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Archive for April, 2010

Open House Today!

The floors have been mopped, and the booze chilled.

Tonight is a sterling opportunity to catch a look at not only my studio, but three other ultra-cool, creative work spaces.  These other spaces include the Graphic Conservation Co., a group who specializes in paper conservation and restoration.  If that doesn’t interest you, the killer views of the Loop from their space will.  Hylan Design is an awesome wood shop with the same views, but with saws.  What’s cooler than saws?  Saws with a view.  Also, Tauras Bublys will have his photo studio doors open in order for us to quadruple our pleasure.  This dude does sick things with a medium format camera and a table top.  Lucky for me, he couldn’t find his way around a Canon 1D if he needed to!

So, take this chance to see a few creative professionals that actually work for money, sometimes.  Or, just come for the free booze.  Valet parking too!

Thursday, April 29, 2010   6-9p

329 W 18th St

7th Floor

Chicago

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Before the real comedy for this day begins, we’ll start with a nagging fire that just wouldn’t quit yesterday in Bridgeport.  It was a mattress factory, a mattress store, a mattress storage facility…actually, I don’t really know what it was, except that it had a hell of a lot of mattresses.  Not a spectacular scene, but one that was described as “a nightmare scenario” by a waiting firefighter due to smoke conditions.

In other news, the sheriff’s office returned my call- 3 days later- to answer the policy question I had.  Simply put, the question was: What is the County’s policy on dealing with the media at a news event?  Must a reporter call before arrival?  Is there always a contact dispatched to crime scenes?  Is there any unusual restriction that Cook County places on media coverage in the case of a newsworthy crime?  I’m guessing that detaining, questioning, and threatening reporters are not part of any formal policy.  So what is the formal policy- if any?

Enter Steve Patterson, the Monique Bond of the Cook County Sheriff.  Not surprising, Steve Patterson didn’t call with a policy clarification.  Steve called to…well, I’m not sure why Steve called.  Anyway: “What’s the policy in dealing with the media, Steve?”  “There is no policy” Steve says.  No kidding, Steve.  “So, does the Sheriff’s Department have any comment on how the on-scene officers treated me on Friday?”  Steve responds with…wait for it… “We’re familiar with you and your arrests.  The Sheriff (Tom Dart) was there and witnessed the whole thing.”  Uhhhhhh….wait…did I say that out loud?

Awesome.  Best you pump those brakes, friend.  As the spokesperson of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office- or ANY police agency- the cheat sheet you need to tape to the telephone reads:  “I am not familiar with this.  I’ll check into it and get back with you.”  Learn it, love it, live it.  That conversation- and this whole mini-story, was a giant waste of time until you barfed out the fact that the Sheriff watched the whole thing- and supported it.  This was a nothing thing from the beginning.  A burning car in the forest preserve on the South Side didn’t raise a single eyebrow until Cook County officers hassled a photographer.  Even then, mainstream media never cared.  Cops behaving badly is nothing new.  Situations like this are blog fodder at best.  Then, just before I had completely and totally forgotten all about Friday’s interaction, a representative of the Sheriff calls to inform this photographer and blogger that the top County cop actually watched the ordeal take place.  Nice gatekeeping.  I don’t even qualify as media in the eyes of the Old School County.  Yet, it took Patterson all of one sentence to bring a top-level recognition and acceptance of jackassery to Dart’s office.  Dart would have been better off calling to say:  “Yeah, I saw my guys illegally detain and threaten you, and I’m cool with that.”  Patterson said the same exact thing, only it was, well, Patterson.  I would have been tickled to actually hear Dart throw some chest around.  Instead, I got to listen to some dude who reminded me 3 times that he used to be a reporter too.  As a reporter, I’m not that impressed with former reporters, Steve.  I am, however, impressed with your arrest at…here it comes…Cook County Hospital, as a Sun-Times writer covering a protest.  Good times.

I’m actually looking into employment within the Chicago Police Department as their spokesperson.

Knob.

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Most city crime scenes are exactly the same, every time.  A dozen unmarked- Ford Crown Victoria’s, yellow tape, fat men in suits carrying CPD logo Trapper Keepers.  Pretty standard, pretty boring.  The better show is typically the uniformed beat cops whose only role at a crime scene is to control traffic.  No investigating, no interviews, no measurements, no pictures.  Their job begins and ends with “perimeter control.”  Period.  Kind of like being the waterboy at a football game.  Not a terribly necessary piece of staff, but, ‘so long as you’re here, can you hand me that?’

Must suck for them.

Yesterday, myself and another news photographer were on the receiving end of one such frustrated beat cop whose task was to make certain that no media walked on “his” sidewalk a half block away from a Pilsen shooting.  He competently secured the uninvolved concrete area 300 feet from where the first of 12 overnight citywide gun crimes took place.  The importance of this mission was not lost on this man.  Securing this sidewalk could have been paramount to an investigation that will conclude that a gang-banger walked up to and shot another gang-banger, before fleeing on foot down the alley.  Wow.  Magnum PI-like stuff.

Then, there’s today.  Someone sets a car on fire in the Dan Ryan Woods at 89th and Western…with their friend inside.  Sounds like Good Fellas type stuff, making it marginally more interesting than the typical drive-by.  I show up to document the incident, and immediately get a face full of Moose and Rocco demanding my identity.  Rocco is the brains of the two.  He detained me, questioned me and ran my ID.  Moose, on the other hand, demanded my camera and threatened to inventory it and it’s memory card after deleting the stored images.  He was by far the more amusing of the two.  He also had a strange fascination with my hands being in my pockets.  He shut his hole after I explained that the images immediately transfer to the office after I press the shutter.  “You want my card?  Sure thing,” I said.

He chose to walk away, leaving Rocco to demand my removal.

No word from Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s media office after a policy request.

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Love those red-light cameras.

Three cars shunted at 31st St and King Dr this afternoon, sending five to the hospital.  I don’t really sell many pictures of car crashes these days.  It has to be a pretty significant pile-up to even think about giving chase.  However, two of the last three wrecks that I’ve covered and sold have been at this intersection.  The last one I shot at this location was also a major deal.  It drew five ambulances and included a car full of children.

So what’s the deal with this flippin’ intersection?  I asked a firefighter this question today.

“The camera sees all.”

What the heck does that mean?

“The camera, dude.”

Ooohhh.  Yes.  Good eye, I thought.  Then I said: “I thought those were supposed to make intersections safer.”

He and his firefighter buddy went on to share stories about the near-misses they experienced while driving behind the folks who screeched to a stop the moment the light turned yellow- knowing they can’t afford the $100 ticket that would turn up if they crossed the line too late.

I have those stories too.  In Chicago, those yellow lights only shine the absolute minimum amount of time the state requires (3 sec) before switching red.  I’m not a traffic engineer, but I kind of wish I was.  Sounds like a cool job.  Ponder this: In Chicago, 98.8% of red-light violations don’t result in crashes, and 83% of red-light violations occur within .5 seconds of the light turning red.  If the red-light cameras are NOT a money grab, then make the yellows 3.5 or 4 seconds.  Credentialed engineers and studies have concluded that longer yellows make intersections safer.

Red-light cameras don’t make intersections safer, they make people slam on the brakes.  If the intersection happens to be safer, it’s a side effect of opposing more taxes.  The other side effect of opposing more taxes, is making intersections more dangerous to rear-end crashes.

Idiots.

It’s not particularly important to me to know exactly how these specific crashes occurred, or if the cameras played a role.  Also, those statistics are self-compiled, and hauntingly accurate- by my estimation.

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