Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Trying to keep track of new legislation

How aware are you of the legislation that your elected officials are considering these days? Take this little news quiz and find out.

1. Rep. Paul Froehlich recently proposed what he thought would be a simple crackdown on fake identification: His idea was to offer legal protection to bouncers and businesses should they confiscate a license or ID that turned out to be genuine. Why are others in an uproar over this bill?
A. Some fear that bouncers could use the new legal protection to turn away minorities under the excuse they thought the IDs were fake.
B. Some are worried that a bouncer that confiscates a genuine ID can be sued.
C. Many are thinking, "Wait a second, if it's illegal for private individuals to confiscate an individual's ID, that motherfucker at Otto's had no right to take mine that one time!"

2. A couple of Illinois lawmakers are calling on the state to adopt a law that would mandate how many nurses a hospital would have to have for each patient. What's the rationale?
A. A nurse-to-patient ratio saves lives, money and keeps overworked nurses from burning out.
B. Tired nurses make mistakes leading to lawsuits.
C. Just the thought of hot young Filipino nurses giving patients sponge baths every hour makes me want to come down with a life-threatening illness.

3. Two dueling pieces of legislation concerning the regulation of wine production, sales and shipping in Illinois have advanced to the state's House for consideration. Which is NOT one of the bills?
A. House Bill 4350, backed by the lobbying group Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, would let wineries ship directly just two cases of wine each year to customers and only after that buyer made the initial purchase in person at the winery.
B. House Bill 4444 is supported by the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association, would allow each Illinois winery to run up to 10 shops for wine sales and to ship up to three cases of wine to each customer per month.
C. House Bill 4567, which has the support of people with good taste, would require that the so-called Illinois wineries flush the 500,000 gallons of wine they produce each year down the nearest toilet.

ANSWER KEY: Obviously, the correct answer for each question is C. How'd you do?

Quick hits: Drug news from around the state

CTA Ridership Last Year Highest In 13 Years

CHICAGO (ap) -- The Chicago Transit Authority's top drug dealer says 2005 was his busiest year in 13 years.

The transit agency supplied 492.4 million kilos of cocaine and heroine last year. That's a four-and- a-half-percent gain over 2004. It's the highest total since the 491.3 million recorded in 1992, after which public drug abuse took a steep nosedive.

Partly because of the more riders Red Lining, the CTA's elevated tracks had 186.8 million hits last year. And the agency's bus system provided 303.2 million hits -- 9.2 million more than in 2004.

Smoky Cockpit Brings United Plane Back To O'Hare

CHICAGO (ap) -- A United Airlines commuter flight, No. 8068, from O'Hare to to Harrisburg, Pa. with 40 passengers and crew on board was forced to land back at O'Hare Sunday afternoon after the pilot smoked in the cockpit.

An EMS plan 1 had been called for O'Hare but the plane landed safely without incident and no injuries at 1:34 p.m.

There is no word from the Department of Aviation or United as to what he smoke and no word on if or when passengers were experiencing a contact buzz. United's website says that usually pilots usually get high before taking the plane high into the atmosphere, not during the flight.

Three members of the rock band Live were aboard the plane. "No one knew anything," Chad Taylor, Live's lead guitarist, told The Daley Show. "But we were pretty bummed that we weren't offered any."

Alcohol Banned From FBI Shooting Range

NORTH CHICAGO (ap) -- The FBI is banning alcohol from its North Chicago shooting range.

A spokesman says the move comes in response to a fight at the range in November between two Chicago Bears players.

Marijuana, which causes gun enthusiasts to "chill out," will still be allowed, according to the spokesman.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Quote of the week: Looking for sexual healing

Unclear-on-the-Concept Award Winner:

"I want to come and be with them." --Cardinal Francis George, on what he plans to do when he visits a chuch where a popular priest allegedly abused two young boys.

Live at the GOP debate

Moderator: Hello, and welcome to today's debate among Republican candidates for governor here in Champaign. Today we will examine various issues important to the state and find out the differences among these candidates so that you, the Republican voters of Illinois, can begin to think about who you might want to vote for in the primary. Our first question is this: What makes you different?

Jim Oberweis: Well, with all due respect to the other candidates, I'd like to say that I'm by far the biggest psycho.

Ron Gidwitz: Mr. Oberweis would like people to think he's the most psychotic, but I'll have you know that I'm a psycho too.

Bill Brady: Oh, oh, oh, I'm psycho too, I'm psycho too!

Oberweis: These gentlemen would like you to think they're as psychotic as I am, but look at me. I look like a psycho!

Gidwitz: Yeah? Well, I'm bald. And bald guys are pretty psychotic.

Bill Brady: OK, OK, I'm handsome. The handsome devil.

Moderator: And Ms. Judy Baar Topinka, who was unable to attend tonight, would like everyone to know that she's as psychotic as any other Republican. Next question: Which of you has the best chance to beating Gov. Blagojevich in the fall?

Candidates (in unison): I can!

Moderator: Thank you. Next: What will you do to fight crime, especially in suburban Chicago, where murder rates are up?

Gidwitz: I'll lift the moratorium on the death penalty ... if we can make sure no innocent people will die.

Brady: I'll lift it too, but only as long if we execute poor people. From the inner city, not the hard working people of downstate.

Oberweis: I say we round up the illegals and execute 'em all.

Moderator: Thank you. I hope I don't need to say this, but Ms. Topinka would also like the state to start killing people again too. Next question is this: Gov. Blagojevich has been trying to provide health coverage to children and the poor people of Illinois. Do you agree of disagree?

Oberweis: Quite frankly, it was tried in the Soviet Union and it didn't work very well.

Brady: I say let the parents take care of those little kids. Better yet, let the free market do it.

Gidwitz: I agree. We need to look at ways of cutting costs and lowering taxes.

Moderator: How would you save money for the people of Illinois?

Gidwitz: We need to bring our costs back under control. It needs to stop.

Brady: Blagojevich has been spending too much money. I'd stop that.

Oberweis: Blagojevich sounds to me like some kind of illegal. Someone should check that out.

Moderator. Ms. Topinka would like people to know that she has a foreign-sounding name too. Now, gentlemen, please say something nasty to one of the other candidates, so that the local news channels have something to show tomorrow and the voters can remember a three-second sound bite.

Gidwitz: I can't think of a single positive thing to say about Rod Blagojevich.

Oberweis: Any one of us on this stage, plus Ms. Topinka who could not be here tonight, would be better than Blagojevich.

Brady: Hey hey, ho ho, this Blagojevich guy has got to go!

Moderator: No, I mean, say something nasty about someone on this stage.

Brady: Jim, it takes more than selling ice cream to be a good governor.

Oberweis: Good one, Bill. Want to talk about all the illegals in Soldier Field too?

Gidwitz: I have something to do with the schools! Chicago schools are terrible!

Moderator: Thank you. Also joining us tonight are little-known Republican Andy Martin and Constitution Party candidate Randall Stufflebeam. Gentlemen, do you have anything to say?

Martin: These candidates make it all sound so easy in a political forum, but it's not easy.

Stufflebeam: Nah, I'm good.

Moderator: Thank you. Ms. Topinka would like everyone to know that she's good too. Final comments anyone? You get two seconds each. Go!

Brady: Abortion pill bad! Blagojevich bad! I'm good!

Gidwitz: I will take a two-year break from fundraising if elected.

Oberweis: Got gov?

Moderator: Thank you all. Ms. Topinka would like to echo all the sentiments. Here on America's newest network, the CW, we now present the new hit comedy from Al Jazeera, That Darn Jew.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Today's opportunity: Pictures for sale

For many people, life is a series of opportunities. Chances to go places, do things, do people, make money. For others, life is a series of regrets. Moments of missed opportunities, forgotten ideas, lost time. For me, life is a series of jealous thoughts. How is it possible that certain people follow through on pathetic plans while I sit around with lots of ideas and zero motivation to accomplish any of them? Why do certain people take risks and find rewards while I follow the easy route?

Case in point: How do certain quote-unquote artists get to hang their "work" in coffee shops and galleries? How do these quote-unquote artists come up with the prices? Who buys these works of questionable art? Case in point: These pictures of "nature" I recently saw at a certain unnamed coffee shop on Granville Avenue near the lake. Photo of tree reflecting in water, $160. It's a snapshot actually. Anyone could have taken it, printed it, mounted it. But this guy did that and then somehow persuaded someone to let him hang it and, eventually, someone will think that it would look just lovely above the fireplace and buy it. A hundred sixty bucks for a photo of a tree.

