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Berlin Biennale Cancels 2024: Too Much Going On
“The upcoming edition of the Berlin Biennale, one of Europe’s most prestigious recurring art exhibitions, has been postponed from 2024 to 2025,” reports ARTnews. “In a statement, the German Federal Cultural Foundation cited ‘pandemic-related organizational delays’ as a reason for the delay, as well as concerns around a ‘biennial super art year’ in 2024.”
Metra Intends To Raise Fares
“Metra is weighing changes to trip prices, as it looks to create fewer fare zones and eliminate a pandemic-era $100 monthly pass,” reports the Tribune. “The proposed changes are an attempt to simplify the fare system for riders and ticket collectors, and adjust to changing rider habits that have commuters coming into the city only a few days a week, if at all. Metra hopes the new fares will [increase] ridership, which, on weekdays in May, was about fifty-one-percent of 2019 levels.”
All Too Well: Taylor Swift Boosted CTA Ridership
Taylor Swift’s Chicago weekend helped set CTA’s highest ridership in three years, the agency relays. “Bolstered by Taylor Swift, neighborhood festivals, concerts and warmer weather, CTA saw more riders in early June since the start of the pandemic,” with 5.63 million rides for the week of June 4-10. “The week started off strong Sunday, June 4, thanks to the Taylor Swift fans who chose to use the system to get to the sold-out concert at Soldier Field. The three-night concert generated more than 43,000 additional bus and rail rides at the Roosevelt station and on the 146 Inner Lake Shore/Michigan Express route. Roughly 690,000 riders tapped onto the system Saturday, June 10, many on their way to and from popular summer festivals such as Midsommarfest in Andersonville, the Chicago Blues Fest in Millennium Park and the Old Town Art Fair—garnering the highest Saturday ridership since the pandemic. On Friday and Saturday, even with the Cubs out of town, ridership at the Addison Red Line station was similar to game day levels thanks to the Dead & Company concerts.”
Obama Center Granted Another $26 Million
“The Stavros Niarchos Foundation announced it will give the Obama Foundation a $26 million grant to be used for the Obama Presidential Center,” reports Crain’s. “$25 million of the grant will go toward establishing the Democracy in Action Lab, a programming hub that aims to provide ‘a physical space to facilitate community convening and inspire civic participation.’ The remaining $1 million will support the Obama Foundation’s Leaders Program, connecting and supporting civic leaders around the world.”
When Chicago Had Exchanges, Not Area Codes
“Long before the cell phone era, in which every phone call requires dialing ten numbers, Bell Telephone customers had only five numbers, preceded by two letters,” reports Chicago magazine. “The letters represented exchanges, where operators plugged jacks into switchboards to connect callers. They were prefixes of longer words, which not only made numbers easier to remember, but indicated where in the city a customer lived and did business.”
Mixed-Use Development Will Replace Two Late-1800s Buildings Near Polish Triangle
City Council has approved two mixed-use developments at 1235 North Ashland and 1301 North Ashland in Wicker Park, reports Chicago YIMBY. The proposals replace five existing buildings “dating back to the late 1800s.” Designs introduced this spring “received pushback from many locals due to its height, surrounding context, and the loss of five structures, one of which holds Mike’s Furniture.” Still, “both received approval from their respective wards along with the city.”
NASCAR Street Closures In Effect
Yesterday marked “the start of the aggressive prep for the race, with Jackson closing between Michigan and Columbus,” reports NBC 5. “Columbus Drive is also now closed between Jackson and Roosevelt as the home stretch of the circuit is completed. Previously, Ida B. Wells closed east of Michigan, while Balbo closed between Michigan and DuSable Lake Shore Drive. More significant closures begin today, as lane closures on eastbound Roosevelt will get underway. Congress Plaza Drive will also close today. All of the closures will continue through the race days, which are set for July 1-2 around Grant Park.” Streets allowing access only for residents and businesses begin June 29, include 8th Street, 9th Street, 11th Street and Harrison Street.
