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The Best Halloween Costumes Of 2014 -- So Far

Thu, 2014-10-30 16:51
It's that time of the year, folks. Think you've got an awesome Halloween costume? Well, show us what you got!

HuffPost Comedy is back with our annual round up of the best Halloween costumes of the year. We've kicked things off with some of the best costumes the Internet has to offer, but we need you to complete the list!

Scroll down for our favorites so far and submit your funny, clever or topical costumes by hitting the button below and we may feature your photo in this roundup!

By submitting your image, you are agreeing to The Huffington Post's TOS: bit.ly/HuffPostTOS






The 10 Best U.S. Cities to Be a Vampire

Thu, 2014-10-30 16:45
Although many people believe vampires to be fictional, their presence is ingrained in our pop culture, thanks to shows like "True Blood," "Twilight," and the latest vampire movie to hit the big screen: "Dracula Untold." Although the rules governing the lives of the undead seem to be as fluid as the blood that they drink, in many of the prevailing tales vampires need to avoid direct sunlight, drink blood from humans and sleep in coffins. With Halloween quickly approaching, we at Redfin decided to sink our teeth into the data and found the best U.S. cities to be a vampire.

Since vampires need to avoid sunlight, we found the average number of cloudy days in a year for each city. Then we looked at how long the bars and clubs can serve alcohol, which is a good indicator of how late places stay open at night (giving vampires something to do). Then we added up the number of blood drives happening in the next month, because the undead need a constant food supply. Finally, we pulled data from a report Redfin published last year identifying cities with the most homes for sale near cemeteries, because vampires wouldn't want to travel too far to get from their home to their coffin when the day breaks.

Read on to find out which cities flew to the top, and which came in dead last. And if you happen to be a vampire, you can start your search for a new home in one of these places.



1. Philadelphia, PA

Cloudy days: 160
Bar Hours: 7 a.m. -- 3 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 548
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 2

It turns out that the City of Brotherly Love is a bloody good place to be for vampires, with plenty of cloudy days, a 3 a.m. closing time and many cemeteries in the city. Philadelphia had the most blood drives planned for the next month -- 548 -- ensuring that vampires would have plenty of places to grab a bite to eat.

Philadelphia vampires would fit right in at the Dracula Ball, a Halloween event taking place at the Trocadero Theatre, or scaring the bejeezus out of people on the street, as one prankster recently captured on camera.

"I'm not surprised Philadelphia tops the list!" said Blakely Minton, a local Redfin real estate agent. "There are a lot of historical homes here, many of which are rumored to be haunted. Examples of places with a spooky past include the Edgar Allan Poe House, Eastern State Penitentiary, the Mütter Museum, the Powel House, the Betsy Ross House... the list goes on. A company called Grim Philly even offers a 'Vampires, Sex and Ghost Tour' that you can take at night."

2. Chicago, IL

Cloudy days: 176
Bar Hours: 7 a.m. -- 5 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 103
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 3

It wouldn't suck to be a vampire in Chicago. Several bars and clubs stay open until 5 a.m., there are more than 100 blood drives in the next month and there are a lot of cemeteries in city limits. Perhaps that's why there's a series of novels called "Chicagoland Vampires" that are set in the city, and why there's a vampire-themed English course at Northwestern University and at the University of Illinois.

Chicago vampires would fit right in at The Vampire Diaries' Official Convention in 2015, the 3rd Annual Zombies vs. Vampires Pub Crawl, or an event hosted by the Chicago Vampire Meetup Group, which boasts 465 members!

"A lot of supernatural tales stem from Chicago's rich history, which includes the Great Chicago Fire, prohibition-era gang activity and the Civil War," said Alex Haried, a local Redfin real estate agent. "The city is home to many places that are rumored to be haunted, including the H.H. Holmes mansion, the Wynekoop Mansion, Jane Addam's Hull House, and more. I'm not aware of any homes that are supposed to be frequented by vampires, but I'm sure those stories are out there."

3. Baltimore, MD

Cloudy days: 152
Bar Hours: 6 a.m. -- 2 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 480
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 1

Baltimore had a high number of blood drives and cloudy days, but it was the number of homes for sale near cemeteries that put the final nail in the coffin. The city was founded in the 1700s and grew over time, so cemeteries became part of the landscape in most neighborhood developments.

Baltimore vampires would fit right in at a Meetup of the House of Maryland By Night Vampire,Witch & Werewolf Alliance, which has 81 members, or perhaps the Mind's Eye Society LARP. On a Saturday night they might attend a Batz over Baltimore event at The Depot Nightclub.

"There are a few ghost tours in Baltimore, including one in Ellicott City where you can walk through older neighborhoods and learn about the history of the city and hear all the ghost stories," said Lynn Ikle, a local Redfin real estate agent. "Some of those historic Georgian-style homes look like they could be the set of a vampire movie."

4. Portland, OR

Cloudy days: 222
Bar Hours: 7 a.m. -- 2:30 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 274
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 8

Portland has the second highest number of cloudy days in a year and hundreds of blood drives in the next month, enabling it to stake its claim at No. 4 on this list. In fact, the gray skies and vegetation were similar enough to Forks, Washington, that the producers of the "Twilight" movies filmed several scenes in Portland, including the Cullens' house, located at 3333 NW Quimby St.

Portland vampires would fit right in on the set of NBC's "Grimm," a fairy-tale inspired hit show filmed in the city, or at an event of the Portland Vampire Meetup group, which has 213 members. Date night might involve a trip to Zompire: The Undead Film Festival or the annual Vampire's Masquerade Ball.

"We like to keep it weird in Portland. You'll find groups of people who are into vampires, zombies, ghosts, you name it," said Wayne Olson, a local Redfin real estate agent. "There's a Zombie Walk every year that started as a flash mob but is now an organized event where hundreds of people roam the streets dressed up as zombies. There's also a ghost tour where they hand out real ghost-hunting equipment! And the Vampire's Masquerade Ball draws a crowd every year."

5. Boston, MA

Cloudy days: 164
Bar Hours: 8 a.m. -- 2 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 470
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 4

Boston has plenty of Bruins, and plenty of ruins. The city had a lot of homes for sale near cemeteries and a lot of blood drives, but fewer cloudy days and late-night options than other cities on the list. However, the city is home to one of the most notorious "vampire killers," James Riva, who claimed to be a 700-year-old vampire when he killed his grandmother in 1980. Perhaps that's what inspired the producers of "Being Human," a supernatural drama about vampires, to set the show in Boston.

Boston vampires would fit right in at the Boston Latin School, which made national headlines in 2009 when police were called in because of vampire-related rumors. Or they could sneak into the Boston area White Wolf LARP Group, which plays role-playing games like Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem.

"Boston has some of the oldest cemeteries in the U.S., where you can visit the final resting places of people like John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Samuel Adams. A lot of neighborhoods were built around them, so it makes sense that it would rank high in possible Vampire sightings. Boston is filled with spooky old Victorian homes, many of which still have original finishes from hundreds of years ago, so I can see why it made the list," said Katie Gustafson, a local Redfin real estate agent. "It's a city filled with mysterious charm and character."

6. Washington, DC

Cloudy days: 164
Bar Hours: 8 a.m. -- 3 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 471
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 11

Vampires may want to pull up stakes and move to our nation's capital. Although Washington didn't have as many homes for sale near cemeteries as some of the other cities on the list, there were a high number of blood drives and places that are open until 3 a.m.

Washington vampires would fit right in at the Vamp it Up event at SAX, or at a screening of Orlok, the Vampire in 3D at Artisphere. They might also want to start training for the Vampire 5K, which will take place around this time next year.

"Washington went through a lot of turmoil in its early years, and there are plenty of places that are reportedly haunted as a result," said Michael Alderfer, a local Redfin real estate agent. "There are also a lot of historical homes with unique histories. It's no surprise that eventually something like 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' would come to exist!"

7. Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN

Cloudy days: 169
Bar Hours: 8 a.m. -- 2 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 357
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 10

Vampire rats might not be the only thing out for blood in Minneapolis. With plenty of blood drives, cemeteries and cloudy days, it's not a bad place for vampires to settle down. Perhaps that's why Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey -- who believed he was a vampire -- once ran for governor of Minnesota.