Last summer I was at a street festival somewhere, maybe the Old Town festival at Welles Park, and a photographer there was selling absolutely stunning photographs of Tibet. They were huge, maybe four feet across, and gorgeous compositions of man and nature. I was almost tempted to buy one. But the cost? About $1,000 each. For that much, I thought, I could almost fly to Tibet myself and take hundreds of snapshots. And ... and ... then I could turn around and sell those photos at festivals and coffee shops. And the money I make from the suckers that buy my shit could then go to finance other trips.

Hey, I'm thinking out loud here. Well, I mean in writing. But here's my thought: From now on, every photo from my various trips and adventures is for sale. I just have to come up with a pricing scheme. And a way to get someone to hang them in a coffee shop. And the motivation to do any of this.

Whatever. I'll start here. Here's my first series, called CROSSINGS.

Sign, Quito, Ecuador, 2004

Raccoon, Vancouver, Canada, 2005

Street, Dublin, Ireland, 2005

Legs, Quito, Ecuador, 2004

Don't miss your opportunity to buy these wonderful prints, unavaible at any coffee shop in the city.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Cop who told couple to strip used wrong technique

News item: An Illinois State Trooper is on trial on felony charges of bribery and official misconduct for allegedly ordering a 22-year-old man and 18-year-old woman to strip as an impromptu punishment for several offenses, including underage drinking.

A Daley Show investigation into the matter shows that the officer is on shaky ground. According to the Official Illinois State Police Guide to Impromptu Punishments, copyright 2001, here are some punishments that may be used (note that full nudity is not listed):

THE ATTENTION GRAB: The officer forcefully grabs the shirt front of the driver he pulled over and shakes. New Jersey, the only state to have openly debated coercion of prisoners, declared this illegal in 1987, but the Illinois Supreme Court ruled it OK in 1999.

THE ATTENTION SLAP, also known as THE BITCH SLAP: Officers may deliver "an open-handed slap," which is "aimed at causing pain and triggering fear."

THE BELLY SLAP: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors advised against using a punch, which could cause the detainee to puke up all the alcohol he drank earlier.

STANDING FOR HOURS: This technique is described as among the most effective. Drivers are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to a ring bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are claimed to be effective in yielding confessions of not using turn signals and driving slowly in the left lane.

COLD TREATMENT: The prisoner is left to stand outside in winter, and constantly doused with cold water. Misapplication of this technique is blamed for the death of a detainee on I-88.

WATERBOARDING: The prisoner is bound to a board, head slightly below the feet. Plastic is wrapped over his face and water is poured over him, or his head is lowered into a bath. The gag reflex is automatic; few can endure more than a matter of seconds.

Stupid Foreigner, part 8: Miss you

It's time to learn the alphabet and English grammar with Stupid Foreigner. Originally written on July 12, 1999, right before I was to move back to the States, these are two lists of things I thought I'd miss about Japan.

First the nouns. Nouns are people, places, and things unique to Japan.

A is for Apples at $1.50 each, bananas at $4 a bunch, and cherries at $10 a pint

B is for Burgers at McDonald's dipped in teriyaki sauce and topped with a fried egg

C is for Crooked teeth, and the Japanese rationalization for not fixing them: "They're eventually all going to fall out anyway"

D is for Doraemon goods from students who think I like to collect the stuff just because I once bought a notebook with a picture of the crazy cat

E is for English, as used by the Japanese:
On a plastic sign for your car: "Warning, baby is on a car"
On a package of instant noodles: "Now you can eat the famous ramen chef"
Title of some crazy comedy show: "What A Cool We Are"
More of the same at Engrish.com.

F is for Flying cockroaches

G is for Gas station attendants that run into the street to block traffic, bow low to the customer's car and yell "thank you very much!"

H is for Hot hand towels handed to me as I sit down at a restaurant but no napkins at the table

I is for Ice cream flavors like "green tea" and "wasabi"

J is for J-Pops groups like Mr. Children, Hide with Spread Beaver, and SMAP (Sports Music Acting People),none of which I'd ever listen to in America

K is for Karaoke as a legitimate after-hours activity

L is for Loose sock-wearing high school girls that magically transform themselves into kogyaru in public Note from the present: I have no idea what kogyaru means. I forgot.

M is for Mini everything: skirts, shorts, T-shirts, breasts, and the best one of them all: the Mini-Skirt Police

N is for Neighbors that do laundry at 2 a.m. every day in a machine that sounds like it's ready to explode

O is for Old women that splash buckets of dirty water onto the sidewalk right in front of me

P is for Pocket-sized packets of tissue handed to me every day by someone who thanks me very much for taking them

Q is for Questions every day like: What are your hobby? and Why did you coming to Japan?

R is for Rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

S is for "Super dry" beer that tastes like stainless steel

T is for Telephones the size of granola bars

U is for "Ultraman" fighting rubber monsters at summer festivals (Note: In Japanese, it's pronounced oo-loo-too-rah-mahn)

V is for Vending machines that sell beer, pornos, and used girls' underwear

W is for Weather forecasts for all of my days off: Hot, humid, with a 70 percent chance of rain

X is for XL clothes, or the lack thereof (not that I need it)

Y is for Youth culture embraced by society (plus youths embraced by society's leaders)

Z is for Zero eye contact wherever I go

Now the verbs, present progressive tense. Present progressive (or continuous) verbs are answers I had for my mom whenever she called and asked, "What are you doing?"

A is for Avoiding my neighbors for the entire time I live in any given apartment building (or should I say, being avoided)

B is for Borrowing unlocked bicycles when the walk from the bars seems too long

C is for Claiming gomi furniture at the monthly junk piles in the neighborhood

D is for Dodging scooters on sidewalks

E is for Eating whatever it was that I pointed at on the menu

F is for Forgetting that ATMs are closed on national holidays and then surviving for a few days on 1,000 yen

G is for Groping junior high school girls on the train (or at least knowing that all the salarymen are doing it) and feeling only a little guilty about it

H is for Hostess-bar hopping

I is for Ignoring fellow foreigners

J is for Jamming on my bicycle brakes because someone stepped right in front of me without ever looking up

K is for Killing time at the arcade, but being afraid to try any of the games cause they look so damn tough to play

L is for Lying to students when they ask for any kind of explanation
Student: Andy, what does "autobiography" mean?
Me: Well, to understand that word, you need to know the roots. "Auto" means "car," which is American English for "individual." "Bio" is a scientific word, like "biotechnology," which means "cloning." And "graphy" means that it was written on graph paper. Do you understand?
Student: Um ...
Me: Next question.

M is for Melting within a minute of being in a hot spring while the naked Japanese all around me soak for hours

N is for Napping on the train ride home after an afternoon of drinking and then waking up at the end of the line

O is for Overhearing cellular phone conversations on the train, at the movie theater, on Mt. Fuji ...

P is for Pronouncing every letter in every syllable I utter, then repeating ("Chi-cah-go. I am from Chi-cah-go! Do you want to go to love hotel?")

Q is for Questioning my sanity for staying in Japan for as long as I have, and then for deciding to leave

R is for Relinquishing my seat on the train for an old lady while the guy across the aisle takes up two extra seats, one for his briefcase and one for his feet

S is for Squatting

T is for "Traing," which is Japanese-English for "taking the train to any given point in the country"

U is for Understanding and laughing at hours of TV dramas and variety shows without actually knowing Japanese

V is for Visiting love hotels and happily realizing that the condoms there are actually too small

W is for Waiting to cross the street at a red light, even though there are no cars around

X is for Xeroxing funny headlines from local English-language newspapers and faxing them to other conversation schools

Y is for Yawning while waiting for a student to respond, then trying to cover it up when she suddenly looks up

Z is for Zipping up quickly when a girl barges into the restroom, then realizing that I am the one in the wrong room

Friday, January 27, 2006

Poor people flock to new Wal-Mart

EVERGREEN PARK (ap) -- Eighteen months after the Chicago City Council torpedoed a South Side Wal-Mart, 24,500 Chicagoans applied for 325 jobs at a Wal-Mart opening today in south suburban Evergreen Park, one block outside the city limits. Store managers are now faced with scheduling challenges that will have thousands of employees working for minimum wage, with nobody qualifying for the company's expensive health benefits.

"This is like winning the lottery for us," the company announced in a statement. "Every single one of our new employees will remain living firmly below the poverty line, ensuring they remain customers."

The new Wal-Mart at 2500 W. 95th is one block west of Western Avenue, the city boundary. Of 25,000 job applicants, all but 500 listed Chicago addresses, mostly from the ghetto, said John Bisio, regional manager of public affairs for Wal-Mart.

Those who were not hired promised to attend grand opening ceremonies and "shoplift the company into bankruptcy."

This is in line with the official company philosophy, said one of the new hires. "In our orientation session, they told us that we shouldn't bother with unions, which are all run by Satan," said the new associate, who asked not to be identified. "Then they told us that Wal-Mart believes that 'Giving back to the community is something in which we take great pride.' So I for one will be giving away all these sweatshop-produced goods to our community."

