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Michael Jordan Twins: Athlete's Wife Gives Birth To Daughters Victoria And Ysabel

Tue, 2014-02-11 23:02
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Jordan has more to be happy about than just the improved play of his NBA franchise.

His wife, Yvette, has given birth to the couple's identical twin daughters, Jordan's spokeswoman Estee Portnoy told The Associated Press. Portnoy said Tuesday night Yvette Jordan, 35, gave birth to Victoria and Ysabel on Sunday in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"Yvette Jordan and the babies are doing well and the family is overjoyed at their arrival," Portnoy said.

Jordan is the owner of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, who are currently the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and have a chance to make the postseason for the first time since he took over as majority owner in 2010.

Jordan, who turns 51 next Monday, married former model Yvette Prieto on April 27 of last year in Palm Beach, Fla. The reception took place at a private golf club in Jupiter, Fla., designed by Jack Nicklaus. Jordan owns a home near the course.

The couple met six years ago.

Jordan has three children — two sons, Jeffrey Michael and Marcus James, and a daughter, Jasmine — with former wife Juanita Vanoy. They divorced in 2006.

Jordan won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and was a 14-time All-Star and five-time league MVP.

This German Olympic Figure Skater's Hot Pink 'Pink Panther' Catsuit Is Everything (PHOTOS)

Tue, 2014-02-11 19:53
Hot pink was clearly the color of the day Tuesday as the Olympic pairs figure skating competition kicked off in Sochi, Russia, with the short program.

As many expected after their sensational skate as key members of the gold medal-winning squad in the team figure skating competition, Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov took the lead with a flawless skate that bested their next closest rivals.

Though Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy trail the Russians by almost five points heading into the final free skate, they still made a lasting impression with their "Pink Panther" program which, naturally, featured the return of one of the most epic catsuits we've ever seen worn in figure skating (as well as an impressive Chief Inspector Dreyfus look).

Not to be outdone, NBC commentator Johnny Weir, whose fashions some say have stolen the show from the competing skaters' traditionally flashy on-ice wear, rocked a hot pink jacket that just so happened to match Savchenko's loud look. For her part, fellow NBC analyst Tara Lipinski also brought her fashion "A" game and wore a pale pink jacket with a Lana Del Rey-esque floral hair piece.

Johnny Weir is a walking middle finger on the streets of Sochi today. An American hero.

— Shawn Francis (@TheOffsideRules) February 11, 2014

Jon Burge Pension Scandal Continues to Simmer

Tue, 2014-02-11 16:44
In June 2010, former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for three torture-related felonies. But while Burge serves his time at the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, NC, he's continued to collect his police pension -- to the tune of some $36,000 a year. After his conviction, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, acting on behalf of the people of the state of Illinois, went to court in an attempt to stop that cash flow.

On Jan. 22, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments in Madigan's case, People v. Burge. The question argued before the court was whether Madigan had the power to challenge the continuing lifetime payments to Burge.

City, county, state and federal taxpayers have already footed a bill amounting to more than $100 million over the course of two decades to investigate, prosecute and defend Burge and his cronies -- and to compensate some of his victims. Still, Burge's lawyers, likely funded by the Fraternal Order of Police based on past behavior, argued that the police pension board's 2011 decision to continue to pay him could not be challenged in court. (The FOP did not return requests for comment.)

The board's original 4-4 decision was based on the proposition that Burge's conviction for lying under oath about whether he tortured detainees did not relate to, arise out of, or connect to his work as a police officer. Given the notorious circumstances of Burge's sentencing, this resolution fostered widespread outrage, particularly in the African-American community. Madigan filed suit less than a month later to halt the payments.

After Cook County Associate Judge Rita M. Novak dismissed the case, the Illinois Appellate Court overturned her decision. In doing so, the court noted that Burge was "widely believed to have sanctioned and participated in physical abuse and torture of arrestees in order to obtain confessions." Burge and the pension board then sought review of the decision in the Illinois Supreme Court. This high court, which only agrees to review about one in 20 cases, nonetheless granted Burge and the board the right to appeal.

During the arguments on January 22, the arcane-sounding legal issues discussed by justices and lawyers were framed by overarching concerns about the pension board's 2011 decision. Those questions included whether the board's evenly split decision, voted for only by the four current or former police officers present, had been a legally binding one. Another was whether it could be reasonably concluded that Burge's eventual conviction -- lying in federal court about whether he participated in the serial torture of arrestees during his tenure as a police officer -- was, in fact, unrelated to his police work. And a third was whether the taxpayers can challenge such a decision via Madigan, given that neither Burge nor the board had an interest in appealing it.

But there are other older, equally troubling questions that surround the saga. Burge was first suspended in 1991 for allegedly torturing Andrew Wilson in 1982. The police board fired him for this offense in 1993, and his appeals were exhausted in 1995, making the decision final. Nonetheless, in 1997, Burge started to quietly collect his pension.

After the court-appointed special prosecutor's 2006 report found that Burge had tortured Wilson "beyond a reasonable doubt," a furor arose about the former commander living comfortably in Florida on his police pension. That report also led to a widely publicized City Council torture hearing in the summer of 2007, during which Alderman Ed Smith said Chicago could no longer allow Burge "to live off the fat of this city." Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times, in a banner editorial, urged Chicago to "PULL HIS PENSION."

However, the Daley administration did nothing beyond funneling additional millions to defend Burge -- and ultimately, Daley himself -- in the civil cases brought by Burge's exonerated victims in the following years.

The lingering doubts about Burge's right to his pension were compounded in 2009, when former Chicago Police Superintendent LeRoy Martin testified at a deposition that, if Burge had been fired, he would have only been entitled to a lump sum payment of what he'd contributed to the superannuation fund over the course of his 21-year career, instead of lifetime checks supplemented by city funds. But contrary to the unambiguous decision of the police board and the reviewing courts, Martin then asserted that, in fact, the department had permitted Burge to retire, thereby protecting his right to collect his pension starting at age 50.

While this seems hard to fathom, Burge maintained in his 2010 trial that he'd retired in 1997 without mentioning his firing -- testimony that went unchallenged by government prosecutors. And in 2011, the board opted to continue paying the pension Burge had begun to pocket more than 10 years prior.

Attorney General Madigan's current battle with Burge and his lawyers could go on for several years: If the Supreme Court deems that she has the legal right to challenge Burge's payments, she'll have to return to court again to do just that. To date, Mayor Emanuel's lawyers have not joined forces with Madigan. And, like Daley before him, Emanuel has not spoken out on either side of the issue.

Burge, who rose in the ranks from patrolman to Commander in record time, has been said to have friends in high places. In an era where the Illinois Supreme Court and the legislature are potentially scaling back the hard-earned pensions of law-abiding public workers and their families, it will be telling to see, once again, just how high Burge's clout reaches in this scandal-within-a-scandal.


G. Flint Taylor is a founding partner of the People's Law Office and has represented numerous survivors of police torture in Chicago for more than 25 years.

