Monday, April 30, 2007
I think all these traffic warning lights should have smiley faces on them. This is an alley near Sultan's Market, where they have an awesome salad bar (artichokes, feta, grape leaves, garlic cauliflower, etc) and great falafel and shawarma sandwiches. Ask for them spicy if you're up for it.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Pops complained in the comments yesterday that these pictures are too dark and he can't see the band and their instruments well enough. I happen to think that they are perfectly exposed for what they are. Plus I was working in a thick crowd with a 128 MB card, half a battery, and no flash (thought it would be cumbersome and impolite).
Here's two more shots, the last I'll post. But I think the blur and the lighting works in them. If I adjusted the levels in any of these to show more detail they would look cloudy and lose that bar stage mood.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Here you see the guy who I believe is the founder of Konono No. 1, playing his likembe (thumb piano). And you can see the amp wire running out of it. See here for a closeup. In the back are two of the drummers.
In case you were wondering I named yesterday and today's posts after Konono No. 1 albums. My friend Nikkos who I ran into at this show told me he had both Congotronics albums, so I might get them from him. But I downloaded their Live in Tokyo album from emusic the other day. It's pretty great.
I was half-listening to it at the gym yesterday and it took me a minute to confirm for myself that the singer was actually saying arigato to the crowd and not something in his native language. Japanese is only slightly less foreign to me than Lingala. I just learned that is the only language these guys speak from this great article in the Guardian. I also learned there that the band's name roughly translates to "assume the crash position."
Happy Saturday, y'all.
Friday, April 27, 2007
So this is really an NPR listener success story for me. I was listening to 848, a local Chicago program, and there was a story I couldn't for the life of me recount for anyone at this show. Looking back now it was a story on a documentary called Rosevelt's America, about a Liberian refugee struggling to make a life for himself and his family in America. Pretty interesting stuff. But then leading out of that story they put on this fantastic music and describe the band playing it in way that had me sold immediately. When the announcer said they were playing in Chicago that night I had completely forgotten the story that lead into the music, and was on the phone making plans to go. So unfortunately that means I missed the broadcast of the documentary on PBS last night, and it doesn't look like it will be rerun anytime soon. I guess it's not a complete success story then, but that would be my flaky fault. Still, I got a live introduction to Konono No. 1!
Konono No. 1 is a Congolese band whose sound centers around three thumb pianos amplified and distorted by microphones constructed by hand from car parts. Each piece is built to be tuned in a specific range and amplified in a unique way. The result is almost like having an electric bass guitar and two regular electric guitars with different amps or bodies. But all three share the unique cadence that comes from flicking the metal ribbons with alternating thumbs. The droning, evolving melodies they spin out are really entrancing. The review of their Live in Tokyo album on emusic.com (an awesome subscription indie DRM-free download site) makes a point of drawing a connection between their sonic style and the fact that the Congo produces, but does not export, large quantities of cannabis.
So besides the thumb pianos, they have three drummers beating out a rhythm which will shake you out of any melodic trance. At least one of them also punctuates his drum-sentences with blows to a whistle that gives the sound a carnivale/military cast. There was also a spectacularly attired female vocalist/dancer, plus the lead thumb pianist sang most of the time. The show was truly awesome, and it was interesting to see them in this kind of dank bar venue with a mostly young, white hipster audience. I was personally pleased with the extent to which they were moving and throwing their hands up in unison, at least near the stage. My only disappointment was that the band was using the bar's sound system instead of the intensely loud, distorted megaphone PA that most descriptions of them tout. See here for such a description, with pictures of the homemade setup that was absent at the Empty Bottle. Maybe you have to see them on the streets of Kinshasa for that.
Stay tuned, I'll probably feature one or two more shots from the show. This one was my favorite, but doesn't give you much detail of the band.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Find out tomorrow! Hey, I sure am in a terse blogging phase right now. Maybe new material will loosen my lips, er, fingers. Got at least one more day to spin this series out, depending on if I'm busting out with some new heat Friday.
Oh and I can't believe I didn't make a bad joke about stretching my dollar in yesterday's post when it was a picture of a freakin bank! Can you? Slippin.
