Chicago - Jan. 15, 2021
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Army Of Darkness
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5 p.m.
A discount-store employee is time-warped to a medieval castle, where he is the foretold savior who can dispel the evil there. Unfortunately, he screws up and releases an army of skeletons. (tvguide.com)
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Tribune: 51/37
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BWM*: 82/12
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« December 2020 | Main

January 15, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #339: The Four Horsemen Of Halas Hall

Awesome culture not even able to pull off a press conference. Plus: Holy Shit, White Sox; The Bad, Bad, Bad Blackhawks; The Less Bad Bulls; Evanston vs. Champaign; and more!

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #339: The Four Horseman Of Halas Hall

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SHOW NOTES

* 339.

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* The Drew Pearson Push-Off.

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* Bears Front Office So Inept They Can't Even Hold A Decent Press Conference.

McCaskey / Phillips.

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Pace / Nagy.

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* Biggs, Tribune: 10 Things.

* Pro Football Focus: Dak Prescott And The Rest Of The NFL's Top QB Free Agents.

* Washington Post: Does This Haircut Make Me Look Like A Nazi?

* Ryan Pace's Haircut.

* Fishbain, The Athletic: Allen Robinson's Future Becomes High Priority As Bears Move To Offseason.

"Three years ago, Robinson had options as one of the top receivers to hit the market. Some questioned his decision to pick Chicago with a new coach and a second-year quarterback in Mitch Trubisky.

"Now that he's entering his eighth season in the NFL, he could evaluate his options differently.

"'When I came to Chicago, I know there was a ton of people who thought I wasn't making the best decision for my career then,' he said. 'At the same time, I knew with Coach Nagy, with the team that we had and everything like that, that I was doing what was best for my career."

* Bears Board of Directors.

* CLARIFICATION: George McCaskey called C.J. Gardner-Johnson a punk, not Anthony Miller.

4908: Holy Shit, White Sox.

55:35: The Bad, Bad, Bad Blackhawks.

* Kaplan, ESPN: It's gonna be a long season.

1:05:03: The Less Bad Bulls.

1:07:15: Evanston vs. Champaign.

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STOPPAGE: 9:26

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:40 PM | Permalink

The [Friday] Papers

Hola, amigos.

I'm going back on hiatus; I'm not gonna half-ass this thing just for the sake of keeping it up, or appearing to. I've got plenty of other things to do.

So the site is officially suspended in animation until further notice.

That doesn't mean I won't be posting any new material. The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour will continue, shifting back to our regular Friday schedule now that the Bears season is over. And I'll continue to post work from writers such as Roger Wallenstein, Tom Chambers and David Rutter.

But for now I'm going to spend my time paying bills, cleaning up my taxes, ginning up some outside projects, tweeting, and trying to avoid getting COVID.

I still haven't even finished unpacking from my move last March. Though I still haven't finished unpacking from any move I've made since college. But still.

So, see you on the other side of whatever this is.

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The Truth

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Check Out REACH

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Straight To Hell / Lily Allen

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Radio King

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Comments, tips, assignments, hate mail.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:12 AM | Permalink

January 14, 2021

The [Thursday] Papers

Hola, amigos! Been a long time since I rapped at ya.

Well, since Monday.

What have I been up to?

Oh, just making moves and starting grooves.

Break it down for me, fellas.

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But don't make me break this shit all the way down.

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Now, check out the hook while my DJ revolves it . . .

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Overton Window
"Chicago rapper Vic Mensa's nonprofit is raising money after roughly $40,000 worth of shoes, medical supplies and other items were stolen from the organization's storage space at Overton Elementary School in Bronzeville," Block Club Chicago reports.

Trapp Door
"Chicagoans are stepping up to help the Luceros, the city's 'von Trapp' musical family, from being evicted," Block Club Chicago reports.

"The Luceros - father Juan, mother Susy and seven children - make up Cielito Lindo, a mariachi folk band that has performed everywhere from Alcala's Western Wear in West Town to Nickelodeon's stage in Los Angeles."

As featured in the Beachwood in March 2018.

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Temperature Check

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ChicagoReddit

100 Years Ago Today [January 13, 1921] Northwestern University lifts its ban on modern dancing, a prohibition that was put in place to prevent the students from slipping into degeneracy. from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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Programming Note
I had to remove some content because something in the coding is messed up. The YouTube and Facebook embeds I tried showed up perfectly in preview, but once posted showed as a totally different video and swapped the Facebook embed with the Soundcloud badge on the right rail.

I really don't want to do this anymore. The site is broken and I'm sick of it.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Collaborative.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:08 AM | Permalink

January 11, 2021

MLB's Sticky Situation

With everything that's happening in our tumultuous world, you can be excused for missing a rather amusing tale coming from the world of major league baseball last week.

As scandals go, this one appears rather tame compared to the PED uproar of the 1990s and early 2000s or the Astros' sign-stealing scheme.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times first reported the story after a court proceeding in Los Angeles involving former Angels visiting clubhouse attendant Brian "Bubba" Harkins.

