, 2008 Illinois Derby winner Recapturetheglory makes an appearance in this race. He's in pretty tough here, but following a descent that started with the '08 Kentucky Derby, he's been looking decent lately, albeit on the $30k allowance level. But he'll take more than a few dollars on the tote board, simply because of his name.

    Tip Lines
    * At Calder Race Course, it's the 10th Annual Summit of Speed, a sprint-heavy card that this year lures Benny the Bull to South Florida. I'm a bit bummed about this because if I land out at Arlington this week, this makes it difficult to bet on the Calder races as well. I don't do simulcast very well at the track because I'd rather be outside and watch the horses run. But if Calder gets one of its patented summer downpours, I won't be as bummed and I may not bet it.

    Benny will run in the Grade II Smile Sprint Handicap, carrying a highweight 124 pounds, six more than any other horse. He hasn't won since this race last year, but ran a gutty second off the bench in the True North last month. He's a horse with heart you just gotta watch. His chief rivals include How's Your Halo and Ikigai.

    The biggest news in the six-furlong Grade I Princess Rooney is that Indian Blessing is out of the race. Seems trainer Bob Baffert was afraid she'd test positive after a recent, necessary treatment of penicillin. Other challengers will include Marina Ballerina, Game Face and Orinoquia.

    * At Belmont it's the Grade I Man o' War, 1-3/8 miles on the inner turf. Gio Ponti runs after an impressive win in the Grade I Manhattan Handicap last month. Other seasoned older turfers in the race include Grand Couturier, Midships, Chinchon and Quijano.

    -

    Thomas Chambers is the Beachwood's man on the rail. He brings you Track Notes every Friday. He welcomes your comments.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:26 AM | Permalink

    July 9, 2009

    The [Thursday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    This week has been a clusterfuck, and I'm running so far behind that I think time is actually going backwards. Or something like that.

    So first a few links, and then I'll let stalwart Beachwood contributors David Rutter and Scott Buckner take over.

    1. The Missing Link To Daley? Blago witness knows where the bodies are buried.

    2. $1 Million Loop Lab Blunder Goes Up In Smoke. Put it on Blago's bill.

    3. Rewind: Some ideas for the Old Post Office.

    4. The Return of Man-Ram. And what the trade deadline could mean to you. In Fantasy Fix.

    5. From David Rutter:

    At one time, the practice of criminal law in Illinois was so devoid of clear moral standards that even a governor as ethically challenged as George Ryan realized he'd have to stop capital punishment or else not be able to look at himself in the mirror.

    There were dozens of post-mortems - so to speak - about why the Illinois legal profession had lost its bearings to such a degree that it could not guarantee it was not regularly executing innocent defendants.

    Now we have the latest in a decade of justice-light capital cases.

    Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves were set free this week after serving more than two decades in prison for five murders they almost certainly didn't do. The convictions were partly the result of the Jon Burge School of Torture (will Chicago never rid itself of that stain?) as well as prosecutors who fudged on the evidence.

    Now we have another slice from the pie.

    Why, you might ask yourself, did no one but do-gooder legal outsiders rise up against the Iranian-style court proceedings of the last 30 years, other than the obvious reason that most of the defendants were black? Why did judges, prosecutors and lawyers from all over the state not rise up to stop it?

    One answer comes this week from the University of Illinois School of Law and many of its eminent teachers.

    In the case of the "Category I" academic bypass into the U of I, they contend that some corruption is better than a lot of corruption (The "it's small potatoes" theorem). And because corruption is everywhere, in essence it's not necessary to stand on principle unless you actually have a principle. That's too hard and besides, we'll fix corruption if it ever gets too big. In this script, the universe is one large morally ambiguous pot of goo.

    For everyone in Illinois who still can't grasp the cost of corruption or why it is a creeping, deadly virus, behold the dotted lines.

    Would we find comfort that doctors are taught not to fret about the few they might kill with indifference and lack of skill, as long as most of their patients are saved?

    Do we not really care that some priests are pedophiles as long as most of them aren't?

    Were U of I's professors of law inadvertently passing unchallenged under the very same moral bar that made it acceptable to execute a few innocent defendants as long as most of them were guilty?

    We repeat what we are taught. While U of I Law School was teaching law, it was also employing a pastel palette of public principles. The school of law that spoke this week is the same one that trained generations of prosecutors and attorneys and helped shape their views of what is right and what is not.

    Corruption in Illinois? Just small potatoes.

    6. From Scott Buckner:

    So here I am up at 6 a.m. reading all the news that the Internet finds fit to print - beyond what I might find interesting in the Craigslist Personals posted overnight - when I run across this Yahoo! News item announcing this little nugget of information that may be important to any of us silly enough to be looking forward to an America free of its dependence on oil and corporate greed anytime within our lifetime.

    For those of you who may be too damn lazy or too uninterested to click on the link we have so generously provided, the Wall Street Journal reports that multi-gazillionaire T. Boone Pickens has announced that he's giving a big fuck-you to his vision of an America powered by wind because "of the lack of adequate transmission lines to carry the electricity from remote locations to cities."

    I'm not sure whether it matters that T. Boone Pickens became a gazillionaire by making his fortune from the oil industry, but still. Said Yahoo, quoting the Journal: "The oil tycoon had hoped to build new transmission lines but could not secure financing, the paper said. Pickens plans to find new homes for the turbines that he already agreed to buy, the paper said, citing a statement."

    Good fucking Lord. The United States government - which during the Great Depression was basically broke and homeless - somehow managed to scrape up the Tennessee Valley Authority so every backwater town between Atlanta and the entire state of Kentucky might eventually stop trying to communicate with the outside world by banging two rocks together. Today, the United States government - which is even more broke and homeless than it was in 1932 - has a president with a vision of everyone in this country telling the Middle East to kiss its big, gluttonous ass by powering everything it owns by twirling a red plastic propeller attached to a big rubber band and a few pieces of balsa wood.

    Which would be all fine and dandy if simple ideas actually worked in our complex world. Maybe they do. After all, Louis Pasteur helped eradicate many of the world's complex problems with the simple idea that we'd all be better off if everyone just took a little bit of soap and washed their hands.

    Still, the world's a complicated place filled with simple people who just want to complicate the hell out of everything. So now - with the presidential race over (along with captive TV audience for T. Boone Pickens to pitch his vision for an America free of oil dependence through wind power), we seem to be stuck with a whole farm of fans big enough to keep the Jolly Green Giant cool.

    "Pickens plans to find new homes for the turbines that he already agreed to buy, the paper said, citing a statement," said Yahoo! News. My guess is those new homes will be one of America's finer scrapyards because, well, there's just no return on your failed dollar when you go landfilling the damn things.

    All because T. Boone Pickens swears there isn't a single bunch of citizens, a captain of industry, or some muckety-muck in the United States government - which somehow managed to send a dozen or so men to the moon and save the entire free world's financial system from total chaos and doom in a single weekend - can't manage to cobble together what amounts to two tin cans with a length of string.

    Funny fucking world we live in these days. Hopefully I'll be dead before I actually have to start giving a shit what becomes of it.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Like tin cans and string.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:15 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix

    By Dan O'Shea

    Are you ready to trust Manny? Since returning from a drug-related suspension last Friday, Manny Ramirez has gone 4-16 at the plate with two home runs and five RBIs, which isn't bad for a guy who went two months without seeing major league pitching. Since the beginning of his suspension, I have liked the potential for "Man-Ram" to come back and be like Steve Austin with a bat during the second half of the season. Because Manny is so famously loose about nearly everything, I felt he could deal with any stress, boos and (possibly, sadly) syringes that might be tossed his way.

    However, while he looks to be making contact just like the old Manny, a disturbing trend is afoot. He was ejected from Tuesday night's game against the Mets at Citi Field in New York for arguing balls and strikes (actually for tossing his gear in the direction of home plate in protest of a called third strike). It was the second time during the game he argued with the plate umpire and at least the third time he argued an umpire's call in his first three starts back. Both of Tuesday night's protests came on truly questionable calls, and I have wondered in recent games if umpires might be gunning for Manny just a bit. No one would ever admit that, of course, and forgive me for the sacrilege, but it wouldn't surprise me if umpires stretched the strike zone for opposing pitchers as sort of a welcome-back hazing for a hitter who has been connected to performance-enhancing drugs.

    Whether the umpires are jobbing him, though, Manny's short fuse with umpires should concern his owners. Throughout his career, when Manny has shown a little discontent, it has grown into a huge problem and distraction very quickly. That could further lead to insubordination-related suspensions, a lack of desire, a slide in overall performance and perhaps even a prolonged benching. Enjoy Manny's numbers for now, but keep an eye on this situation, especially as fantasy league trading deadlines approach in the next month or so.

    *

    Speaking of trading deadlines, the MLB trading deadline is July 31. Here are a few name to keep an eye on:

    * Garrett Atkins, 1B/3B: He was projected to have a strong year for the Colorado Rockies, and likely was a third- or fourt- round pick in many fantasy leagues. Instead, he has only 6 HRs and 31 RBIs, and is hitting a paltry .225. Still, there's a possibility he could end up in Boston to replace the injured Mike Lowell or could land somewhere else. It seems like his name comes up every year at trade time, and this time a change of scenery might help his numbers.

    * Roy Halladay, SP: He was rolling toward a Cy Young until spending some time on the disabled list, but he's still a top-tier pitcher and a reliable source of complete games. Toronto is said to be shopping him. His numbers could take a hit in another home park or in the National League, where he would not be allowed to finish as many games. Still, one possible destination that would make sense is Milwaukee, whose offense would provide him with plenty of support, and whose management allowed another free agent superstud, CC Sabathia, to finish games last season (though that was before the arrival of all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman.

    * Victor Martinez, C, 1B: With Cleveland experiencing its annual first-half nosedive, it can't be long before the Indians conduct their annual fire sale. V-Mart's average has dropped about 50 points in the last month or so to .299, but he's got impressive power (14 HRs, 57 RBIs) that would be a nice addition just about anywhere.

    * The following Arizona Diamondbacks: Chad Tracy, 1B; Doug Davis, SP; Jon Garland, SP; Felipe Lopez, 2B/3B/SS/OF: According to Yahoo! Sports, the D-backs are backing up the truck, and any of these players are likely to produce better numbers elsewhere.

