The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Two Illinois anniversaries

First, today is the bicentennial of Illinois becoming a state, which involved a deal to steal Chicago from Wisconsin:

If Illinoisans had played by the rules to get statehood, Chicagoans would be cheeseheads. By all rights, the Wisconsin border should have been set at the southern tip of Lake Michigan when Illinois was admitted into the union, 200 years ago Monday.

That would have made a 60-mile strip of what’s now northern Illinois a part of southern Wisconsin. Stripped of the smokestacks of Chicago’s factories, Illinois’ landscape would have been dominated by grain elevators and dairy barns. But that didn’t happen.

The fix was in, even as the state of Illinois was conceived.

It's a good story. Today is also the 75th anniversary of Pizzeria Uno opening in Chicago, which introduced deep-dish pizza to the masses:

Pizza had been around the city’s Italian cafes for decades.  It was served in tiny wedges, and mainly used as an appetizer.  Even on a full pie the crust was wafer-thin.

The pizza at Pizzeria Uno was going to be different—cooked in a deep dish, with a thick crust and heaps of cheese.  Who came up with this innovative style?  Riccardo?  Sewell?  Their chef, Rudy Malnati?  The debate goes on.

So on a wartime Friday evening in December, Pizzeria Uno opened with little fanfare.  Business was slow at first.  Gradually, Chicago-style pizza caught on.  By 1955, people were lining up outside in the cold, waiting to get in.

Longtime readers know that despite my Chicagoan heritage, I prefer New York-style big slices that you have to drain before eating. Preferrably bought from a window on 3rd Avenue around 4am.

Other things I'm reading

If the Kanye West–Donald Trump crazyfest didn't do it for you, there are plenty of other things to take a look at this lunchtime:

That's all for now. Enough crazy for one Friday.

Bad timing, good timing

My strategy of sleeping until noon (i.e., 6am Chicago time) to avoid shifting my body clock didn't exactly work this trip. That's because, unfortunately, my hotel's air conditioning is being replaced. Fortunately I'm here now, when it's 23°C, not a month ago when it was 34°C. And fortunately, my windows open. That means I had the windows wide open last night, which, unfortunately, meant the sun poured in starting around 6am. Fortunately, I have this view:

And the hotel left a couple of big fans in the room, fortunately.

Then, unfortunately, this terribly disappointing thing is also going on right now:

That's The Blackbird, my second-favorite pub in London, undergoing a gut rehab, apparently. It closed mid-July and won't open again until mid-October, according to my hotel's staff.

But fortunately, the Prince of Teck is just down the road a bit, and they have a pretty good Full English breakfast:

Now, having only gotten four hours of sleep last night, I'm going to have a kip. Because fortunately, I have absolutely nothing scheduled for today.

How the McDonalds Monopoly game was rigged

Via Schneier, the head of security for the marketing firm running the game stole the million-dollar game pieces:

[FBI Special Agent Richard] Dent’s investigation had started in 2000, when a mysterious informant called the FBI and claimed that McDonald’s games had been rigged by an insider known as “Uncle Jerry.” The person revealed that “winners” paid Uncle Jerry for stolen game pieces in various ways. The $1 million winners, for example, passed the first $50,000 installment to Uncle Jerry in cash. Sometimes Uncle Jerry would demand cash up front, requiring winners to mortgage their homes to come up with the money. According to the informant, members of one close-knit family in Jacksonville had claimed three $1 million prizes and a Dodge Viper.

When Dent alerted McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, executives were deeply concerned. The company’s top lawyers pledged to help the FBI, and faxed Dent a list of past winners. They explained that their game pieces were produced by a Los Angeles company, Simon Marketing, and printed by Dittler Brothers in Oakwood, Georgia, a firm trusted with printing U.S. mail stamps and lotto scratch-offs. The person in charge of the game pieces was Simon’s director of security, Jerry Jacobson.

Dent thought he had found his man. But after installing a wiretap on Jacobson’s phone, he realized that his tip had led to a super-sized conspiracy. Jacobson was the head of a sprawling network of mobsters, psychics, strip-club owners, convicts, drug traffickers, and even a family of Mormons, who had falsely claimed more than $24 million in cash and prizes.

The longish read is worth the time.

Did hot dogs increase American xenophobia?

As I eagerly await the start of the England-Columbia World Cup match that starts in a few minutes, I'm taking a moment to absorb Emily Atkin's report on the political implications of encased meats:

[T]he rise of cheap meats—fueled by hot dogs but also salisbury steaks—fed into more nationalist sentiments, too. Americans began to feel as though they were better than Europeans, who didn’t have enough land for grazing to make meat cheap enough for the masses. “If you’re a working-class factory worker in Liverpool, you’re not going to eat as much meat,” Kraig said. “But working-class Americans could get it, and they knew that,” feeding a patriotic sense of superiority that played into late-nineteenth century American xenophobia, as well. In turn, “Most Europeans were absolutely appalled” by the level of meat-eating in early America, Kraig said. Hot dogs brought Americans together while setting them apart from the rest of the world.

But it was twentieth-century advertisers who turned hot dogs into a nation-wide, values-linked symbol of American identity. In the 1930s and 40s, The Visking Corporation—which sold “Skinless”-brand wieners—advertised them as a July 4 food; a food for fighting soldiers; a food that was good for rationing (since there was “no peeling or waste”; and a food that was good for kids.

In the middle of the century, patriotism, nationalism, xenophobia, and an emphasis on traditional family structures proliferated regardless of party identity. The values that fueled hot dog patriotism, however, are held most strongly today within the Republican Party, which perhaps explains the political leanings of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. The group—which promotes July as National Hot Dog Month, July 19 as National Hot Dog Day, and holds an annual hot dog lunch for Congress—was founded by the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), which sends 81 percent of its political donations to Republicans. For years, groups like NAMI have lobbied against federal nutritional guidelines recommending eating less meat. Once, NAMI called a criticism of the meat industry an attack on the “American way of life.”

Because everything today is about politics. Even a food made of pork byproducts.

Wieners Circle closing?

The owner of the property that houses Chicago's infamous Wieners Circle hot-dog stand has put it up for sale:

The Wieners Circle, that Lincoln Park institution known as much for its late-night insults as its hot dogs, may soon have to take its shtick somewhere else.

The hot dog stand's longtime landlord has hired a broker to sell the Clark Street property and an apartment building next door, potentially setting the stage for a developer to raze the 36-year-old restaurant and put up apartments or condos in its place.

"Obviously, a 700-square-foot, single-story restaurant is not the highest and best use for that lot," said Jeff Baasch, senior vice president at SVN Chicago Commercial, the brokerage marketing the property to investors.

Under current zoning, a developer could renovate the five-story apartment building, which "needs work," Baasch said, and also put up a building with ground-floor commercial space topped by about six residential units on the Wieners Circle site.

That's too bad. The Wieners Circle is a Chicago legend. And here, via Conan O'Brian, is a glimpse through the doors:

Ribfest 2018

Ah, Ribfest. The bane of my diet.

This year I went back to a couple of old favorites and tried a couple of new ones:

  • Chicago BBQ: Smoky, a little tug off the bone, tangy sauce. 3½ stars.
  • Mrs. Murphy's Irish Bistro: Like last year, they glooped on a lot of (delicious) sauce. But the meat tasted better this year, and I got a bit of a lagniappe. 3 stars.
  • Old Crow Smokehouse: I haven't tried them before. They were decent. Good smoke taste, but a little fatty and not a lot of sauce. 3 stars.
  • Fireside Restaurant: The best sauce of the day, tangy and a little citrus. Good meat, smoke, and char.

I may go tomorrow. If I can digest today's bones.

Four unrelated stories

A little Tuesday morning randomness for you:

Back to debugging acceptance tests.

Not much going on today

The day after hosting a big party is never one's most productive. My Fitbit says I got 5 hours and 18 minutes of sleep, which turns out to be better than last year, thanks in part to Parker's forbearance this morning. Usually he's up by 7; but today he let me sleep until 9:15. Good dog.

Regular posting should resume tomorrow. I'm betting on getting to bed around 9pm tonight...