Minneapolis vampires would fit right in at Crypticon Minneapolis, Minnesota's No. 1 horror convention. For a laugh, they could attend "Dracula: The Musical" at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center. Or they could blend in on the Transylvania Trolley, a Halloween ride on the Como-Harriet streetcar.

"There are a few places that are rumored to be haunted in the Twin Cities area, including the Wabasha Street Caves, Mounds Theater, The Griggs Mansion, the Lakewood Cemetery, First Avenue Nightclub and the fifth floor of City Hall. A lot of the stories are from the 1800s gold rush days, or from gangster activity in the 1920s," said Chris Prescott, a local Redfin real estate agent. "I'm not aware of any famous vampire stories, but we just broke the record for the largest gathering of zombies!"

8. Madison, WI

Cloudy days: 180
Bar Hours: 6 a.m. -- 2:30 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 180
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: n/a

Madison was the dark horse on the list; it had fewer than 10 homes for sale near cemeteries when we ran the analysis last year, but what it lacks in graveyards it makes up for in cloudy days, serving hours and blood drives. It's also not far from Mineral Point, where there have been reports of a vampire that haunts the Graceland Cemetery.

Madison vampires would fit right in at The Vampire's Ball at Club Inferno; they might even win the costume contest! They could also learn a little bit more about their history at a University of Wisconsin-Madison class called "The Vampire In Literature And Film." If that wasn't enough, they could head to the Madison Public Library for some vampire book recommendations.

"Madison is a very inclusive community, so vampires would likely be accepted for who they are here," said Brian Callahan, a local Redfin real estate agent. "And people in Madison love Halloween! There's a big event on State Street called 'Freakfest' where tens of thousands of people dress up and listen to live bands. It's one of the largest Halloween celebrations in the Midwest."

9. Atlanta, GA

Cloudy days: 149
Bar Hours: 9 a.m. -- 2:30 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 311
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 5

It turns out vampires wouldn't bat an eye at moving to Atlanta. Although it has the least number of cloudy days as any city on the top 10 list, there are plenty of cemeteries in the city where vampires could escape. In fact the Atlanta suburb of Covington, Georgia, is where "The Vampire Diaries" is filmed; those interested in learning more can take the "Vampire Stalkers" Mystic Falls tour.

Atlanta vampires would fit right in at The Atlanta Vampire Alliance, which promotes itself as "a neutral Vampire Community organization." Or they could attend the Atlanta Vampire Meetup Group, which boasts 591 members. For fun they might go to the Masquerade Nightclub, which is rumored to be frequented by vampires. They might also want to start training for the Vampire 5k on December 6.

"A lot of people in Atlanta have an interest in the paranormal, and there are many historical homes and places that are reportedly haunted," said Adam Kappel, a local Redfin real estate agent. "Those spooky-looking places might be why so many scary movies and TV shows are filmed here, like 'The Walking Dead' and 'Vampire Diaries.'"

10. Seattle, WA

Cloudy days: 226
Bar Hours: 6 a.m. -- 2 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 98
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 37

Seattle's cloudy weather made the city's placement on the top 10 list a dead giveaway, but you might be surprised that it came in at the dead end. Seattle had the least number of blood drives and homes for sale near cemeteries, and the bars close at a relatively early time of 2 a.m. However, that didn't stop Stephenie Meyer from setting her infamous "Twilight" novels in Forks, Washington, which is about a four-hour drive from Seattle.

The popularity of the "Twilight" series might have inspired the First Vampire Tour of Seattle, which is no longer operating, but which took curious visitors to "the site of a Blood Letting Den from years past where it's said that vampires will be lurking and fifty eyes will be upon you." It might have also led to the rumors of a vampire attack in Lake Stevens back in 2009. Vampires in Seattle will want to avoid the Seattle Buffy Meetup Group, which has 233 members. But they'd fit right in at the "Choose Your Vampire Adventure" game of flashlight tag at Magnuson Park.

"The Twilight movies definitely put the Northwest on the map as a good destination for vampires," said Dan Mullins, a local Redfin real estate agent. "Forks, Washington, used to be a small town that most people had never heard of, and now it's a tourist destination. But I think vampires would prefer Seattle; it's almost as cloudy and there's a lot more to do!"

5 Cities Where it Would Suck to Be a Vampire

The following cities came in dead last when it comes to ideal locations for vampires. Not only are they too sunny, they all had less than 100 blood drives in the next month, and very few homes for sale near cemeteries. San Diego and Sacramento are particularly dangerous for vampires, because California is the top garlic-producing state!

1. San Diego, CA
2. Sacramento, CA
3. Tampa, FL
4. Austin, TX
5. Denver, CO

Methodology
We pulled the mean number of cloudy days through 2012 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Information on alcohol serving regulations came from the government pages of each city. We found the number of blood banks and blood drives happening in the next month from directories available at Redcrossblood.org, Americasblood.org and local blood centers. The cemeteries ranking came from data Redfin pulled last year for a report identifying cities with the most homes for sale near cemeteries, which looked at 90 U.S. Census MSAs and cemetery data supplied by OpenStreetMap.org.

Prison Food Scandal Pushed By Dem Group In Tight Michigan Governor's Race

Thu, 2014-10-30 16:30
Protesters took to the street outside the Detroit campaign office of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Wednesday morning, staging a mock cook-off in response to allegations concerning the state's prison food service contract with an outside company.

The protest, organized by progressive activist group Michigan People's Campaign, stems from recent claims that Aramark, the corporation under contract to provide the state's prison food service, fired one of its employees after she brought attention to what she said were disturbing food safety practices -- including the serving of raw meat and food that had fallen onto the floor -- in the kitchens of a state correctional facility.

The worker, Amy McVay, filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Association last week, as the Detroit Free-Press first reported.

Referencing those allegations, the cook-off featured a menu listing dishes such as "chili con larvae" and "dirt cake."

"This is the quality of the food Aramark provides," Michigan Peoples' Campaign spokesman Erik Shelley told The Huffington Post.

McVay's complaint is only the latest trouble Aramark has run into since beginning its three-year, $145 million Michigan prison contract on Dec. 3, 2013.

In August, the state fined Aramark $200,000 due to "unacceptable" problems with the company's performance and upped the monitoring of conditions, the Free-Press reported.

Prior to that, media reports outlined allegations of maggots being found in and near food Aramark served to inmates, and employees smuggling drugs and other contraband items to inmates, as well as workers engaging in sex acts with inmates. A murder-for-hire plot involving an Aramark employee has also been alleged. Over 100 Aramark workers in Michigan have been fired due to misconduct allegations, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

Still, Gov. Snyder has declined to forfeit the Amtrak contract. His Democratic challenger, Mark Schauer, has repeatedly urged him to do so, saying the incumbent "continues to put the safety of state employees at risk and waste taxpayer dollars on a failed experiment in privatization." A number of state Democratic lawmakers have also called for the contract's cancelation and pushed for the state's contracting process to be overhauled, as a result of the scandal.

Democratic advocacy group Progress Michigan even used the Aramark allegations in an ad criticizing Snyder earlier this month:



In a statement to HuffPost, Aramark spokeswoman Karen Cutler called the Wednesday protest "yet another example in the long-running series of manufactured attacks against our company" and its Michigan employees. Cutler pointed out that the state and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) already cleared Aramark of pest and unsanitary food allegations and canceled $98,000 in fines (unrelated to the $200,000 in fines from August).

Schauer has alleged that a Snyder aide played a role in the contractor's fee cancellation, the Free-Press reported.

"We respect our employees’ and our clients’ privacy and do not comment publicly about claims asserted by disgruntled former employees," Cutler said in an email to HuffPost. "However, we investigate every employee concern that is reported to us, including those alleged by former employees. We stand by our food safety record and our employees at the MDOC."

Philadelphia-based Aramark claims its contracts can help save cash-strapped governments and school districts millions of dollars without sacrificing quality, but that hasn't always been the case. Earlier this year, the company faced complaints of maggots being found in food the company's workers served in Ohio prisons. Food and staffing shortages were among the other contract violations that prompted Ohio to fine the company $142,000 in April.