Controversial Book, 'The Hindus', By Religious Scholar Wendy Doniger Withdrawn By Penguin Over Lawsuit

Tue, 2014-02-11 16:23
Penguin Books India has agreed to withdraw a controversial book on Hinduism as settlement for a lawsuit filed in 2011, The New York Times reported.

The book, entitled "The Hindus: An Alternative History," by University of Chicago Divinity School professor Wendy Doniger, was published in the U.S. and India 2009 and was shortlisted for a National Book Critics Circle award. In it, Doniger reportedly argues that Hinduism is not a neatly 'unified' religion but rather the amalgamation of many practices and traditions that developed over millennia.

Dina Nath Batra, who heads Shiksha Bacho Andolan, a Hindu educational organization in New Delhi, filed the lawsuit against Penguin in 2011. In a notice to the author and Penguin Group USA, Batra said he, "found [the book] to be a shallow, distorted and non serious presentation of Hinduism."

Batra's sentiments appear to have been shared by others in the Hindu community. "During a lecture in London in 2003," New York Times book reviewer Pankaj Mishra wrote in 2009, "Doniger escaped being hit by an egg thrown by a Hindu nationalist apparently angry at the “sexual thrust” of her interpretation of the “sacred” “Ramayana.”"

The New York Times and Reuters referred to what appears to be a copy of the court settlement, which shows Penguin Books India's agreement to withdraw all copies of the book from India within six months.

Despite the Penguin's decision, the book has also been defended by many. Hindustan Times noted:

"Doniger is regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Hinduism. In her unique and authoritative account, she debates about Hindu traditions become platforms from which to consider the ironies, and overlooked epiphanies, of history."

The news generated over the issue may have worked to spread awareness of Doniger's book, despite the lawsuit's aim. In the wake of the settlement, someone set up a website, DownloadTheHindus, where the book may be purchased or downloaded in its entirety.

These 100-Year-Old Best Friends Share Their Hilarious Thoughts On Today's Pop Culture (VIDEO)

Tue, 2014-02-11 16:02
When these ladies first met 94 years ago, the world was a completely different place.

Irene Cook and Alice Jensen were born in Chicago in 1913, ABC7 reported. They met at St. Gregory's School in first grade and "took to each other almost immediately," Jensen told the outlet.

In 1918, the year they met, Woodrow Wilson was president, Congress was grappling with an amendment that would give women the right to vote and World War I was being fought.

Now, the two 100-year-olds are still best friends, and recently appeared on the "Steve Harvey Show" where they shared their thoughts on today's pop culture -- chatting about everything from selfies and twerking to Justin Bieber and iPhones.

Between not believing that someone actually named their child North West and referring to Justin Bieber as "Justin Beaver," these two are nothing short of brilliant.

Watch the hilarious video above for their full appearance on the show.

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New York Officials Want To Ban Your Face Wash To Save The Great Lakes

Tue, 2014-02-11 16:01
With scientists warning that tiny plastic beads found in bath products are polluting the Great Lakes -- potentially by the millions -- New York state officials announced a groundbreaking plan to stop them.

New York Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Suffolk), on behalf of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, introduced legislation Tuesday that if passed would make the state the first to ban the sale of products that contain the plastic pellets, called microbeads. Microbeads are used as an exfoliant and often found in face and body washes.

“From the Great Lakes to the Hudson River to Long Island Sound, our commitment to protecting and restoring New York’s waters is among our most important responsibilities,” Schneiderman said, according to a release. “New York’s environmental leadership continues today with the introduction of common-sense legislation that will stop the flow of plastic from ill-designed beauty products into our vital waters, preserving our natural heritage for future generations.”

The Microbead-Free Waters Act would prohibit the production, manufacture, distribution and sale of any product that contains plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size.

Scientists have found that the microbeads in beauty products, which are typically less than one millimeter in size, are present throughout the three lakes they sampled, Erie, Huron and Superior. The most microplastics were found in Lake Erie, which borders New York. Scientists posit that because of their small size and buoyancy, not all are collected by waste treatment plants and the remaining beads can flow into waterways. From there, it's virtually impossible to remove the plastics from bodies of water, and they don't easily degrade.

Marcus Eriksen is the co-founder and executive director of 5 Gyres, a nonprofit that studies aquatic plastic pollution. He lead a study published last year that documented the microbeads.

"There are potentially millions of these microbeads just drifting across the Great Lakes," he said in October. Looking at different products that contain the plastic, Eriksen found 6,000 microbeads in .1 gram of a facial cleanser and approximately a million in three tubes of the product.

AP Photo courtesy 5 Gyres.

The impact of the beads to the Great Lakes has not yet been fully determined, but there is concern for wildlife. Pollutant chemicals like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) can attach to the plastics and could potentially be absorbed into fish tissue if eaten, Eriksen said. Two recent studies showed that ingesting plastic -- whether it was polluted or not -- had significant detrimental health effects for Atlantic lugworms, and could potentially cause problems higher up the food chain, according to Wired.

"This legislation will not only help protect [New York waterways] for future generations -– it will also set an example for other states around the country to address this emerging environmental threat," New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn said in a statement.

According to the New York Times, 5 Gyres has written model legislation to ban microbeads and is sharing it with other states.

Some companies have began to react to the research. Unilever (which owns Dove, Pond's and other brands), Johnson & Johnson (Neutrogena and Aveeno), Proctor and Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive have all agreed to begin phasing out microplastics. There are natural exfoliating alternatives that are already used in some products, like sea salt or ground apricot seeds or walnut shells.

For those looking to avoid microbeads, the press release from the attorney general's office notes that products that contain them will list “polyethylene” or "polypropylene" in the ingredients list. A coalition of groups also developed the "Beat the Microbead" app, which lets consumers scan the barcode of a product to see whether it contains plastics.

In October, the Personal Care Product Council trade association's chief scientist Halyna Breslawec told The Huffington Post said that microplastics from beauty products pose a relatively small threat compared to other environmental sources of plastics.

"Evidence continues to show that concentration levels in terms of ecological effects are low," she said.

But Eriksen and others have wondered why wait to act, when harm is suspected.

“When people learn more about this issue, they will be unwilling to sacrifice water quality just to continue to use products with plastic microbeads," Sweeney said. "I never met anyone who has wanted plastic on their face or in their fish."

People Who Watch More Porn Have More Sex, Survey Finds

Tue, 2014-02-11 15:40
Anyone who equates watching porn with an unsatisfactory sex life might want to bite their tongue.

A survey conducted by adult webcam site (NSFW link) and French survey institute IFOP surveyed a representative sample of 1,023 adults about their pornography habits. Ninety percent of men and 60 percent of women reported watching porn regularly. Fifty-three percent of survey participants watch porn as a couple, and 66 percent said they would watch with their partner if asked.

These results back up what we already believed: that porn isn't just for men or single people, and can be a positive way for couples to connect and communicate. What surprised us was that the respondents who watched porn most often were also the respondents who had the most sex. Though the quantity of sexual encounters doesn't necessarily indicate quality, these findings upend the stereotype that porn is for lonely people with no real-life sexual prospects.

