Street Smart Chicago

Local Media Bias

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The new Whole Foods store in Lincoln Park features this large display, as well as signage throughout, that suggests customers "buy local." Whole Foods is based in Austin, Texas, with more than 270 stores.

Newcity has a very clear bias regarding this week’s cover story, for we are the last of Chicago’s independent cultural weeklies. The Reader is now part of the second-largest chain of alternative weeklies, based in Tampa, Florida. Time Out Chicago, though funded in part by a local investor, is affiliated to a global chain operating under the Time Out banner in London. The Onion is now a chain of newspapers and other media properties with dual headquarters in New York and Chicago.

We embrace the local cause then with a healthy helping of self-serving intention, leavened by the understanding that the movement is, in some regards, a micro-version of nationalism. Local businesses like Newcity do not deserve to thrive solely because of our ownership structure; we must earn our place in the competitive economy. We’d like to think we hold our own in a fair fight. But the playing field is rarely level, alas. Read the rest of this entry »

Mom & Pop Worldwide, Inc.: Inside the corporate co-opt of local

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By Stacy Mitchell

The local produce section of a Wal-Mart

The local produce section of a Wal-Mart

HSBC, one of the biggest banks on the planet, has taken to calling itself “the world’s local bank.” Winn-Dixie, a 500-outlet supermarket chain, recently launched a new ad campaign under the tagline, “Local flavor since 1956.” The International Council of Shopping Centers, a global consortium of mall owners and developers, is pouring millions of dollars into television ads urging people to “Shop Local”—at their nearest mall. Even Wal-Mart is getting in on the act, hanging bright green banners over its produce aisles that simply say, “Local.”

Hoping to capitalize on growing public enthusiasm for all things local, some of the world’s biggest corporations are brashly laying claim to the word “local.”

This new variation on corporate greenwashing—local washing—is, like the buy-local movement itself, most advanced in the context of food. Hellmann’s, the mayonnaise brand owned by the processed-food giant Unilever, is test-driving a new “Eat Real, Eat Local,” initiative in Canada. The ad campaign seems aimed partly at enhancing the brand by simply associating Hellmann’s with local food. But it also makes the claim that Hellmann’s is local, because most of its ingredients come from North America. Read the rest of this entry »

The Shop Around the Corner: Local First takes Chicago

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By Amy Brachmann

Much like the rest of the country, Chicago has a multitude of local businesses and customer supporters. Even with the economy struggling, the local business movement seems to be going strong—even gaining.

April Jervis, executive director of Local First Chicago, says the local business movement has “exploded in the last year.” Local First Chicago’s newsletter subscriptions went from about 1,000 to more than 18,000. The average week sees ten businesses apply for membership, and the number of participating businesses has gone from about 200 to more than 2,600 in the last twelve months.

“Obviously, there’s a big jump in interest,” Jervis says. “I think it’s a really hot topic for people right now.” Read the rest of this entry »

Fowl Play: Rubber duckies race for the prize

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Just-DuckyThirty thousand rubber duckies are dumped off the Columbus Street bridge. No, it’s not a garbage spill, although somebody does have to clean them up and take them to Cincinnati.

The dump truck’s deposit begins the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby, a fundraiser for Special Olympics Illinois. With a five-dollar donation, people have adopted the ducks now “racing” with the help of a police-boat hose pushing them along. The ducks show no sense of urgency, seeming to go in every direction except the finish line, and the pace is more agonizing than exciting, but about forty minutes later the winning ducks are fished out of the water, only a quarter of the way to the Michigan Avenue bridge. Read the rest of this entry »

Drag City: Getting dressed up for Myles

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First dinner, then a drag show. That’s how this benefit for 12-year-old Myles Hartwig starts on this Friday night. Around 7pm, people begin passing through the performance-hall doors in the back section of 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park, each one paying thirty dollars and receiving a red, heart-shaped sticker to wear on their clothing.

The benefit is put together by Myles’ uncle, Marek Hartwig, and his partner Ron Chaille. Myles was born with a hole in his heart and needs experimental treatments to keep his heart strong until he’s old enough to receive a transplant; however, insurance won’t cover it. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the capricious contours of celebrity

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This Week’s Biggest Gainers

1 178th Infantry of the National Guard
180 soldiers of the Illinois National Guard returned from Afghanistan and received heroes’ welcome at Soldier Field by a crowd that included Governor Quinn. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon (August 2, 2009)

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Chicago RNR med shot of runnersLined up among 14,000 fellow runners at six-thirty on a Sunday morning, I’m wondering how this Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon will be “rock ‘n’ roll.” Then the announcer points out a charity runner who’s running for NORML. “Ah, I think, the potheads are here. It is rock ‘n’ roll.”

Turns out the charity is not the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, but Normal in Schools, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about eating disorders and addictions, that communicates its message through producing a musical. And no, I’m not high right now.

What is “rock ‘n’ roll” these days anyway? When I heard that the long-running Chicago Distance Classic, a serious, conservative-sounding name for a race if there ever was, had been sold to a national operator of races under the Rock ‘N’ Roll rubric (the company, Competitor Group, also operates participant-athletics magazines and recently acquired and renamed Chicago’s Windy City Sports), I naturally thought they’d be turning it into a big party. I just hoped they also kept up the racing quality of what had been my favorite local half-marathon. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): I expect that you will soon stumble upon a key secret to your next masterpiece. And I’ll be surprised if you don’t discover a healing agent that will be effective in correcting an old mistake. In fact, Aries, I prophesy that in the coming week, you will have a sense that you’re doing the smart thing at least 90 percent of the time. Sorry: I’m afraid to say that I have no sad, bad, or mad news to deliver. If you’re the type of person who thrives on cynicism, your immediate future may be pretty boring. If you’re on the fence about the question of whether life is a gorgeous feast or a chaotic mess, your ability to deal with outbreaks of goodness will be supremely tested. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the capricious contours of celebrity

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This Week’s Biggest Gainers

1 Mark Buehrle
The White Sox starter became the eighteenth pitcher in baseball history to throw a perfect game, an achievement that even earned him a spot on Letterman. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Boy Crazy

City Life, Logan Square, News etc. 1 Comment »

Approaching cute guys just got a little easier. Cara Higgins and Sarah Rodriguez have created, a blog that posts pictures of cute boys seen around Chicago along with a little information about each one—name, age and where they were seen, for example. In the beginning, Higgins would take pictures from her phone of guys walking around her Logan Square neighborhood and then post them to Twitter or Facebook. From that, she and Rodriguez decided to create a blog for it. “When we started it was very hard for both of us to do because we would get really shy about it,” Higgins says. “Guys are way more embarrassed than we are,” Rodriguez adds. “They’ll be all smiley and shy and ‘I don’t know’ and we have to open them up.” Anyone who sees a site-worthy boy can submit a picture and some basic information. The site has gained popularity mostly through word of mouth, one of the things Rodriguez says she loves about it. “It’s nice that we have something that’s unique and Chicago-based,” Higgins says. “We were both born and raised here…and we’ve always come back to Chicago because it’s our home.”