PS after drafting this last night new heat was indeed acquired. To those I pointed here from last night, patience until Friday.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Yeah, so I'm realizing that I may actually get more than a week of photoblogging out of one evening of concentrated snappery. But it feels good to be able to bring home more than just a couple fluky gems when I set my mind to it. And I think this series, like the last slightly smaller one, works best altogether rather than padding my generic archives.
This is another angle on the same bank building from yesterday, at the corner of Lawrence and Milwaukee in Jefferson Park.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Ooh boy do I like how the blue in the bus seats and the sky's reflection popped when I tweaked the levels, color balance, hue, and saturation a bit in Photoshop. You know, nothing fancy.
As for the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority), they really do have the blues. It's an aging system with chronic funding problems. I'm sure the president who just announced his resignation is at least somewhat relieved now that he can stop sounding the warnings about not getting the state funding they need and defending the work they do get done. This amusingly titled Chicago Tribune article gives you a good brief on the system's troubles.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
You have seen the shingle for this store before. And I mentioned in that post how I like the Polish word for flowers: kwiaty. Here's how I imagine this word is pronounced: kvee-ah-tee, with stress on the ah. I couldn't for the life of me find the actual pronunciation online. Someone correct me!
Hang in there, I've got more twilight Kennedy sidestep shots coming. It was a fruitful evening.
PS Just got back from a Michigan lakehouse with no internet. Which is why I'm posting in the evening.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
I took this on the way home from work last night. I have had my eye on these buildings in mostly Polish neighborhoods decorated with sections of inlaid fieldstone. This building was higher than average with thin strips of fieldstone in the brick, lit from below. This plus the twilight sky hues made me pull over to snap a few yesterday. More to come.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
In most places in America, election judges are volunteers or workers paid a small stipend for overseeing the smooth operation of a polling place. Chicago is one of the places where they are paid, but for the hours worked it ends up being not much more than minimum wage. This blog post about election judges in Chicago is interesting and a little alarming. Although the author's anonymity makes me a little skeptical of its somewhat extreme characterization of the average Chicago election judge. But what I want to get across here is the title of this post. If you have the ability, time, and the interest, throw your hat into the election ring. You will increase the percentage of folks working the polls that actually care about making them run smoothly and fairly. Not that that seems to be an issue with my polling place, which you see here. I have never had a problem there and I admire the dedication especially of the guy in the foreground, who I'm pretty sure has worked there every time I have voted in Logan Square going back to November 2004. Maybe the woman in red too, although I'm less sure about remembering her.
I felt a little rushed when I took this picture as the judges seemed sketchy about me shooting in there. Of course I asked and the judge in the foreground sort of hesitantly said yes as long as the other judges agreed and I didn't get any voters. So I first had the ISO too low, and that didn't come out well. I corrected it to get the right exposure, but I had the white balance on tungsten when it probably should have been on fluorescent. Or I should have been shooting raw, which is another story (a bridge I have yet to cross for some reason). Still, just tweaking the levels in Photoshop make it relatively presentable.
My polling place is in the basement of this Norwegian Lutheran church, right on the edge of the traffic oval that somehow gives my neighborhood, Logan Square, its name. I like the ambiance down there - I feel like I should be discussing the sermon with Garrison Keillor over coffee. Plus it's a short walk from home. So, all in all yea for voting in my precinct of the 35th ward. Can't speak for the rest of Chicago.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
So believe it or not, yesterday's post, which I drafted the day before, had nothing to do with the fact that there was an aldermanic runoff election in Chicago. It was a total coincidence that I took pictures at Hot Doug's last weekend and that lent itself to a discussion about the city council. For those outside the US who might not be familiar with the term, an alderman is a member of a city government's legislative body. There was a general state and city election on February 27th, but 12 of the city's wards did not give at least 50 percent of the vote to any one candidate for alderman. In that situation the top two candidates go on to compete in a runoff election, which was the case in my ward.
