There are lots of people with ideas I wish I'd thought of, but only a few people whom I wish I thought like. My friend and colleague Matt Maldre is one of those latter folks.

Matt has a visually ingenious way of seeing the world, whether it's with traditional tools in connection with his job as a graphic artist, photographer and designer, or in his delightful take on how to creatively keep a Chicago Cubs scorecard at Wrigley Field.

Matt recently turned his attention to a serious matter that affects all Chicago public transit riders: Because of a lack of funds, the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace will need to drastically cut service. According to the CTA, unless funding is obtained, on Jan. 20 it will eliminate 81 of its 154 bus routes, lay off more than 2,400 employees and raise fares to record levels. Similar cutbacks will occur at Metra and Pace.

Matt has found a way to use Metra schedules to illustrate the political ramifications of legislation to fund public transportation in Chicago.

The CTA is encouraging riders to contact our legislators. Now, thanks to Matt, I need to figure out why my representative failed to cast a vote not once, but twice on this important issue.

This podcast was recorded entirely with a Marantz PMD620 digital recorder using its built-in stereo microphones. And no, the occasional annoying clicks are not the result of Matt or me futzing with a ballpoint -- yours truly was adjusting the recording levels and all that button pushing got picked up. This is one of the downsides to this recorder that Jeff Towne explains in his review at

ChicagoScope feedback line: 312-683-5272. Send e-mail to

Direct download: cta.mp3
Category:Chicago -- posted at: 12:16am CST

Logo of Noodles Delight restaurant Leah, Dick and I find more than a few dee-liteful items on the menu at Noodles Delight out in the Chicago suburb of Roselle.

The eggrolls are especially good, with lots of substantial fillings, not, as Leah puts it, like those at many other Chinese restaurants, which often are "sleazy and with too much cabbage."

Related (and unrelated) topics we chat about while rolling merrily through the suburbs in the Mobile Recording Studio include but are not limited to:

A&W's Burger Family. Out in Hillsboro, Oregon, the Burger Family endured quite a bit of local drama.

Burger King's new broilers, and whether they make the burgers taste better.

Hardee's, for which none other than the late Mama Cass Elliott sang the praises. "Hurry on down to Hardee's, where the burgers are charco-broiled!"

The ever-popular General Tso's chicken.

Sensurround, which I experienced for the first time when the film "Earthquake" showed at Denver's Aladdin Theater. The low-frequency rumbling managed to shake loose bits of stucco, so netting was strung on the ceiling.

Farfel the Dog, who sang the Nestle's song. (By the way, here are the fractured lyrics that I learned back when I attended Wheat Ridge Junior High School: "N-E-S-T-L-E-S, guess what's up your A-S-S ... chawk-lit!")

Cars used in James Bond movies, and whether we'd rather have an ejector seat or hub-mounted tire-slashers.

Place names such as
Des Plaines, Illinois, a victim of how Americans mangle French words; Gays, Illinois, (a town with a frequent visitor to this website); Mattoon, Illinois, home of the Mad Gasser; and various places with the word squaw.

Read Leah's
published review.

Noodles Delight, Cross Creek Commons, 853 E. Nerge Road, Roselle, (630) 307-1010.

ChicagoScope feedback line: 312-683-5272. Send e-mail to

Direct download: noodles.mp3
Category:Chicago -- posted at: 11:28pm CST

Drawing showing a friendly phone smiling as it lifts its handsetIs cellphone use out of control? You sure get that impression from a New York Times article about the growing use of illegal devices to block cellphone frequencies.

Jamming the radio spectrum is an extreme reaction. Tom Roper of Chicago-based band Beatnik Turtle had a better idea: He wrote "Do You Mind?" -- a musical indictment of cellphones and the public jawboners who drive us nuts. In this podcast, ChicagoScope chats with Tom and finds out how he crafted this humorous response to rudeness. (Plus, we've received permission to include this copyrighted song in the show. Thanks!)

