Monday, March 28, 2005

Adopt-a-Beach this Summer

The Lake Michigan Federation is piloting a program where citizens can help monitor and care for beaches along the shores of Lake Michigan. If you're interested or just want to learn more, they're hosting an "Adopt-a-Beach Party and Training Workshop" on Tuesday, April 12 at 6 p.m. in their offices on 220 S. State Street, Suite 1900.

Citizen Epidemiologists

What do you do if you think big industry interests and a complicit government keep the public from learning whether or not there's a relationship between nuclear reactors and cancer? You do the studies yourself. That's what. Read more to learn how you can be a citizen epidemiologist right here in Chicago.

Monday, March 21, 2005

More Blue Bag Trash Talk

The Trib has been all over the Mayor's blue bag recycling program lately. Here's an excerpt from Sunday's front page article.

"The city has quietly begun allowing nearly 30 percent of Chicago's residential waste to bypass the expensive sorting centers built a decade ago to pull out recyclables. Tons of trash--rich with bottles, cans and newspapers that a few years ago would have been recycled--is now trucked off to landfills.

The city has ignored this river of garbage and recyclables when it computed its statistics, inflating its recycling rate and exaggerating the success of blue bag, the Tribune's investigation has found."

The failure of the blue bags is causing the Mayor's green reputation to wilt faster than a Gerber Daisy in a jam jar.

And those blue Dominick's bags can't be helping. Kudos to the grocery store chain for supporting recycling, but even in my household where we're pretty conscientious about separating our trash and using our blue bags, we completely ignore the Dominick's ones because they're too small.

More often than not they end up in our garbage filled with diapers or dog poop. Once the sorters see a few Dominick's bags like ours, you know they're not looking for anymore of them. Even we filled a few of them with diamonds.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The River's Best Friend

Great Q & A today in the Trib with Friends of the Chicago River executive director Laurene von Klan. For more than a decade, she's been advocating on behalf of this important natural resource.

Here are my two favorite quotes:

You don't oppose dyeing the river green for St. Patrick's Day. Why not?
It's not the worst thing that happens to the river. When you look closely at the problem, it's not something that needs to be our priority right now. . . . Studies show [that] for creatures who live in the river now, [the dye] is probably not harmful. However, one day when we have brown trout and native darters, we'll have to re-evaluate and look for new, great ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Have you ever eaten a fish from the river?
I have never eaten a fish from the river, but people have and people do. The other day I saw some men catching fish. They were very happy, and I attempted to explain to them the fish probably weren't good to eat. I tried to indicate to them that they should not let any pregnant women and small children eat it, but people do. Being able to eat the fish is inherent in the goal of making the river fishable and swimmable by 2020. The ability to eat from the river and streams in the back yard seems to me a basic human right. It's part of being alive and a gift from God, that's how I personally feel.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Wish I could make this, but I can't. Maybe you can.

Wednesday, March 16, at 6pm
Chicago Architectural Foundation
224 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60604

Panel Discussion: Architecture and Art Collaborations

Moderator: Ned Cramer, CAF Curator
Panelists: Artist James Carpenter; architect Garth Rockcastle, Meyer Scherer Rockcastle, and artist Jason Salavon

Public art installations are often a component of public architecture such as courthouses and post offices. James Carpenter, Garth Rockcastle and Jason Savalon will discuss creating art and architecture for the people as well as the challenges and rewards of the artist and architect collaboration. This program is in conjunction with the exhibition "New Federal Architecture: Face of a Nation."

Sometimes I sits by Mike Helbing

Another post in my ongoing series exploring the 2004-2005 Lincoln Park Community Art Initiative. See here, here, here, and here.

Sometimes I sits, View 1

This sculpture, which is located just north of St. Michael's church in Old Town, didn't work for me so much. I liked Mike Helbing's idea of a big steel chair with crazy stuff coming out of it, but the crazy stuff to me was only that, crazy.

I couldn't note any logic to the composition or a sense of an aesthetic whole or idea. To me, it looked like wild rebar attached to a chair, which is cool, but, in the end, not pleasing for very long.

Also, the color and texture of the stainless steel got lost against the bland concrete, which is not the artist's fault. The piece was placed there by the Lincoln Park Community Arts Initiative committee, and I think I know why.

Sometimes I sit, View 2

The site selection near St. Michael's church allowed the sculpture's strongest attribute -- the option to sit in it and investigate the view -- to shine. Unfortunately, I don't think that the sculpture's "tentacles" would have provided much to enjoy without the steeple and some decent clouds for background.