At Chicago Public Schools, where the company holds both a food service and custodial contract, Aramark's work has been the subject of numerous complaints about cleanliness and safety, prompting Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to say last month that the company needed to "either live up to that contract and clean up the schools or they can clean out their desks and get out."

Man Convicted Of Double Murder In Landmark Case Released From Prison

Thu, 2014-10-30 16:28
CHICAGO (AP) -- A prisoner whose confession helped free a death row inmate in a case that was instrumental to ending capital punishment in Illinois was released Thursday after he recanted, and a prosecutor said there was powerful evidence that the other man was responsible.

Alstory Simon's confession gained international attention in 1999, largely because of an investigation by a journalism professor and a team of students from Northwestern University that helped secure Anthony Porter's release just days before he was to be executed. He had spent 16 years on death row for slayings he and his supporters maintained he did not commit.

Because of constitutional protections against double jeopardy, there is no legal way to retry Porter.

Simon, wearing a grey hoodie and jeans, told reporters outside Jacksonville Correctional Center that he was angry.

"I'm not angry at the system. I'm angry at the people who did what they did to me," he said, crying as he told reporters that his mother had died while he was behind bars.

Simon was convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison. But the Cook County State's Attorney's Office began re-examining his conviction last year after his attorney presented evidence that he had been threatened with the death penalty and coerced into confessing with promises that he would get an early release and share in the profits from book and movie deals. And, said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, he was tricked by a private investigator who stormed into his home and showed him a videotape of a man who said he had seen Simon pull the trigger. The man turned out to be an actor.

"In the best interest of justice, we could reach no other conclusion but that the investigation of this case has been so deeply corroded and corrupted that we can no longer maintain the legitimacy of this conviction," Alvarez said.

The Porter case helped lead former Gov. George Ryan to declare a moratorium on executions in 2003, and he cleared death row by commuting the death sentences of more than 150 inmates to life in prison. Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in 2011.

Alvarez did not say whether she believed Simon is, in fact, innocent, but she said there were so many problems with the case - including what she called a coerced confession and the deaths of a number of key figures - that it is impossible to determine exactly what happened on the morning of Aug. 15, 1982, when two people were shot to death as they sat in a park on Chicago's South Side.

She also said there remains powerful evidence that Porter was the gunman, including several witnesses who still maintain their original statements.

"As I stand here today, I can't definitely tell you it was Porter who did this or Simon who did this," she said.

Alvarez said the "tactics and antics" of the investigator, Paul Ciolino, and former Northwestern journalism professor David Protess could have added up to criminal charges of obstruction of justice and intimidation of a witness at the time, but that it is now impossible to file charges because the statute of limitations has run out.

Protess, who retired from Northwestern in 2011 amid questions about his investigative methods, did not respond to phone calls for comment.

Ciolino, who like Protess has denied acting improperly, released a statement that emphasized that Simon confessed multiple times, including to a TV reporter and his own lawyer.

"You explain that," Ciolino said. Nonetheless, he added, no one should be in prison if the state did not meet its burden of proof.

Democracy's Most Cherished Act

Thu, 2014-10-30 14:49
Democracy! A word, a way of life, our highest ideal: Everyone is equal; no one is marginal.

I still feel the force of this word, though the middle syllable -- "mock" -- grows increasingly dominant when I hear it, especially now, as election season rolls around again. The enormity of my indifference to this election is balanced by something that feels like grief. The system we live under is...

Words fail me. Pardon me while I quote Nietzsche:

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"

Writing is either an act of hope or an act of cynicism, and I have always committed myself to reaching for the former in my commentary on current events, no matter how disturbing the events may be. But in this moment, I feel myself walking the edge of cynicism: The system we live under is a joke, a farce, a calculated lie. I say this as someone who believed in it deeply, who embraced our history of expanding inclusiveness.

Democracy in the United States of America used to apply only to white property owners, but in my grandparents' lifetime, in my parents' lifetime, in my own lifetime, we saw the moral arc of the universe bend toward justice. The right to vote expanded. More and more people mattered and became eligible to participate in the creation of our society. This was human progress, and it was good.

The agendas of various special interests were always in the picture, of course. Racism was always lurking, available for exploitation. Elections could be rigged. With the onset of electronic voting, vigilance was more crucial than ever. I embraced and celebrated the vigilance: Fair elections held society together. I still believed in democracy. I believed that, at its core, it was a positive force.

That belief has been ebbing for the last six years. My reaction to the following sentence made me realize how empty my reservoir of belief has become. Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, addressing the spate of voter ID laws and other cynical Republican efforts to keep various unfriendly constituencies away from the polls, wrote:

"The real reason for the laws is to lower turnout, to hold onto power by keeping those who (are) in opposition from exercising their solemn right -- to make it hard for minorities, poor folks, and students, among others, to participate in democracy's most cherished act."

I felt nothing but a rush of impatience. Voting -- "democracy's most cherished act" -- is now a completely empty ritual, or so it seemed for a deeply dispiriting moment. I realized I had given up on it as an instrument of social change, a manifestation of the moral arc of the universe. The cynic's graffiti felt closer to the truth: "If voting could change anything, it would be illegal." And the picture accompanying the graffiti was Barack Obama's.

Following eight years of George Bush and the disastrous war on terror, Obama came in on a cry for peace as deep as I've ever heard. His support was global. He had, it seemed, a mandate for profound change. But his performance in office -- his embrace of militarism in the Middle East and expansion of drone warfare, his defense of the NSA and domestic mega-spying, among much else -- has made it clear this mandate doesn't matter and was never the point.

Mandate or no mandate, the controlling interests of the American empire command bipartisan homage. They're not going to be voted out of power.

Coming to terms with the reality of the Obama years has altered my thinking on democracy itself, and beyond that, the concept of the nation, which has emerged from the cauldron of endless war and exists primarily, I fear, as the most efficient form of war's perpetuation. The nation's cornerstone is self-defense and a sense of superiority over other nations, values that are summoned continually and never fail to deliver the desired result. We're organized to go to war, and democracy -- voting -- doesn't change this, even if we keep thinking it will.

"The proletariats of each country, growing in numbers and strength, are made to wage war against each other," Michael Parenti, discussing World War I, wrote recently at Common Dreams. "What better way to confine and misdirect them than with the swirl of mutual destruction. Meanwhile, the nations blame each other for the war."

And World War I, the war to end all wars, begat World War II, which, William Rivers Pitt writes at Truthout, "never ended, because the manufacture of war materiel made the manufacturers rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and they began to exert influence over American politics . . .

And the Cold War took hold and ". . . O my Lord," Pitt goes on, "how the money rolled in, because conflict for conflict's sake became the operational ethos in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia and Africa and South America and Central America and especially in the Middle East for decades . . ."

And the situation continues to escalate and Obama can't and won't stop it and the next president we "elect" won't stop it either. Maybe democracy is still a viable concept. I harbor a vestige of hope that it is. But democracy's most cherished act has got to be something more profound than pulling a lever or making an X in a box.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.

5 Illinois Monster Stories That Will Make You Want to Check Under the Bed

Thu, 2014-10-30 14:33
On Halloween night, monster sightings in Illinois will go through the roof--little goblins and ghosts and ghouls will abound in every neighborhood. But Illinois also has its fair share of sightings of monsters that don't go door to door asking for candy.

Believe it or not, Illinois is rife with reported sightings of monsters ranging from ferocious creatures hiding beneath murky waters to towering humanoid-like beasts seen wandering the woods and river valleys in remote and rural parts of the state.

Whether these stories derive from local legends, folklore, myths or overactive imaginations, you definitely wouldn't want to stumble upon one of these nightmarish Illinois monsters.

1. Sasquatch (aka Bigfoot)

  • Illinois has the most reported Bigfoot sighting of any state east of the Mississippi, most of which are concentrated in remote and rural parts of southern and central Illinois.

  • The earliest documented sighting was in 1883 in a wooded area near Centreville.


