Tuesday, March 31, 2009

24 11pm-midnight

Mondays 9pm ET/PT
Teakwood Lane Productions
Twentieth Century Fox Television

A pretty cool episode with a terrifying cliffhanger ending.


Humor in unspeakable horror

A different perspective on the Holocaust. Except for you, Mengele, you miserable bastard.

Telling Jokes in Auschwitz from Reel 13 on Vimeo.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Halcyon Productions
Warner Brothers Television

Cameron finally sees some action in this episode. As for the John Henry lab: what is this leading up to? And will Miss Weaver discover Cameron?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Have you tried to help someone with dating?

It's my opinion that: If a woman is nice and normal, then any dating problems she may have come down to four problems which can be solved relatively easily: hair, makeup, wardrobe, and if necessary, weight loss. If she's not nice, she may need to change that; if she's not normal, she may need help. But the rest is easily taken care of, I suspect, with some helpful coaching by married women who know a thing or two about them.

It's also my opinion that: if a man is smart, has a good job or good career track, is decent-looking, and is normal, then dating problems can be solved relatively easily: wardrobe, hygiene, and he must come off as a smooth, alpha male. He doesn't need to exude sexuality like a muscular Calvin Klein model. But he must give a date the idea that she might want to bear his children someday. Even if he is kind of a dork or a nerd, he must overcome that with confidence and savvy. Perhaps that's not so easy to coach. I just attended an event where I ran into a guy I know who is dating and unfortunately comes off, it seems to me, as a little effeminate. I doubt that's his intention as he very much wants to get married. I wanted to tell him what his problem was but wasn't sure what to say. It didn't matter as he didn't give me the chance. Also, he didn't ask my opinion. After all, what do I know?

I know that to at least one person, whom I once knew rather well, he comes off as weird. And if that's her opinion, she's not the only woman who thinks so. "Weird" means he isn't normal, and the last thing a woman wants is to be engaged to or married to a weird guy. I know a few weird guys, and they're all single. Maybe this is an obstacle that isn't so easy to overcome.

How to handle an obnoxious table guest?

I stayed with a family this past shabbos (Vayikra) who welcomed me into their modest home which they share with their six wonderful children. I am withholding their names because they are modest, they don't have internet access, and I don't want to say anything bad about them or allow readers to figure out who their other guest was. Suffice to say I hope I made a more favorable impression than this guy, whom we'll call Ned. Because that's the first name I thought of that is not actually his own.

I feel bad for Ned. He is an older single. I don't know if he's NBM (Never Been Married). He is short, overweight and a little funny-looking. I didn't ask him why he wore suspenders and a belt today. I'm tempted to infer he is bitter and angry despite coming off as somewhat friendly. The last time I visited and stayed with this family, he was there. That time, Ned was so angry at my host he got up from his seat and walked over to my host to yell at him about something my host repeated several times that he had absolutely no control over: while Ned was on vacation, someone removed some food of his from a common-area refrigerator at Ned's and my host's shul. Okay, a mild annoyance. But not a major grievance, not something to get worked up about, and not something to attack my host about! I told a confidante about this exchange, and she said, "I wouldn't invite him back." But my host is a mensch, and today, there was Ned. This time, my hosts explained they were leaving for an 18-hour drive next Monday morning, around 0600, giving themselves a spare 42 hours or so before yontif begins Wednesday evening. And Ned gave them a hard time about this, suggesting they weren't allowing enough time. Is he stupid, or does he just like bugging people? The other big topic of discussion, which Ned initiated, is that the power locks on his car weren't working. They would unlock, he claimed, without warning and with no provocation. After listening to his crap for much of my meal (which was delicious, BTW--thank you, Mrs. ----), this struck me as darkly hilarious. I helpfully tried to explain that the only likely fix was to replace the power locks, which would cost about $500. Ned demanded how I knew this, and I explained that when I visited a Carmax showroom, one of the advertised options for a used car is power lock installation, and that's the approximate cost. I then asked Ned how old his car was, because maybe it wasn't worth replacing the power locks. Ned refused to answer my question and sardonically asked if I drive a Lexus. (It's in the shop.) My host jumped in and helpfully suggested disconnecting the power from the power locks and just operating them manually. He was already annoyed because he had told Ned at least twice that discussing power locks at a shabbos table wasn't appropriate. Throughout these conversations, I discerned Ned is one of those guys to whom everything must be explained twice and slowly. We also discussed the Chicago grid system (address numbering) and how it is superior to Brooklyn's, and Ned said, "I don't know what you're talking about." Well, when you put it that way, I'm not going to take the time to explain it to you.

If Ned were 20, it would be nice for someone close to Ned to say, "Don't give your host a hard time about something that happened at his shul that he told you he had no control over; don't ask your hosts about their vacation timing since they didn't ask you for your opinion; and if your host suggests a topic is inappropriate, then just drop it." Ned is closer to 60, and if someone tried to help him like that, I suspect he wouldn't take the suggestions seriously.