But, maybe that's the one wonder of this particular sculpture. It invites viewers to look beyond the rebar and see the ordinary as something new.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Trip to the Indiana Dunes to Photograph Beer Cans

On Sunday, we loaded into the car and drove an hour to the Indiana Dunes. I've visited them so often that they seemed unremarkable this time -- like an abandoned t.v. set for some movie rip off of Lawrence of Arabia.

I'd like to ooh and aah over their natural history for you, but I just don't feel like it. This time,it took too much effort to overlook the ugly steel plant spewing crap into the air on the horizon.

Not exactly a Kodak moment, is it? I suppose it's even more depressing when I think of how interrupted the nature at Starved Rock also seemed to me when we were there two weeks ago. (See post here.)

My brother-in-law and his wife, who just moved back to Chicago from northern California, came with us yesterday. All I could think about was how much it must suck for them to be hanging out on the beach, staring at that belching steel plant. I mean they used to get to go to Napa Valley and Monterey in a morning's drive.

But Julianna waved off the thought and pulled from her backpack a giant plastic bag with a bottle of white wine sitting in it, literally, on ice. "I just think every day should be a celebration," she announced as she fished out some plastic cups. I love her.

Later, after we were all feeling good and the kids were playing in the sand, I walked along the shoreline and picked up garbage. I had an empty plastic bag in my coat pocket leftover from when I walked Boomer. So, I just started picking up whatever I saw and putting it in my bag. There was something importantly cathartic about it for me. With each piece I removed from the beach, I felt like I was somehow restoring nature to where it had been robbed. Or, maybe I was drunk.

Here's what I picked up:

  • a crushed, plastic bottle that once held Minute Maid grape-artificially-flavored drink
  • a large chunk of broken styrofoam with some blue backing on it (maybe a boogie board?)
  • some little bits of styrofoam
  • a straw, probably from McDonald's because it had yellow and red stripes on it
  • a short, frayed piece of twine
  • a faded piece of a Spiderman popsicle wrapper
  • two white, plastic bottle caps
  • and, these, the garbage prize of the day:

It's hard not to try to picture who trashed these on the beach, isn't it?
One good thing about picking up garbage as you walk along the Indiana Dunes shoreline is that your return trip is pristine. That is, as long as you don't look at the horizon.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Something to trapdoor a winter afternoon. . .

How I love what the Internet has done for us, serving up heaps of homegrown poetry on a chilly evening at the command of a few keystrokes. No down coat required. No pot of hot tea. Only a compliant search engine and an outlet for my plug.

Illinois' poet laureate is Bradley Caterpillar Professor of English (great title) Kevin Stein.

Here's an excerpt from his poem Home Economics published in his book Chance Ransom (University of Illinois Press). (With apologies to Mr. Stein for the inappropriate formatting of his poem. Blogger does not appear to appreciate the subtleties of "printing" verse.)

If not the Betty Crocker commercial,
then the smell of vanilla extract,
an oven timer slicing kitchen quiet:

something to trapdoor a winter afternoon
beneath memory's ornate noose
which is, alas, a noose nonetheless.

To put my neck in is to feel the clock's tick tock,
the porch knocker clacking,
to be the boy jerking open the oak door

for impeccable Mr. Burke,
tanned above polished loafers topped off with dimes.
He's come for this week's cake,

devil's food wiht chocolate icing
spritzed to resemble the sailboat
he floats the murky lake in -- Lady Luck,

all teak and brilliant brass.

Mother tents an Eisenhower hair net
over her bouffant--
cleanliness as style and substance.

She bakes other folks' cakes, pies, cookies.
No one says women's work.
No one has to.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Safety Star by Victoria Fuller

Safety Star, View 1

I love this sculpture. It's my favorite in the 2004-2005 Lincoln Park Community Art Initiative. (See previous posts here, here, and here.) First of all, the sentiment of the title rocks -- like it's a contemporary St. Christopher medal for our neighborhood. Safety Star's proximity to the firehouse on the corner of Armitage and Larrabee (it's located in a small park just south of the building) makes the safety theme resonate even further.

I also love that the sculptor, Victoria Fuller, took a ubiquitous, mundane object and shaped a bunch of them into something new, surprising and captivating.

If you go see it, don't just view it from a distance. The sculpture rewards you for taking time to view it up close. Here's what you see when you peer through one of the cones' ends.

Safety Star, View 2

The black metals rings are the lattice work of Safety Star's support structure and aesthetically pleasing in their own right.

Finally, I love the burst of color Safety Star brings to my neighborhood, especially on gray, winter days. Here's a peek through the alley on the west side of the firehouse.

Safety Star, View 3

The sculptures in this program will only be displayed through April. Then, a new round of public art moves in. That's too bad for Safety Star. I think it's a keeper.

(Just for kicks, here's the other Victoria Fuller's art website. Adults Only.)