2. The Enfield Horror

  • In April 1973, numerous sightings of a deformed creature having T-Rex-like arms with short claws, pink eyes, gray, slimy skin and three legs attacked a young boy as he was playing in his backyard. Later that evening, the bizarre creature tried breaking into a neighbors home, where it was shot by a man named Henry McDaniel with a .22 caliber pistol. A news director for WWKI Radio supposedly taped the monster's screams as it ran off, covering 50-75 feet with just three giant leaps and vanished.

  • Back in the 1940s, similar sightings were reported in the nearby town of Mt. Vernon, leading some to believe this creature reappears every few decades and will return again.


3. Thunderbirds

  • There have been many alleged sighting of Thunderbirds in Illinois, which are giant birds with wingspans reaching up to 20 feet. One well-known local legend near the town of Alton is that of Piasa bird, a name given by the Illini Indians meaning "bird that devours men." Although it has been restored, there is a painting of the Piasa bird on a bluff that's believed to date back to the late 17th century.

  • In 1973, an incident occurred in Lawndale where two gigantic birds attacked a group of children, one of whom was carried off by the bird being being dropped shortly after. A man named Texas John Huffer is said to have filmed a group of these birds at Lake Shelbyville that same year.


4. The Farmer City Monster

  • A giant, humanoid-like monster with bright yellow eyes seen multiple times in the 1970s. The good news is it's seemingly afraid of humans as it runs away whenever spotted.

  • Sightings: Farmer City, Bloomington Weldon Springs State Park, Heyworth and Waynesville in the 1970s.


5. The Mad Gasser of Mattoon

  • The Gasser is described as a tall, thin man who wore dark clothes and a tight-fitting cap. While gas attacks were originally reported in Botetourt County, Virginia, a spate of them happened a decade later in Mattoon beginning in August of 1944.

  • Hysteria swept through Mattoon after numerous residents claimed to have been sickened by gas. Things got so out of control that the FBI took on the case, but the Gasser was too elusive and never caught by the authorities.


Check out five more ghastly monster stories at Reboot Illinois, including on that might be lurking just below the depths of Lake Michigan.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois political news.

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A Movement that Matters

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:39
In the past few years I've used this platform to talk about the strength of our community and how we can leverage our economic and political power to make an impact in Chicago. There is no greater way to demonstrate our political power than by exercising our right to vote. November 4th is fast approaching and the time is now to make a decision about who you want to represent you.

At the Chicago Urban League we believe it is important for voters to be engaged and informed about who and what is on the ballot. Over the years, we've held numerous candidate forums and presented opportunities for the community to meet with elected officials. Most recently, we co-hosted a gubernatorial debate at the DuSable Museum of African American History in partnership with the Business Leadership Council, CBS 2 Chicago and WVON.

Governor Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner made their case to the Black community on where they stand on the issues we care about. They did this because they know our vote matters and that they need us on Election Day. If you missed the debate, you can view it on the CBS 2 website. It's a great way to get informed about both candidates. Then be sure to vote on Election Day.

This election will put people in office that will have a direct influence on laws and policies that impact your family and your community. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our communities to get to the polls. And if you're an early voter like me, you can go to the polls now through November 2. Early voting sites also accept onsite voter registration, so you can register up to two days before Election Day.

We must be civically engaged. Engagement inspires movement - a movement that matters. Since 1916, the Chicago Urban League has engaged with people to help them find jobs, start businesses and buy homes. And we've given students the motivation they need to stay in school and go to college. We do it in partnership with Chicago's civic, business, not-for-profit and faith leaders who share our belief that meaningful change occurs when we work together in the spirit of true collaboration.

Next month, we will look back on our accomplishments and thank our partners at two special events. On November 14th, National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial will join us for a special announcement about our efforts in workforce development, entrepreneurship and education. We've helped raise the bar for success among Urban Leagues around the country and President Morial is coming to Chicago to acknowledge our work.

Then on November 15th, actress and singer Vanessa Williams headlines the 53rd Golden Fellowship Dinner at Hilton Chicago. More than 1,600 of Chicago's business, political and philanthropic leaders will gather as we honor legendary opera singer Jessye Norman and a Chicago legend, Clyde Ross, with the Edwin C. "Bill" Berry Civil Rights Award. Mr. Ross was an architect of the Contract Buyers League that fought back against redlining and unscrupulous housing contracts in North Lawndale. Our gala co-chairs are Cheryl Pearson-McNeil of Nielsen and Stephen Thomas of Comcast. They are working hard to make this one of our most successful events ever.

The theme of this year's gala is "Opportunity, Community, Impact: A Movement that Matters." To us, people matter. Chicago is full of very capable, competent individuals who merely haven't had a chance to explore and fulfill their potential. When people show up at our offices on South Michigan Avenue, we focus on their possibilities and help them see what we see in them: A bright future.

In the past year, we placed 469 adults in permanent, unsubsidized jobs, and employed 300 youths over the summer. We were on the front lines helping Chicago residents beat back foreclosure. In fiscal year 2014, we provided mortgage counseling to 500 people and helped many families stay in their homes.

Our Entrepreneurship Center helped minority small businesses obtain $3 million in financing, and our engagement with budding entrepreneurs helped create 135 new businesses. Those business owners are more likely to hire from the community, which benefits all of Chicago.

While I'm happy to report these numbers, we don't rest on them. There is more work to be done. Our movement continues and is sustained through events like the Golden Fellowship Dinner. Our movement is also kept strong when you make voting a priority. Our movement matters, but it would not exist without you. Be sure to make your voice heard on Election Day. And if you are able, join us at the Golden Fellowship Dinner.

Andrea L. Zopp is President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. For more information about the Golden Fellowship Dinner visit www.TheChicagoUrbanLeague.org.

Shaw: Illinois needs responsible voters

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:30
The 2014 Illinois statewide election is only days away, and the Better Government Association's Andy Shaw wants Illinoisans to think very carefully about their candidate choices before they vote. He says the state needs informed, responsible voters to make Illinois great.

From Shaw:

[C]itizens have to do their part by paying attention to the issues and voting for candidates who serve the public, not themselves.

Unfortunately, too many Illinois residents are disengaged from the process, and we're paying a high price for that -- literally -- in wasted and misdirected tax dollars...

Making Election Day registration and extended early voting permanent, and even easier; pursuing new campaign finance and redistricting initiatives; and reconfiguring election boards to eliminate conflicts and increase competition.

But let's face it -- at the end of the day, it still comes down to John and Jane Q. Public.

None of the reforms or civic initiatives can accomplish much if regular citizens don't use the power of the ballot box intelligently.

See more of Shaw's ideas about getting the public out to the polls on Election day at Reboot Illinois.

Illinoisans will need to be especially alert this year, as campaigns have pulled out all the stops to grab more votes than the other guy. The governor's race has recorded record spending. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner spent more than $35 million combined in the third quarter alone. Check out this video at Reboot Illinois to compare the 2014 election cycle's spending with the race in 2006.

Michael Jordan Throws Serious Shade At Obama's Golfing Game

Thu, 2014-10-30 13:29
Well, it's safe to say there's someone Michael Jordan does not want to golf with.

When Jordan discussed his ideal golf foursome with sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, he seemed into the idea of playing with President Barack Obama -- at first.

“I’ve never played with Obama," Jordan said in a clip featured on Back9Network. "But I would.”

But then he dialed back his request, big time.

"No, that’s OK," Jordan said. "I’d take him out. He’s a hack ... I never said he wasn’t a great politician. I’m just saying he’s a shitty golfer.”

Consider that shade thrown and slam-dunked.



H/T New York Magazine

Filmmaker Steve James Talks <i>Life Itself,</i> Roger Ebert on <i>The Interview Show</i>

Thu, 2014-10-30 11:41
Documentary filmmaker Steve James stopped by The BIG Interview Show, at The Abbey Pub in September 2014, to talk about his new movie, Life Itself, about the life of Roger Ebert.



Our next show is Nov. 7, at The Hideout, in Chicago, with Kelly Hogan and more! http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/693931 and theinterviewshowchicago.com.

Thanks to Ben Chandler, Adam Peindl, Neal Heitz.