How’d That NASCAR Race At Soldier Field Turn Out In 1956?
“The NASCAR drivers who will shortly roar around Michigan Avenue and DuSable Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago were preceded by stock car racers circling a track inside Soldier Field sixty-seven years ago,” reports the Trib. “The 1956 Grand National one hundred-mile race, considered the first NASCAR cup series race held in Chicago, was witnessed by 14,402 fans who saw Fireball Roberts win by a car length over Jim Pascal, who was ahead until Roberts passed him on the 194th of 200 laps.”
Electric Buses Rolling Out
“The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding almost $1.7 billion in grants for buying zero- and low-emission buses, with the money going to transit projects in forty-six states and territories,” reports the Trib. “The grants will enable transit agencies and state and local governments to buy 1,700 U.S.-built buses, nearly half of which will have zero carbon emissions. Funding for the grants comes from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill.” Chicago’s new electric buses are highlighted here.
DINING & DRINKING
Celebrating National Caviar Day At Maple & Ash
Steakhouse Maple & Ash will salute National Caviar Day with a “Bumps & Bubbles” cart, with caviar and Champagne roaming the dining room to serve guests tableside. “Take your pick between a taste of Kaluga, Osetra or Siberian and the pros will recommend one of three Champagnes to complement your caviar of choice,” the restaurant advises. “For double the pleasure, indulge in an off-menu favorite: the show-stopping Blackout Oyster—a Beau Soleil Oyster topped with a heaping serving of Kaluga caviar, then set on a chilled vodka shot served in a crystal glass. Available all day on the patio for $26.” Maple & Ash, Tuesday, July 18. Reservations here.
WSJ Senses Impatience At Restaurants After Pandemic Damage
“With a lack of experienced workers, retention and staffing issues hitting restaurants, customers are dissatisfied, and owners are looking for solutions,” writes the Wall Street Journal. “Restaurants are attempting to up their services, whether it’s increasing hands-on staff training, implementing contactless serving to speed up ordering or arming servers with handheld ordering devices for more face-to-face time. Making these changes is only one piece of the puzzle for success: Hourly wages increased 5.2 percent for restaurant and bar workers since between April 2022 and 2023, according to the U.S. Labor Department, and owners have to reconsider their operating models to cover expenses if sales aren’t solely cutting it.” Continues reporter Heather Haddon: “Consumers have gotten cranky with restaurant service. Celebrity chefs and Chipotle alike have struggled to hire and train workers—and diners are losing patience. Forty-two-percent of consumers who dined out in May were frustrated by the lack of staff. A number of restaurant companies say they are working to improve service through more hands-on training of workers and better technologies to speed up meals.”
Kim Severson at the New York Times took this up in May: “The patience that customers have extended to restaurants over the last few years is wearing thin, especially as menu prices climb and experienced workers are harder to find. A plaintive cry is rising from America’s dining rooms: Can we get some service around here? And not just any service. Diners say they crave a night out free from QR codes, waiters who don’t seem to care and menus designed to glorify the chef and attract influencers. They want to feel like welcome guests again, wrapped in the kind of warm, competent hospitality they fantasized about while the pandemic took it all away.”
West Side Alfresco Turns Heads
“When opening Big Shrimpin on the West Side, Prentiss Harris wanted a spot that welcomed customers with more than a small waiting area where cash and food changed hands through a window,” reports the Sun-Times. “And in a rare twist, the pandemic made that easier, as a local chamber of commerce started helping businesses, including Big Shrimpin, to offer outdoor dining… ‘The Austin area and areas like that, they get a bad rep for violence,’ said Harris… ‘A lot of times, people don’t think people could enjoy something like that because they would be afraid.'”
FILM & TELEVISION
“Why We Must Save TCM”
“I’m tired of hearing how much David Zaslav loves classic movies when his action scream otherwise,” writes film critic Monica Castillo. “If he loves classic movies so much, then invest in the people who bring classic movies to the masses, who dig up the shorts, the nearly forgotten travelogues, the people who contextualize film history, pick carefully themed line-ups and off-beat programming that sets it apart from the indiscernible dump that is the Max streaming platform–which has a TCM section in name only, as the section is not curated or programmed by anyone involved with the channel. So far [of the seventy out of ninety employees that have been fired], the network has lost the head of the TCM Film Festival, the channel’s head programmer, and the editor who helped shaped Noir Alley and some of the touching TCM Remembers videos we share at the end of the year. They may not be the faces of the channel, but their work was an indelible part of what made TCM more than just another name on our TV Guide. They made it a destination, a place for people to tune in at home, connect with others online who share their love of classic movies.”
Writes Brooks Barnes in the New York Times: “Mr. Zaslav routinely describes himself as a colossal fan of classic cinema. He keeps TCM playing in his office, where he proudly works from the same desk used by Jack Warner, one of the studio’s founders. In recent months, Mr. Zaslav, who took over Warner Bros. last year, has been celebrating the studio’s hundredth anniversary.” Adds that paper’s Maureen Dowd: Zaslav “tried to reassure jittery Hollywood titans who, like me, believe TCM is part of their identity… ‘This is my favorite channel. I think it’s critically important. It’s like a trust. It tells you where America was and where America’s going. It defines how people see this country. This is a beautiful living history.'” Zaslav told the columnist that he “wanted to spend more money on the channel and market it better… ‘This is going to be a magical thing.'”
Meanwhile, that “magical thing” has been hot-potatoed to Warner Bros. Pictures bosses Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy. “The move is meant to reassure the film community after WBD announced a restructuring this week that saw TCM chief Pola Changnon exit after twenty-five years, along with key team members.”
Steely Dan At Seminary Co-Op
Alex Pappademas and Joan LeMay will appear at The Seminary Co-op to discuss their fully illustrated fancy, “Quantum Criminals: Ramblers, Wild Gamblers, and Other Sole Survivors from the Songs of Steely Dan” and will be joined by Jessica Hopper. Saturday, July 1, 3-4pm. Register here.
Do Billionaires Underspend When They Buy Up Media Properties?
“When newspapers began failing as businesses, a number of them were bought by billionaires. That provided a lifeline, but, it was pretty widely said, also a risk: What if the billionaires tired of the money they were losing, and abandoned the field? As things are turning out, the risk seems a somewhat different one,” writes former ProPublica hand, Richard Tofel. “The problems at the Washington Post under Jeff Bezos and the Los Angeles Times under Patrick Soon-Shiong seem to me to have an important common element: owners who have made significant investments, but have now apparently drawn a line short of what’s necessary for their publications to thrive with readers.”
“Many billionaire businessmen, having made great fortunes, are inclined to think that the problems of the press will admit of business solutions. So, they are prepared to invest, but expect an eventual return in the form of a healthy company, even if not a financial yield on that investment… When the promised land is not reached on the promised timetable, there can be a temptation to try again within the resources previously said to be sufficient rather than to question whether more might have been needed all along.” Soon-Shiong’s vote was also critical in turning over the Tribune to Alden Global.
VICE Media Bought Out Of Bankruptcy
“VICE Media, the once-high flying digital media company valued at billions of dollars, is set to be acquired out of bankruptcy by three investment companies, Fortress Investment Group, Soros Fund Management and Monroe Capital, for $350 million,” reports CNN.
Concert Featuring Ben Folds And Members Of CSO Rescheduled
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has announced a new date for the CSO special concert featuring songwriter and pianist Ben Folds and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Folds will now make his Symphony Center debut with a program conducted by guest conductor Edwin Outwater on Wednesday, July 26 at 7:30pm. More here.
UW Choral Union Ends After 130 Years
“A UW-Madison choir group founded [in 1893 and predating the School of Music] that brought together students, alumni and community members has been disbanded as the university seeks to shift resources to more student-[centered] offerings,” reports Wisconsin State Journal. “The School of Music announced… that it would no longer offer the UW Choral Union, also known as the Madison Choral Union, starting in the fall semester.”