    Among other reports from the expert wire:

    * Brandon Funston of Yahoo! MLB Skinny posts his fantasy All-Star team choices. Nice to see Fantasy Fix favorite Jason Bartlett on the list.

    * SI.com's RotoExperts predicts big second-half surges for B.J. Upton and John Danks. Upton has picked himself up in the last month so he's an easy choice here. We still like Roy Oswalt as our favorite second-half buy.

    * Canada's TSN.com has an interesting story on the history of fantasy sports and fantasy baseball in particular. The story mentions legendary sports writers/editors Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf and the creation of the original fantasy baseball league at La Rotisserie Francaise restaurant in New York City in 1980.

    Does this mean the official food and drink of fantasy league baseball should be bouillabaisse and something fruity from Alsace rather than hot dogs and something foamy from Old Style?

    In any case, when you sit down next week before your pre-All-Star game feast to give thanks, don't forget to give thanks to our fantasy founding fathers, without the help of whom we would be lost for a hobby on which to fritter away our spare time and brain power.

    -

    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears every Wednesday, except when it appears on Thursday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:12 AM | Permalink

    July 8, 2009

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    -

    BREAKING 10:20 A.M.: "Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is expected to announce today that she'll seek re-election to her current office and bypass bids for governor or U.S. Senate, a source told the Tribune."

    -

    1. "President Obama has developed a curious habit of taking one legal position in his public statements and an altogether contrary position in the courtroom," our very own Sam Singer writes in Obama's Justice.

    2. "And here I thought I'd really seen everything at the chain restaurant where I used to work, what with the music-themed stores and constant flow of guests from The Jerry Springer Show," writes our very own Patty Hunter in At Your Service. "I saw more little people making out with transgender hookers than I ever thought possible, and employees doing enough cocaine to give a DEA agent the shivers."

    3. Living On The Ledge. Is that glass really safe?

    4. "Former University of Illinois law school dean Heidi Hurd is scheduled to testify today to the commission examining the school's clout admissions, and the key question for Hurd may turn out to be this: Was she joking?"

    5. "If Mayor Richard M. Daley follows precedent, he will appoint a pastor who equates homosexuality to drug addiction to the city council before the month is out."

    6. About Berry Gordy . . .

    7. "China and the United States are kicking up a trade war over chicken in which Beijing effectively has given the boot to millions of dollars worth of U.S. chicken, about half of which is chicken feet."

    8. Three status updates from John Kuczaj:

    * "Had lunch at Weber Grill . . . ordered a burger and asked them to make it in a George Foreman Grill. Owner Potsie Weber came out special to slap me then sing a song."

    * "The MJ tribute show looks really great . . . too bad Michael Jackson can't die every week."

    [Name deleted]: It's too bad he wasn't shown this kind of love when he was *here.* I doubt people will learn, though . . .

    Kuczaj: You are correct . . . sad that so many people did not buy his albums until after he died.

    * "Steve McNair's mistress bought a gun two days before that gun was used in their deaths . . .kinda thin evidence. Also, she registered 'www.IAmKillingSteveMcNair.com' with GoDaddy last week. Still, I'm not convinced."

    9. "A tour bus company is planning a trip that will take Michael Jackson fans to his boyhood home in Gary and other Jackson family related sites in the city.

    "Chicago-based JWR Tours is advertising what it calls 'an amazing journey' with insider guides for the trips leaving from Chicago, costing $55 for adults and $45 for children."

    10. That's all I have time for today.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Tip and be tipped.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:47 AM | Permalink

    At Your Service: Rock of Ages

    I'm not so sure I want to quit my job anymore. I still hate it, but where else does a world-famous rock group's order get botched, a jerk of a has-been actor sit at one of my tables, and an aggrieved aged customer old fling food at me all in the same week?

    And here I thought I'd really seen everything at the chain restaurant where I used to work, what with the music-themed stores and constant flow of guests from The Jerry Springer Show. I saw more little people making out with transgender hookers than I ever thought possible, and employees doing enough cocaine to give a DEA agent the shivers.

    But I work at a family-friendly restaurant now. Our customers are supposed to be sedate. We expect parents, real estate agents, teachers, occasionally biomedical engineers and sometimes even polite celebrities to come dine with us.

    On the only night I was off last week, a music group that recently decided to tour again came to the restaurant. No doubt their fans are happy they're back together. They came in with a group of about twenty, placed their order, and were very nice to everyone. Even when the kitchen forgot to make a full half of the order they put in. At least we don't discriminate; we'll screw up anyone's food.

    We got a second chance a few days later when an actor came in with his family. A couple of girls were swooning over his dreamy blue eyes, gushing about his days as the sidekick of a dark-cloaked hero. The tights and costume were gone, substituted with a wife, five young children and a nanny.

    When I walked over and greeted the family, before I could even ask what everyone wanted to drink, he barked the kids' drink order at me. He ordered a beer without a please or thank you. I heard him tell his kids to "shut up" at least twice. When their pizza came out he was a little nicer. He complimented the pizza, then told me they usually go to another pizza place while in Chicago but it was packed so they came to ours instead.Thanks? He left a 20 percent tip at least . . . but he's still a has-been.

    Management did not expect us to be busy on Monday night. There were only two people scheduled in the kitchen, one of them being a woman who has been there for 35 years and had heart surgery a couple of years ago. She can't and doesn't move very fast. We had to call someone in and have the busser help in the kitchen as well.

    As a result, pizzas were taking about 75 minutes.

    The host stand didn't help; it was three new people and one who has been working there for about a year but still walks around dazed and asking which tables belong to whom, even though she has a chart right in front of her.

    We were crashing and burning. Hard.

    In the midst of this, I had a table of four elderly people who were drinking their appetizer and overall pleasant. Until the table sat behind them came with a young cranky child. One of the women at my table requested either the family be moved or she get a new table. I told her neither were possible, so she waved her wine glass at me and demanded another. I obliged, hoping it would calm her. Shortly after, their pizza finally arrived.

    I checked on the table a few minutes later, and they said the pizza was fine. I was happy it was one less table I had to worry about. Then I check on them again 15 minutes later. Most of the pizza was eaten, and they appeared to be finishing up. I asked how everything was. The same woman who demanded the baby be moved look at me like I just told her I wanted to kill her dog and told me, in a high-pitched, aghast voice, "It was horrible!"

    I thought she was joking. I was stunned for a split-second, so I looked at her companions. They were serious. Her husband told me the pizza was uncooked. It wasn't. It was fine. When you have a pizza that has a whole layer of sausage on the bottom, the dough directly beneath it is just not going to be as crunchy as the crust. It's logic. As I tried to explain this to the table, the husband took a piece of the dough from the piece he was still eating and held it out to me.

    Husband: Take it.

    Me: No, sir, I can see it from here.

    Husband: Take it! Take it!

    Me: I'm sorry, sir, I don't think I need to take it.

    So he flung it at me.

    I stepped away from the table, told them I would be right back and went to look for a manager. I wasn't really angry; I was just trying to recall if that was the first time I'd had food thrown at me by anyone over the age of two (and no, this was a first).

    The two managers on duty were standing right next to each other. I flashed a smile and said, "Hey guys, who wants to deal with some old people that just threw crust at me and said they hate their pizza?"

    For their less than splendid behavior, they were rewarded with a free meal as well as a voucher for a free meal on their next visit, should they choose to come again. One of the hags still didn't let up; she kept telling my how awful it was, how disappointed she was, how they'll never come back. This was while gripping the voucher for the free meal.

    Talking to the manager afterwards, I asked him why he'd been so kind. His response?

    "They wouldn't have shut up if i didn't. They're three steps away from the grave anyway, it's not like they're going to come back."

    Aside from a tirade of potty language and me telling a co-worker I didn't care about her needs, the rest of the night was uneventful.

    -

    The pseudononymous Patty Hunter brings you tales from the front lines of serverdom every week. She welcomes your comments. Catch up with the rest of this series and its companions in our Life At Work archive.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:47 AM | Permalink

    Obama's Justice

    By Sam Singer

    President Obama has developed a curious habit of taking one legal position in his public statements and an altogether contrary position in the courtroom. To be fair, it is his Justice Department doing the talking in court, but that's a bureaucratic formality, right?

    It depends on who you ask. The White House has stressed that with rare exceptions, the Justice Department must defend all validly enacted laws, not just the ones favored by the sitting administration. As a result, Justice Department legal opinions won't always represent those of the President.

    Civil rights advocates see things differently. They take issue not with the president's statement of the Justice Department policy but with his understatement of its exceptions. Some insist the president is selling himself short, that he's got more say at Justice than he allows for. Less charitable dissenters believe the president is trying to convince the public that his hands are tied when in reality they're just a bit full.

    Disagreement over Justice Department policy is at the bottom of some of the president's most heated clashes with would be-supporters on the left. In February, the president took a thrashing from the civil liberties crowd when the Justice Department reiterated a Bush-era interpretation of the "state secrets" privilege against which then-Senator Obama had vigorously campaigned. In May, the same dispute arose with a different crowd, this time over the DOJ's support of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Pentagon's policy prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. Most recently, the White House clashed with LGBT groups over a Justice Department brief which held back little in its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA).

    Frustrating a firm answer is a conspicuous absence of controlling rules. It's no service to Obama that his spokespeople tend to describe the Justice Department policy in terms of custom rather than law. If there are statutes or regulations on point, the president's aides have neglected to reference them. With no apparent basis in law, the scope of the policy is open to interpretation, which raises the inference that it's not as cast-iron as the White House claims. Richard Socarides, a former senior aide to President Clinton, describes the policy as a loose presumption that if properly handled will give way to White House policy directives. Socarides argues that Obama has it backwards, particularly with respect to the Justice Department's approach to laws governing social issues like gay marriage. When the president opposes a law like the DoMA, Socarides claims the Justice Department should be carrying his flag, not Congress's.

    My own research came up short of a governing statute or hard-and-fast rule. The closest I came to an authoritative source in the popular press is a 2005 analysis by former DOJ attorney and Georgetown law professor Marty Lederman. Lederman's contribution is more organizational than substantive; he maps historical exceptions to the Justice Department's "general policy" of defending the constitutionality of federal statutes and then groups them. Lederman identifies three categories of exceptions. First, the Justice Department will not defend a law if one or more intervening Supreme Court rulings rule out a plausible legal defense. This strikes me as obvious: The Justice Department has no business writing briefs in support of a law the Supreme Court has authoritatively deemed unconstitutional, but this is his list, not mine. Second, the Justice Department may balk at defending a law if it believes the law infringes on the proper authority of the executive branch. This is less obvious but hardly surprising when one considers the Justice Department's interests in a powerful executive branch. It's also the most commonly invoked exception, although it has yet to surface in the Obama Justice Department. Third, the Justice Department won't defend statutes that the president has publicly declared unconstitutional.

