Headline of the day: 2 charged in fight at Friends Cafe

2 charged in fight at Friends Cafe
Tribune staff report
May 8, 2009

Two men were each charged with battery after allegedly fighting each other with knives and nunchaku in the parking lot of the Friends Cafe hookah bar in the 11000 block of Harlem Avenue.


More like White Sux!

Explain this.
The Cubs' average ticket price of $47.75 ranks third in the majors, behind the Yankees (whose average ticket jumps to $72.97 from $41.40 with the new stadium) and the Red Sox ($48.80). The White Sox are fifth at $32.28.
Okay, the figure for the Yankees is obviously ridiculous, and no doubt it will fall substantially once they realize all those ultra-rich investment bankers whose luxury boxes were distorting the average price aren't, for some reason, showing up to the games as often as expected. But what I want to focus on is the White Sox. At Yankee Stadium, Fenway, and Wrigley, you get to see top-notch teams playing in incredible ballparks. Here on the South Side you get to see a mediocre team in arguably the worst stadium in baseball, which unlike the others is surrounded by a wasteland of parking lots.

Now I happen to agree with Obama on the following (and this exchange is still the best thing I've seen him say to date):
Obama, a Southsider, was asked by ESPN's Stuart Scott what would happen if both the Cubs and the White Sox made it to the World Series.

"I would be going," Obama said.

"Who would you root for?" Scott asked.

"Oh, that's easy," Obama replied. "White Sox.

"I'm not one of these fair weather fans," the junior senator from Illinois and presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party explained. "You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer, beautiful people up there. People aren't watching the game. It's not serious. White Sox, that's baseball. Southside."
And the longer I live on the South Side, the more my hatred of the White Sox fades. Plus, unlike the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs, the White Sox sell veggie dogs (altho they're pretty pathetic veggie dogs, unlike in, say, SF). Maybe if they tore down those parking lots and replaced them with bars and restaurants, the experience of going to Comiskey wouldn't be so alienating. But until then it's sad that the nearest ballpark is not only my least favorite to visit, but it's also among the most expensive in baseball.


Chinese vegetarian mystery

How can we account for this? Philadelphia is half as big as Chicago, and not known for its vegetarianism. Yet Philadelphia has five - five! - all-vegetarian Chinese restaurants, and Chicago has none.

Su Xing 1508 Sansom St
Singapore Kosher Vegetarian 1006 Race St
Kingdom of Vegetarians 129 N 11th St
New Harmony 135 N 9th St
Cherry Street Vegetarian 1010 Cherry St

Chicago does have Yummy Yummy in Lakeview, a Chinese restaurant with both meat and fake meat American Chinese dishes, but here again Philadelphia beats us - it has two similar restaurants.

Charles Plaza 234-6 N 10th St
Golden Empress Garden 610 S 5th St

Granted, all of these restaurants are American Chinese, a pale imitation of the incredible fake meat restaurants in China. But this is an issue of respect. C'mon Chicago, get your act together.


Chicago streets 2: The obscure western reaches

Every good Chicagoan knows exactly what this means: Halsted, Racine, Ashland, Damen, Western, Kedzie, and they can give you the number for each one. But after that things start to get a little fuzzy. Sure, a lot of people know that 4000 W is Pulaski, and 4800 W is Cicero, but most of us are hard pressed to name the rest.

For starters, 3600 W is Central Park - which is what Garfield Park, which it runs thru, used to be called. 6000 W is Austin, the western boundary of the neighborhood of the same name, which used to be a separate town that dominated Cicero Township until the other towns in the Township won an election to eject Austin (against its citizens' wishes) from Cicero and annex it to Chicago.

5600 W is Central, which is central to nothing at all. 6800 W is Oak Park, which keeps its name when it leaves Chicago and enters Oak Park. (What is it with cities around here naming their own streets after themselves?) 7200 W is Harlem, and I cannot explain why all the white folks living out there would have picked that particular name.

