Archive for October, 2006

Book review: From Campus to Combat

From Campus to Combat - James Alter

James Alter — Chicagoan, Industrialist, father of Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter — was a sophmore at Purdue when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the US joined World War II. Rather than wait to be drafted, he joined the Army Air Corp and ended up as a bombardier stationed in Italy.

From Campus to Combat (Garrett County Press) is his memoir of those years of his life. And it’s a pleasant, fast read. He spent 20 months in training before ever reaching Italy, so over half of the book deals with Alter learning to be a soldier, pilot, navigator, and finally bombardier.

There’s a lot of detail of the training, but it’s leavened with anecdotes. For example, at one training posting, all of the soldiers are required to go to a religious ceremony on Sunday mornings. Although he is Jewish, Alter realizes that the Catholic service is much shorter than the Jewish or Protestant ones and begins attending that one to have more free time. And when he and his company do finally get to Italy there’s some interesting accounts of the unofficial residences they constructed and the incredibly dangerous open-flame gasoline heaters they constructed to warm them.

And while in Italy he does go on bombing missions over Germany — 31 of them, chasing an ever-increasing number of runs to reach his defined tour of duty. Despite their height over the enemy, bombing was no safe job — in late 1943, the average life of a bomber and it’s crew was 15 runs.

There is a stereotypical reticence of the WWII generation to talk about their experiences and Alter doesn’t shake that stereotype much — he tells us plenty about what he did, but little about how he felt about it. He references Catch 22 several times, but seems to absorb little of novel’s dark outlook. There are a scant two pages where he talks about his “formless and ubiquitous” fear. In the end, this book seems to answer the question “Grandpa, what did you do in World War II?” but never delves much deeper into the nature of that, or any other, war.

Chicago Public Radio interviewed Alter in 2004, though the audio link seems to be broken at the moment.


In Atlanta: ghost stories.
In Berlin: creepy places.
In Detroit: a D-lightful pumpkin.
In Houston: ghost-busting police.
In LA: a terrible time at a haunted amusement park and a lame office
In Montreal: they remember that Halloween is scary and reminisce about Halloweens past.
In New Orleans: they’re talking murder-suicide.
In Portland: they round up their own Halloween posts (how’s that for meta?).
In San Francisco: an antlered art-car hearse (try saying that 5 times fast).
In Singapore: costume round-ups.
In Vienna: scary skeletons.
In Washington, DC: Zombie boxing.

Give this girl what she wants

If you can’t be arsed to go out and see the spectacle that is the Boystown Halloween Parade tonight, head out to see one of my favorite bands, Assassins, play the Halloween party at the Debonair Social Club (1575 N Milwaukee Ave). Show starts at 10, no cover, and it features DJs Greg Corner, Trancid and Mark Gertz in addition to Assassins.

At the Risk of Sounding Stupid

Is anyone else bothered by this piece of news? I guess I’m just trying to avoid thinking about anything important like world peace, world hunger, the homeless, etc. But then again, I’m not known for posting anything remotely serious.

An Evening with OfficerGleason and the Decemberists

Mariner’s Revenge!

Originally uploaded by officergleason.

Over a year ago, my buddy Nikkos held a Win a Date with Nikkos (and Tony Bennet) Contest, thus providing some of the most interactive experiences this blog has had (outside of our Meet-ups). Nikkos’ next brilliant idea: “Win a date with OfficerGleason.” He left the details up to me.

Instead of a Date, this is an “Evening With”. It’s open to anyone who wants to go see the Decemberists on 11/11/06 at the Riv. Not only will you get the ticket, but I promise to buy at least one beer for you.

To enter you need to leave a comment. No emails, please. Given that there will be beer, this is 21+ event. In your comment, you need to answer each question in a hundred words or less. The entries will be judged by our team of crack volunteers. Entries will be judged on content and creativity. The contest ends on 11/10/06; and yes, this will be blogged about.

#1: Why should you be selected to go see the Decemberists with Officer Gleason?

#2: Being Metroblogging Chicago, share with us the best worst date/evening you have ever had in Chicago.

While I won’t promise the best time ever, I can guarantee I’ll be better than the worst date you’ve ever had.

