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1. Mr. Ferris and His Wheel - a review

Davis, Kathryn Gibbs. 2014. Mr. Ferris and his Wheel. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Illustrated by Gilbert Ford.

Though written in a fully illustrated, engaging and narrative nonfiction style, Mr. Ferris and his Wheel is nevertheless, a well-sourced and researched picture book for older readers.

The story of the 1863, Chicago World's Fair debut of the world's first Ferris wheel (or Monster Wheel, as Mr. Ferris originally named it),  is told in a flowing and entertaining style,
     George arrived in Chicago and made his case to the construction chief of the fair.
     The chief stared at George's drawings.  No one had ever created a fair attraction that huge and complicated.  The chief told George that his structure was "so flimsy it would collapse."
     George had heard enough.  He rolled up his drawings and said, "You are an architect, sir. I am an engineer."
     George knew something the chief did not.  His invention would be delicate-looking and strong.  It would be both stronger and lighter than the Eiffel Tower because it would be built with an amazing new metal—steel.

it contains sidebars that impart more technical information that might otherwise interrupt the flow of the story,
George was a steel expert, and his structure would be made of a steel alloy.  Alloys combine a super-strong mix of a hard metal with two or more chemical elements.
George Ferris' determination is a story in itself, but it is the engineering genius of his wheel that steals the show.  A "must-have" for any school or public library.

Some facts about the original "Ferris" wheel:
  • 834' in circumference
  • 265' above the ground
  • 3,000 electric lightbulbs (this itself was a marvel in 1893!)
  • forty velvet seats per car
Ferris wheel at the Chicago World's Fair c1893.
 Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division[/caption]

STEM Friday

It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
See all of today's STEM-related posts at the STEM Friday blog.

Site Meter Copyright © 2014 L Taylor All Rights Reserved.

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2. On the 95th anniversary of the Chicago Race Riots

By Elaine Lewinnek

On 27 July 1919, a black boy swam across an invisible line in the water. “By common consent and custom,” an imaginary line extending out across Lake Michigan from Chicago’s 29th Street separated the area where blacks were permitted to swim from where whites swam. Seventeen-year-old Eugene Williams crossed that line. He may have strayed across it by accident or may have challenged it on purpose. We do not know his motives because the whites on the beach reacted by throwing stones and Eugene Williams drowned. Police at the beach arrested black bystanders, infuriating other blacks so much that one black man shot at the police, who returned fire, shooting into the crowd of blacks. The violence spread from there. Over the next week, in the middle of that hot summer of 1919, 38 people died, 537 were hospitalized, and approximately 1,000 were left homeless. White and black Chicagoans fought over access to beaches, parks, streetcars, and especially residential space. The burning of houses, during this riot, inflamed passions almost as much as the killing of people. It took a rainstorm and the state militia to end the violence in July 1919, which nevertheless simmered just below the surface, erupting in smaller clashes between blacks and whites throughout the next four decades, especially every May, during Chicago’s traditional moving season.


Family leaving damaged home after 1919 Chicago race riot by Chicago Commission on Race Relations. Negro in Chicago: The Negro in Chicago; a study of race relations and a race riot (1922). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The 1910s were the first decade of the Great Migration, a decade when 70,000 blacks had moved to Chicago, more than doubling the existing black population. This was also a decade when the lines of Chicago’s residential apartheid were hardening. Historically, Chicago’s blacks found homes in industrial suburbs such as Maywood and Chicago Heights, domestic service hubs such as Evanston and Glencoe, rustic owner-built suburbs such as Robbins and Dixmoor, and some recently-annexed suburban space such as Morgan Park and Lilydale. Increasingly, though, blacks were confined to a narrow four-block strip around State Street on Chicago’s South Side known as the Black Belt. Half of Chicago’s blacks lived there in 1900, while 90% of Chicago’s blacks lived there by 1930.

The Black Belt was a crowded space where two or three families often squeezed into one-room apartments, landlords neglected to repair rotting floors or hinge-less doors, schools eventually ran on shifts so that each child was educated for only half a day, and the police tolerated gamblers and brothels. It was so unhealthy that Richard Wright called it “our death sentence without a trial.” Blacks who tried to move beyond the Black Belt were met with vandalism, arson, and bomb-throwers, including 24 bombs thrown in the first half of 1919 alone.

Earlier, some Chicago neighborhoods had welcomed black homeowners, but after the First World War there was an increasingly widespread belief that blacks hurt property values. Chicago realtor L. M. Smith and his Kenwood and Hyde Park Property Owners Association spread the notion that any black moving into a neighborhood was akin to a thief, robbing that street of its property values. By the 1920s, Chicago Realtors prohibited members from introducing any new racial group into a neighborhood and encouraged the spread of restrictive covenants, legally barring blacks while also consolidating ideas of whiteness. As late as 1945, two Chicago sociologists reported that, while “English, German, Scotch, Irish, and Scandinavian have little adverse effect on property values[,] Northern Italians are considered less desirable, followed by Bohemians and Czechs, Poles, Lithuanians, Greeks, and Russian Jews of the Lower class. Southern Italians, along with Negroes and Mexicans, are at the bottom of the scale.” As historians of race recognize, many European immigrants were considered not quite white before 1950. Those immigrants eventually joined the alliance of groups considered white partly because realtors, mortgage lenders, and housing economists established a bright line between the property values of “whites” and those of blacks.

The lines established in 1919 have lingered. As late as 1990, among Chicago’s suburban blacks, almost half of them lived in the same fourteen suburbs that blacks had lived in before 1920: they had not gained access to newer spaces. It was black neighborhoods that suffered disproportionately from urban renewal and the construction of tall-tower public housing in the twentieth century, further reinforcing the overlaps between race and space in Chicago. Many whites inherit property whose value has increased because of the racist real-estate policies founded after the violence of 1919. Recently, Ta-Nehisi Coates has recently used the history of Chicago’s property market to publicize “The Case for Reparations,” after generations of denying blacks access to homeowner equity.

It is worth remembering the events of 95 years ago, when Eugene Williams and 37 other people died, as Chicagoans clashed in the streets over emerging ideas of racialized property values.

Elaine Lewinnek is a professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and the author of The Working Man’s Reward: Chicago’s Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl.

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3. Review: The City of Palaces. New Books. Chicago Pics. A Random Thought.

 Review:  The City of Palaces by Michael Nava

The City of Palaces
Michael Nava

Terrace Books, University of Wisconsin Press, 2014

Michael Nava published his first novel, The Little Death, in 1986. That book marked the debut of Henry Rios, a gay Chicano lawyer/detective who has become an iconic character in the crime fiction genre. The seven books in the Rios series, hailed as groundbreaking, have won six Lambda Literary Awards. The books recently were reissued in the Kindle format. In recognition of the excellence and popularity of Nava’s writing, he was the recipient of the 2000 Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award in LGBT literature. That year also marked the publication of the last book in the series, Rag and Bone, along with Nava's announcement that he had retired as a mystery writer. Lucha Corpi, one of the cornerstones of Chicana/Chicano crime fiction and a person obviously qualified to judge, has noted that many consider Nava to be one of the “grandfathers” of the Chicano mystery genre (along with Rolando Hinojosa, who published Partners in Crime in 1984. See Lucha’s Confessions of a Book Burner, page 55.)

The City of Palaces
marks Nava’s return to book length fiction, much to the relief of his many, many readers. And what a grand return it is.

Nava’s explanation of how he came to write this novel is worth repeating. Here are a few paragraphs from the author’s website:

Beginning in 1995, Nava started researching a novel about the life of silent film star Ramon Novarro, a Mexican immigrant who came to Hollywood in 1915 after his family fled their homeland during the Mexican Revolution. Novarro was one of the first generation of internationally famous movie stars, like Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin. Nava was drawn to Novarro not only because of their shared ethnic heritage but also because it was an open secret in Hollywood that Novarro was gay.

At the same time, he became interested in the Yaquis, an Indian tribe that inhabited the northwest state of Sonora along the border with Arizona. In the late nineteenth century, the Mexico government began to forcibly evict the Yaquis from their ancient homeland, a lush river valley at the edge of the Sonoran desert, to make way for Mexican settlers. But the Yaquis put up a fierce resistance and the Mexican government ultimately pursued a policy of extermination against the tribe that resulted in its virtual extinction. Nava’s great-grandparents were among the few Yaquis who had survived by escaping to Arizona where his grandfather, Ramón, was born in 1905.

Eventually, these interests converged and he began to write a novel that would tell the story of the Mexican Revolution, the near-genocide of the Yaquis, and the rise of silent film. Midway through his first draft, he recognized that this undertaking was too vast for a single book, so he conceived a series of novels called The Children of Eve, after the line in the Salve Regina addressed to Mary, the mother of Jesus: “To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.” The first novel in that series is The City of Palaces, which is set in Mexico City in the years before and at the beginning of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.

At its heart, The City of Palaces is the love story of Alicia Gavilán and Miguel Sarmiento. Alicia is wealthy, religious, saintly, and beautiful but scarred (from smallpox.) Miguel is an atheistic doctor with a long family history of involvement in Mexico’s political scene. Miguel feels something like love at first sight when he encounters Alicia, but he struggles against his “manly” aversion to her scars. Alicia, on the other hand, may be spiritual and otherworldly, but she is sensual and most pragmatic. The two star-crossed lovers overcome obstacles put in their way by their families, the social stratification of early twentieth century Mexico, and their own inhibitions, fears, and prejudices. Yes, love conquers all.

A sure sign of excellent writing is that we read the words but see the images created by the author. As I read this book, I saw not only the decay and corruption of Mexico City at the end of the Díaz dictatorship, but I also met the people – the poor and oppressed masses that struggled together in the colonias and slums of the city, the wealthy elite hanging on to their fantasies of Europeanization and ostentatious glitter as their world collapsed, the passionate and somewhat naive revolutionaries who courageously rallied around the doomed Francisco Madero. The images are clear enough, and the writing is so direct and on point, that it does not take much to imagine this story as an HBO miniseries.

The novel sweeps through sixteen years of Mexican history. Nava has done his research, so the details are perfect. He hits high notes with his descriptions of neighborhoods, cafes and churches, references to historical figures such as Huerta, Zapata, Orozco, and Madero, and the sense of tumultuous change that was inescapable no matter how hard some tried to ignore it.

At the end, the book has transitioned to include the story of Alicia’s and Miguel’s child, José, described as a beautiful, sensitive boy who steals away from the safety of his grand “palace” to feed his secret desire for the new moving pictures, shown in dark and dirty alleys where only the most common people enter. Although there is tragedy at the end, there also is hope. The story finishes with these thoughts from Miguel: “[T]here appeared in the desert darkness an archway lit up with electric lights. It spelled out a greeting so simple in its unintentional arrogance he did not know whether the tears that filled his eyes were tears of anger or gratitude, but he wept them all the same as he spoke the words aloud: ‘Welcome to America.’” How many times has that scene been repeated by our own families?

Michael Nava tells a timeless story, a literary jewel waiting for La Bloga’s readers. I can only patiently anticipate the second novel in this series.

For another review of this book, see Michael Sedano’s post on La Bloga at this link.


New Books
University of Texas Press - July, 2014

[from the the author's website]

I'm very proud of this collection of scholarly essays. You'll find pieces on Sor Juana, on la Malinche, on Chicana feminist artists and lesbian theorists, on the murdered girls and women of Juárez, as well as a rewriting of the Coyolxauhqui myth, and an opening letter to my paisana from the border, Gloria Anzaldúa, in gratitude for her lenguas de fuego. There are also 8 color plates and 37 black and white photos. Artwork includes different images by Alma Lopez, beginning with that fabulous cover she created for the occasion of the book's publication, as well as pieces by Ester Hernández, Yreina Cervantez, Liliana Wilson, Patssi Valdez, Laura Aguilar, Deliliah Montoya, Alma Gómez-Frith, Miguel Gandert, Alfonso Cano, the "Saint Jerome" of Leonardo da Vinci, the iconic "American Progress, 1872" by John Gast, and a painting of Juana Inés by my very own mother, Teyali Falcón that she created for the publication of Sor Juana's Second Dream.

Upcoming book talks/book signings for the author:
July 29, 6-8pm
Austin, TX, August 28, 7pm

Hearts & Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times, Second Edition
Luis J. Rodriguez
7 Stories Press - July, 2014

[from the author]

Join us in celebrating the book release of Hearts & Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times, Second Edition this Saturday, July 26, 2014 from 5pm to 8pm.

Live art by Rah Azul and silent art auction fundraiser during reception beginning at 5pm followed by author reading at 6pm. The event is free to the public, donations welcome.

The event will begin with a reception that will include live art by Rah Azul, a self-taught painter, muralist and poet based in the San Fernando Valley. Rah Azul's work is featured on the cover of the new Hearts & Hands book. There will be limited prints available of the book cover artwork for sale. The silent art auction will feature a special edition by this featured artist.

"Hearts & Hands is a book that belongs in the hands of any person or organization wanting to understand and work with youth and community in a respectful, meaningful way."

-Trini Rodriguez, Co-Founder of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore

Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore | 13197 Gladstone Ave., Unit A | Sylmar | CA | 91342

Chicago Pics

Many of you know that as part of La Bloga's 10th anniversary commemoration several bloquistas participated in a panel at the International Latina/o Studies Conference. See Amelia Montes's most recent post for more info about and photos of the event. The panel invigorated and inspired all of us, and many of our readers and friends gathered to talk about and help us celebrate La Bloga. Seven of our eleven contributors made it to the Windy City, and we had a great time together. We hope to do something similar again. No rhyme or reason, here are a few photos taken in Chicago. 

Toddlin' Town

Palmer House Stairwell

Millennium Park - Selfie

Millennium Park - Face

Millennium Park - Heads

Dessert at Zapatista - Free for La Bloga!

Long Live the Blues!

From the Galería Sin Fronteras Exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art

Wrapping Up the Panel


Random Thought While Jogging Around Sloan's Lake

One of the regrettable things that has happened to Denver’s North Side, where I've lived for more than thirty years, is the rise and victory of the “suburban aesthetic”: boxy, boring housing lined up in rows; a uniform “non-conformist” style from clothes to music; restaurants that are destinations rather than good places to grab a bite to eat; an obsession about “making it,” a flaccid, common denominator cultural perspective. A great neighborhood has to be more than that.


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4. Open Letter to the International Latino Studies Conference in Chicago

Melinda Palacio

La Bloga represents at the International Latino Studies Conference in Chicago this week. Since my plans to join La Bloga's panel and reunion were squashed by my broken leg, Amelia asked me to write a short statement, one paragraph, she could read as mediator of our panel. My short statement turned into a long letter, which I decided to post today.  Everyone may read my contribution to La Bloga's panel, even if you are missing out on the conference.

July 18, 2014

First, I'd like to thank Dr. Amelia Montes and my fellow members of La Bloga for this opportunity. This conference, celebrating the past, present, and future of Latino Studies is very important. Had I not broken my leg, I would certainly be amongst you. I was looking forward to connecting with academics from my past and those who have recently hosted me in my present role as author, poet and speaker. Furthermore, in my role as teacher, I've had the privilege to teach Fiction through the online MFA program of theUniversity of Arkansas at Monticello. In my role as author, my novel, Ocotillo Dreams, has been included in a scholarly book by Dr. Cristina Herrera, Contemporary Chicana Literature: (Re) Writing theMaternal Script (Cambria Press 2014).  

Today, I am honored to discuss my work as a team member of La Bloga. I often cover the writing life. For this year's conference, I chose to present a past blog post from 2010 that documents my process as a "low-tech writer." Even though we, at La Bloga, take advantage of high-tech tools, such as our online web log or La Bloga you are used to reading everyday, some, such as myself, first sit down with pen and paper and draft what will become a dynamic non-fiction article or personal account, complete with links and photos for the world wide web archives. Writing for La Bloga has made keeping up my author website rather easy. I often add photos, events, and blog entries after they have been up on la bloga. In other words, I steal from myself. This open letter to the conference will be up on La Bloga today and later next week, on my author website. All of our La Bloga posts remain in the web archives for future perusal by our readers and study by professionals in the fields related to Chicano and Latino Studies.

            In documenting the writing life, I also feature other writers in forms of interviews, Q&As, and guest columns so that my blog posts represent a larger, mostly Latino, but global (or world wide) writing community. However, sometimes, I simply document events from my life, such as taking a stroll through Audubon Park in New Orleans, where I live part-time, or the events of my broken leg and subsequent operation (see my blog post from July 4). Today, if you didn't hear all of this letter, you can read it on La Bloga.

Gracias! I hope to see everyone next time. If you have specific questions for me that this open letter does not answer or if you wish to invite me to speak to your students, please email me at melindapalacio@gmail.com. You can also find me on twitter at LaMelinda or on Facebook or on my website.

Thank you, again,

Melinda Palacio
author of the novel Ocotillo Dreams(Bilingual Press) and the poetry collections Folsom Lockdown (Kulupi Press) and How Fire Is a Story, Waiting (Tia Chucha Press). 

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5. Sketch Workshop in Chicago

I am finally posting all of my sketches from Chicago. I have been buried since my return in work. (I have some amazing projects on my plate at the moment.)

But, it was wonderful to have a weekend devoted to just sketching and hanging out with wonderful friends.

You can see photos from the seminar here: http://chicagosketchseminar2014.wordpress.com/
and some of the Cincinnati group's photos and sketches here: http://cincyillustrators.blogspot.com/2014/06/urban-sketching-seminar-in-chicago.html

See Vanessa's sketches here: http://nessydesigns.blogspot.com/2014/06/urban-sketchers-chicago-2014.html

My favorite sketch from the weekend. This is the Holy Name Cathedral where Roger Ebert's funeral was held
and her incredible photos here: http://nessydesigns.blogspot.com/2014/06/chiacgo-urban-sketchers-trip-photos.html

Another church on the church architecture tour

Porsche at what the locals called 'Viagra Triangle' which is a good description
Big statue next to the hotel
A bit of sketching between bites of Garrett popcorn
Detail of the facade
Part of the Newberry Library

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6. Wrigley Centennial Trivia Showdown

Topps Stamps 1974 Hooton

Who is Burt Hooton? Your guess is as good as mine, or more likely, it’s better than mine. My answer is he’s no Mickey Lolich, but that’s because I grew up in Detroit—though, as Susan Sontag would say, Under the Sign of Jack Morris. But back to your guess—if you’re schooled in Cubs lore, come to the Wrigley Centennial Trivia Showdown on Wednesday, May 28th, at the Harold Washington Library,  in celebration of the year that brought you the births of Sun Ra, Julio Cortázar, and a certain stadium. Your hosts are Stuart Shea, doyen of Cubs history, and the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Kogan, and you can win t-shirts, plates, commemorative posters, and gift certificates to Birrieria Zaragoza, Clark Street Sports, Girl and the Goat, The People’s Garment Company, & Tales, Taverns, and Towns.

From the Chicago Reader: 

Stuart Shea, author of Wrigley Field: The Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines, and the Tribune‘s Rick Kogan host the Wrigley Centennial Trivia Showdown. Test your knowledge of the legendary ballpark alongside other Cubs enthusiasts and maybe win a Wrigley Field prize pack, or bragging rights that might earn you a free drink or two around Clark and Addison.

From the press release:

First inning: easy to medium multiple-choice trivia

The three contestants with the most correct answers will move on to the second inning.

 Second inning: medium to hard multiple-choice trivia

The two contestants with the most correct answers will move on to the third inning.

 Third inning: photo trivia

The contestant with the most correct answers is the champion!

Free advice:

You can RSVP online. Also, there is a dog park in Chicago named Wiggly Field.

Books, baseball, trivia, bragging rights. That’s a good mix for a weeknight. See you there!

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7. C2E2014: Where Everything Is

mccormick southC2E2′s on once again, and this year, it’s being held in the South Hall.  (Oh, how I await the day when it takes up the entire complex!  2.6 MILLION sq.ft. of exhibit space!  60 acres! 45 football fields!  Can you imagine the programming going on all over the building?  The theater?  The ballrooms?)

*ahem*  Sorry…

Here’s the scorecard for each year:

2010  Lakeside  Hall D   300,000 sq.ft.

2011   West Building   Hall F   470,000 sq.ft.

2012   North Building    Hall B1   369,000 sq.ft.

2013   West Building   Hall F   470,000 sq.ft.

2014   South Building   Hall A1   430,000 sq.ft.

So here’s the layout, with some insider tips from your intrepid exploring reporter!

Food?  Here is the McCormick dining guide!

mccormick South 1 editLevel One (the ground floor)

When you enter from the square, you’ll see the concierge desk and the dancing water fountains.  Immediately to the south is the ballroom, host to various fannish activities.  (It’s divided in half: one half is for gaming and other geekery, the other side is for families.  Brilliant planning… it’s part of the show, but removed just enough to create a safe space.)  Aside from the coat check near the gateway to BarCon at the Hyatt Hotel, the only other item of interest on this floor are the hotel shuttles.

Comics Beat C2E2 Inside Tip: Walk down that long hallway southward.  You’ll see the massive escalators which lead to the show floor (but not working this weekend).  There are vending machines squirreled away behind and beneath these escalators.  Since McCormick doesn’t always refill the machines on a timely basis, you might have better luck here on Sunday.

If you forgot a power chord or other necessity, the Hyatt has a vending machine in the hallway leading to the check-in desk.  The Hyatt is also where you can catch a taxi, although you might want to “New York” everyone and wander south on MLK Drive a few blocks to catch a taxi before it pulls into the line.

Level 2.5 (the mall)

south-level-2-5There’s a food court tucked away on the west side.  I’ve never eaten there, so no idea.  16,000 sq.ft.   No Yelp page. Here’s the official description:

This eclectic food court offers several options to choose from: Little Italy, Pacific Rim, American Grill, Fiesta Brava, Express to Go Sandwiches, Salads and Snacks as well as a fabulous Soup Bar.

Caveat cenator…

There’s also the First Aid station, and a FedEx Office supply store (helpful if you need to rent a computer, or purchase a poster tube).  This level also connects to the food court in the North Building, where McDonald’s and other eateries are located.  Starbucks is located on Leve 2.5.  (And on North Level Three, right across from the show floor entrance.  And at the “Daily Grind” in the Hyatt Hotel.)

Comics Beat C2E2 Inside Tip: The restrooms (at least the male ones) next to McDonalds in the North Building are quite large, if utilitarian.  Right next to these bathrooms are vending machines with two microwaves. There’s a vending machine alcove near the retail stores as well.

Level 3  (the show)

mccormick south-level-3C2E2 is only using the front half (Hall A1), so there are no shortcuts you can use.  (There is a hallway behind A2, which leads down to bathrooms, and runs the width of the South Hall from .  But you’ll probably be arrested for trespassing.)

Registration is right across the Grand Concourse, in the North Hall.  They’re just using the front section for check-in. Starbucks is here.

Comics Beat C2E2 Inside Tip: There is an escalator on the east side which runs from the show floor to the Fourth Floor meeting rooms.  This may be blocked by the attendee lines.

Under the food court (that section in the middle) should be restrooms and vending machines.  Unknown if that will be open during the show.

Also, this level connects to the Grand Concourse, so you could wander over to Lakeside, where the National Show Choir Finals will be held in the Arie Crown Theater this weekend.  (Yay!  Theater geeks!)  There may be food vendors available.  Otherwise, forage for vending machines on the second floor of Lakeside (site of the very first C2E2).

Level 4 (the panels)

mccormick south level four editThis is where the event hall is located all…the…way…at…the…(are we there yet)…end…of…the…hallway.  The panel rooms are located here as well.  It’s a nice sunny hallway, so rest when needed.

Comics Beat C2E2 Inside Tip: The Fifth floor is accessible from the Fourth.  The rooms should be locked, but the restrooms and public spaces should be accessible.  A great way to view the crowds below, and escape the hustle and hubbub.

There are also two small panel rooms on the fourth floor, accessible from the North Building: S400b and S400c.  That walkway and hallway is a bit tight, but there are restrooms located over there, and it’s accessible via elevator from the South Building.  That walkway is also a good place for an overlook.

The West Building is also accessible, but distant.  Restaurants will probably not be open, but vending areas might be.

Lots of accessible wall outlets!  I recommend the fifth floor. 

If you can locate access in and out from Lakeside, I highly recommend taking some time to enjoy the lakeshore.  (Test the doors to make sure they open from the outside before shutting them.)  If you have a lot of time in the morning, it’s a nice walk south through the museum complex to the convention center.  The big question, of course, is getting into the convention center from the lake shore… there isn’t a pedestrian overpass if Lakeside is locked.  Perhaps you can find an employee to pop open one of the doors…

Got any suggestions?  Tricks?  Let us know!

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8. A true Dutch treat

Fairy Godfather A true Dutch treatI hope you jumped on those Sutherland Lecture tickets yesterday because they are gone baby gone–I understand that even the waiting list is full. A big fan of John Green’s books, I am nevertheless nervous about being in an auditorium filled with John Green Girls, beautiful, complicated and ka-razy creatures that they are. Or do I infer too much? Come say hello–I’ll be the flustered chaperone in the corner.

In the meantime I am off to White Plains today to visit Brian Kenney’s library and speak to the Youth Services Section of  NYLA tomorrow morning. Then a weekend with our lovely Dutch friends in Rye, taking the adorable Julia, Mads, and Lizze to see Matilda on Broadway, for what else are fee peetvaders for?

share save 171 16 A true Dutch treat

The post A true Dutch treat appeared first on The Horn Book.

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9. An Irish Pub by Margot Justes

It was time to acknowledge that I was a year older, and that meant going out to dinner with family to celebrate.  It’s a lovely tradition, and the birthday person gets to pick the restaurant.

My grandkids already picked their place. We’re going to tea at the Peninsula Hotel. They both love high tea.

For my birthday, I picked an Irish Pub. To clarify, I don’t drink beer, don’t like the flavor or the smell, however I love a good meatloaf, and even more, Shepherd’s Pie. The pub had both, and the Shepherd’s Pie was the best I have ever tasted.

Chief O’Neill’s is located on 3471 N. Elston, Chicago, IL 60618 773/583-3066 www.chiefonneillspub.com

We started with the Kerrygold Flatbread; caramelized cabbage, roasted potato and Kerrygold Smoked Cheddar. The combination was delicious. My grandson ordered the Bruschetta, because that is his favorite appetizer.

Next on the menu was the Corned Beef and Cabbage, along with a really delicious Guinness Infused Meatloaf-I finally found a way I like beer-in my meatloaf. The Shepherd’s Pie had ground sirloin and veal, along with peas and herbs, topped with browned mashed potatoes. Seasoned perfectly. The Corned Beef Burger was high, served with perfectly done steak fries.

For dessert, we shared a key lime pie, Crème Brulee, and a positively yummy bread pudding with vanilla ice cream.

I was told the beers were good, as was the cider, and Irish coffee.

I have to go back for their Sunday Brunch, and to try the Scotia Eggs; hard boiled eggs wrapped in minced lamb, coated in bread crumbs and fried. I make a simpler recipe at home, just slice the egg in half,  roll it in a breakfast sausage, and cook it in a nonstick skillet.  Makes a great appetizer, or a wonderful breakfast addition.

I loved the decor, a lot of beautifully carved wood, and stained glass. It was a cold day, and we were lucky enough to sit near the fire place. The place is cozy, and the parking was easy and free. Free in Chicago is rare.

