Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Art Institute Fancies Self Up to Hang Better with Millennium Park

The groundbreaking for the Renzo Piano expansion at the Art Institute of Chicago got underway today. (See my earlier post about it here.) A Daily Dose of Architecture does a nice summation job of the hoopla here.

Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments

Stumbled over Terrain via City Comforts.

The Squiggly Building: When Structures Function in Ways that Weren't Intended

This building at 3150 N. Lake Shore Drive is a residential high-rise. It also provides the landmark by which sailors and other boating people who don't have fancy GPS navigational systems find their way back to Belmont Harbor. If you haven't noticed it before you set sail, you'll certainly learn about it afterwards. Many a sailor has returned to Montrose Harbor (further north) by accident. (Note: This image slightly exaggerates its "squiggliness.")

Infant Welfare Society Falls to the Wrecking Ball

So many worthy social services are leaving our neighborhood as property values rise and those in need move or have been displaced. This Infant Welfare Society facility at 1931 N. Halsted is coming down as I type. These photos were taken this past weekend.

Based on information at IWS's website, their clientele will be served by a new facility in Logan Square at 3600 West Fullerton. IWS-Chicago reports that their clientele overwhelmingly supported the new facility's location. It will also be a state of the art facility designed to serve them better.

On the one hand, I'm sorry to see this facility go as I truly value economic diversity and would much prefer a heterogenous neighborhood than not.

On the other, if I were in charge of the Infant Welfare Society, I'd want to be operating it in the best interests of my clients, and clearly this facility was beginning to wane in its ability to do that. Not to mention, the selling price of this property must have been enormously profitable for this non-profit. I can easily see how it was the right decision for them to sell, re-build and re-locate.

As some of you might recall, a little over a year ago, the YMCA sold a building on the southeast corner of Halsted and North Avenue that housed some of their administration and a daycare center for economically disadvantaged families. That building was sold and demolished, for reasons similar to the disappearance of the Infant Welfare Society.

Now, it's a Borders, Sur La Table, Carter's children's wear store, a fitness equipment store, and a parking garage. (See posts here and here.) It's hard for me to see this as an improvement in our neighborhood, despite how ugly the Y's blue brick admin building was.

Also, just for your reference, below is a photo of the homes across the street from the second IWS-Chicago photo above. These houses are on Burling, which the above facility's east side backs up against.

This street, along with Orchard and Howe to the east have been mansionizing, which is a word used among my neighbors to describe the jaw-dropping homes unfolding there. Multi-million dollar, four-lot mansions on steroids. I'll be sure to blog more about that in the future so you can see what I'm talking about. In the meantime, I'm sorry to see IWS-Chicago go. I'd much prefer them in the neighborhood than a stretch of overpriced condos or some other deadening thing.

Lincoln Park Public Art: "Here & There" by Michele Goldstrom and "Push Comes to Shove" by Ron Gard

I have to tell you that I was feeling all cynical as I walked Boomer around the neighborhood to get a first glance at some of the 2005-2006 public art being displayed as part of the Lincoln Park Community Art Initiative.

As longtime listeners of ThePlaceWhereWeLive know, I've been blogging about this unique Chicago public art program in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. New sculptures arrived on May 15. I had some real favorites among the last round of sculptures, so I was feeling a bit glum about seeing those leave.

Despite my poutiness, to my great delight, the first look at some of the sculptures was downright exciting. One of my favorite sculptures last year was "Safety Star" by Victoria Fuller. Here's this year's sculpture on the same site by Michele Goldstrom:

Oh, it's total comfort food, and I mean that as a compliment. The notion of a factory/house/barn/nostalgiac building fits so beautifully in this sedate Illinois park, and its scale seems almost perfect. Here are two more looks:

It's a fine successor to Fuller's "Safety Star." My only concern is what it will look like next February. I doubt it will give the same jolt of color and life that Fuller's did. But we'll have to wait and see.

I also got a peek at "Push Comes to Shove" by Ron Gard, which sits on the corner of North Avenue and Orchard. This is the one I pass by everyday truly, and I think the drivers will get a much better view and angle as they turn the corner this time. (This is the site of last year's "sharkness" sculpture.)

Here are two looks:

Nice. I think I'm going to enjoy contemplating the tension between the two figures and its "chairness." I'm glad to see the Lincoln Park Community Art Initiative (who have not updated their website as of today to go along with the new sculptures -- totally lame) didn't attach the plaques to the sculpture as they did last year. I also appreciate that they've tried to make a base for this work. Unfortunately, it looks more like a little dog park than a complimentary presentation base for the sculpture.

Local Inside newspaper coverage of LPCAI 2005-2006

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Newsweek "Mag" Ranks Lincoln Park High High

Our neighborhood's high school came up 31st out of 1,000 high schools in Newsweek's annual ranking published earlier this month.

The criterion? The number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school in 2004 divided by the number of graduating seniors. The accompanying article explains, "Although that doesn't tell the whole story about a school, it's one of the best measures available to compare a wide range of students' readiness for higher-level work, which is more crucial than ever in the postindustrial age."

Btw, I bet LPHS would earn even higher rankings for their fashion sense. They've got some deep hipsters walking around over there.

Metroblog Chicago Crosspost: Walking South on Michigan Avenue, 1927

I posted Walking South on Michigan Avenue. Decoration Day, 1927 at Metroblog Chicago.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Cormorants on Lake Michigan

On Saturday afternoon, my husband and I were sailing on Lake Michigan, and to my delight the northern water intake tank (about a mile off of Chicago's Montrose Harbor) was loaded with about 40 to 50 double-crested cormorants. Although, I didn't know at the time that's what they were. I came home and flipped through a bunch of books until I narrowed it down to that. I also posted this to the Illinois birding listserv, so I'm sure they'll set me straight if I'm way off.

My Birds of Illinois book tells me that the birds are likely migrating through, although some cormorants live in the northern parts of the state during the summer months. "Cormorant comes from the Latin word 'corvus,' meaning 'crow' and 'L. marinus,' meaning 'pertaining to the sea.' Literally, 'Sea Crow.'"

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Balls, Balls, Balls: Illinois Governor Makes Reference to His, Press Bounces

A lot of ThePlaceWhereWeLive's visitors are from out of state, so let me provide a little background here:

Our governor, Rod Blagojevich, has been in a public battle with his father-in-law, powerful Chicago Alderman Dick Mell. The conflict is basically a lot of finger pointing (along with some smoke and fire) about the other's alleged corruption.

A few days ago the Guv said (as reported in the Sun-Times):

"There's a method of operation by people like him, and they've been doing it in politics for years, and they like to leverage and probe and threaten and bluster and bully until they get their way."

Mell could not be reached after the governor's comments, but an aide said he was "hot" over them.

The governor also said that Mell had conveyed "threats" to him through third parties as he was contemplating the landfill action, but wouldn't discuss a previous comment from his spokeswoman that the probe was a result of Mell's "pathological behavior. . . .

"This is the kind of thing that I think, frankly, separates the men from the boys in leadership," Blagojevich said. "Do you have the testicular virility to make a decision like that, knowing what's coming your way?"
Of course, you can't talk about testicular virility without the press going wild.

My favorite pounce is from The Daily Southtown's editorial page:
In what surely will go down in political discourse alongside Churchill's "Blood, toil, tears and sweat" and JFK's "Ask not what your country can do for you" speeches, Gov. Rod "Macho, Macho Man" Blagojevich offered a candid self-assessment Monday of why Illinois can entrust its future to him.

It's because, Blagojevich modestly told us, he's blessed with "testicular virility."

And all along we thought it was the hair.

Thanks to Capitol Fax for the good fun of the complete run down posted here.

