WBEZ | Public Radio http://www.wbez.org/tags/public-radio Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Shoes on a wire: Untangling an urban myth http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shoes-wire-untangling-urban-myth-112575 <p><p>The curiosity about shoes hanging on power lines is practically ubiquitous. Our questioner, Matt Latourette, saw them all the time growing up in the &lsquo;70s and &lsquo;80s in Chicago&rsquo;s Belmont Central neighborhood. And even though he doesn&rsquo;t see as many dangling shoes around neighborhoods today, that didn&rsquo;t stop him from tapping into a sort of collective curious-consciousness and asking about one of the biggest urban mysteries that lurks in the minds of city-dwellers and suburbanites alike:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What&rsquo;s with all the gym shoes hanging from power lines?</em></p><p>Strangely enough, the city actually keeps track of how many pairs of Chicago shoes get hauled over electric or telephone wires. We learned that in the last seven years, city workers have received at least 6,000 requests to remove shoes hanging from telephone or electrical wires. (Similar requests, by the way, have sought to remove everything from a pair of hanging cowboy boots to a stranded rubber ducky.)</p><p>Clearly, gym-shoes hanging on a wire is something that happens. But getting to the bottom of why &mdash; that proved difficult. Despite Reddit threads, a <a href="http://www.snopes.com/crime/gangs/sneakers.asp">Snopes article citing &ldquo;no one definitive answer&rdquo;</a> to shoe-throwing, and <a href="https://vimeo.com/71867019">even a mini-documentary about shoe tossing across the globe</a>, at first all we found were whole lot of theories. But, we were able to turn up enough first-hand accounts and interviews with community leaders, gang members and sociologists to tease out some of the basic theories.</p><p>Among those theories: Shoes are tossed on account of losing a bet or taunting a victim or, from kids just being silly. In a more serious vein, people said the shoes signify where to buy drugs; they memorialize victims of gun violence; or they represent a crew marking their block.</p><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/THEORY%201.png" style="float: left; width: 492px; height: 69px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Let&rsquo;s start with a theory confirmed by an unidentified WBEZ listener who dialed the Curious City hotline and told his own story of shoe-throwing in his youth, which was spent in Cleveland, Ohio.</div><blockquote><div>I think I was 14. It was about 1970, and I was wearing my gym shoes around my neck tied together by the laces. A friend of mine, who was perhaps not the best friend in the world, liked to taunt me to some extent. And he was throwing my shoes up in the air pretending, I think, that he was going to throw them over the wire across the street. But then he succeeded. And there they hung. Eventually, some time later that month, the shoestring broke and I got my shoes back.</div></blockquote><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theory%202.png" style="float: left;" title="" /></div><div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The wager theory is common across the Internet, too. WBEZ listener Juan Molina dialed us, saying that&rsquo;s how he encountered the phenomenon.</p><blockquote><p>I lost a bet and my buddies throw my shoes up there. So, pretty much what they did was climb it &mdash; &nbsp;a pole &mdash; and threw it up there. Other times we threw it from the street until they got caught. ... We tied the laces together and threw it up.</p></blockquote><p>On his message, Molina gave us another reason: spite.</p><blockquote><p>I did it once because I survived soccer camp. &hellip; I did not want to go to soccer. It was something my parents forced and I ended up throwing it up there. Those were just regular Nike cleats.</p></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theory%203.png" style="width: 100%; float: left;" title="" />So what about the gang and urban violence angle?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">For that I asked my friend Patrick Starr, a guy I&rsquo;ve known for years who is serving a life sentence in a Missouri state prison. He was a high-ranking member of the Bloods gang back in the 1990s in Kansas City, Missouri. Today, he coaches other inmates on cutting ties with their gang. I figured he might be able to help me get to the bottom of whether shoe-tossing was associated with gangs or urban violence. He said that when he was young, he&rsquo;d throw shoes up on the power lines to let folks know his crew, the 57th Street Rogue Dogs, ran that block.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;To us in Kansas City it was about your crew and y&rsquo;all marking your neighborhood,&rdquo; he said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">With that, he told me he&rsquo;d ask around the prison yard and get back to me.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The next day I got a call. He&rsquo;d asked fellow inmates and gotten some interesting responses.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;The Chicago guys, and a lot of the St. Louis guys, they said that represented guys who were killed from each neighborhood &mdash; whether it is gang guys or just homeboys from the hood or the block,&rdquo; he said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">When Starr asked other guys from Springfield and Columbia, Missouri, he said he got a very different response. Around those parts, he said, he was told shoes marked a &ldquo;kill&rdquo; and that &ldquo;everyone the OG [Original Gangster] kills, there is a pair of shoes up there that marks he&rsquo;s knocked one man out of his shoes.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Starr said there were so many inmates that had something to say on the subject, that word started to travel around.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;It kind of turned into a nice little yard topic to where guys were starting to run up and say, &lsquo;Oh, hey, man, this is what that meant in my city or my town.&rsquo; Or, &lsquo;We don&rsquo;t know nothing about that,&rsquo;&rdquo; Starr told me.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theory%204.png" style="float: left; width: 100%;" title="" />OK, so let&rsquo;s recap. So far we&rsquo;ve figured out that shoes on power lines mean most of what we originally thought: a memorial to a friend who passed, a crew repping their block, a bully, and kids being bored. But we&rsquo;d yet to hear anyone tell us that they sold or bought drugs under a pair of sneaks.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">We talked to Chicago police but they declined to comment.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">So we asked some more people &mdash; kids around the neighborhoods, sociologists, a South Side priest and Cobe Williams, a community outreach worker who has spent years working in troubled neighborhoods in Chicago. When they did have a theory, it was that the shoes were a memorial to someone who died. Not one said they linked it to drugs.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;To me it&rsquo;s like an urban legend, especially the drug spot thing,&rdquo; said Robert Aspholm, a social worker, childhood shoe-tosser and a doctoral student at University of Illinois at Chicago working on a dissertation on African American gang dynamics in Chicago. He was highly skeptical of the drug theory because, as he put it, &ldquo;No one is going to put what they&rsquo;re doing out there in that type of way to set themselves up to be arrested.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Another sociologist I corresponded with, Randol Contreras, grew up in the South Bronx and had his own fun tossing his shoes up on power lines. He now works at the University of Toronto and is the author of <em>The Stickup Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence, and the American Dream</em>.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">He said that when he was growing up, sneakers hung from wires in every single neighborhood he lived in.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;I even threw an old, worn pair of my own sneakers up to hang,&rdquo; Contreras wrote in an email. &ldquo;However, as I got older, I saw it happening less often.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;I remember doing it because that&#39;s what the guys did sometimes with an old pair sneakers to have a laugh. So I never knew &lsquo;why&rsquo; it was originally done; it was just a tradition that produced laughs in the moment.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Aspholm feels the same way. For him, throwing his shoes on the power lines was the pastime of a bored kid who spent a lot of time outdoors.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;As kids you want to make your mark or have some type of impact on your environment,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So that&rsquo;s just throwing your shoes up on the telephone wires is one way to do that. Like graffiti or tagging something.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:24px;">A disappearing mystery?<a name="graphic"></a></span></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shoe%20tossing%20infographic%208.png" style="height: 498px; width: 620px;" title="The number of reported shoe-tossings has decreased since 2008. Data source: City of Chicago" /></div><div>Along with the myriad stories about exactly what shoes on power lines mean, we uncovered some interesting data. According to Mike Claffey, a City of Chicago spokesman, requests for removing shoes from power lines have dropped by 71 percent between 2008 and 2014. This year, as of June, the city has received only 111 requests to remove shoes from power lines, compared to more than 1,100 in 2008. When we pulled similar data from all the 311 calls requesting to have shoes removed, it showed the same trend, with the concentration of the requests coming from the South and West sides with a pocket in the far northeast of the city, around Rogers Park.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>I also spoke with ComEd, who maintains power lines in Chicago alleys. (The city maintains the streets.) A spokeswoman, Liz Keating, told me that while ComEd doesn&rsquo;t keep records of the shoes they take down, anecdotally their technicians notice few on the North Side of the city and far more one the South Side.<a name="map"></a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shoe%20tossing%20heatmap.png" style="height: 472px; width: 620px;" title="Visualization based on more than 7,00 records obtained from the city of Chicago, then filtered to 5,918 entries relevant to hanging shoes. Map graphic created via CartoDB. © OpenStreetMapcontributors © CartoDB" /></div></div><div>It&rsquo;s worth noting that Aspholm said he believes the reason theories around shoe-throwing so often veer toward gangs and drugs and territory issues, are because there is overlap.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;A lot of times these types of activities take place in marginalized urban areas,&rdquo; Aspholm said. He added that these neighborhoods are often host to &ldquo;open air drug markets, people being killed and shoes going up on telephone wires. &hellip;I think it&rsquo;s within that wider urban milieu that these types of events take place.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Maybe Aspholm is right. Maybe the reason behind shoe-tossing is just this simple: a coming of age story of inner city youth, colored by its own regional quirks and mixed up in the larger urban milieu of gangs, drugs and violence. Any particular pair of shoes could be up there for a variety of reasons, though it&rsquo;s probably <em>not </em>a place to buy drugs.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>And so, we may keep trying to explain sneakers hanging from power lines. But if the data proves anything, this looming question, the mystery of why and how sneakers arrive on power lines, is becoming a mystery of the past.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Matt1.jpg" style="float: left; height: 387px; width: 270px;" title="" /><span style="font-size:24px;">About the Questioner</span></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Matt Latourette, 43, was shocked when we read him the raw numbers of shoe removals: more than 6,000 over the past seven years. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s amazing that there were that many taken down!&rdquo; he exclaimed. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Still, as a kid, he said he saw them all over the city.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Today, Matt lives in Aurora, and rarely sees shoes hanging anywhere since their power lines are underground.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know if I am just not there enough or they are actively taking them down. Or if it&rsquo;s an old thing that just isn&rsquo;t done anymore,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just interesting that everyone is aware of it.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But back in his old neighborhood, it was a different story.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I noticed it all over the city and it was just something that was stuck in my mind. I was always wondering why,&rdquo; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He, too, had heard all rumors about what the shoes meant: drug dealing, bullying, kids being bored. But since he had never tossed his shoes, and didn&rsquo;t know anyone who had, he never learned firsthand why people had done it.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It was always a looming question, he said, shrouded in urban legends.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Meribah Knight is a freelance journalist in Chicago and reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow her at <a href="http://meribahknight.com" target="_blank">meribahknight.com</a> and on Twitter at&nbsp;<a href="https://www.twitter.com/meribah" target="_blank">@meribah</a>.</em></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 17:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shoes-wire-untangling-urban-myth-112575 Garcia, Emanuel battle in heated first debate of runoff http://www.wbez.org/news/garcia-emanuel-battle-heated-first-debate-runoff-111708 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/rahmchuydebate.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>UPDATED: 1:32 PM 3/17/2015</em></p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s two mayoral hopefuls turned up the heat for their first one-on-one debate Monday night.</p><p>In the first of three live, televised events before the April 7 runoff election, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Commissioner Jesus &ldquo;Chuy&rdquo; Garcia hit each other in the same spots as usual during the NBC and Telemundo debate: Emanuel criticized Garcia for not giving specifics, and Garcia called out Emanuel for paying too much attention to downtown, rather than the neighborhoods.</p><p>The two went back and forth on a number of topics that are familiar to the campaign trail, like public safety, schools, city finances and red light cameras. On finances, Emanuel said a property tax hike was not on the table, despite comments to the contrary from a top ally last week, as well as a warning from Emanuel himself last Friday that property tax bills would &ldquo;explode&rdquo; if Springfield didn&rsquo;t help reform pensions. Campaign staff later said that property taxes are the &ldquo;very last resort&rdquo; and any increase would &ldquo;protect middle-class homeowners and seniors.&rdquo; The city of Chicago faces a looming $550 million dollar state-mandated payment toward police and fire retirement funds.</p><p>&ldquo;Every effort going forward on police and fire is to avoid a property tax. I&rsquo;ve laid out a specific plan before the election. You&rsquo;ve laid out a commission,&rdquo; Emanuel said to Garcia.</p><p>The mayor says he&rsquo;d ask employees &ldquo;to help us a little&rdquo; to stabilize pensions, and that he&rsquo;d lobby Springfield for reforms to the sales tax and a Chicago-run casino that would be &ldquo;fully dedicated&rdquo; to pensions.</p><p>Meanwhile, Garcia sought to further define himself as the &ldquo;neighborhood guy,&rdquo; taking many opportunities to try and convince viewers not only that his experience in the community will drive his decisions, but that Emanuel focuses too much on the &ldquo;rich and wealthy&rdquo; or on downtown interests.</p><p>&ldquo;The mayor doesn&rsquo;t mind taxing low-income people and working people,&rdquo; Garcia said, referring to the city&rsquo;s red light camera program. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why on day one I will get rid of all those cameras.&rdquo;</p><p>The two candidates also sought to blame the other for the city&rsquo;s financial crisis. Emanuel took a new swipe at his opponent where he maintained that Garcia, as a state senator, voted in 1997 to create a holiday for Chicago Public Schools teacher pension payments. Garcia continued to accuse Emanuel of not following through on his campaign promise to put the city&rsquo;s financial house in order.</p><p>On public safety, Emanuel contended the city was &ldquo;safer than it was before, but not safe enough where people from all parts of the city can enjoy it.&rdquo; Garcia repeated his push for more police officers, and said he&rsquo;d start hiring them with half of what the city spends now on police overtime.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ political reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 08:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/garcia-emanuel-battle-heated-first-debate-runoff-111708 Rauner, Quinn battle for African-American votes http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-quinn-battle-african-american-votes-110940 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP911111007939.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-6f97a6f2-1582-0782-483a-897455cafe20">As the clock ticks down to election night, Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner continue to battle over what&rsquo;s best for Illinois&rsquo; future. The top candidates have now faced off in two televised debates.</p><p>The focus of Tuesday&rsquo;s debate, three weeks ahead of the election, was mostly African-American voters, and issues they&rsquo;ll be thinking about in the polling booth. The panel of journalists posing questions to the candidates focused on jobs, the economy, the minimum wage, public safety and the state&rsquo;s finances.</p><p>And it was obvious by their responses that both candidates on stage at the DuSable Museum of African American History realized the importance of getting those votes.</p><p>&ldquo;My investments and my donations to the African-American community have totaled tens of millions of dollars,&rdquo; Rauner said, when asked about his recent <a href="http://abc7chicago.com/politics/rauner-promises-$1m-to-south-side-credit-union-/231631/">million dollar donation</a> to a South Side credit union.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve opened up the doors to many more contracts&mdash;I think it&rsquo;s up to a thousand contracts&mdash;for African-American owned businesses,&rdquo; Quinn said, to a question about government hiring.</p><p>The two also wasted no time trying to cut their opponent down to size&mdash;a recurring theme in both televised debates and on the campaign trail. Quinn accused Rauner of not hiring any African Americans in his company.</p><p>&ldquo;My opponent had 51 executives in his company, no African Americans, not one,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>Rauner shot back that Quinn was &ldquo;taking the African-American vote for granted. He&rsquo;s talking but not delivering results.&rdquo;</p><p>Rauner also accused Quinn of kicking Stephanie Neely, Chicago&rsquo;s city treasurer who is black, off the list of running mates. Neely was rumored to be on the short list of Quinn&rsquo;s choices for lieutenant governor. Quinn later countered that his choice of Paul Vallas was due to Vallas&rsquo; experience with schools and budgeting.</p><p>&ldquo;African-American families are suffering in Illinois: brutally high unemployment, deteriorating schools, lack of proper social services and rampant cronyism and corruption that&rsquo;s taking away job opportunities from African Americans,&rdquo; Rauner said.</p><p>The candidates spent a lot of time in this debate talking about public safety and gun control. Rauner wouldn&rsquo;t say if he supported a ban on assault weapons. He said he believed the conversation about gun control should instead be on getting guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and creating jobs. Rauner said it was the lack of opportunity that has lead to the state&rsquo;s issue with crime.</p><p>Quinn came out in support of banning assault weapons and called for a limit on high capacity ammunition magazines.</p><p>The ongoing conversation about the minimum wage also surfaced in this debate. Rauner was pressed by the panel to explain his position, as there has been much back and forth about whether he wants to <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/springfield/rauner-admits-he-once-favored-eliminating-minimum-wage/thu-09042014-113am" target="_blank">ditch</a> the minimum wage all together, or raise it.</p><p>Rauner reiterated he wanted to see a national hike to the minimum wage, so Illinois could remain competitive, but he would support raising Illinois&rsquo; minimum wage (currently at $8.25) if it came with &ldquo;tort reform, tax reduction [and] workers comp reform.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn said he&rsquo;d work to raise the minimum wage to $10 by the end of this year, though he faced questions from both Rauner and the debate panel about why he hadn&rsquo;t boosted it in his six years in office. Quinn responded that &ldquo;you have to build a majority for anything in life&rdquo; and brought up President Barack Obama&rsquo;s tactics with passing the Affordable Care Act as an example.</p><p>The end of the debate featured a special opportunity for the candidates: Rauner and Quinn were able to ask one question of their opponent. You can listen to that exchange here:</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/172278238&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_user=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The candidates are scheduled to face off in at least one more debate before the election on November 4.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian.</a></em></p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-quinn-battle-african-american-votes-110940 The Real Deal: The best of WBEZ's Richard Steele, according to his colleagues http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/real-deal-best-wbezs-richard-steele-according-his-colleagues-110914 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/10377257_10152545879726000_8391299994939377138_n.jpg" alt="" /><p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/the-real-deal/embed?border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/the-real-deal.js?border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/the-real-deal" target="_blank">View the story "The Real Deal: The best of WBEZ's Richard Steele, according to his colleagues " on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 16:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/real-deal-best-wbezs-richard-steele-according-his-colleagues-110914 This American Life to self-distribute program http://www.wbez.org/news/american-life-self-distribute-program-110244 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 11.37.10 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Media&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/"><em>This American Life</em></a> will start independently distributing the radio show to more than 500 public radio stations, the company, along with show host Ira Glass, announced today.</p><p><em>This American Life</em>, which started in Chicago in 1995, and which went national in 1996, has been distributed by <a href="http://www.pri.org/">Public Radio International</a> since 1997. The radio show will now be delivered to radio stations by <a href="https://www.prx.org/about-us/what-is-prx">Public Radio Exchange</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re excited and proud to be partners now with PRX,&rdquo; Glass said in a statement. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ve been a huge innovative force in public radio, inventing technologies and projects to get people on the air who&rsquo;d have a much harder time without them. They&rsquo;re mission-driven, they&rsquo;re super-capable and apparently they&rsquo;re pretty good with computers.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>PRX launched in 2003 as an independent nonprofit public media company focused on using technology to bring stories to a wider digital audience. The digital distribution platform operates one of the largest content marketplaces for audio, including <a href="http://themoth.org/radio"><em>The Moth Radio Hour</em></a>, <a href="http://stateofthereunion.com/"><em>State of the Re: Union</em></a>, <a href="http://snapjudgment.org/"><em>Snap Judgment</em></a>, <a href="http://americanroutes.wwno.org/"><em>American Routes</em></a> and <a href="http://www.wtfpod.com/"><em>WTF with Marc Maron</em></a>.</p><p>&ldquo;We are huge fans of <em>This American Life</em> and are thrilled to support their move to self-distribution on our platform,&rdquo; Jake Shapiro, CEO of PRX, said in a statement.&nbsp; &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had the privilege of working closely with Ira and team to develop <em>This American Life&rsquo;s</em> <a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/listen/mobile">successful mobile apps</a>, and are honored to expand our partnership to the flagship broadcast.&rdquo;</p><p><em>This American Life</em> will take over aspects of self distribution from PRI, including selling underwriting as well as marketing the show to radio stations.</p><p><em>This American Life</em> is produced by Chicago Public Media and hosted by Ira Glass. It has a weekly audience of 2.2 million people on the radio and more than a million downloads per week as one of the most popular podcasts in the country.&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/takimoff" rel="author">Tim Akimoff</a> is the Director of Digital Content at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/timakimoff"> Twitter </a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/timakimoff"> Facebook </a></em></p></p> Wed, 28 May 2014 10:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/american-life-self-distribute-program-110244 New rules of the road possible for Chicago pedicab drivers http://www.wbez.org/news/new-rules-road-possible-chicago-pedicab-drivers-110106 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 8.37.11 AM_0.png" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago pedicabs could soon have to follow new rules of the road, much to the dismay of many drivers. The City Council is set to vote Wednesday on a slew of new rules and regulations for bicycle rickshaws popular around Wrigley Field and downtown. It would be the first time the city sets any regulations on the growing industry.</p><p>Many pedicab drivers say they&rsquo;re for some regulation, but argue that the ordinance put forth by Ald. Tom Tunney (44) goes too far. Tunney&rsquo;s measure is years in the making, and requires pedicab drivers to get $250 annual licenses for their cabs, to buy insurance, post fare schedules, apply for &ldquo;chauffeur&#39;s licenses&rdquo; to drive the pedicab and other changes.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s the ban on driving on the downtown portion of Michigan Avenue and State Street, and rush hour restrictions in the Loop that has caused the most protest from drivers. At a joint City Council hearing Tuesday with the committees on License and Consumer Protection and Transportation and Public Way, many drivers testified that the bans would put a big dent in their finances, as downtown is not only where many of their patrons are, but it&rsquo;s where they want to be dropped off.</p><p>&ldquo;What health risk to pedicabs pose? What causes more traffic congestion - a double parked limousine? A 50 foot bus making a turn? Or a pedicab in a bike lane? Pedicabs should be part of the solution and not banned from downtown,&rdquo; Chicago Rickshaw owner Robert Tipton said.</p><p>Nikola Delic, owner of Nick&rsquo;s Pedicabs, is one of many drivers that argued that the ordinance discriminated against pedicab drivers.</p><p>&ldquo;If the horse carriages and cab drivers can pick up their fares in the downtown district, I don&rsquo;t see why the pedicabs wouldn&rsquo;t be able to do the same thing,&rdquo; Delic said. &ldquo;Because horse carriages are blocking the same amount of traffic as one pedicab [and] they&rsquo;re moving slower.&rdquo;</p><p>Drivers submitted a petition Tuesday with over 500 signatures. It requests that aldermen take the entire street restriction section out of the ordinance.</p><p>Tunney has said that he&rsquo;s open to changing portions of the ordinance, but the street ban is off the table.</p><p>&ldquo;The ordinance, I believe, will help legitimize the industry, increase public safety and improve the flow of traffic on our congested streets,&rdquo; Tunney said at the hearing. &ldquo;There are...many good and safe operators but we&rsquo;ve certainly had a few problems that this ordinance is designed to address.&rdquo;</p><p>Commissioner Luann Hamilton from the Chicago Department of Transportation said the department would support reducing the restrictions, and they aren&rsquo;t concerned by pedicabs riding on those streets.</p><p>Another sticking point for drivers is a rule that would cap at 200 the number of registered pedicabs allowed in the city. Drivers contest that this rule will kill off jobs, and that 200 is an arbitrary number, as there&rsquo;s no official measure for the number of pedicabs driving around the city. The ordinance would allow for the number to be changed by the licensing commissioner.</p><p>The ordinance sailed through the joint committee vote, with only two &quot;no&quot; votes from Ald. Ariel Reboyras and Ald. Brendan Reilly. Penalties for violating the act could range anywhere from $100 to $5,000, depending on the violation or number of infractions.</p><p>Other pieces of the ordinance:</p><ul><li>Drivers would have to get a doctor&#39;s note stating they&rsquo;re capable to operate a pedicab and pass a geography exam before receiving their &ldquo;pedicab chauffeur license&rdquo;</li><li>All drivers must be 18 or older</li><li>Pedicab operators must have a valid automobile driver&rsquo;s license - from Illinois or another state</li><li>Pedicabs aren&rsquo;t allowed on sidewalks</li><li>Pedicabs are only allowed to carry four passengers</li></ul><p>Tunney&rsquo;s ordinance does not set fares for pedicabs, regulate where they are able to park or designate certain places they can hang out and wait for fares.</p><p>If the ordinance passes the full City Council Wednesday, the new rules and regulations would take effect by June.</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-23d1776b-b381-d33a-af9d-cc36336fa4bd"><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 11:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-rules-road-possible-chicago-pedicab-drivers-110106 Chicago's e-cigarette crackdown is officially underway http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-e-cigarette-crackdown-officially-underway-110101 <p><p>The city of Chicago&rsquo;s crackdown on electronic cigarettes officially begins Tuesday.&nbsp;</p><p>E-cigarettes, or vape pens, allow users to puff on nicotine vapor rather than real tobacco smoke. The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance in January that regulates the pens just like any other tobacco product. From now on, smokers won&rsquo;t be allowed to use any of these devices in the workplace or any enclosed public places like bars, restaurants, stores or sports venues.</p><p>The city policy also bans the distribution or sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and requires that stores keep them behind the counter, rather than out on the sale floor.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel backed the measure, and has been pushing restrictions on all forms of cigarette smoking - including boosting the cigarette tax and putting a prohibition on selling flavored tobacco products within a 500 feet of a school.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s been a long line of activities to protect our kids from both tobacco products, and more importantly, from the tobacco companies seeing [kids] as part of their bottom line. And they&rsquo;re not,&rdquo; Emanuel told WBEZ.&nbsp;</p><p>Opponents - including some aldermen - say e-cigarettes are safer than regular tobacco-burning cigarettes, and can actually help people quit.</p><p>The Food and Drug Administration issued a proposal last week that would extend the agency&rsquo;s tobacco authority to cover e-cigarette products, which would restrict companies from giving out free samples. It would also impose minimum-age and identification restrictions on e-cigarettes and keep them out of vending machines (unless they&rsquo;re in a facility that never admits kids) but it stopped short of regulating advertising.The proposed rule is now under a public comment period.</p><p>Dr. Bechara Choucair, Commissioner of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Public Health, said the proposal is a good first step--and a step in the right direction--but the city&rsquo;s ordinance goes even farther.</p><p>Choucair said if anyone sees people smoking e-cigarettes in Chicago where they&rsquo;re not supposed to, they can call 311 to file a complaint.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Flaurenchooljian&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHdY9Bg1Uv8cPtNPU3NCg2qmAExsQ">@laurenchooljian</a>&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 29 Apr 2014 17:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-e-cigarette-crackdown-officially-underway-110101 Why is it so hard to expunge juvenile records in Cook County? http://www.wbez.org/news/why-it-so-hard-expunge-juvenile-records-cook-county-105257 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Youth%20arrest.jpg" style="height: 423px; width: 620px;" title="File: Chicago police officer arresting a juvenile. (Carlos Javier Ortiz/WBEZ)" /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F77582864%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-n2ukB&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Thousands of kids get arrested each year at school in Chicago, and that might not be news to you.&nbsp;</p><p>But what might be surprising are what can be long-term consequences of juvenile arrests, even for comparatively minor offenses.&nbsp;</p><p>And how hard it can be for a young person to get out from under an early and damaging mistake.</p><p>We talked with one young woman about just such a story.</p><p>We&rsquo;re calling her Laura to protect her privacy.&nbsp; Laura&rsquo;s&nbsp; mom is a respiratory therapist, and a single parent. After she immigrated to this country she attended nursing school, but wasn&rsquo;t able to finish.&nbsp; When Laura was 12,&nbsp; she&rsquo;d help her mom study and she remembers that the material was &ldquo;really rigorous, like <em>really</em> tough.&rdquo;</p><p>At the same time it was super interesting to her. Laura says she knew <em>even then</em>, that her profession would involve working with people.&nbsp; And by the time she was 21, she&rsquo;d passed her board exams to become a registered nurse.&nbsp; Now she was just waiting for that envelope.</p><p>&ldquo;So we got the letter and we were just so excited. It was like. Okay. We got the license! We got the license!&rdquo; she recalls.&nbsp;</p><p>Turns out, it wasn&rsquo;t a license. It was a letter. From the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.</p><p>&ldquo;So I was reading the letter and basically it said that I was prohibited, like it was in bold &ndash; prohibited from practice. And I&rsquo;m like, whaaat?&rdquo;</p><p>The letter gave a date when Laura was in elementary school.&nbsp; A date when she&rsquo;d been charged with battery and bodily harm. Laura&rsquo;s thinking, <em>nooo</em>. But then she had a dim recollection from way back in 8<sup>th</sup> grade.</p><p>&ldquo;And basically we were fighting, police were around the corner,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;They came and picked us up. They didn&rsquo;t even put us in handcuffs, they just put us in the car, took us to the police station and had us cool off in different rooms. And we got our fingerprints done.&rdquo; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>Laura had what&rsquo;s called an <em>informal </em>&ldquo;station adjustment,&rdquo; informal because there was no admission of guilt. The incident is resolved right there. It isn&rsquo;t referred to the state&rsquo;s attorney&rsquo;s office, the young person doesn&rsquo;t even <em>go</em> to court.</p><p>But what Laura didn&rsquo;t understand at the time, and her mother apparently didn&rsquo;t understand, is that when she left that station, Laura had an arrest record.</p><p>Eugene Roy, commander of youth investigations for the Chicago Police Department, isn&rsquo;t surprised: &ldquo;Absolutely.&nbsp; If somebody is arrested - there is an arrest record.&rdquo;</p><p>He says if the child is older than 10 years of age and the offense is either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor, that child is photographed and fingerprinted.</p><p>To get that license to become a registered nurse Laura had to first have fingerprints taken for a criminal background check. That&rsquo;s where things got sticky. The FBI notified the licensing board in Illinois of Laura&rsquo;s early arrest, something Laura says she &ldquo;just <em>never</em> expected to happen.&rdquo;</p><p>Laura was arrested in &lsquo;04. By 2010 the law in Illinois had changed. Since then juvenile records are no longer sent from the state police to the FBI, which is the agency that dispenses information for criminal background checks.</p><p>However.&nbsp; Here&rsquo;s the problem:&nbsp; About ten years earlier a <em>different</em> state law permitted local police departments to send juvenile arrest data to the Illinois State Police&mdash;and <em>they</em> routinely forwarded it to the FBI.</p><p>In that decade, well over 170, 000 young people, 17 and under, were arrested in Cook County at least one time. It&rsquo;s anybody&rsquo;s guess how many of those records were forwarded to the Illinois State Police and ultimately the FBI.</p><p>Just like Laura, all those young people have been exposed to the possibility that a long-ago record could suddenly pop up in their lives. In a very negative way.</p><p>Mariame Kaba is the head of Project NIA, a grassroots group that works to reduce youth incarceration.&nbsp; &ldquo;I mean this to me is infuriating. And it&rsquo;s wrong. And it&rsquo;s unfair,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Kaba&rsquo;s a friend of Laura&rsquo;s, and is the person Laura called when she first got that letter and panicked. Together, they gathered certified court documents and statements to answer the licensing agency&rsquo;s questions about the circumstances of Laura&rsquo;s arrest.</p><p>They made their case and today Laura is working as a nurse at a hospital right here in Chicago.</p><p>Just to be sure this <em>doesn&rsquo;t happen again</em>, they also expunged-- or cleared -- Laura&rsquo;s record.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know many 20 year olds or 21 year olds who are going to be able to navigate this process on their own. The process is very difficult,&rdquo; Kaba says.</p><p>The first step is to retrieve the arrest history report from the agency that made the arrest in the first place, though she adds:&nbsp; &ldquo;But the police. Like, that&rsquo;s like a big entity. And many young people are <em>fearful </em>of the police.&rdquo;</p><p>And retrieving the arrest report is just the beginning.</p><p>Then you have to figure out the right court forms to fill out and file a petition to expunge.</p><p>Then get the forms to the Clerk of the Court&rsquo;s office.</p><p>Then wait. And maybe have a hearing.</p><p>Then if expungement is granted, pay $124 for every arrest. If you do it all correctly, the whole process can take two to three months.&nbsp;</p><p>It upsets Kaba that people have to go through this.</p><p>&ldquo;This tells you something about what we mean when we talk about the &ldquo;school to prison pipeline,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;The fact that schools are calling the police on young people, arresting them directly from school. Those young people go to the precinct. The precinct says: &lsquo;It&rsquo;s not a big deal.&rsquo; And that is the record that is following her now? What are we doing? We&rsquo;re actually making it much harder for those young people to be productive citizens later on.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>So what&rsquo;s the solution?</strong></p><p>Kaba says, &ldquo;The short version is, first and foremost, you should be able to expunge your record immediately. Okay, so you get arrested and nothing happens after that &ndash; you have a mere arrest? You should be able to expunge at any point in your juvenile career.&rdquo;</p><p>The way the law is now, even for an arrest with no conviction, a kid has to wait until 17 to try to clear a record.</p><p>If it&rsquo;s a more serious arrest where a judge declares a kid &ldquo;delinquent&rdquo; a young person usually has to wait until turning 21, or beyond, before a record can be expunged.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s an interesting statistic: About 40 percent of all youth arrested in Cook County <em>never get sent to court. </em>The kid was never charged, never stood before a judge &ndash;Kaba wants <em>automatic </em>expungement of those kind of arrests as soon as young people turn 18.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re willing to accept that if you had a conviction then you&rsquo;d have to go through the regular process of doing an expungement. Fine. But for a mere arrest? Get rid of that.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, you&rsquo;d think there&rsquo;d be an awful lot of people lined up to expunge their juvenile records.</p><p>But, as it turns out, the juvenile expungement numbers around here are <em>grim.</em></p><p>In 2011, almost 17,000 juveniles got arrested in Cook County. Just about enough to fill the Allstate arena in Rosemont. And because some kids get arrested multiple times, the number of <em>arrests</em> was more like 30,000.</p><p>So!&nbsp; Thirty thousand juvenile arrests.&nbsp; Guess how many juvenile expungements ? Wrong. Guess again. No. The actual number?&nbsp; 67.</p><p>2012 wasn&rsquo;t much better: Over 25,000 juvenile arrests in Cook County . The number of juvenile expungements last year? 70.</p><p><strong>Why so few?</strong></p><p>Cost is part of it. And the hassle of gathering records. But also, people who follow this tell us, the process is so complicated, so daunting -- people start, but never make it to the finish line.</p><p>Kaba&rsquo;s group and others drafted legislation about a year ago to make it easier for a young person to expunge his record if he&rsquo;s been arrested, but hasn&rsquo;t been convicted.&nbsp;</p><p>The chief opponent was the office of Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez. The bill died in a Senate committee last spring.</p><p>WBEZ wanted to ask the State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office about their views on juvenile expungement. But a spokesman declined, saying that if a specific expungement proposal makes its way through the legislature in the future, they&rsquo;d reconsider talking with us.</p><h2><strong>Cook County Juvenile Arrests and Expungements</strong></h2><p>&nbsp;<img src="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/oimg?key=0AmeeIak9d5GydFlvUDQ1NW13dkVQQlRqQnZNZzd4eEE&amp;oid=3&amp;zx=wjbaphcraftx" style="height: 223px; width: 620px;" title="Sources: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. See disclaimer below " /></p><p><em style="font-size: 11px;">Sources:&nbsp; Office of the State Appellate Defender and Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County*&nbsp;</em></p><p><em style="font-size: 11px;">Broken down by year, this chart shows the number of juvenile arrests in Cook County, the number of expungements (see definition <a href="http://www.state.il.us/defender/juv_exp_FAQ.html">here</a>) requested for juvenile records and the number of expungements granted.</em></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Note 1: Expungements are recorded in the year that they are granted, not the year of the offense.<br />Note 2: As of Jan 1, 2010, 17 year olds in Illinois arrested for misdemeanor offenses are considered juveniles, not adults<br />Note 3: For an <a href="http://www.state.il.us/defender/juv_exp_qualify.html">explanation</a> of which juvenile records are eligible for expungement, see website of the Office of the State Appellate Defender.&nbsp;</em></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>*</strong>General Data Dissemination Disclaimer by Clerk of Circuit Court:</em> <em>The information provided is a custom produced summary of the electronic court record that is maintained by the Clerk of the Circuit Court for internal and administrative purposes, from the paper documents with an understanding that the information is true and correct in as far as all aspects of the documents physically filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The official court records are held and maintained in the hard copy paper files in the courthouse or other official Clerk&rsquo;s repositories.&nbsp; The Clerk diligently strives to maintain accurate, complete and timely data in its electronic databases but shall not be liable for any consequential, exemplary, incidental or special damages arising from or in connection with data or information produced in response to the request for custom programming. However, because of the many variables involved in producing customized electronic data reports, users should not cite the provided information as an official or authoritative source and are advised to independently verify all information.&nbsp;&nbsp; All Users are advised to independently verify any information or data obtained with official court information reposing in the court files (i.e., pleadings, orders, half sheets, file jackets and the contents thereof, etc.). </em></p><p><em>* CORRECTION: &nbsp;In a report on Feb. 4, 2013 WBEZ cited juvenile expungement numbers lower than were&nbsp;accurate. The numbers we used showed expungments only of juvenile cases that had gone to court, although WBEZ had requested the TOTAL number of&nbsp; juvenile records expunged. The Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County has since corrected the earlier data they sent us. Below is an updated list of the number of&nbsp; juvenile expungements granted in Cook County in recent years:</em></p><p><em>2006 &nbsp; &nbsp;243</em></p><p><em>2007 &nbsp; &nbsp;376</em></p><p><em>2008 &nbsp; &nbsp;363</em></p><p><em>2009 &nbsp; &nbsp;499</em></p><p><em>2010 &nbsp; &nbsp;528</em></p><p><em>2011 &nbsp; &nbsp;459</em></p><p><em>2012 &nbsp; &nbsp;549</em></p><p><em>2013 &nbsp; &nbsp;660&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 04 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/why-it-so-hard-expunge-juvenile-records-cook-county-105257 Forget Justin Timberlake's new hairstyle, did you see his shirt? http://www.wbez.org/blog/forget-justin-timberlakes-new-hairstyle-did-you-see-his-shirt <p><a href="http://stylenews.peoplestylewatch.com/2009/12/01/justin-timberlake-shows-off-his-curls-love-it-or-hate-it/?cp=2"><img style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 7px;" title="JT" src="http://img2.timeinc.net/people/i/2009/stylewatch/blog/091214/justin-timberlake-300x400.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="400" /></a> <p style="text-align: left;">Our pals upstairs at <em>Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!</em> <a href="http://twitter.com/waitwait/statuses/6273456371" target="_blank">found</a> this new photo of Justin Timberlake sporting an NPR t-shirt on a movie set. OMG! You can't imagine how excited this makes everyone at Navy Pier.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">If anyone can save journalism, it's JT. He brought sexy back for pete's sake! And now he's a supporting our cause?!?!</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Hold on though, he's on set... so there's a chance the shirt is a costume. Let's see, what movie is he filming now.‚  Ah crap, it's <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1285016/" target="_blank">the Facebook movie</a>! He's probably playing some nerd who loves Fresh Air... So it's up in the air if he actually listens to NPR. I guess I know what to have Tim the Intern work on today...</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Until we get JT's agent on the line, let's do a speculative poll:</p> <p style="text-align: left;">[poll id="64"]</p></p> Wed, 02 Dec 2009 11:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/forget-justin-timberlakes-new-hairstyle-did-you-see-his-shirt 5 Questions with...Jesse Thorn, creator of 'Put This On' http://www.wbez.org/agill/2009/11/5-questions-with-jesse-thorn-creator-of-put-this-on/8222 <p><a href="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs/thorn.jpg"><img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-8279" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 2px 5px;" title="thorn" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs/thorn.jpg" alt="thorn" width="229" height="191" /></a>Jesse Thorn is best known as the host of the podcast/public radio program <a href="http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/sound-young-america" target="_blank">The Sound of Young America</a>. He's made a name for himself by interviewing everyone from Bob Edwards to Bill Withers in his apartment in Los Angeles. But instead of conforming to the stereotypical podcasting look (i.e. pajamas), Thorn is notorious for his fastidious fashion sense. His sartorial notoriety has spread so far, that he and Adam Lisagor (of the podcast <a href="http://youlooknicetoday.com/" target="_blank">You Look Nice Today</a>) have launched a new web video project called <a href="http://putthison.com/" target="_blank">Put This On</a>. The <a href="http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1136753854/put-this-on-a-web-video-pilot-about-dressing-like" target="_blank">Kickstarter</a>-funded project officially launched yesterday. We asked Thorn five questions via email... <!--break--> <strong>AG: What's the idea behind Put This On? Are you trying to sell me clothes? Is this a pyramid scheme?!?!</strong> <blockquote>I'm not here to lie to you - Adam and I have been using an amazing new product called Herbalife, and we just want a few minutes of your time to explain it. In all sincerity, the idea, put simply, is a show for men who want to dress like grownups. Both of us are out of the Seth Rogen period of our life, and we know a lot of other men who are, too. Men who need a little bit of guidance so they're not dressing like a child - and so that they don't become a dress-up doll for their wives or partners. My friend Xeni Jardin called it "straight eye for the straight guy." We like to think we're for more than just straight guys, but I like the sentiment.</blockquote> <strong>AG: What makes you and Adam qualified to dispense fashion advice?</strong> <blockquote>I actually came to this subject because people were emailing me about it. I give out my email address on my radio show, and people who'd seen me wearing grown-up clothes, at live tapings, for example, were filling my inbox with questions - often questions about really important stuff, like what they should wear in their wedding. I started a thread on my message board called "Ask Jesse How To Dress Yourself," and it's pretty much the most popular thread in my message board's history. The demand came to us.</blockquote> <strong>AG: How do you afford a fashionable wardrobe as a public radio host who works out of his living room?</strong> <blockquote>I think you could ask this question about anything that a middle-class guy spends his money on. One of my best pals is an avowed miser, but has literally every current video game system. I make presenting myself well a priority. I think it's important, because it says to the people you interact with: "I care. I wanted to look my best because I respect you." I'm also careful about how I spend my money. I almost never pay retail, I buy at least half of my clothes second-hand, and I'm mindful of what I buy. I bought the suit I wore in my wedding at a thrift store -- it was bespoke, but for someone else. Our blog, I think, has reflected those values -- I've been linking to used and vintage clothes on Ebay a lot, for example. Most people in America spend a lot more money on clothes than they need to, and look pretty lousy after all that spending. Dressing well is about technique, not budget. Of course, having a big-ass budget helps.</blockquote> <strong>AG: Is there any journalistic element to what you're doing with Put This On? i.e. will the audience know when/if interview subjects have given you free clothes?</strong> <blockquote>This is really important to us. I think fashion "journalism" too often blurs the line between advertising and content in a way that I find very distasteful. I'm not against getting free clothes any more than I'm against getting free books for <em>The Sound of Young America</em>, but we will disclose any product we review or feature which has been given to us for free. We've actually got "Clothing Credits" for our first episode, that list everything Adam and I wear, and included in that list is the fact that we got a free pair of jeans from 4Stroke and free boots from Timberland Boot Company. (Shout out to 4Stroke and Timberland Boot Company.)</blockquote> <strong>AG: If you have any extra free clothes can you send them to me? Thanks.</strong> <blockquote>Did I mention that when I'm bored with clothes I sell them? That's another good way to save money on clothes - sell them for more than what you bought them for.</blockquote> <object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" width="500" height="281" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0"><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><param name="src" value="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7391362&amp;server=vimeo.com&amp;show_title=0&amp;show_byline=0&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=00ADEF&amp;fullscreen=1" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="500" height="281" src="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7391362&amp;server=vimeo.com&amp;show_title=0&amp;show_byline=0&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=00ADEF&amp;fullscreen=1" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object></p> Tue, 03 Nov 2009 10:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/agill/2009/11/5-questions-with-jesse-thorn-creator-of-put-this-on/8222