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Obviously I love Chicago.  And while I can tout the benefits of this city I call Home all I want, it’s nice to have an objective source of authority on which to stand.

Although I rarely consider a group of men to be a source of authority beyond the stereotypical sports stats, Playboy models and occasionally mechanical parts, the AskMen.com Editorial Team really pulled through, ranking Chicago as the #1 City to Live in. This ranking is based on applying a statistical formula to eight lifestyle categories (listed in the picture below), then taking into account the intangible benefits offered.  Visit http://www.askmen.com/specials/2009_top_29/ for the complete listing of 29 great cities, or just read the Chicago article below:

Notice how we rank low on the $$ of beer - surprised?

Notice how we rank low on the $$ of beer - surprised?

Why you should live in Chicago

Fine culture and greasy food

As the largest city in the Midwest, Chicago strikes the perfect balance between cosmopolitan and comfortable, combining all of the culture, entertainment and sophistication of an internationally renowned destination with an affordable lifestyle and down-to-earth work hard/play hard character.

World-class cultural fixtures like the Art Institute, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago International Film Festival and a vibrant theater scene are complemented by popular festivals like Jazz Fest, Blues Fest and the recently revitalized Lollapalooza, Outdoor Film Festival, and Second City, which happens to be the source of 39% of the U.S.’s greatest comedians (a scientifically calculated fact!). Chicago possesses one of the world’s most vibrant, diverse and innovative restaurant scenes, from culinary luminaries like Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz and Rick Bayless to an astounding variety of hole-in-the-wall neighborhood joints to Chicago’s signature greasy trinity of deep dish pizza, Italian beef and Chicago-style hot dogs.

A hardcore sports town, Chicago covers all of the professional leagues (some twice) with teams that actually have history, both famous and infamous. And while the winters are rough, Chicagoans make the most of the warmer months, taking their love of sports to the beaches, courts, paths, and parks of Chicago’s beautiful lakefront, set aside as public land for the entire city’s enjoyment.

Why you should live in Chicago in 2009

Lollapalooza, the Hawks and the Cubs

This year, Chicago is a city abuzz. The International Olympic Committee announces the 2016 host city this October, and Chicago’s glitterati and power brokers are schmoozing it up as they create numerous support committees in the hopes that Chicago is selected. Lollapalooza is already a music fan’s Mecca, and with Jane’s Addiction now back together, where better to catch Perry Farrell this year than headlining his own festival?

On the cultural front, the new modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago will be opening in May, and history buffs living in the Land of Lincoln will be busy checking out the numerous exhibitions celebrating his bicentennial. Chicago is always fertile ground for political junkies, but Obama’s election paired with the Blagojevich and Burris fiascoes have turned an always entertaining political scene into a full-blown three ring circus that even those who aren’t armchair pundits will find fascinating.

After years in the standing’s wilderness, the Blackhawks — one of the original six teams in the NHL — are once again a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, the Cubs are projected by most to be tops in the National League, and a World Series victory would set off a citywide party of the century — literally.

Read more about Chicago

By Dominic Armato

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One of the joys of not being employed full-time is the freedom I have with my days… Sunday, Monday, Thursday – they tend to be more open for me (of course I have my” blogations”, the news, keeping up on the latest trends, yoga…), and this freedom is really convenient in the event of a monumental event, like the birth of my new baby nephew, Alton Isaac! So, blessed that I am, I was able to travel a couple states away to meet the little critter yesterday.

That little set up is just to give you some perspective on my emotional state when I read the book I’m about to review (not just for you all to congratulate me on being an AUNT!), but I think I was feeling a little less stoic than usual.