4400 W is Kostner, part of a mile of streets between Pulaski and Cicero that nearly all start with the letter K. This is the eleventh mile from the Indiana border, and K is the eleventh letter of the alphabet. The pattern continues with the twelfth mile named exclusively beginning with the letter L, which explains 5200 W, Laramie. The "M" mile breaks the pattern to retain Austin, but the "N" mile resumes it by starting with Narragansett (6400 W). Following that we have Oriole (7600 W) and Pacific (8000 W). The city stopped expanding just in time, ending the regular street grid at Cumberland (8400 W). Another mile further and they would have had to figure out a whole lot of "Q" names for streets.

Here's the full list in order:
4000 W Pulaski
4400 W Kostner
4800 W Cicero
5200 W Laramie
5600 W Central
6000 W Austin
6400 W Narragansett
6800 W Oak Park
7200 W Harlem
7600 W Oriole
8000 W Pacific
8400 W Cumberland


Chicago streets 1: The mystery of the South Side

Everyone knows that Chicago streets are numbered and every eight blocks is a mile. (Incidentally, the system was introduced only in 1908, before which there was street numbering chaos.) On the North Side you just have to memorize the numbering - Division is 1200, Lawrence is 4800, etc. But on the South Side, all east-west streets are named after their number, with a couple exceptions like Roosevelt and Garfield. You would expect the main streets to fall on the fours since there's a main street every half-mile. But as anyone who's taken the Red or Green Lines knows, the main streets instead land on places like 47th, 63rd, 87th, 111th.

The problem is not that the South Side has forsaken the principle of a main street every half-mile. It's that South Side streets near the Loop were already numbered when the street numbering reform went thru in 1908, and they didn't match up exactly with the new system. Instead of renumbering those streets, they were left as is, while the newer parts of the South Side were integrated into the 800-to-a-mile system.

Roosevelt (1200 S) is actually one mile south of Madison (1 N/S), Cermak (2200 S) is two miles south, and 31st (3100 S) is three miles south. After that the regular system resumes, which is why the main streets then follow regularly: 39th, 43rd, 47th, 51st, 55th, etc.


Best of 2008

1) Being in the same city as my girlfriend for a majority of the year.

2) Spending the summer reading Capital and Marxian theory.

3) Coming up with something like a dissertation topic, and taking satisfying grad classes.

4) Exploring Tokyo and Osaka, and Hiroshima, Nagoya, and Kobe. Kyoto was okay too.

5) Excursions to New York, San Francisco, Philly, DC.

6) Seeing incredible movies on the screen, many at historic theaters: There Will Be Blood, «色戒» (Lust, Caution), Броненосец «Потёмкин» (Battleship Potemkin), Touch of Evil, Vertigo, King Kong (1933), The Godfather.

7) Biking around Boston and environs.

8) Return to organizing.

9) Baseball! First trips to the original Yankee Stadium and Nationals Park (DC), return trips to two of the best newer parks, Citizens Bank Park (Philly) and AT&T Park (SF). Plus almost constant access to games on MLB's web service before leaving the country.

10) Living in Chicago again.


Whoa, Portuguese is messed up

I thought I'd look up how to pronounce Rio de Janeiro since I've been saying it lately when talking about the 2016 Olympics candidate cities. But it turns out that Portuguese pronunciation (at least in Rio itself) is so bizarre that if I said it correctly no one would understand what I was talking about. IPA from Wikipedia: [ˈhiu dʒi ʒʌˈnejɾu] (the footnote has variant Brazilian pronunciations, some of which are closer to the Anglicization). So it's something like "hew ji zhaneru". You can hear it spoken here.


Best ride on the Dan Ryan Red Line ever

I avoid the Dan Ryan Red Line and the Blue Line past Belmont (O'Hare branch) and Clinton (Forest Park branch) like the plague. Building the El in the median of the highway was the worst idea ever. It's bad enough that you have to wait for the train surrounded on all sides by highway traffic, and then have to ride the thing deprived of urban scenery. What's even worse is that the whole experience assaults you like a tire iron to the face with the horrible realization that car culture is ineradicable. (And if you have some sort of perverse affection for such an alienating experience, consider that this kind of public transit makes transit-oriented development almost impossible.)