    With respect to the DoMA, this third exception invites the question: Why doesn't Obama come out and call the law unconstitutional? As I see it, there are only two possible answers. The first and less plausible answer is that Obama sincerely believes the law is constitutional. I say less plausible because the president tipped his hand by calling for the DoMA's reversal. To be sure, one can find fault with a law without questioning its constitutionality, but Obama has made a point of elevating his rhetoric when addressing the DoMA, and has publicly criticized the law as discriminatory.

    The second possibility is that Obama won't declare the law unconstitutional because the fallout would be messy. Not only would he create new enemies in Congress, but he would risk a small-scale turf war within the executive branch by forcing the Justice Department's hand. If that's the real hold-up, the White House has brought its argument full circle: The Justice Department won't yield unless the President declares the law unconstitutional, but the president won't declare the law unconstitutional because it would require the Justice Department to yield. It's an unfortunate, if dizzying, line of reasoning, but perhaps one we should come to expect.

    -

    Sam Singer is the Beachwood's legal correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

    -

    Previously by Sam Singer:
    * Is TARP legal? Court to decide on laugh test.

    * Taking Government Out Of The Marriage Business. Separating church and state.

    * Chicago's Disorderly Conduct. Dissent allowed even in Daleyland

    * Why Google Will Win. Newspapers are on the wrong side of the digital revolution.

    * Is Blago A Flight Risk? We asked; a judge said yes.

    * Obama's Torture Test. Politically calculating.

    * Replacing Souter. Signs point to Kagan.

    * Going to Pot. The states vs. the feds.

    * The Sotomayor Show. A guide for viewers.

    * Chicago's Still Valid Gun Ban. Chicago vs. D.C.

    * The Gay Rights Gamble. What happened in California may no longer stay there.

    * Legal Fiction. When judges go noir.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:38 AM | Permalink

    July 7, 2009

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    A loyal Beachwood reader writes:

    "This has to be the most craven bit of writing I've seen from an
    academic in a long time:

    It would be nice if political coercion had no influence on admissions decisions and that only the merit of each individual candidate mattered. It would be nice, too, however, if all the factors (like geographic distribution of a class), or the accidental whims of fate that arbitrarily direct the attention of admission officials as they read files, also had no influence, because each of these too is unconnected to the merit of individual applicants. A rational and moral admissions policy is one that minimizes the influence of any of these merit-unrelated factors, without hoping to eliminate such influences entirely. When the numbers of cases so influenced by these merit-unrelated factors is small, the dereliction (if any) is itself small potatoes.

    "It's from the letter the U of I law profs wrote to the Trib.

    "I read this as the institutionalization of how outrage is muted. Everybody does it. It's only a few seats. No big deal. It would be nice if it were different, but that's not how the world works. In that paragraph, I'm paritcularly struck by how they shift, in the final two words, from a poly-syllabic ivory tower discourse to the homey-folksy 'small potatoes' as if acknowledging that their academic language can't contain the kind of BS they're putting over.

    "This is how small things become big things. One of the most telling bits from this investigation was the e-mail from the lobbyist, berating the admissions office for telling a student they weren't getting in before the lobbyist could notify the state rep. As if the state rep has a right to know the student's admissions status!!!! And how did that get started? Everybody does it, it's only a few seats, no big deal. And then in a few years the U of I is just like Annapolis - gotta be sponsored by a legislator to get in, power gravitates from the professional staff to the public office holder.

    "To hell with these guys. Seriously."

    Amen.

    *

    Illinois Clout Lout Grilled.

    *

    Does it happen everywhere?

    "Herman said he'd never encountered a similar system for dealing with clouted applicants at other universities where he worked."

    *

    Does it happen everywhere?

    No, according to admissions review commission member Doris Lowry, appearing on Good Day Chicago this morning. Lowry cited the University of Wisconsin as just one example where outside influences are not allowed on the admissions process.

    *

    Does it happen everywhere?

    "We have between us taught at many different universities in the United States," says a letter signed by 16 U of I law school professors sent to the Tribune. "The story the Tribune has 'discovered' about the University of Illinois could be written about every one of them."

    Name those schools!

    *

    Funny, though, this story can no longer be written about the University of Illinois law school. New dean Bruce Smith has disavowed clout lists and admissions-peddling.

    *

    By the way, prospective U of I law students can check their application status through the school's website; no legislators or lobbyists needed.

    Man in the Mirror
    He didn't even write it. In Song of the Moment.

    I Am A Security Guard
    For a large, publicly held retail chain. In Life At Work.

    The Cubs Make Their Move
    It's right there for them. In SportsTuesday.

    Homeless Still Here
    Despite Daley's plan.

    Ditka Backs Quinn
    Calls him "good people."

    Righteous Vodka
    Get hammered, organically.

    It Takes A Millennium
    "A new contractor has been hired to finish the construction of the complex Zaha Hadid-designed pavilion in Millennium Park, and the opening of the already-delayed pavilion has been pushed back another two weeks to Aug. 1," the Tribune reports.

    Here we go!

    Inspector Gadget
    You used to just call the leak desk to get city parts for side jobs.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Discover Wisconsin!


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:39 AM | Permalink

    I Am A Security Guard

    My lowly status as a security guard finally became very clear on a recent Tuesday night. A cleaning crew had starting waxing my store's floor. That did not deter a customer from requesting a lighter. The man wore a black jacket and black pants. His right eye sported a red shade. The other had a bluish tint. His breath reeked of hard liquor.

    I told him no one could not get to the lighters because of the wax job. He left, but returned 15 minutes later. I repeated my earlier message. He walked out of the store and called the cops on me. Three squad cars rolled up. I explained the situation to an officer, who simply nodded and left.

    The idea that a bum could call the cops on me made two managers laugh at my expense.

    Such is my life in the current economic downturn. While completing college years ago, I wrote a short story about a hapless security guard. One liberal arts degree and a layoff later, I am a hapless security guard. Or what my father once derisively called a "door shaker."

    For slightly better than minimum wage, I stand at my post and get my kicks by observing human frailty. Some customers sneeze without covering their mouths. Folks shoehorn into jeans and flash butt crack. One regular with a walker picks his nose while waiting for a ride. A fair number of men take forever sniffing deodorant. Smokers gripe about presenting identification for cigarettes.

    *

    Company policy dictates that guards can't carry weapons or put their hands on the customers. I regretted those rules when a man in a blue sweatshirt and jeans walked up to me recently. He reached into a black plastic bag and said, "Excuse me." My eyes focused on the bag. But he did not pull out a weapon. Instead, he held three porn DVDs. I told him he couldn't peddle in the store. He asked for a cigarette. I told him to leave. He walked out into the rain.

    At least he left quietly. Thieves offer more resistance. The head guard told me that a man had cracked open a can of compressed air and snuck a whiff. I walked near the guy and saw his bloodshot eyes and the can in his cart. The can had disappeared by the time the cart reached the cashier. I told the head guard, who made the man pay for the merchandise. Of course, the man argued before coughing up the money.

    One manager showed me a tape of a man stealing nose spray. Another manager and a guard tackled him. But the perp, a short man with a big chest, nearly broke away. It took four cops to drag him away.

    Two heavyset women made a habit of showing up late at night. The head guard reviewed the tape and found they were stealing makeup. The manager told me to do something about them. The next time the women showed up, I told them they were banned from the store. One argued with me, claiming I had stalked her, and asked for the manager. The manager arrived and said they were banned from the store for stealing. The pair left and stood outside the store. The same woman yelled at me, making fun of my "fake-ass badge."

    Her boyfriend showed up later that night. The manager told him the story. The women haven't been back.

    I've managed to avoid physical confrontations, but my luck nearly ran out on a recent Saturday night. Around 1:30 in the morning, a man in a dirty T-shirt and jeans walked to a cash register. He asked the cashier for a pack of Marlboros. She handed it to him. He tried to run out the door without paying. The cashier screamed. I blocked his way and yelled "Don't try me. Don't try me."

    He put down the cigarettes and put up his hands. I forgot about the company's rule and took a step toward him. But something flashed in the corner of my eye. It was the manager. He blindsided the thief like Brian Urlacher in his prime. The two fell to the ground. The manager pinned the thief's hands behind his back. I sat on his legs and caught the smell of feces. As we waited for the cops, the perp kept yelling, "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck." My sentiments exactly.

    -

    A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:26 AM | Permalink

    Song of the Moment: Man in the Mirror

    By Steve Rhodes

    While "Billie Jean" is probably Michael Jackson's landmark song, and Thriller his landmark record, "Man in the Mirror" has an intimate, autobiographical yet universal quality about it that marks as an anthem of sorts and an appeal of the sort Jackson rarely made; let's just say few of his songs had a "message." And while the song annoys quite a few people I know, it's always secretly been a favorite of mine. While the dance-funk-soul of Off The Wall was probably Jackson at his Michael Jackson-y best, this song, too, I think represents something about him. I was surprised, however, to learn that, like many of his songs, he didn't write it.

    Released: 1987

    Album: Bad

    Length: 5:18 (album), 5:03 (single)

    Words & Music: Siedah Garrett, Glen Ballard

    Charts: No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks.

    Wikipedia: Garrett had the idea for the song when she was driving to the recording session for "I Just Can't Stop Loving You." On her way, she saw a face in the mirror of her car, and this gave her the idea to write a song titled 'Man In The Mirror' as an addition to Jackson's upcoming album.