Of men in relationships who watch porn, 68 percent say their partner is aware of it -- and only 7 percent have been asked to stop. A previous study indicated that people who were honest about their porn use felt happier in their relationships. Though porn can certainly be a destructive force in people's sex lives, it seems like adult entertainment can be a positive force when used consensually and communicated about.

Check out more key findings from the Cam4 survey below.

Leap Forward: Why We Need to Think Bigger on Climate Resilience

Tue, 2014-02-11 15:19
In 1995, a severe heat wave struck Chicago, killing more than 700 people. The disaster hit some neighborhoods much harder than others. For the most part, its devastation closely traced the city's economic and ethnic segregation. More people died in places like Englewood, a South Side neighborhood with a history of poverty and crime, and a largely African-American population; yet some neighborhoods with this same demographic fared remarkably well. Just adjacent to Englewood, the Auburn Gresham community -- also poor and black -- weathered the disaster far better than many of the city's wealthy white communities.

The difference? Auburn Gresham's strong social ties kept residents alive. As Eric Klinenberg explains in his excellent New Yorker piece, residents survived in large part because they knew each other. During the heat wave, neighbors checked on neighbors. They knocked on doors. They knew who was alone, who was elderly, who was most at risk.

As we grapple with how to best prepare for climate change, there's a valuable lesson in Chicago's heat wave. We've been hearing more and more about community resilience -- from the President's creation of a task force on the issue, to his executive order directing agencies to help prepare Americans for the effects of climate change. These measures couldn't be more important. We badly need investments in infrastructure and in emergency response systems that will mitigate damage from coming disasters. But these measures alone don't get us where we need to be.

So far, the conversation on climate resilience has been too narrow. It often overlooks some of the key components that have proven to make the difference in how a community survives a heat wave, a flood, a fire, or a hurricane.

Reliable infrastructure and good disaster response plans are crucial. But truly resilient communities -- the ones that weather storms, economic downturn, and disasters best -- also embody many of the following four key components:

1. Have Strong Social Capital

The neighborhood ties that helped Auburn Gresham survive Chicago's heat wave are so important that, as Klinenberg noted, they equal the impact of having an air conditioner in every home. That effect is too big to ignore. Resilience strategies need to recognize that social ties are a survival mechanism -- and support activities that build them.

2. Can Use Existing Assets to Cope with Calamity

During Hurricane Sandy, members of Green City Force, a service corps that prepares low-income youth for sustainable careers, played a new and crucial role in helping residents of Brooklyn's Red Hook area survive. Corps members gathered and distributed food to elderly residents who otherwise would have been cut off from help. It worked because the members of Green City Force knew the neighborhood well, they were already organized, and their members had an ethic of service and stewardship toward their community that propelled them to action. Smart resilience strategies will invest in the kind of organizations that are already embedded and connected with local residents -- from community groups and non-profits to churches.

3. Are More Self-Sufficient

If communities develop local sources of food, they're safer when droughts or disasters drive up food prices. If they have their own power -- like solar panels on a school -- they aren't as vulnerable in the face of blackouts. If they're familiar with their neighbors and have established gathering spaces, they can still communicate when cell phone networks get clogged. If they have prosperous local businesses, they're better prepared to ride out storms in the global economy.

4. Have a Voice in the Decisions That Affect Them

If a community has a history of engaging with government or working together to secure resources -- if neighbors have successfully petitioned the city to fix potholes or install gutters -- they'll not only be more prepared before a storm hits, they'll be in a better position to get the resources they need after the storm. The most effective resilience strategies will support local leadership.

Climate resilience plans that focus just on disaster preparation, but ignore these components, do a disservice to us all. And it's not just about mitigating the damage from storms -- it's also about creating the kind of long-term stability that strengthens our nation as a whole. We need to think bigger and be bolder so that our community resilience strategies reflect our nation's core values and capabilities.

Think Bigger, Be Bolder

When our leaders talk about helping Americans survive disasters, they haven't been thinking big enough. Surviving is a baseline. American communities have always endeavored to survive and thrive, despite the challenges or setbacks.

When our leaders talk about "bouncing back" they haven't been thinking big enough. Bouncing back is a dubious goal for folks living on the edge. If you're struggling to feed your kids or pay the rent before a storm strikes, it's not enough to return to business as usual. Vulnerable Americans need to find a way to gain ground -- not just go back to the margins. After all, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina began to unfold long before the storm hit -- the seeds of disaster were planted decades earlier, when the area's poor communities were abandoned.

Our climate response plans have to think bigger about the problems -- and the opportunities. Our best community resilience strategies will:

Recognize that disasters hit low-income communities and people of color first and worst.

When it comes to storms and severe weather, those with the fewest resources have a harder time preparing, escaping and recovering. Nationally, African-Americans, who are more likely to live in coastal areas, are at greater risk for displacement from flooding and sea level rise. They're also more vulnerable to heat-related deaths, which are expected to increase by 90 percent. Meanwhile, climbing food costs, crime and illness from climate change are all expected to hit people of color and the poor hardest. Climate resilience strategies -- and investments -- must address this gap.

Put these communities in the driver's seat.

No one knows how to weather storms better than folks who've already been pushed to the edge. Neighborhoods like Auburn Gresham have endured decades of divestment and blight. The same communities hit hardest by extreme weather have survived years of toxic pollution, redlining and abandonment. In an under-resourced area, it's not uncommon to borrow a cup of sugar from next door, or lean on a neighbor to watch your kid. The history of social ties that have kept these neighborhoods alive through decades of hardship have already laid a strong foundation for climate resilience. Good resilience plans will be developed in partnership with vulnerable communities. Strong outreach and civic engagement will uncover ways to build upon the social entrepreneurship that's already buzzing within these areas -- to unleash the "hustle" that has helped residents survive and thrive for decades.

Think bigger. Stay focused on leaping forward, not just bouncing back.

Resilience investments should leave local economies stronger, more inclusive, and healthier than before. We have no choice now, but to fight climate change and get Americans ready for the disasters to come. But if we're smart about it, we can address economic inequality at the same time. Investing in clean energy, efficient infrastructure, and climate-readiness can create jobs and business opportunities in the communities that need them most. The kind of jobs that help fight carbon pollution, like manufacturing solar panels, tend to pay more (13 percent higher than the median wage) while requiring less formal education. That's a recipe for escaping poverty. In the long run, the economic stability these jobs create will do more than just about anything to fortify communities on the front lines.

A "leap forward" strategy won't just help the most vulnerable among us -- it will help everyone. The extreme devastation we see when disasters strike poor, under-resourced communities is more expensive to clean up. It drags down our economy, and it exacerbates suffering among families who are already struggling. It's in everyone's interest to prevent damage on that scale.

America's leadership will be tested more and more in the years to come -- not just by climate change, but by an increasingly globalized economy. Our nation's number one resource is its people. We simply can't afford to have so many members of our team sidelined by hardship -- or overlooked by shortsighted planning processes. We need to craft resilience strategies that unleash the genius within our communities.

By thinking bigger about resilience -- by creating prosperity in partnership with communities, and by clearing the way for the hardest-hit among us to build a healthier, safer, more equitable future -- we position ourselves to do more than just bounce back from hard times. We set ourselves up to leap forward, together as a nation, into the future of our own choosing.

