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!


Baseball '07

Starting with the playoffs last year, I've been getting back into baseball. I was a huge baseball fan from age 10 till my freshman year of college, but after that I stopped following it. I'm pretty committed to getting back into the game, and baseball games have now replaced Law & Order as my means of avoiding work. Today I've already watched parts of three different games, and spent no time on the research paper that I told my professor would be done last week.

My team has always been the Yankees, which I know is out of keeping with my politics. But I have two solid defenses: I inherited it, since the Yankees were my dad's team, and it's not right to forsake your team just because you become politically conscious. And second, for the years and years I rooted for the Yankees, they couldn't win a thing - 1996, the last year I followed baseball, was also the first year the Yankees went back to the Series. So I'm no fair weather fan.

In the old days, aside from the Yankees there were a number of other teams I pulled for based mainly on whether I liked their team colors and logos - the Mariners, Astros, Angels, and Indians (I now find that last one difficult to explain; the Angels have unfortunately switched back to their atrocious old logo). I absolutely despised the White Sox for complex reasons. Growing up in Iowa, the Sox were the only American League team I could regularly watch on tv (the Yankees are also in the American League and at the time there was no interleague play), and their play-by-play man Ken Harrelson was intolerably partisan. Their big superstar, Frank Thomas, had the ugliest swing in the majors. That doesn't seem like much, but for something so arbitrary as sports loyalties it was enough.

Now I've revised who to secondarily support: those teams that play in good cities (i.e. those low on sprawl), especially those in small media markets who can't afford to throw their money around like the Yankees can. So the Mariners, A's, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Blue Jays, Mets, Phillies, Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, Nationals, and Giants are in, while I have to resolutely oppose the Braves, Astros, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Devil Rays, Dodgers, Rangers, and Angels. (As a Yankees fan, of course I can't publicly provide any support for the Red Sox, but I will say that Boston is pretty good city.) Altho Chicago is probably my favorite city in the country, I still can't bring myself to root for the White Sox.


Capitalism giveth, and capitalism taketh away

Filter, one of the few reasons to still go to Wicker Park, is being evicted from the Flat Iron Building. The hot dog place Swank Frank is also being booted. Why? So a new Bank of America branch can move in.


The Bolsheviks Hitler would love

I was intrigued when a news article about a protest in Russia mentioned a National Bolshevik Party that has allied with the liberal opposition to Putin. I expected the NBP to be a splinter from the Communist Party, but it turns out that National Bolsheviks are Bolshevik the same way National Socialists are socialist - as their flag indicates.

Even better, NBP leader Eduard Limonov was a Soviet exile who "arrived in New York City in 1974 as an émigré and began writing novels. He fell in with the New York punk and avante-garde scene, acquiring an admiration for Lou Reed, as well as such American writers as Charles Bukowski." Later he moved to Paris and joined literary society there. Later still he "join[ed] a sniper patrol in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Bosnian war" - in support of Serbia. He supported extreme nationalist Vladimir Zhironvsky before splitting with him. The NBP explained that "a Jew masquerading as a Russian nationalist is a sickness, a pathology." Finally, "Limonov has listed among his idols Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Bakunin, Julius Evola and Yukio Mishima."

The SS look is back in style among National Bolsheviks.


Shrines of the machine

I don't read John Kass very often, but this column is great. On election day he went around to Daley strongholds on the Irish Catholic southwest side and asked Democratic machine workers where the shrines to their saints are. The "saints" are corrupt machine members who have resigned in disgrace, but who Daley continues to treat as if they were beatified. We get this classic exchange:
we walked up to the Daley machine captains, including one man who ate two slices of sausage pizza but didn't offer me any, and I asked them about the political shrines.

"Shrines?" said one. "You kidding? We don't got no shrines in this neighborhood."

How dare you pretend not to know! My back hurts, and I was hoping to buy a relic at the Shrine of Robert the Mute, and drink from his fountain, and so be healed.

"What?" asked the captain.

Robert the Mute. Robert Sorich [a top Daley aid and patronage boss, convicted in federal court last year].

"That's ignorant," said another Daley captain and friend of Sorich. "That's in poor taste. It's ignorant."


Never play with,scare and catch birds,crickets fish and cicada(unless business items)

This is the best sign I saw in China, at a Shanghai park.


A Western holiday in Japan just wouldn't be complete without intensifying the gender inequality

from wikipedia:
Thanks to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine's Day has emerged in Japan and Korea as a day on which women, and less commonly men, give candy, chocolate or flowers to people they like. This has become an obligation for many women. Those who work in offices end up giving chocolates to all their male co-workers, sometimes at significant personal expense. This chocolate is known as giri-choko (義理チョコ), in Japan, from the words giri ("obligation") and choko, a common short version of chokorēto (チョコレート), meaning "chocolate". This contrasts with honmei-choko, which is given to a person someone loves or has a strong relationship with. Friends, especially girls, exchange chocolate that is referred to as tomo-choko (友チョコ); tomo means "friend" in Japanese.

