The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Daily Parker bait, times 3

Of course I'm going to blog about these three articles.

First, former George W. Bush speechwriter and lifelong Republican Michael Gerson looks at the culture of celebrity that surrounds the President and says "our republic will never be the same:"

The founders generally believed that the survival and success of a republic required leaders and citizens with certain virtues: moderation, self-restraint and concern for the common good. They were convinced that respect for a moral order made ordered liberty possible.

The culture of celebrity is the complete negation of this approach to politics. It represents a kind of corrupt, decaying capitalism in which wealth is measured in exposure. It elevates appearance over accomplishment. Because rivalries and feuds are essential to the story line, it encourages theatrical bitterness. Instead of pursuing a policy vision, the first calling of the celebrity is to maintain a brand.

Is the skill set of the celebrity suited to the reality of governing? On the evidence, not really.

Second, Crain's business columnist Joe Cahill calls out Eddie Lampert's offer to buy Kenmore for $400m as a call to put Sears into hospice care:

There's plenty to worry about in the latest letter from Lampert's ESL Investments. First, Lampert is offering just $400 million for Kenmore, supposedly the company's crown jewel. When he first floated the idea of buying the household appliance brand in April, estimates pegged the likely selling price at $500 million or more. Maybe the lower bid is intended to elicit higher offers from potential third-party acquirers. Or it may signal that nobody else is interested and ESL is angling for a bargain.

Second, the offer is both nonbinding and contingent on ESL finding a third-party equity backer to finance the purchase. The letter says ESL is "confident" it can find such a backer. In other words, billionaire Lampert isn't willing to risk his own money buying Kenmore. This is consistent with his recent reluctance to raise his bet on Sears Holdings as a whole. As I've written before, he could easily take the company private—at the current market capitalization, the 46 percent he doesn't already own would cost less than $100 million—and capture the full upside of a turnaround. He's shown no interest in doing so.

And finally, on a happier note, the Chicago Tribune lists eight bars where people can go to read:

After living in the United Kingdom, freelance book publicist Jonathan Maunder turned to Chicago’s literary greats to connect to his adopted city. He remembered a night last year visiting Rainbo Club, the bar favored by “Chicago, City on the Make” author Nelson Algren.

“As I stepped out of the bar, a little drunk on both a couple of pints and Algren’s beautiful writing, I stood for a moment under the red neon of the Rainbo Club sign, which was reflected on the just rained on street, and felt a powerful connection to the place I was in and its history,” he said.

[He recommends] Kopi, A Traveler’s Cafe
5317 N. Clark St., 773-989-5674

A friendly, relaxed cafe/bar, which always has people and a good atmosphere (and sometimes accordion players) but never feels overly busy and hectic, in a way that might be distracting from reading.

Given that Kopi is a 20-minute walk from my house, I may just stop in this weekend.

I was a little bummed that the Duke of Perth didn't make the list, though.

Eddie Lampert strikes again

Eddie Lampert's hedge fund, ESL, is making a bid to buy the only remaining viable piece of Sears from, well, ESL:

ESL’s proposal valued Kenmore at $400 million, excluding the impact of cash or debt, according to a letter from ESL to a Sears board committee that was filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A separate proposal valued the Sears Home Services division’s home improvement business at $70 million, with a potential extra $10 million if the company met certain financial benchmarks.

Lampert’s fund’s initial letter offering to buy certain Sears assets and break up the company also included the Sears Home Services Parts Direct business and certain Sears real estate assets. According to the letter, ESL is still considering Parts Direct and plans to work with outside investors on a real estate deal, but wanted to move ahead with the proposal for Kenmore and the home improvement division.

Sears declined to comment.

He murdered Sears and is selling the parts off. Tragic.

Meant to post yesterday

Four articles I read late in the day and wanted to spike here:

And now, I will start working.

Hot times in the New York subway

The New York City subway, with its passive air exchange system and tunnels too small for active ventilation or air conditioning, have gotten excessively hot this summer:

On Thursday, temperatures inside at least one of the busiest stations reached 40°C—nearly 11°C warmer than the high in Central Park.

The Regional Plan Association, an urban planning think tank for the greater metropolitan area, took a thermometer around the system’s 16 busiest stations, plus a few more for good measure, and shared the data with CityLab. A platform at Union Square Station had the 40°C reading at 1 p.m., which was the hottest they found, although Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and Columbus Circle weren’t far off at 39°C and 38½°C, at around 10 and 11 a.m., respectively. Twelve out of the 16 busiest stops boiled at or over the 32°C mark in the late morning and early afternoon.

One might think that subway stations would offer crisp respite to sweaty New Yorkers, being underground and all. But you’d be wrong. Heat doesn’t only “rise”—it just diffuses to cooler areas, which can include below-ground spaces. Plus, only a few of the city’s 472 stations are equipped with air conditioning; most rely on a passive ventilation system better known for their Marilyn Monroe moments above ground. This system was built in the days before AC, and the MTA says it’s not possible to squeeze the station-cooling machinery that other metro systems have inside New York’s narrow tunnels. Meanwhile, the units that cool passengers inside cars actually shed heat into the stations as trains pass through.

That onboard air-conditioning can fail, too. The MTA has also seen a rising number of complaints about overheated cars in recent years. In today’s issue of Signal Problems, his indispensable newsletter focused on subway accountability, the journalist Aaron Gordon reports that “about two percent of all subway cars in service on any given day might not have working A/C,” according to the MTA. That means at least 100 cars are roasting passengers on any given day this summer.

