Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Lengths We'll Go...

The First Snow
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

I found it highly amusing that, when she invited me back to her place for drinks Tuesday night, the first song that bled through her stereo was the Ray Charles/Betty Carter version of "Baby It's Cold Outside."

Role reversal on a first date. It's FAN-tastic!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Slowly, the New MIndset Comes Around

Nothing Says Peace Like A Church in Winter
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

First: few things instill greater fear than Andy Rooney in HD.

I've been pimping that Andrew Sullivan article in the December Atlantic Monthly that frames the Obama candidacy in terms of generational impact. And, for the most part, it's been largely ignored by the Beltway cognoscenti, probably because to admit that the Obama campaign is resonating with younger voters who until now never wanted anything to do with the political process would be an indictment on the politics of the past twenty-five years, of which they were conspirators.

It seems that, slowly, more pundits, politicos and others are coming around to see the Obama campaign as possibly the one of hope to bridge the divisive rhetoric of modern politics. Obama just picked up the endorsement of Caroline Kennedy, and later this week, Ted Kennedy will endorse Obama. I pointed this out to Kevin, who brushed it off as not as meaningful as I thought it was. But considering that these are the daughter and brother of the last presidential candidates who truly affected a generational shift in politics.

In this week's New Yorker, George Packer points out that the message of hope is the main issue that truly separates the Clinton and Obama campaigns. And while Clinton, with her long history of advocacy, is emphasizing change in incremental steps, Obama's message is one of inspiration. Or, to use Clinton's commencement address from Wellesley, Obama is "practic(ing) politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible." Packer goes on to quote two associates close to the Clinton administration. One of them, Greg Craig, served on Bill Clinton's legal defense team during his impeachment trial, and is supporting Obama. His reasoning? "I don't discount the possibility of (Hillary) being able to inspire me. But she hasn't in the past, and Obama has."

The other is Robert Reich, who served as Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton during his first term, who makes the comparison of Obama to Robert Kennedy. Reich also maintains a blog, and while he was noncommittal in the Packer piece, Bill Clinton's overboard attacks of Obama in South Carolina may have been enough to propel him to endorse Obama.

While much of the talk of Obama's convincing win in South Carolina is centered on how African Americans rallied around him in the wake of Bill Clinton's barrage, what isn't being reported on as much is Obama's support from younger voters, who his campaign's been mobilizing in droves throughout the country. It doesn't matter to them that Clinton has the edge in experience, and even that is a risible notion if you throw politics in the mix. There's a lot to be said about finding someone who speaks for you. Barack Obama is, at the very least, giving voice to those people, and making Hillary work harder than she expected for her own Manifest Destiny.

Fall Off The Horse, Get Back On

I've been fighting some major lethargy the past couple weeks related to flu bugs and working in an office where anyone can become the outbreak monkey at any time. Friday was the first day I felt back to my normal self, so of course I celebrate by having hot dogs and chili cheese fries at the Wiener and Still Champion in Evanston for lunch. You know, 'cause they make one of the best hot dogs in the area, hands down. Gus and his employees just slather that Vienna link with loads of onions, relish. pickle slices, peppers and celery salt.

Bad idea. Those chili cheese fries laid my ass out cold Friday night and yesterday. I thought it might have been the pasta I made when I got home from work Friday night, but (TMI Alert) every time I kept belching I could taste the spices from the chili. There was simply no recourse but to just stay close to home, drink lots of water to stay hydrated and sweat it out.

So now I'm behind my timetables for some assignments I have due. But that's alright; I might tempt fate with another bowl of my smoked sausage and chicken gumbo with duck fat roux.

Received this missive from Matt:

I went down to the Bridgeport Coffeehouse on your recommendation to buy some beans today. A++++, would do business with again. Ever since the shop that sold Intelligentsia in my neighborhood closed, I had been traipsing all the way up to Metropolis. Nice to have a closer option.

And it's nice to see that sometimes my recommendations are well-received.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

When Your Immortalized As a Cartoon, You KNow You've Made It

And doesn't that make me look like a cross between Alice Cooper and a Terry Gilliam animation?

Time Out Chicago's latest issue focuses on blogs (I don't know why either). Anyway, I was asked to sit on a panel discussion with other online and print critics in an online chat about what it takes to be a critic. The highlight for me (besides being included) was finding out that someone shot at Sun-Times rock music critic Jim Derogatis after he broke the story about R. Kelly, his videotaped dalliances with underage girls and his penchant for watersports. Not that I want to see any harm happen to DeRo; I just find it shocking that someone would go to that length to do shit like that.

Anyway, it's a good chat, and a couple other Chicagoist folks are profiled in the issue.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Heaven in a Glass
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

The Good: The beer dinner I attended last night at Sheffield's was surprisingly good from the food perspective. The beer was all selections from Unibroue, which I'm on record as saying is the best brewery in North America. But it was the food that shocked me. I know that at these dinners what an establishment serves isn't normally a reflection of their regular menu, but it is a reflection on the kitchen. By that token, Rick Hess has a good thing going. Their decision to warm the final beer, a 2002 Quelque Chose cherry ale, like a wassail was a great way to stave off the bad.

The Bad: I braved the cold in order to attend. Not a completely bad thing, mind you. After all, we do live in a city that sometimes suffers through some severe winters. But at one point I sincerely wanted to stay on the couch.

The Ugly: 38 years old and I don't know how to work a waterpik. At one point the stream hit my eye.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Year of "Hi, How are You?"

