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3 posts tagged with chicago by KirkJobSluder.
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Copyrighting public space

Chicago's current archetectual and artistic showcase, Millenium Park seems to be causing some problems. The pedestrian bridge was closed because the hardwood used to build it can not take the salt used to remove ice from pedestrian walkways. But it also seems that the massive sculpture Cloud Gate aka "The Bean" is a copyright elephant in public space. Park security are shaking down photographers for permits. As is typical, the copyright shakedown appears to be less about protecting the rights of the original artists, and more about the rights of the distributor (in this case, the city's desired monopoly on postcards and prints). See boing boing for editorializing and Slashdot for the typical herd reaction.
posted by KirkJobSluder on Feb 12, 2005 - 22 comments

Devil in the White City

I've just finished reading a copy of Larson's Devil in the White City sent to me by a relative who heard of my love for Isaac's Storm. Devil is a biography of two men who were central to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. One, Daniel H. Burnham would become one of the most influential architects and city planners of the early 20th century. Burnham organized a crew of the architectural, engineering and artistic elite including landscape artist Frederick Law Olmstead (famous for Central Park and Biltmore) in an effort to better the Paris world's fair of 1889. The Chicago exposition would be profoundly influential for American culture introducing Arabic Dance (the tune for "There's a place in France/where the naked ladies dance" was created in Chicago), the Ferris Wheel, Shredded Wheat, and helping to settle the Battle of the Currents between Edison and Tesla. The fair drew a large variety of larger than life figures including Archduke Ferdinand, Elizabeth B. Anthony, Buffalo Bill Cody and the mostly forgotten master of self promotion Citizen Train.

Devil is also a biography of the man given credit for America's first recognized serial murders, the self-named H. H. Holmes. At the start of the fair, Holmes changed his modus operandi from marrying and killing women as part of insurance and real estate scams, to running a hotel from which an unknown number of his female tenants never checked out. Although information on Holmes's activities is scanty, he serves as a mirror of the utopia of civic safety created by Burnham. Larson makes the argument that the contrasts between optimisim and pessimism, well-intentioned virtue and depravity, urban utopia with a few blocks from slums, would set the tone for the 20th century.
posted by KirkJobSluder on Aug 7, 2004 - 13 comments

O'Leary's cow, or comet?

Physicist Robert Wood is reviving a 120 year old theory that the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was started by cometary debris from Beila's comet that had previously been observed to fragment after a close encounter with Jupiter. Wood's orbital analysis puts a fragment of Beila near Earth at the time of the fires. The theory would explain a number of previously unexplained events like multiple eyewitness accounts of fire falling from the sky, and how a single-source blaze from a barn spread to include a large portion of the city. Perhaps most importantly, the Great Peshtigo Fire in Wisconsin that killed 1,200 people ignighted on the some night. However the comet theory has been discarded by Peshtigoand Chicago Fire historians who note that the upper midwest was dry with a multitude of smaller fires in the same season. The truth may never be known but the speculation is interesting.
posted by KirkJobSluder on Mar 7, 2004 - 2 comments

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