    Songfacts: This song is about making a change and realizing that it has to start with you. (thanks, Shayna - Pensacola, FL)

    Lyrics:

    Ooh ooh ooh aah
    Gotta make a change
    For once in my life
    It's gonna feel real good
    Gonna make a difference
    Gonna make it right

    As I turned up the collar on
    A favorite winter coat
    This wind is blowin' my mind
    I see the kids in the street
    With not enough to eat
    Who am I to be blind
    Pretending not to see their needs

    A summer's disregard
    A broken bottle top
    And a one man's soul
    They follow each other
    On the wind ya' know
    'Cause they got nowhere to go
    That's why I want you to know

    I'm starting with the man in the mirror
    I'm asking him to change his ways
    And no message could have been any clearer
    If you wanna make the world a better place
    Take a look at yourself and then make a change, yey
    Na na na, na na na, na na na na oh ho

    I've been a victim of
    A selfish kinda love
    It's time that I realize
    There are some with no home
    Not a nickel to loan
    Could it be really pretending that they're not alone

    A willow deeply scarred
    Somebody's broken heart
    And a washed out dream
    (Washed out dream)
    They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
    'Cause they got no place to be
    That's why I'm starting with me

    I'm starting with the man in the mirror
    I'm asking him to change his ways
    And no message could have been any clearer
    If you wanna make the world a better place
    Take a look at yourself and then make a change

    I'm starting with the man in the mirror
    I'm asking him to change his ways
    And no message could have been any clearer
    If you wanna make the world a better place
    Take a look at yourself and then make that change

    I'm starting with the man in the mirror
    (Man in the mirror, oh yeah)
    I'm asking him to change his ways, yeah
    (Change)
    No message could have been any clearer
    If you wanna make the world a better place
    Take a look at yourself and then make the change
    You gotta get it right, while you got the time
    'Cause when you close your heart
    (You can't close your, your mind)
    Then you close your mind

    (That man, that man, that man)
    (That man, that man, that man)
    (With the man in the mirror, oh yeah)
    (That man you know, that man you know)
    (That man you know, that man you know)
    I'm asking him to change his ways
    (Change)
    No message could have been any clearer
    If you wanna make the world a better place
    Take a look at yourself then make that change

    (Na na na, na na na, na na na na)
    Ooh
    Oh yeah
    Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
    (Na na na, na na na, na na na na)

    Oh no
    Oh no, I'm gonna make a change
    It's gonna feel real good
    Sure mon
    (Change)
    Just lift yourself
    You know, you got to stop it yourself
    (Yeah)
    Oh
    Make that change
    (I gotta make that change today, oh)
    (Man in the mirror)
    You got to, you got to not let yourself, brother oh
    Yeah
    You know that
    (Make that change)
    (I gotta make that make me then make)
    You got, you got to move
    Sure mon, sure mon
    You got to
    (Stand up, stand up, stand up)
    Make that change
    Stand up and lift yourself, now
    (Man in the mirror)
    Make that change
    (Gonna make that change, sure mon)
    (Man in the mirror)
    You know it, you know it, you know it, you know
    (Change)
    Make that change

    The Original Video:

    -

    Live Montage

    -


    Previously in Song of the Moment:
    * Iron Man
    * The Story of Bo Diddley
    * Teach Your Children
    * Dream Vacation
    * When The Levee Breaks
    * I Kissed A Girl
    * Theme From Shaft
    * Rocky Mountain High
    * North to Alaska
    * Barracuda
    * Rainy Days and Mondays
    * Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
    * Baby, It's Cold Outside

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:58 AM | Permalink

    SportsTuesday

    By Jim Coffman

    The Cubs have gathered themselves, haven't they? And now they are surging forward. Of course you can't be sure this will last, but the starting pitching, the key in baseball every time, has settled into a groove of late and it therefore isn't even a little surprising the North Siders are on a roll. It helps that they are in the midst of a long homestand, no doubt. But still . . . this is a team that could very well run away and hide atop the Central Division in the second half of the season. And if they do pull that off, I hope folks will remember how grim it was in June, when the team was struggling desperately to stay at .500 and everyone was just hoping they wouldn't fade away. Now the division is clearly up for grabs. The Astros for goodness sakes, who struggled mightily out of the gate, have rallied back into contention.

    Even the Pirates haven't given up hope. They were only six games back at some point in the last week when I studied the standings. OK, I take that back. The Pirates have no chance whatsoever. But everyone else does in the Central unless the Cubs win 20 of 22 and separate themselves. And it is right there for them. Their starting pitching, with fifth starter Randy Wells notching his fourth victory in a row Monday evening (no one has done that for the Cubs since . . . Kerry Wood), is considerably better than anyone else's in the National League, except perhaps the Dodgers. Brewer left fielder extraordinaire Ryan Braun said as much in the aftermath of the Cubs' impressive steamrolling of Milwaukee over the weekend. Braun noted that as long as the Cubs' starting pitchers were able to keep their heads while those about them were losing theirs (Brewer starters fell behind early in three of four games with the Cubs Thursday to Sunday), the Cubs would have the overall edge in the NL Central.

    Of course we're hoping the Cubs will do better than a few games-and-out in the playoffs should they happen to find a way to win the division for a third consecutive year (a totally unprecedented achievement in these parts) - or the wild card. But of late we've been reminded again of just how hard it is to win the division. So let's enjoy a second half push toward that goal, a push that has a great chance to be successful. We should be oh so lucky enough to have a third straight shot at the NL playoffs. That's all we need worry about now.

    *

    Does the Cubs' huge payroll (what is it, about $130 million?) diminish what they are doing? Have the Cubs simply bought success? No. And even if they have, so what? The Cardinals make all sorts of money now that the good taxpayers of Missouri have by and large built them a new ballpark filled with the latest revenue streams. But their owners haven't increased payroll at all. In fact, I think it went down between last year and this year. So they just pocket the cash and hope that the miracle workers, manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, will continue to conjure up their magic. It was going well for a while and they do have the best hitter in the game in Albert Pujols (although there is actually some noise out there that the Cardinals might not re-sign him - are you kidding me Redbirds? - hey Cardinal fans, if they don't re-sign Pujols while claiming the market does not allow it, you are the biggest sucker in the world if you ever buy a ticket again. The games look good on TV - if you don't have Hi-Def, go to a bar, toss back a few cheap Buds and celebrate the fact that they ain't gettin' any more of your money).

    Management has been willing to spend, spend. spend ever since 2003, especially on keeping guys who have already made their mark in Cubbie Blue (Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano lead the hit parade) and good for them for doing it. We'll see if the Cardinals can somehow hold it together this year despite inferior talent, but it says here they won't. The Astros have come on lately and the Brewers are tough again, but neither of those teams, nor the Cardinals, have nearly as much talent as the Cubs.

    And there were reports yesterday that Tom Ricketts had finalized his purchase of the Cubs from the Tribune Co. We already know a lot about Ricketts (longtime Cub fan - met his wife in the bleachers, yada, yada, yada) and we will learn more in the coming months. But one thing we know for sure is there is no way in the universe he will slash payroll and allow the team to fall out of contention. The good times will continue to roll for Cubs fans as well as for the drunken good timers who, by the 10s of thousands, continue to masquerade as Cubs fans.

    *

    A quick shout-out to Andy Roddick after he did America proud at Wimbledon; yes, I root for Americans in international competitions without thinking about it - there are a variety of reason to watch sports . . . the talent on display, the special-ness of the venue, the excitement of the competition itself - but after about a half hour, if you don't have a horse in the race, it is time to adjourn to the bar.
    .
    Roddick was our horse in this year's men's final and he absolutely did not disappoint. After losing 16-14 in an unbelievably long fifth set, Roddick was still stuck with only one major win, the 2003 U.S. Open. But he fought valiantly against the super Swiss-man, Roger Federer, who must now be dubbed, without question, the greatest tennis player ever by the way. And his efforts were very much appreciated by this sports fan.

    -

    SportsMonday appears in this space every week, sometimes on a Tuesday. Then we call it SportsTuesday. Jim Coffman, one of the city's finest sporting minds, is your impresario. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:35 AM | Permalink

    July 6, 2009

    The [Monday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    What does access get traditional sportswriters?

    Like most other beats, not much.

    Reporting isn't about the opportunity to write down what people say. Anyone can do that.

    It's not hard to move with the pack in a locker room and record the content-free mumblings of professional athletes. I know, I've done it.

    And whatever insights access does deliver to sportswriters rarely makes its way to the public, so what's the point?

    Reporting is so much more, and good reporters turn the equation around and are sought out by those with valuable information to impart. Access isn't bad, but it's not the point - and a good reporter ultimately doesn't need it to do his or her job in the case it is blocked. So be it.

    Entire profiles can be constructed by "writing around" your subject. Friends, enemies, public records, news clips, the various means at a reporter's disposal are there to be had. Subjects don't determine a news organization's agenda. A lack of access is just another part of the story; what are they trying to hide?

    That's not to say there aren't good questions to be asked of, say, professional athletes.

    But I can't say that bloggers do a worse job covering sports teams on a daily basis than beat reporters; often they do a better job because of their fanaticism about stats or (for the good ones) their wit or just because they know how to watch a game.

    What professionally trained reporters can do is report - and that's what sportswriters tend to do least. The familiar cycle of game stories, predictable features, and recycling team press releases grew outdated long ago. These days we should expect more imagination and creativity on one end of the scale, and more down-and-dirty serious digging on the other.

    "The sixth sidebar from a Bears' post-game locker room should not be mistaken for enterprise journalism," former Tribune veteran Mike Conklin writes today in his first contribution to the Beachwood. "The rush to get us the latest on Jay Cutler's character, Alfonso Soriano's place in the batting lineup, or Ozzie Guillen's most recent, taped tirade doesn't involve real legwork.

    "You can almost always bet 'informed sources' is merely someone from the club's PR office or, worse, another reporter."

    Uncle Lou
    Was it his stolen stash of beer that pushed him over the edge?

    Programming Notes
    * SportsMonday will appear on Tuesday this week.

    * The White Sox Report will appear whenever it arrives. EDITOR'S NOTE: My bad, I forgot that Andrew Reilly is out of the country this week. The White Sox Report will return next week.

    * A bunch of new stuff that I didn't have time to prepare over the holiday weekend will begin appearing tomorrow.

    On A Boender
    Since 1997, indicted developer Calvin Boender found it in his interest, for some reason, to donate $40,500 to the political fund of state supreme court justice Anne Burke.

    Tapping Trustees
    What was Jim Edgar thinking?

    Marion Mope
    The crew on Good Day Chicago this morning interviewed Marion Mayor Robert Butler by phone about the possibility that Gitmo detainees may be transferred to the prison there.

    Aren't you afraid they'll be roaming the streets of Marion once released? they asked.

    "We don't have any camels or sand," Butler said, so they probably wouldn't want to stick around.

    Co-anchor Jan Jeffcoat's jaw dropped, rendering her unable to muster a response, and I'm not sure I blame her, seeing as how I'm still rolling that one around in my head.

    *

    UPDATE 12:50 P.M.: Video of the Butler interview is now up.

    *

    I continue to be impressed by GDC, by the way. Before getting Butler on the phone, Danny Davis and Howard Brookins each appeared on set to answer questions about, respectively, a run for Cook County board president and continued efforts at landing a Wal-Mart in the city.

    Shots Fired
    "[T]he blogosphere is reporting a lot more violence - including potentially another shooting - than can be found in the city's official version of events," Mike Doyle writes at Chicagosphere.

    "The Sun-Times went so far as to call this year's festivities 'peaceful' - even while reporting on the arrest of a gang member attempting to carry a loaded shotgun into the Taste of Chicago.

    "To its credit, the Tribune went farther, reporting on that incident and several more, including pre-fireworks arrests in the area of Buckingham Fountain after - in the words of a Chicago police spokesperson - 'some sort of disturbance,' and a 30-person gang melee at Michigan and Congress after the show."

    Sweet Tweets
    Two University of Chicago freshmen land a tweet book deal.

    Clout Lout
    Illini chancellor's day of reckoning?

    Funeral For A Fund
    Dan Hynes gets his own Bright Start.

    Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
    I meant to post this over the weekend. Pretty damn good.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Playing reveille.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:03 AM | Permalink

    Webio Warnings Wasted

    By Mike Conklin

    As Chicago sports fans get fed their steady diet of the Big 5, otherwise known as the Bears, Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks, the dustup surrounding David J. Hernandez and the alleged Ponzi scheme surrounding Chicagosportswebio.com proves once again how journalism is seldom practiced in sports.

    The most basic technique for a reporter - a check of newspaper archives - would have shown to Mike North, Dan Jiggets, Chet Coppock & The Gang that yes, indeedy, Mr. Hernandez and his business plan was too good to be true.

    For starters, there were two juicy stories for everyone to see in the Tribune's easily-accessible files to set off alarm bells.

    On Aug. 22, 1997, this headline appeared over a story with his name: "Ex-Bank Executive Charged with Stealing from Clients."

    In the article, the reporter told how Hernandez was arrested for stealing $500,000 from three clients at Columbia National Bank in Chicago. Just for good measure, he was alleged to have spent some of the money on sports tickets.

    On Oct. 22, 1998, this headline appeared: "Ex-Banker Gets Prison in $720, Fraud Case - Elderly Victims' Cash Spent on Sports Events." If this headline didn't set off warning bells, then the 20-paragraph story that followed about him should have deafened everyone.

    Did anyone check? Is there any real journalism technique practiced in the sports media anymore, for personal use if nothing else?

    In the Chicagosportswebio.com case, it's probably not too surprising. It involved mostly personnel from talk radio and these guys, with a few exceptions, have never been outside a stadium, practice field, or their own office to work a story.

    Part of the problem has to be subject overkill, which would diminish anyone's skills. The sixth sidebar from a Bears' post-game locker room should not be mistaken for enterprise journalism. The rush to get us the latest on Jay Cutler's character, Alfonso Soriano's place in the batting lineup, or Ozzie Guillen's most recent, taped tirade doesn't involve real legwork.

    You can almost always bet "informed sources" is merely someone from the club's PR office or, worse, another reporter.

    As local sports fans continue to get fed very little outside the Big 5, the story involving Mr. Hernandez reminds us how little journalism takes place in sports - not even a simple check of the archives.

    Sadly, there's no shortage of real material out there. Here is a quick, unscientific list of ideas, while not part of the Big 5, to consider digging up with facts:

    * Steroid use among high school athletes, including girls. Yep, it's here and just waiting for some real reporting;

    * The abominable conditions that exist for coaches and athletes in some Chicago Public League high schools;

    * And how about a little elbow grease on gambling in college sports? Check out that widening University of Toledo story, which, according to ESPN.com, may have involved at least one basketball game with Northern Illinois University (if you need a local angle to justify the effort with an editor).

    Some of this means real sleuthing. News judgment will have to be used, starting with, ahem, checks of newspaper files. For that, there also is this marvelous research engine called LexisNexis and, of course, you could always file a FOIA Freedom of Information Act request to dig into the hard-to-get, but public, documents.

    Granted, it won't be as much fun as sitting in the press boxes of our city's sports teams, rubbing elbows with coaches and athletes in the locker room, and interviewing each other.

    But, if nothing else, some real reporting might save you from getting burned the next time something sounds, as one Webio refugee put it, too good to be true.

    At the same time, there is this: You'd be better serving your audiences.

    -

    Mike Conklin, who spent 35 years at the Tribune, teaches journalism at DePaul University. Comments are welcome.

    -

    1. From Whet Moser:

    Loved Mike Conklin's piece and glad to see he's writing for the Beachwood. One note:

    "The abominable conditions that exist for coaches and athletes in some Chicago Public League high schools."

    One piece jumps to mind: Ben Joravsky on the hurdlers at Lane Tech.

    It's just one piece, though; would love to see more like it, from the Reader or anyone else.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:21 AM | Permalink

    July 5, 2009

    The Cub Factor

    By Marty Gangler

    It's about time Uncle Lou finally decided to manage this team again instead of slipping into early retirement right before our eyes. But what finally pushed him over the edge? We've got some ideas.

    * He took a look at his tanking 401(k) and realized he really needs that Manager of the Year bonus money to buy his dream boat and stock it with Falstaff.

    * His old lady gave him what-for after he failed to phone home right away upon arriving in Pittsburgh last week, so he took it out on Alfonso Soriano.

    * The clubhouse guy was really giving it to Lou after having to re-size Lou's jersey once again for his ever expanding gut, so he took it out on Alfonso Soriano.

    * He just awoke from a bad dream in which his starting outfield was Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Milton Bradley.

    * The University of Illinois called and demanded that Sam Fuld be admitted to the lineup.

    * First-base coach Matt Sinatro drank all the beer out of Lou's secret clubhouse cooler.

    * Seeing all those red hats over the weekend triggered a bad childhood memory, so he took it out on Alfonso Soriano.

    * He looked up the words "baseball" and "manager" in the dictionary and found that the definition was different than "babysitter."

    -

    Week in Review: The Cubs took two of three from the Pirates and three of four from the Brewers to go 5-2 for the week. Yup, they are not going to fall out of this division, so welcome to the second half, Cub fans. Where you'll still have to pay attention.

    Week in Preview: The Braves come to town for three, followed by a four-game tilt with the Cardinals at Wrigley over the weekend. The men in blue will also welcome back Aramis Ramirez and Reed Johnson from minor-league rehabs, which means a couple of Cubs will have to be be sent down or put on the DL with newly discovered injuries. Maybe Soriano has been playing with a pulled muscle . . . and Milton Bradley has been playing with a pulled head.

    The Second Basemen Report: Mike Fontenot wrestled the starting job back from Andy White (Andres Blanco) this week with five starts. The real news, though, was that the Cubs signed Jeff Baker and he can play second base. And to think we thought this report might not be pertinent this season . . .

    In former second basemen news, Mark DeRosa is back in the division with the Cardinals but is hurt. But we might see him this weekend when he'll come over to your BBQ and bring some ice. Because he's just that great a guy. Ronnie Cedeno will not be at your BBQ but they are both missed.

    The Zam Bomb: Big Z has worn out his welcome, and that makes him angry.
    zam_gettingAngry.jpg

    -

    Lost in Translation: Theodorio Lilly-san is Japanese for Major League baseball requires every team have at least one All-Star.

    Endorsement No-Brainer: Aramis Ramirez for cookie-dough. Because you don't have to wait for things to be done.

    Milton Bradley Game of the Week: Cosmic Catch. Because maybe in outer space this guy can catch something.

    Sweet and Sour Lou: 53% sweet, 47% sour. Lou is up 23 points on the Sweet-O-Meter due to winning baseball and being himself. And just like your real crazy drunk uncle, Lou was trying a new safer strategy at the track but he wasn't getting results, so he went back to picking horses with his gut.

    Don't Hassle The Hoff: Don't look now but the Hoff is batting just .245, and that's a hassle.

    Over/Under: Number of games Soriano will not bat leadoff until Lou loses his nerve: +/- 7.

    Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that rushing players back from injuries leads to worse injuries.

    The Cub Factor: Unlike Soriano, you can catch 'em all!

    The White Sox Report: Now with a weekly Cubs Snub.

    Fantasy Fix: Who ruled June?

    Mount Lou: Lou moves to Green as the eruption last week really cleaned out his lava pipes, if you know what I mean. But expect Mount Lou to become more volatile in the weeks to come as he is back in his natural rhythms.

    mtlou_green.gif

    -

    Contact The Cub Factor!

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:46 PM | Permalink

    July 4, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Natasha Julius

    Before you enjoy all the fireworks, we've prepared the annual Beachwood Reporter Weekend Desk Liberty Tracker. It's time to see where we're free, how we're free and what we're gonna do about it.

    • It's not entirely free yet, but Talk remains really, really cheap.
    • Liberties were taken this week. Of course, that's nothing new. Liberties will always be taken.
    • You're still free to vote. Provided, of course, you don't expect that your vote will be counted, or that the person you elect will bother to serve out their term.
    • And finally, some people still proudly remain completely free of taste.


    Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:08 AM | Permalink

    July 3, 2009

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    * The [Fourth of July] Papers 2008: Miss Manners, Kids in America, Well-Regulated Militia, The Redacted Banner.

    * The [Fourth of July] Papers 2007: Lead us away from here.

    * A loyal Beachwood reader and Wisconsin native passes this on in response to my item yesterday expressing skepticism about generous tax incentives extended to Hollywood by various states, including Illinois:

    "From mid-March until June 30 of last year, Public Enemies filmed in Madison, Manitowish Waters, Oshkosh, Columbus, Milwaukee, Darlington, Beaver Dam, Eureka, Oregon and around Mirror Lake in Wisconsin as well as in Indiana, Illinois and Los Angeles," the Rhinelander Daily News reports.

    "According to records made available to the Associated Press, the film brought in $5 million in economic activity but cost the state $4.6 million in tax credits to Public Enemies Productions LLC, a subsidiary of Universal Studios.