Now they can vote and support nature . . .

Below is a clip from a May 17 Sun-Times article by Fran Spielman. I hope I'm wrong, but this seems like the kind of environmental leadership we may not see again for a couple of mayors. You really do have to take these opportunities when you can get them, less another Home Depot sprouts instead.

"The Daley administration is seeking to acquire 30 acres at the entrance to the North Side's Rosehill Cemetery and turn it into a "mini-Morton Arboretum'' -- the first nature preserve created in Chicago in more than 50 years.

"It's a lovely piece of property that would be a wonderful acquisition for the city and a wonderful addition to the city's parks. It has a kind of natural beauty that is very hard to come by these days,'' said Joyce O'Keefe, deputy director of the Open Lands Project.

If negotiations between City Hall and Texas-based Service Corp. International come to a successful conclusion, North Side residents will have a new set of walking paths and bike trails to enjoy.

The new urban oasis -- located along Western Avenue between Peterson and Balmoral -- is also a "huge area for birds,'' according to local Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th).

"This would be a nature preserve and park for the enjoyment of all the citizens of Chicago, not just our community,'' said O'Connor, who has an uncle buried there.

"Commercial uses have been threatened for decades. When I was younger, they wanted to put a Jewel [grocery] in there. A couple years ago, it was a Home Depot. Those would be totally unacceptable to me and totally unacceptable to plot owners and their families.''

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who is working to secure federal funding for the project, said it would be ''the first neighborhood city park to be built in over 35 years and the first nature preserve in the city in over 50 years.''

It always bummed me out not to be able to ride my bike through Graceland Cemetery when I lived up there. It's such peaceful, green space with so many fascinating tycoons and architectural giants buried beneath sculptural stones, and in some cases, buildings. As long as people are being respectful, why not extend the acquisition idea into greater public access at cemeteries? Just serve the security guards some extra double lattes and you're done.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Discovering Dessa Kirk

My Chicago Metblog comrade, Fuzzy Gerdes, who also blogs here, had a nice post last week about the joy of stumbling across undiscovered sculptures in the city. In this case, he found one by Dessa Kirk, whom I had never heard of before. Nor, had I ever seen this work. He captured it in a beautiful photograph. Take a look.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Triple R Rant

Some time ago, just for the helluva it, I signed up to be a Reader Restaurant Reviewer. I basically submit reviews whenever I feel like it, which isn't very often. I'm not much of a ranter, so my reviews are generally laid back.

But, this past weekend my parents were in town and I relied on the ratings to choose a restaurant. (As I've blogged before, the Reader's a pretty infallible way of finding great places to try.) I took them to Allen's, a pricey 3-R restaurant, and came home with this rant:
In my opinion, the superlatives are warranted for flavor and freshness, but some of the presentation was less than inspired (dollop of sauce on top of crab cake appetizer that looked like an afterthought before it left the kitchen, for example). But here's the biggest deal, and management at Allen's, I hope you're listening: If you want to know why your restaurant isn't packed at prime time on Saturday night it's because you have a picture of an onion with a nose made out of a door hook and two feet out of door stoppers and a photo of a head of cauliflower in a wooden vice hanging in crappy metal frames on the walls. And, you're housed in friggin' River North where you can't stumble out the front door without stepping on great art. This stuff matters. Talk to your gallery neighbors. Change the art. Maybe upgrade the chairs so they're nicer than the pizza place down my block, and THEN I'll rave. But at these prices in this neighborhood, the decor is almost shameful.

It just killed me to stare at that goddamn cauliflower all night.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A Shift in Who Minds Our Air and Water . . .

This recently in from Jennifer Sublett's e-mail updates on behalf of the Illinois Environmental Council.