Which States Are Tied Up With the Most Credit Card Debt?

Tue, 2014-02-11 15:18

It's a dangerous trap to fall into. That of credit card debt. But it happens all the time, in every state.

In some states the average debt per person is higher than others. But where does Illinois fall on that list. We'll give you a hint: it's not number one. That "honor" falls to Alaska, and it's not even close between Alaska and the number two state, Colorado.

Less then $500 separates Colorado from the number 15 state on our list, a list that includes Illinois. What is the average credit card debt per borrower in Illinois?


Chris Christie: Bridge Scandal Won't Impede Agenda

Tue, 2014-02-11 15:10
CHICAGO (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that the bridge scandal facing him is disappointing but not a distraction from his job as governor — or from his effort to raise money for Republican candidates for governor.

"While the last six weeks have not been the most enjoyable of my life, the fact is we have to do our work," Christie, a possible presidential contender, told about 1,600 people at the Economic Club of Chicago. Christie made the remarks during an hourlong question-and-answer session moderated by Motorola Solutions CEO Greg Brown, a Christie friend. Brown, reading questions selected by the club's board, asked Christie if the investigation would hamper his second-term agenda. It was the only question on the subject.

It was Christie's first major public appearance since the January press conference in which he acknowledged that his administration had ordered lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge closed in September, and that the order amounted to political payback.

The speech in Chicago was supposed to be Christie's debut as a national political leader after his landslide re-election in November. He also is the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which has been a gateway for past GOP presidential candidates.

Christie was spending most of the day in private meetings with GOP donors and expected to raise $1 million during the one-day Chicago visit.

Some national Republican fundraisers have said the scandal could damage Christie's prospects should he seek the presidency. But Christie told donors in a private fundraiser that he is focused on raising money for GOP candidates for governor this year.

"He brought it up himself, which is smart," said former Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady, who attended the morning event held for Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin. "He said, 'I'm flattered that my name is mentioned, but we need to focus on 2014.'"

Whoops! Your Mobile Porn Bookmarks Are Showing

Tue, 2014-02-11 15:09
While showing off a new student-made smartphone app live on the air for a local news broadcast, one young woman inadvertently showed off something else: a porn site bookmarked in the phone.

The blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment aired on gaffe-prone WGN in Chicago on Monday night (the video and story have since been removed) during a segment about students who created, of all things, an app that assists with expunging criminal records.

(It's worth nothing that clearing browsing histories on your phone won't erase sites that have been bookmarked, as PornHub apparently was in this case).

Though the Internet is having some fun with the unwitting gaffe, the actual segment that started it all was on a very worthy subject. The app at the center of the broadcast was the student-created which helps qualifying Illinois minors expunge their arrest records so the mistakes of their past don't affect their future once they hit 18.

(h/t Gawker, Reddit)

This Guy Will Literally Stick Anything In His Beard, And We're Weirdly Into It

Tue, 2014-02-11 15:08
When Reddit user AdamTScott uploaded pictures of his brother's recent beard art, he might not have considered that his photos could set a whole new standard of excellence for modern facial grooming. His brother's fanciful additions of cocktail umbrellas, gummy worms and burning incense sticks take a basic beardly-do from lumberjack to lumberWACK. We guarantee he will inspire you to new levels of stubbly greatness. Take a good look at this beard; one day, it just might be famous:

On festive occasions, this man has been known to stick candles in his beard:

Treating your beard like a birthday cake is all fun and games until somebody brings out a match...

He know that a true beard isn't afraid to play with fire:

Well, then it's still fun and games. Warning: HuffPost does not endorse setting your beard on fire, even in the noble pursuit of great facial hair art.

He avoids a beardly rut with an gravity-defying design of dried noodles:

His beard isn't ashamed to partake in more domestic pursuits.

He shows how a whimsical garden of Dum Dum lollipops makes for a sweet first date 'do:

The modern man's bouquet of flowers?

He brings a childlike aesthetic to the testosterone-fueled world of beard grooming:

Introducing "Lego Movie: The Sequel." Setting: this man's jawline.

He even reappropriates boring kitchenware:

These straws weirdly evoke a rainbow centipede struggling to escape.

He breathes new life into your favorite childhood candies:

It takes a beard very confident in its masculinity to sport this Gummy Worm look.

He sports cocktail umbrellas for a tropical-chic style:

Why bring the beard to the tiki bar when you can bring the tiki bar to your beard?

He uses toothpicks to create a porcupine effect:

An easy way to protect your personal bubble while riding on public transit.

He swaps in Q-tips for a less eye-piercing yet equally sculptural effect:

This low-key daytime look goes with any outfit!

Yes, this man's brother's beard has left a five o'clock shadow looming over every other goatee or mutton chop in the land. His fanciful accessorizing has taken his facial fuzz to new beardly heights, the likes of which most Movember whiskers can only dream. The only problem: We need more!

Governor Rod Blagojevich's Defense Attorney Compares Chris Christie's Situation to Blago's... and It's Not Pretty

Tue, 2014-02-11 14:59
I interviewed top 100 defense attorneys in America-ranked Chicago attorney Sam Adam Jr., who defended former governor Rod Blagojevich, on my radio show, asking him to compare the Blagojevich case with Chris Christie's situation, from a defense and prosecution perspective.

He started off commenting, "I see Chris Christie having a lot of problems now under mail and wire fraud, maybe a RICO statute, as well, coming down the line," and he later added, "The reason I think Christie may have a serious problem here... is it's even more explicit than what Blagojevich was charged with doing. "

"RICO, how is that?" I inquired.

He replied:

"The Hoboken mayor said that the Christie administration, through a lieutenant governor, as well as other aides of Christie, withheld Sandy funds because the mayor of Hoboken would not approve a development in Hoboken... Now that's a very important thing. That's exactly what happened with Blagojevich.

"For years here in Illinois, there were accusations being thrown about down in Springfield, in the capital, about Blagojevich doing certain things in a corrupt pattern -- that he was connecting campaign funds with contracts. And it didn't really go anywhere for the first... (or)... second term, until there were accusations made about the senate seat and that's what brought the Feds in..."

Adam described how the Feds will:

"... use the grand jury to get at other areas where there might be a pay-to-play politics, where... you might have a quid pro quo and, if ...the lieutenant governor connected campaign funds with another project and the Christie administration is involved in that, that is certainly something that the Feds are going to be interested in."

I asked, "What about the criminality of Bridgegate?"

He referred to a Port Authority individual also

"involved with a law firm that was being used to lobby on behalf of the Rockefeller Group... (which is) trying to develop in Hoboken... what's going to be very interesting here is how the Feds use Bridgegate... and then slowly move them in to the withholding of the Sandy Hurricane funds. "

" ...If I were representing Christie... I would... go through his campaign contributions list for the last six to seven years. Anybody who gave a contribution or anybody who is related that gave a contribution to somebody who got a contract, the Feds are going to be looking at every single one of those contributions. ...Christie's going to have to... sit down with a defense lawyer and figure out, 'were there contributions given here that look like pay to play politics?' Because now that this has come to light, he's going to have to answer every single question he can on whether or not this was pay to play."

