Friday, August 31, 2007

Dog Day Disapparation

Posted By on 08.31.07 at 10:56 PM

When the thundering drone of the chopper parked over my "West Andersonville" apartment finally dragged me out of dreamland yesterday, I pondered what might be the occasion. No, not the annual air show psyche-out. Wasn't that last week or something? Hmmmm. I flipped on the TV, and there was my explanation: a bank robbery just up the street in Rogers Park!

Having cordoned off the intersection of Clark and Morse, where the First Commercial Bank sits, police and the FBI had secured the release of some hostages--all of whom were searched and questioned in case of Quick Change-style trickery--and were waiting the holed-up armed robber out.

They waited a long time. Turns out the hostages weren't, and the robber had already, somehow, made his escape. Though to be fair, when a whole chunk of a neighborhood gets shut down LA-freeway style, you might argue a lot of someones did get held hostage--just not inside the bank.

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I hate you, you hate me

Posted By on 08.31.07 at 06:03 PM

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Cue the Imperial March: as predicted, Darth Mariotti sounds (another) death knell for the "Blizzard" (coinage still gaining acceptance) in this online exclusive. And bless his vengeful soul, he's got a doozy of an insult-to-injury in mind. Did someone say bring back La Russa?! Mercy!!

Meanwhile the Ozzocalypse continues apace. Day 2 of his 360-degree strafing saw the berzerker manager opening up a three-for-all of new fronts, none any saner than a late-fall land campaign in Russia. First up, the second-in-the-second-city lament:

''The manager eight miles from me [the Cubs' Lou Piniella] was mother-[expletive] his players -- 'I need good players' -- and no one said [expletive],'' Guillen said. ''I say we need to play better, and all of a sudden they say, 'Ozzie is a piece a [expletive].' Lou said, 'I need [expletive] players, I bring in this guy, no one does the job,' and [the reaction is], 'Oh, Lou is tough, Lou is great.' I say anything close to what he says, and I'm the bad guy, I'm the [expletive]."

Second up, the doubtless unintentional left-handed backslap to his great patron:

''A lot of people think [chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's] a piece of [expletive]. Jerry's not a piece of [expletive]. Jerry [did] a lot of good things for Chicago, and people don't appreciate that. Well, I feel like I'm stealing Jerry's money right now because I have pride. I feel embarrassed that this guy's paying me a lot of money to run that [expletive]."

And finally, the long-awaited laying of the White Sox' woes at the feet of the obvious culprit:

''It's the same thing every day. It's like your kid is two years old and he likes Barney. And you put that little [expletive] down there for three hours watching that [expletive] back and forth, back and forth, the same song for six hours. That's what I've been doing since April. Same [expletive] thing. Rewind it. 'You OK? Yeah, OK, here's your bottle, keep watching Barney.'''

Like I said when a friend sent me this YouTube clip of hoof-in-mouth Senator Larry Craig yesterday, you just can't make this stuff up. The full transcript here and here

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Daily You Shoot: Polaroid Joy

Posted By on 08.31.07 at 05:42 PM

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Photo by m::in.the.chi

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Bear Down, Chicago Bears

Posted By on 08.31.07 at 04:29 PM

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I went to the Bears game last night. A friend gave me a ticket a friend had given him. Obviously, a preseason game against Cleveland is not exactly a hot-ticket event.

It was the first time I'd seen a game at the "new" Soldier Field, which just goes to show how little I get out. It opened in 2003.

But I figured it was a good chance to see how my tax dollars were spent. Remember, the stadium was renovated with about $360 million in tax dollars. True, it came out of the hotel-motel tax. But as the boys in the budget office never tire of telling me, tax revenue all goes into one big pot. So money spent on Soldier Field is money that might have been spent on something else, like buying books and computers for our cash-starved schools.

The game itself was pretty lousy. The Bears lost and looked bad doing so. The halftime show consisted of a cheesy act featuring Frisbee-catching dogs.

By the third quarter my main reason for staying was to check out the bathrooms. If you recall, one of the city's most compelling reason for spending all that public money rebuilding the joint -- the so-called public benefit, as they say -- was that they needed more bathrooms for the fans. Especially the women.

Well, sorry to report, the news on the bathroom front was bleak. Lines stretched outside most of the women's restrooms all night. And the men's room I visited was gross. Sure, they got rid of the old troughs. But a lot of Bears fans apparently don't believe in flushing toilets and have lousy aim.

On the other hand, folks went bonkers over the Dunkin' Donuts race -- pitting a cup of coffee against a bagel and a doughnut -- they broadcast on the jumbo screens. I guess as long as Bears fans are happy, I'm happy for them. Like all the Chicagoans who keep on electing Mayor Daley, they expect so little, they're grateful for whatever they get.

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Around the web: Grant Achatz's health, downtown rents, and more.

Posted By on 08.31.07 at 03:59 PM

* The Wall Street Journal checks in on Grant Achatz's health.

* Fat Joe Scapini, founder of the Jade Dragon tattoo parlor, died last week at 47. 

* Quote of the week: "'I've just got to feel that even though there is alcohol in this, there is also something good for you in there,' said Mark Palmieri of Chicago, as he took a swig of a spicy sour Minty Ginger Mojo-tino, made from fresh spearmint, fresh ginger, fresh lime juice, agave nectar and Juniper Green Organic Gin."

* If you think you're getting ripped off, you're probably right. If you think you're not, you're probably wrong.

* Headline of the week: "Hispanics' blood like liquid gold."

* Requiem for a trust.

