Archive for December, 2007

Every Day Is No Longer Halloween

ministry.gifThe wife and I have tickets to see Ministry at the House of Blues on May 8th. It’s the first of two shows in Chicago at the end of the North American leg of the C U LaTour. Frontman Al Jourgensen has stated that the tour and corresponding album, The Last Sucker, will be the final act of Ministry’s thirty-year existence. I mention this partly just to brag about having tickets to the show, but also because it represents the end of an era for me, personally. Ministry is one of the reasons I moved to Chicago in the first place.

I first saw the band in 1992 at Lollapalooza. I remember thinking they were kinda like Nine Inch Nails, only with less whining and more balls. The first Ministry album I bought was Psalm 69, their “breakthrough” record, but I quickly dove backward through The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, The Land of Rape and Honey, and Twitch. Searching for these recordings I discovered that Ministry and their label, Wax Trax!, had been staples of the alternative music scene in Chicago since the early ’80s.

Coming to Chicago in 1994, I dug into Wax Trax! label-mates like KMFDM, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, and PIG, along with Ministry spin-off bands Revolting Cocks and 1,000 Homo DJs. This was mindblowing music to the Nirvana-listening, flannel-and-Chuck-Taylor-wearing version of myself that existed back then. It was a big enough influence that my wife’s and my first date was a Thrill Kill Kult concert. How cool is that?

So, I’m sad to see Ministry call it quits, but at the same time I know that Al Jourgensen has enough projects in the works to keep me entertained for years to come. And I think it’s fitting that he’s bringing it to a close here, in the city where it all began.



There’s one thing that makes the prospect of an early morning flight out of Midway bearable — the thought of an Artopita from Pegasus On-the-fly. An Artopita is a tasty breakfast sandwich, fluffy eggs, cheese, and ham, spinach, or mushrooms in a flakey phyllo shell. It’s the “Arto”-pita, because Pegasus is the Midway branch of Greektown’s Artopolis(306 S Halsted). I’ve never gone to Artopolis for breakfast — I’m not sure the Artopita is a delicacy worth driving across town for. But bleary-eyed at Midway at 6:40 am it’s a much better way to wake up than McDonald’s.

Typographic Neighborhoods Map

Chicago Typographic Neighborhoods MapJennifer Beorkrem’s ORK Posters has this gorgeous typographic treatment of Chicago’s neighborhoods. Coudal Partners have it in their Gifted holiday collection in a limited edition bundled with El Boton‘s El buttons series for $50. You can also get a non-limited edition direct from ORK for $22 (+ shipping).

(There’s also the original Red-and-Grey Lines version, discounted due to a misspelling of Ukranian [sic] Village. You say “problem”, I say “collector’s item”.)

The Public Dance Halls of Chicago

A few months ago, there was a link on Gapers Block to scans at the Library of Congress of a 1917 pamphlet by the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago titled “The Public Dance Halls of Chicago”. The short pamphlet is a treasure trove of glimpses into Chicago life of a century ago, turn-of-the-century-moralizing, and the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same. Such a treasure trove, I decided, that I didn’t want it to languish in graphic-only format, so in a fit of OCD civic enthusiasm I OCRed the whole thing. (I also made a PDF, if you want to download the original, but don’t want to download 13 individual TIFFs from the LOC.)

Child’s Play 2007

Child's Play 2007

Let’s talk about Child’s Play for a second. Back in 2003 the guys from the mostly-videogame-oriented webcomic Penny Arcade got mad at a newspaper columnist who was recycling the too-easy trope “violent videogames are training children to kill.” But instead of just spluttering to the choir on their website, they decided to put their money, and action, where their mouth was and organized a donation of videogames and toys to a Seattle children’s hospital. That first year they raised about $150,000 in toys and cash for a single hospital. This year they’re on their way to a goal of $750,000 for 40 different children’s hospitals around the world. There’s no children’s hospital in Chicago represented, but sick children in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan are still, you know, sick children.

Get on the holiday train-WOO WOO!

It is December and I’ve successfully ignored all attempts to force me into the holiday spirit before I’m ready. At the end of October, I could see the upcoming winter holidays slowly overtaking my precious Halloween:


That precise line of demarcation separating autumn holidays and winter holidays existed in a CVS on Damen and Lawrence.

I will admit that I am a bit of a Scrooge. Not in the parsimonious, misanthropic Victorian morality tale sort of way from the Dickens story. I just get burned out by November 5th from the sensory and commercial overload. I just want to take off my costume, swallow my bit of turkey, digest for a month, and THEN put on my reindeer sweater.

I was doing well making my November holiday free. But then I got hit, not once, but twice by the CTA’s Holiday Train.


Not literally hit, of course, that would have been tragic. I mean I saw this thing cruising around the red line tracks at the same time as me. I did not get on the candy cane flavored eggnog induced fever dream of a ride, but I did enjoy the site. And since now it is December I can less begrudgingly get into the holiday spirit. I have taken out my Charlie Brown Christmas tree and started listening to my mash-up holiday album Santastic.

CTA, you may not run as efficiently (or sometimes at all) as I would like, and you mysteriously are almost about to shut down service and raise fare rates. However, come holiday time you take care of spreading cheer like it’s no body’s business. And that’s…well…that’s something.

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