"How do Federal prosecutions work in a case like Blagojevich or Christie?" I asked.

Adam replied:

"They're going to go back and get emails... and talk to people and investigate their way forward, and... if there is a single pay-to-play or what even looks like a pay-to-play instance that he was aware of and if this mayor [of Hoboken] is telling the truth, he's got some real legal problems."

"There's also the case of the Hurricane Sandy ad campaign that was not competitively sourced and it looked more like an ad for him and his family," I interjected.

Adam replied:

"...that is important, [because] when you're talking about wire fraud and mail fraud, that the government has to prove,... that honest services were not given. And one of the ways in which you prove that these were not honest services is, 'was there a gain to the individual who did the fraud?' ...Was the use of these ad campaigns, was the use of these pictures of him a benefit to Christie that resulted from the fraud? If so, then you can prove not honest services."

"In Blagojevich one of the ways they did this was they said his wife received payments from one of the other alleged co-conspirators and that was the personal benefit that the family received. Here they also said, in Blagojevich, that him trying to get this senate seat was a personal benefit to him because it paid a thousand dollars more than the governor's salary. If you recall, they said Blagojevich wanted to -- if the president would appoint him to be Health and Human Services director he would give the president anybody that the president wanted-- in this case it was Valerie Jarrett -- the spot of appointed senator. Well the government said and the judge allowed that that was a personal benefit to Blagojevich... even though it wasn't money in his pocket like a traditional bribe, that benefit helped him.

"Well here it very well may look like one of the benefits to Christie was that he is trying to run for president. ... the ad campaign shows he and his family in a very positive light, and that was the benefit to cause him to commit these frauds and that's one of the things they're going to have to prove and that's one of the things that you can be certain the government is going to look at."

I asked Adam, "How will the Feds use the people who surrounded him, like David Wildman, who has already plead the fifth, to get to Christie?" First, Adam qualified that we don't know if Christie has done anything, then he added,

"...if I was the US Attorney in this matter I would start offering out immunity like candy to a baby.

"... when you're offered immunity, you're not allowed to stand on the Fifth Amendment The only thing an individual can do is go to court and refuse to answer and then be held in contempt and go to jail. Once you have been offered immunity, you cannot not answer the questions without being in violation of the law and there are very few times that people... just refuse to answer."

Mr. Adam's explanation may explain why some of Christie's top aides have not been subpoenaed yet:

" start offering immunity down below, so that you can start working your way up the chain. ... to see what they know and build the case up. ...There is nobody better than the Feds at doing that -- going below and building up. And if that's the case, of those guys is going to get immunity and once that happens, ...the dominoes are going to start falling and getting in line with a serious criminal investigation."

Attorney Adam explained the way the Feds nailed Blagojevich:

"...the one count I did lose (defending Blagojevich) was lying to an FBI agent. ...If a federal agent comes to you and you tell them something that is not true, knowingly, that in and of itself is a crime.

"...If I were the US Attorney and knowing how politicians just have to talk, I would offer the chance for Christie to come in and answer all questions... He's not going to turn down, especially to be made public, the opportunity to talk about this. Once you get him in your office... you ask him question after question after question. Now he is on the hook for whatever he has answered... if he has told you a lie you... have an opportunity to do perjury."

I asked, "If the Feds make the decision to go all out against Christie, how will that affect his life?" Sam Adam Jr. answered, "It will forever change his life, his family's life, if they [the Feds] decide to go full fledged."

There's a lot more in the interview and transcript. Listen to the full audio podcast of the interview here.

Or read the full transcript here, at

15 Things You Didn't Know About Coffee

Tue, 2014-02-11 14:46
"Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all." - David Lynch

Have you ever swam in a pool of coffee? Have you ever thought about using the saucer to slurp? If not, you really need to coffree your mind. You very well may drink a cup of Joe like a thirsty fox every morning/afternoon/night but do you really "know" your coffee?

Espresso your devotion of loving coffee a latte (sorry!) by learning these 15 facts.

1. That wonderful scent in your corner coffee store may actually be fake.

Coffee companies such as Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts sometimes use "fake coffee smell" to entice shoppers. ScentAir, a so-called "scent provider," is a popular choice in the coffee industry as well as retail stores, restaurants and hotels, where methods of "aromachology" are used along with the "latest in fragrance technology."

Store-bought coffee like Nescafé also injects coffee aroma into the container to seem more fresh when first opening. That said, a person claiming to be a former "coffee production engineer" explained on Reddit that the "fake smell" injected into the containers is originally created from particles of real coffee beans, so the scent is at least fairly authentic.

2. Europeans originally called coffee "Arabian wine."

Due to the linguistic history of what eventually became "coffee," Europeans first referred to the drink as, "Arabian wine". The word "coffee" originally came from the Arabic "qahhwat al-bun" or "wine of the bean." That phrase turned into "qahwah," which became "kahveh" in Turkey and eventually became "koffie" in Dutch and "caffe" in Italy.

Coffee was also so influential in Turkey that their word for breakfast, "kahvalti", translates to "before coffee" and their word for brown, "kahverengi," is also derived from "kahveh," for coffee.

3. A cup of Starbucks exists in every scene of "Fight Club."

David Fincher, the director of "Fight Club," is said to have inserted a Starbucks coffee cup into every scene. Apparently Starbucks was alright with the usage of their brand and only stopped Fincher from using their name in a shot where a coffee shop is destroyed by a giant rolling ball.

Image: Tumblr fightclubstarbucks

4. Caffè sospeso may just restore your faith in humanity.

Caffè sospeso, which in Italian means, "suspended/pended coffee," is a tradition that involves paying for an extra cup of coffee for a future customer who may be down on their luck. People who can't afford a cup of coffee can come into a shop that observes this practice and ask if there are any sospesos available free of charge. The tradition is said to have originated in Naples around a century ago, but the practice has grown over the years to be recognized internationally.

In 2013, an anonymous customer paid for 500 cups of coffee at a Tim Hortons in Edmonton, Canada, which snowballed into patrons donating 10,000 cups of coffee at over 30 locations.

5. The two oldest recorded cats drank coffee every day.

The Guinness-recognized "oldest cat ever" was Creme Puff, who lived to be 38 years old and died in 2005. The owner, Jake Perry, fed her coffee every morning along with bacon, eggs and broccoli. This is especially significant because Perry was also the owner of the previous record holder, Grandpa Rex Allen, who was fed the same diet and died at 34.

6. You can swim in coffee at a spa in Japan.

The Yunessun spa resort in Hakone, Japan has specialty spas that allow customers to bathe in variously delightful/sticky liquids, such as wine, chocolate, green tea, sake and coffee. For an admission price of just 2,800 Yen (about 27 dollars), bathers can have coffee poured on them and then stroll over to the newly opened ramen bath to swim among the noodles.

Image: Yunessun

7. According to legend, it only took one sip of coffee to convince a pope that the drink was most definitely not the devil's work.

The veracity of this legend is a bit hazy, as it's not even clear whether Pope Clement VII or Pope Clement VIII was supposed to have said it. Here's travel writer and university professor Frances Hayes' account of the myth in her New York Times bestselling book, "A Year in the World":

Some fanatics considered coffee the drink of the devil and asked the pope to ban it. After one sip the pope is said to have exclaimed, "This drink is so delicious that it would be a sin to let only misbelievers drink it! Let's defeat Satan by blessing the drink, which contains nothing objectionable to a Christian."

The account doesn't even include a specific pope and nobody seems to have a definitive take on this story, so it's fair to be skeptical ... but it'd be a sin to not share.

8. The saucer could have originally been used for slurping after cooling.

This claim is also bit tricky to pin down, but apparently around the 18th century, people used to drink coffee out of the saucer we mostly now consider a simple coaster for the cup and spoon. At the time, the saucers were much deeper, and the larger surface area allowed the coffee to cool much more quickly.

A popular story tells of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson discussing the value of the Senate when this exchange happens:

"Why," said Washington, "did you just now pour that coffee into your saucer before drinking it?"

"To cool it," said Jefferson; "my throat is not made of brass."

The interaction has not been proven, but for what it's worth, using the saucer to help cool down your coffee certainly does work.

9. A George Washington invented instant coffee.

Although the first "instant coffee" recipe involving water was invented in 1901 by a Chicago chemist named Satori Kato, the man who invented the first mass-produced instant coffee was in fact named George Washington. His first brand was called "Red E Coffee," and despite being considered not very good, the instant coffee was given to appreciative American soldiers during World War I.

Image: WikiCommons

10. Starbucks is themed after "Moby Dick."

Originally the company was supposed to be Pequod's, after the name of Captain Ahab's boat in Herman Melville's "Moby Dick". But after hearing the tagline, "Have a cup of Pequod," said out loud to them, the founders decided to instead name the business after Ahab's first mate, Starbuck, who warned Ahab to stop chasing the white whale.

The nautical theme that extends to the mermaid logo comes from their desire to keep up with the "seafaring history of coffee."

11. The original New York Stock Exchange was a coffee house on Wall Street.

The New York Stock Exchange began in the Tontine Coffee House, a real coffee shop opened in 1794 and located on the corner of Wall and Water St., before a fire burned it down in 1835. Named after Neapolitan banker Lorenzo di Tonti, the shop was a meeting place for "underwriters, brokers, merchants, traders, and politicians; selling, purchasing, trafficking, or insuring; some reading, others eagerly inquiring the news," according to an article from 1807.

The Tontine Coffee House was the center of trading until 1817, when operations were moved to a building on 40 Wall Street. At the time, the organization was called "The New York Stock & Exchange," and later dropped the "&" in 1863 as the volume of stock trading increased and the building became less focused on the other types of exchanges from before.

Image: WikiCommons

12. According to many calculations, the northernmost land mass on Earth is called Coffee Club Island.

Coffee Club Island, or Kaffeklubben Island, is a small island located just above Greenland that stands as northernmost point of significant land on Earth. Explorer Robert Peary was the first to discover the land mass in 1900, but it wasn't named until 1921 when Danish explorer Lauge Koch was creating a map of the region. Supposedly the naming choice was to honor an informal "coffee club" of geographers that met regularly at the University of Copenhagen.

Although the island barely supports vegetation, the Purple Saxifrage flower has survived the conditions and is the northernmost flower in the world.

13. Coca-Cola makes a canned coffee called "Georgia."

Coca-Cola owns a line of canned coffees called "Georgia" that is available in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, India and Bahrain. Although the cans are hard to find in the United States and only one flavor is currently available on Amazon, the Georgia coffee brand can be found in a few restaurants if you feel the need to try it out.

Image Left: WikiCommons

14. You've probably heard incorrect stories about the origin of the terms "Cup of Joe" and Americano.

Despite the pervasive story that "Americano" got its name from American soldiers diluting espresso shots during WWII, the term didn't show up until the 1970s. Unfortunately nobody seems to have a definitive take of how "Americano" actually came about.

In another false etymology, there's a story that "cup of Joe" also comes from coffee drinking American G.I. Joes but this is just a myth as well. Although just as with "Americano" the true origin has never been proved, fact-checking site Snopes believes the phrase most likely came from the old coffee slang, "jamoke." The slang phrase, "cup of jamoke," became corrupted into a "cup of Joe."

Snopes sides with the jamoke theory due to this finding from the linguist Michael Quinion: "It is significant that an early example appears in 1931 in the Reserve Officer's Manual by a man named Erdman: 'Jamoke, Java, Joe. Coffee. Derived from the words Java and Mocha, where originally the best coffee came from.'"

15. Drinking coffee may help save your liver from alcohol.

Coffee has been found to decrease the risk of the alcohol-related liver disease cirrhosis, which can cause cancer and liver failure. One study found that "for each cup of coffee they drank per day, participants were 22 percent less likely to develop alcoholic cirrhosis." Although not directly linked to alcohol recovery, a more recent study from Italy concluded that drinking coffee can reduce the chances of liver cancer by 40 percent, while drinking three or more cups a day could reduce the risk by 50 percent.

Better drink up!

All images Getty unless otherwise noted.

Sweet Message In Snow From Cancer Patient's Family Cheers Up Entire Hospital (PHOTO)

Tue, 2014-02-11 14:28
If only all cancer patients were lucky enough to have a family like this surrounding them.

On Monday, Chicago's Rush University Medical Center took to their social media accounts with the hope of solving a mystery uncovered by one of their nurses: a message written in the snow covering the top of the hospital's parking garage over the weekend.

The message reads "HI MOM GOD BLESS U!" with a smiley face inside the "O" of "MOM."

The hospital presumed the message was intended for a Rush patient and they were correct. The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday afternoon the message had been written out in the freshly fallen snow by the 14-year-old son, brother and husband of Sharon Hart, a Bolingbrook, Ill. woman undergoing chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia that day.

Hart told the Tribune her son had called her after stomping out "HI MOM" and that her husband and brother added the rest later, intending to write "GOD BLESS YOU ALL" but running out of room.

"I’m glad so many people got to see the message and that it touched so many," she told the paper. "It shows how big God is."

"It brought so many smiles to our doctors and nurses – and patients as well," Rush spokeswoman Deb Song said, according to ABC News.

One of those nurses was Angela Washek, who first caught a look at the heartwarming message early Sunday and snapped the photo that has since spread throughout the country.

"No matter how cold it gets, there is always a message of warmth if we just open our eyes to see it," Washek said via the hospital's Facebook post.

"Sometimes we only see the bad side in healthcare. We don't get to see the good that we do sometimes," she tol DNAinfo Chicago.

Bringing Out the Gloves on the Progressive vs. Flat Income Tax Debate

Tue, 2014-02-11 14:12

What's going to happen to our income taxes in Illinois? Should we switch to a progressive tax system with different rates that rise as incomes go up? Should we maintain our flat system? Should our rate remain at the "temporary" 5 percent for individuals or should it drop down to 3.75 percent as the law now says it should.

It's safe to say the income tax debate is THE hot topic in Illinois this year.