A beautiful dream, version 2: Angry Oprah rips Bush

CHICAGO (ap) -- A sometimes angry, sometimes tearful Oprah Winfrey challenged George W. Bush over his disputed war in Iraq, asking him on a live telecast of her show Thursday to explain why he "felt the need to lie."

"It is difficult for me to talk to you because I really feel duped ... but more importantly I feel that you betrayed millions of war supporters," Winfrey said to Bush, who is president of the hugely powerful country, "The United States."

Winfrey -- who initially expressed support for Bush and his war -- was, at times, openly hostile to Bush on Thursday's show. At other points, she seemed to hold back tears as she asked him to explain why he fabricated key elements of his rationale to go to war.

Winfrey looked near tears and her audience gasped when Frey revealed for the first time that Saddam Hussein, a central figure in the war, didn't try to build weapons of mass destruction, but instead bought them from the U.S.

"Why do you have to lie about that?" Winfrey responded.

The truth of Bush's war initially came under question after the online publication The Daley Show with Andy Plonka published a lengthy article detailing how Bush had "wholly fabricated or wildly embellished" key portions of his speeches leading up to the war.

Oprah defended Bush during his Jan. 11 appearance on the Larry King Show on CNN, saying that "we must take the war to the terrorists." Yesterday, she opened her show by saying, "I regret that phone call."

"All those reasons for war that we still see on Fox News: That Saddam was building nukes. That he was harboring Osama bin Laden. That he was training terrorists to eat American babies. That we want to bring democracy to the region. That Saddam flew the planes into the World Trade Center by remote control. That the Iraqi people would throw flowers at American soldiers," Winfrey tearfully recounted. "Those were all lies."

Immediately after the broadcast on this television show of America's most powerful woman, Congress began impeachment proceedings against the president, saying, "We never suspected that the truth might have been stretched even a tiny bit. We expected that a former drug addict and alcoholic would tell us the truth."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oprah: Plonka 'betrayed millions of readers'

A beautiful dream ...

CHICAGO (ap) -- In a surprise reversal, Oprah Winfrey apologized to her national television audience today for defending Andy Plonka and said she now feels duped by the embattled writer of the blog that's read by dozens of people every day, "The Daley Show."

"I made a mistake," a somber Winfrey said at the opening of the live show, "and I left the impression that the truth does not matter, and I am deeply sorry about that because that is not what I believe."

Winfrey's apology and pointed questions about incidents and people in the blog appeared to take Plonka by surprise as he sat across the couch from Winfrey yesterday as they had done during a much more convivial show four months earlier.

"It is difficult for me to talk to you because I really feel duped," Winfrey told a startled-looking Plonka who licked his lips often before speaking. "More importantly, I feel you betrayed millions of readers ... As I sit here today, I don't know what is true, and I don't know what isn't."

Audience members often groaned and gasped at Plonka's halting, stuttered admissions that certain facts and characters have been "altered" but that the essence of his posts are real.

Plonka's blog of Illinois political abuse and recovery became one of the most-visited blogs of 2005 after Winfrey named it to her blog club last fall, with countless political junkies citing it as inspiration.

"I guess you just can't believe anything you read on the Internet anymore after this," Winfrey scolded the shy but handsome writer. "Before you arrived on the scene, political blogs were wholesome, tasteful, and a source of truth."

Daley finds it harder to get what he wants

CHICAGO (ap) -- The Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals have weakened Mayor Daley politically and emboldened normally timid aldermen to go so far as looking him in the eye.

The Daley Show has taken a closer look and come to a not-so-surprising conclusion: A Chicago City Council long known as a rubber stamp is exhibiting a "new level of independence."

From Nov. 26, 2004, through Dec. 15, 2005, there were 20 instances of brown M&M's in Daley's candy dish, compared to just two during the prior 18 months. A special City Hall rules states, "There will be no brown M&M's in the mayor's presence, upon pain of forfeiture of the council meeting, with full compensation for the mayor."

"People see a weaker Daley," said Ald. Michael Chandler (24th), "and so they're fucking with him."

Since his first election in 1989, Daley has demanded that no alderman look him directly in the eye; in fact, they are to look no higher than his knees. Recently, though, "a relatively young, more racially and sexually representative City Council has begun to act with a new level of independence. ... They are beginning to try and act like genuine legislators with an agenda and minds of their own," according to the study.

"I actually looked at his face at lunch the other day, and you know what? I think he might be cross-eyed," said Ald. Arenda Troutman (20th). "He was looking at his sandwich at the time, so he didn't see me looking, but I swear there's something wrong with his eyes."

Another one of Daley's demands is to have a physician on hand before every council session to inject him with a Vitamin B12 shot. His contract also specifies that it is "absolutely necessary" that all food in the chambers "must be covered by clear plastic wrap" until he uncovers them.

"Mayor Daley has more control over the City Council than any other mayor in Chicago history," the report found. "Nonetheless, because of the continuing ... scandals at City Hall, Mayor Daley's political strength has weakened, and someone has been willing to uncover that plastic wrap, or at least poke it."

Illinois threatens to disrupt life's seasons

To everything, turn turn turn, there is a season, blah blah blah, we've heard the song and we love it because it's true. Because in life there is a time for everything.

Remember being a kid? How far back can you remember? Some claim they can go back as far as age 2 or 3, some even as far back as the womb (these would be called "pro-lifers"), but I can't really remember much until kindergarten. Maybe it was all the drugs I took back in preschool. But if you were anything like me, as you were growing up, you couldn't wait to turn a certain age. I call the following the I-Can't-Wait-For Years:

Age 5: Some people claim they couldn't wait to turn 5. They heard about this school thing, and they couldn't wait to get there. Like I said, my brain wasn't functioning yet, not until I started thinking about turning ...

Age 10: There is something very grown-up about hitting the double digits. So few of us hit the triple digits, so this is actually an important milestone.

Age 13: Ah, becoming a teenager is the next step in becoming a real human being. I once heard a comedian suggest that parents should be given the option to abort until the child becomes a real human being. I agree. Imagine if you could tell your bratty 12 year old, "I'm sorry, but you're just not turning out. I'm gonna have to hit the old abort button."

Age 16: Probably everyone can remember saying, "I can't wait to turn 16, that's when I'll get my driver's license and hit the road like Kerouac."

Age 18: Adulthood, sort of. You can vote, you can join the military and die for your country, but you still can't drink.

Age 21: Drinking age, the age when many of my friends said, "That's enough already, I think I'm ready to quit drinking." Of course they didn't.

And that wraps up the major I-Can't-Wait-For Years. Afterwards, I guess, are Age 30, Age 40, Age 50, and Age 65, with some milestones mixed in, like College Graduation, First Job, First Layoff, First Marriage, First Child, First Time Blowing Off Jury Duty, Second Layoff, First Divorce, First Time Being Sued, Second Marriage, First Time Your Kid Says, "I Hate You," First Mental Breakdown, First Arrest, Second Mental Breakdown, Third Mental Breakdown, etc., but all these events (which eventually happen to every single person in this country) come at different ages, so it's hard to call them I-Can't-Wait-For Years.

The trouble with the I-Can't-Wait-For Years is if you waste your time waiting around for something, life passes by and you accomplish very little. Just think about all those hours you've spent waiting in line for a roller coaster at Great America. In the time it took to get on the Eagle once, you could have probably finished reading a short chapter in a book or a long blog post like this one. But, no, you spent that hour saying, I-Can't-Wait-For This Ride! And then it was over and you were like, huh, that was it? And then you say I-Can't-Wait-For the Next Ride, totally missing the lesson you'd just been taught.

All this I tell my children. And this is why they call me Cynical Man.

Anyway, what prompted these thoughts wasn't a recent milestone that I achieved (haven't quite gotten to that first breakdown). It was this headline: Bill would push driver permit age to 17. Just because of some recent crashes, a Chicago lawmaker is proposing legislation that would bar 15- and 16-year-olds from driving and raise the minimum permit age to the highest in the nation.

Under the plan, teens wouldn't be able to get a driving permit until 17 and a license until 18.

Now I'm all for making teenagers' lives miserable. But I don't think it's a good idea to mess with nature. Some things in life should be left alone. Which is why I say, don't change the I-Can't-Wait-For Years. And to those of you who were thinking I-Can't-Wait-For the Point of This Post, too bad, that was it. See what I mean about wasting your time?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Which paper's doing a better job of covering politics?

A group of Republicans met today in the first major debate of the GOP primary for governor. Let's see how the local press covered the event.

Sun-Times: GOP hopefuls rail against gov

A quartet of Republicans running for governor unleashed a river of complaints about Gov. Rod Blagojevich's stewardship of the Illinois economy Wednesday night but offered only vague proposals for turning things around.

