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Best example of the failing of local television

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TV/media coverage of regular and genuine Chicago people, streets, communities and neighborhoods

White people are thirty-two percent of Chicago’s population (and just over half of all Chicagoland) but the ratio of people seen on TV is nowhere near those numbers. On Channels 2-5-7-9-32,  “local news” is overwhelmingly about crime and disaster, frequently African American. The stations’ rationale is to broadcast what sells commercials to consumers who have money. Similarly, on public TV, the emphasis is on programs that can maximize contributions. Financial considerations are the first priority, rather than responsibility to the local people they are required to by the FCC to “serve in the public interest, convenience and necessity.” I’ve been watching TV since it started and producing programs for decades, but now Chicagoans under forty almost never watch local TV. It’s mostly irrelevant to them. Local arts, performance, neighborhood personalities and works by local filmmakers are practically invisible.

In this era of corporate domination of all TV, on all channels, genuinely local is the exception, not the rule. It’s time to reevaluate priorities of local programing and commit resources to new ways to use the airwaves for genuine benefit of all the public. We all need to see our own worlds on TV.

—Tom Weinberg, President and founder, Media Burn Archive (Film 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

 

Best iconic landmark you could buy

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Tribune Tower

With the Tribune Tower up for sale, it’s time to reflect on this iconic landmark. In 1922 Colonel McCormick, the Tribune publisher, held an architectural competition for the construction of the paper’s new headquarters. The winners of the $50,000 prize, Raymond Hood and John Mead Howells, completed the project in 1925 and today their spires, grotesques and gothic details loom thirty-six stories over Michigan Avenue. The lower exterior is adorned with 149 stones; remnants from places like the Great Wall of China, Westminster Abbey and the Union Stock Yards. The Hall of Inscriptions inside is equally impressive. Hopefully whoever buys The Tribune Tower will have the good sense not to rename it.  

—Renee Rosen, author (Lit 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best winter sanctuary

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Lincoln Park Conservatory

When trees in Chicago have been barren for weeks, when slippery grey ice lines most sidewalks, you might find yourself, if lucky, inside the Victorian palm house at the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Feel the non-dormant plants photosynthesize totally. This building, a time-space machine, is sensuously alerting: you have a body. Shed layers. Breathe in sunlight that doesn’t freeze. Brace yourself for contrasts: what climate next?

—Dianna Frid, artist (Art 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best Chicago landmark

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Stephen A. Douglas Memorial

Of Chicago’s 334 landmarks, the “best” is the Stephen A. Douglas Memorial. The spot is a well-maintained park where 35th Street dead-ends. The memorial monument itself is on a scale that you would expect to see in DC, but both the memorial and the man have largely been forgotten. Douglas was an important player in Abraham Lincoln’s political career, the foil to Lincoln’s view that slavery was a moral issue. Their rivalry would foreshadow the racial tensions to come in Chicago, and Douglas’ estate became a notorious POW camp during the Civil War.

636 E. 35th

—Christopher Johnson, founder, Johnsonese Brokerage (Film 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to see random street performers who will blow your mind

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Polish Triangle

To some Chicagoans, the Polish Triangle is just a dirty transit stop en route to hipper destinations in Wicker Park. But it’s also the site of some world-class performance art and music. You never know what you’ll stumble upon in this otherwise utilitarian blob of brick and concrete—everything from public performances to live jazz to “outsider art” presented by Intuit art gallery. Best of all, the price of admission is always free.

Between Ashland Avenue, Division Street and Milwaukee Avenue

—Eugene Sun Park, Producer, Full Spectrum Features (Film 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to get a haircut

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Public Barber

Recently a complete stranger asked a question I had never once heard in my adult life: “Where did you get your haircut?” Pride swelled as I made this person swear they would head straight to the Public Barber in Uptown. Opened just seven months ago, owner Michael Stejskal treads the perfect line between old-fashioned barber shop and contemporary hairdos. Starting at $25 you get a top-notch haircut, hot towel service, a hot lather neck shave and, yes, even a shot of whiskey. Online reservations take just a few seconds. Do it.

1319 W. Wilson, 773.754.7363, thepublicbarber.com

—Christopher Jobson, founder and editor-in-chief, Colossal (Design 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place to pretend you are outside during a Chicago winter

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Luftwerk’s “Solarise” at the Garfield Park Conservatory

If 250-year-old ferns are not enough to draw you into the humid warmth of Garfield Park Conservatory this winter, then “solarise: a sea of all colors,” the spectacular light installation by collaborative team Luftwerk, will surely get you there. Celebrating the reopening of the conservatory after storm damage from 2011, these five individual works of light, color and reflection play with both the natural and designed environments of the conservatory. Beacon, visible from the street, fulfills its titular duty by twinkling in response to live wind speed data. Worth visiting at night and during the day.

—Janine Mileaf, executive director, The Arts Club of Chicago (Art 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best thing about Chicago

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The weather

Here is what terrible things never happen in Chicago: hurricanes, mud- and landslides, tornados, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, wildfires, earthquakes, long-lived droughts. The only bad weather to cope with is several months of very cold temperatures which the right clothing can handle (mostly). Oh, and we have all the water we need from the Great Lakes…. so never thirsty.

—Rhona Hoffman, owner, Rhona Hoffman Gallery (Art 50)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best way to explore Chicago

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Bicycle

This year, we got the perfect fall, with a lot of stop-and-smell-the-roses days. It’s been a great reminder that Chicago is best explored by bicycle. I ride a trusty Fisher—nothing special, but it gets me around—and Kozy’s Cyclery on Halsted takes care of my tune-ups. The Lakefront trail is the true gem of our city although, now that the 606 is open, I’m spending much more time on the West Side. I love the murals and artwork, watching the plants come in, seeing people enjoying themselves, staying off their phones, making eye contact and saying hello. Then I’ll stop at 90 Miles Cuban Café on my way back up to East Lakeview.

—Glenn Edgerton, artistic director, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Players)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best “Wild Kingdom In the Big City” moment

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Seen walking to work from the Montrose Avenue bridge over the Chicago River: A juvenile Cooper’s hawk gracelessly plummeting toward a hapless bunny on the riverbank—think nervous teen trying to parallel park during driver’s ed—and missing badly. Spent the next several befuddled minutes flitting about trying to spook the bunny out of its burrow to no avail. Life and death drama AND comedy on my way to the office to figure out how to keep selling records. Draw your own analogies about indie labels surviving in a world of mega-corporations.

—Rob Miller, co-owner/co-founder, Bloodshot Records (Music 45)

Best of Chicago 2015