Leonard Cohen Playing Chicago

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Filed under Arts and Theater, Music

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Leonard Cohen will play the Chicago Theater next week for two sold out shows. This is the Canadian poet, novelist, and singer-songwriters first tour in 15 years. He also plans to tour major American and World cities including Paris, Berlin and Tel Aviv.

A serious bout of bad luck may have been responsible for Cohen’s decision to tour. Unknown to him, his former business manager stole and spent most of his life savings. While it’s a major bummer for Cohen, it’s pretty awesome for us. Impetus aside, I can’t wait to actually see this icon in the flesh.

Cohen published his first poetry works in 1956 and his first novel in 1963. In 1967 Cohen released his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, after a move to the US in order to pursue his songwriting and singing.

Cohen was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, with Lou Reed describing Cohen as the “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters.” His songs have been covered over 1000 times in different renditions. Jeff Buckley, REM, Pixies, Johnny Cash, Nick Cave and Willie Nelson have all recorded Cohen songs.

The show is said to be a collective of the artist’s stories and songs that span his career. The Decider had this to say about the show’s opening night in New York: “Cohen spent a lot of time singing on his knees, crouched down with his lanky shoulders drawn in and his hands holding the microphone with something like tranquil desperation; it wasn’t clear that Cohen even realized there were thousands of other people in the room with him … The whole show was a triumph for a kind of earned wisdom and slow, creeping staying-power that’s easy to forget the value of these days.”

He will be performing at the Chicago Theater on May 4 and May 5.

Swine Flu in Chicago?

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Filed under Life and News

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A probable case of swine flu has caused the closing of a North Side elementary school for at least two days. So naturally, people are freaking out over swine flu. How serious is it?

The potential case involves a 12 year old student at Kilmer Elementary School, 6700 N. Greenview Ave., in the Rogers Park neighborhood, Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman said at a morning press conference at the school. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Terry Mason said the student “is recovered at home.”

Huberman said tests on the student have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and he expects results back in 24 to 36 hours.

The decision to close the school was made Tuesday after the state reported the probable case to CPS and the system noticed an unusually high absentee rate at the school.

Attendance at the school is normally 94 to 96 percent, but it was 87 percent on Tuesday, Huberman said. That was “clearly enough of a differential” to warrant the closing. He said the school would be closed “indefinitely,” but at least for two days.

The Kilmer student population of 850 is 60 percent Hispanic. It has a teaching staff of 46. The school is also in a heavily Hispanic populated area of the Rogers Park neighborhood. The swine flu has taken its heaviest toll in Mexico.

A few parents tried to bring their children to Kilmer this morning but were turned away by teachers handing out a flyer, in English and Spanish, from Huberman, saying there had been a “confirmed” case of swine flu at the school. CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond, however, said the case remained probable and had not yet been confirmed.

Huberman said school officials will be checking attendance rates at all its other schools today, and should know by this afternoon whether there are any other troubling drops in attendance.

The first United States death from swine flu was confirmed today — a 23-month-old in Texas.

Officials in Chicago recommended people take cautionary measures: lots of hand washing, eating healthy, plenty of sleep.

Do we need to worry? It seems as though this happens about everyother year, and always has a strange animal name. Remember Asian bird flu? We were all supposed to die from that too.

Flu deaths around the world are common. In the U.S. alone, 36,000 people die from flu-related causes. This just seems like another virus that could harm already unhealthy people, but yet everyone gets panicky about.

Green Roof Leaders

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Filed under Life and News

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I have to say, occaisonally I am surprised by good news about Chicago. Maybe because it is Earth Day I was mulling around on “green” websites or because the weather is getting warmer; but I was digging into how “green” Chicago is and was surprised to find out we are the nations leaders three years in a row on green roofs.

A green roof system is, according to greenroofs.org, “an extension of the existing roof which involves a high quality water proofing and root repellant system, a drainage system, filter cloth, a lightweight growing medium and plants.”  Green roof systems may be modular, with drainage layers, filter cloth, growing media and plants already prepared in movable, interlocking grids, or, each component of the system may be installed separately.Green roof development involves the creation of “contained” green space on top of a human-made structure. This green space could be below, at or above grade, but in all cases the plants are not planted in the “ground’.

