No pants, no problem!

If you have not heard of Improv Everywhere, then you must be new to the internet, and welcome.

What’s more likely is that you have heard of the New York pranksters and seen their videos. You probably also know of their wonderful group pranks, and possibly even participated in the MP3 bit back in October. Now you can join in another one with No Pants 2009. This is where a flash mob of folks in Chicago, New York, and other public transportation blessed cities will ride the (in our case) the El without any pants.

Full details are available at the No Pants subway ride Chicago Facebook group. Basically, show up at the Granville station this Saturday January 10th at noon wearing pants (don’t forget the undies!). Instructions will be given out from there, but the whole point is to look like you have no idea that you walked out of the house without your pants. To inspire you, here is an old cartoon promo discussing pants vs. no pants:


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CPL is Netflix for Books

I love libraries and I’ve been a proud Chicago Public Library card holder since I moved here. But while the CPL system has a ton of books, they’re spread out over all the different branches and it seemed that after a short while I had read all the books in my local branch that I was interested in. The central Harold Washington library has the most in one place, but it always seemed difficult to get there before they closed on a weekend. There may have been a way to request books from a different branch, but it wasn’t obvious and so I just… stopped stopping in at my local branch.

Recently, though, I discovered that the CPL has spiffed up their website with some features that make it a snap to get any book (or CD or DVD) in their catalog delivered (nearly) to your door.

You just log in to the “My CPL” section of the website with your library card number and zipcode (if you’ve moved and haven’t updated your info with the CPL, it might be an old zipcode) and then start searching the catalog for books. When you find one you want, click the “Place on Hold” button. It’ll ask if you want it held at your preferred library or a different one and you’re done. But here’s the magic part — “hold” in this case means “get it to my preferred library and then hold it there”. So the system will find a checked-in copy, dispatch a no-doubt-over-worked library employee to fetch it off the shelf, and then transport it to your local library. With 79 branches, there’s bound to be one just blocks, nay mere steps from your front door. (OK, maybe I’m spoiled since I’m literally a half-block from our local branch.) When the book arrives you get a rather bare-bones email (it doesn’t actually tell you which held item has come in — but you can always go back to the website to check) and you have 9 days to stop in and pick it up.

Obviously, there’s still a wait for popular books — on my last visit the librarian informed me that I was number 745 on the waiting list for the CPL’s 121 copies of Twilight. But you can have up to five holds going at once, so I’ve got other books coming while I wait to find out what all the vampire fuss is about.

Ads of the CTA

Same photo

Hey McDonalds, we might not notice that you’re using the same photo for both hot chocolate and mocha if you didn’t cover the train car in both ads. Or is it that your food technology is so advanced that, indeed, every single drizzle of chocolate on every single drink in every McDonald’s everywhere is exactly the same. Spookily possible.

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One week left and the Bears finally get interesting

That. Was. Ridiculous.

As is observable by my incredible lack of posts here, the Chicago Bears this season have been nothing to write home about. Sure, Kyle Orton was better than expected, but he’s not the second coming of Jim McMahon. The offensive line has been adequate. Special teams have been less special than usual with Devin Hester’s season-long touchdown slump. Hester has shown improvement as a wide receiver, but in general the receiving core has been uninspiring. And the defense has been just plain bad. Their play has improved in the last few weeks, but so far they’ve only managed to climb back to average. On the plus side, we do have Matt Forte to scrub away the bad aftertaste of Cedric Benson.

In spite of their best efforts, the Bears somehow still find themselves in the playoff race here at the end of the season. They have the good fortune to be in a horrible division. The Detroit Lions are set to be the first team in NFL history to lose sixteen straight in a single season, and the Green Bay Packers misplaced their defense about six weeks ago and only just started finding pieces of it again last night. That leaves only the Minnesota Vikings, who have managed to keep pace with the Bears for the entire season, with one noteworthy edge: The Vikings beat the Bears in both meetings this season, meaning that if the two teams finish with equal records the Vikings win the division by virtue of owning the tiebreaker.

At the beginning of this past weekend, things looked grim indeed for the Bears’ playoff hopes. If the Vikings beat the Atlanta Falcons or the Bears lost to the Packers, the Bears were out of the division race. If the Vikings won, the Bears would still have a slim shot at a wild card – but only if the Buccaneers, Eagles and Cowboys ALL lost. One could say that hell would have to freeze over for the Bears to keep their shot at the playoffs alive after this past weekend.

I don’t know about hell, but Chicago certainly froze over, and apparently that was good enough. The Vikings lost. The Bucs, Eagles and Cowboys – all of whom were favored to win – lost. The Bears? Last night’s game against the Packers was the coldest Bears home game since 1963. They played a straight-up horrible first half. They came into the second half with more energy, but that led to huge mistakes as much as gains. Late in the fourth quarter Forte literally saved the season by an inch as he just barely made a critical fourth-down conversion. That drive ended with a game-tying touchdown, but things almost went down the crapper again on the following kick-off, when Adrian Peterson drew a personal foul on a hit out of bounds. The Packers looked ready to put the game away with a go-ahead field goal, but defensive end Alex Brown managed to get his huge hand up high enough to block the kick, sending the game into overtime.

