Sunday, April 30, 2006

Blago TV spot slams Topinka's 8th grade attendance

CHICAGO (ap) -- Governor Rod Blagojevich has another campaign commercial, this time attacking state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka's record of attendance when she was an eighth grader in Riverside.

The new 15-second ad was introduced at a news conference today by Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn. It joins at least five Blagojevich campaign spots already running statewide.

The new commercial accuses Topinka of missing eight days of school because of various illnesses, including chicken pox. She was also tardy three times that year and left school early one day to attend accordion practice, according to the commercial.

"Judy thought her permanent record wouldn't follow her throughout life, but she was wrong," Quinn said, "dead wrong."

Each of the attack ads ends with a voiceover wondering, "What's she drinking?" Future spots in the series will question Topinka's choice of hairdresser, her parking ticket from 1987, a game of "Spin the Bottle" with Future Teachers of America club members when she was a sophomore in high school, and her involvement with the West Suburban Chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority.


Little Adventures in Chicago #2: Educating a wannabe beer snob

A while back I lamented the fact that Chicago has very few microbrews. For that comment, I received two things:
  • my very own beer-making kit
  • an invitation to Goose Island's "beer academy"
The beer kit intimidated me. The art of brewing beer requires two things I lack, patience and cleanliness. So one of these days I'll take the kit over to art attack's house and we'll brew in his basement.

I wasn't intimidated by the prospect of going to the beer academy, though. How difficult could it be to sit around and sample a bunch of different beers in the company of people who like to sit around and drink beer? So I paid my $15 and prepared to be educated on the finer points of German-style bock.

Most Americans, I'd say, know very little about the vocabulary of beer other than "light" and "without the orange." The people that attend the monthly academy at Goose Island's Clybourn location, on the other hand, are well-versed in phrases like "bottom-fermented" and "spicy malt" and "liquid bread." Turns out most of them brew their own, and actually attend the academy to learn something, not just to drink. So, the intimidation level increased when I realized that people would actually be sniffing and swirling their beers before sipping (not chugging).

I was so perplexed that I forgot to take pictures.

But I did take notes, and here's what I learned:
  • "Bock" means goat in German. Perhaps this type of beer got its name because it has the kick of a goat.
  • Then again, perhaps it got its name because it tastes like goat piss.
So there, I learned something. And here are my detailed notes on all the beers I tasted that evening:

Hofbrau Maibock (7.2%), originally brewed in 1614:
seltzer-like, a little skunky, sour ... not a very strong flavor
(Note: I learned later that what I consider "skunky" is actually supposedly sweet.)

Goose Island Myebock (6.8%), made with 26% malted rye (whatever that means):
more flavorful, much more powerful aftertaste

Capital Blonde Doppelbock (7.5+%), a bronze winner from Madison:
I don't like it. I will never order a bock at a bar.

Einbecker Ur-Bock (6.5%), from the Saxony region of Germany:
When I was young, this is what I imagined all beer tasted like -- yuck. (I remember finding an old, old bottle of Special Export in the basement and finally cracking it open. It was nasty and almost made me puke just smelling it. After years and years of beer drinking, I think I would probably still react to Special Export that way. But anyway, this Einbecker was a flashback to that day when I was 9 or 10.)

Stieglbock (7.2%), from Salzburg, Austria:
Getting worse ... when I was in college, I got sick on a six pack of bad beer ... that's what this reminds me of. (Looking back on that six pack, I knew when I was drinking it that there was something wrong with it. So why did I keep drinking? I guess I probably didn't have enough money to dump the bad stuff and buy more. So I drank and dealt with the consequences later.)

Goose Island Traditional Bock (6.8%), which apparently has "nearly the exact same starting gravity and alcohol as the Myebock" (beer has starting gravity, good to know):
Good and surprisingly light-tasting with a really weird aftertaste. (At this point, I should admit that I'm not a huge fan of Goose Island Honkers. But of the 11 beers I tasted at the "academy," the Goose Island samples were by far the best. Probably because they were fresh and out of kegs, not from bottles that had been sitting on shelves somewhere for who-knows-how-long. But still, I did gain a lot of respect for the Goose Island brand.)

Sam Adams Chocolate Bock (5.5%), which is brewed with something-something "nibs":
Now THIS is sweet! thick, syrupy ... can't say I like it, but I don't hate it. (Upon reflection, I could never drink more than a tiny little 2-ounce glass of this stuff.)

Paulaner Salvator (7.5%), "originally brewed by monks in the 17th century to help sustain them during Lent":
me no likey ... nice colors though ... if I drink more, I'll puke (Question: Why does beer this old and with this much tradition taste like it's been sitting on a shelf somewhere since the time it was first brewed?)

Goose Island Aviator (8.5%), with four months of extra age:
not bad ... like a not-sweet cola?

Eggenberg Urbock Dunkel Eisbock (9.8%), with a starting gravity of 23'plato (wow):
strong and horrible

And there you have it. An evening tasting weird beer. Educational. And a good way to discover that you are (or are not) a beer snob. Cheers.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Question of the day

Why is every Cubs or Sox weekend broadcast on WGN followed by the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?

Chicago for sale

News Item: Just as U.S. Cellular and United Airlines paid millions to put their names on stadiums -- and City Hall hopes to get $3 million by selling naming rights to the Chicago Skyway -- city vehicles, buildings and special events could someday bear the names of corporate sponsors, under a "request for proposals" issued Friday.
The proposals have started coming in:

The L.L Bean Cloud Gate on the AT&T Plaza at 20th Century Fox Millennium Park

L. Ron Hubbard's Museum of Scientology and Industry

The United States Naval Academy Pier tourist destination and recruitment center

Friday, April 28, 2006

Michigan migrants sing own version of anthem

CHICAGO (ap) -- "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" has provided the soundtrack to our national pastime since 1908, when the Cubs last won the World Series.

Now there is a new version with changes to the time-honored lyrics, which have been sung loudly and off-key by second-rate celebrities at every Cubs game since Harry Caray's death.

A group of Michigan migrants have presented their own take on the seventh-inning stretch for themselves, in their native language, titled "Take Me Out with the Victors" or "Our Ball Game."

The idea came from Michigan music icon Iggy Pop, who sympathized with the recent immigrant demonstrations at Lincoln Park taverns but was troubled by the number of Michigan flags in the windows.

He hopes the new Michiganese version of the seventh inning stretch will demonstrate that migrants can assimilate into Chicago without leaving behind their yellow and blue pride.

"It has the passion, it has the respect, it has all of the things that you really want a seventh inning stretch to have and it carries the melody," said Pop.

Altered Lyrics Tone Down Reference to the Cubs

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" has endured some extreme versions -- from Mike Ditka's shouted version to an indecipherable one byOzzy Osbourne -- since Harry Caray first started drunkenly blabbering it at Wrigley Field.

The current version will likely spark debate, because it is not an exact translation. Some of the classic lyrics have been changed for rhyming reasons while other phrases were altered so that drunken frat boys can remember their glory days. For example:

Original version
And it's root root root for the Cubbies,
If they don't win it's a shame.

Michiganese version
Hail! to the victors valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan
the leaders and best

The original singer's grandson, Chip Caray, finds the Michigan version unpatriotic and is adamant that it should be sung only in honor of the Cubs.

"I think it's a despicable thing that someone is going into our ballpark from another state and changing our seventh inning stretch," Caray said.

Those behind the new song say Caray and others miss the point. The Michigan version is meant to show immigrant pride in a new city where they live and work.

City underestimates size and cost of Michigan migration

The international research nonprofit think tank FACT (Fabrications Andy Created Today) has published a new report, "The Underage Drinking Force is Rising to the Surface," which claims that the illegal alien population is double the official government estimates.

According to FACT analysts:

  • The population of Michigan transplants to Chicago is about three hundred thousand -- roughly the population of Rockford and Naperville combined.
  • The report asserts that there are between 120 and 150 bars in Chicago devoted to an out-of-state Big Ten school.
  • These are not bars that Chicagoans won't go to, but rather bars Chicagoans used to go to.
  • Chicagoans may be paying millions more in property taxes because of the influx of white, middle class aliens who buy condos in desirable areas near the Brown Line for exorbitant prices.
  • "Chicago men are simply hooked on cheap, out-of-state trixies and are deferring the best bleacher seats to these quasi-Cubs fans," the report concludes.