I was running out the door for work yesterday when my girlfriend asked me if I was walking or driving "over there." When she explained to my blank expression that she meant the polling place I groaned since I'm usually pretty religious about voting and had completely forgotten. Plus I wanted to document it for the blog. But since I usually don't encounter lines and the turnout for an aldermanic runoff would be lighter than usual (unfortunately for our democratic process), I headed over with camera in hand.
I'm kicking myself for not turning this cone more towards me in this shot. I had actually already knelt down and turned it a bit. But just not quite enough to make it perfect! Still, I'm pretty pleased with myself for capturing this campaign worker in the moment of gently handing a flier with a little half-bow to this woman and her baby. And look, despite shooting wide open to emphasize the foreground you can see her actually smiling! What a heart-warming expression of democracy! Except then I saw her stroll right past the polling place. Maybe she goes to a different one. Yeah, let's give her the benefit of the doubt.
Anyway, if you can't tell, what the cone says is "No electioneering beyond this point!" Which is a measure that is taken to prevent voters from getting harassed right at the door to the place. I'm not sure what good it really does since these people set up shop just down the block. But the guys working this corner were very nice. Check out another angle on this guy with full depth of field.
Tomorrow: Tell it to the judge(s)
Oh and here's something almost completely random. The title of this post is also a great song by the band Radiohead. Here it is as a soundtrack to imagery from Toyama, Japan. I just wanted to play the song somehow, but this video is actually pretty cool:
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Hot Doug's is a local landmark that was in the news recently when its owner was fined for serving foie gras, which was recently outlawed by a City Council that is getting a little too big for its britches. See our mayor's quotation at the end of this story. I couldn't agree more.
But anyway this place is really great. They serve all kinds of crazy "encased meats" in all kinds of ways from fairly simple to gourmet. I think the owner is awesome for dismissing this silly law and the city council is made to look even more ridiculous as he gets off cheap by paying the fine but reaping all the publicity.
However, I have only eaten here a couple of times because I am not interested in waiting in line around the block, even for a $7 Savory Ostrich Sausage with Cassis Creme Fraiche, Cherry Cheddar Cheese and Vokda-Soaked Dried Cherries. And I consider that a good price for such a thing. And I did not make that menu item up either, it's one of the current specials. But the line is always like this on the weekends. So I only eat here when I happen to be in the city for lunch on a weekday, which is rare. And that means I haven't yet had the duck fat fries, which they only serve on Friday and Saturday.
I'd like to return to shoot here in better light sometime. Maybe I'll ask someone to hold me a place in line while I snap away.
Edit: When I call the city council ridiculous, I'm mostly just talking about the votes to ban foie gras. Although I do feel similarly about the big box ordinance, because I don't think it will actually achieve what its framers intend.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Yeah so according to the city of Chicago's official neighborhood map this isn't Norwood Park. But then again the same map says that the second picture in this series wasn't Jefferson Park and you saw the light pole banners for yourselves. Which just goes to show you how fluid the neighborhood definitions are around here. I was gonna get into all the little interesting details about N.P. like how John Wayne Gacy lived there, but I'm at a loss for creativity right now. So just go to the wikipedia entry I was gonna plagiarize anyway: here.
Oh and I just remembered to mention that I have a photo featured today on my local National Public Radio station's website! They do a kind of collective daily photo thing for Chicago which is pretty cool. People submit shots to their flickr pool, and they pick one to show every day. They chose the one from Rosehill Cemetery I posted here.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
This shot was taken looking up at this store. I was trying to capture what has been grabbing me about this storefront from driving by it periodically. But the light wasn't what I needed it to be and nothing was popping (see "this store" link above). Then I heard a plane directly overhead and shazam, this shot presented itself. Just a whole lotta lines and polygons of blue sky, brick, rusty sign, chain, and wire. And there's this little toy plane in the middle like some kid just flung it over me.
To tie this into the whole neighborhood narrative I've got going I wanted to mention how our main airport, O'Hare, dominates the neighborhoods surrounding it. This is especially true if you happen to be beneath one of the main flight paths, as Jefferson Park is. It's pretty wild to see plane after plane rumble slowly over you at that altitude, which unfortunately seems to come off higher here than it feels in real life. I imagine to some it may be annoying or even unnerving. But to most it's probably just part of the daily background hum.
