Archive for July, 2007

His New Job

Chicagoist has a piece today on Chicago’s film history and present-day that manages to range from the historic Essanay Studios to nudie-flip-clip site The post mentions Charlie Chaplin’s sole film from the Chicago studio, His New Job. You can watch or download that film (as well as tons of other Chaplin movies) from the Internet Archive (or by clicking the play button above).

The Silent CTA

Evacuating a CTA train

The Red Line train I was on this morning hit someone at the North & Clybourne station (or maybe he hit the train — a cop at the scene said it looked like the guy had had a seizure and fallen into the train as it was coming into the station). As I was leaving the station the man was unconcious and bleeding, but still alive.

But I have to note that the cop’s vague suppositions were about a thousand times more information than the CTA gave us through the entire incident. We were trundling along the tunnel south of Fullerton when the train stopped, which isn’t that unusual these days. After a while, the power went out on the train, leaving just the emergency lights on. Five minutes later the conductor announced “This train is out of service.” He repeated that a few times, but that was all the information that was given. Later we found out that the front 3/4 of the train was in the station, so I’m sure they just popped their doors and left. But I was in the last car and we really didn’t have any idea how far into the tunnels we were. Everyone just stood around for a while and then someone popped the doors and a bunch of people got out into the emergency walkway on the tunnel and stood around some more. (In retrospect, we should have walked through the cars to get out. Maybe someone from the CTA could have reminded us to do so?) After even more noone-knows-whats-going-on waiting, the people waiting outside started to shuffle off towards the front of the train. I joined them and it turned out we were just a couple of car lengths away from the station.

I understand that early-on the conductor would have been concerned with the injured man and insuring his safety. But police and EMTs were on the scene early (the guy was bandaged and on a stretcher being carried out of the station by the time we were getting out of the train) and I really think the CTA fell down on the job here by not communicating better to those of us on the train.

There was also no information being offered in the station about how long the train would be out of service, whether busses would be routed to pick up the slack, etc. It’s not like the CTA doesn’t have accidents — you’d think they’d have procedures in place and could let people know the plan. Even if the plan is “we’re not going to do anything, you might as well walk to work” it’d be nice to know that, to save the milling-around I saw at the station. (I did, in fact, give up and walk to work. It’s a nice day out.)

And I’m certainly not trying to make this about the convenience of the rest of us CTA travelers, it’s about safety — if they can’t communicate instructions about how to safely get off the train when it’s nearly in the station and in no danger, what’s going to happen when the train’s on fire or something?

Update: The Tribune story, via CTA Tattler.

Kuma’s Corner

Andrew Huff, of Gapers Block, etc., is one of my Flickr contacts and so I happened to see his photo of a giant hamburger float across my browser last week. It was the Mastodon from Kuma’s Corner and I remembered that they had gotten top marks in Time Out’s Pub Burger shootout. So when, a few days later, Erica and I happened to be in the neighborhood around dinner time, we decided to check it out.

I’ll cut to the chase: the food was just OK and we had a lousy time.

Now I know plenty of people disagree with us, and I’ll freely admit that it’s possible that our lousy time (which I’ll get to) is influencing my opinion of the food. Kuma’s claim to fame are their half-pound Angus beef burgers, which come in 16 varieties, all named after metal bands. The Led Zepplin, for example, comes topped with pulled pork, bacon, cheddar, and pickles. The Mayhem has jalapeños, pancetta, pepper jack, and giardinera mayo. Etc.

Erica and I went halfies on the Famous Kuma Burger — bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg — and the Slayer — a mess of fries topped with the burger patty, chili, cherry peppers, andouille sausage, onions, jack cheese, “and anger”. Erica liked the egg on the burger and the Slayer is certainly plenty of food, but I thought the burger patties were pretty dry (we’d ordered them medium but they were pretty well-done) and nowhere near as flavorful as they could have been.

As to the lousy time, it had two parts: waiting and metal. We did arrive hungry and during the dinner rush, but the wait times still seemed excessive. “At least we’re in a bar,” we thought, “so we can wait with beer,” but it was full 15 minutes between our drink order and beer arriving. And it was an hour until we got our food. And during that wait time, we were listening to metal. Loud metal. Continuous, very loud, very angry metal. “If this music is meant to make you want to kill someone, it’s working,” Erica said. I had to ask her to repeat herself, because we could barely hear each other across the table. I’m no metal-hater — I had plenty of AC/DC patches on my high school backpack — but damn that was a painful night.