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

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10. Grandpa Nick and his Accordion – half tone screen print

Nick playing accordion ©Sparky FirepantsIt’s sometime in the 1940s. A guy plays an accordion in the yard of a Chicago brick walkup. Chin up, with a cocky grin on his face, a cigarette dangles from his lip. He’s hamming it up for the camera, you can see he loves the attention.

This is my Grandpa Nick.

Sifting through old photos today, this one jumped out at me for all the reasons above. It was so iconic, I decided to make a halftone print. Sometimes we don’t choose what the art will be, it chooses us.

©Sparky Firepants Nick screen

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11. Beograd by Margot Justes

Chicago is a multi cultural city, and one of the wonderful aspects of that diversity are the ethnic restaurants.  I recently went to Beograd Cafe, a Serbian restaurant located at 2933 W. Irving Park Rd. Chicago Il 60618 (773/478-7575) www.beogradchicago.com

I posted the address and phone number, just in case you’re in the Chicago area, and want to try this restaurant. The food is positively scrumptious.

My next door neighbors and friends are Serbian, and I have had Serbian food at their house. I have also visited Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia, and the food is similar, so the cuisine as a whole was not a surprise, but it was well prepared, fresh and utterly scrumptious.

We started with the Shopska salad; tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and feta cheese. Then we moved on to the Burek, a savory dish made with filo dough and filled with cheese and spinach, potato or cheese and meat. They have other fillings, but we sampled the three I listed. This is a huge round dinner plate size of goodness, and they didn’t skimp on any ingredients. I tasted all three and had no favorite. I’d go back just for the Burek. Next time I’ll order one to go.

We also ordered a meat plate, the Beograd special that included lamb, chevapchichi, a traditional Serbian sausage, pork sausages, pork chops, and Serbian style hamburgers, along with ajvar, a vegetarian spread made with roasted red peppers and eggplant that went really well with the warm and delicious hot bread.  

We didn’t skimp on desserts either, there were crapes, I tasted the Nutella version which was excellent, we also ordered a Dobosh Torte, seven layers of thin sponge cake, layered  with a rich chocolate cream, and a walnut torte.

To finish the meal we had Serbian coffee, very much like the Greek and Turkish versions but not quite as strong.

I found out they’re open for breakfast and I have plans to go back for breakfast, and certainly dinner.

If you try the restaurant, let me know how you like.

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

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12. Moving moment No. 6

Jake 375x500 Moving moment No. 6Ooh, who remembers this one? In 1982, the library systems of Chicago, Milwaukee, and San Francisco banned Margot Zemach’s Jake and Honeybunch Go to Heaven from their collections (Chicago, from where I followed the whole story avidly, did include it in its two regional research libraries). Unlike the headlines, still popular today, that too-loosely use the term “censorship” to describe any effort to remove a book from a library (it ain’t censorship unless the effort succeeds), this was the real thing: local governments, through their libraries, actively refusing to stock a book because of “partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” This was the book that made me realize that librarians could be their own worst enemies: I recall one librarian interviewed in an NPR story about the flap who actually said, “when WE do it, it’s selection, not censorship.” That is exactly backwards.

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13. Mike Royko: One More Time


Mike Royko (right), in conversation with Studs Terkel

If you called Chicago home at some point during the second-half of the twentieth century, you probably don’t require an introduction to Mike Royko, or to the work he produced as a columnist for the Chicago Daily News, the Sun-Times, and the Tribune. If you digested these newspapers on a regular basis (you know, as people did before the “reality talkies”), you knew him as a Pulitzer Prize winner with working-class roots, sparse and specific with language, sparser still with pretension, hypocrisy, and corrupt politicking. Royko would have turned eighty-one today—we publish a solid sampling of his work including Early Royko: Up Against It in Chicago, For the Love of Mike: More of the Best of Mike Royko, Royko in Love: Mike’s Letters to Carol, and One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko, from which the excerpt below is drawn. “Ticket to the Good Life Punched with Pain” is later Royko—written just after Rodney King’s beating at the hands of the LAPD and six years before Royko’s premature death at age 64—but a classic example of the writer’s sense of justice and outrage, coupled with an everyday kind of diction that spared no humor or humility, even when framing the dark side of a radically changing America.

So, with a hat tip to Royko, the piece follows below:

March 19, 1991

Ticket to Good Life Punched with Pain

The police chief of Los Angeles is being widely condemned because of the now-famous videotaped flogging of a traffic offender.

But Chief Daryl Gates, while refusing to resign, suggests that the brutal beating might have been an uplifting act that could bring long-range positive results for the beating victim.

As the chief put it at a press conference Monday:

“We regret what took place. I hope he [Rodney King, the beating victim] gets his life straightened out. Perhaps this will be the vehicle to move him down the road to a good life instead of the life he’s been involved in for such a long time.”

I hadn’t thought of it that way, but there could be something in what Chief Gates says.

There’s no doubt that King, 25, hasn’t been an exemplary citizen, although he’s no John Dillinger. When the police stopped him for speeding, he was on parole for using a tire iron to threaten and rob a grocer.

But as Chief Gates said, the experience of being beaten, kicked, and shot with an electric stun gun might be what it takes to “move him down the road to a good life.”

Who knows, in a few years when all of this is forgotten, a reporter might drive out to a nice house in a California suburb and find a peaceful Rodney King pushing a mower across his lawn.

The reporter might ask: “Mr. King, what is it that moved you down the road to a good life?”

“That’s a good question,” Mr. King might reply, “and I’ll be glad to explain it to you. You’ll have to excuse me if I wobble and drool a bit; my face has nerve damage and my coordination hasn’t been the same since they damaged my brain.”

“Of course.”

“But to get back to your question. I think it was after L.A.’s finest hit me about fifty or fifty-five times with their clubs. As you recall, some of the fillings flew out of my teeth and one of my eye sockets sort of exploded.”

“Must have been a tad uncomfortable.”

“Yes. And at that point, I’m pretty sure that those nine skull fractures and internal injuries had already occurred, my cheekbone was fractured, one of my legs was broken, and I had this burning sensation from being zapped with that electric stun gun. I was feeling kind of low.”

“That’s to be expected.”

“Right. But as I was lying there, and they were getting in a few final kicks, and then sort of hog-tying my hands to my legs and dragging me along the ground, I said to myself: ‘Why not try to look at the bright side?’”

“And did you?”

“Yes. I thought: ‘Well, one of my legs isn’t broken; one of my eye sockets isn’t fractured; one of my cheekbones isn’t broken. And although my skull is fractured, my head remains attached to my body; and while fillings have popped out of my teeth, I still have the teeth.’ And I said to myself: ‘Half a body is better than none.’”

“Very inspiring.”

“Thank you. And I had a chance to think about why the police were treating me that way. It was their way of telling me that speeding is an act of antisocial behavior and I had been very bad, bad, bad.”

“You have unusual insight.”

“I try. And I thought that if only I had led the life of a model citizen, this wouldn’t have happened to me. Let’s face it. The L.A. police never fracture the skull of the president of the chamber of commerce, the chief antler in the Loyal Order of Moose, or the head of the PTA. No, it was my past history of antisocial behavior that brought it on.”