Petition to stop illegal immigration to Chicago

"More than 95 percent of both legal and illegal immigration into Chicago is either a white frat boy or sorority girl. Because of the way immigration law is structured, the highest-skilled states in the country -- those of the East Coast -- are allowed only a tiny percentage of immigrants, while the third world states such as Michigan are dumping their chaff onto Chicago soil at the highest rate in history."

To the Honorable Philip J. Cline
Chicago Police Superintendent

Whereas, There are now between two and three hundred thousand illegal aliens from Michigan in our city, and included among them are terrible dancers, wannabe Cubs fans, and drunken frat boys;

Whereas, The first responsibility of city government in a War of Cronyism is securing Chicago's borders;

Whereas, Cases of beer from out-of-state are turning up at local parties because of the transport by legal and illegal immigrants;

Whereas, property taxpayers are being forced to pay more because historic old buildings are being torn down and converted into cramped condos and sold to these illegal aliens;

Whereas, Bribes and kickbacks could be given back to Chicagoans or used to keep our borders secure and bar rooms Michigan-free;

Therefore, I petition you to station Chicago police officers on our city's borders in order to keep Michiganders out of our city.


The Undersigned

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Don't take your kids to work day

CHICAGO (ap) -- Heeding the call of some educators who are saying low school attendance cuts into their already tight budgets, Chicago plans to enforce a ban on child slave labor, thus preventing families from taking part in the national "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work" day being held today.

Chicago workplaces can no longer welcome youngsters under an ordinance unanimously approved at Wednesday's City Council meeting over Mayor Daley's derisive objections.

"We have children getting killed by gang leaders and dope dealers. We have real issues here in this city. And we're dealing with [Take Your Kids to Work day]? Let's get some priorities. Our priorities should be children, the quality of education. It should be seniors. We should worry about the gas prices. We should worry about the global economy," Daley said.

The mayor, who got into politics as a youngster running errands and collecting envelopes stuffed with "lettuce" for ward bosses, then got sarcastic. "I have a fish tank," he said. "I don't want any alderman coming up there, putting their hands in and start eating sushi. My little fish there. That would really bother all of us."

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) made no apologies for championing the ban. "It's not going to cost the taxpayers a single nickel. It's simply outlawing ... a cruel and inhumane practice," Moore said.

The ban goes into effect immediately and carries fines of $250 to $500 per violation.

Besides losing teaching time, educators estimate that each absent pupil costs schools an average of $11 per day in state funding, which the schools receive for license plates that students hammer out in art class and roadside cleanup projects often referred to as "service learning."

Some are unhappy with the move.
"What's going on in Chicago? No smoking, no [child labor] and then what else -- no sex?" Chef Didier Durand of Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar, a restaurant that sells foie gras and "employs" teen dishwashers.

A local 8th grader said she has enjoyed going to work in previous years with her mother, a sweatshop seamstress, and her father, a produce picker. This year "they probably won't let me go anyway because I miss a lot of school for immigration rights protests," said the 14 year old.

She believes other pupils won't miss too much because the year is winding down. "One day of hard labor won't kill us," she said.

The Ms. Foundation, which started the event in 1993, said the activities are intended to involve both school and community as a learning experience, teaching children the fine points of survival in a capitalist system where those lacking an education or documentation are doomed to a life of minimum wage and no benefits. The foundation, which initially focused on daughters only, expanded the program in 2003 to include boys.

Last year, about 16.2 million children and parents participated, according to the foundation, pumping $1.3 billion into the underground economy.