But today was different. I took the Red Line from Garfield to Chinatown during rush hour, after the snowstorm had started. So waiting on the platform was not dominated by cars zooming past, but by a peaceful scene of falling snow and cars crawling along. The train ride was dominated by a satisfying schadenfreude, as the El roared past traffic that had been brought to a standstill by the snow. In Chinatown, I heard on the radio that the commute from the Loop to O'Hare was taking three hours. A perfect public transit experience.


How to not mangle Russian presidents' names

Now that the secrets of Russian pronunciation have been revealed to me, here are some pointers on Russian presidents' names.

Борис Николаевич Ельцин / Boris Nikolaevich Yel'tsin: the Russian name Boris is not BORE-iss, it's bah-REESE, and the 'r' is rolled/trilled like the 'rr' in Spanish. Anglicization of the rest of the name is about right, except Russian 'i's are always pronounced like the 'ee' in 'see'.

Владимир Владимирович Путин / Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin: again, the Anglicized version of Vladimir has the stress wrong - it should be on the second syllable, not the first. The last name is roughly PU-teen.

Дмитрий Анатольевич Медведев / Dmitrii Anatol'evich Medvedev: Americans will want to say MED-vuh-dev, but it's actually more like mid-VYEH-dif.

Next time: Communists!


Sunday Parkways and fake meat Mexican food

Sunday Parkways was really nice. Chicago is finally emulating cities across the hemisphere and started to set aside some time when a few of the city's roads are closed to traffic - so they can be opened to everyone else who is excluded the rest of the time. The first event, which I didn't make it to, was October 5 and ran thru Logan Square and Humboldt Park. Yesterday the route went thru Little Village and East Garfield Park. I was there around noon - turnout was respectable but not spectacular. Community organizations and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation organized it, and they got a lot of kids from the neighborhoods involved, directing traffic and helping with the logistics. There were also more white folks moving thru East Garfield Park than there probably have been in the last forty years combined.

The route went thru both Douglas Park and Garfield Park, which are both really nice and, when you add in Grant Park, Burnham Park, Lincoln Park, Humboldt Park, Jackson Park, Washington Park, and Marquette Park, make a pretty strong case for Chicago having the best park system in the country. No word yet on whether Sunday Parkways will be continued and expanded, but it sure would be a nice addition to the city's recreation opportunities if they started it back up in the spring and made it permanent.

It gave me a good excuse to go up to the West Side - because of how far away it is from both the places I've lived in Chicago, I've really only biked around there twice before, and I've never been to Garfield Park before. There are some really cool buildings in the neighborhood, including the incredible Garfield Park Fieldhouse, inspired by the Spanish Revival architecture at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego's Balboa Park. Too bad the area is still one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city.

Since I was going to Little Village, I looked online for a Mexican place that wouldn't have lard in the beans and stumbled across El Faro (3936 W 31st St), which has a full menu of fake meat vegetarian dishes. I had a torta veggie cubano, a taco de soya estilo carne asada, and a 20 oz Jarritos for $9 incl tip. This is quite a find, and definitely worth going back to.



Until 2005, Obama lived in a condo half a block from my apartment.


Nuclear missiles in my back yard

A couple minutes from my place, in Jackson Park and Promontory Point, the US Army used to maintain anti-aircraft radar towers and nuclear-tipped Nike missiles. WTF!


Remember the anti-Japan hysteria of the 1980s? The real conspiracy is not against American trade supremacy. It's against vegetarians

I've been in 東京/Tokyo for about ten days now and everything's pretty good for the most part. Thanks to Ariel's sacrifice of tolerating an hour and half commute to her language classes, we're living in 新宿/Shinjuku, which has the busiest train station in the world, one of Tokyo's largest shopping districts, its main red light district, its metropolitan government, its largest concentration of skyscrapers, and its biggest gay and lesbian community. Fortunately we live on the edges of all the clamor while still within easy reach of trains and restaurants.

The restaurants, alas, are not worth much to a vegetarian. One important question I've been contemplating recently is how the Japanese maintain such iron discipline in their conspiracy against vegetarians. Consider:
  • We went to a Mexican restaurant that had no beans.
  • We went to a Thai restaurant that had no tofu.
  • Japanese restaurants fall into a handful of different categories - 寿司/sushi, 居酒屋/izakaya (bar food), 焼き鳥/yakitori (skewers), ラーメン/ramen, うどん/udon and そば/soba, とんかつ/tonkatsu (deep fried cutlets), 天ぷら/tenpura - each of which might have some vegetarian options but generally not enough to make a meal out of.
  • Dishes that could easily be made vegetarian, like noodles or tenpura, are invariably sabotaged by adding fish to the broth or sauce or sprinkling かつお節/bonito flakes on top.
  • Japanese curry, which I used to eat quite happily when I first lived in 中国/China, is always sabotaged by using a beef base.
  • Japan actually does have a tradition of meatless cooking adapted from the Chinese Buddhist tradition that makes China such a wonderful place to be a vegetarian. But 精進料理/shoujin ryouri, rather than a boon for vegetarians, is used to break our will: it's so expensive (around $100/person for a meal) that the one thing that could save us is beyond our grasp.
Okay, it's not really bad as all that. Italian food is pretty widespread, if by Italian food you mean mediocre spaghetti and pizza (none of which is vegan I'm sure). And far more important, the anti-vegetarian blockade has been fatally broken by the many good Indian places in Tokyo. Finally, if you have all day to do online research (which I do), you can find the handful of all-vegan restaurants produced by the best mini-fad in Tokyo since the electronic pet that dies if you don't press the feeding button.

In between looking for restaurants online, I'm reading Capital, volume 1, enjoying Tokyo's incredible transit system (including the new subway line a couple minutes from our place that opened three days before we got here), and making my way around to the sights.


Because the word "padre" should bring to mind militarism

I love baseball, but I cringe before baseball's open allegiance to American militarism and nationalism. The national anthem before every game, the practice of singing "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch that swept the majors after 9/11, various invocations of patriotism by announcers - it's all just sickening. But this brings it to a new level: the San Diego Padres featuring "the only Military Opening Night in all of Major League Baseball".

In an attempt to appeal to the many people in the San Diego area working at military installations, the Padres today wore desert camouflage uniforms. The effect was horrifying: it was as if the entire field was controlled by an occupying army. So I was pretty happy when the Dodgers blew the game open in the seventh inning.

Even tho the Padres are named after priests, maybe it's not so inappropriate that they would wear militarist uniforms. The padres were, after all, the first wave of Spanish colonialism throughout the American southwest, just as our boys wearing desert camo are the vanguard of American imperialism today.


If only Google cared about transit

Google Maps is an incredible resource, but the way they treat transit is asinine. You have to zoom in far too close before subway stops even appear, and when they finally show up they float around in space, completely unconnected to the lines they run on. Since you're already zoomed in so far, it's impossible to see how the lines run unless you click on each stop and memorize which line(s) stop there. Only someone who knew the system well could make sense of something like these:

I don't know if adding subway lines and making transit systems show up on all the maps would actually encourage people to use transit, but I do know it would get rid of a real pain in my ass. I wrote to maps-transit-feedback@google.com (the only email address for feedback I could find at Google) and they said they'd pass it on to the relevant department. So if you want to make Google Maps more accessible for transit use, shoot off a quick email.


Garfield minus Garfield

This is hilarious - the comic Garfield, with Garfield himself removed, is 1) much funnier and 2) occasionally transcendent.

This is the most powerful one:


Is Rogers Park the real murder capital?

Here's what someone had to say about my old neighborhood in the Tribune today:

"You tell people about Rogers Park, and they sometimes think there are corpses on the street."