They repeatedly talked about cutting taxes without explaining how they would replace the lost revenue. They promised to cut government spending but offered few examples of programs they would eliminate.

Tribune: GOP gubernatorial hopefuls rail against Blagojevich
By DEANNA BELLANDI, The Associated Press

NAPERVILLE -- A quartet of Republicans running for governor unleashed a river of complaints about Gov. Rod Blagojevich's stewardship of the Illinois economy Wednesday night but offered only vague proposals for turning things around.

They repeatedly talked about cutting taxes without explaining how they would replace the lost revenue. They promised to cut government spending but offered few examples of programs they would eliminate.

Daily Herald: Public gets to size up GOP field of four
By Eric Krol, Daily Herald Political Writer

The Republican governor candidates clashed on a no-new-taxes pledge but rarely with each other during their first debate Wednesday night in Naperville.

And instead of offering a heavy dose of specifics, each of the four major GOP would-be chief executives tried to establish the personalities and hooks they hope will propel them to victory in the March 21 primary — and into a one-on-one tussle with Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the most frequent target of their ire.

So, which paper would you say is doing a better job of getting its own people to file reports on the race for governor? Just asking.

UPDATE: The Tribune did post its own story at 10:15 p.m., which you'll see if you hit the link. So, basically, in the battle of Internet updates, in this round, the Herald wins by a couple of hours. In the newspaper business, faster may not necessarily be better, but posting the same exact story as the competition isn't an award-winning move either.

Some late morning hot air hot off the ap wires

City planners to give wind machines a whirl

This spring, city planners said Monday, wind turbines will be mounted on Chicago buildings to produce electricity.

The projects will provide answers about how practical and affordable wind power can be here, said Sadhu Johnston, the city's environment commissioner. Some day, turbines could be on top of commercial and residential buildings all over Chicago.

"Lord knows our politicians release enough hot air into the atmosphere to get those turbines to generate enough electricity for the entire metro region," he said.

Stroger: I'll no longer accept donations from 'sensitive positions'

Cook County Board President John Stroger said Monday he would no longer accept campaign contributions from employees in "sensitive positions" such as the inspector general, auditor, ethics chief, and doggie style.

On Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that Stroger has accepted almost $9,000 in campaign contributions from employees in those offices. Stroger acknowledged "those guys probably don't have any more to give," so he'll stop asking.

And here's one that is true. Can't possibly make it any funnier, except to say that it explains a lot about those people living to our north ...

Woman flicks matches, dies in fire

MILWAUKEE -- A woman who died in a fire at her home sparked the blaze while flicking lighted matches at her sleeping boyfriend in an effort to awaken him, police said.

Capt. Eric Moore said Monday that Beverly Gibbs, 49, had been trying to talk to her boyfriend early Sunday. "She had become upset because she wanted to talk to him and he refused get out of bed, so what she started doing was lighting matches, flicking them at him," Moore said.

The mattress caught fire, and the man tried to drag it out a door, accidentally setting other items on fire, Moore said.

"Once he was outside, she never came out of the burning residence," Moore said.

What will the electricity auction look like?

News item: The Illinois Commerce Commission approved a controversial auction as the way consumers will get electricity in 2007. At the same time, the commission warned that electricity rates are bound to rise.

Scenario 1: traditional

Auctioneer: "Do I hear fifty dollars for this month's electric bill?"

(bidder A raises number card)

Auctioneer: "I have fifty dollars, do I hear sixty dollars? Last year it cost twenty, so how about sixty?"

(bidder B raises number card)

Auctioneer: "Sixty dollars ... sixty ... looking for eighty ... eighty dollars. Ladies and gentlemen, I have a whole month's supply of gen-u-ine e-lec-tricity for your home. Make some popcorn in your microwave, see at night with the miracle of electricity, do I hear eighty dollars?"

(bidder ComEd finally decides not to pass and raises card)

Auctioneer: "I have eighty dollars! Eighty to the bidder in the back. Eighty, do I hear a hundred? One hundred dollars?"

(no bidders raise their cards)

Auctioneer: "I have eighty dollars. Going once, going twice, going for the third and final time ... (long pause) SOLD! to bidder ComEd for eighty dollars. The next item is cable service ..."

Scenario 2: ebay

price: US $289.00
Time left: 1 day 17 hours
10-day listing, Ends Jan-26-06 21:42:14 PST
Start time: Jan-16-06 21:42:14 PST
Quantity: 8 available
History: Purchases
Item location: ComEd nuclear plants all over the place
Ships to: Suckers in Illinois, United States
Shipping costs: Seller will determine how much to charge for delivery of this valuable item

Image of auction from Toothpaste for Dinner.

With keno gone, state scrambles to find cash

SPRINGFIELD (ap) -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich is ending his quest to bring keno-style gambling to Illinois, and is instead proposing other ways to empower Illinois children to finance more road and school construction.

Blagojevich fired off a letter to state House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) yesterday to tell him that keno is off the table and to outline other innovative ways to finance $500 million worth of school construction projects -- a cornerstone of a $3.2 billion capital-development program.

"Now that keno is no longer a viable option and therefore no longer an excuse to oppose our proposal, I urge you to embrace one of the following options," the governor wrote in the handwritten note on Hello Kitty stationery.

Instead of keno, one option is to hold regular dice games in low income neighborhoods. "We have even identified a young man, an 12 year old that cares deeply about the game," wrote the governor. "He can be our Czar of Dice."

Furthermore, money can be generated by the 1,000+ laid-off teachers who can sell SchoolWise, which is similar to Chicago's street newspaper, and Affy Tapples.

Finally, the governor is hoping to avoid further trouble with the federal government by stopping all purchases of prescription drugs from Canada, and instead have the state make its illegal deals from "street pharmacies," further empowering inner city youth.

David Dring, Cross' spokesman, said he had yet to see the letter. Cross has his own, Republican-backed plan to raise money for schools -- corporate naming rights.

"Tom likes the idea of private funding options," Dring said. "Sometimes a new name inspires a new attitude. Look what it did for the White Sox."

Under the Republican plan, all city schools would undergo a name change. Walter Payton would become Harry Caray's High School and Lane Tech would change to Lane Bryant--Fashionable plus-size apparel, sizes 14-28--College Prep.

Disney Magnet School, however, would keep its name.

In his letter to Cross, Blagojevich closed with the question, "Do you like me?" He then drew two squares, one with a yes and the other a no. "All it takes is a yes," Blagojevich said later.

The Pole's Poll #5: Hey, mister, can you spare a buck?

Which school construction funding proposal do you like?
Dice games in alleys
SchoolWise sales by laid off teachers
Affy Tapple sales
Prescription drug sales on the streets
Corporate naming of schools
Other (write-in your vote in comments)

Free polls from Pollhost.com

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Just curious: Would Condi vs. Hillary be such a bad idea?

A Daley Show editorial by Pedro the Paperboy

Earlier this month Chile elected Michelle Bachelet, its first female president. Liberia recently elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first woman president. Japan is getting into the act with a bill this year to allow women to ascend the imperial throne for the first time in centuries. And the list can go on and on.

Meantime, what's happening in the world's lone superpower, the land of opportunity and equality for all? According to a study by the Chicago Network, a group for professional women, women aren't even represented in the corporate world. Only 15 of Chicago's 50 biggest companies have women among their top earners and only one area company has a woman as CEO.

"I'd like to think of us as a thriving industrial metropolis where there are lots of opportunities for women in corporate Chicago because there's a lot of talk in the corporate community about diversity and the business case for diversity," Laurel Bellows, a Chicago executive compensation lawyer, said in a Chicago Tribune article.

But "I do believe that women continue to be held to different standards of performance," she said.

And my point is? Hang on, I'll get to it as soon as I wake up my wife so she can make me a breakfast burrito. Can't really think about this stuff without my scrambled eggs and salsa, you know.

Chicago schools propose initiatives to balance budget

CHICAGO (ap) -- Taking a cue from the CTA, which last year threatened major service cuts if it didn't get more state money, CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan laid out budget challenges facing the school system next year and called on Springfield to significantly increase operating funding for schools to avoid damaging cuts in classroom programs.

"We'd really hate to do it," the 1987 co-captain of Harvard's basketball team said, "but we will make headline-grabbing threats -- things that will scare middle-class city residents who depend on the schools to keep the riff-raff off the streets -- until we get more money."

Under the new budget proposal, school lunches would be cut and students would take daily "field trips" to grocery stores for free samples. "This way, we can also cut our math programs, and algebra teachers can be replaced by store cash registers," Duncan said.

The CEO made other bold proposals for saving and making money, to show the public that, while their property may no longer be safe, their property taxes won't be going up.

