Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Our Salute to Polish Hip-Hop Culture

We have been quite remiss in neglecting coverage of Chicago's teeming Polish-American community. With a total of 179,868 Polish born as of 2007 Community Survey U.S. Census data, it no longer can boast of being a larger population than Krakow, but Chicago's Poles remain a very formidable presence here.

We heartily apologize for having overlooked this year's big Taste of Polonia festivities in Jefferson Park over the Labor Day weekend. So to compensate, however belatedly, we are offering our readers this bit of interesting Polish culture, seldom experienced in Chicago, genuine Polish hip-hop:

Enjoy! or perhaps we should say: Cieszyć się!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Michelle Obama Should Shut Down Gene & Jude's Hot Dog Stand

Gene & Jude's were ranked best
hot dogs in nation by several surveys
Our petite First Lady, Michelle Obama is in Chicago today to lecture us on inner city "food deserts" and later dine with members of the upper 1% to cajole them out of their money for her spouse's campaign.

As most know, the svelte Michelle has spent her White House years busily sermonizing over the need for healthy food.

She has been shaming and forcing schools into replacing nachos and pizza with carrot sticks. She has bullied soup makers into purging their products of dreaded salt.

And she has sponsored a "National Dance Day" to encourage us sluggards to exercise so that we too might have buttocks and thighs as firm and pert as her very own.

So while she is back here, I say she should take a side trip out to suburban River Grove and safeguard our very lives by shutting down that house of gastronomic terrors and early sclerotic death, Gene & Jude's Hot Dogs.

I was recently out in the near Western Chicago suburbs with a friend who regularly works out that way and he insisted that we lunch at the famous Gene & Jude's hot dog stand.
By 11:30 the place was packed
with lots of city employees

I had never heard of the joint, but he raved about it. He said it was voted the best hot dog in America, bar none. And sure enough, an internet search revealed that it was voted as making America's best hot dog by "Every Day with Rachel Ray" and the "Serious Eats" blog.

When we got there at around 11:30 the place was already packed. The parking lot was 80% full and a line snaked around the interior of the diner-like edifice.

Inside, assembly line style, 11 workers mechanically took and filled orders for Gene & Jude's very limited menu of hot dogs, double dogs and tamales and fries.

All the dogs came with heavily salted, fresh cut, oily fries packed in the wrapper atop the dog. In a rather idiotic nod to Chicago tradition, you can't get ketchup there, even for your fries. But the counter along the walls had at least a dozen full-sized cardboard salt containers, in case you wanted an extra dose.
Self-appointed food
nanny Michelle Obama
I noticed that the place was packed with Chicago city employees (the city is just across River Road) and airport employees. One guy wearing a shirt emblazoned with "Airport Security" walked out with about eight orders. Seems like the TSA crowd needs oily fast-food fare to fuel up for a busy afternoon of goosing and groping the travelling citizenry.

The place has been inducted into the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame, but I wasn't exactly bowled over by their dogs. I'd rather mine slathered in green relish and mustard with tomato slices, raw onion bits, a kosher pickle atop and a dash of celery salt as opposed to Gene and Jude's rather Spartan garnishment of mere onions and mustard.
Still the fact remains that the iconic establishment is very popular and wildly unhealthful. This is of particular import to the Chicago taxpayers, since so many city payrollers flock to the joint. We will be stuck with the bills for their artery cleaning and post-gripper care and future gripper prevention.

Self-appointed food nanny Michelle Obama should swoop right in there and snatch up those death provending salt cans. She should confiscate those cancerous red hots and pour those gallons of artery clogging oil (is it unsaturated?) down the drain.

Michelle should give them the ultimatum -- fresh raw vegetables and fruit juices fill your menu from now on or out of business you go!

But just as Chicago's school kids are filling cafeteria trash bins with Michelle's healthful celery stalks and carrot sticks -- with a menu like that -- out of business Gene and Jude's would go.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Now Durbin Wants Baseball Chewing Ban

Sox Hall of Fame 2nd Baseman
and noted tobacco chewer Nelly Fox

This Illinois Democrat Senator Dick Durbin is getting to be one annoying asshole.

First he sponsored a bill to preclude banks from collecting fees for debit card use from his pals at Walmart and his other big retailer contributors.

Consequently, banks now have to shake you and me down $5 a month to underwrite the costs of processing debit card use.

Now Durbin, ever the buttinsky, has urged Major League Baseball to ban chewing tobacco and any other tobacco products during the upcoming World Series.