Does this strike anyone else as bizarre? Sure there's some tough guys hanging out on Morse, and up on Jarvis is a little rough, but I've never thought of Rogers Park as being particularly dangerous, plus there's more condos every time I head up there. Do you think he's talking about zombies?

Anyway, there's a new jazz club opening up in the old Morse Theatre this fall that's probably worth checking out.

Bringing jazz to Rogers Park: Will people follow?


Hidden meaning?

Does anyone else see a disturbing resemblance between The New York Times's Oscars coverage ad

and diagrams of slave ships?


Happy Veterans of Imperialist Wars Day

There should also be a holiday when we pay tribute to all the foreigners who had to die that America might control the trade routes/resources/international institutions.


When to fly

September 11 is the best day of the year to fly. I flew from Midway to Logan yesterday at 9am, and the airports were deserted. My plane had maybe 25 people on it, total capacity around 150. No lines at check-in or security, boarding and deplaning were quick, everyone was happy.


It's fucking Napoleon!

This is one of the greatest visual images ever produced by humans.


Revive the beard tax!

In 1705 Tsar Pyotr I of Russia ("Peter the Great"), as part of his Westernizing reforms, decreed that all men except church clergy must shave their beards. However, if you wanted to keep your beard you just had to pay a tax, which was verified by the receipt of this coin:
Seems to me that a coin with a bizarre disembodied beard would alone be worth the cost of the tax. This policy would also be effective in cracking down on hipsters. I think the time for the beard tax has once again arrived.


Quote of the day

Reading thru old copies of the Reader I never got to, I found this great quote from architecture critic and preservationist Lynn Becker, responding to people who leave comments on his blog like "The idea that a group of people can impose their will on the property rights of others' economic self-interest is a slap in the face to the modern business spirit."
When the market economy remains our one true religion, there's never a shortage of those who would destroy beauty with malice and replace it with shit for spite. (2006.11.24)


Recycling drop-off spots

Chicago is inching toward a decent recycling program, and as part of that very slow process the city has opened a number of dropboxes that you can leave all your recyclables at. See the list here. This is good news since most of us live in apartments that are legally required to have recycling pickup, but which don't because the city doesn't enforce the law. I for one will be dropping off my last 9 months of bottles, cans, junk mail, and newspapers this weekend.


Best Chicago websites

What do you think are the key websites for Chicagoans? Here's my nominations:

Chicago Reader. This is a no-brainer - decent articles (could be a lot better tho) and all the music, movie, and restaurant listings. Clout Street, the Reader's political blog, is also one of the best sources on city politics.

Chicago Menupages. Most of the restaurants in the city, all with online menus.

Beachwood Reporter. Digging thru all the fluff and crime reporting of mediocre papers like the Tribune to find out what's going on in your city - often to find that there isn't any decent local news in the first place - is a tiresome and disillusioning experience. The Beachwood Reporter pulls out the key articles and adds biting humor in a progressive critique of Chicago politics and media. Also featuring the Lou Piniella Alert Level.
Encyclopedia of Chicago History. Short articles on all the neighborhoods, personalities, and events of Chicago's past. Check out this historical map of the El, complete with all the lines - both operating and decommissioned - and when they opened.


Biking again

In the last week I made two expeditions to the outskirts of the city. Tho they are administratively part of Chicago, they have more in common with Wilmette or Skokie than with the city proper, so I apologize for how boring my descriptions will be.

Southwest on Vincennes thru Hamilton Park, Gresham, Brainerd, and Beverly, west on 111th thru Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood. Last Friday I did the 25-mile round trip to Veggie Bite, the vegetarian so-called fast food place in Mount Greenwood in the city's far far southwest. I didn't get a very good feel for the neighborhoods biking on Vincennes, which is a diagonal multilane road. No bike lanes (it used to have them part of the way, but they've been removed), but pretty good for biking with the exception of a few dicey intersections. When I got to 111th and Hoyne in Morgan Park, I encountered something I've never seen before in Chicago: a legitimate hill. Beverly, Morgan Park, and Mount Greenwood are all very suburban and middle class. Mount Greenwood is lily white and feels a lot like northwest Chicago - not exactly a friendly place for an all-vegetarian restaurant. I liked Veggie Bite, but I'm not sure they should market themselves as a fast food place. I got the "cheese steak", which was good but bore no resemblance to the real thing and took awhile to make.