9 Tips for Dealing with the Emotions When Writing a Memoir

Thu, 2014-10-30 09:50
Writing a memoir is much like going through your trunk of family treasures and keepsakes. At times the memories may be fuzzy, just like the ink on the pages of that 70-year-old journal your great-grandmother kept. Sometimes the memories may be painful, much like the ring your father gave you before he passed away. And sometimes the memories may be glorious, like the wedding dress you have stored safely, in hopes that your daughter may one day wear the family heirloom.

Due to the emotions that emerge in memoir writing, it is often necessary that the writer understand how to navigate and conquer the writing process, in spite of the added element of being taken for a ride on an emotional roller coaster each time one sits down to write. There are strategies writers can use to help ease the pain, slow the emotional twists and turns, and take the raw emotions and coat them with a little extra love and understanding, so as not to startle our readers.

As I work with memoir writers of all ages and backgrounds, we have collectively been creating a list of strategies which help us better cope with the emotional aspects of writing a memoir. I know the pain, and pleasure, first hand. In fact, when the hard parts of my own memoir became too much to write, I actually had to pack up and go to a little cabin in the woods to finish the chapters I had skipped. Being alone allowed me the space and time I needed to process the raw emotions and put them down in draft form. That little cabin held my pain, my rage, and soaked up my tears... ultimately allowing me 10 days later to emerge with a finished manuscript.

9 Tips for Dealing with the Emotions When Writing a Memoir

  1. Many writers are concerned about the pain they will bring to others -- especially when writing a memoir. I must say that this is a real issue we all face with this genre -- whether it is pain caused unintentionally, by sarcasm, just by telling the truth, or an invasion of privacy. I sincerely believe most of us do not set out to hurt others, but if you are a writer, of any type, there is always going to be someone who is hurt or who doesn't agree with you. My best advice is to write the truth, always, and know going in that if you can stand in your truth, and speak from a place of truth, this will bring you much comfort when the questions start pouring in from your readers.


  2. The memoir genre is unique in that you need to be able to provide emotional distance for your readers. That distance, at times, is closeness, and at times needs to be far away. I think this "distance piece" is what attracts readers and pulls them in. Raw emotions usually emerge first, and sometimes we can leave them as is -- and at other times we need to wrap them in love and understanding and softened tones, so that we don't offend our audiences. The key is that you just have to write -- and write a lot -- many drafts, many entries, many rewrites -- so that you can eventually find the right emotional distance and balance you desire in your story line.


  3. Fuzzy memories and gaps in memories are real obstacles for many memoir writers. We may spend much time thinking about how to make our memories sharper -- but there is really only one solution to getting the sharp memories back: We must write, consistently. A daily writing practice helps the memories resurface. And what if you happen to get super-stuck? Well, just skip that memory and continue writing the next part of your memoir. Most likely, later into the writing process, your mind will recall the details. And if not? Well, a great editor will help you patch up those gaps!


  4. I believe it is imperative that memoir writers balance the negative and the positive memories -- so that we can sustain our energy levels and complete the manuscript. At first, when writing my own memoir, I wasn't adhering to this "rule" at all. It took a toll on my writing and my stamina. I quickly learned to balance the writing each day -- some days were "negative" memory days, and they were always followed by "positive" memory days.


  5. All writers need a support system in place. This could be a family member or friend, writing coach, or a fellow writer who we can go to when the writing gets tough, or when we need a dose of encouragement. For memoir writers, especially, because we are often dealing with highly charged emotions, and then reliving them all over again in our writing, I think a support system is even more important. Having a solid support system in place is more valuable than you might realize.


  6. It's okay to cry, scream, yell, weep, and hit your pillow! Holding in the emotions as the memories emerge in your writing may do more harm than good. So, let them go. It's okay, I promise.


  7. Take time off, especially when you are feeling very fragile or vulnerable. While writing my memoir, I kept a list of enjoyable things I had always wanted to do. And then, when I needed a break, I took time away and rewarded myself with a special treat. Writing is hard work -- and you deserve time away so you can recharge.


  8. Keeping a journal will be a beneficial tool for you as you process emotions, or capture memories as they filter back into your consciousness. Journaling is therapeutic on so many levels, and I used mine quite frequently while writing my memoir. My journal, at times, became my own personal counselor.


  9. Whatever you do, don't stop writing. Your memoir is important, and you will impact more people than you could ever imagine, once your book is done. And besides, you set out to write a memoir, and you will feel proud when your project is complete!

Here's Where Kids Can Eat Free This Halloween

Thu, 2014-10-30 09:48
This Halloween, kids can get some great free treats (and even free dinner!) before they go trick-or-treating and straight into a sugar high.

Check out these 4 venues for some sweet deals:

1. IHOP


Kids can create their own free, scary face pancake from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m on October 31st (must be 12-and-under).

2. Krispy Kreme


Krispy Kreme is offering EVERYONE a free "boo-tiful doughnut" on Halloween when they wear their costume to the store. All treats, no tricks here -- just one donut per costumed customer.

3. Chipotle


Chipotle's "Boorito" is where it's at -- drop by the store after 5 pm in full trick-or-treating gear for a $3 burrito.

4. Olive Garden


Fill out this little coupon and kids 12-and-under eat free with the purchase of an adult entree. No costume necessary, as this deal has actually been valid this entire week, but will end on Friday.

Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.

The Do's And Don'ts Of Handling American Ebola Hysteria

Thu, 2014-10-30 09:13
In a world where a gruesome virus is claiming more victims by the day in West Africa, how do we continue to behave like rational human beings? Hint: not by locking people in bathrooms.

Yes, Ebola is a real threat that must be taken seriously. But more and more, we're seeing logical, science-backed responses give way to behavior fueled by our primal fears. So here we present some common-sense guidelines on handling the threat of Ebola in the U.S. -- because apparently someone needs to.



DO: Remember that Africa is a huge continent home to more than 1 billion people, and there have been about 10,000 cases of Ebola.

DON'T: Attack Africans with Ebola-related slurs.

Student soccer players at one Pennsylvania high school are facing possible disciplinary action after taunting an African opponent with Ebola-related insults. Vulgarity aside, the opposing player was at the same risk of contracting the virus as anyone else on the field, having moved to the U.S. three years ago. (A reminder: The incubation period for Ebola is 21 days.)

A New York City organization is also calling for justice on behalf of two Senegalese boys whom it says were recently beaten and called "Ebola" by classmates. Earlier this month, two Rwandan students newly enrolled in a New Jersey elementary school were forced to stay home after hysterical parents discovered their nationality -- even though Rwanda has not been affected by the virus. The University of South Florida St. Petersburg has also told 14 African journalists scheduled to visit that they would not be welcome on campus due to Ebola fears.

Meanwhile, European officials have warned of a possible uptick in Ebola-related racial profiling. Not a good look for anyone.



DO: Help promote the facts about Ebola.

DON'T: Be this person.

Lady just chilling at Dulles in her homemade Hazmat suit pic.twitter.com/Ljlny8t4pr

— Joe Henchman (@jdhenchman) October 15, 2014


And don't be the Louisville, Kentucky resident who confined herself to her home with her loved ones earlier this month, telling The New York Times, "We're not really going anywhere if we can help it." She was worried about the threat of Ebola after hearing reports of an infected nurse flying to Cleveland from Dallas -- two cities that are hundreds of miles from where she lives.

Did you know that Ebola is not spread through air, water, mosquitoes or magic? Educational materials are widely available on the Internet.



DO: Thank the doctors and volunteers returning from fighting Ebola in Africa.

DON'T: Jump to conclusions about health care workers who contracted the virus.

ABSOLUTELY NO SYMPATHY for a doctor who knows he's been in contact w/Ebola, goes bowling, takes 2 subways, has contact with girl, Uber. none

— ericbolling (@ericbolling) October 24, 2014


Dr. Craig Spencer, the New York City doctor diagnosed with Ebola earlier this month, has been widely criticized for traveling around the city on public transportation, even though he was not displaying symptoms at the time. But Spencer followed all the rules laid out by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) upon returning from Guinea, where he'd been working with Ebola patients. MSF protocol did not mandate self-quarantine, a step that medical experts have also deemed unnecessary and harmful -- since the onset of fever precedes Ebola's contagious stage, noticing a fever gives an infected person time to get to a hospital. (The CDC has since tweaked its recommendations to include voluntary self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution.)