By a further marketing effort, a reciprocal day called White Day has emerged. On March 14, men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine's Day. Many men, however, give only to their girlfriends. Originally, the return gift was supposed to be white chocolate or marshmallows; hence "White Day". However, men have interpreted the name differently and lingerie has become a common gift.



General Tso's chicken (also General Gau's, Tao's, Tsao's, Zhou's, Gao's, Chou's, Tzo's, To's, So's, Joe's, or Toso's) is named after 左宗棠/Zuo Zongtang, a famous Chinese general who crushed uprisings in 新疆/Xinjiang in the 1870s. (The difference in spelling is because "Tso" comes from the unacceptable Wade-Giles transliteration system.) General Tso's chicken is the most famous 湖南/Hunan dish outside China - except that it doesn't exist in Hunan. Here is the bizarre story of how General Tso's chicken was invented in 1950s 台北/Taibei and 1970s New York, how Henry Kissinger disseminated it to the world, and how latter-day Hunanese chefs are now adopting it as a "traditional" dish.

Wesley Crusher is on our side

The actor who played the intolerable Wesley Crusher character from Star Trek TNG - Wil Wheaton in real life - these days blogs about geek stuff. Lately he's been pretty upset about two things: global warming deniers and - far more heatedly - the reaction of politicians and the media in Boston's Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerrilla marketing debacle.


Adorable Japanese warmongers

This is taken from a roundtable discussion sponsored by 朝日グラフ/Asahi gurafu in 1932, shortly after 日本/Japan had invaded 东北/Northeast China/Manchuria and established a puppet regime there. The participants were fifth- and sixth-graders from 東京/Tōkyō. You should remember to visualize the kids in their cute Prussian school uniforms.

Interviewer: What is the Manchurian Incident all about?

Katō: The Chinese insulted us and our soldiers are fighting them in Manchuria to avenge it.

Interviewer: The League of Nations has been making quite a fuss recently. What do you think of the League?

Katō: It's a place where the cowards of the world get together to talk.

Interviewer: If you were Foreign Minister, what would you do?

Nakajima: The League of Nations is biased, so I wouldn't have anything to do with it.

Hotta: If I became Foreign Minister, anybody that kept repeating that kind of nonsense would get a real punch in the nose. (laughter)

Interviewer: Do you think there will be a war between Japan and America?

Fukuzawa: Yes, I think so. Americans are so arrogant. I'd like to show them a thing or two.

Katō: They act so big all the time, they need a good beating. I'd annihilate them.

Fukutomi: Oh, I'd like to try that too.

Interviewer: If Japan becomes more and more isolated, what would you do?

Several students: We'll keep trying, we'll keep going, we'll stick at it till we die. (A forceful chorus of voices)

Fukutomi: The end is when you're dead, isn't it? (She meant "I'll keep on to the end," and said it in a steady voice.)

Interviewer: What's most annoying these days?

Fukuzawa: [Foreign Minister] Shidehara's weak-kneed foreign policy.

Fukunaga: The cowardice of the cabinet.

Interviewer: How about the opposite? What has been most delightful?

Nakajima: Our great victory at Machansan.

Katō: It's great to see Japan winning one battle after another.

Fukunaga: I really liked it when Ambassador Yoshizawa told Chairman Briand that the League was stupid and that it should do just what Japan wants.

(quoted in Saburō Ienaga, The Pacific War, 1931-1945, 1968)


Requiem for Saddam Hussein

(courtesy of Metallica)

Guilty as charged
But damn it, it ain't right
There is someone else controlling me

Death in the air
Strapped in the electric chair
This can't be happening to me

Who made you God to say
"I'll take your life from you!!"

Flash before my eyes
Now it's time to die
Burning in my brain
I can feel the flame

Wait for the sign
To flick the switch of death
It's the beginning of the end

Sweat, chilling cold
As I watch death unfold
Consciousness is my only friend

My fingers grip with fear
What am I doing here?

Flash before my eyes
Now it's time to die
Burning in my brain
I can feel the flame

Someone help me
Oh please God help me
They are trying to take it all away
I don't want to die

Someone help me
Oh please God help me
They are trying to take it all away
I don't want to die

Time moving slow
The minutes seem like hours
The final curtain call I see

How true is this?
Just get, it over with
If this is true, just let it be

Flash before my eyes
Now it's time to die
Burning in my brain
I can't feel the flame