Even the coin toss went weird. The referee bounced the coin off Brian Urlacher’s helmet, and everybody had to run after it to see where it landed. In the end the Bears won the toss, Kyle Orton put together a decent drive, and Robbie Gould sealed the deal with a game winning field goal.

What does this mean? Hard to say. There is only one week left in the regular season, so it all comes down to this. The Bears have to win against the Houston Texans, who have been showing real signs of life in the past few weeks. And the Vikings still have to lose. The good news there is that they play the reigning Super Bowl champions the New York Giants. Sports Club Stats puts the Bears’ chances of reaching the playoffs at 31.9 percent. Considering the way the season has gone so far, I’m glad they’re finally starting to make things interesting.

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We’re #6 and that’s not bad

Public corruption convictions per 100,000 residents

“As we can see here clearly, Illinois, though more corrupt than average, isn’t close to the top.”

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Jen and Erica are very excited

Thanks, Café Descartes, for reminding us that nothing is as welcome this time of year as a ice cold coffee beverage.

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Ebert vs. Zell

I love Roger Ebert.

Feds Take Blago into Custody!

Breaking News! According to the Trib, Federal Agents have taken Gov. Blagojevich into custody this morning. No word yet on the charges, but he’s been the target of Federal investigation into corruption and influence peddling for quite some time. I’m sure more details will come later…

Update:Well, the details are coming out. Apparently, Blago tried to *sell* Obama’s Senate seat?! If any of these charges are proved up, Blago is not only the most arrogant politician I’ve ever seen, he’s also the dumbest. Who, when they *know* they are under the Fed’s magnifying glass tries to pull this kind of thing? I mean, he was *daring* people to record him, you know? Sheesh.

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Chicago Tribune files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

The Trib has been looking a little frayed around the edges lately, what with it’s new layout looking like a desperate attempt to copy the competition (in this blogger’s jaded opinion). I also heard they were trying to sell the Cubs, but my utter hatred of sports makes it impossible for me to finish listening to sentences once I hear words like “field” or “ball”.

But it looks like they’re in worse shape over there than most people realized.

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Juicy Fresh Video From Yesterday’s Prop 8 Rally and Parade

Are you like me? You had a ticket to go to Grant Park for Obama’s acceptance speech, and you stayed home to have chicken pot pie with your cranky German grandma instead?*

Well, you could have soaked up some of the residual vibes by joining the thousands of Prop 8 protesters at Federal Plaza yesterday. Spirits were high and soon the exuberance spilled out into the streets of downtown Chicago, where an impromptu parade stopped traffic for as long as 20 minutes at a time.

Joyful protesters were met with open-mouthed Michigan Avenue shoppers, who put down their Macy’s bags long enough to clap and cheer. The police were very relaxed (despite the lack of parade permit) and even stopped cabs and CTA buses full of Chicagoans gave cheerful honks and peace signs.

I was there supporting my gay loved ones and with the help of videographer and interviewer Daisy Mertzel, I put together this four minute video, which fairly captures the spirit of the event.


*Not really.

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Gay Nanny Lani Trail; Gay Civil Rights Protest This Saturday

Dump Dobson Protest For Gay Rights in ChicagoThere’s another big gay rights protest this Saturday November 15 at 12:30 at Federal Plaza (on the corner of Adams and Dearborn Streets). This one is happening in cities across the US, since the issue of gay marriage is now being debated at a national level.

If You’re Straight, Why Should You Care?

My roommate and I, though standard-issue heterosexuals, feel very strongly about gay rights issues, adhering to the wacky belief that all Americans deserve the same legal rights (including the right to marry). And what with the recent influx of Obama-inspired hope, we whipped out the colored markers, put together some signs, and joined a few friends at last Friday’s protest against Prop 8 (which re-wrote the California state constitution to strip gays of, among other things, the right to marry).

The location of a particular downtown hotel was chosen as the protest location because inside, a media group was giving an award to James Dobson, who poured millions of dollars into the efforts to strip people of civil rights. He is aggressively homophobic, has considerable resources to sink into his efforts to keep gays second-class citizens, and he’s a big proponent of a therapeutic approach to “treat” homosexuality. His views are not supported by the mainstream mental health community, like the, you know, American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

Really? People really believe that gay people choose to be gay? Choose to be part of an oppressed minority subject to violence and discrimination, when they could just take a couple of seminars and re-program their sexual orientation? This flies in the face of biology, neuroscience, and common decency to fellow human beings.

As has been pointed out in recent media examples, so what if changing the law to include homosexuals in marriage rights is “redefining marriage in America?” If we hadn’t redefined marriage at other points in history, it would still be illegal for black people to marry each other. In 1967, it was illegal in 1/3 of states for President-elect Obama’s parents to have been married to each other, because marriage between a black person and a white person was illegal.

Gay Nanny Lani Trail

"I love my gay nanny" - Dump Dobson Protest For Gay Rights in ChicagoAmong the peaceful protesters (there was no counter-protest) we saw last Friday was an adorable little boy holding a sign that said “I love my gay nanny.” I snapped a quick photo. Turns out he was there with both his mom and his nanny, who ended up emailing me when she saw the picture on my blog. Well, the internet is a magical place, so now Lani and I are Facebook friends and I hope to bump into her again at tomorrow’s protest, where a filmmaker friend and I will be doing a little mini-documentary.

And now, a little bit about Chicago’s most internet-famous gay nanny (at least, that’s what we’re hoping for), Lani Trail:

Lani describes herself and her partner Sharyl as “recovering evangelicals.” “I am a survivor of ex-gay reparative therapy so we wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” she explained. “I was there because Dobson promotes reparative therapy which is damaging our community and stunting sexual growth. I attended a group called Redeemed Lives in Wheaton, IL. Redeemed Lives has the ludicrous idea that overcoming homosexuality is the same as overcoming drug or alcohol addiction, which is why they group them together in therapy. Dobson supports this.”

Lani believes that surviving reparative therapy is a challenge in and of itself. Even now, long after her attempt to “un-gay” herself, Lani still struggles to accept that she’s not harming her nanny kids when they see her and her partner together.

She feels very fortunate to be nannying for a loving, accepting family. Her partner and her employer are both psychology professors with clinical psychology degrees, and she says that the child she nannies for gets the appropriate level of explanation for the family’s involvement in gay rights issues. “His mom and dad have worked tirelessly to help him understand that my partner and I love each other just like his parents do, but that we can’t get married and that some people are mean to us. That’s enough for him.”

And knowing that my friends Tom and George, who have been together for years, finally got married a few weeks ago, only to have their marriage struck down by people like Dobson, is enough for me. Pick up some posterboard and join me tomorrow for another exercise in free speech.

Photos by Elizabeth McQuern.

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AV Club Reviews Jeppson’s Malört

Malort face by _nickd Malort face by _nickd

The Onion AV Club has a new feature: a “Taste Test” and their first product is Jeppson’s Malört. To an old Malört hand, there was little new in the article, save a link to a Flickr group: Malört Face. Ala the First Goatse group, it’s just photo after photo of people grimacing in horror at what has just happened in their mouth.

(Thanks, Dan. Photos by _nickd)

Gay Rights Rally in Chicago Tomorrow

Tuesday was a historic and barrier breaking night with the election of the first African-American President. It was exciting, and amazing. However, Tuesday night was a terrible night for gay rights. The passing of prop 8 in California made a constitutional amendment taking away the right for same sex couples to marry. Arizona prop 102 and Florida amendment 2 did similar destruction to human rights. Arkansas voted a ban against unmarried couples becoming foster or adoptive parents.

If this removal of human rights upsets you, then you can protest against one of Prop 8’s most powerful proponents, James Dobson. Mr. Dobson is receiving an award from the Museum of Broadcast Communications for his daily radio show Focus on the Family. Gay rights group Truth Wins Out along with Equality Illinois and the Gay Liberation Network will be protesting James Dobson and his anti-gay message.

You can join their support of civil rights by joining the protest Saturday November 8th 5:30-7:30PM at the Renaissance Chicago Hotel, 1 W. Wacker Dr. Can’t make it? Here are some other things you can do:

To fight back against this offensive decision, is asking fair-minded people to take four actions.

1. E-Mail Radio Hall of Fame CEO Bruce Dumont,, and urge him to withdraw Dobson’s honor.
2. Sign our letter to the Radio Hall of Fame urging them to reverse their foolhardy decision to celebrate Dobson’s shameful and ignoble career.
3. If you live in the Chicago area, please sign up to participate in our protest.
4. Donate to Truth Wins Out or Donate to the Gay Liberation Network to help us fight back.

(photo by Liz Henry)

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Can you raise chickens in Chicago?


There may be an answer, but don’t try to call the city and find out.

(Via City Farmer News, via Boing Boing)

Eugene Mirman Weekend

Stand-up comedian Eugene Mirman will be in Chicago this weekend to record a new comedy album at The Lakeshore Theater this Friday and Saturday at 10PM. I am a fan of Eugene Mirman’s highly imaginative comedic monologues. I became an even bigger fan after watching his coverage of the Republican National Convention this year. So if you too are a fan, you might want to head over to the threadless website. There you can submit questions to Eugene who will be hanging out at Threadless tomorrow afternoon.

Eugene Mirman
November 7th and 8th
Lakeshore Theater
3175 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL

(photo from the Eugene Mirman myspace page)

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