Chicago taxpayer dollars at work: unused meters

Hundreds of these parking meters running on empty at an installation cost of $500/ea. From www.theexpiredmeter.com.

DEVELOPING: Parking Meter Wasteland

Something doesn’t seem right in the 2nd Ward.

Let me explain.

Back in late October, the city installed 1250 meters in what can only be called a parking dead zone, near the Illinois Medical District.

Allegedly, it had something to do with keeping people from abandoning vehicles or parking for extended periods of time in that area. But, in reality, there’s a school and a church, a few apartment buildings, but no retail businesses around there. In other words, there’s no reason to go there and park your car.

But now, even more meters are being installed in that general area. Hundreds and hundreds of them.

LAZ Parking employees were on the street inserting timing devices into the meter heads when I was there and hoped the meter installation would there by yesterday or today.

The story was brought to my attention by Carol Marin who is doing a story on this and other meter related issues for NBC 5 at 10:00 PM. Parking meters as far as the eye could see, and no cars there to park there. I tried to count them but I lost track after a while.

The city nor representatives from 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti’s office knew how many meters were being installed.

“You should have seen it before,” says Andy Pierce, a spokesman for Ald. Fioretti’s office. “When the meters went up, the cars stopped parking.”

But when I asked Pierce, why an expensive traffic congestion tool like parking meters, were being installed in large quantities to control a situation that could have been handled less expensively with signs and/or increased police patrols, he said, “Let me say it again, before meters, the area was jammed with cars. Meters changed the commuters behavior.”

The area in question is essentially between Ashland and Wood, and 13th and 15th streets. Generally blocks and blocks of parking meters for a wasteland of vacant lots.

Based on a cost of approximately $500 to install each meter, you’re looking at around a $1 million in hardware and no one to park there and feed the meters.

What kind of return on investment is that?

If the city is footing the bill for this when we already have a multi-million dollar budget hole this is an absolutely irresponsible expense.

If LAZ Parking is footing the bill, aren’t they going to be furious that they have to pay to install hundreds of meters that will NEVER generate income?

Well, maybe in 75 years.

Brent Seabrook blasts one by Brodeur at 3:36 of OT

After an embarrassing record-breaking loss in Newark two weeks ago, beating Jersey at home in overtime must have been satisfying for Chicago.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hardee's new ad with Top Chef beauty

Oh, come on. If she ate one of those Bacon Thickburgers every day, she wouldn't look like that for long.

24 10pm-11pm

Mondays 9pm ET/PT
Imagine Entertainment
Teakwood Lane Productions
Twentieth Century Fox Television

Apologies for not updating my 24 commentary. It has been intense over the last several weeks. Aside from Special Agent in Charge Moss not believing Special Agent Walker, and the politics beneath the president in the White House, to me what stands out is this: a sitting U.S. Senator of considerable tenure, Jonas Hodges, played with precision by Jon Voight, is orchestrating the import of a biological weapon into the U.S. for his own nefarious plans. What an appalling act of treason. I'm hopeful Jack and Tony will be able to head off the planned detonation of this weapon somewhere along the East Coast.

Aliens invade Friday

This looks like a lot of fun!

Sharks 5, Blackhawks 6 (Shootout)

How could the Blackhawks blow a two-goal lead in the final two minutes? At least they managed to win and add two points to their remarkable season points total. They are still two points above #5 seed Vancouver for the #4 seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. (Against Vancouver.)

Booing Blackhawk alumnus Jeremy Roenick during his shootout scoring attempt was bad form. Roenick was a quintessential Blackhawk, thrilling fans in Chicago Stadium during his too-brief tenure here. He didn't deserve the shower of boos he absorbed during his unsuccessful shot.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

City Hall corruption

My friend and former high school classmate Matt's comment after I posted an article about people close to the mayor being convicted and sentenced to prison, while Hizzoner Da Mare stays above it all:

Ken, know this. While I am no fan of the mayor, he is a product of Chicago politics... The Chicago Political Machine. Changing a part will not fix the machine. How do you change something that has foundations as old as the city itself? The unions and how corrupt they've become are an equal part of the travesty. Hope you're well.


Matt is correct. Corruption is part of the Chicago culture. And that is what we need to change. Too many people here sigh, shake their heads, wring their hands, and simply assume that corruption, graft, greed and payoffs are simply the cost of keeping the city running. And that there's nothing that can be done about that. It isn't true. I don't have all the answers. There is no Holy Grail (or if you prefer, silver bullet). We see the costs every year as the city continues to fall apart, the budget is a mess, and taxes go up--every year. Was it this bad during the Daley-free interregnum, 1976-1989? NO, it wasn't. The three mayors balanced budgets. Taxes weren't so high. The city wasn't broke, and the mayors didn't resort to selling off huge pieces of the city (Skyway, Midway Airport, parking meters) for short-term financial gain. It can be done. Once we view corruption as something to be defeated rather than something to live with/deal with, the high cost of corruption can be redirected to something more substantive: our pocketbooks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kids to see Watchmen?

Very early spoiler in this post.

I attended a 6pm screening of Watchmen last Monday night, and I was horrified to see children in the seats of what I had read was an unusually violent film. Here is my email message to the theatre's general manager:

Dear Mr. Brogni:

I filled out an AMC tellamc.com survey about seeing Watchmen at your theatre, and I thought it was fair to tell you I was dissatisfied with my experience. The men's room was almost out of soap. But that's not worth an email message. Why were children under ten years old allowed into Watchmen? Reviews of the film were highly mixed, but there was one consensus: this was not a film for children. I regularly attend R-rated films, and I was shocked by the raw violence and gore in Watchmen. At my weeknight screening, attendance was sparse. One guy was with his three young children, who chatted throughout the first 15 minutes of the film. Fortunately, they left at that point. (As you may know, the film opens with a grisly murder.) Is there something you can do about further restricting a movie that is terribly inappropriate for young children? "No children under 6 after 6" would not have stopped this family, and any restriction you would want to impose would probably violate AMC policy. A solution I just thought of: refuse to sell child-price tickets to R-rated films. Or, if someone attempts to purchase tickets for children to unusually violent films, direct the cashiers to offer an alternative film, with the matinée price for adults in the party and a concession voucher as incentives.

Keeping children out of violent film screenings not only protects them from jarring big-screen violence; it also maintains the mature environment in which such a film should be screened.

Kings 1, Blackhawks 4

Well, that was refreshing. And welcome back, Patrick Sharp! The Blackhawks needed this. And they're only two points ahead of Vancouver for the #4 seed and home ice in the first round--against Vancouver. Eleven games left and seven at home. Let's hope they can build some momentum into the playoffs.

Palm Springs says: The party starts HERE

Great CBS News video about Palm Springs luring spring breakers back after keeping them away for about 20 years. I still miss Palm Springs!

Watch CBS Videos Online

Sunday, March 22, 2009

No parking ticket? Sure...how much is it worth to you?

My friend Yoni had an interesting encounter with a PEA (parking enforcement aide) in West Rogers Park last week:

Here is great story. I went to the bakery to buy bread [on Touhy or Devon Avenue]. When I came out there was a traffic cop writing a ticket for not paying the meter. I went over and apologized. She said to me that if I pay her $20, she wouldn't write me the ticket. I told her I didn't have cash. So she said I could write her a check, but I should sit in the car to do this. Then she gave me her name on a piece of paper to to write the check out to her. I was naive and stupid, so I did it. I came home told my father. He immediately drove me to the police station where we filed a claim and canceled the check. Once I got home, a detective called me up and said he is going to pull me out of school next week so I could identify this lady in a lineup. I am really excited, but I am still not sure what she did that was so wrong. She didn't have to give me a ticket?


I replied to Yoni in an email message and told him that agreeing to the bribe and writing a check was not stupid. Actually it was quite clever because now Yoni has a written record of the transaction. I added that if he had taken the ticket to parking court and told the administrative hearing officer the bribe story, (1) he had no proof; and (2) it didn't change the fact that he had not paid the meter. So he would still be out $50. Instead, the $50 is in his pocket, and the crooked PEA will likely be fired.

In terms of the parking ticket itself, PEA's are expected to write a certain number of tickets per hour/per shift. It is not illegal for her to ignore a parking violation (although once she starts a ticket, she must finish it). I explained that it is illegal for her to solicit and/or accept a bribe to ignore a violation.

While living in Rogers Park, I did park legally, for the most part. The neighborhood doesn't seem to be a hotbed of parking enforcement activity except for street cleaning. Violating a street cleaning parking ban, especially in the morning shortly after the ban begins, means an automatic ticket. I hope this PEA's behavior is an aberration and not standard operating procedure.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My letter in Chicago Tribune re: Wrigley Field


Cubs' neighbors

Typical whining residents in Lakeview: They move in and then start complaining about their neighbors, the Cubs and concerts held in Wrigley Field. The Cubs schedule concerts to compensate for lost revenue due to the night-game limits forced upon them by the city. The Cubs don't schedule night games on Saturdays due to neighborhood resistance. That's also true for Friday nights, and the Cubs can only schedule 30 night games per season. Their rivals schedule about 55 night games.

The Cubs' obstacles to a pennant now include their neighbors, along with the Dodgers and Astros. With the new ownership, the limits on the Cubs' night-game schedule must come to an end. Their future in Lakeview depends on it, and it's time their neighbors recognized this isn't the Cubs of the 1970s anymore. Their goal is a World Series championship, and that cannot be accomplished with their schedule so different from that of their rivals.

—Kenneth Salkover, Chicago

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Letter to Melissa Isaacson

In the Chicago Tribune sports section, Melissa Isaacson asked for comments about the Blackhawks to be sent to heymissy@tribune.com. Here is what I wrote on March 12:

Ms. Isaacson:

I attended both Blackhawks games this week--my first games this season. They looked so flat Sunday afternoon against a bad Avalanche team. I didn't understand why their offense was so out of sorts. The malaise seemed to continue three nights later, and their total offensive output was three goals in 120 minutes of regulation play. I'm hardly an expert, but my layman's opinion was that their timing was off in light of their inability to hit teammates with passes and maintain any level of offensive rhythm. To their credit, they outshot both opponents but could not make those shots count.

So I'm queasy. If they can't maintain the consistent high level of play that we've seen this season, they won't last long next month. Their playoff opponents are going to "bring it" every night, and the Blackhawks will need to match that playoff intensity. I'm hopeful that playoff veterans like Nikolai Khabibulin will helpfully explain to his teammates that there is no margin for error once the playoffs begin. They cannot ease up their play due to a one-goal lead or a one-game lead. Those leads can disappear in seconds, and then the players are scheduling tee times instead of the next round.

The Blackhawk players have earned the respect and adoration of the city that abandoned them. They earned the right to wear the Indian-head logo sweater. They earned the respect of their peers and rival teams' fans. I hope they don't throw that all away with lackluster, indifferent play.

* * *

Since I wrote this, the Hawks have lost three games, including two at home.

Mayor Daley wants a fiscal guarantee for the Games

I think we all saw this coming.

Since 1984, no city has ever won the Olympic Games without giving the IOC (International Olympic Committee) a fiscal guarantee against any deficit. After telling us for months that the taxpayers would not be responsible for any Olympics-related expenses (while spending $60 million to put the bid in place), the mayor says Chicago won't win the Games without a fiscal guarantee.

Chicago's bid could turn on this issue. The only drawbacks at this point are the missing guarantee and the city's pathetic public transit system. With the president so popular worldwide and the competition being so light, the Games are Chicago's to lose. As Mayor Daley pointed out, the IOC would need to violate its own policy to award the Games to Chicago without a guarantee.

If the City Council decides to add the guarantee to Chicago's bid, I believe the IOC will award the Games to Chicago. I hope there's enough of a public outcry that the City Council will not do so.

The other S-Word

I saw it coming, and I'm tired of it already.

Jackie Mason got into trouble using the S-word to refer to the President. I heard it at shalosh seudah (Saturday afternoon third meal) Feb. 28. "It's a (s-word) world we live in," the man sitting next to me lamented, referring to the new administration.

It's mostly old guys, but they teach it to their children, and kids think it's okay to say it too. The Yiddish word means "black" and is used to refer to black people. Jews who use it insist it's benign, but in usage it's always derogatory. Always. No one ever says, "I voted for that (S-word) Barack Obama, and I'm proud of it!" It doesn't carry the same racial charge as the n-word, but the idea is very similar.

This needs to stop. I realize what I'm suggesting: I'm suggesting that old Jews change their habits. Yeah, right. It's deeply embarrassing for the Jewish community when people talk like that. It makes us look like a bunch of racists.

Watchmen **

Warner Brothers
Paramount Pictures
DC Comics
Running time: 2:43

This could very well be the longest film I've seen since Titanic (1997), which ran 3:17. It did not need to be that long. Very dark and sad--the Chicago Tribune said it made The Dark Knight look sunny, and that's pretty accurate. Often violent and gory with interesting moral ambiguity. This film is inferior, in my opinion, to recent comic films I really liked, such as X-Men, X-Men 2, Spider-Man, Batman Begins and Superman Returns. I don't recommend Watchmen.


The opening scene--the murder of the Comedian--effectively set the tone for the entire film. The title sequence that followed was very well done, with Bob Dylan's song providing background to a fictionalized version of the latter half of the previous century. Sorry for laughing out loud when Laurie parodied the famous Life magazine photo of a soldier kissing a woman in Times Square. How many terms did Nixon serve if he left office in 1989? It may have been a different America--no Jimmy Carter?--without Watergate. Later in the film, I also liked the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center looming large in the background of the Manhattan skyline during those corporate meetings in mid-1980's New York.

Interesting that this film is causing such a commotion, and there was plenty I disliked. The moral ambiguity deserves mention, although Watchmen isn't shy about it and doesn't try to disguise it. The Comedian assassinating JFK? And then shooting his pregnant Vietnamese girlfriend in cold blood. Brutal. I could have done without seeing Billy Crudup's full frontal. Ugh. How many times was that? And I certainly could have done without the fat prisoner having his hands sawed off. I didn't watch that part. His partner really needed him out of the way to saw through Rorschach's cell block? I didn't think so. And I didn't quite understand why Rorschach murdered the dwarf prisoner in the restroom for any reason other than because he could. Did the dwarf organize and execute a prison riot with the expressed purpose of torturing and murdering Rorschach? Perhaps. Rorschach was my favorite character.

Taken ***

Twentieth Century Fox
Europa Pictures
Running time: approx 1:30

An intense international thriller set mostly in Paris starring veteran Oscar winner Liam Neeson and featuring stunning ingenue Maggie Grace in a supporting role as his daughter. Tight, edge-of-seat action that barely pauses to catch one's breath. Highly recommended, even though The New Yorker hated it!


The plot is fictitious, but the problem of a thriving European sex trade is real, with women from the East delivered to wealthier countries in the West. I read about it in a long New Yorker article last fall. However, I found the idea of a regular system of kidnapping young Western women, including college students, to be unlikely and unrealistic. If two beautiful white American women were truly kidnapped in broad daylight (?) from their Paris flat, that would be an international sensation, causing deep embarrassment to the French government. It would not be tolerated. Yet in the film it is suggested that this is a regular occurrence; the spotter's next target after Kim and Amanda was a Scandinavian woman.

I wondered whether Amanda survived and returned to Los Angeles. I guess we can infer from Neeson's discovery of her in a brothel that she died from an overdose. Very sad.

When Neeson first met and pretended to extort the Albanians, wouldn't they wonder about his insistence on having the conversation in English? I thought that was odd.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Does anyone still use in-line skates?

It was beautiful in Chicago today with highs in the low 70's under perfect, cloudless blue skies. Can't ask for better than that. I wanted to do something outdoors, but not just sitting outside reading the paper. So I went hunting for my circa-1994 Rollerblade in-line skates, which I certainly have not used since 2004 and possibly years before that. I laced them up, added helmet, wristguards and mp3 player, and hit the suburban concrete. Except for soreness just below my inside ankles, they felt good. I think they need a tuneup and wheel rotation. I was able to maintain my balance except for one near-spill, thank G-d. I went 3½ mi. or so as others enjoyed the weather, playing driveway hoops, walking dogs and babies, playing street lacrosse, or riding bikes. It was a typical nice-weather suburban scene. Not particularly interesting but quaint nonetheless.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My letter in the Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Tribune started a new letters section in its Thursday neighborhood section, meaning a letter may be printed there and seen only by readers of that edition. So my letter criticizing Wrigleyville residents for complaining about the Cubs hosting three concerts this summer* only printed in "City" editions of the paper. You can read it here.

I also suggested the night-game limit (30 games/season) and day-of-week restriction (no Fri./Sat. night games) needs to go.

*The three concerts are Elton John and Billy Joel, two nights; and Rascal Flats, one night.

Bulls to rodeo to Blackhawks

Stadiums intrigue me. I like this time-lapse of the United Center's crew switching the floor from hardcourt to rodeo dirt to the sheet of ice that always lies underneath. (Until the Blackhawks are eliminated from the playoffs, anyway. I hope that doesn't happen at all this year!)

Adjusting faceoffs to accommodate fans

Years ago, the Blackhawks had a reputation for being indifferent to accommodating fans' schedules. Why did they care? They sold out Chicago Stadium almost every night. Now, of course, the Chicago sports landscape is quite different. Except for one constant: this season, the Blackhawks are selling out United Center every night! For a long time, there were no games on Friday or Saturday nights. This year featured just two Saturday night contests, a disadvantage that I hope changes next season. (The Bulls host a dozen this season. That is so unfair. The Chicago Tribune posted a letter I wrote making just that point.) A recent Blackhawks tradition, dating back to the debut of the United Center, I believe, is 2pm Sunday matinée faceoffs in the spring, including every Sunday in March. This tradition continues this year. For Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, April 5 and 12, the Blackhawks pushed back the faceoffs two hours to 4pm to allow its churchgoing fans time to attend church and enjoy the holiday meal before heading to the stadium.

Then NBC called. Not so fast, Chicago, said the NHL's network partner. The Peacock wants to telecast the Blackhawks' April 12 season finale against Detroit for its nationwide audience. That means a 1pm local start on Easter Sunday. Here is another example of local fans being inconvenienced for NBC Sports. Remember Bears-Packers Dec. 31, 2006? NBC pushed that game from noon to 7:15 (and it was freezing), ruining the New Year's plans of 66,000 people.

I understand that NBC pays the bills. But if I had bought my season finale tickets in October, when they were still available on the open market, and had invited two dozen friends and family for Easter dinner at noon (planning on leaving for the stadium at 2:30), I would be very unhappy.* I would need to choose between cancelling the party or selling the tickets. For me, that's just conjecture. April 12 is Pesach chol ha'moed--an intermediate, non-holy day of Passover. I could go to the game, and it doesn't matter what time it starts. But I'm understanding of those whose holiday is inconvenienced or ruined.

*Also, we could have pulled off a Cubs-Blackhawks tv doubleheader: Cubs at 1:05, Blackhawks at 4:07. Alas. Now we need two tv's.

Chicago Blackhawks: Yes, it's time to panic

When will this end?

This feels like the White Sox of September, 2005. The closer we were to the playoffs, the closer the White Sox were to falling out of first place, ceding the division to Cleveland. The Blackhawks have a solid grip on second place in their division and the #4 seed in the conference. A solid grip if they play like they did in January. If they keep playing like this, the playoffs will only last four games. They have been beaten at home easily on consecutive Sundays by two of the worst teams in the NHL: Denver (Colorado) and Long Island. During this recent four-game homestand, the Hawks went 1-3, and that one win was a shootout. It easily could have gone Raleigh's way.

I'm no hockey expert. I'm just a fan who loves the game. I don't know if the goaltending is to blame, but I'm pretty sure the offense is. The forwards deserve tomatoes for the way they've been playing. We can send you back to pee-wee hockey. The Blackhawks cannot expect their goaltenders to allow fewer than two goals per game. So they'd better resume scoring more than that. Their offensive output still ranks among the best in the league. Remember how that works? At least their shot production hasn't dropped. They're still outshooting their opponents. But they are not creating chances like they had been before this recent slump.

Maybe it's mental. It's not like the Blackhawks just ran into a series of top-ranked teams on their schedule. No one takes the Avalanche or Islanders seriously, and maybe that was the Blackhawks' problem. Someone needs to take charge and energize this team into winning again.

Purim tzedakah for out-of-towners

Jewish Israelis and New Yorkers collecting donations for their organizations or themselves look at Chicago on a map and see a convenient ATM. This increases pressure on Chicago organizations because of all the competition. A local organization printed signs posted at synagogues across Chicagoland noting that $1 million is donated on Purim, and 90 percent of that leaves our community.

That's outrageous. Nearly a decade ago, I attended a reception for young single men at the palatial home of a wealthy community member who is very involved in community philanthropy. "There is no problem elsewhere that doesn't exist in our own community," he said. Some members of the community do quite well. Others are struggling to get by, and that's especially true now. Tuition and, in Illinois, taxes, never decrease. Kosher food is always expensive, especially for Passover, the Sabbath and holidays. "Charity begins at home." So why are we letting so much of our community resources leave town? The organization that certifies men to collect funds could solve the problem simply by not issuing permits ("green cards") during Purim week. That would probably be unfair. Another solution is what one family did: the family posted a sign on its front door that said "No donations for out-of-town" in Hebrew and English. I overheard a man tell a friend he was donating $3 in town for every $1 he gave out of town during Purim. That policy would certainly help turn around this ongoing problem without being mean-spirited.

The Dark Side of the Stimulus Package

Thanks to my friend Dan for posting this on his Facebook page.

Purim costume: wish I'd thought of that!

My fellow Twitterer @estherk dressed as her Facebook page for her Purim festivities in Los Angeles. You can look up her feed at http://twitter.com/estherk.

CPD accepts text messages

Ever wanted to call the cops and be subtle about it? At least twice I've been on cta when I really needed this service. Once it was my friend Jason and me on the #36 Broadway when a guy sneaked on through the back door--no fare. Someone looked at him funny, and he lost his temper and yelled at the woman, "Don't mess with me! I just got off parole!" We were terrified. We quickly exited one or two blocks later.

The other time I was on my own, riding the Red Line home from an Evanston-New Trier basketball game in Evanston on a Friday night. (Long time ago.) Two or three guys entered the car through one of the end doors while the train was still at Howard Street or just departing. They announced their gang affiliation, and then one said he felt like "kicking some white ass." Well, there were only six white people in the car. Again, this didn't look good. Changing cars would appear too obvious. I just sat there and managed to escape unscathed, thank G-d. And BTW where's my .22 when I need it!

So now one can quietly text a message to CPD by sending to CRIMES and beginning the text with "CPD." As in "CPD WM 6'1 205 walking EB on 2900 bl Estes with unleashed pit bull."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Taken ***

Twentieth Century Fox
(spoilers below)
The plot of Taken is fictitious, but the European scene against which it is played--a thriving sex trade--is real.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Twitter in Plain English

A short explanation for those messages on the right. (Over here) ===>>>

Martin Havlat ends the game with a highlight-reel goal!

