April 28, 2005
Media Memos

So, you've had a tough week at work. Buckets of Advil consumed. Soul-deadening meetings. Urge to crawl under desk or lock self in bathroom. Sound familiar? Chances are your week hasn't been as bad as the one folks at the Tribune are having. They've had two incidents of misidentifying people as mobsters on the front page, and now one of the wronged citizens is suing the paper for $2 million. Now that's an expensive mistake.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in media, much is being speculated about the recently announced group blog touted by Ariana Huffington. It is supposedly going to be called the "Huffington Report" although I am lobbying for "Huffblog" unless that name is already taken. What will the HR Huffenstuff blog actually be like? Who knows, but the ever-hilarious Tim Dowling at the Guardian has an idea.

Does anyone know how to get red wine stains out of a wool carpet? posted by NORMAN MAILER on Mon May 9 at 10:14 PDT
I'm screwed if my wife sees this. I'm not even supposed to drink in that room. I've been scrubbing but that just seems to spread the stain around. A quick answer would be most appreciated.

Silly, everyone knows it's salt and club soda...

Posted at 07:03 PM
April 24, 2005
Local Book Made Good

Have been reading a novel called What to Keep because it is set in my hometown. Specifically, it is set not only in Columbus but in the very suburb I grew up in, at about the time I was growing up there.

Not much in the way of fiction or "bildungsromans" is set in Columbus. The best-known examples are James Thurber and Bob Greene. (A more recent example is an off-Broadway play, which Variety called "an unkind payback piece.") But all of them lived in Ohio well before my time--so for me, their memories might as well belong to another town, as well as another time.

What to Keep is reasonably attentive to detail and throws in enough recognizable references to keep an attentive native on her toes (Lazarus! Johnson's Ice Cream! The Dispatch!) And, nightmare-inducingly for me, we first meet the heroine when she is attending my junior high. But, according to this article, the author did not grow up in Columbus; she only visited there, and for that reason she never really captures what it felt like to grow up there, or what any of the people might have been like. The characters are sufficiently odd that they could come from anywhere.

The book really doesn't get cooking until its last third, by which time most of the characters have relocated to pre-9/11 New York. So I couldn't help wondering what it would take to write a book about a hometown from which people didn't have to escape to find a happy ending. (Since I left town almost 20 years ago, I guess I won't be writing it.) Clearly, not everyone has needed to escape--many people I know still live in Columbus. But none of them seem to be writing books about it.

Posted at 04:37 PM
April 19, 2005
Tretorns in the Streets

Glad tidings for children of the '80s: The Tretorn Nylite is back! You remember, the tennis shoe with the V on the side. They were some of the most comfortable shoes I ever owned. The proof? I took pride in a spotless white pair in high school, then wore my last pair into unrecognizable gray shreds during college. For many years I didn't even own tennis shoes and substituted ballet flats, lace-up boots, and oxfords as my shoe of choice. But considering our current definition of "vacations" as non-stop day-long walks through the urban area of your choice, I've come to value the idea of a soft flat shoe that isn't completely hideous (as most athletic shoes are). See you at the mall!

Posted at 06:58 PM
April 14, 2005
Extremely Whatever and Incredibly Whatever

The book reviews are full of what are starting to be famously known as the "9/11 novels" and critics everywhere are trying to read these books not only as fiction but as ink blots about what they, you know, represent. List prices for hardbacks being what they are, I haven't read any of the books yet. Instead, I read reviews, particularly about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, because its title seems ripe for parody ("soon to be followed by the sequel Extremely Spicy and Incredibly Rich!")

The New York Times book review induced caution, to say the least. At least this NY Press review is entertaining. (Context: The reviewer is a pundit at the New Partisan.)

Saturday sounds like a better bet to me, but I am always hooked by a Virginia Woolf parallel.

See you at the library?

Posted at 08:15 PM
Red Reading, Two Years On

As noted here, our two local newspapers launched tabloids a few years ago. I read the grown-up newspapers, but I sometimes look at the tabs if I find one on the train or if it's lying around the health club. A study conducted by a professor in Michigan says the papers may be succeeding in their goal of persuading young adults to read newspapers, as reported in E&P:

Both papers had high recognition among respondents, though the much more heavily promoted RedEye scored higher than Red Streak, which Sun-Times officials acknowledge is published only to annoy the Tribune and confuse the market.

RedEye was read more frequently among respondents, with 26% of the students saying they had read it within the last 24 hours and another 37% saying they had read it within the last week. The comparable figures for Red Streak were 16% and 26%.

Who knew? Maybe it's working after all.

Posted at 07:59 PM
Urbs in Who?

GB readers have been developing new city mottos (the old one doesn't seem as catchy as it used to). for our fair metropolis. I was unable to come up with anything as clever as these people. So here are some of my favorite submissions:

Chicago: We Regret This Inconvenience and Expect to Be Moving Shortly.
Chicago: To Serve and Collect
And finally, in the face of threatened transit cuts,
Chicago: Can't Get There from Here

Some took it even further and created neighborhood slogans:

Northcenter: Home of the World's Worst Ribfest
Andersonville: Sorry, You're Too Late
Bucktown: Our Borders, They Are Dubious

The proposed slogan for KJ's neighborhood, Lincoln Square, is descriptive, yet cumbersome: Lincoln Square: Everyone (over 30) wants to live here for some reason

I might amend it to Lincoln Square: Move In, Walk Dog, Push Stroller, Move Away as that's what most of our neighbors seem to be doing. Maybe I should design a T-shirt?

Posted at 07:55 PM
April 13, 2005

It's still chilly in Chicago, but spring has arrived in the KJ southern annex.

Last week Dr. Surly wrote to us: "The yard turned purple this morning. Either spring has sprung, or the orange juice has gone bad." I laughed until I cried, but it is true. About the yard, anyway.

It sure is a big yard. Here is E. contemplating the property, looking Heathcliffian, or perhaps Byronic.

We met one of the neighbors, a lovely man who used to be a farmer. He and his wife once raised a deer for a while. I wonder what he would make of this implement, currently gathering moss.

The yard was littered--littered! with these crazy things. I love spring, I'm telling you.

Posted at 06:45 PM
April 07, 2005
Spring Fever

Who has time to write clever anecdotes about their lives or spend hours pointing and clicking? Not I, and that's why things are so quiet around here. The garden is happening, though.

Daffodil, with mystery plant emerging at left.

More photos here.

Posted at 06:57 PM