Tommorow: Trim n Tidy in (almost) Norwood Park
Saturday, April 14, 2007
As you can see by the light pole banner, we are now in Jefferson Park. This neighborhood was once a village called Jefferson Township before being annexed by the city. It has been the repeated benefactor of transportation fortuity, first by a railroad line and depot, then street railways, then the expressway I was avoiding on this route, and finally the CTA blue line train. You can see why Jefferson Park has supposedly been called "Gateway to Chicago", although I've never heard it called that.
I like the array of storefront signs here. The first I'm assuming was (see the for rent sign) a Polish Bakery since it's tagline advertises paczki, which is like a jelly donut that I've been told is pronounced like "poonsh-key." Everybody eats them on Fat Tuesday, AKA Mardis Gras, AKA Paczki Day. Then there's the Polish Florist. I really like the Polish word for flower: kwiaty. No idea how that is pronounced and I'm not gonna let you know how it sounds in my head. Beyond that is a Salvadoran restaurant and then the obligatory neighborhood bar with its obligatory Old Style sign. Someone once told me that the prevalence Old Style in Chicago had something to do with Al Capone's control of the beer supply during prohibition, but I couldn't find any online documentation of that. You can just barely see at the bottom of the frame that the bar is called Babe's, which is the perfect name for such a place.
Tomorrow: an aerial facet of Jefferson Park
Friday, April 13, 2007
In order to get from Logan Square to work in Rolling Meadows I can take the Kennedy Expressway to the Northwest Tollway (woo boy does wikipedia have this stuff covered these days). And that will take about 30 minutes in light traffic. However, morning traffic often leads me to sidestep most of the Kennedy, following its diagonal path along Milwaukee and then Higgins Avenues to get on it at Nagle. I don't have enough of a Chicago readership that writing this is going to clog that route tomorrow morning. But when it's flowing you can probably average 30 miles per hour including traffic lights.
Tuesday morning I was averaging somewhat less than 30 mph, stopping to shoot sights along the way that I have been mentally cataloging for a while. Not only is this route a time and frustration saver, but it's a main artery through some cool old Chicago neighborhoods. I'll show you some of what I got in the next few days, in geographic order. Follow the image links to flickr and click the (map) link after "Taken in Chicago, Illinois" which is the first bullet under Additional Information for each photo. Or look at the geotagged map of the set of photos. The locations are approximate, but I think they're fairly close to accurate.
This first one is a pet store on Milwaukee north of Diversey. I took another shot of it I like, but thought this one called out slightly stronger to be featured on the blog. The other photo advertises the store's ninja turtles (!) and shows the pretty cool mural they have out front. This neighborhood is called Avondale. It's pretty diverse, but includes the area called Jackowo, or "Polish Village" to you if you thought that was pronounced jack-oh-whoa. You bet you can get some pretty awesome sausage around here. I highly recommend Endy's Deli.
Oh and hey today is my final guest post for the St. Louis CDPB. Check it out for a novel Arch perspective.
Tomorrow: the also significantly Polish Jefferson Park neighborhood
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Send me dead flowers every morningI know I wrote yesterday that I wouldn't be drawing from my archives of Chicago winter photos for a while. And I'm not! This is what I came home to yesterday afternoon. That bush actually froze last weekend, but today's slushy snow provided the droplets and white background. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. This is Chicago after all and the average April snowfall is 1.6 inches. If you're at all into statistics like that, check out this little bulletin the National Weather Service posted yesterday, I think in an attempt to quiet all the whiners.
Send me dead flowers by the mail
Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I wont forget to put roses on your grave
Click the picture to jump to a set of a few other April snow photos from yesterday.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Companies are apparently hurting for opportunities to shell out for naming rights to public spaces. But looks like Adidas found another piece of city property Mayor (here pronounced mair) Daley was willing to pimp out. Maybe it was just a winter lease. If you have absolutely no idea what the heck I'm on about, look here. How about the most literal description possible to end this nonsense: what you see here are ice sheets floating around Diversey Harbor. Happy?
