When Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig tied the knot with Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in October of 1810 a few kegs were tapped and a new tradition was born. The modern “Oktoberfest” is 17 days, culminating with a German Unity Day blowout filled with countless Lederhosen-adorned revelers.

AgnewS14You don’t have to go to Munich to celebrate what has become a beer drinker’s holiday. Michael Agnew, author of A Perfect Pint’s Beer Guide to the Heartland says that celebrating the German festival is easy in the Midwest. You just need to find the right craft brewer and bring your tastebuds. Here are a few of his suggestions:

August Schell Brewing Co., New Ulm, Minnesota

“This old, family-owned brewery has deep German roots,” Agnew says. “It hosts about as authentic an Oktoberfest as you are likely to find in the US.”

Schell’s has an Oktoberfest that is enjoyed seasonally, but in A Perfect Pint’s Beer Guide Agnew recommends Schell’s pils as well. The pils is “brewed Solidly in the German Style, it is light, crips, and drive with a sharply bitter bite.”

Capital Brewery, Madison, Wisconsin

Capital has an Oktoberfest celebration in their beer garden.  But, sorry, you’ve missed it. The event was September 14th. This doesn’t mean the celebration can’t continue, however. You can still pick up the recommended Autumnal Fire.

“A strong doppelbock based on an Oktoberfest recipe, this beer pours a beautiful ruddy amber. It features an intense malty sweetness with loads of raisin and dark fruit flavors.”

Bull Falls Brewery, Wausau, Wisconsin

German-style lagers are the specialty of Brewmaster Michael Zamzow. Beer Guide author Agnew recommends the Zwickel, an unfiltered pilsner “dominated by spicy, black-licorice hop flavors.”

Haymarket Pub & Brewery, Chicago, Illinois

The Oktoberfest Märzen Bier is a seasonal favorite at this Randolph Street brewer. The Guide also notes “no other brewpub in Chicago focuses on Belgian-style beers to the same extent.”

Millstream Brewery, Amana, Iowa

Millstream and the Amana Colonies have a whole weekend of Oktoberfest events 10/3-5.

During the celebration you can pick up a Child Brau Amber Lager: “This traditional Vienna style is a fifteen-time national award winner, including taking the gold medeal in the 2010 World Beer Cup.””


double indemnity lobby card

“Do you make your own breakfast, Mr Neff?”

“Well, I squeeze a grapefruit now and again.”

Has it really been seventy years since Double Indemnity? The noir touchstone hit theaters in September of 1944, about the same time the Allies liberated Brussels and Martha Graham put the finishing flourishes on Appalachian Spring. Adapted from a James M. Cain novella by director Billy Wilder and detective fiction ace Raymond Chandler, Double Indemnity tells the story of how an unhappy wife and her insurance man paramour do in the husband. This being film noir, double dealing and general faithlessness—plus a suspicious claims adjuster played by Edward G. Robinson—bring the proceedings to various grim ends. Double Indemnity earned seven Academy Award noms, became a classic, influenced the entire noir genre, and even made a lot of dough.

In the new noir-oriented collection Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, essayist Neil Verma explores the multifacted relationship between film noir and radio, the latter still a dominant medium in the 1940s.

Many acts of listening transform readily into pictorial form, but sound experience also always contains an energy that can’t be fully reprocessed into an image without blockage or remainder. Indeed, some of the most indelible pictures of listeners in noir are of audile beings transfixed by a mysterious auditory surplus that the camera cannot quite give us.

Which brings us to Double Indemnity:

Events begin when Walter Neff sneaks into the Dietrichson garage and climbs into the back of the couple’s car. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) enters with her husband (Tom Powers) and mouths a silent greeting to Neff while stuffing bags in the rear. As they drive we see Neff, his hand poised clawlike on the rear of the front seat, listening silently. The car turns down a dark street and Phyllis scans the road from left to right, then honks the horn in a prearranged signal. Neff reaches over the seat and kills Dietrichson. The murder is offscreen, just the span of a frame away. Phyllis bobs slightly as her seat jerks with the scuffle. The script reads: “There are struggling noises and a dull sound of something breaking. Phyllis drives on and never turns her head. She stares straight in front of her. Her teeth are clenched.” Staring forward, yet not really looking, she is in a state of . . . what? Trance? Titillation? The shot of Phyllis recalls Foster Hirsch’s description of her as a “reptilian” figure, a kind of somnambulist. Elisabeth Bronfen sees more complexity in the close-up, identifying three distinct phases to it: “Determination initially turns to sad acceptance of the death she has provoked, then becomes a quiet joy that indicates her own satisfaction and the completion of her plan.”