Green roofs absorb rainwater, alleviating the strain on urban sewer and stormwater systems. And they help cool cities, where light-absorbent asphalt and other dark surfaces can increase summer temperatures as much as 10 degrees. A cooler local climate means less strain on the power supply from air conditioners, and more importantly, fewer deaths from heat stress.

Chicago requires green roofs on certain new construction, including any that uses city money, it encourages building them on all projects, and it has offered grants to homeowners and small business owners who want to install green roofs on their own buildings. “Chicago is definitely the leader and inspiration for others,” said Steven Peck, the founding president of Green Roofs for Health Cities, an industry group. Peck credits the city with inspiring a 25 percent increase in green roof installation across the country last year, as more cities set similar incentives for building gardens.

Something else you might not know: even City Hall has a green roof. Huh. I say, “Way to go, Chicago!” On this one!

No Reality Show for Blago

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Filed under Life and News

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Fame-whore and general fucktard Rod Blagojevich won’t be getting the chance to shine on reality TV with all the other fame-whore’s and fucktards. The ex-politico had requested special travel adjustments in order to appear on the show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! Past celebrities include Brian Paddick, Simon Webbe, Joe Swash, Robert Kilroy-Silk, Dani Behr, Carly Zucker, Nicola McLean and Esther Rantzen…I don’t know any one of those people.

Blago was shut down by Judge James Zagel, who stated, “I do not have confidence that things will not go astray if I modify bond conditions.” The judge also continued on about Blago not seeming to understand the seriousness of his legal situation, and the whole hoopla being a “bad idea.”  Imagine that.

NBC released a statement saying, “NBC is disappointed in the court’s decision today regarding Rod Blagojevich’s participation on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! but excited about the casting announcement for the show this Friday. There are no plans to move the show to a location in the United States.”

Blago was just trying to hustle and make last minute dough, apparently. Before entering the hearing on Tuesday, Blagojevich told reporters that appearing on the reality show was “a way to earn a living and support my children,” according to the Tribune. “It’s not my first choice, but it’s a living.”

Blago could have made as much as $125,00 from doing 12 episodes of the Survivor type show.

I am glad to see that this “celebrity” isn’t getting the special treatment instead of the justice that so often alludes “celebrities.” Blago is a true criminal and needs to be prosecuted so. I still think Winona Ryder got the shaft in her shoplifting scandal, though, for the record.

Ben and Jerry’s Free Cone Day, 4/21 or Free Stuff is like the Golden Girls

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Filed under Drink and Eat, Events

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I was going to write a piece on the great parking meter tragedy of 2009, but my lofty goal seemed well–lofty. Parking meter downer? NO! Calorie filled happiness! YES! Ice cream cheers everyone up, right? And in these hard times (side note: I am really sick of writing, reading, and generally observing that adage) it seems appropriate to type about the treats in life instead of the tricks for a change.

The hippie-ish ice cream chain has been scooping out the freebies since ’79 and there will no doubt be a line longer than the Navy Pier outpost that will be dishing out the goodies. (Navy Pier Scoop Shop, 700 E Grand) Free ice cream might be a faithful customer appreciation act, but it is also a way to lure in new converts or tempt old members to return to the gluttonous club. Conspiracy theory? Personally, I am a huge ice cream fan, but if you keep anyone away from something long enough, they could forget. Think of watching Golden Girls, for example. Its always on, but you never watch it because its (groan) Golden Girls. But then the day comes where you are too lazy to change the station and lo, the girls are cracking you up with Blanche’s sleazin’ around the hood, Rose’s idiot blunders, and Dorothy’s Dorothy-ness. Ah, Bea Arthur, I missed you!