Chicago's next big ban

On the heels of their brave stand against foie gras yesterday, Chicago aldermen are busy working on the following ordinances:
  • Everybody's Honored with a Street Name act: Every single Chicagoan, living and dead, will get a block-long stretch of a city street named after him or her. Some streets, already with two or three brown "honorary" street names, will have up to 20 designations. This follows a dispute over honoring slain Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton. Ald. Pat O'Connor, the unofficial City Council floor leader, announced the move by saying, "I'll do Dan Hampton, Lionel Hampton or a week in the Hampton." The three honorary Hampton streets will run in O'Connor's 40th ward.
  • The Pure Heroin act: Drug dealers will no longer be allowed to sell heroin laced with fentanyl. This follows dozens of news reports of overdoses, reports that have sickened dealers to death and cut into sales.
  • A Jury of One's Peers law: Following embarrassing revelations about jurors' sordid backgrounds that surfaced after the guilty verdict in the corruption trial of former Gov. George Ryan (R-Kankakee), future juries of indicted officials will be composed only of other public officials. This follows testimony by Betty Loren-Maltese, the former Cicero town president currently serving jail time, that public officials can't get a fair trial "because of all the free shit we've gotten over the years."
  • Ban on Gasoline: Because of the damaging effects of the internal combustion engine on the environment, Chicago hopes to be the first big city in the United States with a comprehensive gasoline ban. So far, only a handful of small towns in Vermont and Oregon have gone green, allowing only solar- and wind-powered cars.
  • The Anti-Anti-Immigrants ordinance: Only restaurants that employ at least one illegal immigrant will get City Hall's lunch business.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Standardized test taking deadly toll

CHICAGO (ap) -- Illinois high school students' chances of attending a prestigious university are about to be squashed as they begin the two-day Prairie State Achievement Examination. Today, juniors around the state are taking the ACT, a standardized test that is a hundred times stronger than heroin and can kill college chances in an instant.

"It's an American tragedy," said Richard Gunn, a photographer and publisher, whose son Tommy's chances of getting into college died last year with a disastrous ACT score.

A 19-year-old woman, who has fierce eyes but no future, spoke about her experience last year. She did not pass out during the testing, but she knew something was wrong from the moment she sat down with her two sharpened number 2 pencils.

"The most scary part about it was I couldn't catch my breath," she said. "That lasted a long time."

The ACT, in an overdose situation, seizes muscles at the rib cage, causing instant spasms.

Chicago Public Schools students, with slim chances of finishing college even if they're accepted, are entering today's test undaunted. "Yeah, whatever," said one student, hardened by months of ACT preparation. "If we do well, our school gets off probation. That's all I know about it."

Nationally, the average ACT score is 20.9 on a 36-point scale. In Chicago, the average is 16.7.

CPS teachers are not too concerned about the poor showing by their students. "I've got tenure, so what are they gonna do?" said one teacher who plans to do Sodoku puzzles as she proctors the test.

UPDATE: Day 1 of testing has concluded; CPS officials reported that only 19 percent of students slept during some or all of the test.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Highway robbery, part 1

As city officials seek corporate sponsorship of the Chicago Skyway, budget director Paul Volpe said the bid winner won’t be one that offends Chicagoans’ sensibilities. “We would ensure that their corporate image would be consistent with the city’s values and reputation,” he said.

Highway robbery, part 2

A picture on the BP website (last update, Sept. 10, 2001?):

Yeah, um, $1.67 for gas? Good one.

Highway robbery, part 3

Meanwhile, on the ExxonMobil website, a few words about "Factors in Gasoline Pricing":
Gasoline prices are influenced by a highly competitive retail marketplace and many other factors, including global commercial trading markets for crude oil and refined petroleum products. Our focus is to continually take steps to improve our ability to compete through a selective investment program, ongoing efforts to reduce costs, and a strong commitment to operational excellence.

Highway robbery, part 4

A campaign algebra problem:

State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, the GOP candidate for governor, suggested the state suspend the sales tax on gasoline when the price exceeds $2.50 per gallon. So if the price of gas hits $3.50 a gallon, the state would waive the sales tax on a dollar each gallon. According to the article, she couldn't estimate how much money motorists would save.

OK, let's estimate. The state tax is 5 percent. Current prices are, what, three dollars a gallon. So, save 5 percent of 50 cents. That's a savings of 2.5 cents per gallon, times 10 gallons in my Toyota, which equals a savings of 25 cents per fill-up.

Thank you, Judy.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Aljazeera releases lyrics to Bin Laden's new tape

Yo, yo
The U.S. is a joke, terrorists provoke
My man Zarqawi explained the meaning of gun smoke
If the CIA ain't chasin' you, you a phony
If you're America-embracin', you ain't my homey
If you get killed in Sudan, you goin' to heaven
Be kickin' it with virgins 24/7
Bring the noise, my boys in Hamas
You know I'm still your political boss
We in a Zionest, crusaders' war on Islam
So bring yo AK and don't forget yo tec-nine
We gonna put a hot one up in there
Muthafuggin Westerners ain't got no prayer
We makin' a comeback, gonna drop da bomb
Make 'em forget all about nine-one-one

Lyrics re-printed without permission.

