“Abigail, do you want to pick out your pajamas?”
“No! I don’t want to!”
“Abigail, you can either own your destiny or have others determine it for you.”
“Abigail, do you want to pick out your pajamas?”
“No! I don’t want to!”
“Abigail, you can either own your destiny or have others determine it for you.”
On Monday, most of the staff of Time Out Chicago was laid off as the magazine began the transition to an all-digital model.
Last night, I noticed Laura Baginski, former features editor of Time Out Chicago, had “Editor of Time Out Chicago” in her Twitter bio so I tweeted it out. A few minutes later, former TOC editor-in-chief Frank Sennett confirmed that fact and the names of the 10 other people who are still employed there.
So with apologies for the Buzzfeed-like title, here are the 11 people who still work at Time Out Chicago and the titles they had under the previous ownership (many, like Laura, probably have new titles but perform similar functions).
Laura Baginski – Features Editor
Kris Vire – Theater Editor
Brent Dicrescenzo – Managing Editor
Jake Malooley – Reporter/Front of book/Chicago Tracker
Julia Kramer – Associate Dining Editor
Laura Pearson – Books & Poetry Editor
Martha Williams – Associate Photo Editor
Jessica Johnson – Senior Online Producer
Erin Delahanty – Digital Marketing Manager
Robert Ruthardt – Senior Account Manager
Marla Tarantino – Accounting Specialist
For those keeping score, that’s six editors, one digital staffer, a photojournalist, two for marketing and sales and an accountant. Having worked with many of those folks and counting more than a few as friends, I can tell you that’s a damn fine roster and some are my favorite Chicago writers.
A few other thoughts in the wake of the departure of Time Out Chicago‘s print edition:
There’s been a stunning lack of reporting about TOC in the days since it was announced it was going all-digital. Even in the last couple of days, there’s been little aside from what’s been announced by the brand itself or via Twitter. So it was probably no surprise that the biggest news – the above and media critic Robert Feder’s departure – was released via Twitter by people who used to work there. But I guess that’s what happens when the city’s only full-time media critic is one of the people laid off.
Incidentally, if you’re an all-digital publication I’m not sure why you’d buy out the contract of the biggest driver of your Web traffic. Sure, most of Feder’s readers probably came for him and didn’t cross over into other TOC content but if you want eyes and impressions why not retain him through a transition while you rebuild the likely traffic decline from not having a print publication as a driver of awareness for the site?
In short, money. A print magazine that broke its all-time ad sales revenue record in July 2012 was probably still a viable product so the only reason you’d shut it down would be to run the brand as cheaply as possible until you sell it as a package in a few years with the other brands in the portfolio and not because you think the print product can’t make money (which is another way of saying “don’t think a second news/entertainment glossy print product can’t make a go of it in Chicago”). Don’t just take my word for it: the Time Out CEO all but admits this is the plan in the last graf of this piece by Lewis Lazare.
As for the other locally-based, editorially-driven, news/entertainment print concerns in Chicago: Tribune’s Chicago magazine and Red Eye are obviously still doing well; according to Mike Miner, the Chicago Reader‘s readership numbers have been on a three-year climb (though the number you really want to look at is the press run which has remained steady) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wrapports’s The Grid and Splash break out of the Sun-Times wrapper sometime soon. Hell, even New City is still kicking around. And the above doesn’t even take into account Michigan Avenue and Chicago Social, both glossy magazines though they occupy a much different space in the market. Or Crain’s Chicago Business.
All of which says those who see TOC‘s print demise as a harbinger aren’t looking at the full picture.
Disclosure: I worked at TOC from 2007-2009 and am friends with many of the people who used to work there and some who still do. All of the above is based on public knowledge or is solely my conjecture or opinion.
Nathan, age 4, whose T-shirt read, “COOL BEYOND MY YEARS,” declined to share an opinion.
Fascinating story about Disney’s new princess, Sofia. Daughter of a single working mom (though she marries a king), she purposely doesn’t hew to the princess stereotypes of looking for a prince; the moral of one story says “breaking the rules is an exercise of your own free will.” The character went through a five-year development process with “writers, child-development and early-education experts and storytelling consultants” and quite a bit of pre-market testing with little kids. To me, the process they followed there is as compelling as the product that came out of it.
The character sketch is certainly interesting. As someone who’s generally anti-princess, I’m interested enough to check it out on Abigail’s behalf. The picture of Sofia in the typical princess attire with Cinderella-like birds flitting around her does make me wonder why Disney spends that kind of time and money to just create another princess. The paranoid side of me wonders if Sofia is a gateway drug to capture hearts and minds otherwise uninterested in typical princess stories and then while they’re in the princess toy aisle ”Say, have you met Ariel…?”
