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Some of our absolute favorite people, places and things. Check them out now and look for more things we like soon:

Mark Staff Brandl, fine artist
markstaffbrandl.com
This fantastic visual pop artist, who has been compared to Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein and Jacopo Tintoretto, among others, creates eye-popping and extraordinarily clever paintings that have been shown at galleries throughout the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Egypt, the Caribbean, France and Russia. In 2011 he received his Ph.D. in Art History, magna cum laude, from the University of Zurich and he is currently an associate professor of art history and painting at the Kunstschule Liechtenstein, while he continues to paint and present his work at exhibits and art installations the world over. Originally from central Illinois, Mark has lived primarily in Switzerland for the past 24 years.

Marty Wombacher, paperback writer
meanwhilebackinpeoria.com
This Midwesterner turned New Yorker turned Midwesterner again is one of our favorite writers and humorists (think David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell with maybe even a little Sarah Silverman thrown in). His now "retired" alterna-zine Fishwrap was the talk of the town in the publishing world back in the 1990s and 2000s and earned him hordes of fans (and maybe a few foes) from the mainstream press. His debut book of essays, "99 Bottles of Beer Off the Wall" - part travel log, part smart sociological observations, part drunken ramblings - is funny as f**k. He has since published another book of creative essays called "The Boy Who Would Be A Fire Truck" and continues to be a darling of the blogosphere.

Fred Tieken, painter/modern-day Renaissance man
freddietieken.com
After a 16-year/3,500-plus-live-show/multiple-recording stint as a rock & roll superstar saxophonist and band leader, Fred Tieken transitioned to talent manager/producer, and finally to the heady world of madvertising and design as the creative director of a top Chicago design firm and then chief of his own design house, where he received more than 200 national and international awards in the fields of design, illustration, art direction, marketing and advertising. Now officially retired from big business and residing in the tranquil Arizona desert, he paints full-time, creating glorious, colorful Basquat-esque pieces that are often peppered with shrewed observations, wry social commentary and smart symbolism. As if his dazzling demiurgic spirit wasn't enough, all proceeds from the sale of his paintings are donated to no-kill animal shelters. This tiny paragraph doesn't do justice to a man with a fascinating history, so please check out his website.

Avenue N Guitars, Chicago, IL
avenuenguitars.com
A locally owned and operated full-service guitar shop run by dedicated musicians and music lovers, located at 1823 W North Ave. in the trendy Wicker Park neighborhood, Avenue N offers sales (new, used, consignment and vintage instruments; amps and accessories), repairs, lessons and, yep, exceptional customer service. Great shop. Great people. Support independent small businesses and shop local.

Cellophane Flowers, Inspired Costumes
Cellophane Flowers on Facebook
Fabulous costume designer/clothier/dressmaker creating Sgt. Pepper inspired Beatle suits, dresses, tops, children's clothes, purses, stockings, pillow covers...you name it! Add to that, custom-made rock & roll clothing with a tip of the hat to the British Invasion and all the swinging and psychedelic styles of the 60s and 70s (and we'll wager she can create garb from any era you'd like), and you've got a little bit of Saville Row and Carnaby Street on the outskirts of Chicago with easy internet access from anywhere.

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The Handcuffs

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