Nurse Kaci Hickox, who recently tested negative for the virus after returning from West Africa and being involuntarily quarantined in New Jersey for three days, has also been criticized by some for speaking out against the tented quarantine that violated expert-recommended protocol for people recently returned from infected regions.



DO: Realize that people are scared of deadly viruses.

DON'T: Make bad jokes about having a deadly virus in public spaces.

There have been more bad Ebola jokes than we can count. Earlier this month, a Los Angeles bus passenger yelled, "Don't mess with me -- I have Ebola!" and prompted a police investigation. Another man joked that he was infected on a plane headed to the Dominican Republic, to the amusement of no one. An Ohio teenager was arrested after claiming to have Ebola on an Allegiant Air flight. The virus makes everybody nervous, even scientists trained to research it, so using it to cause mass panic is both easy and a very dumb thing to do.



DO: Understand that Ebola symptoms may be similar (at first) to common illnesses like the flu.

DON'T: Be afraid of people who get sick around you. People get sick all the time.

Initial symptoms of Ebola may include nausea and fever -- symptoms also associated with the flu. But coughing and sneezing aren't typically indicative of Ebola. Furthermore, unless a person has recently visited Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia; has been in contact with a person who recently visited those countries; or is a health care worker who has cared for an Ebola patient, their likelihood of having Ebola is very, very slim.

Again out of an abundance of caution, health officials have been called to check out several flights in recent weeks due to passengers with Ebola-like symptoms. But the people on one American Airlines flight from Dallas to Chicago may have gone way, way too far. Flight attendants allegedly locked a sick woman in one of the plane's bathrooms out of fear that she may have had Ebola, according to witnesses. Whether the woman had recently visited West Africa is not clear, though that might have been good to ascertain before cramming her into a lavatory.



DO: Know that only a few countries on a massive continent are experiencing an Ebola epidemic.

DON'T: Ostracize or shame people who have simply been to some part of Africa.

At my wife's clinical practice they're afraid she might infect them with Ebola since I've just returned from South Africa #OnlyInAmerica

— Zakes Mda (@ZakesMda) October 3, 2014


Of the more than 1 billion people living on the African continent, only those in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have been at risk of Ebola. But that didn't stop a crowd of parents from pulling their children out of a Mississippi middle school earlier this month because the principal had recently returned from Zambia. Here is a helpful map showing how far Zambia is from the area affected by Ebola. Parents in Oklahoma pulled a similar stunt this week after pressuring a grade-school teacher to stay home for three weeks following a trip to Rwanda, another country that has not been affected by the virus.



DO: Remember that only four people have been diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.

DON'T: Punish someone for having been near a city where there was an Ebola patient.

One poor teacher in Maine was put on leave after returning from a trip to Dallas, where Thomas Eric Duncan was being treated for Ebola and where two nurses subsequently contracted it from him. As we know, the entire city of Dallas is now an Ebola hot zone Dallas is now Ebola-free. A helpful reminder of all the ways one might actually contract Ebola is available here.

Here Is Your Nasty, Glorious, Freewheeling Alternative History Of American Art

Thu, 2014-10-30 08:48
It's possible to create a neat and tidy map tracing the progress of American art over the last 50 years. Yes, you can draw some sort of shape connecting Pop Art to Minimalism to Conceptual Art, highlighting the famed (often white and male) artists associated with each.

It's certainly viable, and often probable, that American art will be recorded and remembered in this way. But it's a stagnant, small portrait compared to the one offered by the RISD Museum in their current exhibition "What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, from 1960 to the Present." Instead of rendering a crisp guide from Art Then to Art Now, RISD presents a manic smorgasbord of artists, collectives and influences from creative hubs across the country. It's messy, aggressively so, and we suspect the artists on view wouldn't prefer it any other way.


Karl Wirsum, Show Girl I, 1969. © The artist. Courtesy Karin Tappendorf.


"What Nerve!," curated by Dan Nadel and Judith Tannenbaum, features 180 artworks -- a multicolored serving of paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and videos, all aware of and decidedly distant from the predominant trends of modern art, namely the focuses on irony and theory. The exhibition is divided into four mini-shows, each focusing on a different movement: the Hairy Who (Chicago, 1966–1969), Funk (San Francisco Bay Area, 1967), Destroy All Monsters (Ann Arbor, 1973–1977), and Forcefield (Providence, 1996–2003). The show also spotlights six artists working outside of (but still influential to) the groups above: H. C. Westermann, Jack Kirby, William Copley, Christina Ramberg, Gary Panter, and Elizabeth Murray.

It's a lot to cover, and the jam-packed exhibition overview mimicks the sprawling range and grotesque detail of the displayed artworks in intensity. The exhibited artists do converge in certain ways -- their interest in the body, sexuality, disguise and politics, and their inspired allegiance to outsider art forms like comics, folk art and pottery. As Ken Johnson described in The New York Times: "They’re everywhere, male and female, busily burrowing in a zillion directions. They’re painting, drawing, doodling, whittling, tinkering and making comic books, zines, animated videos and Internet whatsits -- all, it seems, with no objective other than to just keep doing whatever they’re doing."


Jim Nutt, Wow, 1968. © The artist. Collection Karl Wirsum and Lorri Gunn


The Hairy Who, composed of School of the Art Institute of Chicago grads including Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim
Nutt, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum, created artworks defined by visual puns, buzzing colors and electric lines. Nutt's "Wow," made in 1968, depicts a squiggly red head who seems to dwell somewhere between Picasso's Cubism and "Rocko's Modern Life." The abstracted figure is at once babely and grotesque, with wrinkles, hairs and mysterious yellow spots adorning her lumpy, light flesh.

And then there's San Francisco's Funk Art scene, first defined by art historian Peter Selz at the University of California, Berkeley
in 1967. The Funk scene was wild, absurd, mangled and unpretentious. The works combatted the cool, plastic minimalism dominating California at the time. In the words of exhibited artist Jeremy Anderson, his work was "funky" because it "uses the idea that more is more, not the puritanical, bloodless, inhibiting notion that less is more."

The Funk artists on view, Robert Arneson, Joan Brown, William T. Wiley, Peter Saul, Roy De Forest, Robert Hudson, and Peter Voulkos, were never quite a cohesive "group," but all showed at the same Funk exhibition in 1967. Brown's 1962 sculpture "Fur Rat" is on view, a wood and chicken-wire creature inspired by a dream. The mutilated, rough skeleton beneath the critter's furry pelt serves as a metaphor for the human condition.


Niagara, Not According to Plan, 1974. © The artist. Collection Dan Nadel.


Ann Arbor's Destroy All Monsters was influenced by the Hairy Who and the Funk worlds, combining these artistic movements with aspects of sleaze culture to craft a particular brand of anarchic post-punk art. While Mike Kelley went on to become a contemporary art hero of Los Angeles, this exhibition focuses on his early work at the University of Michigan with Cary Loren, Niagara and Jim Shaw, much of which revolved around zines and musical performances.

Niagara's colored pencil piece "Not According to Plan," made in 1974, captures goth art at its very beginnings. Hippie-dippy goddesses frolic nude in a field of flowers, while a bleeding wound and lurking pair of scissors add a macabre element to the scene.


Forcefield, Installation view of Third Annual Roggabogga, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2002. © Hisham Bharoocha. Photo by Hisham Bharoocha.

And finally, there's Forcefield, a group of RISD students consisting of Mat Brinkman, Jim Drain, Leif Goldberg, and Ara Peterson, all centered around the sprawling Providence-based live/work space Fort Thunder. "Forcefield has to do with how it’s not this or that," founding member Ara Peterson explained to The Boston Globe. "It’s constantly failing at being one thing or another."

The group's output includes eight albums of music and a handful of singles and compilation tracks on cassette, vinyl, CD-R,
and CD. But the show-stealers are the knit ensembles donned during their performances; proto-Nick Cave's soundsuits, disguises as cozy as they are alien. The knits were displayed at the Whitney Biennial in 2002.