Let's see, unemployment's effectively above 10%, mortgage foreclosures are still rampant, the cost of living's climbing -- yea, this is what I want my U.S. Senator to be agonizing over -- baseball players dipping Skoal and chewing Red Man.

Nelly Fox must be turning over in his grave.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Schaumburg District 211 Foot-Dragging on Transparency: Teachers Salaries Listed

Million dollar decisions are made at HS District 211's
sparsely attended Board meetings

For several months, parents and taxpayers' advocates have been politely asking the Board of Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 to stream their school board meetings on-line.

This is hardly an onerous request. Many school districts do it gladly to save parents the trouble of getting a baby-sitter and travelling out on a work night to see their elected representatives making decisions that effect their kids.

But the honchos at District 211 have been hemming and hawing and finding scores of obstacles. To hear them explain it, you would think parents and taxpayers were asking them to land a unionized teacher on the moon.

District 211, the state's largest school district, operates 5 High Schools -- Palatine H.S., Schaumburg H.S., Hoffman Estates H.S., William Fremd H.S., James B. Conant H.S. and serves more than 12,500 students from Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Palatine, Schaumburg, and portions of Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Rolling Meadows, Roselle, South Barrington, and Streamwood in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

Those facilities are crawling with hi-tech devices and one would guess more than their share of techno geeky kids who could have a webcam up and running on-line in no time.

So why the High School District 211 foot dragging?

Maybe they would just as soon keep parents and taxpayers in the dark about some of the decisions they make at their meetings.

Like their acquiescence in the bloated District 211 teachers and administrators salaries. Here is a complete list of 2010 District 211 salaries, garnered from the Family Taxpayers Foundation teachers salary database:

Teacher Salary Database

Township HSD 211 2010 - --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Abbott, Charles $69,340
Acosta, Andres $113,227
Adamski, Suzanne $109,033
Adcock, Jason $87,388
Ahn, Mark $68,761
Aikens, James $128,158

CUSD 300 Teachers Rally To Drive Sears To Texas: CUSD 300 Teachers Salaries Listed Here

CUSD 300 union teachers
rallying to milk Sears dry

Posted below are the salaries of all teachers and administrators in the Algonquin/Carpentersville/Hoffman Estates area Community Unit School District 300.

That district runs Dundee High School, H.D. Jacobs High School and Hampshire High School as well as 13 pre-schools, 17 elementary and 6 middle schools in the Northwest Chicago suburbs.

It's been in the news lately since Sears, which was induced to move its corporate HQ and training facility into their taxing district, has threatened to move unless its promised tax breaks are extended.

Interestingly, Sears has been seriously looking at moving out of high-tax, heavily Democrat Illinois to 2 states, Ohio and Texas, which are run by Republican Governors committed to job growth thru low taxes and a laissez faire regulatory posture.

Sears' relocation would cost the area 6,000 private sector jobs at a bare minimum.

The union teachers and education establishment administrators of CUSD 300 have been in a frenzy over the prospect of the tax incentive extension for Sears. They don't want it.

The CUSD 300 Superintendent is one Michael Bregy who just moved into the $242k job and has 96 teachers and administrators who haul down more than $100k a year.

He says he wants some vague, unspecified, "alternatives to be developed" to save Sears' 6,000 jobs while at the same time milking them for all they're worth. Bregy wants "creative thinking" and a resistance to the "hostage mentality" of fearing corporate relocation.

CUSD's education establishment held a big rally yesterday to whip up opposition to the tax incentive for Sears. And if they succeed in pressuring legislators to tax Sears, it is almost a certainty that the corporation will pick up its 6,000 local jobs and simply move.

That reminds me an awful lot of the black sheriff in "Blazing Saddles" who threatened to shoot himself if he didn't get his way. (You can see the hilarious clip of that scene here.)

Here is a complete list of the 2010 teachers and administrators salaries for CUSD 300 as reported by the Carpentersville-based Family Taxpayers' Foundation's Teachers' Salary Database:

Teacher Salary Database
CUSD 300 2010 - --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NAME SALARY Aalfs, James $103,112
Aboy, Cristina $0
Acevedo, Nicole $50,490
Achtstatter, Julie $35,825
Adame, Shiloh $49,349
Adams, Belinda $53,478
Adler, Leigh $77,328

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chicagoan Jan Terri in Running For Worst Music Video Ever

Chicago Chanteuse and
YouTube Sensation, Jan Terri

With more than 1.7 million views so far, Chicagoan, Jan Terri may well win the YouTube competition for worst music video ever.

The charming Windy City chanteuse has created a video containing her ethereal musical strains accompanied by panoramic Chicago sites -- the skyline, Edens Expressway, (the former) Sears Tower, River North, the lakefront, O'Hare airport.

Particularly of note is the lyrically elegant and grammatically interesting line: "I can't take it no more."

We are told she was entirely serious when she did this:

Ms. Terri has a complete CD (we are not making this up)containing this and many more of her interesting vocal offerings which may be perused here.

It comes with free shipping.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's Skokie Police Seatbelt Revenue Day

For about the past 40 years, the Village of Skokie has been trying to figure out ways of revitalizing its decrepit downtown section.

They tried calling it a "Fashion Center" hoping to attract clothiers to its vacant storefronts, but all it attracted was one of those cheap fruit markets and a bunch of Tae Kwon Do storefront self-defense schools. (These are proving immensely popular now that Skokie is home to many Section 8 apartment dwellers from the old CHA housing projects, including a celebrated member of last summer's Chicago black mob attacks.)

Potemkin Village-style, they tried putting fancy facades in front of all the vacant storefronts with uplifting slogans about a revitalized downtown Skokie. It looked a bit better, but generated not a farthing in new tax revenue.

So it seems that the big-spending, ever burgeoning Skokie government has hit upon a tried and true cash-generating strategy, as old as the small town Mississippi speed trap: shaking down passing motorists.

Today at 9:15 am, there were 4 Skokie Policemen, on foot, conducting a roadblock at the corner of Niles Center Rd. and Lincoln Avenue -- the gateway to (or exit from) Skokie's downtown commercial ghost town.

They were checking for seatbelt use and issuing tickets.

A beautiful clear sunny morning -- scores of cars equipped with airbags and a plethora of hi-tech safety gadgets, on a 30 mph street -- and Skokie is using government force to insure that all you entering and exiting drivers are safely ensconced in your seatbelts.

And to see that you are safely relieved of your cash.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Germany's Perplexing Love Affair With David Hasselhoff

To Germans the American B grade
actor is bigger than the Beatles

People say that the Germans have no sense of humor, but I say that is a bum rap.

For instance, Germans think that David Hasselhoff is one of the greatest pop singers of all time.

Now that is funny!

I first learned this several years back when a German friend told me that David Hasselhoff had become a big star in Germany.

My first reaction was: who? But upon reflection I recalled that he was the big, hunky grade B TV actor of 70s soap operas, 80s Knight Rider and 90s Baywatch fame.

And then my German friend apprised me that Hasselhoff was famous in Germany as a pop music singing sensation.

To which I replied: You've got to be kidding!

You see, among sentient Americans, the chisel-featured, barrel-chested, 59 year old German-American is barely considered an actor. And he decidedly is not considered a singer.

There is one basic reason for this and that is that David Hasselhoff cannot sing.
AOL Radio rated Hasselhoff's big German hit
among the top 100 worst pop songs of all time

Oh yes, he can passably carry a tune, just as any Chicago electrician might after downing several pitchers of beer while out with the boys at the local saloon on karaoke night.

And put him in a hi-tech recording studio with knob-turning, audio witch doctors and a large chorus of back up singers and he might turn out something with a vaguely discernible resemblance to music.

And yet for the past two decades, from '89 to the present (he has a 2011 album at #3 in Austria and high on the German charts), David Hasselhoff has been to German audiences and record buyers, bigger than the Beatles -- better than Elvis.

To Americans, this is befuddling and mind-numbing.

It ranks in incomprehensibility with the adulation that the French have accorded to the asinine 50's American comic actor, Jerry Lewis. The surrender monkeys actually think that Lewis is a comedic genius. YIKES!

In Germany, Hasselhoff cashed in with an output of genuinely banal, garage band-quality, soft rock, reminiscent of AM radio fare from his 80s and 90s TV heyday.
Baywatch buddies Hasselhoff and
Pamela Anderson now (l) and then (r)

Compounding the aural atrocity, Hasselhoff churned out some truly hideous covers of iconic American pop classics.

If you ever really want to ruin your day, just listen to Hasselhoff mangle the soft, vibrant Mamas and the Papas '67 classic, California Dreamin'. (You can hear it here, if you really feel you must.)

And if you live in a high-rise, please, stay away from the balcony if you should decide to listen to Hasselhoff butcher the Beachboys' classic ode to summer fun, California Girls -- you just might be tempted to jump off.