However we read her complicated expression, the more perplexing issue is why Phyllis elects to listen to something that she may easily observe. She wants to see her husband dead, yet it’s more chilling that, when given the chance to do so, she’d rather hear it instead. And in spite of the fact that we do not face the same choice as Phyllis, her desires are not easily extricated from ours. For the viewer, the events in the next seat are a sound-play whose parameters are spelled out, with specifics left to our imagination. We visualize within semantic bounds shaped by acoustic information–a swell of music, the sound of struggle, a faint choke–picturing an event in a place we cannot see. But our “viewing” is complicated by the fact that we do it as we watch her face and imagine what she imagines, hypnotized. The picture in our mind at once includes and meshes with the picture in her mind as we suppose it to be. In this way, the shot lures us through Phyllis’s otakoustophilia back to our own overactive audile imagination, which is echoed back at us as a perversion. There is something about this moment that indicts the gratuitousness of radiophonic experience, with its fascination with making pictures in the mind, turning them around in our heads, dwelling on them to excess.

Story songs had won love from an admiring public since the days when drunken Vikings flung wandering skalds into a nearby volcano. When the wireless came along, story songs filled the air in a different way.

The story song “El Paso” carried a distinctiveness beyond mere musical virtue. It possessed a maturity seldom heard in a genre dedicated to historical novelty tunes like “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and to a booming market in dead teenager songs that in the late 1960s would expand to dead wives (“Honey,” by Bobby Goldsboro), dead hillbillies (“Ode to Billie Joe,” by Bobbie Gentry), and dead everyone (“In the Year 2525,” by Zager and Evans).

When “El Paso” landed as the first Billboard Number One of the 1960s, Marty Robbins became part of a wave of successful story singers, many of them now-forgotten nobodies. A partial survey of the competition perhaps makes it clear why Robbins stood so tall among his so-called peers.

“Tell Laura I Love Her,” by Ray Peterson (1961)

“Tell Laura I Love Her” is Ray Peterson’s story of Tommy, a boy determined to get the money to buy his girl a wedding ring. Trapped in a world without lottery tickets, Tommy has no choice but to do what any of us would do in his situation. He enters a small-town auto race.

Across the entire dead teenager genre, few moments ring out with the hysteric sincerity found only in the teen soul. One of them is Peterson’s chorus on “Tell Laura I Love Her.” It’s quite a feat of sustained emotion—he has to sing it three or four times, the last from beyond the grave.

“Patches,” by Dickey Lee (1962)

Not just a dead teenager song, but a dead teenager song about forbidden love and a double suicide. You can see why music fans shouted, “Turn it up!” from coast to coast.

King of the splatter platter, Dickey Lee told a story as old as Shakespeare, though Lee had greater vocal range than the Bard. Parents won’t let an ordinary boy see a girl from the other side of the tracks or, in this case, the other side of the polluted river. Patches, the girl, jumps into the coal-choked watery depths in her grief. The narrator prepares to follow just as soon as he finishes singing.

Indescribably wretched, “Patches” nonetheless set up Lee as a long-term hitmaker. He later released “Laurie (Strange Things Happen),” that creepy song you half-remember where the narrator picks up a girl, she borrows his sweater and takes it with her, and then it turns out she’s dead and he finds the sweater on her grave. In the Seventies, he gave the world “Rocky,” a song that inflicts both terminal illness and pregnancy on the narrator’s true love.

“Sink the Bismarck,” by Johnny Horton (1960)

“Sink the Bismarck” cemented Johnny Horton’s claim as the History Channel of pop music: not always accurate, obsessed with Germans, and enjoyable if there’s nothing on elsewhere. Horton and co-songwriter Tillman Franks nodded to their usual country audience by describing the battleship’s guns as “big as steers” and declaring it was “making such a fuss.” Pop fans hardly noticed. “Sink the Bismarck” rose to Number Three just months after “El Paso” topped the charts.

