Chicago: a gallimaufry of observations

Lorcan 3 min read

Light posting this week as we spent Thanksgiving and a couple of additional days in Chicago. Here are some vaguely work-related remarks, and some less so:

  • Discovered in Chicago Comics on North Clark St the following volume: The Illustrated Librarian: 12 temporary tatoos for librarians and booklovers. Includes ‘I love Dewey Decimal System’, ‘Read or die’, ‘Born to read’, ‘Literate 4 life’ with conventional assortment of hearts, skulls, scrolls and gothic script. Also spotted here were several sets of The Cubes – Cubicle Playsets (previously seen on, meaningful to cubicled OCLC employees. I particularly liked seeing the Corporate Zombies up close (I mean the playset at Chicago Comics, not folks at OCLC).
  • The T-Shirt Deli on North Damen Ave is a winning idea.

    We make t-shirts – but like a deli, you can customize everything about your new shirt. Choose a shirt style and size, pick the font that suits you best, and hold the lettuce. After we cook it up, your shirt will be rolled and wrapped in butcher paper, and served with delicious potato chips. [The T-Shirt Deli – Made Fresh Daily – FAQ]

    You can order online and apparently they are coming to other locations soon. Nice idea, but the downside is the large choice it presents to a child, especially horrifying if that child is yours.

  • A big choice at Myopic Books also, where used volumes comfortably cram narrow aisles on several floors. I was interested to see that it opens until 1 a.m. – unfortunately we could not stay that long – and had a diverting small display of book art in the window. I learn later from the website that this is their annual Book Arts Show, where they feature ‘books by artists’.
  • We missed out on other good bookstore activities as we headed into the University of Chicago having spent an exhausting few hours in the wonderful Museum of Science and Industry. Unfortunately, but luckily for the children, bookstores were closed as it was Thanksgiving. I was interested to walk past the striking Regenstein Library, particularly in the context of current discussions about offsite storage, and Chicago’s aspiration to maintain the physical integrity of its collections in one browsable location.
  • I read that John D Rockefeller described the University of Chicago, in whose founding he was instrumental, as “the best investment I ever made”. I returned to Columbus to find the current issue of The Atlantic carrying a feature on ‘The 100 most influential Americans of all time‘. John D Rockefeller is listed as eleven in that list.
  • A sidebar in The Atlantic story lists Frank Lloyd Wright as one of America’s most influential architects, and part of what made us walk over to the University of Chicago was the Robie House. The next day we landed in Oak Park, where he lived for 20 years, wandering around the streets gawking at his houses, looking at his home and studio, and visiting Unity Temple (the children enjoyed how the space unfolded in levels). This density and detail made him seem more real, less iconic, for someone so much written about and looked up to. Indeed, look at today’s NYT where there is a review of yet another book about him.
  • There is also a story about the much-heralded Sony reader. A less than positive review. On the website, I also notice a rather neutral review of Carl Hiaasen’s new novel, which I sort of resent having to buy in hardback if I want to read it now (yes – I could also wait in line in the library). However, I was interested to see that they are releasing, and promoting, an audio version on CD at the same time. This shared valuable airport display space with the hardback at O’Hare. I wonder what proportion of people would listen to, rather than read, a novel like this? Mind you, is ‘listening’ to the audio version generally covered when you say ‘I have read that’?
  • Which brings us to King Tut and the exhibition at the Field Museum. We got the children audio, but went without ourselves. Usually resisting the lure of audio, I had tended to think that it added little to materials available for inspection. However, answering the children’s questions showed that there was quite a bit of additional succinct commentary on the audio. Given this, I confess to feeling a little miffed that the audio was not more integral rather than an optional paid extra. It did make me wonder about the different experiences that folks had, with and without audio.
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