Since Randy Pausch delivered his “Last Lecture” presentation on September

The Pausch family

The Pausch family

18, 2007 at Carnegie Mellon, his advice and adages have swept the media, leading to a best-selling book.  Presented after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, his focus is on “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”

First off, I am very impressed that he really did achieve his childhood dreams – from the Nasa-esque “zero gravity” to working for Disney.  It’s hard for me to even remember what I used to “dream”, other than living in a big city so I guess at least I accomplished something (along with the other 9.5MM people so I guess I’m not all that special).  Regardless, in this book of advice on how to lead my life, the things that hit home with me were the more family-oriented musings, from winning the “parent lottery” (I completely relate to this one, as Pausch says, “I already had this incredible leg up in life because I had a mother and father who got so many things right.”) to his worry of how to convey his love to his young children after his death.

I found this book interesting, but wasn’t nearly as enamored with the message as I had planned to be.  I harbor no doubts that Randy Pausch was a good man and a beloved husband and father (and teared up many times, but please refer back to paragraph 1 on my emotional state!), but I don’t think his advice was ground-breaking and doubt the impact would have been nearly the same had he not been terminally ill.  He seemed a little full of himself (to be fair, he does acknowledge he tends to be a know-it-all), and mentions his salary more than I thought was appropriate, but he also seemed like an optimistic, friendly guy who was making the most of an awful death sentence.

Read this if: You’re in the “family” sort of mood, and are looking for a reminder to appreciate the people who love you and you love in return, and the time you have together.

Avoid this if: You have no interest in yet another “life lesson” book.  In my opinion, “The Little Prince” is much more valuable.the-last-lecture2

  • Title: The Last Lecture
  • Author: Randy Pausch
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • NovelWhore’s Grade: B-

RIP Randy Pausch, July 25, 2008

Book vs. Movie

By now, who isn’t familiar with this term?  If you haven’t read the book, at the very least you’ve seen the trailers for the movie, currently in theaters, featuring a multitude of celebrities: Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Connelly and Kevin Connolly make up the all-star cast

I’m sure authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo (both contributing writershjntiy-book to the smash success “Sex & the City) had no idea the effect their book, aka “The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys,” would have on the world.  I remember first reading “He’s Just Not That Into You” (HJNTIY) back when it came out in 2004 and was on it’s way to becoming some sort of a classic.  I was a naive and somewhat innocent college sophomore, and thought that the book was a more amusing and informational form of the Bible.

Though my Advanced Composition teacher ended up stealing the book (Ms. Laura Elizabeth, you disappeared with my “Bible” and my portfolio!) I still have quite a vivid recollection of the empowerment I felt upon completion.  Although I’ve never found myself in a terribly unhealthy relationship (some are less happy to remember than others…), I have definitely been blind to the reality of any given situation.  Told with humorous examples, comedic banter and the ability to make you smile through your tears of humiliation (you wonder how you missed that obvious hint!), the book is a feel-good tool to encourage every woman to go out there and find the relationship she deserves, not just one she’s stuck with.

Since I really did enjoy the book, appreciate the message and was able to occasionally relate to the situations with self-deprecating laughter, I had high expectations for the movie.

Let me admit, I am not a movie person.  I am terrible at sitting still, rarely captivated by what is happening on screen and I don’t even like popcorn (though I looooove the icees at theaters!).  I think books are a much more effective and enjoyable way to portray a story, although a movie is much less effort.  Anyways, I was prepared to really enjoy HJNTIY, as it had been receiving mostly rave reviews.

hesjustnotthatintoyou_000My movie partner was a guy I’m casually seeing, and he only went to the movie since he lost a bet (lesson to be learned, never bet me on random historical facts!).  He complained about going, but I think ended up liking it and laughing more than me.  It was your stereotypical romantic comedy with a little bit more humor, I didn’t think it had nearly the powerful and positive message that the book shared with it’s audience.  The movie poses the question:

“are you the exception… or are you the rule?”

The movie follows different characters through life in Maryland (totally random, right?), and it’s almost one of those six-degrees of separation examples, how everyone is inextricably linked without knowing.  It’s interesting to see how all the lives tie together, but painful at times to watch as Gigi (Goodwin) is pathetically desperate to date someone, anyone, or as Janine’s (Connelly) husband enters into an affair.