This problem also bedevils the London Underground.

Meanwhile, here in Chicago, we're having our 73rd day this year above 27°C, just 10 short of the record. Given the normal number of temperatures that warm between now and October, I think we'll probably set a new one.

And the sunlight here looks eerily orange and hazy today, because of climate change-driven wildfires out west.

Welcome to the future.

The state of American craft brewing

The Chicago Tribune reported today that the largest craft brewer in the United States is now...AB InBev, AKA Anheuser-Busch:

Between 2011 and 2017, Anheuser-Busch bought 10 breweries from coast to coast, beginning with Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co. and ending (for now) with Wicked Weed Brewing of Asheville, N.C. In between, it picked up breweries in Oregon (10 Barrel), Virginia (Devils Backbone), Seattle (Elysian), Los Angeles (Golden Road), Houston (Karbach) and the metro areas of Phoenix (Four Peaks), Denver (Breckenridge) and New York City (Blue Point).

Anheuser-Busch’s shopping spree appears to have paid off. Last month, industry newsletter Beer Marketer’s Insights reported that the beer giant has surged past Boston Beer and Sierra Nevada in 2018 to become the nation’s top craft beer company in terms of dollar sales.

To be clear, Anheuser-Busch’s craft beer supremacy exists in one very specific metric at the moment; IRI tracks sales in grocery, big box, drug and convenience stores. When factoring in draft and liquor store sales, Beer Marketer’s Insights estimates that Boston Beer remains ahead of Anheuser-Busch in terms of both volume and dollar sales. But the passing of that torch is all but an inevitability during the next year or so.

However, it’s not all good news for Anheuser-Busch’s craft effort.

Its lead horse, Goose Island, had a rough 2017, and 2018 is proving just as difficult. In early August, the Goose Island portfolio was down double digits across the previous three months....

I've said before, part of craft beer's appeal is that it comes from actual craft breweries. And big beer companies don't actually like craft beer—because they can't compete with them.

So, mazel tov to InBev, but I'm going to stick with Revolution, Dovetail, Begyle, and Empircal, all of which brew within a 10-block radius of my house.

Thirty years ago in Chicago

On 8 August 1988, the Chicago Cubs played their first night game at Wrigley Field. The Tribune rounds up memories from people who supported and opposed the installation of lights at the park:

Ryne Sandberg, Cubs second baseman, 1982-1997: Leading up to ’88, the talk within the organization was that lights were necessary to create a schedule more conducive to resting the home team, getting us out of the sun. Before that, with some of those 10-day homestands with all day games (it was) in 90-plus temperatures.

Rick Sutcliffe, Cubs pitcher, 1984-1991: There's nothing better than playing a day game and going home to have dinner with your family. But when you come back from a West Coast trip, and let’s say you had a long game … sometimes we went straight from the airport to the ballpark. It’s really difficult that whole homestand. You just feel wiped out. … I would throw nine innings at Dodger Stadium and might lose anywhere from 2 to 4 pounds. There were times at Wrigley Field during that heat that I lost 10 to 15 pounds. I would love to go start a game to lose 15 right now!

Did lights help the Cubs? Probably; but there's no definitive way to say.

Yuck

It's the hottest weekend of the year so far. We beat the high temperature on June 30th by half a degree (35.6°C v 36.1°C) yesterday, and so far today we've hovered around 32°C for the past four hours. So, naturally, I walked about 5 km earlier today to check out some open houses.

I'm ready for fall. Just as soon as I take my second shower of the day...

Late afternoon reading

When I get home tonight, I'll need to read these (and so should you):

And now, I'm off to the Art Institute.

Lunchtime reading

Happy August! (Wait, where did April go?)

As I munch on my salad at my desk today, I'm reading these stories:

And finally, a bit of good news out of Half Moon Bay, Calif. The corporate owner of the local paper told them they had to shut down, so a group of townspeople formed a California benefit corporation to buy the paper out.

Mann, that was fun

Aimee Mann performed last night at Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago's Millennium Park—for free! So naturally I went.

The weather couldn't have been better, so the picnic area was totally full. Which meant that the pavilion itself had plenty of seats. Which meant I got to see her directly rather than just projected on a big screen.

Just for posterity, here's her set list:

  1. 4th of July
  2. Little Bombs
  3. Patient Zero
  4. The Moth
  5. Labrador
  6. Humpty Dumpty
  7. You Can't Help Me
  8. You Never Loved Me
  9. Goose Snow Cone (which, she explained, really is about her cat)
  10. Save Me
  11. Going Through the Motions
  12. Borrowing Time
  13. Long Shot
  14. Encore: One
  15. Encore: Wise Up
  16. Encore: Voices Carry

I love Aimee Mann's songs. I am conscious, however, that when her songs become my life's soundtrack, things are seriously out of joint. Sample lyric, from "Long Shot," which opened her 1996 album I'm With Stupid: "You fucked it up / You should have quit / Til circumstances / Had changed a bit." Or from "Save Me:" "You look like / A perfect fit / For a girl in need of / A tourniquet."

Seriously good, but seriously unhappy.

But totally worth the ticket price, I must say. And now I need to download Mental Illness, her last album.