While Harkins, who worked for the Angels for more than 30 years before being fired last March, is an unfamiliar name, people like Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright, Max Scherzer, Cory Kluber and Felix Hernandez are easily identifiable. All were mentioned in last week's reporting.

Seems that Harkins allegedly concocted a potion of pine tar and rosin which could benefit pitchers by helping them grip a baseball for increased control and spin rates. Apparently former Angels' closer Troy Percival introduced Harkins to the mixture during his 10 years (1995 - 2004) in Anaheim in which he recorded 316 saves. Percival once attended the University of California-Riverside, although no one has investigated whether his major was chemistry. Nor has it been ascertained whether a lab is required for creating this illegal substance.

Because Harkins lost his job with the Angels and was immediately unemployable by other ballclubs, he filed a defamation suit last August against the Angels and Major League Baseball. Back on Nov. 2, MLB countered with a motion to dismiss the suit, and last week Harkins' attorney responded by opposing the dismissal. This time Harkins named names along with a text he had saved from Gerrit Cole, the Yankees' $324 million pitcher. Hence DiGiovanna wrote his account.

"Hey Bubba, it's Gerrit Cole, I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation," Cole texted in January 2019. "We don't see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold."

What's comical about all this hubbub is that both pine tar and rosin are found in every clubhouse at all levels of the game. As long as I have watched ballgames, there always has been a rosin bag resting behind the pitcher's mound, helping pitchers, whose hand might be wet and slippery on a hot summer day, get a decent grip on the ball, thus lessening the chances of an errant missile that could severely injure the batter. I assumed that rosin was some kind of chalk but, according to Baseball Reference, it's "a sticky substance extracted from the sap of fir trees."

Rosin bags have a much longer history than pine tar, a somewhat different animal which, according to the rules, can be applied to the lower (basically the handle) 18 inches of the bat in order to, again, get a better grip.

Of course, no one gave pine tar much attention until 1983 when Yankees manager Billy Martin asked the umpire to examine Kansas City's George Brett's bat after Brett's two-run, ninth-inning homer in a late July game gave the Royals a 5-4 lead at Yankee Stadium. The ump ruled that Brett had misapplied pine tar and called Brett out. The iconic video of an enraged Brett sprinting from the dugout to wreak havoc (or worse) on the umpiring crew is among the most intense images in the history of the game. Furthermore, Brett's lumber has occupied a permanent home in the Hall of Fame since 1987.

Aside from the legality, or lack thereof, of applying this substance to the ball, wouldn't you think that a pitcher, many of whom are esteemed because of their baseball intelligence and acumen, could figure out on his own how to manufacture the mixture? You don't need a fir and pine tree because both components are readily available, and, taken individually, infringe on the rules in no manner whatsoever. Getting caught with rosin or pine par isn't a crime anywhere as far as I can tell.

On a visit to Anaheim, couldn't someone like Cole approach Harkins and simply ask, "Now Bubba, how many parts pine tar to rosin should I use?" My uninformed answer would be "equal parts," therefore, making the sticky stuff about as easy to employ as taking Play-Doh out of those plastic eggs that hold the blobs.

Forget about selecting the specific kind of steroid or PED or learning how to inject oneself or finding someone else to do the job. Pre-schoolers would be good candidates for combining pine tar and rosin. They'd probably enjoy the task.

As long as we're talking about an endeavor one level above manufacturing mud pies, consider the can of worms MLB has opened here. Will voters think twice before checking their Hall of Fame ballots for the likes of Verlander and Scherzer? After all, if what Harkins says is true, they technically have been cheating.

I also wonder how many other clubhouse personnel knew about Harkins' concoction. He couldn't be the only one. Furthermore, would any of this have become public knowledge if MLB and the Angels had paid off Harkins to just go away once he filed suit? The situation might have been resolved with a check for far less than what they pay a utility infielder. Part of the settlement could have been a non-disclosure agreement which is used de rigueur in this litigious age. Write him a check, hold your breath, and issue a statement to every team that suspensions will result if any pitcher applies anything more than rosin to the baseball.

Of course, Harkins is the victim here. He possibly made more in tips each season than his salary for handing out jock straps and towels to the visiting team. Now he's a pariah while elite millionaire pitchers may suffer a tinge of embarrassment, and, possibly more importantly to them, a few less rotations on their spin rate.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:22 PM | Permalink

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #338: Halas Hell

No-man's land. Plus: Bye Bye Bam-Bam; As The Crow Retires; Zach LaVine Stuffs Stat Sheet; and Evanston vs. Champaign. Go Padres and Red Stars!

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #338: Halas Hell

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SHOW NOTES

* 338.

* Rozner, Daily Herald: Another Superb Bears Season Ends In Defeat.

Assuming they all keep their jobs, you will hear all of the same authentic frontier gibberish you have heard for six years of GM Ryan Pace, three years of head coach Matt Nagy and four years of Mitch Trubisky, and you will hear all the same next year if they are all back in Lake Forest.

As is always the case, they had a great week of practice leading up to the Saints game.

Trubisky had the best week of practice he's ever had in his life.

The quarterback has learned so much this year and the benching made him a better player.

By giving up the play-call sheet for a short time, Nagy has acquired more knowledge about his job and will be even better next season.