Pricing Changes Coming To Hot Tix
Changes are happening with Hot Tix, alerts the League Of Chicago Theatres. “To remain competitive and to best serve the needs of its members, Hot Tix, historically a half-price ticketing service, will now offer all discounted tickets beginning July 3. Half-price tickets will also remain an option, but discounts now vary. HotTix operates online here and in-person at Guest Services inside Block 37 Shops on State. Tickets sold through Hot Tix are meant to be the lowest offered by any third-party tickets service. Proceeds provide revenue through ticket sales to individual theaters and by supporting programs of the League of Chicago Theatres, which promotes, supports and advocates for the theater industry. Since reopening in August 2021, Hot Tix has sold over 86,000 tickets and has served more than 18,000 patrons at the in-person outlets downtown. Hot Tix has sold tickets for more than 500 productions since reopening, putting more than $1.5 million back into the Chicago theater community.” A comprehensive list of Chicago productions is here. Available half-price tickets are here.
Labor And Material Crisis Grows
“As theaters have reemerged from pandemic closure in the past season, and audiences are returning, though in still lower numbers than before, there’s plenty of drama onstage. But behind the scenes there’s another drama that’s been unfolding: a quiet strangulation that only theater insiders know about, which has affected everything from the expense of building sets to rehearsal scheduling, and perhaps most significantly what titles are being chosen for the 2023-24 season,” reports American Theatre. “It has become extremely difficult for theaters to find enough competent craftspeople, even to recruit untrained laborers who can hammer sets, paint flats, or sew costumes for professional regional theaters—least of all folks experienced in the sub-specialty of theater work. Similarly, it has become much harder to find designers who are not overloaded.”
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
Philanthropist James Crown Was Seventy
“Billionaire James Crown, a leader of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, died Sunday in a car crash at a Colorado race track,” reports CBS 2. “Crown recently spearheaded an initiative by the Civic Committee to raise tens of millions of dollars over the next several years to work with organizations and local leaders to help fight crime in Chicago. The new initiative is meant to bring all the players around the same table to fight crime. The idea is that collaboration is key to making Chicago the best it can be.” The Sun-Times: “On Sunday, his seventieth birthday, he was driving at Aspen Motorsports Park in Woody Creek, Colorado, when he missed a turn… ‘There never was a finer human being in every way,’ said Crown’s father, billionaire financier Lester Crown. ‘He was the leader of our family both intellectually and emotionally, and he looked out for everybody. He also was a great leader also for the community. It’s just a heartfelt loss. There are no words that can express it.'”
Nobel-Winning Creator Of Lithium-Ion Battery John B. Goodenough Was One Hundred
“An unassuming professor who remained active into his nineties, John B. Goodenough is credited with the breakthrough that gave rise to the batteries powering today’s electronic devices,” chronicles the New York Times. “He achieved his laboratory breakthrough in 1980 at the University of Oxford, where he created a battery that has populated the planet with smartphones, laptop and tablet computers, lifesaving medical devices like cardiac defibrillators, and clean, quiet plug-in vehicles… that can be driven on long trips, lessen the impact of climate change and might someday replace gasoline-powered cars and trucks… The powerful, lightweight, rechargeable lithium-ion battery is a product of incremental insights by scientists, lab technicians and commercial interests over decades. But for those familiar with the battery’s story, Dr. Goodenough’s contribution is regarded as the crucial link in its development, a linchpin of chemistry, physics and engineering on a molecular scale.” Goodenough studied physics at the University of Chicago.
Indiana University Jewish Culture Center Endowed
The Indiana University Jewish Culture Center on the Bloomington campus has been endowed through a gift from Jill and Ron Sedley. “The Jewish Culture Center serves students and develops leaders in a vibrant hub that provides traditional and creative connections to Judaism. IU Bloomington currently has around 4,500 Jewish undergraduate and graduate students.” More here.
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