Category Archives: Ideas

Boss Second Season Filming Locations, Chicago

Socrata filter for Boss filmingsNote: this is a post about civic data and the promise of machine learning disguised as a post about a really good TV show. Here are some more unnaturally-detailed posts along the same lines as this one and a good primer on the overall concept here.

I like Boss, the Kelsey Grammer vehicle about a ruthless Chicago mayor. Good show, and season two begins this Friday night, August 17. I also like civic data, like Public Right-of-Way Use Permits published by the City of Chicago.

I was recently reviewing this new data set and saw that film permits are a subset of Public Right-of-Way Permits, so I made a Custom view using the Socrata data display system to filter for only permits related to the filming of Boss. I used the Permit Type Code of “Filming”, the Company of Boss Kane Productions (they even have a Yelp page), and a Date of after 3/1/12 (because otherwise I’d be catching Season 1 filmings as well).

Next I exported this data and imported it into a Google Fusion Table so I could make a quick map. Here it is:

Boss Season 2 Filmings

So let’s take a look at some of the locations to see what to look out for come Friday.

One chunk of filmings centers just east of Douglas Park, near 16th and Rockwell. There are 12 filmings up and down California, including down to the Cook County Jail and Courthouse at 26th and California. This set of filmings is at or near the Cinespace Chicago studio.

Boss Season 2 Filmings Near Doglas Park in Chicago

This is also the address listed for Boss Kane Productions, which (I think) is where the interior action is shot. My guess is when they need a generic outdoor location, they pull a film permit to go outside and shoot.

Boss Kane Productions Location

There’s another set of filmings (six) in the Pilsen area, scattered around Halsted, 18th, and Roosevelt.

Boss Season 2 Filmings in Pilsen

One of the locations is 1733 S. Halsted, which is the address for Kristoffer’s Cake and Bakery.

Kristoffer's Cafe & Bakery

There’s a set of eight filmings in the Kenwood neighborhood, most of them in a particularly green region bounded by Drexel, 47th, Lake Park, and 50th. This includes one permit at the Drexel Towers, 4825 South Drexel Boulevard.

Boss Season 2 Filmings in Kenwood

Satellite view of Boss Season 2 Filmings in Kenwood

There is a single shoot at 1035 E. 67th Street, which is the address for Oak Woods Cemetery. My assumption is that the scene at the end of this trailer was shot here.

Kitty O'Neil of Boss

There are two film permits in the Illinois Medical District, including one at 1750 West Harrison Street, the Rush University Medical Center Jelke Building. Here it is from 1960:

Rush University Medical Center Jelke Building

On July 10 of this year they worked on Northerly Island.

I would also expect to see a shot this year with Buckingham Fountain (500 S. Columbus Drive) in the background. Maybe it will be a Married With Children spoof.

There’s a permit for 125 E. Monroe, which is basically the Crown Fountain.

They’ve also got the obligatory City Hall shoot (121 N. LaSalle), a “beneath the train tracks” shot on Lake Street between Wabash and State, and two downtown shots at Monroe and Dearborn. You can also expect to see a shot of 225 N. Michigan, a nifty Mies Van der Rohe edifice. At some point there should be a riverwalk shot on or about 70 E. Wacker. Here’s Boss Kane in the City Hall Roof Garden from a new season trailer:

Boss Season 2 Filming: City Hall Roof Garden

Here’s the tracks:

Boss Season 2 Filming: Under the tracks

And looks like there’s a scuffle at Monroe and Dearborn:

Boss Season 2 Filming

Speaking of the river, there is a permit at 333 N. Canal, the Riverbend Condominiums, and one at 300 North Canal, Left Bank at Kinzie Station. I’ll be looking for those exteriors in upcoming episodes— let me know if I miss it (@juggernautco).

Since there is a permit for 702 W. Fulton Market, we can expect to see some dining going on at Carnivale at some point this season (careful– restaurant Web site sound explosion upon click).

There’s a clump of filmings around Franklin and Chicago:

Boss 2 Season Filmings Near Franklin and Chicago

If you see a set of row houses, that would be the Cabrini Row Houses north of Chicago Avenue– four filmings there, including 850 North Cleveland Avenue.