Reboot Illinois is partnering with the Union League Club of Chicago to host a debate on the issue. It's the morning of Feb. 28 at the Union League Club in Chicago.

We've got a couple of the best, most articulate and thoughtful lawmakers ready to argue the pros and cons, the ups, the downs, the ins and outs for us: State Representative David McSweeney, a suburban Republican, and State Representative Christian Mitchell, a city Democrat.


We look forward to seeing you there to learn about this important issue in Illinois.

These Mechanics Took Your Favorite Foot-Powered Toy Car And Made It Street-Legal

Tue, 2014-02-11 13:47
You know the one.

Little Tikes' Cozy Coupe -- the red plastic, yellow-roofed model that's been awkwardly piloted across suburban sidewalks by toddlers everywhere since 1979 -- is now street legal. And it might help raise money for charity.

John Bitmead, a mechanic in Oxfordshire, England, spent about $6,600 and 1,000 hours over the course of five months converting a Daewoo Matiz into an adult version of the classic toy. His two-seat car runs on unleaded gasoline and can go from 0 to 60 MPH in 17 seconds. Not bad when the original runs on children's foot power.

The middle section of the Matiz was sliced out to maintain the correct proportions, and of course the windows all had to be removed. No detail was overlooked -- the car even has two giant drink holders like its prototype and its ignition is a big button.

Bitmead, whose brother Geoff and friend Nigel Douglas helped with the project, manages a custom auto shop where the other two work. He explained how the three got the idea for the project when they decided the Cozy Coupe was probably the most-driven type of car, and "it snowballed from there."

Bitmead would like to tour the nation in his attention-grabbing creation to raise money for London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, he told The Oxford Mail. Although for public safety's sake he's a bit wary of taking it out on the highway again due to the surprise factor for other motorists.

"People can't believe their eyes when we come driving down the street in this red and yellow toy car," he said. Watch him go for a spin below.

All photos via YouTube.

Travelle Brings Meaning to Elegant Mediterranean Cooking

Tue, 2014-02-11 13:09
There are kitchens and then there are KITCHENS. The kitchen at Travelle restaurant in the Langham Hotel is a sight to behold, a true theater for the diners to experience as the chefs create their dishes down each side of the line that projects into the restaurant from this three-sided glass stage. The long line -- longer than any I have seen before -- allows for better communication between chefs and a visual site line to what each is doing. And it is pristine, almost jewel-like, glimmering behind brilliant lights, sparking fires and shimmering glass.

As fancy an affair as this might seem to be -- and it is, complete with sleek lines, mid-century modern decor and floor to ceiling windows that could only be found in a landmark Mies van der Rohe building -- Travelle has a wonderful groundedness to its cuisine.

Travelle is headed up by Executive Chef Tim Graham, previously Tru's Executive Chef for 10 years. Graham calls the dishes "inspired interpretations of the Mediterranean," which most of us would think would mean Italian. Not so! Through his food, I was reminded that the Mediterranean can be anything from Southern France to Italy, Northern Africa, Greece, Turkey and Syria. In all, there are 21 countries that touch the Mediterranean and Graham naturally leads his diners on a whirlwind tour with spices, re-imagined ethnic fare and classy combinations that intrigue and delight, with a wine list to match. Of course there are wine selections from France and Italy, but there are also options from Lebanon, with refined, yet exotic food pairings that aim to satiate.

I asked Chef Graham how, with such a long list of country influences, he could keep up.

I changes small dishes every two to three weeks. The larger menu focus we change every Spring and Fall to go with the seasons and what is fresh. Once I create a new dish, it takes a couple of weeks of preparing to really hone in on it.

It isn't just keeping up with all the different influences that are a challenge. Since Travelle is located in the Langham Hotel, that means breakfast, lunch and dinner and 24-hour room service. Ouch!

Chicago's culinary landscape is quite vast and Graham had an interesting take on what Travelle brings to the table.

You see Italian, French or Greek restaurants, but you don't see pan-Meditteranean menus, taking influence from the whole region. It is something you will probably see more of in the future, but we wanted to be the first to draw inspiration from the many countries that surround that sea.

On The February 17th Dinner Party, Chef Graham will make Cumin Three Beet Salad, Goat Cheese Mouse with Quinoa, Tangerines and Pistachios (see video below) and Piri-Piri Chicken on Scarlett Runner Beans Sofrito and Piri-Piri jus. His fellow guests on The Dinner Party will be Lookingglass Artistic Director, Andy White, funny lady Susan Messing with Rachael Mason, designer Jordan Mozer and Anna Fermin will be the opening act.

In addition to the food, enjoy the video below to get a good look at a kitchen like no other!

Interview With Louise Pitre, Mama Rose in Chicago Shakes' <i>Gypsy</i>

Tue, 2014-02-11 12:22
Director Gary Griffin knows his Sondheim. And he's found his muse in Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Having presented two highly-praised and award-winning productions of the celebrated composer/lyricist's works in the past four years, including a haunting Follies and a spine-tingling Sunday in the Park with George (not to mention his multiple other Sondheim-related projects in CST's space, including an airy-yet-grounded A Little Night Music back in 2003), it's with high anticipation that we await two additional efforts: Gypsy, a landmark American musical in which a young Sondheim wrote the lyrics and helped shaped the show, and Road Show, Sondheim's latest work which premiered, though with a different title and structure, at Chicago's Goodman Theatre back in 2003.

Gypsy, which recently began preview performances and opens on Thursday, February 13, plays in CST's Courtyard Theater, and stars Canadian stage veteran Louise Pitre. I had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Pitre, who makes her CST debut with this major role, about the show and her thoughts on "Mama" Rose -- the uncompromising stage mother who's the driving force in this musical fable about burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee. (Also: tune in next week when I'll be interviewing Michael Mahler, music director of CST's Road Show.)

I'm delighted to finally get a chance to see you perform in person -- I've been a long-distance fan for years. What do you think of Chicago and Chicago Shakespeare Theater?

I love Chicago! I was here with Mamma Mia! years ago and adored my time here. It is the most gorgeous, big city!! And Chicago Shakespeare Theater is one impressive place. It is truly special--there is nothing else like it.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that this is THE role for a musical theatre actress. What is your particular take on "Mama" Rose? She says in her climactic final number that she "was born too soon and started too late." How does that inform your interpretation? What other research have you done to inform your characterization?

I read Gypsy Rose Lee's memoir, American Rose. Gary Griffin has blown me away. I have never felt I owed so much of my performance to a director! Funny you should pick that line in particular because that is the line that simply chokes me up. That is the "nut" of it all right is the reason for all she does. I hope that will be clear.

You've played some pretty emotionally intense (and iconic) musical theatre roles -- from Fantine to Edith Piaf. What have each of these roles taught you that you're applying here?

I have learned above all that I can trust my heart and my gut. Gary is always telling me to "trust it." The trick is to go deeply into the feeling without letting it get in the's a fine balance. You can't sing when you're crying, I have to get it past that point--it takes a while to come to! That's what I've learned: be real without falling apart.

What do you find most challenging in playing this role? How do you maintain your stamina?