It wasn’t a bad movie, but I did leave feeling as if something were missing.  Oh, right, it’s the idea that things don’t always turn out as you planned, and the guy doesn’t always realize that you’re the greatest woman in the world for him (though I’m sure you are), and that sometimes, relationships are disappointing and people aren’t meant to be together and it doesn’t work out (and I swear I’m not even bitter or cynical!). I guess one marriage does dissolve through the course of the movie, but in the current state where affairs and divorces are commonplace, it would be almost more satisfying (less stereotypical, at least) had the woman been responsible, or at minimum, in control, of the relationship!  I definitely think the uplifting lesson conveyed in the book is somehow lost with the on-screen adaptation.

Read the book if: You need motivation, inspiration, or optimism in your relationship or life in general.  Pass the book to a friend if you can see they’re stuck in a dead end relationship and a third-party unbiased source yelling at them could help realization dawn.

Avoid the book if: You like losers, and accept you’re stuck with them.  No no kidding, read the book.

Watch the movie if: You like happy endings, stereotypical romantic comedies, pathetic women, cheating men, and some laughter along the way.  Though I suggest you wait until it comes out on DVD and make a wine night out of it, much better use of $$$$.

Avoid the movie if: You’re looking for a movie with a lasting impact.

  • Title: He’s Just Not That Into You
  • Author(s): Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo
  • Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment
  • NovelWhore’s Grade (Book): A-
  • NovelWhore’s Grade (Movie): C+

**As usual, the book is much better than the movie!

I used to love John Grisham, he could do no wrong.  From the “The Pelican Brief” (which I’ve read at least seven times), to bawling while finishing “The Chamber,” to the more intense page turners “The Firm” and “A Time to Kill” – they were all wonderful.  I used to be able to pick up the latest Grisham novel and know I was in for a good time.

I had been looking forward to yesterday for awhile.  Not only was I taking the train to meet my mom and sister half-way for a shopping spree (someone has to support this dismal economy!), but I knew I would have quality train time to finish a couple books without distraction. Grisham’s legal thriller “The Appeal” from 2008 was on the top of my list.

Taking place in Bowmore, Mississippi, a sad little town that mammoth company Krane Pharmaceuticals has turned into “Cancer County, USA,” it’s a simple case of good vs. evil, David vs. Goliath.  The novel opens with a huge verdict of $41MM awarded to a woman whose son and husband have both died as a direct result of the poison from Krane that ended up in the water system.

From here, the book goes horribly wrong.

Spinning off in tangents – religion, supreme court, bought politicians, local banks and bankruptcy, class action suits, greedy CEOs – while I won’t deny all the tangents somehow link back to the original verdict, there is so much going on that as the reader, it’s impossible to focus on the bigger picture or get attached and relate to any of the characters.

"The Appeal" - already delegated to my bag of books to donate, unworthy of taking up space on my book shelves

"The Appeal" - already delegated to my bag of books to donate, unworthy of taking up space on my book shelves

And the ending… wow.  You hope for some character growth, and while it’s probable, the book ends with quite a few threads left hanging.  Spoiler alert: I may be unrealistic, but I like to see karma come back in some form.  I was hoping against hope the evil CEO and his co-conspirators aboard his mega-yacht in the last chapter would be the victims of some sort of boat explosion/lightning strike/iceburg hitting event, but it was not meant to be.

But please, by all means if you feel differently let me know.  Am I jaded? Expecting too much of Grisham?  Too naive to appreciate a book with a disappointing ending?

My advice: If you’re looking for a big-business trial book, try Grisham’s old school (1997) “The Runaway Jury,” in which a big tobacco company is taken to trial by a grieving widow.  I read this book a decade ago and still remember the plot and characters.  “The Appeal,” on the other hand, is about to be forgotten as soon as this post is published!

  • Title: The Appeal
  • Author: John Grisham
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • NovelWhore’s Grade: D

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