“But they had no way of knowing you were on parole.”

“Yes, but I’m sure they could guess just by the look of me. Be honest, I don’t look at all like the head of the PTA, do I?”


“Then, later, when Police Chief Gates said that the beating, although regrettable, could be the vehicle that would get me on the road to the good life, everything became clear. I realized that the beating would turn my life around and be a one-way ticket to the good life.”

“The chief’s words inspired you?”

“Not exactly. To be honest Chief Gates’ words convinced me that he had to be as dumb an S.O.B. as ever opened his mouth at a press conference.”

“But you said he helped you to a good life.”

“That’s right, he did.”


“When I took his police department to court, that jury awarded me a couple of million in damages, and I’ve been leading the good life ever since.”

“I don’t think that’s what the chief had in mind.”

“I don’t think that chief had anything in mind.”

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14. From Black Sox to Three-Peats


Chicago sportswriting is synonymous with, well, um, as far as I know: dude who had a peg leg; dude who has the same initials as that one guy in the Sega Genesis-era Moonwalker game circa 1990; dudes who did coordinated shuffling (including dude who appeared at Wrestlemania II and was the subject of the Fat Boys’ “Chillin’ with the Refrigerator”); that one team with the curse; that other team, which once featured Bobby Jenks, who looks like Bobby from King of the Hill; dudes with the sticks that make it impossible to get a beer at the Whirlaway Lounge, assorted evenings October through April; dudes whose team is named after an 1871 domestic disaster; and various other dudes, lady dudes, mimeograph machines, folded and unfolded periodicals, and residual jouissance. Bear down, Bull up or something. Confusing Harry Caray with Andy Rooney many times as a Midwestern pre-adolescent given free range with the remote control.

But seriously: you know who really knows Chicago sportswriting? Ron Rapoport, longtime sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and the Los Angeles Daily News and a sports commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition. Rapoport’s most recent edited anthology From Black Sox to Three-Peats: A Century of Chicago’s Best Sportswriting from the Tribune, Sun-Times, and Other Newspapers assembles one hundred of the best columns and articles from our local rags to tell the unforgettable, occasionally unaccountable, and incomparable history of Chicago sports. The Tribune recently praised the book as a “flip-page feast for sports fans,” and the personnel discussed needs no introduction: “What writers, what characters, what moments!”

Rapoport is coming to town for a whirlwind series of appearances, so stay tuned for spots on NBC Chicago’s Weekend Morning News, Rick Kogan’s radio show, WBEZ, WLS Radio with Richard Roeper, WGN, Sportstalk Live, Chicago Tonight, and ESPN Radio Chicago.

Want to catch the man in person? Stop by the Billy Goat Tavern (430 N. Michigan Avenue) at 5 PM on Thursday, September 19th, for a reading and signing.

In the meantime, read more about the book here.


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15. Guest Post: Robert Michaels

Today's guest brings us a little excerpt from his family-friendly book Gazpacho.


The Arrival

Oh what a glorious light it was, so brilliant, bold and white. The light was so magnificent and powerful that I struggled in vain with my yet unopened eyes to gaze directly upon it. At first, with only but a glance and then with only a glimpse, I attempted to shield my newborn sight with the aid of the tiny hands and fingers that appeared there before me all aglow and bathed by the radiant light.

I quickly learned that each precious digit was mine to command. And, once I did, every one of them was sent out on the same mission of exploration, toward the light, filled with the hope and desire to touch it. Floating mere inches above me from where I lay, the light hovered ablaze, in all of its divine splendor, just out of reach. I soon came to understand that the light was never meant for me to touch in that way, but it was there for me to feel in a different way, instead. From somewhere deep inside myself I felt the incredible presence that was within it and it reached out to me with a message of love. As my eyes adjusted and grew more accustomed to the light, I marveled to behold a multitude of colorful rays on display. They danced, flickered and sparkled out from its center in every direction possible. All to a dazzling effect that filled me with joy.

Not a sound did it make, but even in the first few moments of my life, I knew that, somehow, the light had come to greet me and to help see me into the world. And I loved the light, almost as much as I felt the presence within it love me. Soon after I had made the connection with it, however, the light pulled away, faded and left. I didn’t like to see it go, but I was so very glad for the time that it had come to be with me. Even more than that, I was ever so grateful for the experience it left me with, to have known, felt, and witnessed something that was that good.

As those moments faded away, all of my physical senses took on a greater awareness. For the first time I heard soothing and comforting voices around me. At first the voices were faint, but before long, I could hear the sound coming from somewhere near me. Although I couldn’t understand exactly what they were talking about, I could feel that they were saying all kinds of nice and wonderful things just for me to hear. Love is also what I felt from them. And even though it was somehow different from the love that I felt from the light, the feelings were unmistakable and I loved them very much too!

So… this is what it’s like to be alive. Well hey, this certainly feels great! I really like it here!

About the Book: Gazpacho , a "Rarus Nimus Foetidus Loquaciatis Rauca Mollis" is a newly discovered species of worm that has the ability to communicate with most every living creature. But what his species is most known for, throughout the bug and animal world, is their highly toxic glands that produce a considerable amount of stink whenever they are stressed or in danger. This toxic "handicap" or stinky "gift", depending on how it comes to be used, sets the stage for Gazpacho's early years just as it serves to enrich his life experiences and fuel his grand adventures. From his birth in the northern forest glen to his plan of becoming the next great singing star and idol sensation, Gazpacho learns of love as he overcomes the many obstacles and prejudices against him to finally summon up the courage to leave home and live out his dream! This is the first book in a series of four that tell Gazpacho's amazing life story!

About the Author: Robert Michaels (Robert A. Nicpon) was born in Chicago, Illinois and he lived there until the age of 7. It was during Robert’s high school years that he discovered his passion for art, and it was in his last year of high school that he decided that he wanted to produce art for a living. In 2006 Robert learned that what really matters the most when producing a work of art is telling “The Story” and telling it well. When this was discerned, Robert received the inspiration to write the story of Gazpacho. With the help of his beloved coauthor Aurora Rose, Gazpacho’s story has grown into a four book series that chronicles Gazpacho’s amazing life.

Visit the author on Facebook:

And buy the book on Kindle:

As usual, you can find Mark at www.FB.com/MarkMillerAuthor

Thanks for stopping by!

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16. Bologna Children's Book Fair

This week over on Turbo Monkey Tales I'm talking about my visit to Bologna in March. 
Follow this LINK to read all about it.


Pearl is coming soon! Next time, what I got up to at ALA Chicago, 2013.

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17. Chicago!

Just a few pics from the Chicago-Madison trip.  Go check out Cynsations for more!

Hancock, Drake, Palmolive
Frosty Lake Michigan

Sky view
Oak Street Beach

One of the places where we were today
Outside Glenbard West

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18. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett (Brett Helquist, illustrator)

If you like The Westing Game, you’re sure to like Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett and illustrated by Brett Helquist (illustrator of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events).   The book jacket says Chasing Vermeer “is a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, disguised as an adventure, and delivered as a work of art.” A famous painting by Jan Vermeer known as A Woman Writing has disappeared and its mysterious thief has threatened to destroy it. Sixth-graders Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay start out as classmates but soon become friends and fellow sleuths as they boldly venture to follow a trail of clues and track down the missing painting.  Using their wits and intuition, they solve the puzzle of the painting’s disappearance and its mysterious thief  . Chasing Vermeer reminds me a bit of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Petra finds an old used book called Lo! that tells of coincidences throughout time.  As Petra thinks, “Why wasn’t more time . . .  spent studying things that were unknown or not understood .  . . ?  . . . To try to piece together a meaning behind events that didn’t seem to fit?” Perhaps there are no coincidences–perhaps life is really full of patterns and cosmic synchronicity.  Petra dreams of [...]

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19. Review roundup&#8211;Cat Girl&#8217;s Day Off

Like I said yesterday, people are loving our spring books just as much as they loved those we published in the fall (for which we’re still getting reviews in–maybe I should do another roundup of those).

Here’s what people are saying about Kimberly Pauley’s Cat Girl’s Day Off:


In a multicultural family bestowed with supernatural abilities, such as mind reading and laser vision, Nat Ng believes her ability to communicate with cats is more of an embarrassment than a special talent. Only her family and her two best friends, exuberant Oscar and drop-dead gorgeous Melly, know her secret. When a production crew filming a remake of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off comes to the teens’ Chicago high school, Nat reluctantly agrees to join her friends as an extra. Nat might believe that her talent is unexceptional, but cat-loving readers will thoroughly enjoy where her ability leads her as she tours through the same Chicago landmarks seen in Ferris Bueller. This title has the light, buoyant humor of a Meg Cabot book, with the same blend of superpowers and high-school life that won Pauley many fans with Sucks to Be Me (2008). And the cats! Helping, hindering, sniffing out bad guys, sneering at good guys, the cats shamelessly rule.

Publishers Weekly (full review):

Pauley (Still Sucks to Be Me) offers amusing insights into the minds of cats, snappy dialogue, and a fast-paced plot. Readers should easily relate to Nat, and cat-lovers in particular will find a lot to enjoy in this romp.

Kirkus Reviews (full review):

. . . Since there’s no one else ready and able to rescue Easton, Nat and her pair of slightly off-beat friends take on the job. This leads to one perilous situation after another, many of them featuring the italicized thoughts—appropriately laconic and snarky—of the various cats that Nat seeks out for help. Her bumpy budding romance with classmate Ian adds an amusing love interest to the mix. The fantasy elements, solidly grounded in an otherwise real world, seem ever-so-believable. Lively conversation, strong characterizations and a fast pace make this a breezy read. The funny feline thoughts are catnip for the audience.

A worthwhile adventure and an easy sell for feline fanciers who already know what their pets are saying.

School Library Journal (if you are a subscriber, you can access the full review on their site; otherwise, look in the April 2012 print edition):

Pauley’s homage to Chicago and her favorite teen movie is entertaining, hilarious, and exceptionally creative. Populated with wonderfully eccentric and endearing characters, this lighthearted comedy will be an instant hit, especially among teen and tween girls. One thing is for certain—readers will never again look at their feline friends in the same way.

Charlotte’s Library (full review):

Cat Girl’s Day Off is fast a

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20. Studs Terkel: A Centenary Remembrance

STUDS TERKEL (1912–2008)

“I love thee, infamous city!”

Baudelaire’s perverse ode to Paris is reflected in Nelson Algren’s bardic salute to Chicago. No matter how you read it, aloud or to yourself, it is indubitably a love song. It sings, Chicago style: a haunting, split-hearted ballad.

Perhaps Ross Macdonald said it best: “Algren’s hell burns with a passion for heaven.” In this slender classic, first published in 1951 and, ever since, bounced around like a ping-pong ball, Algren tells us all we need to know about passion, heaven, hell. And a city.

He recognized Chicago as Hustler Town from its first prairie morning as the city’s fathers hustled the Pottawattomies down to their last moccasin. He recognized it, too, as another place: North Star to Jane Addams as to Al Capone, to John Peter Altgeld as to Richard J. Daley, to Clarence Darrow as to Julius Hoffman. He saw it not so much as Janus-faced but as the carny freak show’s two-headed boy, one noggin Neanderthal, the other noble-browed. You see, Nelson Algren was a street-corner comic as well as a poet.

He may have been the funniest man around. Which is another way of saying he may have been the most serious. At a time when pimpery, licksplittery and picking the poor man’s pocket have become the order of the day—indeed, officially proclaimed as virtue—the poet must play the madcap to keep his balance. And ours.

Unlike Father William, Algren did not stand on his head. Nor did he balance an eel on his nose. He just shuffled along, tap dancing now and then. His appearance was that of a horse player who had just heard the news: he had bet her across the board and she’d come in a strong fourth. Yet, strangely, his was not a mournful mien. He was forever chuckling to himself and you wondered. You’d think he was the blue-eyed winner rather than the brown-eyed loser. That’s what was so funny about him. He did win.

A hunch: his writings may be read, aloud and to yourself, long after acclaimed works of Academe’s darlings, yellowed on coffee tables, have been replaced by acclaimed works of other Academe’s darlings. To call on a Lillian Hellman phrase, he was not a “a kid of the moment.” For in the spirit of a Zola or a Villon, he has captured a piece of that life behind the billboards. Some comic, that man.

At a time when our values are unprecedentedly upside-down—when Bob Hope, a humorless millionaire, is regarded as a funny man while a genuinely funny man, a tent show Toby, is regarded as our president—Algren may be remembered as something of a Gavroche, the gamin who saw through it all, with an admixture of innocence and wisdom. And indignation.

—excerpted from Terkel’s Introduction to the Sixtieth-Anniversary Edition of Nelson Algren’s Chicago: City on the Make


It’s impossible to pick a representative interview from the hundreds conducted by Terkel in his lifetime, but this clip from 1961 with James Baldwin, and its opening—Bessie Smith’s Back Water Blues, which Baldwin remarks inspired his “forthcoming novel” (Another Country)—is good enough to take your breath away:

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21. Chicago Was Freaking Awesome

Chicago 2012

Can you see us?

Filed under: Chicago

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22. 2012 Printers Row Lit Fest was a blast!

Okay, I know I’m rather delayed in posting about this… but at least I did get around to it!

This year I headed off to Chicago, IL again to attended my 2nd year at the Printers Row Lit Fest. Last year I had a blast, met a lot of wonderful people and sold a bunch of books. This year didn’t disappoint either!

Let’s start at the beginning.

I flew into O’Hare Thursday evening (June 7th). Last year was great, but I didn’t get to see any of Chicago and was determined to fix that this year! My sweetie Sean Hayden was kind enough to pick me up (for those who didn’t know, we met for the first time at PR last year!)