“Big Bad John,” by Jimmy Dean (1961)

Jimmy Dean had been in the sausage factory known as the music industry for years when, with his label itching to drop him, he came up with a tall tale punctuated by Gregorian harmonies. “Big Bad John” used a classic trope of fiction—a stranger comes to town. John, like Gatsby, provoked dark whispers involving murder, in John’s case of a guy who had fallen out with our titular hero over the affections of a Cajun Queen. John also (spoiler) died at the end, in his case in a mining disaster while saving his colleagues. “Big Bad John” would not be the last spoken-word story song to break the bank. In 1964, Canadian anchorman-turned-cowboy patriarch Lorne Greene would sell millions of records with the western-themed “Ringo,” a song not about the drummer in a then-popular band.

“Mack the Knife,” by Bobby Darin (1959)

Surprisingly few Marxist émigré playwrights have penned a hit song. But German lyricist Bertolt Brecht reached the toppermost of the poppermost with this jazzy ballad from his play The Threepenny Opera. Darin’s swinging and brassy version—called definitive by Frank Sinatra—proved that America’s musical tastes were omnivorous enough to include Weimar-era show tunes, as if anyone ever doubted it. More importantly, “Mack the Knife” reclaimed the story song for violent criminals, albeit too briefly.

Twentieth Century DrifterCountry music superstar Marty Robbins was born on September 26, 1925.

In three decades as a singer and songwriter Robbins placed a staggering 94 songs on Billboard’s country music charts. His musical style ranged from rockabilly rave-ups to pop standards and even Hawaiian songs.

In her biography Twentieth Century Drifter author Diane Diekman writes about the day in 1925 when Martin David Robinson was born:

Lillie, seven at the time, remembers their Grandma Heckle had come to spend a few days, a visit that pleased her because of the enjoyable times they spent together. Grandma woke the children on Sunday morning and told them of a surprise in their mother’s room. Lillie recalls, “Mamma was still in bed, which was unusual. On a cot were two tiny babies, each with a fist in its mouth. Grandma said the doctor had come during the night and brought two little twin babies.” When Lillie asked which was the boy, Grandma Heckle proudly pointed, and Lillie covered the baby’s face with the blanket. She didn’t want another brother. Three were enough.

She says she didn’t know she was “covering the face of a future great country and western singer and composer.” With his father’s charm and his mother’s work ethic and integrity, the boy would someday be Marty Robbins.

Marty_Robbins_1966There is a possibly apocryphal story about Loretta Lynn’s classic “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Supposedly, Lynn’s original version of the song included ten (or eight or twelve) verses. Hearing it, her producer Owen Bradley said something along the order of, “Loretta, there’s already been one ‘El Paso,’ and that’s all there’s ever gonna be.”

“El Paso” clocked in at 4:37, an Illiad-like length for the radio industry of the time. Mind you, listeners wanted story songs. In 1959 alone, Johnny Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans” and Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” finished numbers one and two (respectively) on Billboard’s Top 100 for the year. Story songs did even better business on the country charts where Robbins had found a home. But radio had decided it had to be a short story and Robbins had come up with a tragic, if tuneful, novel.

The epic running time convinced Columbia exec Don Law, a man in the business of getting hits on the radio, to decline. As Diane Diekman writes in Twentieth Century Drifter, her biography of Robbins, out went “El Paso.” For a time. Sideman Jim Glaser recalled:

“Marty carried a little ukulele with him, and to pass the miles, he used to sing every song he could think of and Bobby Sykes and I would put harmony on them. Just to be doing something.” The songs they sang included “El Paso.” According to Glaser, “We’d get out in the middle of Texas somewhere, and he’d get his ukulele and teach us the new part of the song. He’d come on tour and he’d have a new piece of it finished. It was several tours before we knew what was going to happen in the song. I’d lay out the harmony for Bobby and me. So by the time we went into the studio, we had it down pat.”

Robbins had wanted to record an album of cowboy songs for years. He finally got Law behind the project, though Robbins admitted, “Don, this album won’t sell five hundred records.”

But it sold a lot more than that, thanks to the inclusion of a story song about a crime of passion and a woman named Feleena. “El Paso” won awards, sold millions, crossed over to the pop charts, and became Robbins’ signature performance. As with many classics, the fact that “El Paso” ever saw the light of day seems like pure luck, for Robbins and the rest of us.