Hasselhoff's European anthem is a tediously droning song entitled, Looking For Freedom. AOL Radio ranked it as #98 on the list of the 100 worst pop songs ever recorded. No self respecting American record label would give it a second glance. No American FM pop station would give it the time of day. Yet this audio atrocity reached #1 on the German and Swiss charts in 1989.

There are 310 million Americans and I would hazard to say that about 200 million of them possess greater vocal talent than David Hasselhoff -- yet he is the one we exported to Europe.

Worse than that, the Germans not only bought his shtick, but they actually think that Hasselhoff is the greatest thing to hit Europe since the panzerfaust --- or the Stuka dive bomber.

Here is Hasselhoff's Looking for Freedom, rated among top 100 worst pop songs of all time by AOL radio, it reached #1 in Germany and Switzerland and #3 in Austria in '89:

Here he mangles Johnny Rivers' Secret Agent Man. (Warning, if you have dogs, please put them in the yard as Hasselhoff's off key screeching may induce them to howl in agony.) This is arguably the worst vocal effort you may ever hear in your lifetime:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Eurovision Song Contest Worried About Muslim Terrorism

Eurovision organizers are worried over possible
Moslem Terrorism at their 2012 event in Baku

The Eurovision Song Contest is a big deal in Europe. It's kind of a super, multinational version of American Idol that has been going on every year since 1956.

But this year, for the first time ever, it is being held in a Moslem country and European officials are scared to death that Moslem terrorists might try to turn the event into an anti-European bloodbath.

Customarily, the event is hosted by the country which produced the preceding year's winning act. Last year it was won by Ell/Nikki, a singing duo from Azerbaijan who aped American pop sounds with almost perfect Midwestern US accents.

As a result, the 2012 event will be held in scenic Baku. (So after Oslo and Dusseldorf, do you think there might be just a little dropoff in Euro music fan attendance this year?)

The event, by tradition should go to Ell/Nikki's country, a former Soviet state with a 99.2% Moslem population, a strong radical Wahabi Muslim sect, an Al Quaeda presence and a history of Moslem terrorism.

As a result, the governing board of the Eurovision Song Contest has taken the odd step of demanding written assurances from the former Soviet, Moslem host country of: 1) security guarantees for the thousands of participants and guests 2) a relaxation of Soviet-style travel and visa impediments and 3) guarantees of freedom of speech and press in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Eurovision's chief honcho, anticipating resistance from the former Soviets issued a blunt statement:

 "A commitment to these fundamental circumstances has been the cornerstone of the success of the Eurovision Song Contest since its foundation in 1956," says Dr. Frank-Dieter Freiling, Chairman of the Reference Group, adding that "2012 is no exception to that."

(I have a copy of the Eurovision news release which contains all of the above. The news release has strangely disappeared from the Press section news release archive of the Eurovision Song Contest website.)
In an email to the Chicago Lampoon, Jarmo Siim, a PR shill for Eurovision tried to pooh-pooh the unusual request as a routine matter. But when asked if the same worried request was made of the last 2 previous host countries, Germany and Norway, he sidestepped the question.

No doubt, the Eurovision bureaucrats, with a strong interest in making things seem normal, will play down their worries over Europeans getting massacred by crazed Moslems at the May 2012 event in Baku.

But I'm taking no chances. I think I'll just stay home this year and enjoy my old clips of ABBA's 1974 Eurovision Song Contest win. Here is the official 1974 Eurovision video of ABBA singing its winning entry, Waterloo:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Benson & Hedges 100s: Saturday Smoking Lounge

It's odd, but true. The 100mm cigarette or "longs", so common today did not exist until 1967 when Benson & Hedges introduced them.

Benson and Hedges was a long-standing British cigarette manufacturer which was the official supplier of smokes to the British Royal family.

Its American branch was bought by Phillip Morris in 1954. The brand was among the least popular here until 1967, when B&H retained the ad agency of Wells, Rich, Greene to introduce its new, longer, 100 mm cigarette.

They came out with a series of semi-humorous, Clio-award winning ads playing, tongue-in-cheek, on the "disadvantages" of the longer cigarette.

Benson & Hedges became a big seller almost instantly and competing brands hurried out their own 100s to try and keep their brand loyalty.

Here is one of the Clio award-winning commercials. Look closely at the character in the boat, he is an, as yet undiscovered, McLean Stevenson: