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Spoiler Alert Thursday

I thought today was Wednesday. Turns out today is Thursday.

  • “Game of Thrones.” The episode tended toward an info-dump and setting up, presumably, the remainder of the season through the introduction of the key characters in King’s Landing and revealing how exposed the kingdom is in the north to invasion from the wildings and, subsequently, the Others. Can Mayor/Councillor Carcetti be anything but a really, really depraved, greasy creep? I fear that Ned and Robert are not long for this world–the Lannisters cannot be trusted. Tyrion remains the most compelling character; I suppose we have no option but to like Arya; and Jon Snow has improved since getting to the Wall. My reading of the novel stalled significantly this week on account of going to bed at midnight and getting up at six to get in to campus. I’ve finally made it to the end of the first episode: they left out of a lot of important information.
  • “The Killing.” I wish I could say that it was absolutely thrilling, but I cannot. I am coming to the conclusion that AMC is, by far, the most overhyped network of all time: “The Walking Dead” was, on average, disappointing and so too is “The Killing.” In terms of subject matter, I’m likely never going to watch a single minute of “Mad Men,” so we can set that one aside, but I like (intellectually, at least) the idea of Malcolm’s dad selling meth. My fear is that the show is as overhyped as the rest of the AMC catalogue.
  • “Fringe.” With the machine apparently having sent Peter into the future in the alternate universe, I can only come to the conclusion that the show should have been cancelled because it has clearly “jumped the shark.” In fact, I think the show jumped two sharks this week with Olivia being the other “key” to the machine. There was, however, an okay post on Astrid/Astro/Ostrich/Asterisk on Racialicious the other day.

Unrelated. I’m teaching a intensive “mini-course” for (what are supposed to be) promising high school students this week. My course is, more or less, on violence and we are using movies and television shows (“District 9,” “Terminator: Salvation,” “Generation Kill,” and “Zombieland”—we were going to do “Twilight,” but they insisted on two days of zombies) to start up our discussions. In “Terminator: Salvation,” Common–who for whatever reason desperately wants to be an actor–played “the black guy.” Fortunately, he had very few lines. For instance, “It worked, man, the signal worked. It’s beautiful!” Honestly, why didn’t the writers have him say “dog” or “homes” to John Connor instead of “man”? (And can Christian Bale play a character where he isn’t yelling all the time? Yelling isn’t acting.) I had forgotten he was in that movie. Coincidentally, I had listened to some of his music on the way in this week. Normally, his lyrics aren’t terrible (“The Light” is a still a classic, right?), but this one stuck out: “like “The Breakup” with Jen and Vince Vaughan.” Really? I can’t decide if recent Common just fucking sucks or if he always sucked and no one noticed it. I feel Adam should weigh in on this issue, being the local authority on all things Chicago.

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Chicago, Spoiler Alert Thursdays | 7 Comments

Biking infrastructure

Bike lanes in Chicago seem to be pretty crappy, due to the constant danger of being “doored” and of course the problem of being so close to traffic. I am absolutely certain that I am not the first to come up with this idea, but it has occurred to me that it would be relatively simple for the parking area and bike lane to switch places, with a curb between the two sufficient to keep cars from intruding into the bike lane. The parked cars would produce a natural barrier, and since doors most often open on the driver side, it would reduce dooring, too.

On roads where bike lanes are already designated, this policy wouldn’t even lead to a net loss of space for cars. However, while Anthony has been here, it has become more and more apparent that Western Ave., one of the most important thoroughfares in the city, is also incredibly dangerous for bikers. It’s dangerous because it’s so busy, obviously, and cutting space out for bike lanes would be a tough sell — but most of Western (at least the sections I’ve seen) also has wide sidewalks, and the incredible busyness of the street means that you don’t see restaurants taking advantage of the space with outdoor areas, etc. So: cut out part of the sidewalk to make a veritable bike expressway.

I haven’t done the math, but all these plans seem like they’d be relatively cheap to do. Am I wrong? Are there disadvantages I’m not seeing?

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Chicago | 14 Comments

My favorite sign of all time

I apologize for the picture quality, as this was taken with my cell phone at night — but this sign is a classic. If you can’t tell, it actually has a permit number on it, as though it’s an official sign issued by the city of Chicago:


May 19, 2009 Posted by | boredom, Chicago | Comments Off on My favorite sign of all time

Spring is officially here

The Girl and I ate outside at El Cid, officially inaugurating the “dining al fresco” season in Chicago. Chicago residents’ obsession with eating outdoors reflects a broader truth about the city: the memory of winter always haunts us, meaning that we greedily snatch at every opportunity to be outside in nice weather. In fact, there appear to be entire areas of the city that were designed from the ground up to allow sidewalk dining (along Division, for instance).

April 19, 2009 Posted by | Chicago | 6 Comments


As my current lease comes to an end, I’m having trouble figuring out what to do. My original plan was to try to find a roommate and stay here, but now I’m wondering if I should either just live by myself in a smaller place (which could cost about the same) or else move into an existing roommate situation (which could cost significantly less in some cases).

Complicating this decision is the thought that this could be my last year in Chicago, if all goes well on the next round of the job search. Would it really be worth the money I save if I go into a roommate situation that turns out to be stressful, or if it requires me to move to a location where I feel less connected to the city? There’s also sentimental value to this apartment, as it’s been where I’ve lived during a very significant and productive period of my life — I’ve written two books in this place, for example. But having a different roommate changes the situation already, and perhaps it’s time for me to live by myself, something I’ve not yet done.

I’ve heard it said that living alone for too long makes it difficult to transition into living with a significant other or being married, but that’s not something I’ve really thought seriously about yet — and in any case, surely I’ve had enough roommate experience that I can afford to take the risk for a year.

I’m not necessarily asking for advice, just self-indulgently using the blog to think out loud.

April 4, 2009 Posted by | Chicago | 3 Comments


My letter on student loan forgiveness has appeared in the Tribune. At least judging from the online version, they did not wind up using the headshot they (somewhat mysteriously) asked for.

I’ve had a good record publishing “crazy” letters in Chicago papers. Back in 2005, the Sun-Times published my letter urging that if the Democrats couldn’t hold a fillibuster against Alito, they should physically obstruct the vote from occuring, and in the last couple months, the Tribune accepted my letter about how Blagojevich just shows us that there’s no reason for state governors to be so powerful in the first place.

My very favorite letter to the editor, however, was to the Flint Journal. (Forgive me: I’ve told this story before many times, but to me it never gets old.) I was an avid reader of the comics page at the time, and I was particularly a fan of Boondocks, which the Journal had banished to a little area on the page facing the main comics page (accompanied only by Frank and Earnest and Cathy — a clear insult). I wrote in claiming that it was the best comic and should get top billing. On the day the letter was published, my grandma got to the op-ed pages first and read my letter to my grandpa (without saying it was me) and asked what he thought of it. He responded, “Oh, they’re just saying that because they’re black.”

March 21, 2009 Posted by | Chicago, media | 5 Comments

Is Daley grooming a successor?

Apparently Ron Huberman, currently the president of the Chicago Transit Authority, is going to be appointed as head of public schools in Chicago. I am disappointed about about this simply because Huberman seems to have done a remarkably good job in his year and a half as CTA president, and there are also worries about appointing someone without an education background. I wonder if this move might be an indication that Daley is grooming Huberman to be his successor — Daley is, after all, 66, and an autocratic style of government doesn’t tend to result in a “deep bench.” So picking one guy and getting him involved in all the major areas of city governance — besides being Daley’s chief of staff for a time, he’s been a police officer, in addition to the two positions already mentioned, and none of them have been for very long — might be a good way to keep things from falling apart completely after Daley inevitably steps aside.

The problem is that loyalty doesn’t transfer automatically, of course, plus Huberman himself might have other ambitions or develop them over time. But given that we’re in a situation where autocratic rule has been going on for a long time, a smooth hand off to a competent successor seems like a better option than just letting all hell break loose — not that all hell necessarily would break loose, but that’s got to be how it looks from the inside.

Now I should clarify that I don’t think there’s any lack of people in Chicago who, in the abstract, could run the city. We have world-class universities filled with experts in every area of public policy, along with activists, community organizers, etc. But could any of them effectively exercise power given the current political situation in the city? And would a simple toppling of Daley as a particular person, without any conscious attempt to unwind the “machine,” result in a situation in which it would be more likely than it currently is for such people to exercise power? You don’t generally make the transition from feudalism to vibrant democracy just because the king dies.

I’m willing to be convinced, though.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Chicago | Comments Off on Is Daley grooming a successor?