Boss Season 2 filming: 850 N. Cleveland

This looks like T.I. is out in front of that place:

Boss Season 2 Filming: Cabrini Row Houses

There are four Gold Coast filmings, including one outside of the Drake Hotel.

Boss Season 2 Filmings: Gold Coast

West of the Kennedy, there’s a single filming at 2214 W. Walton

Boss Season 2 Filming: 2214 W. Walton

…and one at 835 N. Wood.

Boss Season 2 Filming: 835 N. Wood

All of this info was made possible by civic data, Google search, and a connection to the Internet. What if there was a machine that could do this for me? God bless us all.

Data, Tools,  and Methods

 

Needed: A “Remove Recent Incident” Button on Google

Remember when weather radar reports used to reference “ground clutter” near the antennae— the clump of color that looked like it was rain, but wasn’t? We seem to have that same problem in search engine results for items that pop high in the news—  ground clutter focused on recent events that stop us from having a clear view of a subject.

Last night I read this story broken by the New York Times: Sergeant’s Wife Kept a Blog on the Travails of Army Life. My first inclination was to go find that blog and see the unselfconscious primary text. I started off with the direct approach— a search for “Karilyn Bales blog”. That returned a list of stories referencing the NYT account of her blog.

Next I moved to some more Google-ninja approaches, including a search for a unique phrase from the original text (“Quincy slept in our bed last night.”) and one that attempted to remove the phrase “New York Times” from that query. Nothing seems to be working.

I regularly ran into the same problem when I ran the blog GoogObits in the early-mid 2000s. When a person dies, search results for their name and/or accomplishments tend to focus on the fact of their passing rather than the accomplishments and stuffing of their life.

Google Advanced Search has a “last update” method for searching based on some time period stretching back to a certain time period (week/ month/ year/ etc.), but it does not allow you to exclude the most recent time period.

This may already exist, but I just don’t know about it. Any ideas?

Revisiting Trut in Light of Jason Russell, This American Life, and Mike Daisey

In 1997, long before Stephen Colbert ever had a show on cable, I wrote an essay for Emigre Magazine wherein I coined the term “trut”, which is the mutable concoction of facts employed for an ulterior purpose. Vote it up on Urban Dictionary, plz.

Editor Rudy Van der Lans was putting together Emgire 41, “The Magazine Issue” and he asked me to write something about my favorite magazine. At the time, I loved the tabloids. Now, of course, pretty much everything is the tabloids, and I’ve graduated to the best news aggregator (and LJ blog) in the world, Oh No They Didn’t.

In light of yesterday’s wackiness re: Jason Russell’s meltdown, Mike Daisey’s “lies”, and This American Life’s self-flogging,  and I went looking for a copy of this essay (which I also published in my 2003 book, Economics) and I couldn’t find it. Then I remembered I removed the complete text of most my poems from the Internet last year so as to stimulate massive book sales.

So, um, ya. Anyway.

I think that there are some thoughts here that are relevant to today. Namely:

  • People believe want they want to believe
  • You don’t have to be telling the truth in order to be right
  • Trut-makers don’t really care what anyone else thinks

And so it goes. Here’s the complete text:

TRUT: The Star, The Globe, and the Missing H in the New Veracity

My favorite magazines are Star and Globe and I’m not going to hide it anymore. With bright retail colors and big pictures of beautiful people doing marvelous things, the tabloids are where I go for pure graphic love. It’s good to revel in love like yellow flowers nestled in a red meadow.

But the real gold of the tabloids is trut. Trut is the mutable concoction of facts employed for an ulterior purpose. Trut consists of exactly 4/5 of the stuff of truth. Four out of five letters lined up as a reasonable facsimile of truth.

Here at the end of the millennium, consumers of communications are adept at trading in these fractional representations of the truth. Everyone prepares particular versions of the truth for different people. We all in turn take everyone else’s trut and calibrate it to our own understandings. The missing H doesn’t bother us a bit. With 4/5 of the truth and some sense, people manage to get along.

The Rise of Trut

Imperfect truth is not new. White lies and misinformation have been around as long as families and war. What is new is the widespread acceptance of customized falsehood.