That’s just what these free cones are going to do. You (try) to diet and work out. Avoid high fat and sugar desserts at all costs. Ice cream is honestly lacking in nutrition. But a bad day and a free cone later, it all comes flooding back to you. Cool, sweet, creamy memories will take over good sense and you will forget why you stopped eating it in the first place. Welcome back, friend. It’s just a sleigh ride into plus-sized pants now.

Chicago Latino Film Festival

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The Chicago Latino Film Festival celebrates its Silver Anniversary, as the “largest, oldest and best Latino film festival in the country,” notes Hispanic magazine. It represents over 100 films in an array of genres –fiction, animation, documentary, and shorts that demonstrate the vast diversity of Latino culture from the United States, Latin America, Portugal, and Spain.

For two weeks each year, over 35,000 audience members from all walks of life enjoy the cultural and enlightening programming including screenings, workshops, and special events held in various venues, colleges, universities and community base organizations around the area.

Presented by the International Latino Cultural Center, the 25th Chicago Latino Film Festival runs Friday, April 17, through Wednesday, April 29, at Beverly Arts Center, Facets Cinematheque, Landmark’s Century Centre, River East 21, and smaller venues throughout the city and suburbs. Tickets for most events are $10, $9 for students, and $8 for ILCC members. For more information call 312-409-1757 or see latinoculturalcenter.org.

Showing this week: The Ballroom, Sat 4/18, 7:30 PM, and Tue 4/21, 6 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre; Empty Nest, Sat 4/18, 9:15 PM, and Sun 4/19, 8:30 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre; A Forgotten Injustice, Sat 4/18, 9 PM, Facets Cinematheque; The Gift, Fri 4/17, 6 PM, River East 21; Pindorama, Sat 4/18 and Mon 4/20, 6:30 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre; The Watercolorist, Fri 4/17, 7 PM; Sun 4/19, 8 PM; and Mon 4/20, 8:30 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre.

Chicago , the 2016 Olympics, and the other “O”

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Filed under Events, Life and News

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Although it seems forever away, Chicago recently hosted 13 inspectors from the International Olympic Committee to make assessments of the proposed Olympic plans. The Olympic bid comes at a time when Chicago has had some positive strides: beating out San Fran and LA for the bid (among others), President Obama’s big win; but also some bad press in state government (Blogo), debt. President Obama sent a special taped message to the inspectors and Oprah Winfrey even dined with them.

It has been suggested that Oprah has powers that run on par with super heroes. Mind control, etc., and now that we know what side Oprah is on and all the power players are in motion and fanfare on display, Chicago might seem to really have a shot at this.

1. But is it all enough? 2. And do we really know what we are asking for?

Question 1: No, it isn’t enough. Although the review was positive, “We are leaving with a very strong impression that the bid is a strong one,” said the evaluation commission’s chairwoman, Nawal el-Moutawakel, an Olympic gold medalist for Morocco. Chicago is still placed in last, Tokyo at number 1, according to independent Canada based website GamesBids.com. The biggest obstacle in Chicago’s way is…(drum roll)…finances. Chicago is the only city that is unable to give 100% financial guarantees.

Question 2: No, we don’t know what we are asking for. Chicago simply cannot afford this event. And with the crippled CTA serving the broke city, I don’t see how we can handle it. Selling off public assets (Midway, parking meters) hasn’t helped the situation either. Chicago has a rich history of coming in over budget and late. The city keeps talking about all the jobs this opportunity could create, but those jobs will go away after the games, obviously. And has anyone ever been to the shell of an old Olympic village? Quickly constructed, low cost buildings don’t age well. Chicago certainly has experience in that department.

There is such romanticism surrounding the Olympics that it is hard to look beyond the flaming torches to see the flaming tax dollars. My bottom line is this: we can’t compete financially with the other cities, and even if we could, we are too broke to go throwing a big party for everyone when we really don’t have anything to celebrate.

I am Not Going: Free Champagne and Fancy Doughnuts at Barney’s

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I am on some pretty weird email lists as a by-product for essentially spending too much time on the internet. I get recipes for meatless black bean burgers, Pakistani chain mail, and 5% off coupons on suede jackets ALL the time. But certain email lists really are fruitful; one such details where all the city’s free and cheap booze is at. You can imagine my shock to read the free booze was at Barney’s tomorrow from 10 am – 7pm.

A little background on my relationship with the high-end goods dealer: the only thing I actually own from Barney’s is a $600 dress I got at a thrift store; The White Elephant in Lincoln Park. And I know it was $600 because the tag was still on it. The dress fits like a $600 red satin blend dress should–it hugs every curve– and my friend once told me I looked “like sin in that dress.” That’s how good this dress is. It is immaculate. More on looking sinful next time…

Despite loving my red dress, I have only been in Barney’s once. I have this bizarre fear that the staff has a sixth sense that enables them to know there is only $17 in my purse. Armed with this information, they will radio the other staff and security, who will then rally the richest patrons around me as they form a circle and throw spiked Manolo Blahniks at me for daring to enter their den of luxury.

I know I really can’t shop there. I want to–badly, but the old budget won’t budge on this one. Designer goods in my world are hand-me downs from rich friends and scores at thrift stores (see above) but never ‘paid full price in fancy store place’ items. And I just feel like more of a piece of shit broke ass when I can’t buy the cotton socks, yep, cotton, because they are $40 and I’m half short of funds.

So here is the quandary: Can one reasonably get loaded on champagne and desserts without ever having the intention of buying the goods?

James Beard award nominated pastry chef Mindy Segal will serving up the brioche doughnuts and no word on how many glasses of bubbly one can tip back before aforementioned mob encircles.

If  Barney’s wants to us to help celebrate the reopening of the Chicago store, then maybe we should. I was ‘technically’ invited…

Barney’s New York, 15 E Oak St.

It’s Not Actually an Inn: Phyllis’ Musical Inn

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Filed under Drink and Eat

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A “Musical Inn” paints a very ‘Alice in Wonderland’ portrait: singing chairs, dancing spoons, acid flashbacks…but Phyllis’ intention was hardly a psychedelic boutique hotel (interesting thought though) Phyllis’ Musical Inn is Wicker Park’s oldest live music joint and happens to be one of my favorite bars. Find it at the corner of Division and Wood, between Ashland and Damen. It’s even got a good story…if you were wondering.

During the 1940’s, Wicker Park was mostly a Polish neighborhood and Division Street in that era was nicknamed the “Polish Broadway” for all the nightlife on the strip. Phyllis Jaskot, an accordion player, opened her namesake Inn in 1954 as a live polka club (Phyllis is Polish…if you were wondering). A true neighborhood staple, Phyllis’ has stayed put through Wicker Park’s better and worse times. Famed Chicago writer Nelson Algren even hung out there; immortalizing Wicker Park during the era.

PMI is still going strong–and is still in the family; Phyllis’ son Clem now runs the show– as a live music venue, though not all the acts impress. To be honest, some of the music can be pretty miserable. And as just a friendly caution: the open mic on Tuesday’s is a comedy open mic for amateurs, and last time I witnessed that mess there was plenty of uncomfortable silence.

Despite its average local music acts, PMI is still a Chicago original. It’s got the best secret beer garden in the city, a fish tank, and a framed picture of Pope John Paul II on the wall (what good Polish family doesn’t?). Phyllis picked out the faded blue wallpaper with the pianos on it and the murals on the walls tell a bit of the local history.

But don’t go calling Phyllis’ a dive bar. It’s been loved and well worn…if you were wondering, but it’s not an Inn or a dive.

Art Show: Gallery Cabaret

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Filed under Arts and Theater

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Gallery Cabaret hosted local artists Mikey Rudnicki, Morgan Flahive-Foro, and Adam Mitchell Friday, April 3, with musical guests Mos Scocious and Brighten Up. In addition to Gallery Cabaret’s already full walls, each artist exhibited new pieces (traditional and mixed media) and older works.

This cozy and charming Bucktown tavern/gallery has the look and feel of the coolest basement bar you could dream up.

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