So many people like Kuma’s so much that I have to throw out the list of maybes: maybe we were sitting right under a speaker; maybe we would have had a better time out on the patio; maybe we wouldn’t have minded the wait if we weren’t so hungry when we got there (what were we thinking, going to a restaurant hungry?); maybe Erica wouldn’t have been as uncomfortable if she had more visible tattoos. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

Together at Last

Vosges' Bacon BarBacon can make just about any food taste better. And just about anything tastes good covered in chocolate. So why not put the two together? Which is just what Chicago-based chocolatier Vosges Haut-Chocolat has done with their Mo’s Bacon Bar.

This is no joke-food, like the Jones Cola Turkey Dinner Soda or what-have-you, it’s a for-real-eating candy bar (and at $7 a pop, it’d better be). Small pieces of crispy bacon are embedded in a really rich milk chocolate. The texture of the bacon is just the sort of crunchy contrast to the creamy chocolate as in countless other candy bars, and the saltiness pairs well with the sweet. And just so I know I’m not crazy, Erica likes it too.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat
520 N Michigan (North Bridge Mall)
951 W Armitage

Mass AT&T outages

Don’t know how many of you are affected, but my office has multiple locations throughout Chicago, and all our internet and phone lines have been down for about an hour. AT&T claims it’s city-wide. Anyone else having an outage and stealing a neighbor’s wireless? Get over an outage?

Fast José

Enjoy your free advertising, Fast José.Picture taken in Roger’s Park.

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Live

Tonight at 6:30 Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! will be performed live in Millennium Park!I know, short notice. Whoopsie doodle!

Robert Buscemi DVD release shows

click here to view video

One of my favorite Chicago standups, Robert Buscemi, is releasing a DVD of a standup performance at Subterranean (along with bits and pieces like the Blerds video above). He’s having two DVD release party shows at the Annoyance (4840 N Broadway) on Sunday, July 22 and 29 at 8pm. The show will feature standup and sketch from Robert and others and the premiere of a new comedy short by Robert and Steve Delahoyde (coincidentally one of my favorite Chicago filmmakers).

Robert’s got a few standup clips on YouTube and I’ll especially point you at the Penguin Joke and Robert as a giant cigarette for a Pennsylvania anti-smoking ad.

Oh, and the show is $15, but evidently Robert will hook you up with half-price tickets just for sending him an email. I dunno, maybe he makes $8 a pop selling your email address to spammers. He’s canny, that Buscemi.

Decemberists Rain On Millennium Park

So, do you think the Pritzker Pavilion or the City of Chicago was ready for the crowd that bombarded Millennium Park last night? My friend that I went with has been to a few shows and has never seen a third of the folks that were there. On the pavement, lining the sides, all the way into the garden areas far away from any view of the stage. Crowded yet orderly, so it wasn’t as bad as it might sound.

The set was beautiful and pleasant as some 80? members of the Grant Park Orchestra added a touch of classical, great depth, and cymbals!, all heard crystal clear on the most unbelievable surround sound system. The real fun started when the orchestra left the stage along with band.

Upon the band’s return Colin invited those in the back to come on down and fill in some of the unoccupied seats and aisles. I can only imagine the jaw-dropping of the organizers and peace officers after his comments. Hell this was supposed to be a classical music show! Two minutes later his wish was granted as several hundred folks ran past a few security guards, one of which seemed to be taking the whole thing personally like we were crashing his backyard party.

Once down with the well-dressed Colin added a few lines of The Smiths’ “Ask” as his crew started up “16 Military Wives”. There was plenty of singing, jumping, clapping, all being carried out with a team effort. Even those in opera glasses joined once they understood the younger folks were just there to have fun, and not rape their daughters or steal purses. The last song wound down with those on stage falling to the ground and the audience screaming as they were being consumed by a whale.

Random Acts of Beauty

This week I ran across two examples of Chicagoans doing their part to inject little moments of art and whimsey into our lives:

Air Kiss Tennis

Philip Dawkins (who I’ve written about before) has started a “guerrilla happiness group” called Positive Reinforcements — their latest activity was Air Kiss Tennis Tournament 2007 — “As we described to our participants, ‘Air Kiss Tennis is just like tennis, only instead of balls and rackets, the players blow kisses at one another.’ Clearly.”

Heather's plaque

Neo-Futurist Rachel Claff has installed a series of plaques around the city commemorating events from people’s personal lives — moments like making a snow angel, or laughing so hard that you pee.

Memorial Day II: Background, Phase One, Phase Two, Heather’s Ceremony, Richard’s ceremony, Edward’s ceremony, Brian’s ceremony.

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