Saturday, August 08, 2009

Sense of the City--Pitchfork

Coffee Cake, 13, died by euthanasia Friday July 17th at 11:56 a.m.

The first thing my journalism classes taught me was to write an obituary, so when I watched my cat get put down that was my first thought. This is my coping method, to see everything through the long lens of "The Story." Indeed it was a very sad to watch. She had been my cat for the last 6 months and the first thing I have taken care of which I watched die. But she lived a long life, one that I hope was comfortable, and she died peacefully.

Anyway, we must not dwell on sadness. It's summer. It's the season for festivals.

The Taste of Chicago was a month ago. It was quite successfully in the commercial sense. It brought a lot of people to the Loop. Unfortunately, if the tourists took the Taste at its word they left with the idea that Chicago is hot and crowded, with little else to offer.

But every weekend throughout the rest of the summer months, people will gather to celebrate the warmer weather and longer days. Every corner of the city has its own neighborhood festivals with local food and music which mirrors the culture of its people. The Uptown Unity Summer Fest was on August 1st with free immunizations, fun for all the kids.

It's the same as in Monticello. Festivals and farmers markets are times for neighbors to enjoy each others company. People forget any bad blood and laugh with each other. Plus it's just fun to walk down the middle of the street without fear of getting hit by a car.

I went to Pitchfork Festival on the 17th, 18th and 19th at Union Park. Pitchfork is a collection of the coolest bands no one has ever heard of. I only knew of one or two people playing, and really only wanted to see the masked rapper, Doom. I could go because I got in for free by volunteering with CHIRP. Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to afford it.

Pitchfork is the yearly meeting of Midwest hipsters. There were a lot of tattoos, fake 80's clothing and ironic mustaches. I make fun only because I enjoyed myself so much. Music filled out the park. It was loud and melodic with all different types playing everywhere. The food looked good, and the beer was local.

Probably the most memorable thing was the group dancing with hula-hoops. It's hard to describe what they were doing, because it was like nothing I had ever seen before. They were very practiced and it was hypnotizing to watch. They took a children's toy very seriously and made an art form out of it. An art form I had never thought of before. I was fascinated and watched them for a while in between good bands.

Inside Union park was fun. The sense of community was enough to take my mind off the bit of sadness in my life. Being around people, like-minded or not, is just a good time. But when the weekend was over I was left tired and in a lot of pain. It's amazing how much it can hurt to just stand all day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sense of the City: History

(My bu-weekly column and Urban Coaster Article. Enjoy.)

History is liquid. It's always changing and, like air, tires to fill up the space surrounding it. On July 4th, I went to the Edgewater Historical society. Edgewater is the neighborhood north of Uptown, where I live. I love history. It's my minor in school. I think it's that adaptability that draws me in. You can look at the change over time, sure, but History itself also changes. I was taught in grade school that Christopher Columbus discovered America only to find out later that's not entirely true. He might have found it for Spain, but many other cultures knew about it long before, including the people who have been calling it home for thousands of years.

When it comes down to it everything is liquid. Given enough time, everything ebbs and flows like the lunar tide. Solid things we normally think of as unmovable change too. The earth moves. Land evolves, sometimes slowly sometimes very quick and violently. Erosion made the Grand Canyon, Volcanoes made the Hawaiian islands and If I stood outside my apartment before the 60's Lake Michigan would be about waist high.

That last example was man made. The north end of Lake Shore Drive was built up out of the Lake. Lake fill made the beaches and the foundations for the Sheridan Ave. condos. Before that houses were built right up on the beach. The beach made their backyard.

That all changed because the city wanted to continue the ideas started by the famous urban planer, Daniel Burnham. He is a bit of a hero in Chicago and we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the publication of his Plan of Chicago on July 4th. (A lot of history on that day.) He wanted the entire lake front to be free and open to the public. Burnham has been named in many a debate over the years and his goal is still not fully realized. There are about 4 miles of lake front that still is not public land and a group of people are trying to change that. A noble plan but probably not the best economically sound idea right now. (But that's just my middle of the road opinion.)