* If you hit WSJ’s paywall, Google “Test-Marketing a Modern Princess” and click through via search.
The number of people who can speak authoritatively about what it’s like to be a Chicagoan has dropped by one.
Roger Ebert’s death is on par with the passing of Studs Terkel for both Chicago and the world. Studs told the stories of the men and women who made Chicago live and breathe. Roger Ebert told the stories of film and, by extension, humanity writ large. But just as no critic’s view is entirely objective, Ebert’s outlook was informed by a life lived in Illinois, a career steeped in Chicago newspapers and a personality that lept off the page. Many before me have noted how he turned his forced physical silence into a digital journal equal to all his work that came before.
As the Tribune‘s Mark Caro noted today, Roger Ebert was Chicago, moreso than any other person. His bearing, humor, liberalism and enjoyment of bars – prior to his sobriety – were all aspects of this city that many saw as reflections of themselves. His international renown gave average people aspirations of greatness. Michael Jordan was His Airness. Roger Ebert was one of us.
A few other noteworthy links on and by Roger Ebert:
Neil Steinberg’s obituary for Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times
Rick Kogan’s obituary for him in the Chicago Tribune
Hank Sartin’s 2008 profile of Roger and his wife Chaz in Time Out Chicago, part of its Chicago Heroes package
Carol Felsenthal’s 2005 profile of Roger Ebert in Chicago magazine
Ebert’s essay in the Chicago issue of Granta about legendary journalism drinking spot O’Rourke’s
Siskel and Ebert filming a promo for their TV show and giving each other shit
Chris Jones’s 2010 piece on Roger Ebert for Esquire (“The Essential Man“)
The Playboy Interview with Siskel and Ebert from 1991 (via SFW site longform.org)
Roger Ebert on his love for Twitter
Ebert in Salon in 2011: “I do not fear death I will pass away sooner than most people who read this, but that doesn’t shake my sense of wonder and joy.”
There will never again be someone as influential on the art and business of film as Roger Ebert. Never.
Today my former Chicago magazine colleague Jeff Ruby said “Roger Ebert anecdotes are like belly buttons. Everyone’s got one and they’re all great.” Permit me a bit of navel-gazing as I try to make this story live up to that bon mot.
My first professional movie review was for Time Out Chicago, a little more than a year before I’d join the staff as its Web Editor. I’d been writing about movies for Chicagoist and done some other freelance work prior but this was the first time I was paid to cast a critical eye on film. My nervous excitement tempered only a little by my assignment: The Ringer, a Johnny Knoxville movie about…honestly, it’s not important. It was the guy from Jackass so that should tell you everything you need to know.
Versed in Chicago lore, I knew the Lake Street screening room – where I’d be watching the movie – has its own pecking order and seating arrangement. I studied a graphic that appeared as a sidebar in Chicago magazine’s 2005 profile of Ebert but it only covered some of Chicago’s top critics. Not wanting to intrude too far, I chose a seat a couple rows from the back, a few seats from the far right aisle.
And then Roger Ebert sat in the back row and I realized I was sitting directly in front of him. I quickly moved one seat over. But of course I was still in his line of sight.
Behind me, I could hear Ebert talking to his wife and some colleagues. They were discussing an upcoming biopic on Russ Meyer and why he felt Jack Black would not be a good person to play Meyer but a younger James Garner would be. Jokes were made about how radio DJ Steve Dahl should play Ebert; Ebert felt Phillip Seymour Hoffman could play him except Hoffman’s not masculine enough. A streak of his famous humor.
After a few moments, he settled in and I could hear him making the noises of a Midwesterner who’s trying to decide if he’s going to say something or just be nice and suffer through. He leaned forward and asked “Would you mind moving over so you’re not blocking my view of the screen?”
“Oh..was I…er…yes…herrm…ah…yes…I’ll…” I spat out as I gathered my things and moved a couple spots to the side.
“Thank you,” he said to the inarticulate interloper.
I wanted to become a writer because guys like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert made newspapermen seem larger-than-life. In that one moment, Roger Ebert – merely through his graciousness – gave me the opportunity to elevate my inadvertent rudeness to cocktail chatter. Even in a moment of irritation, he made small human moments seem greater. At least to me.
In health, Roger Ebert taught us how to appreciate art. In sickness, he taught us how to live life to the fullest. In his work, he taught us how to be great.
I am a terrible influence on my daughter.
Like most toddlers her age, Abigail is in a mimic stage where she copies what she hears and sees in her world. Lately, this has included everything from Daniel Tiger (“Come on in!”) to us (“Hi, honey!”).