So this will be the last, for at least a little while, of me dipping into the wintry archives. I actually got up early this morning to get some shots on my way to work along an interesting stretch of Chicago neighborhoodyness. I bet ya can't hardly contain yourself with anticipation.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Is what this looks like to me. I love these formations that happen on the lake shore when it's been below freezing for a couple of weeks. Which, although we're not quite out of the wintry woods yet, hasn't been the case for over a month.
This was taken at a spot on the south side called Promontory Point, or just The Point for short. I haven't kept up with the issue, but The Point apparently still needs saving from having its lovely old limestone seawall replaced by an ugly slick concrete one. I have always found it a little amusing though when spotting Save The Point bumper stickers around town or even around the country. They are a little enigmatic even for most non south side Chicagoans. Still, I'd like to see it preserved.
If you're ever visiting the Museum of Science and Industry, make it a you-know-what to visit The Point. It's right across LSD via a pedestrian underpass (you know you wanna click here for the Google hybrid satellite map showing the route).
And oh yes, I'm still halfway in St. Louis today.
Monday, April 9, 2007
Here's the second installment of letters on bricks (here's number one). As mentioned in that first post, I love maps. And I like the idea that the Nystrom family business is making maps, globes, and models. This was taken on a Saturday or Sunday, so I think this building is still in operation, but just vacant for the day. Although after a quick search it appears that Nystrom is now owned by some conglomerate called Herff-Jones. In any case, there's something about this picture that seems optimistic instead of deserted to me. Like on Monday morning the good workers of Nystrom are going to pull into those spots and get back to making the maps, globes, and models that will maybe make one more American child be able to identify Canada on a map.
Also, today was guest post one out of three for me at the St. Louis CDPB. Watch me bounce back and forth across the 300 miles between our cities this week.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Gone Tomorrow. That's all! Gotta hit the road back to Chicago. Tomorrow through Wednesday I'll be doing double duty for Chicago and St. Louis as my dad is out of town. Got some good material for it while I was here. So check me out there too.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
OK, here we go with the first of another theme: ugly trends in new residential construction in Chicago. Chicago's neighborhoods have some beautiful old buildings. In a lot of places though, they had some beautiful old buildings. But they were probably in a slight state of disrepair and were cheaper to knock down and replace with monstrosities like this. Actually, that's bit strong for this development. At least these buildings aren't done in the increasingly popular cinder block rowhouse with a marginally attractive facade style. Which I will show you as well soon enough. But still, why would you pay more than half a mil for the privilege to live cheek by jowl in plastic place like that with a bunch of other yuppie scum. Ahem. My apologies to any yuppie scum out there. But I just don't get it. And yeah sure, I am technically a Young Urban Professional. But you know what I mean. Right?
Friday, April 6, 2007
Just got a chance to get on the internet while I'm out and about here in St. Louis. Not much time for a lot of commentary. I don't do much black and white, but this image was calling for it. Hope ya like it.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Since I only have this and another super-standout shot from Rosehill Cemetery I'm going to exhaust them today and tomorrow before moving on to developing my themes or showing other standalone images. Plus, except for the hair salon stuff, of which there will be more to come, I have been exclusively drawing from my pre-blog archives of Chicago photos. And I'm headed to St. Louis this weekend so I won't be able to replenish those reserves for a bit. Although since starting this blog I have definitely been given new eyes for all kinds of things I want to get out and capture in my city. So I'm slightly ambivalent about leaving town this weekend. But it's been too long since I've visited Tha Lou.
So anyway, here you have the memorial for Lulu E. Fellows, shot backlit by the setting sun. Having died at age 16, her tomb is inscribed with this kind of crushing epitaph: "Many hopes lie buried here." Her statue is enclosed in a glass box (see here for full view) and you see one of its metal corners in this photo. It's a fairly soft and sweet sculpture, but it has some particularly creepy eyes, which I think comes out well here. So the combination of not knowing that you're seeing a statue inside of a glass box, combined with that stare, and the rather odd contrast of color temperatures between the sky and statue (teensy bit of photoshoppery there) create an image that I find unsettling. But I like that dissonance. I hope you do too!