And here is the highlight reel! Also a great odd-man rush goal to make the game 2-0 Blackhawks.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lie to Me: Interesting take on police/detective work

Lie to Me
Wednesdays 9pm ET/PT
Imagine Television
Samuel Baum Productions
Twentieth Century Fox Television

British actor Tim Roth stars as the leader of a forensics group that works on involuntary facial expressions and hand movements to detect various human emotions and verbal lies or falsifications. Fascinating at first look, which for me was this episode, regarding a possible assassination attempt on the South Korean ambassador to the U.S. at his son's wedding.

Tim Roth certainly plays his snob role well; he's generally dismissive of other security teams, such as U.S. Secret Service, he is forced to work with. I'd like to see other episodes when I have more time.

Lost: The Return of John Locke

Wednesdays 9pm ET/PT
Bad Robot Productions
abc Studios
Episode 7: The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham
Air date: Feb. 25, 2009


Welcome Alana and Cesar! Two people who had the bad luck to be on Flight 316 at the same time as Ben and the Oceanic Six.

It's so interesting that Charles Whidmore and Ben Linus despise each other so much and yet are so similar. They are both cold-blooded killers. (Whidmore uses hired guns.) They are driven by power and love. They both want John Locke to return to the island to save it...until Linus learned that Locke wanted to contact Eloise Hawking. Anyone figure out that attempted murder? Which appeared to be successful.

The character of Matthew, Whidmore's go-to man, is one of the creepiest characters in the show. As he pointed out, he's always around. The orderly who convinced Locke to go on the walkabout in Australia, which put him on Flight 815, which crashed on the island. Stopping by Hurley in the asylum, pretending to be with Oceanic. And driving Locke around in his attempt to persuade his friends to return to the island.

Jack and Kate had it right the first time when Locke met them separately. (Which wouldn't make for good tv, I realize.) Returning to the island is madness. "Oh, but our friends are in danger." So call the UN. From what I've seen, not only is visiting the island extremely dangerous, but the chance of being marooned there is very, very high. And Kate has a son, illegally acquired or not. Isn't her responsibility to him to protect herself for his sake? The same goes for Sun....although I can understand a loving wife wanting to be reunited with her husband.

At least they should have arrived with communications equipment and an exit strategy. ("If I haven't called in six weeks, send a rescue party.") All they have, it appears, is another ruined aircraft. What a shame.

The Office: The Lecture Circuit Part 2 (Nashua)

Parts of this episode were particularly excruciating, and I did not watch them. The cat part was disgusting and hilarious.

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The Office: The Lecture Circuit

The Office
Thursdays 9pm ET/PT
Deedle-Dee Productions
Universal Media
Feb. 5 episode

My favorite Office episodes are the ones in which Michael gets cut down to size. Karen totally calls him on his con act here. Part 1 of 2.

Terminator: reality is a nightmare

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Fridays 8pm ET/PT
Bartlesby Productions
Halcyon Productions
Warner Brothers Television
Feb. 27 episode

It was difficult to discern what was real and what was another Sarah Connor nightmare in this episode. I'm sure it resonates with people who suffer from recurring nightmares.

The actress who played Sarah's nurse at the sleep disorder clinic, Julie Ann Emery, performed a masterful job as someone who was deceptively friendly but darkly part of the Skynet conspiracy.

Sarah's comments at the beginning of the show about midnight and the first three hours of the day were particularly chilling.

On another note: Brian Austin Green (whom I affectionately refer to as "the BAG") does not appear in this episode. However, I did notice his transformation from tv camera geek on Beverly Hills 90210 to a very believable resistance military officer, Derek Reese, here on Terminator. And he fathered a child with Vanessa Marcil, star of now-defunct tv show Las Vegas. So that's impressive too.

Nice cheesecake moment at 28:30. Doesn't Cameron have better things to do? Make pancakes. Right.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
Columbia Pictures
Mandate Pictures
Running time: 1:29

This is a very cute movie that very few people bothered to see. I just rented it and very much enjoyed it. Forget New in Town (and if you were sick that day, you probably missed it--it was gone in about a week). I can't speak for He's Just Not That Into You because I've seen very positive and very negative reviews. There's nothing particularly meaningful about Nick & Norah's. I liked it very much. It focuses on two very likable characters: Nick, played by Michael Cera, the new voice of Generation Y; and Norah, played by previously unknown Kat Dennings. (She was in 40-Year-Old Virgin. I think I know which character she played. Anyway.) Nick and Norah are both starring members of the Bridge and Tunnel crowd--people who work or play in Manhattan but cannot afford to live there so must leave the island to go home. I read the movie was compared to American Graffiti because (1) it has a soundtrack for a generation; and (2) because the movie opens at nightfall (actually in the afternoon in the case of Nick & Norah's) and ends at sunrise. I don't consider the comparison fair to either film. American Graffiti (one of George Lucas' first films) is set in a small California town and is really the last night of the characters' childhoods that followed their high school graduation. We learn what happened to each character with story lines that flash on the screen at the end, making the film quite serious. Nick & Norah's proudly and obviously is set in Manhattan (and briefly in Brooklyn) and chronicles an above-average, rather exciting high school Friday night. There's nothing profound about it.