'Forgotten' Bin Laden makes comeback with new tape

CAIRO, Egypt (ap) -- His message seemed aimed at moderate Arabs, a hip hop call to arms that they should purchase al-Qaida merchandise. But another old-school group, Public Enemy, tried to distance itself after Osama bin Laden's latest audiotape of raps and beats was aired Sunday on Arab TV.

The voice on the tape sounded strong and appeared the same as that on other recordings attributed to bin Laden. Analysts said it appears bin Laden has begun timing such appeals to ensure he stays in the spotlight.

''If you look back at what's been happening with bin Laden tapes in the past, it's when people have kind of forgotten about him, when he's not been on the news, that the tapes emerge,'' said Bob Ayers, a security expert with the Chatham House think tank in London. ''It's kind of his way of thumbing his nose at the West Coast rap community and saying, 'Hey, I'm still out here.'''

Yet those who say the connection between bin Laden's tapes and actual rap battles has ebbed still view them as ominous warnings of al-Qaida's overall strategy.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said al-Qaida's propaganda techniques ''would make Dr. Dre proud. It recognizes that much of this war, this battle that we're fighting, is about winning the hearts and the minds of moderate Islam, and they are focused on that."

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad downplayed the significance of the message and what he called "amateurish cover art." Shalilzas said, ''He wants to be relevant to the situation. [He] wants to get attention, [to show] that he still is a playa and that this is unfinished business that we still have to deal with.''

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Northsider's guide to White Sox nation

If you are reading this, you most likely live on or are from the Northside of Chicago. Things like electricity and computers haven't reached our friends down south. But the Southside is the home of the current Major League champion White Sox. Despite the success, very few people venture to US Sell Field; in fact, I think they've only had one sellout so far this season.

Perhaps we here on the Northside are afraid of the neighborhood surrounding White Sox stadium--reportedly, Black people live on the Southside. Most likely, however, we fear that the White Sox play in an impersonal stadium surrounded by parking lots, an interstate, and housing projects with no bars for the trixies and frat boys to hang out at before and after games.

In fact, the Dan Ryan is under construction, the projects have disappeared, and a thriving neighborhood sits waiting to be discovered just west of the ballpark. I checked it out a couple of days ago, and today I'd like to take you by the hand and show you what I saw.

Our tour begins at the Chicago Political Machine's headquarters, where the man himself, Rich Daley, learned that politics can be rewarding: the 11th Ward Democratic Party office. You'll need to stop in, register as a Northsider, and pay the new city tax of $1 for being a Cubs fan on the Southside. Bring a photo ID and your voter registration card (as well as your dead grandmother's).

Before any Cubs game, you can walk into dozens of bars surrounding Wrigley Field, drink overpriced Miller products, and get laid in the bathroom with some hottie from the University of Iowa. Things are not so easy on the Southside. You have to be persistent. On my visit, I checked out the action at three Sox bars: Schaller's Pump, one of the oldest bars in the city, was absolutely packed ... with people who were probably at the bar's grand opening. I quickly exited and headed to Catcher's Inn. The customers there were younger, and fewer. Five middle-aged guys with mustaches chatted excitedly with a trashy bartender who was loudly proclaiming that she doesn't need to play with herself because she gets laid every single night. Beers were only two bucks, so I stayed for two, but left shortly after some old guy came in with a giant trash bag selling white socks. My final stop was at Puffer's. After a guy and his son left, the bartender came over and said, "Well, it's just you and me." She proceeded to tell me about all the times her car (a '92 Buick!) has been stolen and later booted. She asked if I was hungry and picked up a phone to order a pizza. She asked me what the address of the bar was. I didn't know, but figured it out for her, but then didn't stick around for the pizza. There were more things to see before the game.

People say that there is nothing to do on the Southside. I don't know if that's true or not. I mean, there is an old theater, the Ramova, on Halsted just south of 35th. It is shut down, but you can stop by anyway to chat with the ticket guy.

Like a Cubs fan, I next looked for a place to relieve myself on someone's property. A walk through a gangway and into an alley found this garage. You have to admire the support and artistic talent Bridgeport residents have for their local team.

Before heading off to the ballpark, I looked around. Where could I return to after the game? Would there be more people hanging out? Was there anything to be afraid of? I wasn't sure, but I did appreciate how welcoming the entire neighborhood is. I don't know when, but I will return.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Little Adventures in Chicago #1: Year-round Oktoberfest

Western Avenue and the skyline, as seen from the sixth-floor patio of the Dank Haus, Chicago's German-American Cultural Center, which features German jazz, German beer, German fat-asses, and general debauchery every Friday night.

Answer: 6.5 percent

Question: What percent of ...

... Illinois politicians have never accepted a bribe?

... Lincoln Square residents plan to stay when their kids reach school age?

... Chicago baseball fans prefer the White Sox?

... Ryan jurors have a clean background?

... Chicago Public Schools administrators are graduates of the system?

... Lincoln Park residents were born in Chicago?

... drivers will try commuting alternatives when gas hits $4 a gallon?

... Chicago Tribune editors have ever stepped foot in a Chicago school?

... Illinois voters understand the anti-Topinka "rolling pin" commercial?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Not-so-great expectations for CPS kids

News Items: 1. Only 35 percent of Chicago Public Schools graduates who enroll in college graduate within six years.
2. The numbers for freshmen are downright depressing:
* 54 percent will graduate high school by the age of 19
* 18.6 percent will enter a four-year college
* 6.5 percent will graduate from a four-year college in six years
These findings are especially troubling when one considers that to get any job with benefits these days, such as at Starbucks, you need a college degree. And with so few of our children succeeding in school today, who will pour our coffee tomorrow?

The numbers, found in a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, very closely mirror the findings of a six-year study by FACT, an international nonprofit think tank. FACT studied Chicago high school juniors and seniors and asked them about life and plans for the future.

What do you want to do after you get out of this hellhole?
58%: Be a professional athlete
12%: Go to college
30%: Move out of Mom's house; after that, don't know/don't care

Of those who want to be professional athletes, how many play sports on the school team?

Why don't the rest of you play?
29%: Academic ineligibility
31%: Don't get along with the coach
40%: Saving up my talents/Taking a year off

Of those who want to go to college, what do you want to do there?
25%: Undecided
25%: Party
50%: Play sports

What's your favorite class this year?
25%: Lunch
12%: Chillin'
8%: Creative Writing
5%: The underclass
50%: No answer

What is something motivational that a teacher has said to you this year?
33%: Get out of my classroom!
30%: You're late. Go get a pass.
30%: You can do it! Nah, just kidding.
7%: You'll never amount to anything. Well, maybe you'll be an OK drug dealer. Until you get killed.

What has been the most positive interaction you've had with an adult in the building this year?
54%: Lunch lady gave me extra fries
27%: Bought drugs from security guard
10%: Teacher didn't yell at me because he was absent
9%: Guy at attendance office let me use the phone

Have your parents graduated from college?
44%: I don't live with my parents
41%: No
10%: My Mom's taking the year off
5%: Maybe/Not sure

What do you think about your odds of making it?
18%: I'll be one of the survivors
82%: What does "odds" mean?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New Blagojevich ad hits Topinka in the kitchen

SPRINGFIELD (ap) -- Following is the transcript of a new commercial the Blagojevich campaign rolled out today:

For months, GOP gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka has opposed a comprehensive assault weapons ban in Illinois, a ban that would include rolling pins. Why? Because she says that these "weapons of mass cookie production" are necessary for many of the recipes in her little cookbook.

And don't get us started about the little lady that wants to get out of the kitchen and into the governor's mansion on West Sunnyside Street in Chicago. Everybody knows you can't make a decent election salad using dollar bills! You need your fat-cat donors to dig a little deeper and pay up a thousand bucks a plate if you want to taste sweet victory.

Judy Baar Topinka ... what's she thinking?