In 1974 when Nixon lost his job, the country fell under what I call the tyranny of the smoking gun. After that, whenever there was a scandal, the question was “What did he know and when did he know it?” This red-handed attitude came with the rise of investigative journalism. The problem is that this system plays right into the hands of those in power. As long as they can hide the weapon, they can get away with whatever they want, no matter how much of the evidence points to them.

Take the example of a guy named Ronald Reagan. He managed to stay unimpeached by keeping one step removed from the smoking gun. He and his lackeys committed some of the most heinous acts of cunning ever performed against the United States Constitution. They cut a deal with the Ayatollah Khomeini to keep hold of the Tehran Embassy hostages until Reagan had beaten poor Jimmy Carter. They financed a sickening war in Nicaragua by selling crack cocaine to U.S. minorities. They took the traditional Washington sport of white-collar robbery to obscene heights with the Savings & Loan Scandal and the subsequent Resolution Trust Corporation bailout. And on and on. He got away with everything, and we all know it.

What Trut Hath Wrought

This is not just an American phenomenon. Governments all over the world are regularly shown to be run by corrupted phreaks who do everything from rob us blind to fondle our children to kill us outright. Each of these governments is invariably propped up by newspapers, TV, and other media that proclaim that the Government is full of a bunch of good guys looking out for us. Trut is the direct product of the chafing that occurs when popular perception of reality doesn’t jibe with the dominant version of reality. Instead of trying to prove the existence of an absent gun, trut looks at the plainly visible and encourages logical conclusions.

The media often tries to ameliorate lost credibility with the use of irony and satire. NBC gives us Saturday Night Live, where they make fun of the power but “never go too far”, as George Bush (#41) once said approvingly, standing next to Dana Carvey at a White House press conference. Irony and satire are lazy and defeatist. Trut-making is earnest and probing.

Trut can be a violent phenomenon. One of the most advanced cases of a society trying to bring the dominant trut closer to the facts was the Los Angeles Rebellion of 1992. The citizens of LA knew that the Rodney King verdict delivered in Simi Valley was severely flawed. There was an overpoweringly widespread feeling that no amount of op/ed page copy or letters to the editor could change. So they took to the streets and let the world in on their trut: cops shouldn’t get away with beating the shit out of people for no good reason.

The rebellion marked a turning point in the rise of trut. The Simi Valley jurors had a smoking gun (amateur videotape) and still refused to convict because they were holding on to their own trut. Their trut was that the cops are good. And that African-Americans—- even pummeled, prostate African-Americans surrounded by a dozen hyped up cops—- are a threat. And the tyranny of the smoking gun went down in flames.

Back To The Tabloids

I’m not saying that tabloids are radical revolutionaries leading the way to a government of the people, by the people, for the people. But they are trailblazers in the methodology of trut. Instead of making up constrictive rules for themselves that only impede their ability to discover reality, they accept official dishonesty and embrace it.

Tabloids like Star and Globe are leading practitioners in a new standard for honesty, and they don’t deserve to be held out with two fingers like a stinky rag. The tabloids diligently seek out the 80% of the facts that are discernible even when people like Reagan are doing their best to hide the H on them. They make up the rest through careful analysis of what they discovered. Then they present the result as if it were Gospel.

The point is that this isn’t thin air. The quotes are completely made up but they seem to represent something true. The quotes end up being what the person would have said had they been honest and if they had actually spoken to the reporter who wrote the story.

Trut is like people—- there are a lot of mean ones out there. Tabloids use the underhanded method of vague attribution. Of course whatever tabloids say a person said, only serves to buttress the trut laid out in the article. It also tends to expose the position from which a trut has sprung. A good example from the Globe article called “X-Files Gillian Anderson Red-Hot Lover—- at 15.” The article profiles Ralph Wallace, a former boyfriend of the actress. They wrap up the story this way: “but he says he’ll always have a warm spot for Gillian and loves watching her as Agent Dana Scully on the X-Files.”

He never said that. I know Ralph Wallace. Ralph Wallace is a friend of mine. Ralph Wallace has produced a number of my verse dramas here in Chicago. Ralph Wallace does not like the X-Files that much. Globe only said he said that because it serves the article’s trut, which is that Gillian Anderson has a nutty-goofy background, and she’s really-really a nutty wild girl, and that is just one more reason why everyone in the world should watch her show on Fox Network. This is the trut according to Gillian Anderson’s agent & Rupert Murdoch, and that warm spot is going to be in their jeans when they read the overnight Nielsens. Trut everywhere.

Suckers

Probably the biggest news broken by the tabloids lately is a story the Star reported last August about presidential strategist Dick Morris. Here’s the lead from Richard Gooding’s article called Top Clinton Aide and the Sexy Call Girl: “President Clinton’s top political adviser has hired a call girl almost weekly for a year and after kinky sex has revealed the innermost secrets of the White House. While the illicit pair sprawl naked, the trusted aide takes frequent phone calls from the Oval Office and even holds the phone up to the call girl’s ear so she can eavesdrop on the president’s conversations—without Clinton ever knowing it.

“’He gets a kick out of me listening in’, Washington call girl Sherry Rowlands tells Star in an exclusive interview.”

So we’ve got a short married guy with a foot fetish next to a prostitute on one line and on the other line we’ve got the President of the United States next to the guy holding the freakin’ nuclear launch codes in a black suitcase. Now that’s a story.

First they lay out the bona fides of Ms. Rowlands: “She gave up a shot at modeling and acting to get married at 19, and had several children. But after 14 years the marriage broke up. Two years ago, she signed on with an escort service for the first time, aiming to make enough money to start a business cleaning homes and offices.”

So Star is broadcasting the fact up front that they are telling the story from the “trut” of Ms. Rowlands. After all, this is a popular magazine—- there are a lot more aspiring model/actresses, young mothers, divorcees, call girls, entrepreneurs, and cleaning ladies reading Star than there are Presidents of the United States. I think they hit a good part of their demographic right there.

Star also takes the time to lay out their own legitimacy. They run a profile on the “Star Reporter Who Investigated the Scandal.” He used to be a copy boy at the New York Times.

The amazing thing about this trut is how quickly its radical core of facts was absorbed into the dominant media. Network pundits and political strategists folded the story into the overwhelming tableau of hours and hours of uncut content provided by the President, his operatives, and the cozy TV execs whose hopes and dreams are all wrapped up in keeping the Executive Branch up and moving well, keeping the wars won.

The sad thing about trut is how it de-moralizes culture and boils down world visions to a cold calculus of individual loss and gain. It doesn’t really matter who plays footsie with whom or who’s carrying out genocide on whom or who stole the elections. As long as the Fed keeps interest rates low, or as long as the baby sleeps through the night, or as long as the stock market keeps rising, or as long as the cops don’t come for them, people will keep their mouths shut and go along with whatever’s handed down. And we can bundle up ourselves in tailor-fit coats of trut and steel ourselves against whatever comes next.

Toward Better Tools For Context in Civic Data Using Private Data Sources

Now that civic data is a normal part of the atmosphere in Chicago, it’s time to start mining private data sources to make automated context a natural part of our Web infolives. By that, I mean the addition of information about a subject that is generated without human intervention. My experience as the person responsible for obtaining civic data at EveryBlock has made me deeply aware of the power and limits of data lookup tools. Now that we have much more lookup tools and data to fill them, especially here in the City of Chicago, it’s time to turn our attention to the Web and the tools we use to extract data from it.

The recent dogged work of the Chicago News Cooperative, with help from Medill Watchdog, dovetails well with automated context. They’ve been publishing a great series of articles this week about lobbying in Illinois:

There’s great reporting in here based, in part, on a review of data. Here’s are some snips:

The investigation showed that the filings frequently are inaccurate. Both lobbyists and their clients are required to disclose their lobbyist-client relationships. In 242 instances, records show, lobbyists reported working for a client but there was no corresponding registration by the client.

*

Medill Watchdog examined statements of economic interests of public officials, lobbying registrations filed with the City of Chicago, Cook County and the state, and records of state bills and local ordinances. The investigation found 14 elected officials from Cook County alone who, while not lobbyists themselves, are related to or in business with lobbyists.

It’s time to automate some of that review.

