Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lazy Daze

Apologies for my prolonged absence, I've been off enjoying the summer weather. With June, July and August come street festivals, weekends in Michigan and time better spent near the water. While there are many issues to discuss such as the NFL lockout, the NBA lockout, the debt ceiling and the inept Republican presidential field, I can't find the energy to muster much outrage with the sun shining.

To all of my readers, I hope you have a great 4th of July weekend and are enjoying the summer months as much as I am. Be sure to check in on my twitter feed (found on the right-hand side of this page) for good pics and links to interesting stories.Things will pick back up before we know it and there will be plenty to say, but until then, go have some fun!

Like Pippa....

(cartoon via)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Love In The City

Do you remember your first love?

While in college I got the opportunity to visit Chicago for some class-related trade shows and meetings. I immediately fell in love. The constant humming white noise of the city, the people on the streets and the feeling that you are there taking a part of something all hit me upon arrival. It became my goal to reside in Chicago when I finished school, I had to be with her. And wouldn't you know it? Like a romantic comedy, it actually happened. Across roughly six years now - the time split with my west coast detour - I have had the privilege to experience several of her neighborhoods, living in all sorts of housing and taking in all she has to offer. There's been ups and downs just like in any relationship, but I remain in a torrid love affair with my city. She has treated me well, especially around this time of year when she sheds her heavy winter coat and dons sunny days combined with a social schedule full of options. Things are good.

So imagine my surprise this past weekend when I met a new city. I didn't plan on it happening, I swear. It's just that she was so much bigger and more cultured than my sweet Chicago. We flirted all weekend and had a wicked time doing so, but I promise no lines were crossed. This was only infatuation...I think. Her name was New York and she let me run all over her promenades and bridges while also showing me her ball parks and belly-dancing hookah lounges. Never before had I met a city so open and upfront with who they are. The buzz of people on the street and the ease in which they mix almost made my Chicago seem desolate and prudish.

It was an intoxicating weekend but it was only that, a weekend. I remain committed to my first love, my city, Chicago - warts and all. She has been with me for years and I'm not about to dump her over some hot and heavy flirting with that buxom lass New York. Underneath her hot exterior there are probably larger warts than ones I live with everyday and am used to. I love you Chicago, I promise I'll cut off relations if you'll have me back. No more talk of that New York.

I think.

(A special thanks to my hosts, Ryan and Kate. A couple that has that city figured out. When visiting a city of New York's size and complexity, a well versed host can exponentially improve your experience. That is exactly what they did.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New York, New York

Another summer weekend, another trip to be had. I'm off to New York City to visit some longtime friends and take in the city. A big highlight - I'll have the opportunity to visit the hipster capital of the East Coast, Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and see how it measures up to Bucktown/Wicker Park. I'm sure there are other things to look forward to as well but what could beat observing hipsters in their natural habitat? I feel like I'm slowly becoming the Jane Goodall of their culture, here to report back to you on my findings.

On That Congressman In The News

No, no, no...that's a Chicago style wiener. No one likes a salad on their dog!

What to say about Anthony Weiner? The dude definitely has the most unfortunate name imaginable for a scandal like this. Hell, it was as if this was his destiny. Can you imagine his adolescent years? Middle school must have been terrible.

The chorus of people calling for his resignation is growing and it is not surprising. However, you won't hear those calls from this corner of the universe. While the whole thing is creepy and displayed poor judgement - not to mention a certain photo I could have gone without seeing all over 'The Daily Show' for a good five minutes - I'm still not sure what he'd be resigning over. Flirting? Lack of awareness about how the internet works? Breakdown what he did - he sent pictures of himself over the internet where he was covered by clothes in the offensive areas.

No laws were broken, no public resources wasted and he never technically cheated on his wife.

What was done was dumb, to be sure. But the Quaker-like puritanism of the American media/public when it comes to sex scandals and politicians never ceases to amaze me. I'd love to hear the specific charges against which he should resign. There aren't any. Don't take this as some fiery defense of the man, my only point is that this is America. We already have the means in which to rid ourselves of Congressman Weiner setup within our beautiful democracy - its called an election, and he's up again next fall. The fact of the matter is that he only represents his constituents and it is only his constituents that should be put up to the task of deciding his fate. If Rep. Danny Davis here in Chicago had done this, my feelings wouldn't change - I'd look forward to exercising my right to vote him out in the next cycle, national opinion on the matter be damned.

So let's quiet down with the resignation talk. Talk and gossip all you like but let the system do it's work, that is why we have it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Some Must Reads

Nick Kristof from Saturday's New York Times.

With Tea Party conservatives and many Republicans balking at raising the debt ceiling, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals. It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs. 

Andrew Sullivan from today's Dish

The relationship between religion and politics is, to my mind, the central question of our time. As the false totalisms of the twentieth century - communism, fascism, Nazism - have been revealed as oppressive, murderous lies, insecure and inadequate human beings in need of totalist solutions to the human dilemma have returned to religion. But more accurately, they have returned to fundamentalism, because only fundamentalism, with its absolute certainty and literal precision and binding, unquestionable authority, can assuage the anxieties of a world dislocated from tradition, up-ended by capitalism, globalized to the point of cultural panic.

Both pieces are well worth the time to take in. 

Summertime In The City

Do Division Street Festival

Yesterday was a perfect example of why I love this town. I was busy most the day relaxing with the Sunday paper and some coffee, taking a run and conducting some errands. After wrapping up a few things from earlier in the day, the beautiful weather had me contemplating how to spend the rest of my day. You cannot waste what precious few nice weekends you receive in Chicago. Right around that time, a friend called to say he was heading to the Do Division Street Festival by bicycle with a group. Perfect timing!

Street fests in Chicago are quite a scene to witness. They range from artsy to foodie to rowdy and never disappoint. Do Division is definitely one of the rowdier ones, its held in the Wicker Park neighborhood which is home of the hipster. The hipster crowd brings a mix of Goodwill clothes, youth, menial jobs not requiring one to be up early and ironic facial hair that makes for a lively crowd to be observed.

The whole afternoon was one big event. We wisely decided to buy six-packs of tallboy Old Styles ($6 total versus the $6 per beer event prices) to bring in, stashing them away in our backpacks like poor college kids. Proceeding to take stock of the festival, we meandered through the crowd wearing our 'creeper shades' - dark sunglasses that are a prerequisite for quality people-watching at any street fest. After posting up here and there and polishing off a few cans of Old Style, we ended up at a bar playing some music out onto their street side patio where we grabbed a seat. It was here that things really got turned up.

As we sipped our beers, a growing mob of tattooed, mustachioed hipsters and their female versions (hipsterettes?) rocking more tattoos, ironic eye-wear and sun dresses began to work themselves into a lather right in front of us. It was a dance party from a movie, something right out of a script. As if on cue, a live bongo drummer popped up in front of the bar and began playing along with the music already on. The rhythm immediately attracted a bikini clad blonde hipster chick with a flowing skirt to dance to the beats along side him. She began twisting and bending, flailing that skirt around and preening for the drummer while the rest of the crowd made a little space for her but continued on with their revelry. This carried on for two or three songs, a scene that seemed surreal.

In the midst of this all happening, one of my friends leaned over and said, "I almost feel nerdy sitting here and watching this, we definitely don't belong. Ha ha." I had to agree and noted that we were very square compared to the rest of the crowd, but we stayed and soaked it all in nonetheless. We may have stuck out like sore thumbs but that isn't the point of the these festivals anyway, its all about getting out and seeing more of the people you share this city with.

After taking in some of the best Chicago has to offer, we navigated the back streets on our bikes, coasting home through the early summer air. Sunday evening was great but the best part may be that it was the first of many.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Long, Slow Recovery

Great monthly chart for tracking jobs recovery. Via.

We've Been Here Before

As new economic data trickles out this week showing signs of a slow down in the expansion of the economy, the GOP continues to hold the debt limit hostage for further spending cuts to the discretionary budget. Not only does this show a lack of basic understanding for global credit and debt ceilings, it is a dangerous game to play with an economy already teetering on the brink. If you think job growth and the overall economy is bad now, imagine what things will look like if confidence in US treasuries craters. The thought that the level of our national debt somehow ties to short term recovery from a recession in incorrect.

Paul Krugman has a thought or two on the subject here. As he correctly points out, our country has turned to austerity measures at the wrong moment before only to prolong the depression. Well, here we are again. Will we care to acknowledge the past?

UPDATE: More on the debt ceiling here