AT&T Building in Sepia
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Since "The Year of the Squeaky Wheel" was so successful, I've thought about it and decided that 2K8 would be the year of "hi, how are you?" I'm not the best person to take the lead and introduce myself to others, or keep in touch with friends. This is a concerted effort to become more sociable.

So far, it's worked. On New Year's Day I met Steve Dolinsky, ABC 7's "Hungry Hound." Really nice guy, and I respect his work even more once I found out that he has to pull teeth to get an intern to help him research story ideas at the station. Likewise, he was impressed and flabbergasted to find out that Chicagoist staffers don't get paid for the reviews we do.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Waiting for the Purple Line
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

This weekend, for the first time since I started my new job, I haven't had to wake up early (or stay up late, for that matter) working on outstanding obligations. With the state of things at the Sun-Times, I don't know when I'll hear back about my latest pitches (which reminds me to recommend you read my absinthe story if you haven't already). Two pieces I had due to Erin are also in the hopper, one she graciously allowed me some extra, post-New Year's time to work on. So now I wait for the checks to roll in. Oh, and I need to get off my ass and e-mail an old high school classmate who said to contact her if I was looking for more work.

So, with all obligations fulfilled for now, I got to spend quality time pampering the dog and cooking this weekend. A note: if you're making gumbo from scratch, plan on it being a two-hour job, at least. And follow the instructions on making roux to the letter. Otherwise you'll be making a giant pot of gravy unless you thin it out with major amounts of water.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Shift

For the past month I've been recommending to political buffs I know read this article in the Atlantic Monthly by Andrew Sullivan about why Barack Obama's candidacy is so important, regardless of whether or not he wins the Dem nomination and/or the Presidency.

Sullivan theorizes that what we're witnessing in Obama is the long-awaited next great generational shift in American politics. Even though Obama was born at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, he doesn't necessarily identify with the boomers. From Sullivan:

"At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce."

Sullivan makes a compelling case suggesting that the scorched earth of the current American political landscape (the ferocity with which Republicans opposed Bill Clinton's policies, the blind arrogance and fear-mongering of Bush/Cheney, Bill O'Reilly vs. Keith Olbermann; the Swift Boaters vs. is rooted in the vitriol with which the boomers approached Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, the rise and fall of JFK's Camelot, et al. And that, in a small way, what's happening now is a continuation of a forty-year-old argument that show no signs of ceasing.

It really is a must-read, especially in light of the stunning Obama win in Iowa, where he brought out voting blocs that no one thought would ever participate in the caucuses. Hillary Clinton isn't connecting with young women, and I still contend that she's too polarizing in the flyover states to truly contend. Obama is. Moreover, Clinton realizes that she's a polarizing figure and, as a result, is running a safe campaign where she's limiting herself to soundbites, unwilling to let her true personality emerge. Voters are waiting for her to act naturally, even if her natural impulse is to be a cold, ambitious, carpetbagger. African Americans in Iowa came out in droves whereas in the past they might have been scared off from the "struggle" rhetoric of Revs. Jackson and Sharpton. One noted curmudgeonly Chicagoist reader wrote, "typical of his generation, (Obama) thinks he's ready to lead when his ideas aren't fully formulated." Of course, if we took that logic to heart, Kennedy would have never been elected.

Sullivan notes in his article that Obama's policies aren't that much different than his opponents but that he (so far) doesn't bear the obvious scarlet letter of Beltway politics. At least, to voters who normally would not have come out, Obama truly represents change. (An aside: after watching how slickly John Edwards threw Clinton under the bus with his "when people advocate for change, the status quo attacks" comment last night, if Obama wins in New Hampshire I wonder if we were looking at the probable Dem ticket in Obama/Edwards).

Seeing those first-time participants in Iowa and Obama's new lead in New Hampshire polls makes me wonder if the reason my peers in Generation X and those in Generation Y weren't apathetic about politics after all, and instead took a look at the petty bickering that passed for politics and decided that we didn't have time for such childish bullshit from our elders.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Big Pimpin'

Nothing Says Peace Like A Church in Winter
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

I've been remiss in the freelance linkage lately:

  • I stopped using my credit cards for Time Out Chicago for two weeks at a time when I really could have used them. Check out the results.

  • I also managed to get my downstairs neighbor and sometimes partner-in-crime Sue featured in TOC's "God" issue. She wasn't too thrilled that the text didn't seem to be in her actual voice. As a writer being edited by someone else, you learn to live with it. Besides, an editor's job is to make your writing better.

  • The requisite annual food piece about good luck foods ran in this week's Sun-Times. The lynch pin to that article was talking with Professor Bruce Kraig of the Culinary Historians of Chicago, an invaluable wealth of information.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Home Hotel... on Lost Love Avenue

Room 29
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Charlie Chaplin wrote in his first autobiography that he was asked by the philosopher Will Durrant about his conception of beauty. Chaplin replied, "I thought it was an omnipresence of death and loveliness, a smiling sadness that we discern in nature and all things, a mystic communion that the poet feels--an expression of it can be a dustbin with a shaft of sunlight across it, or it can be a rose in the gutter."

Or it can be an SRO hotel still hanging on in Lakeview.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

"What Would Neil Young Do?" Somehow I don't think it would involve wild game chili, pheasant gumbo, watching people lop off the tops of champagne bottles with a sugar cane knife, and finding this poster for a shot. It made braving the elements worth the risk.

If yesterday was any indication, 2K8 is going to be spectacular.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2K8: And We're Off!!

Winter in Sepia
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Again, Happy New Year, everyone. Here's what McGuane Park looked like at 7 a.m. this morning, before dogs and the morning folks came by to exercise. Minus the sepia, natch.