The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Flying out tomorrow

Tomorrow I have a quick trip to the Bay Area to see family. I expect I will not only continue posting normally, but I will also research at least two Brews & Choos Special Stops while there. Exciting stuff.

And because we live in exciting times:

Finally, if you're in Chicago tonight around 6pm, tune into WFMT 98.7 FM. They're putting the Apollo Chorus performance at Holy Name Cathedral in their holiday preview. Cool! (And tickets are still available.)

Arts patronage at all-time low

Crain's Chicago Business reported this morning on the precipitous decline in performing-arts audiences (sub.req.) since March 2020:

Chicago arts and cultural organizations emerged from COVID-19 lockdowns, virtual performances and fully masked audiences to slow-to-return patrons, reduced ticket sales and scaled-backed productions. A decline in subscription rates, shockingly higher costs, and donations that haven't kept pace with inflation have thrown some arts organizations off balance and spiraled others into crisis.

Museums, music and dance venues have bounced back faster. Theaters struggled, perhaps, due to the expense and complexity of producing and staging plays.

One widespread explanation: People are still holed up at home in their pandemic pajamas binge-watching "The Bear" and "Ted Lasso." Or they're amusing themselves with YouTube videos. On the other hand, music fans will pay thousands to see a Taylor Swift extravaganza.

Even when audiences show up, they're buying tickets at the last minute. That makes for a white-knuckled ride for theater planners. And with theater-goers forgoing subscriptions, there's less money upfront as a cushion. In the long run, that could make planners less inclined to take a risk on a controversial or innovative work.

Between 2019 and 2022, average in-person attendance at performing arts events plunged 59% to 13,104, with theaters being the hardest hit, according to the DCASE study. "We were the first to close and the last to reopen," says PJ Powers, artistic director at TimeLine Theatre. "You can't just flip on the lights and you're back."

I've served as president of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago since September 2020. Let me tell you, it's bad. We're all suffering. I have meetings with venues that want the same amount we paid them (or more) in 2018, but we just don't have the audience. We're working on how to increase our funding, but until we get corporate sponsorship or major donations from people who love us, we have to go to smaller venues and perform works with smaller instrumentation. (Last spring, for example, we performed Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle, whose orchestration includes two pianos and a harmonium.)

So. Anyone want to donate $50,000 to a nice non-profit chorus? We'll put your name top of the program.

Historic nightclub closed; owners blame union

After a month-long boycott of Chicago's Berlin Nightclub organized by Unite Here Local 1, the venerable institution closed for good today:

The announcement came hours after Unite Here Local 1, which represents the Berlin Nightclub workers who unionized earlier this yearalso posted on Instagram the club’s owners told them the bar was permanently closed as of Sunday.

Workers at Berlin Nightclub, 954 W. Belmont Ave., had been leading a boycott of the popular LGBTQ+ bar for more than a month, claiming Schuman and Webster had never met with the union in person to negotiate its first contract.

Prominent drag performers like Irregular Girl, co-host of Berlin’s popular lesbian night “Strapped,” joined in solidarity, canceling their shows for the remainder of the boycott.

“Berlin has always been a sanctuary for trans people in Chicago who do not feel safe in many other places. … All of that is due to the hard work of the workers, many of whom are transgender themselves, all of whom are queer and all of whom are being mistreated and underpaid by Jim Schuman and Jo Webster,” Irregular Girl said during a rally outside the bar in October.

Berlin owners addressed the union’s actions in an open letter posted that week, claiming that the union’s proposals for higher wages, health care and pension benefits would cost the nightclub over $500,000.

None of Berlin’s union employees work more than 27 hours a week, and the club’s part-time employees earn a base hourly wage plus tips, according to a statement from the owners. All workers make between $22.50-$57 per hour with tips, the statement said.

In August, Berlin workers went on a two-day strike after organizers said Schuman and Webster repeatedly skipped bargaining sessions, bringing negotiations to a halt. Performers canceled their shows in support during the walkout.

Welp. Berlin was a straight-friendly gay club on the edge of Boystown (now known as Northalsted) when I first went there in the 1990s. It wasn't really my scene, but it was fun and campy, and occasionally some cool acts would play there.

I'm sad to see it go down like this. But closing to spite your union? That's not just a dick move, it may be illegal. I don't think this story is over.

Long day

I have tickets to a late concert downtown, which means a few things, principally that I'm still at the office. But I'm killing it on this sprint, so it works out.

Of course this means a link dump:

I promise to write something substantial tomorrow or Saturday. Promise.

Productive day, rehearsal tonight, many articles unread

I closed a 3-point story and if the build that's running right now passes, another bug and a 1-point story. So I'm pretty comfortable with my progress through this sprint. But I haven't had time to read any of these, though I may try to sneak them in before rehearsal:

  • The XPOTUS has started using specific terminology to describe his political opponents that we last heard from a head of government in 1945. (Guess which one.) Says Tomasky: "[Republicans] are telling us in broad daylight that they want to rape the Constitution. And now Trump has told us explicitly that he will use Nazi rhetoric to stoke the hatred and fear that will make this rape seem, to some, a necessary cleansing."
  • Writing for the Guardian, Margaret Sullivan implores the mainstream print media to explain the previous bullet point, which she calls "doing their fucking job."
  • The average age of repeat home buyers is 58, meaning "boomers are buying up all the houses." My Millennial friends will rejoice, no doubt.
  • Bruce Schneier lists 10 ways AI will change democracy, not all of them bad.
  • The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says not to worry, the Gulf Stream won't shut down. It might slow down, though.
  • The Times interviewed Joseph Emerson, the pilot who freaked out while coming off a 'shrooms trip in the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines plane, and who now faces 83 counts of attempted murder in Oregon.
  • Author John Scalzi got to see a band he and I both listened to in college, Depeche Mode, in what will probably be their last tour.
  • The Times also has "an extremely detailed map of New York City neighborhoods," along with an explainer. Total Daily Parker bait.

Finally, a firefighter died today after sustaining injuries putting out a fire at Lincoln Station, the bar that my chorus goes went to after rehearsals. Given the description of the fall that fatally injured him—he fell through the roof of the 4-story building all the way into the basement—it sounds like the fire destroyed not only the restaurant but many of the apartments above. So far, the bar has not put out a statement, but we in the chorus are saddened by the fire and by Firefighter Drew Price's death. We hope that the bar can rebuild quickly.

Evening reading

I actually had a lot to do today at my real job, so I pushed these stories to later:

Finally, The Economist calls out "six books you didn't know were propaganda," including Doctor Zhivago and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

For once, not all is gloom and doom

Today's roundup includes only one Earth-shattering kaboom, for starters (and I'll save the political stuff for last):

  • Scientists hypothesize that two continent-sized blobs of hot minerals 3,000 km below Africa and the Pacific Ocean came from Theia, the Mars-sized object that slammed into the Earth 4.5 billion years ago, creating the Moon in the aftermath.
  • October was Illinois 31st warmest and 41st wettest in history (going back to 1895).
  • National Geographic looks into whether the freak winter of 1719—that never really ended that year—could happen again.
  • The world's last Beatles song, "Now and Then," came out today, to meh reviews all around.
  • University of London philosophy lecturer Rebecca Roche extols the virtues of swearing.
  • Charles Blow warns that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who grew up in the same place, won't register for most people as the bomb-throwing reactionary MAGA Republican he is because "unlike Trump’s, Johnson’s efforts to undermine American democracy are served like a comforting bowl of grits and a glass of sweet tea. ... It’s not just good manners; it’s the Christian way, the proper Southern way. And it is the ultimate deception."
  • At the same time, New York Times editorial board member David Firestone calls Johnson "deeply unserious." And Alex Shepherd shakes his head that Johnson has "already run out of ideas." And Tina Nguyen thinks he hasn't got a clue.

Finally, Asia Mieleszko interviews Jake Berman, whose new book The Lost Subways of North America reveals, among other things, that the Los Angeles electric train network used to have direct lines from downtown LA to Balboa Beach and Covina. ("I think that the original sin of most postwar cities was not in building places for the car necessarily. Rather, it was bulldozing large sections of the old city to reorient them around the car." Amen, brother, and a curse on the souls of 1950s and 1960s urban planners.)

Quick photo dump

I've had a few things on my plate this week, including a wonderful event with the Choeur de la Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris at Old St Patrick's Church in Chicago. We had a big dinner, they sang for us, we sang for them, and then some of us hosted some of them in our homes. Tonight I'm hearing their real performance at Alice Millar Chapel in Evanston.

Sunday night I saw comedian Liz Miele at the Den Theater. I'm totally crushing on her and highly recommend you catch her on this tour:

And naturally I have a few photos of Cassie that got imported into Lightroom this morning:

Real post later today, probably around the time the cold front hits.

Tuesday Night Links Club

Just a few:

  • US Representative George Santos (R-NY) faces another 21 felony charges in New York, with prosecutors alleging he stole donors' identities and misappropriated their donations.
  • Isabel Fattal attempts to explain Hamas, the terrorist organization that attacked Israel on Saturday.
  • Alex Shephard is glad the news media have gotten better at reporting on the XPOTUS, but they've still missed the biggest part: he's a "singular threat to American democracy."
  • Jason Pargin pays homage to celebrity worship, and goggles at how weird it's gotten.
  • Molly White explains the evidence presented at Sam Bankman-Fried's trial yesterday that (allegedly) shows how they perpetrated the fraud in code.
  • McSweeney's has a helpful template for right-wingers who are upset with Taylor Swift.

Finally, National Geographic gets cozy with the history of bedbugs and their relationship to humans. Fun evening read, y'all!