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.
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 Transom.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just a brief podcast this time to let you know about some upcoming events. . .
REMOTE PUBCAST 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!
FARMERS ALMANACS 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 ChicagoScope@gmail.com.
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.
It'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.
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."
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 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.
"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.