Why civic data is not enough

City of Chicago Lobbyist Data - Lobbyist Data - 2011 Lobbyist Registry

Lobbyist data in Chicago has a great start on automated context. Lobby data was released earlier this year, and then improved when developers asked for better data and the City provided it. Those developers launched an awesome Web site– Chicago Lobbyists– that tracks lobbyists, clients, and projects. Here’s more info on how the Web site works.

Chicago Lobbyists Homepage

This is a great round-trip story: municipality releases data, developers analyze data (for free) and make suggestions, City heeding suggestions and releasing more data, and developers making a great app (again, for free) to view the data.

The next step seems simple– use the site to figure out all the big money relationships inside and outside government. But that didn’t happen. According to the data, $11,422,846 was paid to lobbyists working to influence the City in 2010. While that’s a lot of money, I do not believe that is the sum total of money involved in influencing the actions of a $6 billion operation. That doesn’t pass the sniff test, and the CNC articles this week show the nature of that failed sniff. There’s much, much more to be had.

Reverse-engineered bios

My assumption is that there are dozens of other positions, arrangements, and relationships that are factored into the true picture of lobbying. I am not in any way suggesting that these are nefarious, illegal, or improper. In fact, I find them to be absolutely normal. I just also find them to be hard to find. The CNC/ Medill stories of this week illustrate this very well– they did a ton of shoe-leather reporting to get insights. The thing is that we should be able to piggyback on that work with better tools.

For example this snip from a CNC story:, “the investigation found 14 elected officials from Cook County alone who, while not lobbyists themselves, are related to or in business with lobbyists.”

How did they find that out? Probably by painstakingly reviewing the economic interest disclosure forms and googling the shit out of the businesses listed. In most cases, online biographies of lobbyists played little to no role in pulling these pieces together.

As is typical in an industry where relationships matter, the people who do (and make) the most have to day the least about their work. The firm with the highest billings in 2010, Illinois Governmental Consulting Group LLC., has a one-page Web site with no feature/ benefit text and just emails to the principals. Why? if you don’t know who these people are already, they probably don’t really want to hear from you. To mailto me is to love me.

In situations like this, it’s not impossible to pull together a reverese-engineered bio for the principals, and picking up some noun clauses in the process. For instance, he was appointed to the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees. While we’re at it, here’s a mother-lode of George Ryan appointments to various state boards from 2001, including the Western Illinois appointment for Brunsvold. Someone needs to slurp that up and put it to use.

Automatically-generated entity associations

On the other end of the biographical info spectrum, I found that large law firms— with their sophisticated in-house marketing and PR teams— are much more forthcoming about what noun clauses matter in the world of Chicago lobbying. By doing entity extraction on the biographies of lobbyists, we can be armed with fodder for understanding and connections. With information from these tent-pole sources like law firm Web sites, we can apply that info to the other people in the industry.

Open Calais is one of many tools and companies that are focused on entity extraction and compiling knowledge on a topic.

Here’s an example from the bio of Edward  J. Kus, one of the lobbyists found in the data (with some initial research)

  • Executive Director of the Mayor’s Zoning Reform Commission
  • Zoning Administrator of the City of Chicago
  • First Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development
  • McCormick Place Expansion: the Chicago Tribune has a hundred or so stories about this from the 1980s and early 90s in their archive
  • Navy Pier Redevelopment
  • Central Station
  • Lakefront Millennium Park
  • Chicago Plan Commission: homepage of the Commission has a list of all current members as well as searchable PDFs of all meetings (with members, matters, and outcomes) going back to December 2009. Plethora of info. Includes vote counts, recusals, etc.
  • City of Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals
  • City Council Committee on Zoning
  • City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development
  • City of Chicago Department of Zoning.
  • Group Home Task Force
  • Open Space Committee
  • Landscape Advisory Executive Committee
  • Greater North Michigan Avenue Association
  • Leading Lawyer in Illinois

So even though Kus only received $19,000 in 2010 from lobbying (the top person, Brunsvold, pulled in $978,000), the 17 initial-caps entities can be whacked against all other names in the data to tease out connections. The best thing is that all of this could be automated. I would like to see a computer program that does entity extraction of each of these noun clauses and drill automatically into each of them, slurping up all of the people and putting it into an understandable chart. Again, all of this is fine– it’s nice to make money, it’s nice to have responsible civic voices helping us make decisions, and it’s nice to know everything one needs to know in order to understand.