Well, the dialogue is actually the toughest part of this role. The singing is taxing, yes, but all the scene work is so intense and heightened! So far, I am managing from a stamina standpoint, but as we enter the tough stretch I will see exactly what it takes to do this role again and again full-out. It is a daunting thing. I have found that the most important thing is to sleep and eat well...and a lot!!

I also have to give credit to my husband Joe Matheson who is here with me for the whole run. He is shopping and cooking and driving me--basically taking care of everything--so that I can focus on this huge job. I would not be feeling as good as I am without him here with me.

For Gypsy fans, such as myself, what can we expect that will make this production unique?

A seamless and extremely private take on Gypsy. Gary's transitions from scene-to-scene ensure that the show never's magical. The thrust stage of CST's Courtyard Theater makes it more intimate. Nothing is's all right there--in the room, in the dressing room.

I would also love to mention the live music performed onstage by a fourteen piece band--no synthesizers! Music Director Rick Fox has done new orchestrations of the score to replicate the orchestras and big band sound of the time. This is a thrilling piece of the production for me.

Back to that final number, "Rose's Turn." One ongoing debate amongst Gypsy fans is the intention of the line "Mama? Ma-ma-ma-mama?" Some feel she's calling out for her own mother who abandoned her (as we learn in the sparse kitchen scene prior to "Some People"), while some, including book writer Arthur Laurents, feel she's simply stunned by the moment at hand. What is your take?

That is the toughest single moment in the show for me. In my mind, the first "Mama, Mama's" is what you say--surprise at what she has just said. A sudden realization. The next "Mama.." is to me a cry to her own mother, now having realized that she must let go--much as she was let go by her own mother...

Did you have a stage mother? Who pushed you to do what you're doing now?

My mother was not a stage mom, not at all. She would say to me, "You were good in this show. I don't say that because I'm your mother--I would tell you if you weren't!" And she would have too. She is always said: "Be humble." That was and still is a great piece of advice. No one pushed me. I push myself hard enough all by myself (ha!).

Say Rose Hovick were alive today and you had a chance to share a Coke (and an eggroll) with her. What questions would you ask her?

Is there a man you wish was still here with you?
Do you ever sleep??????
Do you ever lose your voice?
Did you ever forgive your mother?
Do you regret stealing that gold plaque?
Would you push your daughters again if you could go back?

Louise Pitre as Mama Rose in CST's "Gypsy"

"Gypsy" plays through March 23 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. More info here >

5 Reasons Why I Waited Until 30 to Marry

Tue, 2014-02-11 12:03
When I was 23, I was in a relationship with a 36-year-old. I was madly in love with him -- until the month of my 25th birthday, when we broke up. Why?

Many reasons, but mostly because I was about to begin my career as an educator, a job I still hold today. My 36-year-old boyfriend lived in New York; I was student teaching in Chicago. Since he was already established in his career, the plan was for me to move to him; however, when I was offered a job at my current high school, I knew I wouldn't be moving out East. Love was not enough.

I guess I'm what Neal Samudre, in his post "5 Reasons Why I Got Engaged Before 23," calls someone who waited to get all her "ducks in a row." My career was more important than a man. Maybe as a woman, I see this differently, but I wasn't about to give up my career for love. Ever.

So, after years of dating and failing, I did get engaged and married at 30. Here are five reasons why I waited (with apologies to Samudre):

1. Love is an end. True love. Not Hollywood love. Not the love you imagine at 16 or 18 or 21 or 23. But love with the person you decide to spend the rest of your life with -- especially if you have a family with this person.

I love my husband. I love the way he fathers our two sons. I love the way he supports my ambitions. I love the things we have in common (wine, travel, Ryan Adams). And I love our differences (computers vs. words; introvert vs. extrovert; religious vs. spiritual). I seriously hope this love is an end. I waited a long time until I met the right man. More importantly, I waited until I was ready. Despite what Samudre says, I believe knowing yourself before you leap into marriage isn't a bad idea.

2. Love is not part of a checklist to life. But marriage is. This is a reality -- and if you deny this, then you're not watching "Say Yes to the Dress" or flipping through bridal magazines. I'm not thrilled about this fact; it's one of the reasons I avoided marriage for so long. I saw it as an institution, something society told me I had to do versus something I embraced myself. But that's the thing about societal norms: Even when we don't want to follow them, we do.

I teach high school seniors in a college preparatory English class. One of the first questions I pose: At what age do you want to marry? It's a lesson I've taught since 2003. Every student has an age in mind: 23, 25, 28, 30 or 32. It doesn't matter. They have an age in mind because we all do. Only once, a student wrote, "When I fall in love." Only once. And it was a male.

Girls, women -- we most definitely have an age in mind, and it's almost always before 30. We've been told 30 is the age when we will turn into a pumpkin. We've been told no man will want us after that. This is all a social construct, too, but a powerful one.

My age was 28. At 28, I was single with no prospects. I lived in a big city when controlled the dating scene and I was too old-fashioned to join. Twenty-eight was also the age I met the man who is now my husband. Was it timing? Was it true love? It comes down to the right person at the right time. To take time out of the equation is to love in a vacuum, which is both unrealistic and foolish.

3. Love is not determined by age. True. I fell in love for the first time at 16. I had the classic high school sweetheart relationship. People told me then I was too young to love. Not true. What they should have said: You're too young to realize that love will change as you age. Your ideas of what love (and marriage) constitute will change. What becomes important in your life will change too. Love at 16 is not the same at love at 36 -- and I imagine love at 36 is not the same as love at 56 or 76 or 96. As we age, we begin to think differently about life and love. To say at 23 that you know how you will feel about love is, as one of Samudre's commenters called, "twenty-something hubris." Things will change. One way or the other.

4. Love is not measured by the quantity of your money. But it helps. Studies show that arguments about money are the main factor in predicting a divorce. Marriage is work; it's not happily ever after. I'm glad my husband and I are established in our careers and we don't have to worry about the stress of living paycheck to paycheck, especially now with our two children.

My husband likes to remind me that we didn't have any money when we were newly married because I was in graduate school. He's right, but I never once remember fighting about money. We lived a modest life, and we were OK with that -- at the time.

5. Love is an adventure. And I didn't want it to end at 23. I wanted to meet new people and date different men and find a life partner. Perhaps that's sounds unromantic, but, now, with a career, a home, kids, I realize even more how important a partner is. A true partner -- someone who shares in all responsibilities.

My husband cooks. I clean. We both work. We both take on an equal role in raising our sons. We wish a routine meant "dinner and a movie," as Samudre so naively calls a "boring love story." Honestly, once you have children, dinner and a movie sound wonderfully romantic and lovely. If we're paying $15 an hour for a babysitter, we're not going to see a movie, but I digress.

In many ways, I would have loved -- at 23 -- to have a man like Samudre express his undying love for me. Wait. That's the want-to-be romantic-37-year-old me talking. The 23-year-old me would have thought he was a bit crazy. Of course, money matters. Of course, my career matters. There is, unfortunately and fortunately, more to life than love.

Of course, it's more complicated than this. Love always is.

Evelyn is currently working on a memoir about love and blogs at You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.