Right at that moment, a line popped into his mind: “Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl.” In later years, he enjoyed telling the story of writing the song. “It was a funny sensation,” he said in an interview. “I’m driving across the desert from El Paso to Phoenix as I’m writing, y’see. The song came out like a motion picture, and I could never forget the words to it. I put them down after I got to Phoenix, but I couldn’t forget it because it was like a motion picture. I didn’t know how it was going to end. It just kept on coming out, and coming out, and the tune was coming out at the same time.”

“I was rushing real quick trying to get through it, saying the words as fast as I could because they were just coming out.” He told Ralph Emery, “It was real exciting, and I kept waiting for the end to come to see what was going to happen. Finally it ended when it wanted to. I really didn’t have too much to do with that song. It just came out.”

AIAS14Standing 82 stories at 225 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago’s Aqua was named  the Emporis Skyscraper Award “skyscraper of the year” on September 24, 2010.

This unique mixed-use residential building is featured on the cover of the AIA Guide to Chicago, Third Edition.

In the Guide Lynn Becker writes:

It took nearly half a century, but with the completion of Jeanne Gang’s Aqua, the towers of Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City finally have a true rival for the kind of visual audacity that makes a building a symbol of Chicago throughout the world.

The striking “visual audacity” of the Aqua is something that is best viewed in person. The building’s appearance seemingly changes as one’s perspective is varied by proximity. Becker writes:

Straight on and at a distance, especially on a gray day, Aqua’s unique qualities can recede into the skyline. Add light and come a little closer, and the visual engagement become almost hypnotic. The restless variability makes the building slippery to the gaze. Stand under one of its corners and look up: with no conventional grid points to visually lock onto, the surfaces of Aqua appear to be constantly in motion.

Aqua is one of many newer projects featured in the updated Third Edition of the AIA Guide to Chicago.

NFL Football - Richard CrepeauRichard C. Crepeau is a professor of history at the University of Central Florida and former president of the North American Society for Sports History. He answered some questions about his new book NFL Football: A History of America’s New National Pastime.

Q: Your history of the NFL in part focuses on Pete Rozelle, NFL commissioner during its defining decades. What role did he play in the NFL’s path to its current prominent position?

Richard Crepeau: Pete Rozelle was certainly the most significant Commissioner in the history of the NFL. He guided the league at the time of its growth in popularity by cultivating and exploiting television as he was able to seize and maintain the upper hand in contract negotiation. He was equally effective in inhibiting the growth of the NFL Players Association through his skills as a public relations genius and his effective manipulation of public opinion and his cultivation of the electronic and print media. Rozelle also understood that government could be useful as a source of enabling legislation and subsidy as long as it was not allowed to regulate the business of the NFL. He was cultivated power figures in both government and business and used them to advance the power and profile of the NFL.

Q: How did media technological changes in radio, television and the internet affect the NFL’s trajectory to becoming a national obsession?

Crepeau: If you were to create a chart showing the growth of the number of television sets in America with the growth of the popularity of the NFL, you would have two lines nearly identical and in parallel on the chart. The NFL also proved to be quite adept at adopting itself to each change in media technologies of the past sixty years. Unlike other sports it never feared media technology and moved rapidly to find ways to exploit it. Each new electronic innovation made it possible for the NFL to be what is now a constant companion to its fans. Continue reading

Bobby Riggs had risen to the top of men’s tennis in the 1940s. A longtime promoter of the game with the soul of a pool hall hustler, Riggs used his gifts for hamming it up and good-natured obnoxiousness to set off a media frenzy around his challenge to then-Number One women’s player Margaret Court, claiming that even at age 55 he could beat any woman in the world. Riggs pounded Court in straight sets–on Mother’s Day, no less–and landed on the cover of Time magazine. Sports Illustrated warned, “Never bet against this man.”

SchultzS14Billie Jean King, having refused Riggs once, took up his challenge in the wake of the Court defeat. For weeks, media attention swirled around “The Battle of the Sexes.” King and Riggs would play a best of five sets match at no less storied a venue than the Houston Astrodome, in 1973 known more as a wonder of the modern world than as the leaky home of a bad baseball team.