This info can also be pulled into the Chicago Lobbyists Web site as context in and of itself. These two pages on the Internet: the ChicagoLobbyists page for a registered lobbyist and the Mayer Brown bio for the same person don’t even know about each other. No link, no unique user ID, no way to know that they are the same person, even though the content is in many ways complementary. Here’s an example:

Connections in plain sight, rendered in plain text on the Internet, there for the making.

Marrying databases and the importance of standards

The public data environment is maturing quickly; moving from one in which very little data is available to one in which different units of government publish different datasets about essentially the same thing. For example, the Cook County Clerk has their Lobbyists Online lookup tool which contains lots of information about many of the same people who are in the City data. The Cook County system publishes the contact information (including email and cell phone number) as well as what looks like a copy of the building access ID photo for every registered lobbyist. The City data does not include this info, but since they publish the name and firm, it is possible to marry this info into one record.

We’ve been successful in changing policy when it comes to the publication of data, but there has not been much corresponding thought on standards. Much of this has to do with the vagaries of existing software and the idiosyncrasies of intake forms. Meantime, there is lots of opportunity for private developers to pull together all of this info into a useful (and valuable) repository.

Compiling language about the thing itself

One cool thing about marketing and public relations text is that it allows one to leverage the curation of others. Here’s  a snip from a lobbyist bio on the DLA Piper Web site:

In 2011, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that a zoning deal concerning plans to develop the old Lincoln Park Hospital site in Chicago had won initial approval from the Chicago Plan Commission despite aldermanic opposition. Reporter Dave Roeder noted, “As a historical note, this project is the third example of a zoning deal winning initial approval despite aldermanic opposition. The only other recent case was the proposal, yet unrealized, for a Chicago Children’s Museum in Grant Park. The zoning lawyer for that deal and the Lincoln Park Hospital site is Ted Novak of the firm DLA Piper. Other zoning lawyers probably wish he would bottle his secrets and sell them.”

Telling language. How people describe their actions is almost always telling. That’s probably why the ones with the most work say the fewest things.

Another example is Shoefsky & Froelich’s pretty enlightening definition of lobbyng:

Our firm represents private-sector entities seeking rights, licenses and privileges from government boards, commissions, and legislatures. We develop government relations strategies, draft and engage in hearings on petitions for relief from government regulations, and negotiate public sector/private sector partnerships. In addition, a substantial element of this practice area includes pursuing zoning changes and other relief required for development

Here’s Mayer Brown’s mega-page explaining, in detail, the actions they take on behalf of their government relations clients.

Meanwhile, watching entities from the DLA Piper bio reffed above, I saw “Lambda Alpha International, Ely Chapter (an honorary Land Economics Society)”. Their Web site has a basic info on the field of land economics. They’ve also got 10 years of their newsletter archived. My guess is that contains some good info about tactics and methods for lobbying, written in the congratulatory prose of a trade publication. Good stuff.

If one wants to understand lobbying, one has to have this stuff in front of them. Making tools that finds and monitors these sources would be valuable.

There’s money in this

It’s not hard to think about commercial uses for such a tool. Opposition research for political candidates and competitive intelligence for the lobbyists themselves are just some of the uses that come to mind. There’s lots of great work going on in civic data, especially in Chicago. I’d love to see venture capital follow some of this important work. I think we’d all benefit.

SCREENCAST: Stop Work Order at The Wrigleyville Hotel, 3469 North Clark St., Chicago

Here's a screencast with some info on a Stop Work Order issued for The Wrigleyville Hotel, 3469 North Clark St., Chicago.

According to Chicagoist, this place is going to be 5 stories when it's finished.

The issue is that it is currently three stories, but they apparently did not have the exterior demolition permit necessary to tear off the roof and build upwards from there.

Stuff covered in this screencast:

This is a new thing I'm doing– mini-investigations via screencast– let me know what you think!

Stop Work Order at The Wrigleyville Hotel, 3469 North Clark St., Chicago from Daniel X. O'Neil on Vimeo.