We also touch base with internationally syndicated columnist Bob Koehler, whose work appears in print, online and on The Huffington Post, who agrees that public cellphone users can be annoying these days. However, he suggests a way to turn lemons into lemonade: Learn to enjoy these glimpses into private lives.

Previously, Bob has weighed in on the worst classic "Star Trek" episode and explained why "Get Shorty" is the perfect pacifist movie.

ChicagoScope feedback line: 312-683-5272. Send e-mail to

Direct download: cellphones.mp3
Category:Technology -- posted at: 12:34am CST

Noting the release of "Fred Claus," a film I saw being shot just up the street from where I work on North Michigan Avenue, got me to thinking about Christmas movies and which ones survive the test of time and become classics.

Detail of poster art featuring Bruce Willis holding a handgun in the first Die Hard movie It turns out that two of my favorite movies also are my favorite Christmas movies: "The Bishop's Wife" and "Die Hard." At first glance, these pictures separated by a span of more than four decades have nothing in common -- but both celebrate the power of faith and redemption in subtle and entertaining ways.

In 1947's "The Bishop's Wife," clergyman David Niven believes that heaven-sent angel Cary Grant is the answer to his prayers for help in squeezing millions from an obnoxious old matron to build a cathedral whose construction she's micromanaging. But Niven's marriage to Loretta Young is headed into stormy seas, and he gets more than he bargained for when Grant charms everyone from a comic-relief agnostic to the bishop's wife -- played by professional Catholic Loretta Young.

Their faith restored, the agnostic turns to religion, the matron gives her millions to the poor, and Niven realizes that his wife has the power to give him heaven on earth.

Another marriage is on the rocks in 1988's "Die Hard," in which New York cop Bruce Willis travels to Los Angeles to attend a Christmas party in the skyscraper headquarters of a Japanese multinational where his estranged wife Bonnie Bedelia is a top executive. When terrorists take over the building, several characters are forced to find faith in themselves.

A cop who has been afraid to fire his gun since accidently killing a kid becomes a hero, a desk-flying police chief learns to respect street cops and Willis and Bedelia symbolically reaffirm their marriage vows when they must snap open the clasp on a Rolex watch she's wearing to drop villain Alan Rickman to his death.

Cerebral use of Christmas music ranging from Run DMC to Beethoven to Sinatra adds greatly to the holiday spirit.

If you want "Peanuts" with that, check out "Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown."

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Direct download: xmasmovies.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 12:32am CST

The Vietnamese cuisine at Pho Le gets high marks from Leah, Dick and me; there's plenty of reasonably priced food and it's savory and satisfying. We were less than satisfied with our initial waiter, however, who behaved like a real jagoff. Fortunately, he disappeared after about 10 minutes and was replaced by two polite and attentive servers.

Read Leah's published review of Pho Le.

Pho Le, 551 S. Schmale Road (at Geneva Road), Carol Stream, (630) 588-8299 .

ChicagoScope feedback line: 312-683-5272. Send e-mail to

Direct download: phole.mp3
Category:Chicago -- posted at: 12:46am CST

Poster flier of event at The Globe Pub in ChicagoJust a brief podcast this time to let you know about some upcoming events. . .

Phil Clark of The Brit and Yankee has organized a pretty cool event in which a number of us from the Chicago Area Podcasters Network will descend upon The Globe Pub, 1934 W. Irving Park Road, to create simultaneous shows at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, as part of what he calls "an experiment in live, raw, new media in action."

Located in Chicago's entertainment- and restaurant-rich Northcenter neighborhood, The Globe is ground zero for soccer fans and the official pub of the Chicago Fire. "This place serves up a wonderful taste of home," says Phil, who had long planned on featuring the establishment on "The Brit & Yankee" -- but then asked the rest of us in the Podcasters Network to join in the fun.

In addition to Phil and Mike from "The Brit & Yankee," participating podcasters include Tammy Green and Bridget Houlihan of "Chicago Bites", Tom Kim of "Gamasutra" and yours truly. We'll offer our perspectives on The Globe's history, its management, patrons, soccer (aka "football"), darts -- and on the unique beers and cuisine offered.

In addition, Phil has persuaded Chicago band Beatnik Turtle to present a live acoustic performance at the pub. He's hoping that folks from Weird Chicago will drop in, as well.

We'd also like to invite anybody interested in podcasting to drop by, too. "Most folks think that creating and distributing their own podcast would be complex and costly, but podcasting actually can be a fairly inexpensive, straightforward process," Phil says. A variety of podcasting equipment will be on display, and all of us veteran podcasters (meaning anybody who's been doing it for more than a couple of months) will be happy to share our experience with newcomers.

Hope to see you there!

In this brief podcast, I also give you a preview of an upcoming show in which Leah, Dick and I review several farmers almanacs and talk about why these annual publications can still be of use to Chicago city-dwellers.

ChicagoScope feedback line: 312-683-5272. Send e-mail to

Direct download: promo1.mp3
Category:Chicago -- posted at: 6:40pm CST

Photo of Cell Phone Booth, a piece of public art by sculptor Ed Francis on display at the train station in Arlington Heights, IllinoisLest anybody think my critical focus is too selective in pointing out Five Chicago Sculptures That Really Suck, I present evidence that problematic public art is no stranger to the suburbs.

I'm frequently at the Arlington Heights train station and often walk past a piece of public art that looks like a latter-day British phone booth. It's nicely styled, painted bright red, and looks inviting to anybody looking to have a private cellphone conversation. Last week, I needed to call my podcast cohorts, who were meeting me at the station. Lured by the visual promise of privacy, I took out my cellphone and stepped inside the booth.

To my surprise, this structure turned out to be a piece of public art that's designed to make you feel miserable. It's called "Cell Phone Booth," and a plaque next to it details the feelings of its creator, artist Ed Francis:

"Cell Phone Booth" is my somewhat cynical reaction to the proliferation and overuse of the cell phone. I made "Cell Phone Booth" attractive by painting it bright red and filling it with gleaming glass tiles. The glass tiles actually contain ugly and somewhat intimidating faces staring in at you. There is no place to sit and be comfortable as there is in a real phone booth. Openings between the bars prevent any feeling of privacy inside the booth. "Cell Phone Booth" is intended to feel like a jail once you are inside.

OK, let me get this straight: Mr. Francis, who apparently has a problem with rude people who use cellphones, created a phone booth designed to reduce the comfort level of considerate cellphone users who are mindful of others' privacy?

And please don't tell me that my negative reaction is Mr. Francis' way of making a point, because he actually fails to make his point. "Cell Phone Booth" is structurally and visually a nice piece of art, but imagine how much more positive a reaction Mr. Francis could have gotten if the glass faces were smiling, the openings between the bars eliminated, and his manifesto read:

"Cell Phone Booth" is my reaction to the proliferation and overuse of the cell phone. I made "Cell Phone Booth" attractive by painting it bright red and filling it with gleaming glass tiles. The glass tiles actually contain happy, smiling faces staring in at you. There is no place to sit and be comfortable as there is in a real phone booth, but there is a modicum of seclusion. "Cell Phone Booth" is intended to feel like a tiny oasis in our busy, noisy world.

Clearly that's not what Mr. Francis had in mind, so the result is that an artistically accomplished piece of work devolves into a simplistic political statement.

This piece was on temporary display, but thanks to the Arlington Heights Arts Commission, now is owned by the village.

This isn't ChicagoScope's first difference of opinion about the situation at Arlington Heights' train station. About this time last year, we took note of just how unfriendly the station can be.

ChicagoScope feedback line: 312-683-5272. Send e-mail to

Category:Pop Culture -- posted at: 11:31pm CST

Photo of Chicago's Daley Center decorated for Halloween with a haunted house and fountains that have been dyed orangeIt's that time of year again. Halloween. More than ever before, adults as well as kids are going gaga for the holiday.