I recently went home to the farm to visit family. Things are changing there, too. Family came in from out of town and I showed them around Monticello. I was surprised to see so many different stores around the square. Even in small towns, which always feel slower, change. The slight changes aren't obvious until you are absent for a while.

People have always been afraid of change. It's something that has been passed down through the generations from our prehistoric mothers and fathers. Anything new for them was a gamble. A new fruit could be delicious or it could be poison, so it's best not to mess with it. Now it's much less dangerous and going against chance has brought us so many good things. It's time we brushed off the fear and nostalgia that is at the heart of our inability to change.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sense of the City

(This is a little late. I have been home with my family. It was a lot of fun. I took a lot of pictures, you will probably be able to see them on my Picasa page. Also here is my latest article in The Urban Coaster.)

There is an unspoken rule with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) that most everyone follows. With few exceptions, everyone is deadly quite. No one talks to each other and everyone finds something to keep themselves busy. Some read. Some listen to music. Some stare out the window.

I usually go the rout of looking out the window, unless I have class and need to read a long assignment. You see a lot of the city from the CTA. The bus runs down on the streets in the muck of the dirt and depravity. And the train runs high up in a pulled out view that shows a whole new set of problems.

The el train runs pretty high up. It’s high enough to look down on top of the smaller buildings. Two and three flat apartments that look beautiful from street level look a little silly from above. Their plain tar roofs are in stark contrast to the decorative walls and windows. That tar contributes to the heat of the summer. Asphalt and concrete surfaces absorb the suns energy and releases it as heat, as opposed to the grass and trees of the country that use the energy to grow. The farm of my childhood was cooler than the city I currently call home.

Even if everyone turned their tar roofs silver to reflect the sun, which some already have, I still don't think I would feel comfortable. It's still a lot of wasted space. On the farm we never really left an area with no purpose. Every place we wouldn't normally walk turned into a garden, or a flower circle, or left to it's own devices to grow wild plants and trees. These roofs are flat usable surfaces that are going to waste.

I'm not pretending that a few roof top gardens are going to save the world or even cool down the city, but it would sure be pretty to look at. I wish I had my own roof to plant fruits and vegetables on. It seems like it would be fun, and it would bring a bit of my old home to my new one.

These are just a few ideas that run through my head on the el. The train is the opposite of a sensory deprivation chamber, so much information comes at me that my brain turns in on itself and I get lost in my own thoughts. It gets even more true when the Red Line goes underground. The Click-Clack of the wheels echo off the tunnel walls and turn into a roar loud enough to drown out the children yelling behind me. The outside is so dark the windows turn into an almost perfect mirror, reflecting the reflections from the other side of the train.

I don't ride the train much any more. The bus has been able to take me where I want to go. But if absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also makes curiosity grow stronger. Little things I take for granted become much more interesting when I don't see them for a while.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sense of the City

(I guess I've been getting around with newspapers as of late. Here is my latest Sense of the City. And I've also got a new article in the Urban Coaster.)

Spring seems to have come a little late this year, meaning Summer will be late as well. The last few weeks have been pretty cold. Not cold in the sense of freezing weather, but cold for May and June. Spring has announced itself with bits of white snowing down on us. Not normal snow, flakes of frozen water, but white fluff from some tree. Cottonwood maybe, I don't know I'm no Arborist.

The tree fluff floats around my neighborhood. It sticks in the air, flying in the currents purposeless. They will find a place to land in soft soil and grow into another tree to release its own fluff. Or not, such is life. I'm sure people with allergies must hate the fluff, but I think it looks pretty floating in the air.

Spring attacks all the senses. People break out of their normal routine and spend time outside. The beaches are full of dog walkers and barbecuers and sunbathers. Even people being passive feel a little more active. I usually will sit and watch people go by.

The smell of the food and the feeling of the sun and wind make me walk a little more aimlessly. I don't have much of a normal routine, school has been out for a few weeks and my day-to-day tasks have become limited. I have been walking about my neighborhood a little more, to see what I can see.