Obama-love in the national media

Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz examines the media’s Barack Obama lovefest. The article notes the cover of Time Magazine that stated “Why Barack Obama Could Be Our Next President”, Oprah and Meredith Viera’s questions to the Senator about running for president, Trib columnist Clarence Page’s exhortation for Obama to run, and Obama’s response to Tim Russert’s presidential query recently “saying he is thinking about running in 2008.” Kurtz wonders if the hype is really about a possible presidential bid, or merely about selling Obama’s latest book. He also wonders what will happen when the media inevitably turns on the senator. What do you think?

This Old Cub

Just got back from Cub Foods on Elston in Logan Square. Everyone’s bummed, they’ve got til around December 1 before the place is cleared out. Everything must go! I don’t know about you but that’s my grocery store, so I’m not happy either. It’s cheap as hell right now though, even if they’re out of some things already. Booze, namely. That is the saddest aisle I’ve ever seen, that brightly lit, empty beer aisle at Cub. I’m not sure what’s going in its place, the cashier told me but I didn’t understand what she said. She kind of spit it out angrily, the name of the place, and I didn’t want to ask her to say it again. Ah, old Cub Foods, you were good to me, yes you were. Back to Dominick’s now, I guess? Jewel? Trader Joe’s? Anything but Aldi!

Never Again Will You Get My Money

I think we even have a “staff” writer following the Chicago Blackhawks as I remember a couple of posts at the start of season. If I were writing that article I would say something like, “we have some old guys and some young guys that no other teams really want, and really no player that is or has ever been an All-Star”. That’s not all on the money, but pretty close for every year that I can remember since the late 90’s.

My point is that Chicago is being held hostage by owners that have no idea how to run a modern-day sports team. I spoke with a high-ranking member of the Detroit Red Wings last year about the Blackhawks, and boy did he have a chuckle at my expense. In professional hockey circles nobody asks for the thoughts of Blackhawks’ officials, unless they are digging for some facts that took place in the 60’s.

There’s a nice article today that talks about the team’s downward spiral. Chicago has four wins and five losses in the early going, and I’ll bet they never see an over .500 record again this season. The attendance for the last game was 11,461 and 13,254 before that. With the Bears rolling and Sports Illustrated picking the Bulls to win it all in ’07, expect attendance to dwindle and hockey to remain in obscurity in a city in which it once ruled. What will it take for the team to catch up with the rest of the league?

“Boys and girls of every age, Wouldn’t you like to see something strange?”*

If reading about the scary things that go bump in the night is more your speed that dressing up as those things, check out a couple of local articles that might make a chill go up your spine:

-The Tribune heads to “the most haunted place in Chicagoland” (and that’s saying something, this being a very strange and haunted city), Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, with renowned psychic Ken Melvoin-Berg to commune with the many ghosts said to linger in the spot.

-More into animal magnetism? You might like this Time Out investigation of the werewolf said to stalk Bray Road, near Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

-Some of the scariest things in Chicago, according to Sun-Times staffers.

(If you’d still rather dress up and party this weekend, though, there’s plenty going on.)

*The immortal This Is Halloween song.

Bands as Bands

Halloween in Chicago means local bands pretending to be different, more famous bands.

Friday, October 27

Beat Kitchen (2100 W Belmont) – 10 pm – $15
Led Zeppelin 2 as Led Zeppelin (kinda cheating because that’s what they always do)

Double Door (1572 N. Milwaukee) – 8 pm – Sold Out
Local H as ???
Hush Drops as The Beatles
The Pinks as The Go-Gos
Figdish as The Replacements
Bicycle Knife Fight as The Rolling Stones
May Or May Not as Daft Punk

Gunther Murphy’s (1638 W Belmont) – 9 pm – $8
Androgynous Mustache as T-Rex
The Bon Mots as Echo & The Bunnymen
All City Affairs as George Michael
Avalanche Rescue Team as Madonna
John Aselin & The Dirty Rugs as Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Epicycle as David Bowie

Saturday, October 28

Double Door (1572 N. Milwaukee) – 8 pm – $12
Local H as ???
The Last Vegas as Skid Row
Colombian Local Pike as The Rolling Stones
Million Yen as The Eagles
Dogs Of Ness as Pink Floyd
Hush Drops as The Beatles
Blackbox as Hole

Gunther Murphy’s (1638 W Belmont) – 9 pm – $8
Ten Hundred as AC/DC
Inchworm as Bob Seger
The Delafields as The Cure
The Webstirs as Steve Miller Band
Phil Angotti as Bob Dylan

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