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Dynamic Range

Dynamic Range turns 50

(Flickr/William Clayton)

We launched our weekly series Dynamic Range last November as a way to highlight overlooked gems from the Chicago Amplified archive. It was based on an untested hunch: There had to be good stuff in there, we thought -- wrongly overlooked, buried in hours of audio, at risk of getting lost in the bowels of the internet.

It turns out, I think, that we were right. Going through the archives and the new submissions from our partners every week, I’ve been consistently impressed by how much good stuff is in there, and by how many gems are truly buried in our archives.

Last week’s post was the 50th episode of Dynamic Range. So in honor of that mini milestone, here are the Top 10 Dynamic Range posts of the past year. Or, ok, a mostly subjective list of my 10 favorite posts from the past year:

1. Scaling Aqua- In December of 2009 three anonymous urban explorers embarked on a clandestine adventure, climbing to the summit of Aqua, one of Chicago’s newest landmarks. You’d think the folks responsible for the building would be upset by this unsanctioned trip. But Jeanne Gang, a MacArthur “genius” and Aqua’s lead architect, recognized the impulse to explore.

2. A secret history of Indiana pie – You may have heard of Boston cream pie, but what about Hoosier cream pie? Or Indiana persimmon pie? Hoosier Mama Pie Company’s Paula Haney unveils the secret history of Indiana pies, from the Amish inspired “desperation pies” of her Indianapolis youth to pies made from exotic native fruits like wild American persimmon, paw paw, and custard apple.

3. The short, sad life of State Street’s pedestrian mall - The 17 years that State Street spent closed to car traffic are widely considered a planning disaster. But as more cities opt for new pedestrian malls, the question remains: How did Chicago get it so terribly wrong?

4. Sam Steward, secret sexual historian - In a time when gay men lived in fear and in the closet, Chicago professor and tattoo artist Sam Steward kept meticulous records of hundreds of sexual encounters, including those he had with the likes of Rudolph Valentino, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Rock Hudson.

5. Is cycling political?- As passionate as many American cyclists are, biking in the United States is hardly as mainstream as it is in much of the world. But is cycling political? Chainlink founder Julie Hochstadter says that if you’re in the U.S. the answer is yes, even if you don’t see it that way.


6. Palmer Mansion, a home that topped them all - A bland looking set of apartment buildings at 1350 N. Lake Shore Drive obscures what used to be on the site: one of the most ostentatious private homes in Chicago history.

7. Poet Garin Cycholl traces Chicago’s western boundaries  - Garin Cycholl began his poetic examinations of Illinois geography with the state’s rural southern quarters. Now he tries to delineate Chicago’s borders using an unexpected social and historical landmark: the old Cook County Hospital. 

8. Exposing the world’s most famous burlesque dancer – Burlesque pioneer Gypsy Rose Lee made a name for herself during the Depression, but she isn’t just a dusty historical figure to the shimmiers and shakers of today. Universally adored by modern burlesque dancers, Lee was the inspiration for the Broadway musical Gypsy and was once saluted by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt this way: “May your bare ass always be shining!”

9. Hot Doug’s Sohn reflects on Chicago’s former foie gras ban- Five years after the start of Chicago’s short lived foie gras ban, the proprietor of Chicago’s premiere sausage shop explains how he “ignored the law and won.”

10. Lessons for Chicago from Colombian transit - Mayor Emanuel has vowed to bring bus rapid transit to Chicago as part of his ambitious transition plan. Bogota, Colombia is one of only two cities in the world with gold standard BRT. Here, Bogota’s former mayor shares the secrets that made his city’s transit system a success.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Flickr Photos in this post by The Goat Is Bad, Sarah Stierch, Josh Koonce, and Paul Goyette. Photo of Palmer Mansion courtesy of WikiCommons.

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