Uptown, my neighborhood is fast becoming my favorite area in the city. It is full of diverse people in varying stages of life. It has some very beautiful houses with big back yards full of plants and life, but also a lot of closed down storefronts. A lot of people have been hurt by life, their faces are warn and sunken by stress, but a lot of organizations have formed to help them. There are streets I walk down and don't even feel like I'm in the same city. I try to turn corners I have never seen before to find something new.

Perhaps if I spent as much time exploring Uptown as I did the farm as a child I wouldn't be able to find anything new here either. But, and maybe I'm wrong about this, I feel like I could navigate the farm from memory. I have gone over every bit of the land over the 18 years I have lived there and the last few years in visits. It's a different feeling; the excitement of finding something new verses the comfort of the familiar. I think it's a good mix.

The irony is, I am writing this all from memory. The day I decided to sit down and write about the beautiful Spring day, is cloudy and rainy. The wind is blowing hard and the air is chilly. The spring day I am writing about is a blend of the last week. Today is more like a Fall day than Spring time. It seems like it should be a little more disappointing, but without the rain the tree fluff, that brings me joy, can't grow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sense of the City (View from the Second City: renamed)

I renamed my column for the Journal Republican to open it up to more story ideas. Also, it will be on a regular schedule, due every other Friday. Pretty excited about that.

I changed the name of this column, from View from the Second City to Sense of the City, specifically for this article. Vision isn't the only way to navigate a city. Chicago can be mapped using all of the conventional senses.

Most think of maps as the visual likeness of a specific area. They are folded up pieces of paper with colored lines and symbols representing roads, parks, "areas of interest." But the map in my head uses more than visual cues. My instinctual understanding of the area around me relies on my other senses, including smell.

I love using my sense of taste and smell. I am a foodie at heart and I am happy with the smell of a great cup of coffee or grilled hamburger or locally brewed craft beer.

Chicago is a wonderful city to navigate by the nose. What a great variety. Chicago is not really known for its chocolate factory, but there is one. Sometimes the smell of cocoa wafts downtown and catches your nose for a second.

The brownie smell is quickly replaced by something else. Sometimes it's a food smell that changes depending on the neighborhood. Sometimes it's the sickly sweet smell of a sewer drain telling us something bad is in the area. We use are noses as a physical test of an area. We are attracted to the cocoa smell and repulsed by the sewer. Some ancient piece of our brain tells us were to go based on a mostly ignored sense.

The farm smells of my childhood behave differently. The city smells seem very binary. They are either there or not. One second you smell something and the next second it is replaced with something completely different.

My White Heath farm has an amalgamation of smells. There is an ever-present smell of flowers or trees with a hint of dirt. Perhaps there is a bit of mold or rust mixed in there. Sometimes manure or diesel or exhaust. They combine to make the unforgettable smell of my childhood.

They say smell is the sense most linked with memory. For me, the smell of freshly baked bread sends me back to my childhood when there would always be fresh bread.

Sometimes my nose plays tricks on me. I often walk by Lake Michigan. Something about the water in the air or the sight of the waves makes me think I smell something that can't be there. Even though I know the lake is freshwater, I still smell almost a hint of salt in the air.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Please Pardon my Absence.

I have been away for a while finishing up my hell-storm of a semester. Several different aspects of my life came together to make things very busy. Not so much complaining about it; I'm pretty much completely free now, and I'm already getting kind of board.

I'm starting an internship soon, maybe now I'm not really sure, at The Urban Coaster. I'm going to be a reporter for them. My beat is Uptown and Edgewater. Kind of crazy, I know, to put some random intern on to two huge beats like that. But that's what I'm going to do.

I am a little worried. My first story, or at least news gathering event is some green thing at Uncommon Ground tonight. So that will be fun.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Forgot to Mention . . .

I got myself a real job. No longer am I just a work/study copy boy. Now I'm a work/study copy boy who also works at a coffee shop in Evanston. (I also go to school and write for the student newspaper and write a column; so I'm pretty damn busy now.) It's called the Brothers K, and it seems like a pretty cool place. I started yesterday and I felt pretty over my head. Haven't felt like that in a long time. I'm going to need to brush up on my coffee knowledge.