Even municipalities are getting into the celebration, big time. In the photo here, Chicago's Daley Center has been decorated with a haunted house as part of Chicagoween and orange dye has been poured into the fountain.

Halloween is said to be second only to Christmas as a decorating and party holiday.

Here on Chicago's Northwest Side, the Six Corners shopping district becomes Halloween ground zero as thousands of folks make the annual trek to Fantasy Costumes Hdq. (Reviews on Yelp, Metromix, Centerstage.)

This store gets to be a madhouse the closer it gets to October 31. Better hurry on down there now if you want this guaranteed crowd-pleaser: Happy Halloweenie Costume, whose catalog blurb declares, "Size DOES matter. Impress the ladies with the Happy Halloweenie Costume. Complete 3 piece set, for standard adult size."

But the question remains: Is Halloween evil? Some folks sure seem to think so. Check out The Dark Side of Halloween and Sorry Kids, Halloween is Evil.

Not everybody agrees, however. According to Feminist Mormon Housewives, Halloween is Not Evil.

So what do you think?

ChicagoScope feedback line: 312-683-5272. Send e-mail to

Direct download: halloween.mp3
Category:Pop Culture -- posted at: 1:42pm CST

Night exterior photo of Victoria's Mexican Grill in Long Grove, IllinoisThis time out, our culinary expedition journeys to Long Grove for a taste of Victoria's Mexican Grill. We liked the food and loved the salsa, but felt everything could have had a bit more oomph.

Victoria's Mexican Grill, 410 Robert Parker Coffin Road (Building 42), Long Grove. (847) 634-3772.

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Direct download: victorias.mp3
Category:Chicago -- posted at: 1:48am CST

I'm not easily impressed, but lately two Chicago-area podcasting teams have left me overwhelmed and even a little bit jealous.


At the last meeting of the Chicago Area Podcasters Network Meetup, I had the pleasure of meeting Shane and Amy Bugbee, a couple who are committing a year of their lives to a podcast version of the Lucy and Desi "Long, Long Trailer" thing.
Shane Bugbee in a frame grab from his video on how to create a stabilizer for a camcorder Shane and Amy's project, "A Year at the Wheel," gets into gear here in Chicago on November 4, hits the road and then concludes November 5 next year -- just in time for the Big Election.

During their 365-day journey across America, they'll be creating audio podcasts, video podcasts, publishing a newspaper -- and generally doing the kind of Charles Kuralt-style coverage that the mainstream media too often neglect to do.

They've attracted some heavyweight attention -- namely, podcasting pioneer Adam Curry, who's scheduled to appear at a kick-off event for Shane and Amy on November 4 at The Empty Bottle.

I'm especially dee-lited by Shane and Amy's creative approach to fundraising. Visit A Year at the Wheel and see what I mean. One example of their out-of-the-box thinking is a video (see frame grab above) in which Shane demonstrates how to build your own inexpensive version of the Fig Rig. Shane's version costs considerably less than the original, which lists for $295 at B&H.

So, check out Shane and Amy's site and give them a hand in their journalistic odyssey. I know I'm looking forward to some vicarious thrills, as well as some high-quality journalism.

(Disclosure: I've donated a digital recorder to A Year at the Wheel.)


"The Mike and Jeff Show" has been one of my favorite podcasts ever since I first listened to it last year. This simple, elegantly produced show features two guys discussing their lives with brutal honesty.

They've been funny, off-color, outrageous ... and insightful. But their latest show left me speechless. You've got to listen to this one. I dare anybody to do so and not conclude that our criminal justice system needs to be seriously overhauled.

Here's the link to Mike and Jeff Show Show No. 35.

ChicagoScope feedback line: 312-683-5272. Send e-mail to

Category:Chicago -- posted at: 2:00am CST


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About Me
I'm Leigh Hanlon, a writer and photographer in Chicago. Before moving to the Windy City, I worked at daily and weekly newspapers in Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming. (Photo by Marty Larkin)

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