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Best place to see grown Chicagoans acting like little kids

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The Chicago Riverwalk construction site

The less-than-incendiary Great Chicago Fire festival made recent riverfront headlines. If you want to check out a spectacle of a different kind, join the crowds oohing and aahing as workers build the $100 million Chicago Riverwalk extension, slated for 2016 completion. This new segment will extend from State to Lake, incorporating six themed sections delineated by the bridges, ranging from “The Jetty” fishing area to “The Cove” kayak dock to “The Swimming Hole” water play zone. It’s mesmerizing to watch towering cranes on barges driving long pilings and dropping huge loads of gravel to widen the shoreline. Sure, a barge sinks now and then, but that’s part of the excitement.

Wacker Drive between State and Lake

Best of Chicago 2014

Best story… period

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JRW

An all-black, fundraising-burdened baseball team from outside of Roseland makes it to the Little League World Series. And just when the city rallied behind them just for making it there, the team decided to inspire Chicagoland even more by proving that there’s more to winning than just winning. If any one thing could begin to redirect the national perception about Chicago, the Jackie Robinson West team—and story—was it.

Best of Chicago 2014

Best suggestion for a more appropriate location for the controversial TRUMP sign

Audience Choice, City Life No Comments »

Along the river near the Chicago Skyway

When the turgid, silver-sheened twenty-foot-tall ego-alephs rose up along the mirrored surfaces of the Trump Tower like a logo from 1980s straight-to-VHS monster movies, the slow reveal seemed like a joke from another Michael Bay Chicago-River-side blow-‘em-down, especially the days that “TRUM” stood without quite attaining completion. “T-Rum”? Would this be the new rap name of the trigger-fingered twitterer and perennial candidate-not-candidate for president? But once the last letter landed, the “short-fingered vulgarian,” to use the celebrithet coined by Spy magazine in the 1990s, was quickly, if ineffectually barked out as “architecturally tasteless” by our missing-middle-fingered mayor. While it would be beguiling to see those letters thrusting up from the foul black piles of life-endangering petroleum waste dumped along the Calumet River, like a befouled rendition of glasses on the billboard in “The Great Gatsby”—The Donald’s I’s instead of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg’s—there’s a wrack of ruin that suits the mogul’s latest self-erection better. Think of the Calumet River near the Chicago River, the acres-upon-acres of rusticated buildings, bulwarks of decline that will stand for decades longer, even after Trump’s hair no longer blows in any given wind. The silver word would grow increasingly mysterious, iconic, reduced to its sounds, like the byways of Chicago named for mayors whose names no one has recognized for decades.

Audience Choice: At the bottom of the Chicago River

Best of Chicago 2014

Best attempt by a media organization to ignite social change

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The Chicago Tribune’s “12 Ways” series

It’s way too early to tell if the Trib’s print attempt to save the city will have any impact, but the attempt—in all of its auspiciousness and optimism—has to be recognized. And even though it’s not being written for the people who really need the help or need to change, there’s something to be said about one of the country’s largest media conglomerates making its core readership feel guilty about its own arrogance and apathy.

Best of Chicago 2014

Best candidate for mayor, whether declared or not

Audience Choice, City Life No Comments »

Jerry Springer

Long-battling talk-show host Jerry Springer, the longtime-if-no-longer Chicago job-creator for all the years of his confrontational bark-show, a lover of civic combat and of Chicago itself, might never have become so well known if, while a Cincinnati city councilman in 1974, he hadn’t paid for personal services with a personal check. The seventy-year-old Democrat has attained a certain gravitas over time, exploiting while not truly condescending to his subjects. (He was also reelected and later mayor of that river city.) Sounds like mayor material to us, and imagine the press conferences! Imagine the personal appearances! We can. Chicago, Chicago! That tabloid town! C’mon back from Connecticut, Jerry, we need you!

Audience Choice: Toni Preckwinkle

Best of Chicago 2014

Best stereotypical, incomplete, single-minded documentary depicting the black men of Chicago

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“Chicagoland” on CNN

Of all of the positive, non-celeb, law-abiding African-American adult men (from investment manager Marc Brooks to pastor Corey Brooks to civil activist Cobe Williams to morning radio personality Leon Rogers) that play a role in shaping a larger part of the city’s narrative, the producers of CNN’s “Chicagoland” couldn’t find one non-rapping, non-ball-playing black male over thirty to profile in their eight-hour, eight-part docuseries? It was as if normal black men went from a species endangered to a species extinct.