Director Cipriano to Leave Agency

Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano announced yesterday that she will be leaving state government to return the private sector. IEC would like to thank Director Cipriano for her hard work and thoughtful leadership during thepast four years. Governor Blagojevich nominated as the new director Doug Scott, former state representative and Mayor of Rockford. As a legislator, Scott was a strong voice on environmental issues, and IEC looks forward to working with him as EPA Director. Scott's appointment (subject to Senate confirmation) is effective July 1st.

Join IEC e-mailing list here.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The (Sculptural) End is Near

The public art sculptures of the 2005-2006 Lincoln Park Community Art Initiative will be installed in my neighborhood this Sunday, May 15. (See some previous posts on LPCAI here, here, here.)

Below is a final glimpse at two of the four remaining pieces of the 2004-2005 exhibit. (Terry Karpowicz's "And the Wheels Go Round," which stood on the corner of Dayton and Clybourn, and Ted Garner's "Upper Cutted" on Clifton and Marcey, were taken down before I could see them and photograph them.)

Here is Barry Tinsley's "North Star" that the LPCAI site says is made out of stainless steel. It sits on the east side of Wells Street where it intersects with Burton.

This sculpture photographs better than it currently looks in real life. The piece rusted or (maybe) oxidized (?) all over the sidewalk giving it the unintended affect of looking messy. It doesn't show up on the photo very well, but I thought the mess kind of screwed with the cool geometric shaping it has going on and the wonderful relationship of the color of the statue with its surroundings. Sometimes sculptures' unintended lives can be cool. But, in this case, the rusty seepage just looks like the work couldn't hack the long winter. I still like its heavy flatness, funky angles and compassy theme, though.

Here is "Happy Family" by Shen Cheng Xu. This sculpture sits on the east side of Halsted, just south of its intersection with Lincoln Avenue and Fullerton.

Due to its site, the sculpture is a de facto part of the Children's Memorial Hospital campus. It also stands very close to a sculpture that Children's erected last year in the small, triangular park at the corner of Halsted and Lincoln. I don't have a picture of that sculpture, but all you need to visualize is a bronze, life-sized group of children playing ring-around-the-rosey and looking happy. Not my favorite work for a lot of reasons, but it's permanent, so there's no point in grousing about it now as I'd like to get this posted before the trucks carry these LPCAI works away.

A better fitting title for "Happy Family" might be "Happy Family meets Lord of the Flies." Heads on sticks, particularly a smiling, family's heads on tree branch sticks near a children's hospital, creep me out. Can't wait for this one to get out of the 'hood.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Pretty Cool Sight

Another entry from a Chicago birding listserv (see previous post on this here). It paints such a rich scene of the intersection of city life and nature that I had to copy and paste it here for you.

Hi everyone,

Needed gas again today, so I did my usual. After filling up I went to the Red Tailed Hawk nest by Chicago & Kilbourn. As I approached I saw the one bird soaring away from the nest being harassed by Red Wings. The bird soon disappeared by the CTA property by Kostner and Chicago.

So I parked next to the smoke stack where the nest is and saw no action at all. No movement, nada. Now I'm thinking this nest can be chalked up in the failure column because I haven't seen any action or movement for about three weeks. I said to myself, self stay for about five minutes and maybe self will get lucky.

So just about at the five minute mark, in comes the Red Tail that was soaring with a rodent in its mouth. It lands on the railing and is greeted by the invisible Red Tail Hawk. Both birds go into the nest and about ten seconds later the bird takes off. Now there's all kinds of movement in the nest. Can't tell how many chicks but there's at least one. I must say that was a pretty cool sight.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

They're Coming to Screw with our Blue

This is an alarming article in the Daily Southtown by Capitol Fax blogger Rich Miller about how Karl Rove is taking an early and intense interest in Lisa Madigan's campaign for re-election as Attorney General.

Illinois Republican leaders who attended a recent Will County retreat with Karl Rove were a little taken aback when the White House political guru talked excitedly about bringing Vice President Dick Cheney into Illinois to campaign on behalf of the Republican candidate for Illinois attorney general. The race just hasn't registered on anyone's political radar to date, so it was a surprise to many that he even knew the office existed. . .

Incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan is no mope. It's no accident that not a single Republican challenger has yet to emerge to challenge the one-term incumbent.

Even some current statewide GOP candidates are hoping she draws an underfunded nobody. A strong opponent, whoever that might be, would only force her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, to do everything he could to gin up Democratic turnout throughout the state. The Republicans would prefer a depressed Democratic electorate next year, which would give them a much better chance of defeating Gov. Rod Blagojevich. . .

(The U.S. Chamber and other national business groups)see Lisa Madigan as the next Eliot Spitzer, New York's fiery and highly successful attorney general who is the odds-on favorite to become that state's next governor. The business types don't want Attorney General Madigan stepping into Spitzer's national leadership role, so they've committed to spend millions to defeat her.

Bigtime money attracts bigtime attention. Cue Karl Rove.

Word from on high is that Rove is working on a strategy for the Illinois attorney general's race that would theoretically benefit all the state's Republican candidates.
Some gubernatorial candidates have been asked to go on the attack against Madigan, but there haven't been any eager takers to date.

Rove's ideas may sound counterintuitive, but that's just the sort of campaigns he runs. Not many predicted, for instance, that Rove would be able to turn John Kerry's war hero status into a liability.

All they need now is a decent candidate. Good luck with that.

Looks like it's time to fish out my voter registration materials and begin working diligently on behalf of blue again. 2006 is around the corner and I'll be damned if they come to do to my state what they're doing to the rest of the world.

Monday, May 09, 2005

From Rivers to Giant Stuffed Polar Bears

Crain's reported last week that Laurene von Klan, who is currently Exec Director at Friends of the Chicago River will now head up the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

I posted about von Klan a while back because I was impressed by some of the things she said in a Trib interview, like her steadfast vision of the river being full of brown trout and native darters again some day.

I also blogged last month about the Nature Museum's vague identity. In her brief comments to Crain's, von Klan seems to have picked up on the green vibe over there, but she didn't reveal any specifics:

While not an advocacy group, the museum can serve to highlight and address pressing environmental problems, Ms. von Klan said in a phone interview from a Brown Line train Friday afternoon.

“I am passionate about Chicago and about nature, and the Academy of Sciences and the Notebaert Nature Museum are an excellent platform to work on those issues,” she said. “I can see working on some globally important environmental issues in a whole new way.”

Hmmmm. Is it just me or does that sound like a re-hash of the Nature Museum's misson statement?

The Chicago Academy of Sciences and its Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum inspire people to learn about and care for nature and the environment.

The institution fosters environmental learning through the exhibits and education programs of the Museum and through the Academy's collections, research, symposia, publications, events and other activities.

We build understanding of global environmental issues by interpreting the effect those issues have on the Midwest.

von Klan begins on June 1, right after the Friends of the Chicago River opens their musuem in the Michigan Avenue Bridgehouse. She's got her work cut out for her.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Lives I've Never (goog)Led

I am not Jennifer Roche, the accomplished math professor at the University of Virginia.
Nor, do I create colorful tiles in St. Augustine, Florida.
I don't write brainy articles about antipsychotics in geriatric psychiatry.
I did not play on a winning Pony League softball team in upstate New York.
I have never run 43 minute 4-Milers with the Charlottesville Track Club.
My husband's name is not David.
I am not the person who writes papers in Catholic studies like "Did William Shakespeare Die a Papist?"
I have never been an assistant county attorney.
I am not an experienced web developer living in Connecticut.
I did not purchase a home in the Philadelpia area for $113,300,
nor do I have a son named Jayden Alexander.
I am not the first-grader, who won Student of the Month, from Kenwood K-8 Center in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
I have never been a curator.
But, once, a long time ago, when I lived in the Toledo, Ohio suburbs, I dreamt of being one.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Birders are like This

A few days ago, I joined the Yahoo! listserv run by the Chicago Ornithological Society. As I've blogged elsewhere, we put a birdfeeder up just after Christmas, and we've become mildly addicted to identifying the birds who stop by. I had a few questions, so I thought I'd listen in on the Yahoo! conversations.

The listserv is an amazing window into the community of birders. These folks are knowledgable, friendly and intense. They share the names of birds they've sighted from forest preserves to backyards to roadsides all over Illinois with very specific details about where the birds were sighted. Some include long lists of "species counts" of their trips that have the name and number of birds they've spotted.

Here's a favorite representative post, so you can see what I'm talking about:

Date: Tue May 3, 2005 7:52 am
Subject: Montrose Point, Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Montrose Point was again chilly this morning (Tuesday, 3 May 2005), with 41 F temperatures and winds WNW at 10mph under cloudy skies.

I had three species of terns between 5:45 and 7:10 am:

There were still few passerines, however. One PALM WARBLER was the only warbler.

Montrose Point is in Chicago's Lincoln Park (Cook County).

Good birding,

Good birding, indeed. Good people watching, too.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mrs. Blagojevich

This month's Chicago Parent magazine has an interview with Patti Blagojevich, the governor's wife, about raising an 8-year old and a 2-year old while her husband is in office.

I was pretty impressed by how candid she seemed and how "un-spun" the interview felt. It's so rare to get an unstaged glimpse of a politician's family life that I found myself thinking about this interview for a few days afterward. The writer, Lorien Menhennett, didn't seem to shy away from posing some tough questions, either.

Here are some choice quotes.
On Not Living in the Governor's Mansion in Springfield:
"The 35-room, 50,000 square foot governor's mansion 'is a beautiful place and a state treasure, but it's not necessarily the best place to raise children,' said Blagojevich. 'You have to do the best for your kids. I think most people understand.' . . .

Childproofing would have been a nightmare. And with tour groups tromping through the residence three days a week, she sees the environment as disruptive -- not to mention decadent. Having servants on hand might sound like fun, but Blagojevich says it's not a habit she wants herself--or--her kids to get accustomed to. . .

Take root beer for example. At home, Amy and Annie (the governor's kids) have three drink choices: milk, water or juice. On special occasions, such as when the governor takes Amy to a Cubs game, Amy drinks her favorite pop, Dad's Old-Fashioned Root Beer. Someone in the governor's mansion found that out, and suddenly the refrigerator was stocked with root beer -- not something Blagojevich wants her kids drinking every day."

On the public family feud between her husband and her father, Alderman Richard Mell:
"'I think it's not unusual. I think most families have those kinds of issues. Ours just happen to be in front of everybody.' . . . 'We give (Amy) the 8-year-old version,' she says. 'You try to shield them from as much of that as possible. And not talk about it in front of them. It's a hard one.'

On homosexuality:
"She pulled out It's So Amazing, a children's book that uses cartoons to explain sperm, birth and babies.

The book also gave Blagojevich an opportunity to talk about homosexuality -- something that she considers important because her sister, Amy's aunt, is a lesbian. At the end of the book she says, is a section on being gay. After reading it, Blagojevich asked Amy, 'Who do we know that's gay?'

'I don't know,' Amy said.

'Aunt Debbie,' Blagojevich prompted, explaining that was why her aunt had a girlfriend.

'Oh.' Amy paused, then said: 'I just have one question, Mommy. If they get married, who's going to wear the tuxedo?' Blagojevich laughs as she remembers her relief that the question wasn't a tougher one."

Hmmm. That seems pretty upfront and truthful to me. Maybe this was some politically-spun propaganda, but to me the telling quote of truth was this one: "Downstairs, Blagojevich reheats a cup of soymilk-sweetened coffee. 'I need my afternoon caffeine fix,' she says.'"