Abigail’s also in a phase where she wants nothing to do with a diaper change. Merely suggesting it sets her off with whining usually followed by a dash in the opposite direction of the changing table. Trying to pick her up results in her throwing her arms up and going limp like a war protester in the middle of an arrest. While trying to strap a Pooh bear-adorned diaper on her I have to dodge flailing arms and legs.
These two phases came together one night last month when Abigail was trying to squirm off the changing table. Diaper tabs in one hand, the other on her belly I said “Wait a second, wait a second!” “Waaait a sec-end, waaaiiit a sec-und,” Abigail replied in a tone that betrayed a hint of mockery. I started cracking up because she sounded a little like my departed grandfather who, when faced with us squabbling grandkids would say “Wait-a-while, wait-a-while!” She also sounded a little like a precocious sitcom child in search of a catchphrase.
Several times over the next couple weeks I’d be trying to change her diaper and get more of the same. “Waaaaiit a sec-ennnnd!” This was all fine and good until one night last week when Abigail was being particularly squirrely and kicky. You know those times when you’re parenting your kid and you’re so focused on keeping them from harming themselves you don’t quite realize what you’re doing until suddenly something happens that brings your conscious mind back into the moment? That happened to me this night when Abigail – naked and thrashing – started saying…
“Damnit, damnit, damnit, damnit!”
I just stared at her.
“Damnit, damnit, damnit, damnit!”
Oh god, my child is cursing. At two years old. I have failed as a parent. Game over.
Where had she picked this up, I wondered. As if she, at two years old, was spending time with stevedores and pipefitters and bringing home some colorful language she’d never otherwise be exposed to from her incredibly kind nanny who’s never so much uttered an unkind word let alone a curse word, several PBS characters and her parents who…
Oh wait…that was me wasn’t it?
Much like the “Wait a second” bit, I realized I had unwittingly let loose with a “Damnit” when she was thrashing around as I was trying to wipe her butt. And so I began trying to unring the bell. My daughter was, at that moment, like an overflowing toilet whose filth was spilling out over its lip. And I was powerless to stop it.
Look, I swear. So does my wife. Quite a bit. And often creatively. But I don’t want Abigail showing up to story hour at church dropping mind bullets on the other kids in four-letter-word form. This toothpaste needs to get back in the tube.
“No, no, no, Abigail. Waaait a second! Waaait a second,” I exclaimed trying desperately to redirect her language back into the hacky sitcom-like verbiage I found so charming.
She stopped. But the damage was done. My daughter’s innocence had been stolen by my momentary lapse in judgment and her incredible facility with language.
So far there’s been no recurrence of her colloquial usage. In the meantime, I’m going to try saying “Filth Flarn Filth” in those instances when something more colorful is required.
You can listen to me read this piece here on The Paper Machete/WBEZ podcast of the show. (I start at 4:31)
Here’s my piece from The Paper Machete this weekend. Deadlines are tough; I finished this minutes before I left to go to The Green Mill so the ending isn’t quite what I had in mind, but it works.
I’m also a little concerned this piece drifts into mansplaining but it’s at least grounded in fact, even if it has a healthy dose of barroom argument to it. There are lots of views on this topic so it’d be great to hear some comments on it.
If you liked this piece, please like The Paper Machete on Fcaebook or follow it on Twitter and attend one of its Saturday afternoon shows at The Green Mill. It’s the best weekly live event in Chicago and deserves your support.
On Tuesday, President Obama appointed Julia Pearson to head the Secret Service. She’s the first woman to ever lead the agency charged with protecting the life of the President, the Vice-President and other high-profile people in government. This historic change followed CIA director John Brennan’s selection of a woman to be acting head of the the agency’s Clandestine Service, the part of the agency that goes barreling into the most dangerous parts of the world, risks the lives of its members and can never tell anybody about it. And, of course, this past January the Defense Department lifted the ban on women serving on the front lines in our armed forces.
In short, 2013 has been a great year for putting more women in positions of power so long as those women don’t mind getting shot at. This is probably not what Sheryl Sandberg meant by “Lean In” but so be it. Finally, the decades-long struggle for equal treatment under the law has been fulfilled. If you want to express your support for this, you can change your Facebook profile picture to an image of Jessica Chastain’s character in Zero Dark Thirty.
On the one hand, it’s impossible to downplay these achievements. According to the Washington Post, the CIA’s Clandestine Service has “long been perceived as a male bastion that has blocked the career paths of women even while female officers have ascended to the top posts in other divisions.” The same is true of women in combat. It isn’t so much that women should have the right to stand alongside men in the most dangerous combat environments – although they should – but because those positions afford women the best opportunities for advancement and salary in the military. One might call it a “camouflage ceiling”…but only if one wanted to be rightfully mocked for sounding like a jackass.
As for the Secret Service, the image of it – both in reality and in the larger culture – has been wholly male. According to the New York Times, women make up only ten percent of all special agents, which is lower than most law enforcement agencies. Think of the Secret Service and the first image to pop into your head is a dude in a dark suit and dark sunglasses talking into his sleeve, thanks in part to TV and movies. Think of the Secret Service movie In The Line of Fire and you remember Clint Eastwood more readily than Renee Russo. Though a major motion picture gave us a black president at least ten years before it happened in real life, we didn’t get a movie with a woman as the head of the Secret Service – in this case, Angela Bassett in Olympus Has Fallen – until last week. The week before it happened for real.
This coincidence seems minor but it got me thinking that pop culture is replete with roles where women are President yet we’ve never had one in real life. Of course then I remembered when Hillary Clinton got a little choked up on the Presidential campaign trail in 2008. There was talk for days afterward about whether or not she was crying and if she – and, by extension, a woman – was tough enough to be President. Does Pierson as head of the Secret Service put that notion to rest? One would hope. After all, you’re probably tough enough to be the President if you’re tough enough to take a bullet for one.
While putting women in powerful/dangerous positions within the federal government and military puts the lie to the notion that women don’t have the temperament for certain kinds of work, it would be nice if we didn’t wait to put them there until after a bunch of guys turned it into a shit show.
If you’ll recall, the last time the Secret Service made big news was in 2012 when a group of special agents were preparing for the President’s visit to Cartagena. And when I say “preparing,” I mean “having sex with prostitutes” and subsequently arguing over price which is really depressing because you’d think an agency that was originally part of the U.S. Treasury would have a better understanding of currency exchange rates.
Also, the CIA hasn’t exactly been running the tightest ship either recently with former director David Petraeus resigning last year because had an affair with someone and people found out about it because he used Gmail to exchange secret messages with her instead of using Snapchat like really good spies do.
(I’m summarizing the Petraeus thing for the sake of brevity. You can read a full account of it at my website WhyWereWeSoObsessedWithThisFourMonthsAgo.com / SeriouslyWhoCaresNow )
So while putting women in these positions is great, they’re burdened with both the assumption that their presence alone will clean up institutions that have been old boy’s clubs for decades and the equally unfair expectation that because they’re the first they’re representing all women everywhere. Nobody assumes the next head of the CTA is going to bang his memoirist, for example, but when Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer stops letting people work from home it somehow has less to do with whether that’s a smart decision as a CEO trying to turn around the culture of a company best known for hosting your parents e-mail address and more to do with demonstrating to the larger world how a woman can “have it all” even though “all” is different for everybody and most people wouldn’t “want it” anyway.
Similarly, Sheryl Sandberg’s been taking it on the chin for her book Lean In, which discusses the structural and institutional barriers that keep women from getting ahead in the workforce. Rather than judging her arguments on their merits, most of the criticism centers on whether she’s properly representing the outlook of all working women, rather than just those at Fortune 500 companies.
Is Sandberg writing from a position of wealth and privilege? Sure. And there’s an argument to be made that her experience does not resemble every woman’s but I don’t think that was her intent. I’d even be OK with this line of criticism if it meant we were then making room on the bookshelves for women who make 30-50K a year or work at Target or are stay-at-home moms and sending them on extensive press tours. But somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen.
All of which brings me back to the woman who’s the new head of the CIA’s Clandestine Service. I have to keep saying “the woman” because most people don’t know her name. The reason for that is because she’s undercover. So while she’ll still be the first woman in her position, she’ll likely be judged more on her work and not her name or her background. After watching the press treatment of Mayer and Sandberg over the past few months, she’s probably pretty thankful for that.
“The reason he did it that way was because he knew he had to cheat to win,” Whitney said. “The fact that the mayor would do something illegal like this was shocking. But, in a sense, it wasn’t because the mayor had gotten so desperate and obsessed with this concept. He said it was terrorism, but he always wanted to close it for a park. And frankly, the park is not that much to write home about. After 10 years, it’s kind of disappointing.”
I’ve read quite a few criticisms of former Mayor Daley but “He had to cheat to win” has got to be in the top 5 harshest reviews.
Also, I don’t normally recommend reading comment sections but the one from a former president of the Friends of Meigs Field makes a cogent argument for why the greater crime was the mishandling of Meigs Field as a monetary asset that might have helped close some budget shortfalls.