The whole show, as you may have guessed, is a doozy. It rambles on and squishes things together and mixes and matches disparate parts, as untamable and exaggerated as the works on view. "What Nerve!" opens up the narrow trajectory of art history into a dizzying knot of possible interconnections and influences, suggesting the shapes and lines formed by art history are works of art in themselves. Your eyes and your brain will be spinning for days.

"What Nerve!" runs until January 4, 2015 at the RISD Museum in Providence. See a preview below.

How the Recession Is Still Hurting Millennials

Thu, 2014-10-30 08:47
Opportunity matters. But for many young Americans, opportunity is hard to come by.

Young Americans have faced bleak job prospects for years, but the recession hit millennials particularly hard. Just 63 percent of Americans age 20-24 were employed as of September 2014, according to calculations based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In September 2000, 73 percent of this population had work.

All this is in addition to the massive burden of student-loan debt. (Seven in 10 college seniors who graduated in 2012 had student-loan debt, and those with loans had an average debt of $29,400, according to The Project on Student Debt.)

Older Americans aren't facing the same financial struggles. Americans age 65 and older saw their median net worth grow from 2000-2011, rising to $170,516 in 2011 from $146,205 in 2000, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Median net worth for Americans younger than 35 dropped to $6,676 from $9,765 over the same time period.

All that hurt is not distributed evenly across the country. The numbers get worse when you focus on certain states. For instance, just 59.4 percent of Illinois residents age 20-24 are employed -- the worst rate in the Midwest.

Prospects are even worse for 16- to 19-year-olds in Illinois that want to gain work experience: just 26.3 percent of these young adults are employed.

Illinois' workforce has shrunk by 76,000 people over the last six months, and that's despite the fact that Illinois' working-age population is growing. During the Great Recession, 500,000 working-age adults either dropped out of the workforce or never entered it at all. At its current pace, Illinois is still seven years away from fully recovering from the recession.

This poses a vicious cycle for young people -- when there are fewer jobs, it's harder to find work; when you can't find work, you can't gain experience; when you have no experience, you're less likely to get hired.

Young people aren't just working to cover movie tickets and new clothes. Many need the money to help pay for school or their first apartment. They also need the experience that comes with entry-level work. Employment -- and the income that comes with it -- marks the ability to move from dependence to independence, and when there are fewer opportunities to make this leap, development is stunted.

According to a report from the Alternative Schools Network: "The loss of teen employment poses serious policy implications nationally and locally including significant adverse affects on future employability, earnings, family incomes, and ... serious fiscal burdens on the rest of society associated with lower lifetime earnings, lessened tax contributions and higher correctional costs."

The Center for American Progress estimated that:

  • A young person who has been unemployed for six months can expect to earn about 22,000 less over the next 10 years than they could have expected to earn had they not experienced a lengthy period of unemployment.

  • In April 2010, the number of people age 20-24 who were unemployed for more than six months had reached an all-time high of 967,000 people.

  • Young Americans will lose a total of 21.4 billion in earnings over the next 10 years.


It's no wonder nearly half of Americans don't think their children will be better off financially than they are.

Millennials aren't missing out on the recovery from the Great Recession because they don't want to work -- they're missing out because they're facing an economy that has too little to offer them.

This Map Depicts The Staggering Highs And Lows Of The U.S. Economy Since 1999

Thu, 2014-10-30 06:38
America has been through a roller coaster ride of job creation and job loss over the last 15 years. But sometimes it can be difficult to really grasp just how wild that ride has been.

This map, which was created by TIP Strategies, an economic development consulting firm, will certainly help you do that. The map charts annual job growth and job loss in every metro area in the country between 1999 and 2014. The size of the bubbles corresponds to the net number of jobs gained or lost. Blue bubbles represent overall gains and red, losses.

Press play to start the visualization, and scroll over the bubbles to see the exact job stats for each city.



The most dramatic moments occur at the peak of the financial crisis in the middle of 2009. In the years before the financial crisis, the housing bubble had fueled significant job growth, especially in cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix where the subprime mortgage industry was particularly prevalent.

After the bubble popped, metro areas across the country hemorrhaged jobs. But since 2010, many of the red bubbles fade to blue as the economy recovers. Unfortunately, too many of those jobs have paid low wages.

The map also more subtly highlights other major events of the last 15 years, like the Dot-Com Bubble of 1999-2000 and its subsequent burst from 2001-2003, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the regeneration of the Midwest auto industry in the last few years. It has been a wild ride.

The Team That Did Not Practice

Thu, 2014-10-30 06:19
My 17-year-old daughter has been playing soccer since she was 5. One year of club soccer sent her running back into the arms of our local AYSO -- something that had little to do with her skill set and more to do with just wanting to have fun at a sport she loves.

I am happy to report that her Malibu AYSO Girls U19 team just won the area playoffs after an undefeated season. What I love most about that fact is this: They didn't hold a single practice all year. Not a one. In fact, on the roster of 21 girls, there were a couple of games where just enough players showed up to take the field and they played without subs. Still no pleading notes from the coach, no emails begging girls to show up. Nothing.

So how does a team that doesn't practice and doesn't insist that the girls come to games rise to the state level? Easy. To start, the coaches understood and made it clear from the start that this was only about having fun, so there was no pressure. We all like to win, but this wasn't about winning; it was about fun. Against a backdrop of looming college admissions, SAT prep classes and AP studies, plus stacks of homework best measured in miles not feet, the coaches realized that there wasn't room for One. More. Obligation. Not one more. So they wisely didn't create one.

Instead what they created was a breather. It was fun to hang out with whoever showed up for a game. It was fun for the parents too, especially now that most of the girls could drive themselves to the pre-game warmup and parents could just show up later to watch. Not that this team actually ever even really warmed up. Our warmups looked more like a coffee klatch the morning after a sleepover but with more stretching and a few casual practice kicks into the goal. It didn't matter; it was fun.

But there is another reason that the team that did not practice did so well. With a very few exceptions, these girls have been playing soccer together for about a dozen years. They know one another, trust each other as players, and all seem to like everybody else on the team. In more than a decade of watching them, I can't recall a single instance of a player finger-pointing or blaming a teammate for a defensive mistake or missed goal. They know each other so well that they sense where the girl playing left wing will run; they intuit which way the center midfielder will boom the ball; and the balls the mid-line kicks always land squarely at the feet of the forward because everyone knows how she runs and where the ball needs to drop. They pass the ball, they share the glory, and when a goal is scored it's a team goal not a player's goal.

So why am I writing about the team that did not practice in a column that generally discusses the experience of aging? Because there are a few life lessons in here: There are some situations in life that need to be recognized as crazy-making stressors. Practices when most of these girls were carrying rigorous course loads, play school sports and have tons of other obligations demanding their time was one such situation. Mid-lifers are known as the sandwich generation because we attempt to be all things to all people, caring for our elderly relatives and managing our families simultaneously. Maybe we can occasionally just stop practicing?

And then of course there is the real aging lesson from the team that did not practice: What you need to survive is to surround yourself with a bunch of people who actually know you well and on whom you can rely. I believe they're called friends.

Thanks, girls, for the reminder.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:



The Shrimp You Buy May Not Be What You Think It Is

Thu, 2014-10-30 02:05
The next time you sit down for some shrimp scampi, beware of a bait-and-switch.

Much of the shrimp sold in grocery stores and restaurants across the U.S. isn't exactly what it says on the package or the menu, a new survey claims. Using DNA testing, the marine conservation group Oceana sampled 143 shrimp products from U.S. stores and restaurants and found that as many as 30 percent misrepresented the crustaceans they contained.

For example, the researchers found that some shrimp labeled as being caught from the Gulf of Mexico were actually whiteleg shrimp raised in farms.

In other cases, one species was substituted for another. Samples sold as royal red shrimp or rock shrimp, two delicacies known for their lobster-like flavor, frequently turned out to be more common species. The researchers found three store-bought bags of alleged shrimp that in fact contained crustaceans that couldn't be genetically identified. One of those bags also contained a banded coral shrimp -- a critter normally sold as an aquarium pet, not as food.