We found our hotel, which I found using Expedia and got for an awesome 32$ a night. It was the Extended Stay American Chicago in Hillside. Considering the price, I was beyond relieved to find out it was not only easy to get to, but in excellent condition. Though not at all fancy (and no maid service though you could exchange sheets and towels at the front desk) it was VERY clean, the room was huge with a full kitchenette and everything worked. I would certainly stay there again.

On Friday we toured Chicago a bit, and visited the most awesome Navy Pier. It was a hot day, but we had a load of fun watching the boats, touring the shops and eating funnel cakes!  We had dinner at the famous Bubba Gumps. Which was pretty neat, though I found my memories of the details in the movie Forrest Gump weren’t so great.

Saturday was the big first day of Printers Row! Which meant getting up at like 5am to have everything ready and loaded. Luckily traffic was awesome and we got to the site early and were able to drive in to unload. Everyone else started arriving and it was a flurry of hellos and set up. The weather was hot but otherwise fantastic. The crowd didn’t seem to be as big as last year, but they were buying! A lot of people stopped to chat, browse (and buy) books and get autographs. Luckily we had a cooler full of ice to keep us from melting in the heat. By 6pm we were closing up (and btw, yes that is a verrrrry long day) and packing our stuff into the center of the tent. We all had dinner across the street where we ate and chatted for a few hours and then I think we all went back to hotels for some sleep.

Sunday we were there early again, set everything up again, and kept on selling! Flashy Fiction and Other Insane Tales did absolutely fantastic! (Of course it does have a really cool cover Add a Comment

23. See All the Main Attractions of Chicago for Only $35 Per Person

That’s $35.00 per person for three days!!

Not bad, eh?

Okay. So about our trip to Chicago… correction, our SECOND trip to Chicago.

We took our first trip with our boys. Which was fun, but we really didn’t get to do anything WE wanted to do. We spent our time touring museums, which was fun, but I know Kevin was disappointed because we didn’t have time to actually tour the city.

So we went back. Just me and Kevin. And did I mention this was our first trip, just the two of us, in twelve years?? Every other time, we’ve taken the boys. Which was fun, don’t get me wrong, but getting to hang out with just my husband and best friend in the world?

Awesome sauce.

We flew out of Branson. We had planned on using some of our frequent flyer miles (we have so many now that Kevin and I can take THREE round-trip, er, trips now), but honestly? It was actually cheaper to fly out of Branson than it would have been to cash in our miles. And besides, we wanted to cash those miles in on longer flights, like to either coast, than to a city only a little over an hour away.

Branson airport is tiny. As in DINKY. And it looks like a lodge. In fact, it’s so small, that it has one runway – for both take offs and landings. And it was a heck of a lot better than having to drive all the way to St. Louis, which is four hours away, as opposed to Branson, which is only 45 minutes away.

We flew Air Tran and, meh, there wasn’t anything exceptional about it, but then again, I wouldn’t really want there to be. It’s cheap for a reason – don’t expect the royal treatment, but we got up there and back safely, so that’s all that matters.

I actually wanted to stay up there a bit longer than we did (it worked out to be 2 1/2 days), but Kevin didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boys alone for longer than that and it actually worked out better this way anyway – Chicago is great, but we were ready to come home after two days.

We stayed at the same hotel – the River Hotel on Wacker street. (I know – what a name!!). It was $179.00 per night (we booked it through hotels.com), and though that sounds expensive, actually, that IS expensive, it was worth it to us because the hotel is right across the street from the Chicago River in the heart of downtown Chicago so it was close to everything.


The room itself is small, but we actually upgraded to a room with a kitchenette when we got there, so we saved ourselves breakfast money by just eating cereal every morning.

The hotel has a filtered water station (FREE) near the elevators on each floor, so we also saved ourselves money on bottled water while we were there, too.

We flew into Midway Airport in Chicago. Which is actually a little ways from downtown. I was a little worried about how much money we’d have to spend in taxis while we were there, but I needn’t have worried – when we landed, I noticed that we could take the train directly from the airport all the way to downtown (the orange line). It cost us $2.25 per person to take the train, thereby saving us probably close to $30 or $40 dollars (including tip) if we had taken a taxi from the airport to our hotel. True. We had to lug our suitcase around, but we only took our one big suitcase, since it was only Kevin and me, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. In fact, Chicago’s public transit system is pretty efficient and we didn’t take one taxi the entire time we were there.


We arrived at our hotel around noonish on June

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24. Art Shay on Muddy Waters (including a previously unpublished photograph)

Muddy Waters and his wife Geneva in Chicago, 1951. Image copyright and courtesy of: Art Shay.

Thanks to Paul Berlanga of the Steven Daiter Gallery.


From our editorial director Alan Thomas:

The 100th birthday of the great bluesman Muddy Waters arrives next April, but a recent encounter with an extraordinary (and previously unpublished) photograph of Waters prompts us to start the celebration early. It was made in Chicago in 1951 by photographer Art Shay, who himself celebrated a birthday this past spring—his 90th. Shay is a favorite of ours; his prodigious body of work includes the most memorable images we have of Nelson Algren’s Chicago. He shared his recollections of this photograph for us:

“The editor of the New Yorker ended his review of the new Keith Richards book Life with a plangent line from Richards asserting he could never be as good as Muddy Waters or as black. I met the generally acknowledged Father of Rock and his wife Geneva in 1951. Time magazine had sent me to the south side club in which he was performing. I arrived early as usual and there he was, strumming his guitar and cuddling his woman in the hallway. Slivers of dying winter light came down across the pair from some blessed window giving me barely enough natural light. He strummed a greeting using my name letter by letter. Billy Corgan noticed the first print of Muddy in the trunk of my car and bought it to hang in his studio next to vintage prints of some other music giants like the Beatles, Billie Holliday, and Ella Fitzgerald.”

For more on Muddy Waters, check out our books on issues surrounding blues culture, including:

I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy by Bob Riesman

Urban Blues by Charles Keil

Blue Chicago: The Search for Authenticity in Urban Blues Clubs by David Grazian

Seems like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition by Adam Gussow

And, relatedly:

A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music by George Lewis


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25. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett (Brett Helquist, illustrator)

If you like The Westing Game, you’re sure to like Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett and illustrated by Brett Helquist (illustrator of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events).   The book jacket says Chasing Vermeer “is a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, disguised as an adventure, and delivered as a work of art.” A famous painting by Jan Vermeer known as A Woman Writing has disappeared and its mysterious thief has threatened to destroy it. Sixth-graders Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay start out as classmates but soon become friends and fellow sleuths as they boldly venture to follow a trail of clues and track down the missing painting.  Using their wits and intuition, they solve the puzzle of the painting’s disappearance and its mysterious thief  . Chasing Vermeer reminds me a bit of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Petra finds an old used book called Lo! that tells of coincidences throughout time.  As Petra thinks, “Why wasn’t more time . . .  spent studying things that were unknown or not understood .  . . ?  . . . To try to piece together a meaning behind events that didn’t seem to fit?” Perhaps there are no coincidences–perhaps life is really full of patterns and cosmic synchronicity.  Petra dreams of [...]

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