Author Archives: mccowan

“They rejected brushes and pencils in favor of drafting tools and photography”

The Art Institute of Chicago is currently hosting an exhibition titled “Avant-Garde Art in Everyday Life” which follows six artists working in Eastern Europe primarily from the 1920’s and 1930’s in the world of design. As the exhibition overview tells, these artists “rejected brushes and pencils in favor of drafting tools and photography,” choosing not to create fine art, but to bring their work to the people through posters, books, magazines, and even office supplies and stationary. The six artists are similar and at times their work overlaps in space, style and intent, but I found the second half of the exhibit – that focusing on the work of Latvian Gustav Klutsis, Russian El Lissitzky and German John Heartfield – to be the more interesting. Continue reading


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Filed under Art, Exhibitions

Califone at Empty Bottle

As I listened to Califone play, I thought to myself that this band’s music seems composed entirely of grace notes. Sure, there are melodies, lyrics and all the traditional trappings of standard pop, but what makes it so enjoyable is everything else. Twittering rhythms and layered sounds are accentuated by subtle and ever-changing percussion. There are bells and rattling beads and wind chimes and stings and grungy, dirty, grinding bass guitar licks all floating below Tim Rutili’s ghostly voice. To say the music is just grace notes isn’t fair, but it characterizes how different this group’s sound is. It’s post-rock and experimental, but with a folk heart and loveable DIY aesthetic.


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Filed under Concerts, Music

This, My Friends, is What a Cocktail Party Should Look Like (Part 1)

Your two authors here at bybe collaborate on many things besides cobbling together the occasional posts you stop by to read. One of those things is a recurring cocktail party we call Four Eleven where we can flex our mixology muscles and hone our bartending skills. The parties are of course very fun, but we take them seriously and use them as an opportunity to challenge ourselves, to experiment, and to gain new experiences and much needed practice. Continue reading

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Filed under Drinks, Mixology

A Union of Man and Woman, of Whiskey and Grapefruit

Crafting original cocktails is simultaneously the most exciting and the most daunting part of this mixology hobby I’ve adopted. When you create a successful new drink – or even just a clever variation on an existing one – you can taste the synergy and magic almost right away. But, unfortunately, I’m as often (or probably more often) surprised when a drink which in my head blends together great flavors, on actual execution, simply falls flat.

Practice. Practice. Practice. Continue reading

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Filed under Drinks, Mixology, Personal

WhiskyFest Chicago 2011

WhiskyFest Logo

A good friend and fellow whisky enthusiast joined me again this year in celebrating WhiskeyFest Chicago, a gathering of nearly every major whisky brand and distillery in one spot for three hours of samples and conversation. With over 275 different spirits on hand this year and three sessions of seminars, there was a lot to take in and we adopted the pinball method of just bouncing from table to table without much plan. If my hazy memory serves me right (and it may not) we were able to smash last year’s record of about 25 pours with an astounding 34 this time around. Continue reading

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Filed under Drinks, Spirits, Tasting Notes

A Shameless Plug for “Table for Two”

In an effort to become a Renaissance man (which I always confuse with just becoming a guy who is spread too thin), this part-time author of bybe is now also a part-time author of the new Chicago dining blog Table for Two. Don’t you worry though, loyal reader. (Or readers? There might be more than one of you!) My drinking and eating and pontificating and writing will continue unabated and there will be some overlap between this blog and that. I plan to continue to write here as often as I have been; that is to say, haphazardly and not terribly often.

Table for Two is an attempt to get invitations to top chef’s tables across the city and possibly an invitation to the secret bar in the basement of the soon-to-open Aviary. (Ha! My delusions are worse than you expected.) Far more likely, it will just lead to sclerosis and high cholesterol, but bybe’s music reviews are slowly making me deaf, so why not just go whole-hog on the self-destruction? If you want to ogle some food porn or to ridicule our snobbery, please stop by.

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Filed under Drinks, Food, Mixology, Restaurants

Three for Thursday

It wasn’t my intention this time (sometimes it is), but my three choices for videos this round are a bit divisive. The first is a laid-back new release from indie rock mainstays, the second a visually exciting video for an electronic dance floor banger and the final a 1977 throwback from a legend with a voice described by music critc Daniel Durchholz as sounding “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car.” Trudge on! It’s worth seeing this post out, I promise! Continue reading

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Filed under Music, Music Videos