Best of Chicago 2014

Best idea for the next civic spectacle, after this year’s Great Chicago Fire Festival triumph

Audience Choice, City Life No Comments »

Busmob

If Chicago wishes to treat visitors to a spectacle, it ought to put them on one of the CTA’s longer bus routes. On the 29, which travels along State Street, spectators can enjoy an immersive experience for the price of a single-ride ticket. The southbound leg will take them from the splendor of Gold Coast mansions to the Loop’s retail blocks and then to neighborhoods that demonstrate the shocking disparity of this city with a clarity that no pyrotechnics can match. And perhaps the revenues from the added bus fares, coupled with savings realized from scrapping pricey theatrics, can make the spectacle seem a little less sad.

Audience Choice: Re-creation of the World’s Fair

Other audience comments that caught our attention: “A replication of the Great Chicago Flood of 1992″; “Actually re-enacting the great Chicago fire”; “The Great Parking Meter Lease Festival”; “Disco Demolition reunion”; “Founding Mothers of Chicago. Presenting 150 years of forgotten/ignored history crediting the women who built Chicago”; and “The return of July 3 at Grant Park. The city is not the same without the crowds gathering for the taste and fireworks!”

Best of Chicago 2014

Best rock icon spotted on the CTA

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Dave Grohl

As part of the Foo Fighters new album and HBO series “Sonic Highways,” Dave Grohl and company traveled to Chicago to record a track with legendary producer Steve Albini (who recorded Grohl on Nirvana’s “In Utero”). Grohl was spotted and photographed riding the CTA rails in January, sporting a hearty winter coat (it was officially documented on People of the CTA). Wonder if he had any Ventra card issues?

peopleofthecta.com

Best of Chicago 2014

Best local daily newspaper 

Audience Choice, City Life No Comments »

The Chicago Sun-Times

But for how long? Sometimes street, often silly, intermittently scrappy, filled with youngish reporters ready to make a name for themselves, or at least investigate the manner of hangovers their predecessors revised on deadlines on a daily basis while toiling at typewriters in the barge-like building along the Chicago River that’s now the sub-basement of the Trump Tower. The Chicago Sun-Times persists even as Wrapports LLC, its holding company, peels off a cortege of diminished suburban dailies and weeklies, letting the newly reduced print-only TribCo continue the triage. Failed experiments in business and social coverage are quickly cast aside under publisher-editor-in-chief Jim Kirk’s reign, but a newly redesigned, fresh-faced web presence and successes like the Homicide Watch Chicago website (also on Twitter as @chicagohomicide) show an admirable local focus, and even micro-focus. (“Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case.”) And the still-feisty political coverage provides a fistful of punchy front pages each week. Of course, this could all just be preparation for a rumored reduction to a web-only play, akin to the fate of the print edition of Time Out Chicago, which could reduce the storied tabloid to another DNAInfoChicago. Worse are the late October developments leading up to the November election, in which the newspaper allowed interference in its news-gathering by the campaign of former co-owner Bruce Rauner, leading to the resignation of Sun-Times political reporter Dave McKinney, the paper’s Springfield bureau chief. “I’m faced with a difficult decision due to the disturbing developments I’ve experienced in the last two weeks that cannot be reconciled with this newspaper’s storied commitment to journalism,” McKinney wrote in a letter to the paper’s chairman, Michael Ferro. “The Sun-Times is stocked with dedicated reporters, editors and columnists, who work every day with integrity, long hours and not enough pay. They are more than colleagues. They are my friends. They are my family. They are the soul of the Sun-Times… I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me.” And only a few days prior, the editorial page, which recently bowed out of making any kind of political endorsements, issued a single kudo for this election: Bruce Rauner.

Audience Choice: Chicago Tribune

Best of Chicago 2014

Best new innovative civic art event

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ACTIVATE

The Great Chicago Fire may have left the crowd divided as to its merits, but that’s not something likely to happen with ACTIVATE. The brainchild of Tristan Hummel, staff curator for the Chicago Loop Alliance, the transformation of alleys in the Loop to stage art “happenings,” complete with DJs and installation work by local street talent including CZR PRZ, have been a laudable use of underused “public space” to showcase Chicago talent. Drawing on the dynamisms of public space use from such backgrounds as the Occupy movement’s activating for public speech by way of inhabitation of public space, other Chambers of Commerce would do well to heed the CLA’s use of art to instrumentally highlight the cultural vibrancy of their communities.

loopchicago.com/cla/projects-and-programs/activate

Best of Chicago 2014