Come by sometime and I'll take your order and give it to someone who can make good coffee. (hopefully soon I'll be able to actually make the drink)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm Getting a Little Tired

Something about this semester has created a huge gulf between writing styles for me. I get an assignment from The Torch and I can't wait to jump into it. But any class assignment makes me want to gouge my eyes out.

Mondays and Tuesdays I'm in my own personal hell; I can't get myself to write a thing. Every sentence is a fight against gravity and I get grumpy and melodramatic. But every Wednesday and Thursday I am elated. Those are my Torch days. (Except for yesterday and today, because there is no Torch over Spring Break. Stupid Spring Break.) I get to run around and ask questions and write about real things. Last week I finished up a bunch of articles for the issue after the Break. I had to call up someone at Chicago Department of Transportation and talk to some teachers about plagiarism and attend some mind numbing meeting for Roosevelt's Student Organizations. And then I had to rush out an article about what I found. And I loved it.

And that's not even the problem, because I have to write articles for some of my classes. And I still struggle getting them out. Maybe it's the lack of publication. Or the grades give me a weird stigma. Or maybe my 6 year school plan was dumb and no one should go that long through school.

Or maybe I just need a break and this week will do me some good. Now if I could only get my homework done for tomorrow. But that wont happen until I start and that hasn't happened yet.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

View from the Second City (Spring)

Over the past few months, I have been experiencing Chicago through my eyes to gather subjects for this column. But sight is not the only sense available in the Second City. This morning, making my way to the bus stop, I heard a sound that was almost foreign to my winter addled ears. The sound seemed to come from no where in particular--just all around. It was the sounds of birds.

These were not the coos of pidgins, or the caws of seagulls that stay in the city over the cold months. Instead they were the tweets of the little brown birds I had all but forgotten about. It was nature calling out that Spring is coming. The world is tilting closer to the sun and the weather will soon turn.

I enjoy the cold and I like the snow, but it has been a long winter and I am excited for the change over. The problem with snow is, in the warm weather, it melts. At the farm, the ground soaks up the melting snow and turns spongy and muddy. There is very little exposed soil in the city to soak up the water. All the snow that gave people so much trouble a few weeks ago, is now melting and bothering the sewer system.

I am not one to harp on the seasons. We only have four of them (some years it feels like just two) and they all have good aspects. But I am not one who abides wetness well. Puddles and standing water get my feet wet and make me uncomfortable for the rest of the day. Spring is beautiful and full of love and rebirth, but it tends to make me feel itchy. On the farm I could usually avoid the puddles, but the city is all paved over making it impossible to avoid. It turns into one big puddle.

Back home the birds appear every year, when there is a thin layer of snow on the ground and the air is warm enough to go out with no coat. It is the same in the city, but they don't come in such numbers. The trees at the farm can be full of hundreds of birds--their combined calls deafeningly loud. Here they congregate in empty lots or the odd park in smaller groups. Spring is indeed coming back, birds are migrating home, the trees will soon bud.

Thousands of years ago, humans feared the coming of the darkness. The end of the Summer and beginning of the Fall felt cold and dark and scary. The unknown made people pray for the return of spring and the rebirth of the world. Now, we kind of forgot that feeling. Technology made the long nights less scary, but our DNA still has that fear ingrained by thousands of generations. We still feel relief when spring starts and the birds sing.

Two Things

My blog tracker informs me that over the past week, my blog has had over 100 visitors on three different days. And one day over 90. That makes me feel pretty good. keep it up, visitors.


A few words I have heard a lot in the last few weeks, and I am tired of hearing: Earmarks and Pork. These words have no meaning. They are buzz words and do not belong in journalism. They are very biased words for excessive spending. One person might think it's ridiculous to spend a million dolors on broccoli research and call it pork. While someone else might think it's important for farmers to understand broccoli and the million dolors will be made back ten fold with a better understanding of broccoli.

Just stop saying those words.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Craigslist is Killing Me

(Today I have the attention span of a cat and my nose is running and I'm all sniffy. I hope I'm not getting sick. I have a lot of work that I should get done today, so this is more or less me getting rid of the fuzz that's in my head today.) is really hurting my soul. I've been looking for a job for quite a while now. When I find one, sure, I'll feel good about having a job. But I'll be most excited about not having to look at Craigslist everyday. It really makes me itchy. People are looking for things that I just don't understand. I know that I'm not really supposed to know about it because I'm not in any of these cultures, but I'm still bothered by them.

I guess I should be happy that there is a place for people to go and not feel like they are alone. And I think I am, it's just kind of foreign to me. Maybe it's just my own assumptions that are getting in the way of my understanding. When I see something that says, more or less, Looking for cute feet, I only see some innocent trusting little girl answering the ad to feel better about herself. And sometimes that might be true (and that story is pretty upsetting to hear) but most of the time she might get just as much enjoyment out of it.

I think this is the argument most people have against Liberal people. (Which I would call myself, I guess. I think I'm still working out how I feel about politics.) And maybe this can be said about every side. But it is a basic assumption that you are right and everyone else is wrong. When in fact different things work for different people. And it is impossible to give your opinion of life to someone else.

As I write this I can see contradictions in my own logic. I am a huge component (is that the right word, I don't think so) for Scientific fact over anything else. I am skeptical about things like yoga and crystals and any other sudo-scientific things, or what I like to call "Crap." But by my own logic who am I to say that other people are wrong just because science works for me.

But I think I'm ok with that. Contradiction or no, I'm (and when I say "I'm" I probably should say science is) right and crystals don't do anything. This might be my problem with philosophy. There is no room for inconsistencies or contradictions in an argument. Real life is full of inconsistencies. Nature always contradicts itself and is full of superfluous parts. (Biggest argument against intelligent design is that the human body is terrible designed. We have so much crap in our body that hasn't had a purpose for millions of years.)

(I think I've lost myself. If you can make sense of this that's pretty amazing. But my head is much clearer so my goal was accomplished. I'm feeling better. I'll go now and try to put a dent in my to do list. First, maybe a story about fantasies. Then a paper on twitter. Then an article on a hole in the street. The life of a possible General Assignment Reporter, pretty sweet isn't it.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Silver Sears Tower

The Sun-Times reported that the owners of the Sears Tower are thinking about recovering it with reflective stainless steal in this mornings paper. The article made it seem like this was a fairly sure bet. but the Chicago Triune wrote up an article online calling the Sun-Times out.

"The Sun-Times story puts the bill for the silver makeover at $50 million and (deep down in the story) quotes an anonymous source familiar with the tower as saying: 'Right now there's not enough money in the universe for that.'"

The idea behind the new Sears Tower skin is to save money and be more green. The Tribune doesn't seem to think so. They even go as far as to link back to the original Sun-Times article in, what I think looks like, an attempt to show the Sun-Times Spotty reporting.

The article is a bit misleading. It does sound like the owners are considering the change, but I don't think that means the Tribune should so blatantly call the Sun-Times out. Or maybe it does. As I write this I'm beginning to wain. Misleading articles and half-truths should be outed so people think twice about doing it themselves. Shotty journalism does hurt everyone. I don't know. Discuss.

Here are the two articles in question:

Saturday, February 21, 2009


(Picture found here)

So Cute!!! Baby Ocelot. Thanks to Richard Kostelanetz for writing a thing about ocelots that made me look them up on Google. He sent in a thing for New Stone Circle. Good on him.

Friday, February 20, 2009

View from the Second City (Lake Ice)

(This is my second column published in the paper. It was published on Tuesday.)

The beach close to my apartment turns white in the winter. Snow replaces the sand and cold pidgins and seagulls replace the crowds of summer swimmers. The fresh water of the lake freezes and extends the beach about 30 feet farther out. Walking along the edge of the water it soon becomes apparent that if it was summer and not cold and you were standing in this exact spot, the water would be over your head. The first few feet of lake is sallow enough to freeze on its own, but after 10 feet or so, the water will only freeze when the waves splash up onto the ice. The rest turns into mountains of ice formed little by little with each wave.

I braved the below freezing temperatures the other day, to see the beach. I prefer it in the winter. I think it is much more beautiful. And the waves seem much more savage. I walked through the knee-high snow to the stone edge over looking the lake. The pier, where I sat last year to watch the 4th of July fireworks, was covered in an inch of ice. Carefully, I walked to the edge of the ice embankment overlooking the water. It was slippery and I walked carefully out onto it. To my left was thinner ice and to my right was a 10-foot drop to the water, which probably was about another 10 feet to the lake bottom. If I slipped I would have been in the cold, cold water with no way out. So I stood perfectly still and watched the waves crash on to the ice. Normally in the winter, the water is rough and would be shooting up past my head. But that day was especially calm.

The lake in the wintertime makes me think of my childhood on the farm. I would play in the snow in our back yard with my older brother. Or we would walk to the family woods. Our farm, between White Heath and Monticello, was wonderfully alone. In the wintertime I could see my breath in the crisp clear air and the only sound I could hear were my boots crunching in the snow.

It is all but impossible to be alone in the city, even on the coldest day of the year. I get as close to alone as I can at the beach in the winter. My childhood self would think I was crazy for wanting to regain that feeling, Chicago was a place of excitement in my young mind, which it still is. But sometimes the excitement can become too much and all I need in the world is the natural silence of my boots crunching the snow.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I'm tired

Again I'm going to rush through a post because I don't want to go supper long without posting something. And this one will probably be kind of weird and stream-of-consciousnessy.

Today at work I stuffed some envelope. And I felt pretty good about it because they were congratulatory letters of acceptance. I had a part in giving these kids an education. Granted there are many many more people who have bigger roles and deserve much much more credit then me, but I would like my credit that I think is due.

I'm also getting a lot of things done that have been hanging over my head. Two articles for Monday's paper and a few class assignments. I'm also almost done with the book I need to read.

Good for me all around, I'd say.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A bit of . . . I guess they call it Navel Gazing.

As the second week of my semester comes to completion . . .

I wanted to get another quick post done. I fear my life will become too hectic and busy to keep much of a regular schedule going. Perhaps only the odd "View from the Second City" and torch article will be posted over the next few months. Hopefully, I'll be able to find some time for a cute picture. But I don't think I will be able to write a huge amount, which is a shame because I need all the practice I can get.

Why is it that when I tell anyone my choses educational path and future profession, they all tell me how bad the media is? Does this happen with any other job. Doctors I guess. People are always telling them why they are wrong. Why they know better. Who else?

I've been considering where I want to end up. One of my classes, War and Media, has me intrigued. I'm reading "The First Casualty," for the class. An historical look at war correspondence. I've never really considered that, but I don't know. The book talks about the "first" war correspondence, William Howard Russell. He really wasn't the first, he is just remembered better. "Russell covered teh war between Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark, the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, the American Civil War, the Austro-Prussian War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Paris Commune, and the Zulu War of 1879. He helped to topple the British government, was indirectly responsible for the employment of the first war photographer, and helped keep Britain from intervening in the American Civil War. He was appointed a Knight of the Iron Cross, an Officer of the Legion of Honour . . ." and on and on and on. If I got 1% of what he did done, I would be very happy with myself.

Some how politics keeps pulling on me and peaking my interest. I've always said I don't want to go near that crap hole. To much heartache and not enough gratitude. But it's interesting. The stories can be epic. And I think the public needs to know the secret--the whole things is a game. Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on merit between the hours of 9 and 5. More like 10 and 3 Monday-Thursday. Then at the bar no body cares. Same thing with Journalists. The job is just a job and everyone is a friend with a beer in your hand. I once told Chris that maybe I wanted to be "a corespondent to the insane." They are the ones who most need understanding and have the biggest obstacle--a different language of the mind.

Politics is the ultimate in insanity and maybe they need me to translate. (I don't often get so high on myself. Maybe I'm just tired. Please don't judge me for this.)

I don't really know anything that I want to do beyond go to bed right now.

Good night all.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

View from the Second City (First column)

(I wrote this after Christmas, and it was published in this weeks Journal Republican, the newspaper from my hometown. It's the beginning of my monthly column comparing Chicago and Monticello/White Heath. I hope to show everyone that it's not so different.)

Most people think Chicago greets commuters with heavy traffic and billboards but I prefer to wait until I see the el for the first time to welcome myself to the Second City. The train system is the cities bloodline and when you drive North on Interstate 57 it pops out of the ground like an animal. The roar silenced by the passing cars.

The el splits into several lines named for colors. Each line cuts through the different neighborhoods linking the diverse people and places.

Mine is the Red Line. It runs from the North Side down to the South Side and soaks up the intricacies of each neighborhood in between. It goes from tunnels to street level between the interstate; then back underground and final becomes elevated again after downtown.

The Brown Line circles downtown, creating “the loop,” and then runs northwest. The Blue Line links the west side with downtown and then goes back west. Each line has its own feel, its own personality.

I grew up outside of White Heath, but I now live in Chicago on the North Side. It is hard, sometimes, to know which is my home. I am comfortable in Chicago, but my roots are in the country.

After an emotional Christmas break my mother drove me back to Chicago--back home. I love the drive North on 57. The monotonous interstate drive is broken up by a few surreal oddities: the 20 foot tall Abraham Lincoln, the Kankakee hand clutching the world. It reminds me of our Midwest humor, dry and spars and often very strange.
Unfortunately, on this drive I missed the Lincoln because of a semi we passed at the exact wrong time.

Clouds covered the skyline until after we first saw the Red Line. I prefer the skyline coming from the South. Maybe because my first glimpse of Chicago was from this angle or maybe because the buildings look more compacted than the usual picture from the East.

The lake greets me after we pass the Bears’ playground. My first lake sighting tells me that I am finally home. We just have a little more to drive on Lake Shore before I am technically there, but I already feel good. It has been a while since I had a visit that lasted longer than a weekend. It was nice to be in Piatt County for so long, but I am glad to be back to my life.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Second Practice Onion Article

(I think this one is a little better. It's longer at least.)

Obama's Economic Stimulus Plan Includes Obama Memorabilia

President Obama announced Friday that Obama memorabilia will account for nearly 20% of his $900 billion stimulus plan.

"We are struggling as a country. Parents can not provide for there children because they have lost their jobs. It is the Government's responsiblity to provide for its citizens and that is why I am signing this stimulus package with 200 thousand 'January 20th, 2009 commemorative plates,'" Obama said in his speach on Friday.

The package also includes 2 million silver dollars with "Obama's likeness embossed on the front," 100 thousand Obama bobble heads and 30 thousand January 20th Inauguration plaque with Obama's speech "etched into 24 karate gold."

The plan is meant to help out the nations failing QVC economy. "QVC is the cornerstone of the American economy. If we don't help now, Americans all over the country will no longer be able to buy worthless junk over the phone," Obama said on Friday.

Sandy Wallis, a retired teacher from Greenwich NY, says she supports the plan. "I would hate to see QVC disappear. I bought this Hello Kitty diamonique sterling pendant for only $79, with five easy payments. And that's something you can wear anywhere."

While the QVC plan is becoming very popular with the public, Economists and Republican Senators both say they see flaws.

"We all want to support the bobble head initiative," said U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). "But I think we need to do more. We need to also help the falling Sky Mall stocks and keep Sharper Image from bankruptcy. Our nation's crap economy is suffering a crises and QVC alone can not be its sole supporter."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ill-Fated Attempt to Write Like The Onion

(This is practice for my dream job at the Onion. I think I might have to work at it more. Is it funny at all? Some constructive criticisms would be much appreciated. It's a lot harder to make up the news then I thought.)

Sign Language Interpreter Mocks Representative During Speech

Stephen Dorr, congressional sign language interpreter, stopped interpreting Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and started making fun of him at Thursday's Congressional meeting.

"Look at this Douche. Does he even know what he is talking about?" signed Dorr.

McCarthy was speaking on the "importance of the detection of early childhood disabilities." To which Dorr signed, "I'm sure he knows all about early childhood disabilities." And then he added, "Oh right, that's what he is talking about . . . early childhood disabilities. What a Douche."

In an interview during the congressional break, Dorr said he was tired of listing to "blow-hards" and wanted to make his friends laugh.

"Really, I don't even think anyone was paying attention," Dorr said.

Samantha Renaldo, a deaf woman sitting in on the meeting with a tour, said she didn't even notice.

"I think I might have fallen asleep when he was talking," Renaldo said.

When asked his thoughts, McCarthy said, "He did what now?"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Love TED Talks

TED Talks is basically a podcast of smart people talking about smart things. It's on the specific side of the spectrum. Where as when I am watching it I am on the general side. Speakers at TED know everything about one subject while I am gaining a tiny bit of information on a huge amount of subjects.

I drew up an interesting kind of document depicting this.

Here are a few of my favorite TED Talks:
A surprising parable of foie gras
The stories and song of Appalachia
Where have the bees gone?
How things in nature tend to sync up
Who is General Tso? and other mysteries of American Chinese food
Understanding comics
The art of baking bread

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


(I got this picture from acmaurer on twitter. I don't know where she got it.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

One of those Heavy Issues I Teased Earlier or 100 Post!!

I've been thinking about where the media is heading. That Publish2 contest was part of it. (I think I lost that by the way. Oh Well.) But even before that I've been a little concerned about the future.

I'm definitely not part of the old media who is scared of change, but I'm also not part of the opposite side of the spectrum. I don't worship at the alter of the Internet. I see it's problems and I see how to fix it. Not to stroke my own ego, but I think that might have lost me the contest. Publish2 is 100% into the internet, and I wrote about how that's not necessarily the best thing to do. (Please don't take this as me bashing on the website or upset about loosing.)

But, like everything else good in the world, the internet is far more complicated than most people like to think.

A lot of people often argue about the use of advertising in the media. The argument is that advertising will effect the news. Meaning: If a company advertises in a newspaper, the newspaper is less likely to report on bad news about that company.

This is a flawed argument by people who don't know the inter-workings of a newspaper office. Advertising and Reporting are two separate sections of the office. Reporters don't know what ads will be used and advertisers have no idea what the news will be. And no one knows what the finished product looks like until they read there newspaper. There are moments in history where this balance was corrupted, but too few to be anything but exceptions.

The interesting part of new media is also what I have the biggest problem with. A lot of these podcasts and what-not are produced by one person or at most a small group. This destroys the balance perfected by years and years of the old media. Now the reporter, director, writer, and advertiser are all the same person.

A few podcasts I listen to do advertising like early television. When they would stop in between stories to talk about cigarettes, "Ohhh-that smooth flavor." And then go back to the show.

The biggest problem I see with new media is that the internet wants to forget the lessens old media learned long ago. Maybe like a teenager, the internet needs to learn the lessons for its self. And old media needs to let go and hope the growing-pains doesn't kill it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

View from the Second City: Beginnings

I've got a column in a paper.

It's a monthly column in the Journal Republican, my hometown weekly newspaper. I'm calling it "View from the Second City." Most people live in a small town because they don't like big cities and I'm trying to literarlaraly (*made up word) show the similarities between Chicago and Piatt county.

I'm pretty excited about it. I'll post them after they are printed so everyone can see.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

3-2-1--Blast Off

My little brother just started to get into rockets, like I did when I was his age. This morning we took his bright orange two stage rocket out to shoot off. At first it didn't go off, but then after a new set of engines it shot off with a "PPPPHHHUUUSSSHHHH."

Yesterday, I noticed he left his rocket out with engines intact. And next to the fire place. That's my brother the safety expert. I told him I didn't want to see him grow up to be the NASA launch person. His response, "That red flashing light . . . it's fine."

The first stage went off and feel away. And then we lost the rocket in the sky. It literally disappeared. We looked all over and we couldn't find it. We found the first stage, but the main rocket is lost . . . perhaps it made it to orbit.