On the way home I took the marked "Vincennes alternative" route, which involved less traffic and gave me a much better look at residential parts of Beverly and Brainerd. Beverly has a lot of suprisingly large homes with big yards, something I've never seen in the city. Northern Beverly and Brainerd had more conventional bungalows, but the neighborhood was completely black. Just like middle class white folks, these homeowners seemed to be spending most of their time on lawn care.

Northwest to Chinatown, southwest on Archer thru McKinley Park, Brighton Park, and Garfield Ridge, south to Clearing, east and south to Ford City Mall, back to Hyde Park thru Englewood. Chris and I tried a new place in Chinatown, House of Fortune (2407 S Wentworth) - pretty good, but the menu wasn't too interesting and looked pretty bland past the Sichuan stuff we got. Archer is another multilane road that mostly cuts you off from the neighborhoods but is pretty good to bike on. McKinley Park is mostly Latino with some Poles, a mix which continues down Archer but whose balance switches by the time you're west of Midway. The surroundings are like going west on Touhy around Chris's parents' place - lots of bungalows and a feeling of being transported back to the '50s.

I went south on Narragansett (6400W) just to include another of Chicago's main roads on my checklist, then east on 65th thru Clearing, so called because the farms that once stood there were cleared for factories. Taking 65th was probably a mistake - the drivers on this 4-lane road seem to have never encountered a biker before and roared past me within a foot. The traffic was light tho - the real hell started when I turned south on Cicero. Cicero is more like the Dan Ryan here than a city road - 8-10 lanes filled with cars moving very fast. In humiliation, I took to the sidewalk. Starting around 71st the mall district starts. It's hard to convey thru mere words how alien a cyclist is in this environment. Parking lots, huge retailers, broken sidewalks, and people talking on their cellphones while driving right at you: along with some of my trips to the malls of the north suburbs, this ranked as one of my least pleasant bike adventures.

Ford City Mall, the site of a long-planned extension of the Orange Line, looks like crap on the outside. Inside it's actually quite nice, except it's a mall so you want to get out as soon as possible. I think is was the only white person in the entire place - lots of Latinos and blacks and a few Asians.

I took the Marquette bike lane thru Marquette Park, West Englewood, and Englewood back to Hyde Park, which would be a very nice ride if not for the psychological strain of being very white riding thru the most violent neighborhoods in the city. Good thing Daley fixed that whole race problem.


Baseball notes

I've watched a lot of baseball these last few weeks, and I've found that about three-quarters of the commercials are either for cars or lawn care products. So would we even have televised baseball if the suburbs didn't exist?

* * *

The best change that could be made in baseball - other than fully socializing revenues among the teams as the first step toward converting the majors to parecon relations of production - would be to change the name of the Cleveland Indians. It's bad enough they're called the Indians, but they insist on retaining their racist caricature logo too. I think they should rename themselves the Spiders. The Cleveland Spiders played from 1887 to 1899 in the old American Association. Cy Young, one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game, started his career with them and led them to the championship in 1895. Then the owners of the team bought the St Louis Browns and moved all the Spiders' good players there. The 1899 Spiders team was the worst in baseball history, finishing 20-134 and 84 games out of first place (!!!!). The attendance at games was so low (averaging 179 per game) that other teams refused to come to Cleveland, so the Spiders had to play their last 36 games on the road. They lost 35 of those. That was the last season the Spiders played. The team that would eventually be called the Indians started playing in 1901.

Avenge the betrayal of the Spiders! End the racist Indians! Revive the Cleveland Spiders!