    "Under the tax credit law, the filmmakers were allowed to submit expenses and salaries that weren't paid in Wisconsin. Those included Director Michael Mann's $1.8 million salary, for which the film company received a 25 percent credit.

    "The state's tax credits even covered about $100,000 of the cost of Depp's entourage of chauffeurs, hair stylists and assistants, the Department of Commerce told the AP."

    * "Consultant Tom Lanctot of William Blair & Co. told aldermen that Hoffman's staff did not completely account for the financial risks of keeping the meters in public hands and underestimated the cost to run the system, noting the $50 million expense of replacing meters with new 'pay and display' machines," the Tribune reports.

    Well, what if you didn't replace the old meters with pay-and-display machines?

    And if the new pay-and-display machines don't pay for themselves and then some, why install them to begin with?

    "[Lanctot's] explanation appeared to placate at least some council members. 'The methodology here may not have been the most responsible,' Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), one of 40 who voted for the lease, said of Hoffman's report."

    As opposed to the methodology of the mayor's office and Parking Meters LLC? Please.

    "Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), one of five who opposed the privatization of the meters, said other experts have come to the same conclusion as Hoffman. Waguespack suggested the city should have raised parking rates but kept the revenue 'instead of essentially giving it away'."

    * From Clout City:

    While Hoffman and his staff had performed an analysis that used information "from the Internet," Lanctot said, William Blair had relied on "widely accepted valuation methods" that more accurately assessed the long-term worth of the meter system. He added, just in case everyone had missed the point before: "There is a big difference between academic theory and the marketplace."

    Alderman Scott Waguespack asked if William Blair had examined the specific terms of similar lease deals overseas.

    No, said Lanctot. "We had limited access to them."

    "Was it available on the Internet, maybe?" Waguespack said.

    It appears from this account that the whole idea was Lanctot's to begin with.

    * Back to the Trib: "Widespread technological problems plagued the turnover of the meters to the private firm, led by New York-based Morgan Stanley. Robert Sperling, a lawyer with the politically connected firm of Winston and Strawn, spoke on behalf of the company at the meeting.

    "Sperling apologized for the problems but added that improvements have been made: 'We are doing an excellent job, and the citizens are getting a fine-run system'."

    Are these people even human?

    * Alexi Aide's Clout Kid. The tale of a South Side chocolate heiress, a Greek Orthodox priest, and a campaign adviser the state treasurer's office tried to pretend it barely knew.

    * "That's bullcrap, my friend."

    * July Jackpot. In Bloodshot Briefing.

    * America's Pitchman. To the very end.

    * Kurdistan vs. Chicago. In Cab #713.

    * TrackNotes will return next week.

    * The Five Dumbest Ideas of the Week has been discontinued.

    * Pols Take The Fourth. Our best guess as to how they'll spend the holiday.

    * Revenge of the ATM fees. You could be a winner.

    The Fog Of Montrose Beach

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Sparkling.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:43 AM | Permalink

    Tribute: America's Pitchman

    To the very end.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:23 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: July Jackpot

    By Matt Harness

    A sampling of Bloodshot bands performing in and around Chicago in July.

    *

    Artist: Jon Langford
    Date: July 3
    Venue: Hideout
    Sample:

    *

    Artist: Paul Burch, Jon Langford
    Date: July 11
    Venue: Space in Evanston
    Sample:

    *

    Artist: Sally Timms
    Date: July 12
    Venue: Hideout
    Sample:

    *

    Artist: Bobby Bare, Jr.
    Date: July 13
    Venue: Pritzker Pavilion (A Tribute to Shel Silverstein)
    Sample:

    *

    Artist: Waco Brothers
    Date: July 16
    Venue: James Park in Evanston (Part of the Starlight Concert Series)
    Sample:

    *

    Artist: Robbie Fulks
    Date: July 17
    Venue: Martyr's
    Sample:

    *

    Artist: Scott H Biram
    Date: July 26
    Venue: Empty Bottle
    Sample:

    -

    Bloodshot Briefing appears in this space every Friday. Matt welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:21 AM | Permalink

    Cab #713

    Date: 6/13/09
    From: Wicker Park
    To: South Loop

    The Cab: Has one of those credit card Verifone systems. Like a little TV screen. Hey, there's an idea! Put quarters in the slot . . . watch a little TV. Or cab porn. Tax that, Daley!

    But does it really only take MasterCard? I mean, I don't expect it to take Discover, but . . .

    The Driver: Late in the ride when I learned this was his first day on the job, I became embarrassingly excited. I was his second customer ever.

    "How did the first one go?"

    "It was trouble."

    I didn't quite follow the story, but a suburb was involved.

    The Driving: Starts out burning rubber on a wet street. That was way before I learned this was his first day. Looking back, I can attribute it to the nerves of a rookie.

    Looking back, I can attribute a lot of things to his nerves as a rookie. Like asking me if it was okay if he talked into his arm like a Secret Service agent. Apparently that's where his phone thingy was.

    I also had to offer a route suggestion because I could tell he was hesitant. So he starts going down the entrance ramp to the Kennedy from Milwaukee Avenue and I see that the highway was more crowded than I anticipated it would be on a Saturday morning.

    "I'm sorry," I said, even though there really was no better alternate route. His rookie nerves were catching.

    Upon my apology, he stopped halfway down the entrance ramp in confusion. Dude, you can't turn back!

    The payoff came at the end. He mentioned he actually liked Chicago's weather. I asked him where he was from. Kurdistan, he said. Where the weather is worse, he reiterated. But where the roads are better, he added.

    Nicely played.

    Overall rating: 2 extended arms

    - Steve Rhodes

    There are more than 6,000 cabs in the city of Chicago. We intend to review every one of them.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:11 AM | Permalink

    July 2, 2009

    The [Thursday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    I'm not sure I would go so far as to say I was a Karl Malden "fan," but, well, sort of.

    His death, though, reminded me of a piece of dialogue between Malden and Michael Douglas from The Streets of San Francisco that an old college friend used to frequently repeat in machine-gun delivery:

    Cop's son can't be bad?

    That's not the point!

    Then what is?!

    Nice.

    Sky High
    The new see-through Skydeck ledge thingy at the Wesley Willis Tower is tres cool. But the media coverage has been a bit much. Just show a photo and be done with it.

    *

    Though I was interested to learn from, I'm pretty sure, Good Day Chicago that the ledge thingy is on a conveyor belt thingy that reels it in so the outside glass can be cleaned.

    *

    Why not make a see-through ledge that goes all the way around the building?

    *

    They should set up a Twitter feed from the ledge too. Maybe someone would pay to sponsor it. Just sayin'.

    Know Your Public Enemies
    "Capone got all the attention," John Kass writes today. "Ricca, a quiet fellow, never wanted to be a star. He let Capone get the applause and wisecrack with reporters. Ricca made the decisions and built modern organized crime in America. Hollywood has never made a movie about Paul Ricca. That should tell you something.

    "The Ricca mention by a stranger in a nice restaurant brings me back to Public Enemies, directed by Michael Mann.

    "Mann gets it. He was born in Chicago, and produced one of my favorite films, one that actually speaks truth about this city: Thief, starring James Caan. In that film, real Chicago cops played gangsters, and real gangsters played Chicago detectives. In any other town this might be seen as ironic. Not here."

    Movie Money
    I haven't had a chance yet to dig into reports about how much revenue the filming of Public Enemies brought to us locals, but I'm skeptical and not a fan of the generous tax incentives the state hands out to Hollywood to bask in its reflected glory.

    As I've written before, the trend in film incentives has been going the other way in states around the country that have found it doesn't pay.

    Now Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin has (sort of) joined the naysayers, slashing that state's incentives from $1.5 million to $500,000.

    Parts of Public Enemies were filmed in Madison, Columbus, and Oshkosh.

    "Columbus officials estimate the movie brought an additional $1.5 million to the community during filming alone," WISCTV.com reports.

    Columbus, Wisconsin, is a town of 4,500. If $1.5 mil was dropped there, it would be pretty visible.

    But again, I haven't had time to really take a hard look at that, and more importantly, the claims being made about the film's impact here.

    *

    FYI: "The Columbus Police Explorer Post #299 is selling Bucky Books for $35.00 which includes a local supplemental book. You may pay via cash, check or credit card at the Police Department from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Monday thru Friday)."

    Paint Feint
    "He booked a one-way flight from Chicago to Shanghai, stashing in his carry-on bag a computer thumb drive with 214 documents from the company he had just quit.

    "Before he could leave for the airport, the FBI raided his Arlington Heights apartment, seizing a half-dozen computers, a dozen external hard drives, 13 additional thumb drives and a pair of PlayStations capable of storing data.

    "If he didn't know it before the raid, David Yen Lee found out the hard way as the handcuffs went on: Paint is serious business."

    True story. No spoilers here, either; you'll have to read Greg Burns's column in the Trib today to find out what happened.

    Fess Up
    "Stella: Wow! I have never written to a journalist before, however, today, you took me with you when you wrote such a wonderful, and music-filled viewpoint using the song titles of the songs we all love. (What an ingenious idea . . . because he had many) and each time I read the title it was in the rhythm of that song. By the time I got done, I felt like I had just listened to His Greatest Hits Album."

    Okay, which one of you wrote that?

    Not A Coup
    According to Chicago dinosaur expert Sue.

    Please Stop
    Is it funny identifying a writer for any publication not aimed at children as the Cheeseburger Bureau Chief?

    No.

    Who Ruled June?
    Our very own Dan O'Shea has the answers in Fantasy Fix.

    It's Not All Good
    "Every time I hear 'Let's rock and roll on that pizza' or 'Let's pull the trigger on it,' a little piece of me dies," our very own Patty Hunter writes in her latest installment of At Your Service.

    Route Toot Hoot
    "Fortunately, beach volleyball totally skipped over this morning's infomercial wreckage straight into Me-TV's Route 66 (UHF 26.2), a show which - along with The Naked City (which follows Route 66 five mornings a week) and The Twilight Zone - was among the best-written and awesomely-filmed series that American TV ever conceived in its black-and-white landscape between 1958 and 1964," our very own Scott Buckner writes in What I Watched Last Night.

    "Forget the fact that the scripts for Route 66 and The Naked City seem these days to have been written by a crowd of beatniks set amok to explore the finer points of alcoholism, oppressed sexuality, being ignored or beaten half to death by your father, firearms, mental illness, rampant loneliness, misspent lives, hard luck, or just plain hard living. And forget that hardly any of the towns where Tod Stiles (Martin Adam-12 Milner), Buz Murdock (George Maharis) and Lincoln Case (Glenn Corbett) drifted into during the show's four-year run weren't anywhere near the actual Route 66.

    "The fact is, almost 50 years later, TV (or more precisely cable TV, since network TV still remains absolutely clueless) has yet to figure out the same thing Route 66 creator/writer Stirling Silliphant figured out: People really ain't that stupid if you just quit giving them shit to get stupid on."

    Chicago's Costly Clout Cadavers
    And the contract that's costing you.

    Don't Cry For Obama's Millionaires
    Hardly a sacrifice for Daleyites in the White House.

    Northwestern Grad Tweets Pot
    Best Medill alum ever?

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Get your kicks.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:05 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix: Awards of the Month

    By Dan O'Shea

    June may be remembered as the month when Albert Pujols ran away and hid with the National League MVP trophy. It may be no real surprise that Pujols has jumped out ahead, especially with Hanley Ramirez and David Wright just finding their power strokes, but barring serious injury, he has likely locked up the No. 1 player ranking in fantasy baseball for the foreseeable future. He hit 14 HRs and had 35 RBIs during June, and though his average of .320 was lower than what you can usually expect of him, it was good enough to earn him the Fantasy Fix MVP of June award.

    Our other monthly awards go out to:

    Cy Young of June: Tim Lincecum, SP. Coming into this month, he had been outshined by at least two of his rotation mates - Matt Cain had more wins and Randy Johnson crossed through the 300-win threshold. Now, the Freak is catching up. He was 4-1 during June with three complete games and two shutouts (We feel about pitching a shutout the same way we feel about stealing home - it should be worth extra fantasy points).

    Sleeper of the Month for June: Pablo Sandoval, C, 1B, 3B. We love his position eligibility, and he's really starting to fulfill his promise. He hit .394 in June, with 8 HRs and 20 RBIs. San Francisco has been hot, so he has been scoring runs. A .394 month might beg for owners to sell him high, but don't be surprised if he ends up within reach of the batting crown with perhaps more homers in the second half of the season than in the first.

    Rookie of the Month for June: Tommy Hanson, SP. The Atlanta rookie, almost hyped as much as Matt Wieters, if that's even possible, came through with a four-win month. He had a 2.48 ERA, and were he not handled with the kid gloves typically used for rookie arms, he might have had a shot at two shutouts.

    Next week, we'll name our Fantasy Fix All-Star Team.

    Finally, we know you are busy lining up your burgers and dogs from some July 4th grilling, so we'll take a very quick peek at the expert wire:

    * Roto Arcade sizes up the Carlos Beltran injury, the latest knock to the NY Mets, and to any fantasy owner whose draft was built around the idea that this was the Mets' year. There still may be more to this story, which is not great news for Beltran owners. You have to plan around having Beltran on the DL for now, and lock in a replacement who you just might need until the end of the season.

    * Fanhouse talks about Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann as a hot pick-up still available in many leagues. He is indeed the sort who will eat some innings while collecting a few strikeouts and minimizing walks, hits and earned runs. But the Nats bullpen will give him no help at all in the wins category.

    * RotoWorld has a news note that is a fantasy manager nightmare. Florida, whose primary closer, Matt Lindstrom, is injured, is going the closer-by-committee route, choosing different guys to close different games. Florida has been up and down this year, and might not be the best place to find a closer anyway, but if you had Lindstrom and just wanted to pick up his replacement as your fill-in option, well, good luck with that.

    -

    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears every Wednesday, except when it appears on Thursday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:42 AM | Permalink

    At Your Service: Behind the Bar

    Another week in pizza hell.

    Maybe it's not that bad, most of the time, but every time I hear "Let's rock and roll on that pizza" or "Let's pull the trigger on it," a little piece of me dies.

    Unfortunately, it is part of my job description to grin at you instead of cringe and walk away shaking my head. But inside, oh inside, it is a different story. I am probably cursing the people who gave you life.

    *

    I discovered this weekend why I don't normally drink at work. As wonderful as it is that my bartender training has (stealthily) included tasting the drinks I'm making, it is harder to keep my potty mouth under control. I think it's a give-and-take situation, though; my smiles and laughing are suddenly genuine. I am happy to see you and blabber about soccer or probability theory. I really do hope you are enjoying your pizza, because it sure as hell smells divine. I am also less likely to take offense at your terrible sense of humor. Just please don't laugh when I spill water on myself. Being contained by a space that is approximately two-by-twelve feet does not allow for many places to hide.

    It is a different type of person who chooses to sit at the bar rather than at a table. Aside from the solitary, lonely ones, you get people who truly want to talk. People are willing to reveal a lot about themselves when they're drinking. One man revealed his plan to get his girlfriend drunk so he could liberate her libido. An older gentleman would not stop staring at me until I asked if he wanted more beer. Instead of a simple yes or no, he responded with, "You know, you're a pretty lady." I took that as a yes and charged for him for another.

    I discovered how many alcoholics I work with. In my three bar shifts, I have had almost every server beg me to make them a drink. One asked me for three smoothies in one shift. I tell each jokingly they are not worth me losing my job. Well, I sound like I'm joking when I say it. Seriously, though. None of them are.

    I also discovered how fun it was to encourage elderly couples to drink, but potentially dangerous as well. A couple from Canada in their 60s sat at the bar towards the end of my bar shift. After three drinks each, they said they would came back in two hours to try the pizza. I was working on the patio that night, so I told them to say hi.

    Three hours later, I saw the husband sitting outside on the bench. I went up to him and asked if they already ate, thinking he would talk my ear off in an accent so thick I could barely understand him; basically a repeat of our earlier conversation at the bar. Instead, he looked at me and said, "I lost my wife."

    He had been waiting for an hour outside of the restaurant, he said, and was worried because of the drinking they had done. She was supposed to be shopping across the street, but when he went inside the store to ask for help finding his wife they refused to assist. He had no idea what to do. Nor did I.

    After another half hour of the gentleman wandering around in a circle on the corner, his wife showed up. She had been shopping down the street, she told him, after chewing him out. At least they'll have a story to tell family when they go home: a female bartender in Chicago got them drunk and caused them to lose each other in a city they had never been to.

    I learned my lesson, too, from this lovely couple: if I plan on getting old people drunk for my own amusement, I should at least make sure they are going straight to their hotel.

    Cheers!

    -

    The pseudononymous Patty Hunter brings you tales from the front lines of serverdom every week. She welcomes your comments. Catch up with every installment as well as other series' like Barista! in our Life At Work archive.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:46 AM | Permalink

    July 1, 2009

    What I Watched Last Night

    By Scott Buckner

    I'm adverse to mixing TV and politics (or politics and anything whatsoever), but from what I've seen on TV over the past 18 hours, I have little choice.

    * * *

    I saw the sound bites of President Barack Obama pushing his health care plan on TV, where he reassured the American people: "Don't be afraid."

    Look, I'm almost 50 years old, so if there's anything I've learned about the federal government, it's two things: 1) When the president tells you to not be afraid, be afraid. 2) If either house of Congress has anything to do with it, be incredibly afraid.

    * * *

    This week, NBC's main network affiliates have been airing the Wimbledon tennis championships - even though really, the Wimbledon championships are about as engaging as dominos or soccer. On the other hand, NBC's Universal Sports channel has been airing the week-long World Beach Volleyball Championships from, I think, Stavenger, Norway.

    Wednesday morning's rerun was a match between the women of the United States and the women of Latvia. Latvia. That's like saying the United States vs. Tuvalu. Not surprisingly, the U.S. was piling on the points. Still, I felt sorry for the women of Latvia for making the trip all the way to Norway for, like, the cardboard medal.

    I appreciate Wimbledon's British straight-laced tradition of, uh, straight-laced tradition just like I appreciate the Kentucky Derby's tradition of drunks in big, floppy hats. But still, if you need me to explain why beach volleyball is seriously more interesting than tennis, there's something seriously wrong with you.

    * * *

    Earlier (even without the early morning broadcast reruns) our local newscasts were doing their annoying best to piss off anyone with half a brain just on general principles by giving airtime to Mayor Daley and the city's bid for the 2016 Olympics. And anyone with half a brain knows that if Hizzoner Junior gets his way, every single person in Cook County is going to be eating sludge out of Dumpsters, selling children they don't even own, and paying 30 pieces of silver every week just to stand in his bloated shadow even when he decides to quit being mayor.

    At that moment, I found myself counting my blessings that I have an outlet - and a liberal editor - who allows me to air things if he believes I'm making some kind of sense. Which is probably why excess steam hasn't put me in a pauper's grave right now.

    Look, do the ordinary citizens of this city really give a shit whether Japan or Brazil gets stuck with whatever umpteen-bazillion-dollar cost overruns for the 2016 Olympics - no matter where they're held as long as it's not here or China, where they just shoot people and dump them in mass unmarked graves for this sort of nonsense - that will make the cost overruns of Millennium Park seem like dryer lint in Michael Jackson's pocket? I think not.

    It might be one thing if every citizen in Chicago got a check for $1,500 directly from Mayor Daley for their troubles associated with 2016 and far beyond, but they're not going to. If Mayor Daley could possibly convince a single, sensible regular citizen not on the city payroll how 2016 is going to economically raise a kid a block or so away from the United Center (except maybe how 2016 might stimulate the local crack-buying/selling economy, which the mayor would just slough off on Jody Weis anyway), he would be worthy of sainthood.

    But he's not. Because you want to know who's going to get royally screwed in this 2016 deal? It's not you. It's not me. It's the yet-unborn children who will still and all have a really nice museum in Millennium Park that Mayor Daley has built specifically for them. I don't recall the mayor mentioning how rusty and falling-apart the place in going to be in 50 years like something out of Life After People, meaning Mayor Daley IV will just have to build another one. But still.

    This is why I got so sick yet again Tuesday night of our local TV news outlets letting Daley pitch his "insurance policy" that the citizens of Chicago won't get stuck with the unpaid 2016 bills. The only "insurance policy" involved is the one where everyone in his private circle won't lose more than a buck-and-a-half at worst. Look, if his own sainted father couldn't build a stinkin' 50-block elevated roadway to guarantee his place on Mount Olympus, his own kid who certainly who hasn't done half as much so far certainly isn't 10 feet tall and bulletproof.

    * * *

    I am on a self-imposed Michael Jackson moratorium. Still, I would be remiss in mentioning that Bubbles the Chimp is still alive, and if you ever run into Roe Conn, ask for his impression of Bubbles in the old chimp's home. Oh. My. Fucking. God. It's easily the funniest thing I've ever heard any human being alive come up with at a moment's notice.

    * * *

    Fortunately, beach volleyball totally skipped over this morning's infomercial wreckage straight into Me-TV's Route 66 (UHF 26.2), a show which - along with The Naked City (which follows Route 66 five mornings a week) and The Twilight Zone - was among the best-written and awesomely-filmed series that American TV ever conceived in its black-and-white landscape between 1958 and 1964.

    Forget the fact that the scripts for Route 66 and The Naked City seem these days to have been written by a crowd of beatniks set amok to explore the finer points of alcoholism, oppressed sexuality, being ignored or beaten half to death by your father, firerms, mental illness, rampant loneliness, misspent lives, hard luck, or just plain hard living. And forget that hardly any of the towns where Tod Stiles (Martin Adam-12 Milner), Buz Murdock (George Maharis) and Lincoln Case (Glenn Corbett) drifted into during the show's four-year run weren't anywhere near the actual Route 66.

    The fact is, almost 50 years later, TV (or more precisely cable TV, since network TV still remains absolutely clueless) has yet to figure out the same thing Route 66 creator/writer Stirling Silliphant figured out: People really ain't that stupid if you just quit giving them shit to get stupid on.

    Sorry to belabor the illustrative point, but during the 1960s and early 1970s - when NASA was trying to figure out how to launch simple satellites and men to the moon supported by roomfuls of bazillion-dollar mainframe computers bigger than the Frankenstein monster that filled a whole complex of rooms - we were racing a handful of Russians doing the very same thing with an abacus.

    * * *

    The number of brain-numbing, blow-my-brains-out commercials for Cricket that interrupted this morning's episode of Route 66: Two. This is a miracle in itself because normally, any given hour of UHF programming in this city is usually interrupted by at least 20 of them.

    * * *

    Anyway, Wednesday morning's Route 66 explored a recurring theme of the show: The strife between old-school/old-country father and his new-school son.

    And this is why I hate Route 66, even when father/son strife isn't the central theme. It's not so much that the show begs you to pick a moral side. The problem is being begged to choose a moral side in the presence of whoever you might be awake with at 2 a.m. without making themr wonder how the hell they bothered to get involved with you in the first place.

    On second thought, stick to the infomercials. At least you'd be able to physically measure the side-by-side performance of whatever Sham-Wow thingamajigs Vince and Billy Mays are trying to get you to spend 20 bucks on if you actually ordered them.

    Anyway, in this morning's Route 66 episode ("And Make Thunder His Tribute") Tod and Lincoln pick up menial migrant worker-type work ("$8 a day; you eat and sleep in a shed," which is pretty much the going rate on this show) harvesting produce for a guy named Mr. Donato, an old Italian fellow who has been running a raspberry farm for 46 years and wants to pass it down to his son Tony (an Italian son named Tony - go figure!), who has given up trying to get his father to adopt modern methods to maximize the farmland ("New sprays . . . new plants . . . I just tried to get you to do something to do with the land! . . . Now I don't want anything! I just want you to leave me alone!") to the point where the only viable alternative is to turn the whole joint into a motel with cabins, a swimming pool, a huge-ass BBQ pit, and tons of cement topping where Mr. Donato wouldn't even be able to grow a tomato plant.

    Even Injun Joe - a guy who has been working for Mr. Donato forever and knows you can't keep growing the same crop in the same dirt for 50 years - thinks that unless Mr. Donato wises up and learns something about soil renovation and conservation, his only future is to pack it up at the end of the raspberry season for the Bad River reservation.

    So who was right and who was not-so-right in Wednesday morning's episode of Route 66? I don't know, and I'm glad I don't have to debate these sort of issues with an ex-spouse. The only thing I know is, when you're a guy with a raspberry farm who has to wake everyone up in the middle of a downpour at 3 a.m. to bust up five acres of hard-packed dirt to save your entire crop because it didn't occur to you to rent a Rototiller a month ago, you kinda get what you get.

    -

    Visit the What I Watched Last Night archives and see what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:17 PM | Permalink

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    "I had all but given up on mainstream coverage of Arne Duncan's lackluster record 'turning around' the Chicago Public Schools, but now a report from a business group long allied with the Mayor on school reform issues has come out slamming the district's record of achievement," Alexander Russo reports at This Week In Education.

    In fact, Russo says, the report issued by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club concludes that "Chicago Public School reform largely has failed."

    Greg Hinz (correctly) calls the report a "blockbuster," though you wouldn't know it by the rest of the media's disinterest.

    "The report directly challenges widespread claims by current and former CPS officials that local students have shown substantial progress over the last decade on standardized tests," Hinz writes.

    "For instance, it notes a 2006 letter from then schools CEO Arne Duncan, now U.S. secretary of education, stating that the share of CPS students meeting or exceeding state standards had leapt 15 points in one year.

    "In fact, it says, the change occurred because of a change in the test, not because of real educational gains. As a result, it points out, while a test cited by local officials showed that 71% of 8th graders met or exceeded state standards in 2007, a national test taken here the same year showed just 13% were up to par."

    It's been fascinating to read Russo's reporting and aggregation at This Week in Education as well as at District 299 about Duncan in the last few months as the mainstream media has gushed over a Chicago school system and intrepid chief utterly unrecognizable to those of us living here and in touch with reality.

    But Duncan is Obama's guy; reality is not allowed.

    And indeed, the mainstream media has missed the entire debate not only about Duncan's appointment as Education Secretary but about all the attendant issues that Chicago and CPS are inescapably a part of.

    The edusphere, on the other hand, has been aboil with a vibrancy missing from legacy media, perhaps because its filled with folks who actually care.

    Tutting Tunney
    In yet another move to rid the city of any semblance of street culture, Lakeview Ald. Tom Tunney wants to "add several blocks to the [Wrigley Field] area where it's already illegal to bang on buckets or sell food and merchandise from a cart, table or other temporary stand," the Tribune reports.

    "It's a public safety issue," Tunney says.

    Because so many people are getting hurt from flying drumsticks.

    *

    And when they came for the pedestrians, there was nobody left to stand up . . .

    Gold Medal
    To Ben Joravsky - again - for a perfect summation of the accidental unmasking of what our mayor knew and how he always knew it.

    *

    Of course, some of us out here in the blogosphere always knew it, too. But where were you, legacy media? If Pat Ryan told you he had found WMDs in Indiana, you'd have supported an invasion.

    *

    Saw a Chicago 2016 television commercial featuring Michael Jordan last night and thought, why doesn't he pony up the financial guarantee?

    *

    "There's a lot of people in my community who don't trust the 2016 committee," Ald. Richard Mell said on Tuesday.

    Daley's reply?

    "There's no credibility gap. I don't know where they get that."

    *

    I wonder if the mayor is polling on this. And parking meters. Paging Dana Herring!

    Thrilled
    "The appeal of making music videos for directors of the caliber of Scorsese, Landis, De Palma, and Sayles, and the recording artists who hired them, was in the aura of mutual reputation, and also, particularly for Scorsese and Landis, the chance to stage sequences like those in the musicals they grew up with," our very own Rod Heath writes as he revisits the iconic music videos of the 80s at Ferdy on Films.

    Billy Mays Tribute
    Similar To As Seen On TV.

    Chicago Grows
    The city of Chicago added 20,606 people from July 2007 to July 2008, according to the latest Census figures.

    And they'll all be at the Taste of Chicago this weekend!

    Or, to put it another way, we added almost half a ward.

    Not Just Illinois
    Without a doubt, Illinois lawmakers are a special breed of stupid.

    And criminal.

    And childish.

    In short, they suck.

    But in the interest of fairness, let us now pause to consider that Illinois is hardly the only state in the midst of a budget meltdown.

    Waste of Chicago
    If a recent trend holds up, vendors at the Taste of Chicago this year will have thrown out literally more than a ton of food by the time the event ends on July 5.

    Clout Student One
    Traced to Thompson.

    Madoff Did Chicago
    Victims included Pritzkers.

    Grudge Match
    IG vs. HR.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: As seen.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:06 AM | Permalink

    Meeting Up Now

    By The Beachwood Meetup Affairs Desk

    The newest Chicago Meetup groups!

    *

    Chicagoland REO Agent's Group

    *

    BluePrint Recovery Group, Inc.

    *

    Paddlers 4 Jesus

    *

    Key Concept Networking

    *

    Northwest Chicago Moms Workout Group

    *

    Mt. Prospect Open Mic

    *

    Opportunity for Unemployed

    *

    FX Trading Group

    *

    Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance - Greater Chicago

    *

    Work From Home 10-20K p/month

    *

    Recruiters who are investing

    *

    After Dark Singles

    *

    NW Suburbs Walking Club

    *

    NW Suburbs Fun Group

    *

    Good Morning FOREX - Chicago

    *

    Women and Wine

    *

    Chicagoland Toastmasters Information Center

    *

    Family Game Night

    *

    Naperville CD Swappers

    *

    Southwest Suburbs Camping Plus Meetup Group

    *

    Packer Fans in Chicago

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    Baby Blanket Bingo

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    Warrenville, IL Fitness Boot Camp

    *

    Chicago Area Shiba Inu Meetup

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    Fox Valley Over 40 Dancers

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    Create a Successful Screenplay

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    NW Suburban Hoop, Poi, Flag, Staff Club

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    Chicago Diving Schools

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    Wing Chun Kung Fu - Ngo Si Qui Vinh Xuan 5 animals style

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    Women of Excellence

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    Networking For All

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    The SAS Programmers Meetup and Discussion Group

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:49 AM | Permalink

    MUSIC - Christgau Loves Chicago Neonatologist.
    TV - Amazon & The Way Of The World.
    POLITICS - Yes On Vouchers For After-School Programs.
    SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

    BOOKS - Writers Under Surveillance.

    PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Original Warrior.


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