Destination: Chicago

Chicago Tourism Song Declared a Catastrophe

Or something close to that. The promotional song, recently released by the city’s tourism organization, is getting slammed, especially in comments on the song’s YouTube page. One example: “It’s like the theme song from an ‘80s sitcom, probably starring Tony Danza, only it’s the muzak version of that song. A milestone in war crime level banality.”

You almost have to wonder if the whole thing is a put-on, made intentionally bad to draw more attention to the city. I mean, it is getting Chicago a lot of press. You be the judge:


Chicago: The City Built by Geniuses

Photo of the Wrigley Building by Wallula Junction, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Inspired by Justin Kern’s beautiful photos of the “University of Chicogwarts,” Roger Ebert has written a terrific post on Chicago architecture and the tension between beauty and commerce.

I walk around Chicago, and look up at buildings of variety and charm. I walk into lobbies of untold beauty. I ascend in elevators fit for the gods. Then I walk outside again and see the street defaced by the cruel storefronts of bank branches and mall chains, scornful of beauty. Here I squat! they declare. I am Chase! I am Citibank! I am Payless Shoe Source! I don’t speak to my neighbors. I have no interest in pleasing those who walk by. I occupy square footage at the lowest possible cost. My fixtures can be moved out overnight. I am capital.

‘If You Take Photos of His Food, Grant Achatz Hates You’

So tweets Jason Wilson, regarding this blog post about Alinea chef Grant Achatz’s feelings toward people who photograph the famously photogenic food in his Chicago restaurant.

Are New York and Chicago the Tolstoy and Dostoevsky of American Fiction?

Andrew Seal makes his case over at Blographia Literaria:

Sorry, Boston. Sorry, L.A. Sorry, D.C. Sorry, San Fran. Sorry, the South. You have your claims, no doubt, but they are as the claims of Pushkin, Lermontov, Chekhov, or Gogol. To be sure, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky do not account for the entirety of Russian literature, certainly do not exhaust all options, but they are irreplaceable, irreducible forces upon the landscape of the national literature, and so it is with New York and Chicago, Chicago and New York.

There’s plenty to chew on in the comments, too. (Via The Book Bench)

Fall Foliage Around the World

Central Park, New York Photo of Central Park, New York City, by joiseyshowaa via Flickr (Creative Commons)

From Osaka to Chicago, seven photos of turning leaves around the shrinking planet

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Does Chicago Lack a ‘Recognizable Narrative’?

Over at The Smart Set, Jessa Crispin speculates about what her one-time hometown means to the outside world. She writes:

Because Chicago has no new compelling storyline, the old ones will have to do for the rest of the world. Even the renowned literary magazine Granta—after spending who knows how long creating its recent issue devoted entirely to Chicago—used Al Capone as its first example of what defines Chicago in the issue’s introduction.

Did Airport Security Ruin Chicago’s Olympic Bid?

Did Airport Security Ruin Chicago’s Olympic Bid? Photo by David Paul Ohmer via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by David Paul Ohmer via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Michelle Higgins ponders the impact of U.S. border control policies on Chicago’s failed bid for the 2016 Summer Games. For my part, I suppose that could have been a factor—remember the visitor shortfall in Beijing after China tightened its visa restrictions—but beyond any specific considerations, I’m just not sure about the assumption that 2016 was Chicago’s to lose. After all, the United States has already hosted the Olympics eight times, while Rio’s winning bid will mean the first Games ever on South American soil. It’s about time, isn’t it?

Post-9/11 Airport Security: Do You Know Where Your Dignity Is?

On the intersection of place, politics and culture

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The Best Travel Photo I Never Took

The Best Travel Photo I Never Took iStockPhoto

His Facebook friends would have loved it, but Doug Mack has no regrets

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Travel Song of the Day: ‘Chicago’ by Sufjan Stevens

Pet Airways Begins Flights for Pampered Animals; Humans Still Out of Luck

Beginning today, Florida-based Pet Airways will fly your critters to and from New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. The new airline promises that pets will be constantly attended to and treated as first-class “pawsengers,” with rates for one-way flights—for Fido only; you’ll have to book on a regular carrier—starting at $149. Representatives are confident that the high prices are well worth it, offering peace of mind against the “severe emotional and physical harm, even death” that can befall your pet traveling in the cargo hold on human-centric flights.

The airline has even started a blog featuring everything from the latest in-flight pet news to expert tips on keeping fit with your dog on the road.

Photo We Love: The Glass Ledge at Chicago’s Sears Tower

Photo We Love: The Glass Ledge at Chicago’s Sears Tower REUTERS/Frank Polich
REUTERS/Frank Polich

Kids stand on just-opened Skydeck Ledge on the 103rd floor of Chicago’s Sears Tower.


Museums on Film: Three Memorable Moments

Museums on Film: Three Memorable Moments Photo by brainware3000 via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by brainware3000 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

With Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian set to open this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about museums and the movies. The first Night at the Museum, released in 2006 and set at a fictionalized version of the American Museum of Natural History, raked in money at the box office and is credited with increasing attendance at the real-life Upper West Side museum by as much as 20 percent. According to USA Today, the Smithsonian is hoping to see similar benefits from its featured role in the sequel.

The two Ben Stiller vehicles may be remarkable for the amount of traffic they’re driving to museums, but they’re not unusual in their choice of setting. Museums and galleries have played prominent roles in any number of films and television shows over the years. Here, with apologies for my clear bias towards New York City and romance, are three of my favorite museum movie moments.

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America the Accessible

America the Accessible Photo by Rick McCharles via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Rick McCharles via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Fifteen years ago, when nobody else was really servicing the community, writer Candy Harrington ditched traditional travel writing and launched Emerging Horizons, a travel magazine for people with disabilities.

“Back then most of my friends and colleagues thought I was a few fries short of a happy meal for making such a drastic change,” says Harrington. Silly colleagues. Other travel magazines come and go but Emerging Horizons is still running strong, and Harrington also writes books, articles for magazines and websites, and a blog on the subject.

We checked in with her to find out about the state of accessible travel in America—and some of her favorite accessible travel adventures around the 50.

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The Thrill of Gel and Other Disappearing Edible Delights!

Photo of food at Alinea by xmatt, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Grant Achatz, the avant-garde Chicago chef, went to Madrid to attend Madrid Fusion, a congress of 50 of the world’s best chef, and all he got was a crappy food-stained T-shirt. Moreover, in this article he penned for the Atlantic, Achatz bemoans on a grander scale by wondering if molecular gastronomy is dead. Most of the world’s population didn’t even know that it had been born. But Achatz sat there during the meeting as chef after chef took the mic and felt pangs of emptiness:

“Where were the culinary fireworks? The introduction to the next ingredient that was going to enable us to turn oil into powder, serve a gelled liquid hot, or thicken an infusion by simply blending in a magical white substance? Where were the explanations of new techniques? Like the ones used to create raviolis with skins made from themselves, making pasta from stock, and aerating food to produce sponge-like textures?”

Raviolis with skins made from themselves? Aerating food to produce sponge-like textures? Sheesh. And he wonders why people may be losing interest in it.