Nagy knows the Bears need to commit to the run, stay with the run and be better at running the football. They have to fix that and they will fix that. Guaranteed.

The Bears made tremendous strides in 2020. The team is on the verge of something great.

The players and coaches all love each other because they fight and they care so much.

They were so close to something very special this season. It was only a matter of a play here or a play there that made the difference.

Those are plays they need to make and they know that, and in 2021 they will make those plays.

They won't talk about who's responsible for those plays, but they know who they are and they know how to get it done next time.

They're going to work extra hard this offseason to ensure they're all better at their jobs next time around.

They're fired up to get down to business and excited about what the future holds.

They're not worried about a lack of cap space because they have a great plan in place for putting a championship team on the field in 2021.

Next year will be the year.

If you've lost track of how many times you've heard each one of these before, no one would blame you. Most people stop listening after the seventh or eighth time.

What's certain is that the Bears have now gone another year without a Super Bowl after the Saints sent them home. And anyone being honest would tell you they are very far from being a Super Bowl team.

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* Bears MVP: Cairo Santos.

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34:13: It's Gonna Be Packers Vs. Chiefs.

* Quarterback roulette.

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43:28: Babe "Bam-Bam" Ruth Has Left The City.

e4c9c0949a2c54931202ffcde8032da4.jpg

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54:22: As The Crow Flies Into Retirement.

coreycrawfordretire.jpg

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58:30: Zach LaVine Stuffs Stat Sheet.

* A star?

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59:36: Evanston vs. Champaign.

* Illinois Overcomes Big First Quarter Deficit To Swamp Northwestern.

And then . . .

* Maryland Upsets No. 12 Illinois.

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STOPPAGE: 4:56

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:13 PM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #338: Halas Hell
No-man's land. Plus: Bye Bye Bam-Bam; As The Crow Retires; Zach LaVine Stuffs Stat Sheet; and Evanston vs. Champaign. Go Padres and Red Stars!

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MLB's Sticky Situation
An amusing little scandal.

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ChicagoReddit

Can I get your guy's opinion on what living in a coach house is like? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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The Beachwood Tuna Piano Line: But you can't tuna fish.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:24 AM | Permalink

January 9, 2021

Kirin Beer's Myanmar Military Partner

Japan-based Kirin Holdings should publish its investigation report on the military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. and swiftly cut ties with the company.

Kirin announced the conclusion of an investigation by Deloitte Tohmatsu Financial Advisory on Thursday, but declined to publish the report for confidentiality reasons.

"Kirin should regain some trust of consumers, investors and rights groups by releasing the details of its investigation into the operations of its Myanmar military business partner," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Kirin's business association with MEHL raises serious human rights concerns that need urgent action, not further obfuscation behind an investigation whose results are kept secret."

In its Thursday statement, Kirin said the investigation by Deloitte was "inconclusive as a result of Deloitte being unable to access sufficient information required to make a definitive determination."

Kirin said the investigation aimed to determine the "destination of proceeds received by" MEHL from Myanmar Brewery Ltd. (MBL) and Mandalay Brewery Ltd. (MDL), and that it would provide a "further update" on its business activities in Myanmar by the end of April.

Kirin owns a majority stake in Myanmar Brewery Ltd. and Mandalay Brewery Ltd. in partnership with the military owned-and-operated MEHL. In 2015, Kirin bought 55 percent of Myanmar Brewery Ltd., 4 percent of which it later transferred to the military-owned firm. In 2017, Kirin acquired 51 percent of Mandalay Brewery Ltd. in a separate joint venture with the firm.

Myanmar's armed forces, the Tatmadaw, have been responsible over many years for numerous grave violations of human rights and war crimes against the country's ethnic minority populations. These abuses culminated in the August 2017 campaign of ethnic cleansing against the ethnic Rohingya population in Rakhine State, including killings, sexual violence, and forced removal. Human Rights Watch found that Myanmar's security forces committed crimes against humanity and genocidal acts in those 2017 operations against the Rohingya.

In Rakhine State, the military and police keep an estimated 600,000 Rohingya confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, cut off from access to adequate food, health care, education, and livelihoods. Approximately 130,000 of them have been held since 2012 in open-air detention camps. Human Rights Watch found that the squalid and oppressive conditions imposed on the Rohingya amount to the crimes against humanity of persecution, apartheid, and severe deprivation of liberty.

A United Nations-backed Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar reported in 2018 that atrocities committed by Myanmar's armed forces "rise to the level of both war crimes and crimes against humanity." In a September 2019 report, the panel concluded that "any foreign business activity" involving Myanmar's military and its conglomerates Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. and Myanmar Economic Corporation pose "a high risk of contributing to or being linked to, violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law."

At a minimum, these foreign companies are contributing to supporting the Tatmadaw's financial capacity." The Fact-Finding Mission advocated the "financial isolation" of the military to deter violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

On November 11, 2020, Kirin announced a suspension of "all dividend payments" from the Myanmar Brewery Ltd. and Mandalay Brewery Ltd. joint ventures with MEHL "in view of a significant lack of visibility regarding the future business environment" and pending "the ongoing assessment into the destination of proceeds from MBL and MDL and the spread of Covid-19 in Myanmar."

On May 22, Human Rights Watch and three other nongovernmental organizations wrote to Kirin to urge the company to terminate its partnership with the military conglomerate. After initiating an investigation on June 6 by Deloitte into the operations of MEHL, Kirin responded in a June 12 letter that "It is wholly unacceptable to Kirin that any proceeds from the joint-venture with the MEHL could be used for military purposes." Amnesty International, in September, published a report detailing links between MEHL and the Myanmar military.

Kirin Group's Human Rights Policy states that the company will respect international human rights law instruments, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This means that Kirin should "avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur," and "seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts."

"It's been more than a year since the UN Fact-Finding Mission strongly advised foreign companies to cut their ties with the Myanmar military, yet Kirin is still dragging its feet with what should be a clear decision," Robertson said. "Kirin should realize that the longer their involvement with the Myanmar armed forces, the greater their risk of complicity in military abuses, further tarnishing the company's human rights record."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:57 PM | Permalink

January 8, 2021

The [Friday] Papers

For completists, there was no Thursday column.

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Two songs I'm currently obsessed with.

1. You Get What You Give / New Radicals.

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2. V / Golden Smog.

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Oh, and this:

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ChicagoReddit

How do you pronounce "Reese's Pieces"? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Brookfield Zoo uses discarded Christmas trees as animal treats.

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BeachBook

After Decades Of Effort, Scientists Are Finally Seeing Black Holes. Or Are They?

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Subscribe now.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:31 PM | Permalink

January 6, 2021

The [Wednesday] Papers

I made a (deeply personal) phone call from a Dalton, Georgia telephone booth off the interstate once. I've been triggered all week.

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Huh, in my memory Dalton was just over the state line from Florida, but nope, it's just before the state line of Tennessee.

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Dalton, by the way, is the Carpet Capital of the World.

It is not, however, named after Dalton, though I'm sure he worked some toilet there once.

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So that's what they were doing at the school down the block. I pass by there almost every day on my way to Walgreens - which I go to almost every day.

Speaking of which . . .

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And as long as we're on Facebook . . .

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OTD in Music History via Songfacts:

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 11.17.02 AM.png

He wasn't wrong.

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New on the Beachwood . . .

Hollywood Still Can't Get Abortion Right
Exaggerates medical risks, downplays barriers to access.

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Why Chimps Don't Hold Elections
Most of your life takes place in a made-up world.

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ChicagoReddit

Has anyone ever gotten an email response from the city hall workers that handle city stickers/daily parking stickers? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

People On Chicago Street At Rush Hour | Stock Video - Motion Array

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Tip slip.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:55 AM | Permalink

Hollywood Still Can't Get Abortion Right

According to decades of research, abortion is an incredibly common and safe medical procedure.

But if you learned about abortion only from movies and TV, that's not the story you'd see. For the last eight years, we've been studying onscreen depictions of abortion. We've found that Hollywood tends to dramatically exaggerate the medical risks associated with abortion while downplaying real barriers to access.

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 9.30.14 AM.pngLittle Fires Everywhere/Hulu

Aside from a few exceptions, 2020's onscreen content continued to reflect patterns we'd identified in previous years.

Missing From The Narratives

Overall, we tracked 31 television storylines and 13 movie plot lines about abortion in 2020. They include titles like the American release of the French film Portrait of a Lady on Fire; HBO's Unpregnant and Never Rarely Sometimes Always; Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere and Mrs. America; and the independent film Saint Frances.

Thirty-one of them featured a character having or disclosing an abortion. This is more than we've seen in previous years. In the past, more characters changed their minds, had miscarriages or didn't even consider having an abortion when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

Other patterns, however, remained remarkably consistent. As in previous years, 74% of this year's abortion plot lines featured white characters. No characters were parenting at the time of their abortion, and the majority of them faced few, if any, legislative, financial or logistical barriers to accessing an abortion.

This is inconsistent with what we know about real-life people who get abortions. For example, in the U.S., abortion patients are most often people of color. After seeing an increase in characters of color obtaining abortion onscreen in 2019, we had hoped that this trend might continue. In fact, the number and proportion decreased.

Similarly, the majority of U.S. abortion patients are parenting at the time of their abortions and cite their need to care for their children as a reason for an abortion. Yet, only one character who got an abortion on television in 2020 was raising a child.

Finally, despite the nearly insurmountable barriers many face to getting an abortion, only five plot lines portrayed characters struggling to access abortion care.

We did not, for example, see characters have to repeatedly reschedule appointments because they could not take days off of work or school or could not find child care. Nor did we see characters grapple with the devastating effects of the Hyde Amendment, a provision that denies the use of federal funds for paying for abortions. It essentially denies coverage of abortion for people who receive health insurance through the government - many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet.

These are just a few of the many onerous obstacles that the majority of U.S. abortion patients face in the United States. Yet they remain virtually absent onscreen.

The Outliers

Still, there was some content that made strides.

In Unpregnant and Never Rarely Sometimes Always, barriers to access were central to the plots. Each starred white, teenage girls who road-trip with a friend to abortion clinics in states that don't have laws mandating parental consent. The films go to great lengths to portray the logistical and financial hurdles to accessing care, and the emotional fortitude and social support needed to make it possible.

And although characters of color had their abortion stories told less frequently than in 2019, the few that did were notable: The film The Surrogate tells the story of a young Black woman acting as a gestational carrier for a gay couple. An episode of Vida portrays Emma, a queer Latina, having a medication abortion and learning that her sister has had one, too. In I May Destroy You, Arabella, a young Black writer, divulges a past abortion to her therapist, who's trying to help her heal from a sexual assault.

While not revolutionary in and of themselves, taken together, these particular plot lines suggest how abortion and other reproductive experiences can be subtly or overtly affected by race and class, narratives that are rarely explored onscreen.

Entertainment media have the power to shape what people know and how they feel about social and medical issues. While the taboo of telling abortion stories on film and TV has long been broken - the first film featuring an abortion premiered in 1916, and the first television plot line aired in 1962 - we're still waiting for an onscreen world that reflects the realities of abortion in American life.

Stephanie Herold is a data analyst at the University of California-San Francisco. Gretchen Sisson is a research sociologist there. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:37 AM | Permalink

January 5, 2021

Why Chimpanzees Don't Hold Elections

This excerpt is adapted from 7 1/2 Lessons About The Brain.

Most of your life takes place in a made-up world. You live in a country whose name and whose borders were made up by people. You allow particular humans to be leaders of that country, such as a president or a member of Congress, by following procedures invented by people long dead, such as elections, and you give them powers that were also made up by people. You acquire food and other goods with something called "money," which is represented by pieces of paper and metal and even by electromagnetic waves flowing through the air, and which is also completely made up. You actively and willingly participate in this made-up world every day. It is real to you. It's as real as your own name, which, by the way, was also made up by people.

We all live in a world of social reality that exists only inside our collective human brains. Nothing in physics or chemistry determines that you're leaving the United States and entering Canada, or that an expanse of water has certain fishing rights, or that a specific arc of the Earth's orbit around the sun is called January. These things are real to us anyway. Socially real.

joshua-earle-X_roZ7toBJY-unsplash-crop.jpgJoshua Earle/Unsplash

The Earth itself, with its rocks and trees and deserts and oceans, is physical reality. Social reality means that we impose new functions on physical things, collectively. We agree, for example, that a particular chunk of Earth is the United States and its carved up into 50 made-up areas called states. And sometimes we disagree. In the Middle East, for example, people kill each other over whether a parcel of land is Israel or Palestine. Even if we don't explicitly discuss social reality, our actions make it real.

Humans are the only animals on this planet who can simply make things up, agree on them as a group, and they become real. Scientists don't know for sure how our brains developed the capacity for social reality, but we suspect it has something to do with a suite of abilities that I'll call the Five Cs: creativity, communication, copying, cooperation, and compression.

First, we need a brain that's creative. The same creativity that permits us to make art and music also lets us draw a line in the dirt and call it the border of a country. This act requires us to invent some social reality (namely, countries) and impose new functions on an area of land, like citizenship and immigration, that don't exist in the physical world. Think about that the next time you pass through Customs, or even when you leave one town and enter another.

Next, we need a brain that can communicate efficiently with other brains in order to share ideas, such as the idea of a country and its borders. Efficient communication for us usually includes language. For example, when I tell you that I'm running for office, I don't have to explain that I'm talking about politics, not exercise, and that I plan to send flyers to voters, make speeches, demolish my opponents in debate, and so forth. My brain conjures these features and so does yours, allowing us to communicate efficiently.

We also need brains that learn by reliably copying one another in order to establish laws and norms to live in harmony. We teach these norms to our children and to newcomers, not only to smooth day-to-day interactions but also to help the newcomers survive.

Anthropologist Joseph Henrich, in his book The Secret of Our Success, describes explorers in the 1800s who ventured into inhospitable, uncharted parts of the world, where many of them died. The expeditions that survived were the ones whose members became acquainted with the Indigenous people in those regions; they taught the explorers what to eat, how to prepare the food, what to wear, and other secrets of survival in the unfamiliar climate. If all individual humans had to figure out everything themselves without copying, our species would be extinct.

We need brains that cooperate on a vast geographical scale. Even the most mundane act, like casting a vote, is possible only because of other humans. Every mail-in ballot was designed and printed by other humans, on paper that was manufactured by other humans, from trees that were cut down by other humans; and when you drop it in the mailbox (constructed from steel by other humans), it's delivered by other humans and counted by still other humans. Thanks to a shared social reality, all these thousands of people were in the right place at the right time doing the right things for you to participate in the democratic process.

Creativity, communication, copying, and cooperation - four of the five Cs - arose with genetic changes that gave our species a big, complex brain. (These terms are inspired by the evolutionary biologist Kevin Laland's book, Darwin's Unfinished Symphony.) But to make and maintain social reality, you also need the fifth C, compression, an intricate ability that humans have to a degree not found in any other animal brain. I'll explain compression first by analogy.

Imagine that you are a police detective investigating a crime by interviewing witnesses. You hear one witness's story, then another's, and so on, until you've interviewed 20 witnesses. Some of the stories have similarities - the same people involved or the same crime location. Some stories also have differences - who was at fault or the color of the getaway car. From this collection of stories, you can trim down the repetitive parts to create a summary of how the events might have occurred. Later, when the police chief asks you what happened, you can relay that summary efficiently.

A similar process transpires among neurons in your brain. You might have a single, large neuron (the detective) receiving signals from umpteen little neurons at once (the witnesses) which are firing at various rates. The large neuron doesn't represent all of the signals from the smaller neurons. It summarizes them, or compresses them, by reducing redundancy. After compression, the large neuron can efficiently pass that summary to other neurons.

This neural process of compression runs at a massive scale throughout your brain and produces an incredible result. It enables to you think abstractly - to see things in terms of their function instead of their physical form. You have the ability to look at a painting by Picasso and perceive that the colorful shapes represent a face. You can view squiggles of ink on paper and grasp that they represent numbers, and moreover, that the numbers represent your spending for the month. Abstraction lets you view objects that look nothing alike - such as a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, and a gold wristwatch - and understand them all as "gifts that celebrate an achievement." Your brain compresses away the physical differences of these objects and in the process, you understand that they have a similar function. Abstraction also allows us to impose multiple functions on the same physical object. A cup of wine means one thing when your friends shout, "Congratulations!" and another when a priest intones, "Blood of Christ."

Abstraction, together with the rest of the Cs, empowers your large, complex brain to create and share social reality. All animals pay attention to physical things that allow them to survive and thrive. We humans add to the world by collectively imposing new functions on physical things, and we live by them.

Each of the Five Cs is found in other animals to varying extents. Crows, for example, are creative problem-solvers who use twigs as tools. Elephants communicate in low rumbles that can travel for miles. Whales copy one another's songs. Ants cooperate to find food and defend their nest. Bees use abstraction as they wiggle their bums to tell their hive-mates where to find nectar.

In humans, however, the Five Cs intertwine and reinforce one another, which lets us take things to a whole other level. Songbirds learn their songs from adult tutors. Humans learn not only how to sing but also the social reality of singing, such as which songs are appropriate on holidays. Meerkats teach their offspring to kill by bringing them half-dead prey to practice on. We learn not only about killing but also the difference between accidental killing and murder, and we invent different legal penalties for each. Rats teach one another what's safe to eat by marking palatable foods with an odor. We learn not only what to eat but also which foods are main courses versus desserts in our culture and which utensils to use.

Chimps, our closest living cousins, have human-like brains that can accomplish each of the Five Cs. However, they don't have social reality. When chimps select a leader, they don't vote by making marks on smushed bits of dead trees like we do. They follow the alpha male who will threaten or kill any others who challenge him. Killing is physical reality; most human leaders today stay in power without murdering their rivals.

Chimps certainly can observe and copy one another's practices, like poking a stick into termite holes to pull out tasty snacks, but this learning is based in physical reality - namely, that sticks fit into termite holes. If a troop of chimps agreed that whosoever pulls a particular stick out of the ground becomes king of the jungle, that would be social reality, because it imposes a sovereign function on the stick that goes beyond the physical.

Social reality is an incredible gift. You can simply make stuff up, like a meme or a tradition or a law, and if other people treat it as real, it becomes real.

Sometimes the changes are relatively small, like using the pronoun they to refer to a single person instead of a group. Sometimes the changes are large, like in 1776, when a collection of 13 British colonies vanished and was replaced by the United States of America. And in 1787, a new social reality was shared with the fledgling country in the writing of the United States Constitution. Democracy itself is social reality.

Social reality is also incredibly fragile. It can be altered dramatically, in moments, if people simply change their minds. We experienced this in the Great Recession of 2007, when some people in fancy suits decided that a bunch of mortgages had dropped in value, and so they did drop, plunging the world into catastrophe. And every constitutional crisis is a battle of one social reality against another. Democracy may be social reality, but as such, it is vulnerable to being manipulated.

Social reality has limits, of course, when it is constrained by physical reality. We could all agree that flapping our arms will let us soar into the air, but that won't allow us to fly. We could all say that a deadly virus is harmless, but a virus doesn't care what we think.

Nonetheless, social reality does influence the physical world. A society can collectively agree that a person's skin tone or private parts make it okay to pay them less or systematically deprive them of opportunities, which over time erodes their physical health.

Imagine if one day, we all just decided that enough is enough and eradicated racism and sexism, in the same manner that we eradicated the 13 Colonies in 1776: by changing our collective minds.

Social reality is a superpower that emerges from an ensemble of human brains. We exercise that power every time we treat sparkling diamonds like they have value, every time we idolize a celebrity, every time we vote in an election, and every time we don't vote in an election. We have more control over reality than we might think. We also have more responsibility for reality than we might realize.

Lisa Feldman Barrett is a psychology professor at Northeastern University and the author of How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. This post was originally published on Undark.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:42 PM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

Hola, amigos! Been a long time since I rapped at ya.

So, as most of you probably know, I took the last couple of weeks off from this column - and largely though not totally the site - in order to both attend to other year-end matters and also to try to think through my 2021 plans.