He unveiled the new-for-2006 CPS swimsuit calendar, starring himself and the entire Board of Education. (Click here for a preview.) The low quality of the photos represents a DIY ethic at the city schools. "Yes, we had students take the photos of Board members," Duncan said.

Another money-making venture will be the reintroduction of junk food and cigarette vending machines in school hallways. "We figure the city and state will make a windfall from the added cigarette taxes, and then lawmakers can pass that money on to us," Duncan said.

"Before we ask taxpayers for any more, we need to see what we can get from the state -- and see what we can get from ourselves ... and our children."

UPDATE: Governor agrees to pay part of the ransom

SPRINGFIELD (ap) -- Saying "whatever you do, don't release that swimsuit calendar," aides to Gov. Blagojevich Monday promised up to $100 million more for Chicago public schools in the governor's next budget, but city school officials said even more help is needed to avoid teacher job cuts next school year.

Chicago still needs relief from a new $70 million pension tab, warned Pedro Martinez, CPS budget chief.

"Even if we get everything [the governor] has promised, we would still have to cut [in the classroom] because of the pension issue,'' Martinez said.

The school district will look to the corporate world for innovative ways to deal with "the pension issue." With Ford joining other major corporations in announcing 50,000 job cuts, many wonder if we really need an educated workforce anyway.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Can keno really help my child become an NFL coach?

Not too good with money, don't know how to balance my checkbook (have never actually tried), but somehow these stories all seem connected:

$: The governor's idea to bring in $80 million a year by legalizing keno in Illinois is "still alive," although Blagojevich is open to any "better ideas" that opponents have for funding school construction. I don't really know what this keno thing is, but a google image search unveiled this picture:
$$: Whether or not this funny-looking dog comes to Illinois, two firms with connections to the governor will most likely hit the jackpot.
$$$: Faced with a huge spike in pension costs, Chicago Public School officials are weighing a host of drastic measures -- including cutting more than 1,000 teaching jobs and raising high school class size -- to balance their coming budget. One way to help balance the budget? Keno perhaps? Or they could go bankrupt like United and scrap the pension plans.
$$$$: If students maintain a B average, they can claim $1,000 for two years of college. How does the governor plan to pay for this proposal? No details, but would keno help?
$$$$$: If students choose to go to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, they have a good chance of becoming an NFL coach. It seems that EIU, a Division 1-AA school, has produced three current NFL head coaches: Denver's Mike Shanahan, New Orleans' Sean Payton and Minnesota's Brad Childress. This is more than any other university in the country. Can't afford EIU? Perhaps a $1,000 tax credit would help?

Image of Keno borrowed from Funny Dog.

Survey says: It's time for meaningless poll numbers!

SPRINGFIELD (ap) -- With many months to go before the election, it's time to see what the people think (or if they think) about the candidates. Just a couple of days ago, Gov. Rod Blagojevich beat gubernatorial primary candidate Judy Baar Topinka in a poll measuring which person is more "favorable."

Intrigued by these early returns, The Daley Show decided to join in the fun and interviewed 800 likely Illinois voters at dive bars around the state. The poll, conducted by the non-profit international research organization FACT 1999, has an error margin of 39.5 percentage points. The voters were asked to comment on the governor's race, as well as other important political stories. Following are the results:

Can you name a Republican candidate for governor other than Topinka?
88% No
10% Who's Topinka? A Russian?
2% Yes

Which candidate would you prefer to party with, Blagojevich or Topinka?
32% Topinka
7% Blagojevich
61% Um, I'm rearranging my sock drawer that night

Which candidate would you vote off the island?
61% Topinka
31% Blagojevich
8% The homosexual. One of 'em is gay, right?

Which statewide issue is most important to you?
16% Avoiding the drama of time-zone changes
11% The next nominee for the Illinois Supreme Court
5% Coal mine safety
4% Illegal immigrants working at ice cream shops
64% I don't have issues, OK man?

Do you support the governor's proposal for keno to pay for schools?
37% Yes
33% I thought that's what the lottery was for
30% Only if they use the machines to teach kids about probabilities

How do you feel about all this talk of airport expansion?
45% I'm afraid of flying. Aren't we still in code orange on the terror alert?
40% We should expand Gary Chicago
3% We should build in Peotone
1% We should bring back Meigs Field!
1% We should bring back Hooters Air!

Did Barack Obama make a mistake in promising on "Meet the Press" Sunday that he would finish his six-year term as senator and not run for president or vice president?
82% Yes
18% No ... wait, I don't get the question

Would you be upset if Obama broke that promise and ran anyway?
99% No
1% Undecided

Who should Obama choose as his running mate?
89% It doesn't matter
10% Anyone but Blagojevich
1% Any female other than Hillary

What is Mayor Daley's rationale for making a bid for the Olympics?
53% Something about getting better transportation
40% Something about another NFL team
7% Something about all these hired truckers that need something to do

How much would it take to get you to vote for our candidate?
72% One month's gas bill
22% $100 spread out over two years
6% Ah, just tell me who the winner is already

Sunday, January 22, 2006

What's up with that head shot?

Back when I was a reporter for a small newspaper in Vermont, I'd watch in awe as our photographer went through an entire roll of film just to get a head shot of a subject. Didn't matter if it was a big-wig politician (like Howard Dean) or a retiring teacher, he'd patiently shoot dozens of pictures just to make sure he'd get a good one. Then he'd agonize over which one to use in the paper, wanting to make sure that the picture was as flattering as possible. This was before digital photography, so it was an interesting process.

But that photog also showed me how the Associated Press photos that we got over the wire could easily be manipulated to say something about the subject. The AP would send several pictures of every prominent person in the news that day, and it would be up to the newspaper's editors to decide which to use. At our left-leaning newspaper, we often ran pictures of Republicans with their mouths contorted into some evil grimace and Democrats with pleasant smiles. Most media outlets in the country do that. A recent example is that first debate between Bush and Kerry, where the split-screen was manipulated to make the president seem as tall as the challenger.

That said, what can (should) we think about the people in charge of the WBBM Newsradio 780 website, where every photo of Governor Blagojevich makes him look like such a goof?

FAQs about Chicago's Japanese restaurants

Since I've begun planning a summer trip to Asia, it's natural that certain news stories catch my eye. For example ... this one:

Unemployed sushi ched stabs daughter to death

The typo in the headline, by the way, is not mine. But the lead paragraph might lead to several questions about Chicago's Japanese restaurants, questions that my self-appointed expert on all things Japanese, Mr. Harry Handa, will answer:
An unemployed South Korean sushi chef was accused Saturday of stabbing his teenage stepdaughter to death with a butcher knife after she refused to let him into the family's suburban Chicago apartment.
Q1: Hey, aren't sushi chefs supposed to be Japanese?
A: Yes, except for the fact that there are very few Japanese people living in Chicago, so most "Japanese" restaurants employ Korean, Thai, or Mexican workers. Plus, if you ask the Koreans, they'll say they're the ones that invented sushi. And sumo. And Hello Kitty.
Q2: What happened to all the Japanese people in the city?
A: There never really were that many Japanese in Chicago in the first place. The greatest influx came right after World War II; when they were released from the internment camps, many families chose or were forced to head east instead of going back to their homes on the West Coast. After the war, the Japanese economy started booming, so fewer of them wanted to move to the U.S. anyway. Those who were here ended up, for the most part, with professional jobs and moved to the suburbs. Which would you prefer, being a doctor or a sushi chef?
Q3: Hey, I thought I was supposed to ask the questions! But since you asked, I wouldn't mind either, as long as I'm able to slice through flesh with a really sharp knife. Speaking of which, what brand of butcher knife did this unemployed sushi chef use to kill the girl?
A: Ah, as you can see in the picture, a real chef uses a long, thin knife. This shows that he wasn't good, using a butcher knife, the weapon of choice for barbarians.
Q4: What should be the punishment for the crime of stabbing a 15-year-old to death?
A: Again, if he was Japanese, this would be simple. By humiliating his family in such a manner, the Japanese sushi chef would turn the knife on himself and perform seppuku. Since he's not Japanese, he'll have to wait for somebody else to kill him.
Q5: How is it possible for a sushi chef to be unemployed? Aren't there, like, at least two Japanese restaurants on every block of every trendy neighborhood in the city?
A: Not quite. Currently there are only 130 Japanese restaurants worth mentioning in Chicago.
Q6: So, which one's the best?
A: Sushi in Chicago? Yuck! In Japan, the cheapest sushi shop gets its fish fresh off the boat that morning. What do they do in this city? Catch the fish in the Chicago River? No thank you, I believe in eating the national food in whatever country I'm in. That's why I only eat at McDonald's when I'm in this country.
Q7: Speaking of that, how exactly do Japanese people pronounce the McDonald's advertising jingle?
A: "I'm rubbin' it!"

Saturday, January 21, 2006

500 visits in one day!

It took two months for The Daley Show to get 2,800 visitors, an average of 50 per day. Then, out of nowhere, I got 500 hits yesterday. The secret: I got a mention on The Capitol Fax, a political blog out of Springfield. With these two sentences in his odds-and-ends post--Andy Plonka has a photo of Governor Blagojevich jogging in his neighborhood during the day. Check Andy’s comments after I asked what time that photo was snapped.--Rich Miller delivered readers from all over the country, with domains like state.il.us and house.gov. That just goes to show how much power a popular blog has. And it leads me to wonder, what do I need to do to get Blago to bookmark my blog and visit every day?

Advice to the governor, in case you are reading: You should start your own blog called blagoblog.com. And if you need a writer/photographer, feel free to contact me.

Stupid Foreigner, part 7: Pee Wee and Me

So I was on-line last night, looking for cheap accommodations in Tokyo, when I ran across the perfect greeting to a website. Maybe I'll steal it for this blog:
First of all, Taito Ryokan Staffs would like to thank you for your taking time to visit our web site. Among the 6 billion people on the planet, among the 8 billion web sites all over the world, you came to this tiny house home page, we really appreciate this chance, oppotunity, fate, destiny. We are not sure that it is meant to be for you to experience this classic and real basic Japanese style in a wooden house - built 1950 (Showa Year 25). Although, if there was a crossing path for us to meet you, that would be our most pleasure and happiness. Some information and a bit of detail may be refered just a few clicks away, please. All in all, this site provides an unique experience in the heart of downtown Tokyo, Asakusa. This is the Ryokan of Tokyo, Japan.
I agree! Couldn't possibly agree more. But you may be asking why I was looking for cheap accommodation in Tokyo. Is it research for my regular Saturday feature, Stupid Foreigner, where I re-run something I wrote years ago while living in Japan?


I'm in the midst of planning a five-week summer trip to South-East Asia. A friend asked if I wanted to go a wedding in Thailand in July. I checked airfares, and they turned out to be a minimum of $1,200. So, I checked to see if I could use my United miles, and sure enough, there were two seats available. So ... it's back to Asia, for more Stupid Foreigner tales. First a week in Japan, followed by Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and possibly Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Why am I including all this information here? Well, because it's Saturday morning, so I'm wasting your time. Plus, this is how I get when planning my next trip. Very excited. Lots of time spent online, researching the perfect itineraries, plans that I'll quickly forget about once my feet hit foreign soil. Anyway, while I bounce around all the travel sites, you can read something I wrote on Jan. 22, 1999:

Recently I've been feeling a little like Pee Wee Herman. No, I haven't been caught red-handed in an adult theater, at least not yet. (Not that I ever watch adult movies in Japan. It's just not worth it because of a local law that prohibits movie-makers from showing pubic hair so they pixilate it.)

Pee Wee and I have something else in common: both of us had our bicycle stolen.

Not exactly shocking news--living in Japan and having a bicycle stolen. I suppose every single person in Japan has had at least one bicycle stolen. It's sort of like being mugged in New York, or being a victim of road rage in L.A., or watching your home team lose yet another game in Chicago.

So, if it happens to everyone, why was I upset? I suppose because it finally happened to me! Plus, my bicycle was special. Understand, Japan has its own version of the lowly bicycle. The common type is called the mama-charii, and it comes complete with a basket, a bell, and a light attached to the front wheel. It weighs about 30 pounds and comes with three speeds, if you're lucky. Plus the color choices tend to be either black or glay. But my bicycle was cooler than the average bicycle. It was a little sleek even. And it was mine.

So you can imagine my surprise when I walked out of my apartment and saw vast emptiness where my bicycle had been only 12 hours before. I almost cried, mostly because I knew I would have to walk to the train station.

That day as I walked along, dodging all the happy cyclists, I scanned every bicycle in my field of vision. I took out my phrase book and learned Japanese for "stop thief!" I wondered if certain bicycles I came across had a recent paint job ("That one looks too shiny, too clean!"). I broke into a sweat, because this was the first time I was actually walking in a long long time. I even considered filing a police report. But mostly I searched for an unlocked bicycle, one I might steal.

I came up empty, just like Pee Wee in much of the movie. I didn't bother following leads stating that my bicycle was in a basement somewhere. Because I knew that Japanese buildings do not have basements. I thought about the times that I "borrowed" unlocked bicycles during my various after-hours escapades.

One night stood out in my mind. After work, I decided to go out for a drink or two with co-workers. Well, the beers at the izakayas tend to be rather large, so two beers took quite some time. As midnight approached, I realized my train would turn into a pumpkin, so I raced over to the station only to see the train pulling out. I checked the timetable. This late, the next train home wouldn't show up for another 30 minutes. In my two-beer state of mind, I thought it would be a better idea to walk home. Five minutes later I realized the silliness of my decision so I started looking for a bicycle. Imagine my happiness when I almost immediately found a bike, on its side, in a nearby alleyway. Without even looking around to see if anyone could see me, I jumped on and headed home.

It turned out to be a long, long ride. The bike just didn't want to ride properly. It was old, I figured, which explained why pedalling was so hard. At one point I started going up a hill. "That's strange," I thought, "there's no hill between Shimizu and my home in Shizuoka." But in my mind I thought it would be a good idea to keep going up. At the top I'd spot Shizuoka and coast down in that direction. I never made it to the top. The bike just wasn't cooperating. I walked it up part of the way, but then, eventually, realized that this hill was on the opposite side of Shimizu. Anyway ... to make a long story short, I eventually got to Shizuoka after a hell ride, which at one point involved me walking the bike across a dry river bed. There are lots of dry rivers in Japan.

By the time I was almost home, the two giant beers were out of my system, so I started wondering about certain things: Will I return this bike tomorrow? Will I remember where I borrowed it from? And ... what the hell is that metal-scraping sound? Two blocks from home I looked down and realized this bike had two flats. Well, not really flats. There were no tires. Just the metal rim scraping on the street. And that's why it was so hard to ride the damned thing!

I finally realized that this was actually a bike that had been thrown away, ready to be hauled off to North Korea or somewhere. In my anger, I jumped off the bike, left it in the middle of the street, and walked the final two blocks.

Flash forward to my search for my stolen bicycle. I figured that "stop thief" wasn't enough to say if I did in fact spot someone riding my bike, so I went to a bookstore and bought a book called "Japanese Street Slang," figuring that I could find a few choice words to say to the thief. The book was a find. I don't remember most of the words, of course, but I learned that the Japanese language is actually quite colorful. One of my favorite words was for female masturbation, something like "manzuri." Literally, it means "ten thousand rubs." Why doesn't English have a word like that? Funnier still is the word for male masturbation, "senzuri," which translates to "a thousand rubs." (More like a hundred, right Pee Wee?) But I never got a chance to use my new vocabulary.

Good news and bad news came the following weekend. I got word that the police had spotted my bike parked somewhere. So a friend called the cops the next day to find out where it was. They told him that, well, it was missing once again. Now that's what I call an example of great police work. They find a lost bicycle only to let it be stolen again.

But a stolen bicycle is serious business in Japan, despite the fact that 100,000 of them are stolen every single day. (Here's a related statistic from a book my employer gave me: On Your Own in Japan: Everything You Need to Know to Survive and Thrive: "In Tokyo, 3,566,391.7 umbrellas are lost on the trains every ten minutes.") My friend had to go to a police station to file an official missing-bicycle report. Not only did they want to know where the bicycle was parked before being stolen, but also in which direction it was parked, and what I was doing while it was being stolen, and what my ATM card's secret number was. Of course I lied about everything.

I'm not sure if I'll ever see my bicycle again. But I know the police will do what they can. I know this because a guy I know was once busted for riding a stolen bicycle. Someone reported seeing a foreigner riding a stolen bicycle to the police. So what the police did is (this is true), they staked out this guy's place, and when they saw him riding away on the bike in question, they blocked the street with a squad car, lights flashing, and actually cuffed the guy and took him to the station.

But I guess that's what happens in a safety country like Japan, where the police don't have much to do. I just hope they never find me in an adult theater ...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Art attacks Chicago in USA Today yesterday

Frequent Daley Show commenter and trouble-maker art attack was quoted in a USA Today story yesterday that dealt with old water tanks and other disappearing landmarks.

"We're losing a lot more than just buildings," the benefits administrator and amateur archivist who spends his spare time taking photos of disappearing landmarks said as he documented the ruins of Pilgrim Baptist Church. "We're losing the soul of the city."