Rising starlet Alexis Dziena plays Nick's ex-girlfriend.

Where did Sony find that Yugo?

Terminator: memorial for Miss Weaver's victims

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Fridays 8pm ET/PT
Bartlesby Productions
Halcyon Productions
Warner Brothers Television
Feb. 20 episode

This was a particularly sad episode, chronicling the memorial service for the victims of Miss Weaver's attack at the factory in the small company town in the desert. Not much for anyone to do. So a guy faked his own death to continue working for Skynet? Hmmm. I thought maybe his daughter (played by Alana Masterson) had a mini-romance with John Connor. It is funny when Cameron is so direct. "She doesn't love him the way he loves her." Much appreciated!

Trying to figure out what Weaver's plans are for JohnHenry.

24 5-6pm

Fox Mondays 9pm ET/PT
Imagine Entertainment
Real Time Productions
Twentieth Century Fox Television
Seventh Season
Feb. 23 episode: 5-6pm
Director: Milan Cheylov

After just a few hours, the plot line that began this season draws to a close. Viewers worried about Col. Ike Dubaku's nefarious plans can rest easy. He is in a hospital and under arrest.

I must give proper credit to my friend Keith, who correctly predicted that Shawn's girlfriend Erica was in on the conspiracy with him. I certainly didn't expect Shawn to shoot her. Yick. Now the FBI has two counts on him: aiding and abetting a terrorist conspiracy; and murder one. In Illinois, the latter could be construed as "murder in the course of a felony," which is a capital crime.

It's not mentioned in the show, but I wonder what the payoff amount was for cooperating with Dubaku and betraying one's country.

Marika was not wearing her seat belt, right? In a simple rollover accident with marginal collision impact, it probably would have saved her life. Especially in an SUV. Obviously, I'm speculating on a fictional event, which is a bit silly. But I think 24 tries to be as faithful to real-world events, as much as it can.

Is there going to be a separate story line about the First Daughter?

24 rarely revisits characters or events from previous episodes, so we probably won't see this resolved. I wonder if Dubaku's goons who interrogated and murdered Samantha Roth's boyfriend's techie friend will be discovered and arrested. Were they on Dubaku's list? (From the 2-hr. tv movie that preceded this season.)

Party in Lathrop

I attended a birthday party near Diversey Parkway and Wolcott Avenue last night. The building is a stunning condo low-rise of five floors, with two units to a floor. The master bedroom in this multi-bedroom unit has a striking view of the glorious skyline to the southeast. The main living room view is straight east. Still, I was very impressed by the living space. One intriguing topic of discussion I raised with several people was, "What neighborhood are we in?" The correct answer, according to two maps I studied,* is "Lathrop." I've never heard of that. If someone had asked me yesterday, "Is Lathrop a Chicago neighborhood?", I would have replied, "I don't know. It doesn't sound familiar." A friend made light of the fact that I can name the four suburbs that meet at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Lake-Cook Road: clockwise, from the northwest, Deerfield, Highland Park, Glencoe and Northbrook--but I did not know what neighborhood we were standing in. (Love you too, Naomi. =) ) Diversey Parkway is a border between neighborhoods: just to the north is West Lakeview or Roscoe Village, depending on which map one checks. Past Ashland Avenue to the east, Lincoln Park lies to the south and Lakeview is north of Diversey.

Speaking to almost-married Vitali and Inna, we strongly agreed on one positive aspect of outlying neighborhoods and the suburbs: ease of parking. I parked around the corner from this party. True, I took the last spot, but I could have parked on Diversey or Clybourn. Either one would have been a very short walk. Compare that to trying to find a spot in the Park** or (horrors) Lakeview. Finding a free legal parking spot in Lakeview is like winning a contest. When I go to parties just a few miles from those neighborhoods, though, the parking crunch eases. And in the suburbs, it's rarely a problem.

Easy access: being minutes from the Kennedy Expressway doesn't hurt either. This condo building was a short drive from the Kennedy with no stop signs in between.

*I ran a Google search for "Chicago neighborhood map."
**Lincoln Park (the cool way to say it).

Rocky Mountain News last issue Feb. 27, 2009

First the newspaper was for sale with a one-month sale deadline. Then it closed.

One of the most poignant parts of this 20-min. video is when one of the reporters buys lottery tickets. His plan isn't to retire if he wins. It's to buy the paper to keep his job!

I also felt bad for the husband-wife team who moved to Denver to work for the paper.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.