Riggs approached the duel as part vaudeville, part tennis. King, an ardent advocate of women’s equality, saw it as a huge opportunity to make a statement. “King was playing not just for public acceptance of the women’s game,” said an ESPN The Magazine profile years later, “but also an opportunity to prove her gender’s equality at a time when women could still not obtain a credit card without a man’s signature.”

As Jaime Schultz relates in her new book Qualifying Times: Points of Change in U.S. Women’s Sport, the match was only part of a watershed year for women in sports:

More than thirty thousand people gathered in the Houston Astrodome, while another ninety million television viewers in more than forty different countries tuned in to see King wallop Riggs in three straight sets. In the end, the match “legitimized women’s tennis,” wrote King. “It was the culmination of an era, the noisy conclusion to the noisiest three years in the history of the women’s game.”

The King-Riggs match provided the seed capital for the champion to launch the magazine womenSports the following year. As King’s then husband remembers, she had been thumbing through an issue of Sports Illustrated, condemning the lack of women in its coverage. He suggested she start her own magazine, to which she replied, “Let’s do it.” Women were also beginning to make headway in the media’s traditionally male bastions. After a year of struggle, the National Hockey League allowed postgame locker-room access to journalists Robin Herman and Marcel St. Cyr. “It was at the height of the women’s movement,” Herman later said. “It was important to be bold. It was a matter of equity.” During that time, Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke and her employer, Time, Inc., successfully sued Major League Baseball and its commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, in order to gain access to locker-room interviews for all journalists, regardless of sex.

MooreS14Collaborators for Emancipation is an examination of the relationship between President Abraham Lincoln and Congregational minister Owen Lovejoy.

Authors William F. Moore and Jane Ann Moore collaborated themselves on both the book and answering some questions for the UIP blog.

Q: For those who aren’t familiar with Owen Lovejoy, what was his role in promoting emancipation?

Moore & Moore: As a Congregational minister in Princeton, Illinois, Owen Lovejoy became the leader of the political, religious antislavery movement in Illinois and became a vital influence in organizing the Republican Party in Illinois. Elected to Congress in 1856 he became an effective antislavery voice in the House of Representatives, and played a very active role in the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860. As an effective floor manager for antislavery legislation in the House during the 37th Congress, he promoted the D.C. Emancipation bill and the Territorial Emancipation bill, the latter being the organizing issue of the Republican Party. As a confidant of the President he helped pave the way for the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation by the president in September 1862. During the first session of the 38th Congress in December 1863, he introduced the first bill for emancipation of all slaves in the United States.

Q: How did Lincoln come to know Lovejoy?

Moore & Moore: Their acquaintance commenced in 1854 and constantly continued to grow in depth until Lovejoy’s death in 1864. In 1838 in Lincoln’s Lyceum Speech he admonished the mob spirit that took the law into their own hands by throwing printing presses into the river and killing editors. This was a clear reference to Owen Lovejoy’s brother Elijah, murdered in the defense of the freedom of the press. In March 1854 Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas passed the Nebraska Act. Lincoln and Lovejoy were both outraged that Douglas’s bill had broken the sacred compromise, which had outlawed slavery in the Nebraska Territory. The bill allowed, under certain circumstances, that slavery could expand in those areas where it had been prohibited. They both decided to get involved again in politics, and became candidates for the Illinois House of Representatives. They met for the first time at the Springfield State Fair in October 1854 where Lovejoy heard Lincoln give a rousing speech on restoring the Missouri Compromise that had prohibited the expansion of slavery. On hearing the speech, Lovejoy invited Lincoln to a convention of all those who were against the Nebraska Act, but Lincoln rejected the invitation for fear of being identified with “so-called” fanatical abolitionists. Continue reading

Black Women & Politics in New York City

Now available in paperback, Black Women & Politics in New York City documents African American women fighting for justice, civil rights, and equality in the turbulent world of formal politics from the suffrage and women’s rights movements to the feminist era of the 1970s.

Included in the book is a profile of politician, educator, and author Shirley Chishom, who was the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

In January of 2014, Shirley Chisholm was honored with a U.S. Postal Service stamp.

As author Julie Gallagher noted in a previous UIP Q&A, “Shirley Chisholm’s historic election to the House of Representatives in 1968, there have been a small but growing number of African American women in Congress, and a notable number of African American women in state-level offices and municipal government.”