While the researchers' sample was limited to a cross-section of just 111 vendors on the Eastern Seaboard, the Gulf Coast and the Oregon shore, the findings illustrate how difficult it is for seafood lovers to know which creatures they're actually eating. Last year, another Oceana study found that one in three fish sold in markets is mislabeled.

In some cases, shrimp may be misidentified by fishers or factories because different shrimp species are difficult to tell apart by sight, especially once processors have peeled them. In other cases, though, unscrupulous sellers may be slapping marketable labels like "wild" or "Gulf" on cheaper, farmed seafood.


High-end rock shrimp (left) vs. farmed whiteleg shrimp (right).

"This is a big issue, which has economic, sanitary and environmental consequences," said Jorge Barros Velazquez, a food science professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, who was not involved in the Oceana study. In 2007, Velazquez and his colleagues conducted a similar shrimp survey in Spain, and found the same problem: Of the shrimp samples they tested, 25 percent were mislabeled.

Widespread mislabeling presents a problem for seafood lovers who want to buy wild shrimp instead of farmed because it's more environmentally friendly or because they believe it may be healthier. Mislabeling also undermines people who want to support the hard-hit domestic fishing industry of the Gulf Coast region, which is trying to move past the images of oil-soaked shrimp after the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010.

"When somebody else slips something in and calls it a Gulf-branded seafood item, that really hurts the people down there that are trying to make a living and do it honestly," said Kimberly Warner, lead scientist on the Oceana study.

Warner and other advocates want the U.S. government to create programs that would track seafood from catch to sale. A bill called the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act, which would require records to be kept showing where and when seafood was caught, has been introduced in both chambers of Congress, but has not yet passed.

Generally, the Food and Drug Administration has the authority to crack down on fraudulent food sellers. "In the interest of public health, it is vital that both domestically processed and imported seafood are safe, wholesome and properly labeled," FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher told The Huffington Post.

However, the agency said it "does not provide speculative or advance information on enforcement actions" with regard to seafood sales.

Foreign shrimp farms, which are often not held to rigorous food standards, have their own problems that shrimp lovers may want to avoid. One grower in Vietnam was found to be using bacteria-laden ice to chill his shrimp, while some farms in Thailand have been linked to slave labor.

The Shrimp You Buy May Not Be What You Think It Is

Thu, 2014-10-30 02:05
The next time you sit down for some shrimp scampi, beware of a bait-and-switch.

Much of the shrimp sold in grocery stores and restaurants across the U.S. isn't exactly what it says on the package or the menu, a new survey claims. Using DNA testing, the marine conservation group Oceana sampled 143 shrimp products from U.S. stores and restaurants and found that as many as 30 percent misrepresented the crustaceans they contained.

For example, the researchers found that some shrimp labeled as being caught from the Gulf of Mexico were actually whiteleg shrimp raised in farms.

In other cases, one species was substituted for another. Samples sold as royal red shrimp or rock shrimp, two delicacies known for their lobster-like flavor, frequently turned out to be more common species. The researchers found three store-bought bags of alleged shrimp that in fact contained crustaceans that couldn't be genetically identified. One of those bags also contained a banded coral shrimp -- a critter normally sold as an aquarium pet, not as food.

While the researchers' sample was limited to a cross-section of just 111 vendors on the Eastern Seaboard, the Gulf Coast and the Oregon shore, the findings illustrate how difficult it is for seafood lovers to know which creatures they're actually eating. Last year, another Oceana study found that one in three fish sold in markets is mislabeled.

In some cases, shrimp may be misidentified by fishers or factories because different shrimp species are difficult to tell apart by sight, especially once processors have peeled them. In other cases, though, unscrupulous sellers may be slapping marketable labels like "wild" or "Gulf" on cheaper, farmed seafood.


High-end rock shrimp (left) vs. farmed whiteleg shrimp (right).

"This is a big issue, which has economic, sanitary and environmental consequences," said Jorge Barros Velazquez, a food science professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, who was not involved in the Oceana study. In 2007, Velazquez and his colleagues conducted a similar shrimp survey in Spain, and found the same problem: Of the shrimp samples they tested, 25 percent were mislabeled.

Widespread mislabeling presents a problem for seafood lovers who want to buy wild shrimp instead of farmed because it's more environmentally friendly or because they believe it may be healthier. Mislabeling also undermines people who want to support the hard-hit domestic fishing industry of the Gulf Coast region, which is trying to move past the images of oil-soaked shrimp after the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010.

"When somebody else slips something in and calls it a Gulf-branded seafood item, that really hurts the people down there that are trying to make a living and do it honestly," said Kimberly Warner, lead scientist on the Oceana study.

Warner and other advocates want the U.S. government to create programs that would track seafood from catch to sale. A bill called the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act, which would require records to be kept showing where and when seafood was caught, has been introduced in both chambers of Congress, but has not yet passed.

Generally, the Food and Drug Administration has the authority to crack down on fraudulent food sellers. "In the interest of public health, it is vital that both domestically processed and imported seafood are safe, wholesome and properly labeled," FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher told The Huffington Post.

However, the agency said it "does not provide speculative or advance information on enforcement actions" with regard to seafood sales.

Foreign shrimp farms, which are often not held to rigorous food standards, have their own problems that shrimp lovers may want to avoid. One grower in Vietnam was found to be using bacteria-laden ice to chill his shrimp, while some farms in Thailand have been linked to slave labor.

Tensions Flare In Illinois After School Board Member Tells Parents To 'Shut Up'

Wed, 2014-10-29 20:26
Tensions surrounding a four-week teachers strike in an Illinois school district escalated this week, after a school board member told community members to “sit down and shut up.”

A packed crowd at the Waukegan High School auditorium for a school board meeting Tuesday night grew agitated after board members announced they would allow only 45 minutes for public comment, according to video. In response to jeers, school board member Victoria Torres leapt off the stage and into the crowd, where she scolded teachers and parents.

"Alright, let's go! I'm a parent too! Yeah, sit down and shut up. Yeah, shut up!" Torres told the crowd.

The meeting ended soon after that, putting further strain on a situation that has kept about 17,000 students in one of Illinois’ largest communities out of school for weeks.

Torres apologized for her behavior in a statement released by the district on Wednesday.

“The tensions of the past few weeks, as well as the personal attacks on my character, my family and my actions, have been nearly unbearable. In the chaos of the Board meeting, where we couldn’t even hear the person next to us, I felt attacked and lost my temper,” said Torres in the statement.

The president of the school board, Anita Hanna, said in that statement: “While we have all felt the pressure of tense negotiations over the past few weeks, we have a responsibility to act as leaders we want our children to admire.”

Neither Torres nor Hanna could not be reached for additional comment.

The mayor called on Torres to resign.

Her conduct was unacceptable, unnecessary, unprofessional; and I think the only thing she should do now is resign her position,” Waukegan Mayor Wayne Motley told a local CBS outlet. “I will contact the board members. I think that she set negotiations back two weeks.”

Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on Wednesday directed the chairman of the state board of education, Gery Chico, to help facilitate the negotiations and end the strike. Talks resumed Wednesday morning.

"Students in Waukegan need to get back to school and we need both sides to work together to get it done now," Quinn said in a statement, according to The Daily Herald.

Kenzo Shibata, media director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, told The Huffington Post that the teachers union and school board were close to a a deal earlier this week. But since the school board meeting, he said, the disagreements have widened.

“Things kind of blew up today,” said Shibata. He noted that school board members have not been present at any negotiating sessions.

Shibata said that Waukegan has unusually high teacher turnover, and that teachers are underpaid compared to other similar districts.

"I have been saying this from the beginning, this is not about financial solvency -– this is about certain members of the Board punishing teachers for taking a stand,” Waukegan Teachers' Council President Kathy Schwarz said in a statement.

"It's beyond time that issues get resolved, and the Board's negotiation team hopes that they can build off positive talks with the Union and reach an accord soon," a school district representative said in a statement to The Huffington Post.

Waukegan, located near Lake Michigan about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, has a majority of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. According to U.S. News and World Report, only about 20 percent of Waukegan High School students are proficient in math and reading.


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