He's known for hyperbole and typos, but if you hear him say it, Art was taking pictures of the burned-down church when the reporter approached him and asked what he thought. He gave her his spiel about how Mayor Daley is allowing all the beautiful crumbling buildings to be torn down and replaced by ugly new construction. She said, "Great story idea!" and off she went.

The story is worth a read, especially if you're one of those people (like me) that thinks USA Today doesn't even use complete sentences.

Fun with numbers

Can you match the number with the news item below?

A. One billion B. 7.6 million C. 5,700 D. 500,000 E. 3 F. 90

1. Number of rats living in Chicago.

2. Number of Chicago museum visitors last year.

3. Number of worldwide Internet users.

4. Number of homeless families Chicago "helped" last year.

5. Number of murders in suburban Chicago last year.

6. Number of times I've made fun of Gov. Blagojevich's hair.

Here are some hints:
  • The top ten museums in Chicago are the John G. Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium, the Chicago Historical Society, the DuSable Museum, the Field Museum, the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Not making the list was the Museum of the Fine Art of Chicago Clout.
  • Chicago is in its third year of a 10-year plan to end homelessness in the city by sending all the poor people to Elgin and Aurora.
  • "A few years ago we had 1.5 million furry friends living in city school cafeterias, and 20 years ago there were 6 or 7 million," said Stan, the Streets and Sans Answer Man. This year, squirrels and pigeons were not counted in the rat census.
  • 36% of Internet users are now in Asia and 24% are in Europe. Only 23% of users are in North America. Someone in Iran yesterday read this blog for 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Keyword search used to find this blog: How to be the bomb!
  • 2.6 million people live in the 47 largest towns in northeastern Illinois, not counting Chicago. Most are there to live closer to the river boat casinos.
  • Submit your answers in the COMMENTS section. The first one with all the correct answers gets a free haircut from the governor's personal stylist, courtesy of Illinois taxpayers.

  • Thursday, January 19, 2006

    Which crime gets you more time?

    Two brotherly news items caught my eye this morning. One guy stabbed his brother to death during a fight over his pickup truck. Another guy helped his brother pretend to be dead. So, guess which guy got the harsher sentence?

    Decatur man sentenced to four years in prison in brother's stabbing

    Man Gets 12 years For Helping to Fake Brother's Death

    Let this be a lesson to all the fakers of the world.

    And speaking of fakers, the couple who lied about biting into a human finger in a fast-food meal are going to prison for a long long time. What kind of world do we live in where people get 10 or more years for pretending when they could actually kill someone and get three or four?

    Promises Blagojevich did not make

    SPRINGFIELD (ap) -- Contending he has turned the face of a "bloated, ineffective" state government into one that helps families "buy better condos," Gov. Rod Blagojevich delivered a State of the State speech yesterday that laid out his re-election strategy of challenging Republican policies in Washington.

    Addressing members of the Illinois House and Senate, the Democratic governor touted new initiatives including a plea for supporting a $3.2 billion public works construction plan, a $1,000 college tuition tax credit for parents and expanded health care for veterans, despite a still-bleak state financial situation.

    In addition to looking forward, Blagojevich used the 39-minute speech to highlight some of his accomplishments from the past three years and attack some of his rivals. In case you missed it (and, come on, who beside me watched the darn speech?), here are some key points he made:

    On building more I-Pass lanes: "We need to do a better job of collecting tolls."

    On the raised cigarette taxes: "We need to do a better job of paying for cigarette-related health care costs."

    On his Keno proposal: "We need to do a better job of getting every last dollar from the working poor to pay for programs for them."

    On school lunches: "We need to do a better job of cleaning rat droppings before the children arrive each day."

    On violent video games: "We need to do a better job of teaching our children proper gun safety rules."

    On prescription drug prices: "We need to do a better job of fighting this war on drugs."

    On his hairdo: "My hairspray needs to do a better job of keeping my helmet in place."

    On Wilson Avenue drivers: "They need to do a better job of avoiding me as I jog into the road."

    On President Bush: "I need to do a better job of ignoring problems here in Illinois by talking about national policies that I have nothing to do with."

    And, yeah, there was more, but really, Blagojevich needs to do a better job of delivering a speech.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    FC1 Western Ave. Stop 18: Industrial Art

    NOTE: This is a continuation of a tour of Western Avenue (the longest city street in the world) that I started a couple of weeks ago. At that time, I started at the north end of the street, Howard Avenue, and headed all the way to the Empty Bottle just north of Augusta. Today on Forbidden Chicago we're going all the way south ... to a place far far away.

    You don't have to go downtown to see some pretty impressive public art. And you don't have to go to St. Louis to see an arch of some sort. At the intersection of Western and Grand is this weird, ribbon-like sculpture, which seems to welcome you to the industrial corridor of this part of town. One thing we don't have enough of in this town is public art. Perhaps we spend too much money on Cows on Parade and the other annual tourist pleasers, which is why we can't afford art installations in the neighborhoods.

    One of the area's top manufacturers is this place that make tubes that some banks use (used to use?). At speeds of up to 50 feet per second, that's high tech! As I watch a police squad car blow through a stop sign, almost hitting me, I wonder when this entire area will be converted over to loft residences.

    FC1 Western Ave. Stop 19: Metra stop

    In many countries, every train station is a hub of activity, with shops and restaurants giving commuters a place to grab a bite or pick up groceries before heading home. In Japan, platforms have fast-food ramen stands, where businesspeople slurp down noodles before their train arrives, and vending machines selling soda and beer. Not here. Each Metra station is a vacant slab of concrete with no place to even buy a train ticket. If you're unfamiliar with the track set-up, most likely you'll stand on the wrong side as your train pulls in heading the wrong way. At this stop, there is no safe way to even cross Western Avenue. Taking the train is just not all that inviting. No wonder most people prefer driving.

    FC1 Western Ave. Stop 20: Emptiness

    Right around I-290, there are new construction condos and townhouses sprouting up along this mostly decrepit city street. But I didn't stop to take pictures because, well, we all know what new construction residences look like. For the most part, though, for several miles, Western is the heart of the ghetto. Stray a few blocks east or west and you're in the murder capital of the city. While many old businesses have vanished, there's always a place to get some alcohol. Between 50th and 80th, plenty of old buildings reveal a storied past. Wonder when this old Schlitz bar will disapear.

    It's amazing that this is the same street that is absolutely booming just a few miles to the north and south. Here, in the middle of the city, glorious old buildings are closed up, businesses empty. Where do people go on the weekends, in the evenings? Where are the people? Back on the North Side, I wondered why the city doesn't have a train or streetcar that runs the length of Western. It sure would be convenient in the affluent neighborhoods. But then again, I'm sure those affluent residents wouldn't exactly welcome such easy access for people from this neighborhood.

    Still, no matter how run-down the neighborhood, Western still has plenty of car dealerships. At 7600, anyone can get credit.

    FC1 Western Ave. Stop 21: Cross country skiing

    Keep driving, and eventually you'll go through a large forest preserve in the middle of the city--the Dan Ryan Woods. You know you've made it in Illinois politics when you have an expressway and a forest preserve named after you. Stop by the next time you think Chicago is a concrete jungle with no green space.

    A few blocks from the forest preserve is this bike shop, which has been around since the 20s. In addition to buying a bicycle there, you can rent cross country skis. With our crazy weather--the fourth mildest in the past 100 years--there really hasn't been much of a chance for fun in the snow.

    FC1 Western Ave. Stop 22: Signs of small business success

    On this drive through the South Side, I blew past the Irish enclave of Beverly where the annual South Side Irish Parade is held. Maybe it just looks unrecognizable in the sober light. Maybe I wanted to get done before the sun went down. Anyway ... a stop around 110th revealed five great small business signs on the same building ...

    Harold's Chicken, a local chain ...

    A very cool record shop, where the music was thumping and the owner was pleasantly inquisitive ("Hey man, why you taking pictures?") ...

    Everybody loves Chinese food. That goes double for chop suey ...

    Lots of beauty shops down here ...

    And a bakery everybody might love ...

    FC1 Western Ave. Stop 23: To the pubs for a pint!

    As I said, they look unfamilar when there aren't thousands of drunk people on the street for the parade. But it is possible to find a friendly place for a pint no matter what day it is. This place had some charity event, either for $15 or $50 all-you-can-eat-and-drink for the next two hours. (Couldn't really understand the South Side Irish accent.) That sounded like trouble.

    So this place was more like it. And at $7 for two pints of well-poured stout, it could have proved trouble as well...

    FC1 Western Ave. Stop 24: It's not what you think

    You know your tour is over once you stop somewhere for a pint. Then your brain starts asking questions like, "Hey, what about that place further up north, the one with the crazy sign?" OK, could you pass by a place like this without stopping by? It's somewhere around 60th, and my navigator and I decided to scrap the rest of Western to seek it out. It definitely wasn't as exciting or dangerous as it appeared from the outside. Too bad. There were only a couple of customers in there, including an elderly woman who has been coming in for the past 20 years. "Lots of people stop by because of the sign," she said. "Some of them take a look inside, are disappointed, and turn around." Wonder why they might be disappointed.

    Inside, the Sexty Sex Cocktail Lounge is not retro--it's the real deal. Mirrors everywhere. Lots of red. Straight out of the 70s. When the guy with a pimp hat walked in, I thought I had stepped into a time warp. Not a bad way to end a tour of Western Avenue.

    UPDATE: May 4, 2006: OK, I've recently noticed that quite a few people have landed on this page for some reason. Why? And why not check out more recent posts?

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    FC4: Battle of the downtown dive bars

    For the longest time, one of my desires has been to live downtown. There's something appealing about the energy from all those people, the traffic, the noise. When I travel, I enjoy hanging out in city centers. That's where the money is. Where the beautiful people hang out. Where the culture resides. I'm sure I'd feel differently about living in some loft space or high rise condo if I actually worked in the Loop, but as it is, I live and work far far north, almost in Evanston. A trip downtown is a rare and special treat for me.

    One thing that's prevented me from moving to Printer's Row or wherever isn't the expense. It's fear. Fear that there wouldn't be anywhere to hang out after hours. Once downtown streets clear out at night, there aren't that many places to go where you don't have to dress up, where you can just hang with some friends over a cheap beer or two.

    Still, some of the best dive bars in the city are actually doing business in the shadows of skyscrapers, you just have to stumble upon them. In today's episode of Forbidden Chicago, I present two bars I'd show tourists ... if I wanted to scare them with the truth about the city.

    The champ: Cal's Bar
    400 S. Wells
    Bottles: $2.50.

    A hangout for bike messengers and Metra commuters by day, a rock venue by night, Cal's is small and scary. A recent paint job almost makes it presentable.

    On a recent Saturday evening, with the financial district in a coma, the Cal's staff opened up to sweep up the previous night's trash and prepare for another show. Bands from all over the country--and even from as far away as Australia--have played in the tiny space.

    The challenger: Old Timers
    75 E. Lake
    Pitchers: $6

    OK, I admit I don't know much about this place. But it's family owned and operated, like every great place should be, and one of the bartenders is very, um, big.

    On a recent Thursday night, Old Timers was hopping with ... lots of old timers. Guys in dirty overalls mingled with guys in ties, and everyone there seemed to be celebrating somebody's birthday.

    Blogging on a full bladder

    "There's a difference between going in the middle of the street, in front of God and country, and somebody who is behind a Dumpster." --Ken Ortmann, a St. Louis alderman, who wants to lower the penalties for public urination before the Feb. 25 Mardi Gras Parade.

    A few quick thoughts (hopefully this'll take less time than a trip to the bathroom):

  • Probably the turning point in the movie "40-Year-Old Virgin" is when the main character, out on the town with his work buddies, pees in public. "I'm peeing in public!" he yells happily. This is when he starts becoming a man. This is also when the movie starts becoming formulaic and boring.

  • Public urination in St. Louis is now classified as lewd and lascivious conduct, which carries a penalty of 90 days in jail, a $100 to $500 fine, or both. This is harsher than any alcohol-related or other lewd act in Chicago. That kid who stripped naked on the CTA Red Line over the weekend just got some pepper spray in the face, a stun gun shot in the butt cheeks, and a whole lot of media coverage.

  • What's more lewd--a man urinating in public or a woman doing it? At the South Side Irish Parade every year, yeah, you see guys peeing up against garages. But turning a corner and seeing a woman squatting in the alley is especially disheartening, if you ask me.

  • Over the holidays, someone spotted a yellow message in the snow: "Happy New Year!" I tried to duplicate the feat, but only got as far as "HAPP." I think my penmanship was better.

  • What's the most disgusting thing to touch in a public bathroom? Is it the flush handle, the faucet, or the doorknob? Some may argue that touching yourself is most disgusting, but that's beside the point. I say the worst is the doorknob, considering all those idiots who don't wash up end up opening the door with their filthy hands. And ladies, honestly, don't be fooled, it's a FACT: 57% of men don't wash after going to the bathroom.

  • What's the deal with bathroom attendants? Do I really need someone to hand me a paper towel after I wash up? And what's a proper tip for one of these guys? I do suppose one of their functions is to shame men into actually washing their hands.

  • What's the deal with breaking the seal? Is it a physiological or psychological phenomenon?

  • Hey, speaking of the St. Louis Mardi Gras, who wants to go? (Blogging is the new evite.) We can discuss these and other equally family-friendly topics on the drive down.

  • And speaking of lewd and lascivious conduct, who wants to see Number Nine at Double Door tonight?

  • Monday, January 16, 2006

    Smoking ban claims first victims

    SOUTHSIDE (ap) -- One Southwest Side man was fatally shot as he waited at a fast-food restaurant window on Chicago's South Side, and another man was critically shot outside a Southwest Side bowling alley in weekend shootings, police said.

    Both men were discovered with cigarettes dangling from their lips, apparent early victims of vigilantes enforcing Chicago's new smoking ban, which prohibits smoking within 15 feet of the entrance of any building where smoking is not allowed.

    The ban, approved by the Chicago City Council in early December, prohibits smoking in all the places that already had prohibitions, places like hospitals/nursing homes, theaters, aquariums, galleries, libraries, museums, schools and universities, retail and grocery stores, shopping malls, and sports arenas, including ice and roller rinks, swimming pools, bowling alleys, gymnasiums and arcades.

    "The only real difference," said a police spokesperson investigating the two shootings, "is the ban on smoking in doorways."

    Smokers can continue to light up in taverns and restaurants with bars until July 1, 2008.

    A familiar refrain: Wait 'til next year

    Mark your calendars. This is not the end, just the beginning.

    One year from now, on the third Sunday of 2007, we will be celebrating victory, not defeat. So keep your chins up, practice, and if things go well, with few injuries, we can all participate in the 102nd Norge Ski Jump.

    Some pictures from yesterday ...

    There were characters ...

    a large crowd ...

    Jager girls ...

    athletes in training ...

    the main event ...

    and a place to stay warm ...

    Want to participate? Or come out to Fox River Grove to check out practice? Check out the website.

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    Lessons to learn from Laski indictment

    City Clerk James Laski, 52, was charged Friday with taking bribes and obstructing justice. The former southwest side alderman, once considered a reformer, is the highest city official to be charged in the investigation. A special Daley Show investigation reveals several lessons to be learned from these developments.

    1. The end to Polish Power
    The $135,545-per-year city clerk's post has been in Polish Chicago's hands since 1955. The next clerk will most likely be a Hispanic. So, what's happened to powerful Polish politicians?

    They're getting prosecuted and possibly starting a new stereotype of the crooked Pole.

    Laski, a politician who harbored mayoral ambitions, is the most recent Polish-American to be charged with wrongdoing.

    Donald Tomczak (any relation to the former Bears QB?), a former top Water Management Department official, is at the center of the investigation of corruption in the city's Hired Truck Program (and is now cooperating with prosecutors).

    Prior to Laski, City Clerk Walter Kozubowski pleaded guilty in connection with a $1 million ghost payrolling scheme. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

    With the number of Poles in Chicago decreasing and the number of Hispanics increasing, Polish politicians will be spoken of in past tense. As in, "Hey, remember when What's-his-name-ski ran this ward?"

    2. The end to friendship
    The evidence against Laski -- he's on tape telling witnesses to lie to a grand jury and deny that they had given him bribes to continue getting business in the city's Hired Truck Program -- was recorded by a wire worn by Michael "Mick" Jones, a childhood pal. These two even played softball together on the Bulldogs, a local team that played at Hale Park and other area diamonds.

    At some point, Laski must have made a critical error.

    Perhaps it was when he showed he was no friend of Daley.

    3. The end to opposition
    Laski is supposedly on tape saying this to Jones: "My position right now is I'll do anything ... to help the inner circle, but I, I can't frickin' help somebody if I'm gonna get ... it stuck to me."

    Is it possible that the inner circle includes Daley and that the mayor will eventually get charged with something? Possible. But unlikely.

    It's no secret that Laski and Daley are not exactly chums. In 1990, Daley selected Laski to fill a vacancy, making him the ward's alderman. But Laski quickly showed an independent streak by opposing Daley on issues ranging from property tax increases to police and fire promotions to the future of Midway Airport. In 1996, he infuriated the mayor again by blowing the whistle on millions of dollars in parking tickets owed by city workers.

    The Hired Truck probe might nab Laski and a few other Daley opponents. And the lasting lesson learned might be: Don't mess with the mayor.