August 31, 2004
Speak for Yerself

Granted, I read his magazine. And I probably would be sympathetic to a lot of things in his book (which I haven't read). But I'm sure a lot of my compatriots agree that we wish Graydon Carter would edit himself, for example, here:

I was saying to my kids, the one thing this book did was use my brain cells, 'cos I've been an editor so long. An editor rarely uses his brain; he uses his gut more than his brain.

Posted at 07:24 PM
August 30, 2004

I was glad to see the Reader (scroll down to second story) writeup on the train snafu of a couple weeks ago. In addition to noting the sad state of CTA communications, it also points out that the media, by and large, ignores these kinds of disruptions unless they're spectacular.

The papers might think CTA service disruptions are too common and inconsequential to be newsworthy. They print what the CTA gives them, and the CTA has an interest in making these situations sound like no big deal. The CTA also has a left hand and a right hand that don't communicate well. That's another reason reporters should never make one phone call to the CTA and think the work is done.

Posted at 08:59 PM
August 28, 2004

The Chicago Printmakers Collaborative's Facade Project is in my neighborhood. Each window in this building is covered with images of faces of soldiers who died in Iraq. Unfortunately, it's hard to see from the street, but you can get a good view from the train platform. Their faces remind us of the war happening now, not 40 years ago. And their youth reminds us that it's more than a war of words.

It's a striking, sobering sight.

*number of American servicemen killed in Iraq to date

Posted at 12:39 PM
August 25, 2004
Birds on the Bean

Overhyped public works don't need additional exposure from me. But here's some anyway. Millennium Park downtown is a lot of fun and worth a visit if you're a resident or a tourist. (Here's some newspaper reports and a photo essay). It's an odd contrast of extremely formal spaces with extremely modern, and sometimes overwhelming, sculpture and architecture. I particularly enjoy The Bean, also known as "Cloud Gate."

Here, Birds on the Bean.

Reflection-spotting is also a popular pastime. Here, yours truly is the flash of light on the right.

Posted at 09:28 PM
August 23, 2004
The '90s Shall Rise Again

It's like old home week here at KittyJoyce, as I discover music blogs by various underground "personalities." Not that I ever met any of these people, but they have been Internet and indierock stars in my galaxy for a long time. Douglas of Dark Beloved Cloud Records blogs here. Franklin Bruno, whose music I listened to religiously 10 years ago, blogs here. And while Last Plane to Jakarta is not exactly a blog, it is good fun from John Darnielle.

Posted at 07:00 PM
August 18, 2004

I thought I had a stroke of luck when I jumped on the subway last night. The Cubs were out of town, so a ride on the northbound Red Line would be easy, and I'd probably even get a seat.

All hopes of a quick trip home vanished when the lights went out on the train just south of Diversey. As the train coasted to a stop, I looked up to see us roll by a roaring house fire. The heat from the blaze touched us even inside the train. We rolled another block or so, then came to a full stop and sat there for another 90 minutes. The CTA had shut off power.

Aberrant train behavior makes me very nervous. Taking pictures made me feel better.

Stopped trains, looking south. Eventually we were allowed to prop open the door of the train, since we were in the last car. You can see the smoke from the fire coming from the left.

Meanwhile, night falls and life on the street below goes on. You can see how frustratingly close we are to the Diversey platform, at left.

It's not the CTA's fault that there was a fire, of course. But the truly dispiriting thing was how little information we received and, moreso, how little information anyone seemed to have, including the conductor. During the 90-minute wait we received contradicting bulletins over the intercom ("The fire is out." "The fire is still burning!") and were threatened with arrest if anyone opened the doors and climbed out on the tracks (although I did not see anyone doing that). When the power came back on and I got to Belmont, there was no information about whether more trains would arrive; the scene below the tracks in the station and the street was like a third-world bazaar as people swarmed and shouted around buses. Lucky for me, I am a smart Chicagoan. I know how to take a taxi.

It's not my first bizarre CTA experience, and I expect it won't be my last. My sense, still, is that in the event of a real train emergency, it's every person for themselves. Alertness is required at all times. But obliviousness might be better.

Too bad this publication is no longer around. Here are the back issues of the Weekly Breakdown.

Here's how the fire played in the news.

This is not the first fire on this block. It looked to me (and a lot of people) like the same house was on fire again, but the news and this press release give two different addresses.

Posted at 07:05 PM
August 16, 2004
Here Comes the Story of the Hurricane

Offline for a few days this weekend, I was unaware of the hurricane when it was happening. That changed Saturday morning when E. got a message from my parents in Fort Myers, who (with thinly disguised irritation at getting voicemail) thought we'd like to know that they'd survived.

We read the newspapers and watched a few minutes of Headline News, but I didn't really get an idea of the intensity until I looked at the photos here. The local paper, which normally doesn't impress me, has done compelling coverage on its Web site, including forums, specific updates for various communities, harrowing photos, etc.

A first-hand account can be had here: the blogging of the hurricane.

The human damage is being well documented, but here's a striking statistic that leaped out at me:

The Edison-Ford Winter Estates said the most recent estimates are that 60 percent of the estates' trees are gone.

My parents did not go to a shelter, nor did they board up their windows or do any of the things you see people doing on TV. They stocked up on batteries and sat out the storm on cushions in the bathroom (although my mother confesses to getting up a few times and sneeking peeks out the window). Their condo wasn't hurt, although their power was off for a couple of days. This passage reminded me of their reaction:

Bob said that he endured the wrath of hurricane Charley in his home on the outh side of Cape Coral. His wife had gone to an emergency shelter, but he did not. He thought that the hurricane would switch paths and that it would not be much of a threat in the end. He was wrong. He said the house cracked and popped during the highest winds. There was also a loud roar. Amazingly, the house suffered very little damage. Other homes in that same area suffered major damage. Bob said that he will never again ignore warnings and will go to a shelter or evacuate elsewhere. He never wants to go through something like that again.

Like Bob, my folks are fine, but many people are homeless or hurt. Here's how to help.

Posted at 07:01 PM
August 09, 2004
This Was Inevitable

I've been shizzolated.

Posted at 09:19 PM
A Day at the Races

This week we'll take a look back at some of the sights seen this weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Today features the state fair pig races.

There are people who do this for a living. (Of course, PETA is watching...but these pigs looked pretty happy to me.)

Two of the races we saw featured little nimble piglets--fun, but hard to photograph. The third race had a little more, shall we say, dignity.

Clearly one pig is taking the lead.

Selected children were chosen from the audience to be "pig rooters." Whoever rooted for the winning pig received a flag and a ribbon, and the announcer exhorted us to "give them a hand for rootin' for their pig, and their pig winnin.'" Needless to say, this pig did not win. But it was still my favorite.

Miscellaneous links: A 2001 visitor account.

And finally, for those with nothing else to do, send a letter to the president about pig racing. I'm sure he'll get right on it.

Posted at 08:59 PM
August 04, 2004
The Wit and Wisdom of the Red Line

On the subway today, I was dismayed to find myself standing in the doorway across from an old fellow talking to himself. Over the noise of the train, I couldn't hear very much, just a continual stream of what sounded like a standard religious-maniac-with-aliens fixation in a vaguely European accent. As we came to the next stop, I heard his last two sentences: "They have come to earth to help us. And, of course, to make movies."

Now, he had me. I waited for more, but he got off the train.

Posted at 09:09 PM
August 01, 2004
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Our unanticipated guest.*

Coming home this afternoon, I noticed something strange behind the strawberry plant container on the porch. I thought it was an old knit hat, but on closer inspection it turned out to be the rear end of a cat. This was attached to a friendly, but very scared, kitty with no collar and no apparent home.

For lack of a better name, I've started calling it Anonymo. Anonymo is currently staying in our guest room, away from the resident cats, who are very curious. He seems to know how to use the litter box, much to our relief.

So we're making flyers and seeking the cat's owner. Eventually we'll call a shelter, but we want to try to alert the neighborhood, if he's run away from home. I figure if my cats had run away, that's what I'd want other people to do.

If you're in the Chicagoland area and know of any other avenues we should take, let me know.

5 p.m.: Updated to say that Anonymo (aka "Roy")'s owners contacted us after seeing a flyer in the corner coffee shop, and he has been returned home. Adios Anonymo! Come back any time.

Not the same thing as Edward Gorey's "Doubtful Guest."

Posted at 03:17 PM