Paid for by Illinois taxpayers.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Guilty of nothingness

Three years ago, I served on a jury in Chicago. It was a civil case, and it lasted only eight days, but I gained some insight into how the jurors in the recently concluded Dan Ryan construction trial must have felt. And I know how they're about to feel, now that they can return to the real world.

They are going to realize that their lives don't really matter all that much.

First of all, the case will be appealed and probably overturned. So those months spent listening to boring testimony repeated over and over again? And the weeks of earnest deliberation? Meaningless in the end.

Second, they will return to their jobs. And they will see that, no, the world didn't stop just because they weren't around. Their presence, no matter how vital it may seem, isn't actually required. Someone else can pick up the slack and the wheels of capitalism will keep on turning.

People like to think that their jobs define who they are, and so they work--punch in day in and day out in a neverending cycle of slaving away for someone else and consuming products that can never provide happiness and keeping up with everyone else that's trying to keep up. In the U.S. especially, there's this attitude towards MY JOB that implies that we shouldn't have more than two or three weeks off a year and we should feel guilty when we actually take a personal day.

As for me, I'm trying to figure out how I can live without actually contributing to this system. I often ask myself, what would you do if you knew you only had a short time to live? Would you continue working where you work, stressing out about stupid things? Because the thing is, we actually do have only a limited time left. Turn on the news for a reminder of all the people whose lives were cut short today. What legacy did they leave behind?

So, the scary thing isn't quitting my job and giving this whole country the middle finger. It's figuring out how I want to live--what I want to do--while staying productive and happy and out of the poorhouse.

In the meantime, I gotta get going or else I'll be late for work.

Ah, screw it, I'm calling in sick. There's lots of Court TV I can watch.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dick's Quote of the Week

Of course I hope he stays mayor for life and that he lives for a long-long time (or else I'll have to change the title of this blog), but when Daley finally does go down, let's all remember this quote, from today's Sun-Times:

"[But] human frailties are there — whether it’s money, whether it’s sex, whether it’s power, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s alcohol. It happens everyday — unfortunately."

It'll eventually be a fitting epitaph.

BTW, how do I become unfortunate enough to get a job where money and sex and power and drugs and alcohol happen every day?

Damning evidence

CHICAGO (ap) -- Jurors who convicted former Illinois Governor George Ryan (Republican-Kankakee) for commuting the state's death sentences said that the smoking gun in the case was a pair of photos introduced by prosecution and made available exclusively on the Daley Show.

The first shows Ryan, 72, on a shopping spree in a swank neighborhood in Paris.

"How can any self-respecting, red-white-and-blue blooded American travel to that county in a time of war?" one of the jurors mused. "They wouldn't even support our righteous invasion and occupation of Iraq, and there he is, spending his hard-earned bribes and tax-free graft on wine and cheese and snails."

In what is seen as ironic justice, Ryan faces the death penalty for the crime of halting executions in the state after 13 death-row inmates were exonerated. He also pardoned four condemned inmates and commuted the sentences of 157 others.

"I hope this case begins the end of the bleeding heart liberalism that seems to have been evident in the state of Illinois, and begins the resurrection of honest public executions,'' Robert Grant, special agent-in-charge of the Chicago office of the FBI, said at a news conference after the verdict.

The second photo that swayed jurors was of a scooter accident on a busy street in Paris that caused a traffic jam. Prosecutors surmised that the driver "probably got his driver's license in Illinois" while Ryan was secretary of state.

"That was enough for me," another juror said in a post-verdict interview. "How embarrassing. After a grueling test of patience waiting in line at the DMV, one should have the proper skills to navigate any vehicle around a concrete street marker."

Ryan attorney Dan Webb said he will file motions seeking to overturn the judge's SUV and will file an appeal if the motions fail.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I'm back ...

from a self-imposed banishment in Paris (and my own little world). While everyone was here voting in primaries and watching the Sox lose a bunch of games to start the season, I was off somewhere else, eating tripe and starting protests. Don't believe me? Here's me at some famous landmark:
And here I am, surrounded by France's finest, sticking the middle finger to the man:

My work there is done. My work here has just begun. It may take a few days (or weeks) to get this blog rolling again, but I am here to make sure no Illinois politician speaks without getting ridiculed.

I don't really feel like reading the papers, so can someone please fill me in on what's happened in the past two months? Did Oberweis win or what?