Now to copy my father's style of ending with a teaser since I've already planned what I'm posting:
TOMORROW'S POST: Death from Above
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Here is one of my favorite shots from a trip to Rosehill Cemetery last November. It is the largest cemetery in the city limits, and dates back to 1859. For more info and shots of the famous names represented there, check this out.
There are some really interestingly styled monuments there. Many were carved to look like trees with gnarled limbs and bark and all. And ivy in this case! This George Bangs guy must have been some sort of railroad tycoon or postal official, given the base of his monument. Some may think it macabre, but I really like cemeteries. I've gone out of my way to visit them in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Paris. And Paris.
If you're ever in Chicago I recommend stopping by Rosehill. It's not too far up north and there's a cozy little neighborhood bar and grill just down the street from the main entrance. It's a great place to hang out and warm up afterwards if it's chilly like it was when I visited.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
So, here I am four days into this thing and already I'm bending the rules. But you see, it is a Chicago Cubs hat after all (with a sticker in the C a friend gave to me to make it read as my last name). And it gives me a chance to plug the pictures from my recent trip to Death Valley, CA. One more thing before I segue into Chicago-relevant stuff. This shot was taken on the Racetrack Playa. I had taken off my hat and dumped out my pockets so I could do some stretching before starting to hike up an adjacent mountain. I thought it would be cool to take a bug's eye view of my belongings with the Grandstand blurred out behind them. Like those items would be left to identify me if some unfortunate circumstance should befall me up on that remote mountain. A little gallows humor, I guess.
Now, on to Chicago, and baseball. I'm not a huge baseball fan, in the sense that I follow the game super-closely. But I do like to keep up with the big news, especially for the two Chicago teams (and hometown St. Louis). I heard a good rundown on the radio yesterday morning of where the Cubs and White Sox stand as their seasons begin and two things stood out, both pitching related:
1. Mark Prior, once supposedly the Cubs' ace pitcher, was sent down to the Minor league! He was out with injuries a lot last year, and apparently just isn't yet up to snuff to come back on board for real. I'm not sure about the rest of the bullpen. I couldn't find a good summary with a quick search.
2. The White Sox only have one of the pitchers they had on the 2005 roster, when they won the World Series. I couldn't find any substantive articles talking about the Sox current whole bullpen either. But it's an interesting factoid. I could have also misheard that. So please anyone correct me.
Monday, April 2, 2007
OK so here's another one of my little visual fixations around town. There are all these humble little stores, factories, plants, offices, etc that are mostly low-slung brick buildings. And most of them seem to have signs composed of freestanding three-dimensional letters applied directly to the brick outer wall. There's something about that which appeals to me. It's as if the signs are made by a puff paint typewriter on a sheet of brick paper. Maybe that's a bit fanciful. But I'm just trying to come up with a reason to explain even to myself why I find these images fascinating. Anywho. I also like the stories implied behind the walls of these places. These are businesses run by the kind of hard-working, often recent generation immigrant folks that make Chicago Chicago.
This particular place is an active tire shop on Western Avenue, the longest street in town. The black band at the top and shadow along the bottom are from the Western Ave. viaduct that passes over Belmont Avenue. Writing this just now it occurs to me that there is no rule of thumb like in New York City where avenues are north-south streets. Still, getting around here is a simple affair of orienting yourself on a pretty regular grid. And if you know where you are relative to the lake then you know the compass points, since the lake is the city's eastern boundary. Hopefully I haven't bored anyone to tears with all this geography talk. What can I say, I like maps!
Sunday, April 1, 2007
In honor of winter's wane, here is one my favorite abstract shots taken recently at North Avenue Beach (home of the beach house that looks like an ocean liner! ). It was February and had been below freezing for a week or two. Whatever Saturday that happened to be was bright and sunny, if still quite cold, so I headed out to see how the lakefront was looking. Turns out it was looking pretty frikkin awesome. What you see in this picture is what happens when sand and snow blow around together for a while.
Click on the picture itself to go to my flickr.com site which hosts it. You can see a set of other shots I took that day there. Or just click this picture of a donkey to go to the flickr set directly: