A compilation of random and interesting things, musings, musics, videos, and more. Brought to you by a UChicago student with a penchant for procrastination.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Threadless Store Chicago!

I finally got the chance to visit the physical entity that is the Threadless store in Chicago. I've been a patron of threadless.com for several years now, so visiting the store was akin to a sacred pilgrimage for me. Plus I was long overdue for a shirt purchase ...


The store itself is actually really small, but fits in snuggly alongside the boutique and restaurants on Broadway Ave in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. If you need a map, you can check it out here. The store is just a bit aways from the original Threadless warehouse, ensuring a fresh supply of new shirts every Friday. Though there are only 20 designs on sale at a given time, high rotation and an amazing presentation of the goods definitely make up for it.


LCD monitors showcase shirts, prices, and even show off customers' faces in the storefront window (you can snap your photo at the register).

I really enjoyed the visit, the staff were super friendly, their music was great and the ambiance was terrific. But the best part of it all -- I managed to make it in on the Friday before the $10 Summer Sale of 2008! All of the usual shirts were $5 off in store, and there were tons of great reprints. I wound up picking up a neat artsy design - Tools of the Trade, but I'm sure I'll order more online next week. The staffer told me there were going to be offering a couple dozen new and reprinted shirts over the course of the sale, so I don't want to miss out. I love the sales way too much.

Of course, since I'll be interning relatively close by this summer ... maybe I'll just stop in every so often. The free tote bag I got with the purchase ensures that I'll get a dollar off each purchase in the future. Oh man, I <3 Threadless.


More photos of the store via flickr

Monday, May 19, 2008

Summer Breeze 2008


This Saturday the University of Chicago hosted it's annual carnival & evening concert, tantalizingly titled Summer Breeze, despite the fact that finals are still several weeks away. I have to say I probably enjoyed this year's event more than last year's. The carnival, which lasts from noon to four, really only differed in that free Jamba Juice was involved and in the fact that I got to man the cotton candy machine (pretty sweet). The biggest difference came in the organization and line-up of the concert.

Cool Kids > Andrew Bird > Talib Kweli > Cake

Whereas last year the main acts were The Roots and Spoon (in that order), this year we had four acts which were arranged in a bit more logical fashion. The Cool Kids kicked off the concert, followed by Andrew Bird - who played until dusk. I didn't actually get to Hutch Courtyard until Talib Kweli was due to start but it seemed like people were enjoying themselves, there was a beer garden and Kraft was giving away some sort of microwavable sandwich, plus there had been some slight rain, but it had passed for the time being ...


Either way, Talib Kweli had a pretty great show, he was really going for the crowd reaction and if you can tell by the giant mass of people above, it worked pretty well. The Roots were able to do this especially well last year, but thankfully instead of putting on the equivalent of Spoon after them - they got the show topper - Cake!

The wait for Cake to set up was petty long, something like 30 minutes, in which time the rain really began to be a problem. While Mandell Hall was apparently designated the back-up location in this event, no one wanted to leave their spots in front of the stage. As the rain intensified the crowd began to grow restless and started chanting "Cake, Cake, Cake" (which the lead singer later remarked sounded like "KKK"). Ah, Cake and fascism.

Well, the band ultimately came onstage, and as the rain was now pouring down in sheets they opened with an all too appropriate It's Coming Down


It's raining outside, you've nowhere to hide ...

The first couple of songs were rather mellow since it turned out some of their electrical equipment had malfunctioned. But soon enough, they were back up and pandering to the loving, wet, and completely muddy crowd.

My camera essentially broke at this point, so if I can find any YouTube clips I'll post them, but needless to say it was a remarkably memorable night. The stage was at the top of a slope, so either you were packed together at the top, or sliding down what was now a mud incline. What's more the temperature had dropped by something like 15 degrees, but the packed crowd and loud music were enough to keep everyone cheering.

Eventually, lightning caused the show to be cut short but not before Cake played Frank Sinatra -- with a perfectly placed thunderclap adding to the wailing trumpet. It was pretty fantastic.

The end of the show came all too soon and I was sort of bummed that they hadn't played Symphony in C or the requisite Short Skirt, Long Jacket. Though we'd cheered loudly for one more song, and the frontman did come back on he only did so to give away a peach tree ... to the person who could guess the number of sharks killed each year. Yes, sort of weird. But by that point I was covered in mud & freezing, so I didn't much question my sanity. It was still a great night overall and seemingly worth the cold I'm now trying to stymie.

Listen to the Summer Breeze muxtape here

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Madeline Albright Lecture

Tonight I had the great opportunity to listen to a talk deliverer by Madeline Albright at the University of Chicago. The full title of the event was the Thomas Garrigue Masaryk Lecture on Democracy and it was premised on a deep connection between the University and the Czech Republic, stretching back to an original series of talks given by Masaryk, the founder and first president of an independent Czech Republic, in the early 20th century.

The introduction to the talk was presented by Dean Boyer as well as the  Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States, Petr Kolár. It served to establish Albright's Czech origins and her work in American politics. Though these introductions were longer than Albright's whole talk, there were some light moments. Such as when Kolar jokingly said he and many in the Czech community had tried but failed to persuade Albright to run for President in the Czech Republic, though he didn't hold the fact that she refused against her.


The lecture was held at Rockefeller Chapel, and filled the entire venue.

Albright finally took the podium and presented the lecture with an inspiring air of confidence and composure. One of the main points she pushed across with her talk was the notion of responsible leadership at the heart of a true democracy. She specifically called out China and Russia alongside Iran, as failing their duties to their citizens with regard to adhering to certain standards for human rights. Yet, while the US used to have a moral vantage point from which to make such criticisms, she conceded that the US is itself now no longer in a very positive position. There was especially a lot of applause after her condemnation of Guantanamo.


After her talk, Albright fielded an impressive array of question form the audience. She touched upon everything from the role of the AU to the question of US involvement in Pakistan to her reasons for endorsing Hillary. The most interesting question however, came at the very end, when someone asked her about the legitimacy of the Hamas as a democratically elected party in Palestine. Albright agreed that this was a very difficult question, and began to qualify the definition of democracy.

Her inability to accept the legitimacy of Hamas lay in the fact that the group uses violence to achieve it's aims. Though it has a strong stake in the well-being of the people and the community, the use of violence to achieve its aims ultimately discredited them on an international level.

So again, the this moral element is directly linked to the definition a truly democratic state. While Hamas can be seen as representing exactly what the people of Palestine want - efficacy in pursuing national aims, despite the violence, their immoral means discredit their democratic election to power. Albright's only means of resolving this was ultimately to claim that the opposition party, Fatah, could have offered just as much to the people, without the violence, but failed to do so, thereby failing the democratic process. If indeed there had been adequate choice, then Fatah, the right party, would have been chosen.

Ultimately, questions like this reflect the fact that it really is quite difficult to present an universal description of democracy. I applaud Albright's attempt to do so, yet the notion that democracy should be the ideal system to emerge under any circumstance is difficult to accept given the wide array of regional and historical contexts for all states and their citizens. While the link between economic prosperity and democracy is well established, the push for democratic processes under adverse conditions and in a context that would not support it, can only cause more harm.


Better photographs on flickr c/o victorchen55

Either way though, I'm going to lighten this post up and say that Albright definitely had the best comment of the night. When referring to the White House she quickly quipped that she hadn't seen any intelligence out of there in a long time. In more ways than one.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Items, items, items

So, like I mentioned earlier, I'm going to profile a couple of the items from this year that I really enjoyed. There were nearly 300, but here are my favorites:


76. Spend a night in a major Chicago museum, a la From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. [24 points]

Sneaking into the Oriental Institute was easy ... getting the judges to count it as a major Chicago museum was not. Either way the experience of walking around centuries old artifacts with a flashlight & video camera was amazing.


3. PIE FIGHT!! Bring ten cream pies and prepare to prove your superiority old-timey comedy style [Scav Olympics]

This was a mess, an incredible mess. I think everyone got splattered!


89. Greetings, Aperture Science Test Subject #3252613. You need a friend, one that cannot speak, and thus will never threaten to stab you. Please construct a fully-functional weighted companion cube. For the best one, there will be cake. [9 points] The companion cubes had a birthday party! The cake was not a lie!


8. Life-size Battleship . We’ll need six human boat pieces from you, to be divvied up and placed as you wish. You’ll need a goodly supply of water balloons. [Scav Olympics]

I have to admit, the perfectly placed wall here made the event what it was. It was hilarious to watch and had so so many close misses & dramatic direct hits. My only wish is that I would've been warmer out, I definitely want to see this again in the future.


225. Make a dollhouse of your dorm. Please include as much detail as possible. Why should Queen Mary have all the cool stuff [81 points]

Pretty close, no? We even had mini textbooks on the desks in each room.


51. A De Lorean. We’ve got seventy-five bucks riding on this one.

So we didn't get this item. But several other teams did, the Judges' blog has a nice write up of this (and took the photo pictured above). We did manage to fake some fire tracks though ... y'know, you just missed it!

DSCN1847 DSCN1848

259. Scavbarnraising! By noon Friday, erect a barn around a CTA bus stop. [X28 points] Just plain awesome.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Scavenger Hunt 2008

The University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt for 2008 just ended. It's my second year participating in it, but I still haven't been able to get over the insanity of the whole event. Even now it seems bizarre to me that just the other day I was watching people swing chickens covered in razor blades at one another ... or helping to hang a gigantic spider web across Hull Gate ... or covering a high-chair with aluminum foil and skulls at 3 in the morning. But that's the essence of Scav and it couldn't have been better!


MacPierce at Scav Olympics

Our team placed fourth, the same as last year, and while we were really hoping to get third I think we had a great run. We had a huge turn-out and people were really excited to participate. A lot of groups branched out and took the initiative on larger projects like the dollhouse dorm or the CTA bus stop barn-raising, and we had many first years get really involved.

While we had the enthusiasm, I think our downfall probably lay in organization and generally losing points on the large-showcase items. We had a new Scav server set up for list management, but it was somewhat difficult to navigate, and the lack of dedicated page captains (like Max and Snitchcock's) put a lot of pressure on the Small-med-large items captains. Also, while we were able to pull together last year's big items in the night prior to judgement: the clown bed and the strandbeest, this year's items were difficult to get together in such a manner. Building the monowheel and zeusaphone boiled down to expertise not will power, and while last year half a dozen individuals could really move things along, this year the smallest thing seemed to be able to bring down an item. What's more, a huge rainstorm the night before judgement disrupted a lot of construction that just couldn't happen inside - like a gigantic paper mache volcano ... though it did rain out FIST, so we're not complaining.


The road trip's car (decorated as the house from Wizard of Oz) caught fire ...

The points boiled down to just a 120 point difference between us, MacPierce and 3rd place - which went to Burton-Judson. The complete breakdown is as follows (you can also check out the video of the final results).

  1. Snell-Hitchcock, aka Army Dillo
  2. Max Palevsky, aka The Audacity of Pope
  3. Burton-Judson, aka The War of Southern Aggression
  4. MacPierce, aka The University of Chicago School of Engineering
  5. Shoreland, aka The Untouchables
  6. The Grad/Alum Scav Hunters, aka FOGIES
  7. The Federation of Independent Scavhunt Teams, aka Heroic Furry Gut Monks
  8. Broadview, aka Vandelay Industries
  9. Hoover/Breckinridge, aka Scav Trek V: The Vinyl Frontier

Overall, I think the experience of Scav will be what I take away from the four days. Both this and last year's judgement left me with some conflicted feelings - sure we were getting validation for doing all of these insane things, but seeing 6 clown beds in a row and having to be evaluated on them, somewhat diminished the kind of unbridled, spontaneous element of Scav that I love. Though ... all right, I will add there were plenty of random outbursts during judgement (like our amazing flute drumline), and seeing the amount of variation possible on any one item was great ... but everyone was so sleep deprived and tired by that point that I have to admit, Sunday just flew by. Now the whole experience seems quite surreal and distant, but I'll try to do a quick write-up on the little items that I really liked.

Either way, I can't wait to do Scav again next year! Check out the 2008 list for all 269 glorious items (not counting the list the Vegas Scav Warriors got), as well as the Judges' blog. Finally, since Scav is all about the little things that celebrate our quirks, here's a video of everyone Rickrolling the judges:

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