I didn't get far.

I'm torn between too many interests, ambitions and desires. I have a couple of books in me, which I occasionally try to focus on until I'm diverted elsewhere. I still would love to execute the business plan for this site and my company, but I've truthfully pretty much given up on that. I desperately want to upgrade this site but the help I've been seeking to do so for years has not been forthcoming. I have podcast ideas! And I have great stories/projects to pitch as a freelance writer/reporter but no real good place to pitch them - local stuff that doesn't seem to fit with any outlet we have around here combined with a near-total distrust of the editing/project management capabilities of said outlets, based on shitty experience after shitty experience, and national stuff that I don't know where to go with.

But the real thing I want to do is edit. I'm really good at it, both from a journalism POV and as a manager of people. I finished just about every day managing a team that hovered around 25 as a census field supervisor this summer and fall wishing they were my reporting staff.

That's what I've wanted to do since I was a kid, believe it or not. I never really wanted to be a reporter; I wanted to be the person deciding what stories went on the front page.

I also didn't want to become an editor through the copy desk, which is bullshit, nor before I had the kind of reporting experience that I thought crucial to being a great editor.

I always studied the industry, too. I began reading Editor & Publisher at a young age and knew the mastheads of most papers in America almost as well as I knew the baseball rosters of every MLB team. I followed the industry's Wall Street analysts and digested the business fundamentals that veteran reporters in legacy newsrooms, among others, never understood. I designed - at great expense - a master's degree program at Northwestern to study newsroom management that combined courses from Kellogg, Medill and the speech communications department, which hosted me and offered classwork in media economics, as well as a certificate which I earned in telecommunications science, management and policy. That was what we called the online world back then - it was 1993.

While at Northwestern, I worked at the Newspaper Management Center (later renamed the Media Management Center), which put me into executive management programs and on projects such as The Local News Ideabook for Knight-Ridder. I know my stuff. (My resume needs refreshing, but whatever.)

Of course, to dumbfounded media folk in these parts, I was a "self-styled" media critic when I started a weekly online media column at Chicago magazine. Later, when I started this site, I was attacked by small-minded, thin-skinned journos who couldn't imagine that someone might know a few things that they did not; or at least thought they were immune to criticism if they took you out to lunch once, because that's not only the Chicago Way but the Media Way.

And don't get me started on the foundations and funders. My god.

I do not like big back-slappy families of insularness such as the media gang - in large part because they know not how lame they are. Also, I'm not a cultural fit for the mainstream (though I dislike the ideological cliquishness and hypocrisy of the alternate world; I live in the margins, the in-betweens, which isn't easy my friends!)

Everyone telling everyone else how great they are, ugh. How many times can I show you how objectively awful Fran Spielman is? Journos don't like facts, either. They adopt ideologies of their own - narratives, we often call them. Groupthink is a real thing - and one we should be piercing daily, even among ourselves, not adopting.

I've wanted out - of Chicago, of this site - for many years now, as many of you know. For example, this was five years ago - and probably five years after I first thought, "This isn't gonna work. Not here at least."

Every day I see work in the media that carries literal falsehoods, besides false frames, shitty narratives, products of groupthink, stenography, undue deference to officials, all the media sins that have been chronicled for decades and yet remain present and, in some cases, worse than ever (see polling and soap opera political reporting).

It doesn't have to be that way. We can be better. How? By caring enough while losing the arrogance and insecurity (the worst combination around) to acknowledge that much of what the media does is lazy; that the job isn't about desiring proximity to power; by taking criticism seriously and simply - quite simply - changing the way the work is done to be better.

I just don't think the media, by and large, cares.

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I've always had a twin journalistic ambition: to be a columnist. To be a funny, insightful writer. In some ways, I have achieved those goals: I write a column and edit a website! But not in the way I want. In some ways, I'm not a management type. On the other hand, management types are the banes of our existence. That's always been one of my main points.

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Anyway, I don't yet know what 2021 will hold for me and this site. I'm still trying to work through it. (The site has already gone through several iterations, really. We used to be wholly stocked with original material. For a bunch of reasons, in recent years we've become more like an Utne Reader or Harper's - an aggregation of curated and found material that suits our sensibility.)

I have so many stories to tell - stories about this site, about funders (potential and real), stories about all kinds of bizarre media interactions as a freelancer - that I don't know what to do first. The only motivation I've lost is to chronicle the daily ins-and-outs of the city council and county board and the politicos who pass for celebrities here, the noxious strategists and the PR industrial complex. I still save all the articles that beg for clarifying and correcting, but I find it hard to essentially keep writing the same items over and over again. Don't y'all get it by now?

So I don't quite know yet where this site is going - if anywhere - in the new year. Maybe I'll know by the end of the month. In the meantime, all I can say is watch this space and find me on Twitter.

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I probably write this column every year but again, whatever.

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On the Beachwood since the last time I yapped at ya . . .

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #337: Bears Back Into Nonsense
The prism of snagging a COVIDY playoff spot doesn't change the reality of the Bears' performance. Plus: Breaking Up With Jed Hoyer; Bulls No Longer Totally Sucking; Jonathan Toews' Mystery Illness; Evanston vs. Champaign; Citrus Pat; and Red Stars Blockbuster.

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The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #336: All That's Left For The Bears Is The Rare Measuring Stick Lid-Closer
Only the Packers can tell us what's real now. Including: Is Matt Nagy All Growns Up?; Trubinsky; Jets Sweep. Plus: Bullskill, Blackhawks Camping, and Evanston vs. Champaign.

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Counting The Negro Leagues
Not as easy - or valiant - as you may think.

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China's Repression And The Winter Olympics
Human Rights Watch has extensively documented serious human rights abuses in China, and that the human rights environment has deteriorated significantly since the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

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Recall! Sriracha Chicken Ravioli
"The product labeled as 'FRESH THYME FARMERS MARKET CHICKEN RAVIOLI Ovals' was formulated with a different sriracha chili sauce than normally utilized in the product formulation because the firm was unable to obtain the usual brand from their supplier. The sriracha chili sauce used on Dec. 8, 2020 contains soy, while the sauce normally used in the formulation does not."

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Meet The First U.S. Collegiate Athlete To Capitalize On Name, Image And Likeness Rights
NAIA beats NCAA to the punch.

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A WTF Timeout
Let's ring in the New Year with New Sewage while we calculate how many Chicago cops it takes to break into the wrong naked woman's apartment.

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ChicagoReddit

Homeowners of Chicago - What is a normal water bill?? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

HE NEVER GOT UP - The Sad Story of a Locally Famous Chicago Boxer

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BeachBook
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find at our Facebook page.

Must-Read | Statement Of Congressman Jamie Raskin And Sarah Bloom Raskin On The Remarkable Life Of Tommy Raskin.

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Without God Or Reason.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Twit Line: Twit it good.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:09 AM | Permalink

January 4, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #337: Bears Back Into Nonsense

The prism of snagging a COVIDY playoff spot doesn't change the reality of the Bears' performance. Plus: Breaking Up With Jed Hoyer; Bulls No Longer Totally Sucking; Jonathan Toews' Mystery Illness; Evanston vs. Champaign; Citrus Pat; and Red Stars Blockbuster.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #337: Bears Back Into Nonsense

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SHOW NOTES

* 337.

* Bill "Mad Dog" Madlock.

* Rhodes: "It doesn't mean anything! They're exactly what you see in front of you."

* Lieser, Sun-Times: Bears Backing Into Playoffs Likely Means Pace, Nagy, Trubisky Stay Despite Disarray.

If the Bears were looking for a reason to keep the core of their team intact by bringing back coach Matt Nagy, general manager Ryan Pace and quarterback Mitch Trubisky, they can probably talk themselves into this semi-competitive loss to the Packers being the justification.

They shouldn't.

The Bears are on an endless road to nowhere, and hanging with the Packers into the fourth quarter before losing 35-16 is hardly a counterpoint to that assessment. They're in the playoffs, though, because the Cardinals lost to the Rams. That barely qualifies as something to celebrate.

It all but assures Pace and Nagy of keeping their jobs despite how disheveled this team looked on paper (Pace) and on the field (Nagy) throughout the season. And if those two are back, bet on Trubisky joining them.

The Bears finished 8-8 for the second season in a row, and whether they made the playoffs is arbitrary. Stumbling into the postseason because of a lucky break in a game 2,000 miles away - and even then, only because the NFL added a seventh playoff spot in each conference this season - doesn't somehow make this 8-8 more impressive than meandering to 8-8 last season.

It'll be confusing inside Halas Hall to see someone ripping an 8-8 season, because that generally passes for acceptable. It's the second-best record they've had in Pace's seven seasons running the team. They're now 42-54 under his watch and have scored the fourth-fewest points in the league during that span.

* Absolute Assassin.

* via Brad Biggs' 10 Thoughts:

"They were just giving us looks that were more advantageous to go to Mooney than to A-Rob," Mitch Trubisky said.

* ibid.:

"That was a situation where they had a better call on than we did and they executed better than we did," Trubisky said.

* Rhodes: Eddie Jackson misses Adrian Amos.

* Bad teams overvalue high draft picks:

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53:17: Breaking Up With Jed Hoyer.

* "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." - Hunter S. Thompson.

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1:07:54: Bulls No Longer Totally Sucking.

* Zach LaVine, Coby White Combine For 62 Points As Bulls Drop Dallas.

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1:11:01: Jonathan Toews' Mystery Illness.

* 'Drained and lethargic.'

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1:15:28: Evanston vs. Champaign.

* No. 19 Northwestern about to become No. Nothing.

* Illinois Now No. 4.

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1:18:30: Citrus Pat.

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1:21:20: Red Stars Blockbuster.

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STOPPAGE: 27:59

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:01 PM | Permalink

MUSIC - Chicago Music Poster History.
TV - Hollywood Still Can't Get Abortion Right.
POLITICS - The Dark Side Of Kirin Beer.
SPORTS - The Four Horsemen Of Halas Hall.

BOOKS - Why Chimps Don't Hold Elections.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Recall! Sriracha Chicken Ravioli.


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