* While the housing market is in the toilet, downtown rents are rising

 

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Risky business

Posted By on 08.31.07 at 03:36 PM

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The idea of explaining artists' works in terms of problems and solutions is ... not so common in film studies. It can be fruitful to consider that sometimes filmmakers face common problems and that they compete to solve them, or to find different problems they can solve. —David Bordwell, from Web site commentary on Ratatouille 

One of the reasons I'm so stuck on Theo Angelopoulos's The Travelling Players (1975)—number one on my all-time best list, if you must know—involves this very notion of problem-solving. Because, at least in my opinion, based on the film's internal clues, Angelopoulos was facing a big one here—something that even halfway through the filming he hadn't come to grips with, perhaps because he wasn't quite sure what it was. But what seems certain is this: that more than his usual perfectionist striving was needed to bring this meticulously crafted epic to life. 

Which in the film's second half he serendipitously discovers—of course serendipitously, since that's what's been missing all along. Chance, randomness, indeterminacy--like punctuated equilibrium in evolutionary theory, where a sudden break in "natural" continuity ushers in waves of new life forms. No more the "absolute" master, like an obsessed totalitarian deity—it's almost as if he's decided to throw the film away. So the tablecloth comes off, at the wedding banquet on the beach, and suddenly we're in medias res, in a new, unpredictable space. "Let's try it and see what happens"—a discovery infinitely repeatable, if only in strategically measured bursts. As Angelopoulos has been systematically "rediscovering" ever since, about three or four times per film ...

So too P.T. Anderson in his semisurreal Adam Sandler vehicle Punch-Drunk Love (2002), which actually serves up a double dose of random—first the anomalous bouncing pianola, then the car crash with no other purpose than to turn the film inside-out: wherever we were before this happened, we're definitely not there now. But of course there's more, and Anderson keeps upping the ante. Like the scene of Sandler talking on the phone, back to the camera so we have an optimal view of his neck, in a room so devoid of sensory stimulation he might as well be peddling widgets at Guantanamo. It's minimalism upon minimalism, and the implied bet here is that Anderson can keep us interested—or maybe even fascinated, in a perverse, movie-movie kind of way. (It's a bet he almost loses, by the way, though against these odds "almost" seems equivalent to winning the lottery.) Or another logistic gambit: the "relationship"—such as it is—between Sandler's incredible shrinking schmo and poor Emily Watson, who's obviously befuddled by it all. A lot of critics frowned on this amorous coupling--as in "Why would an intelligent woman like that ever ...?" etc—but here's what I think went down: "OK Adam, your job is to be as unavailable as possible ... and yours, dear Emily, is to 'love' this inaccessible dolt in spite of everything he does." Which of course is a recipe for failure, and what's a capable actress to do? So when Watson ultimately falls back on, well ... mothering the damn infant, it's like throwing in the towel—yo, Billy Madison wins again! Though if ever she'd actually cracked the mysteries of Sandler, all we'd have to show for it is another conventional romance. Instead of the indeterminate, risk-taking masterpiece we ultimately do get. Winning for losing's the name of this gambler's game. Not what you'd expect from Hollywood ...

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Jaume Plensa has a thing for faces

Posted By on 08.31.07 at 03:20 PM

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You might spot a familiar name in our Galleries and Museums page this week--the creepy face sculpture is by the Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, most famous (around here anyway) for the giant spitting video face monoliths in Millennium Park, officially titled the Crown Fountain. Regular Reader architecture contributor Lynn Becker has a nice photo essay on the Crown Fountain's construction. Tokyo Art Beat has an interview with Plensa.

Head III, cast aluminum sculpture by Jaume Plensa, part of a group show starting Wed 9/5, at Richard Gray | 875 N. Michigan #2503 | 312-642-8877

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The Reader archives are free!

Posted By on 08.31.07 at 02:36 PM

The Reader's online archives, which used to charge for a download, go back to 1987, the year I started writing for the paper. My fellow blogger Whet Moser has been posting some highlights.

The other Labor Day music festival and the return of the Jazz Showcase

Posted By on 08.31.07 at 12:45 PM

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Perpetually overshadowed by the Chicago Jazz Festival every Labor Day weekend, the African Festival of the Arts continues to program an eclectic assortment of soul, jazz, hip-hop, African music, and Latino music over four sprawling days in Washington Park. It’s always a mixed bag, and this year’s schedule is no exception, but there are plenty of highlights. I wrote about Randy Weston’s performance in the paper this week, but there are others worth catching.

Among the best jazz offerings are the great alto saxophonist Jimmy Heath, who leads a big band of Chicago instrumentalists tonight, and the irrepressible multi-instrumentalist Phil Cohran, who plays on Monday. A load of old-school hip-hop acts, including Yo-Yo, Monie Love, EPMD, Kurtis Blow, Naughty by Nature, and MC Lyte perform throughout the long weekend, in addition to locals like the Molemen, Juice, and Kid Sister. The Dazz Band, Con Funk Shun, the Bar-Kays, and the Stylistics represent classic funk and R & B, while the great Leela James delivers contemporary soul on Saturday. Sunday, Cuban bassist Yunior Terry Cabrera leads a promising new project featuring his talented brother Yosvany Terry on saxophone, David Oquendo on vocals, Osmany Paredes on keyboards, and special guest Alfredo de la Fe, a veteran of the great Charanga 80.

Also on Saturday, New Orleans legends Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias will deliver the usual set of earthy Mardi Gras Indian funk. The group has long ceased to be a genuine creative force, but a recent reissue from Sunnyside Records is here to remind us of the killer sound the band was churning out more than three decades ago. They Call Us Wild collects both albums they cut for the French label Barclay back in 1973 and 1975, The Wild Magnolias and They Call Us Wild. Few funk singers could ever match the declamatory style of Dollis—a loud, full-bodied, and sensual shout that complimented the overtly sexual throb of the band's syncopated grooves. The Wild Magnolias featured the brilliant guitarist Fird “Snooks” Eaglin and saxophonist Earl Turbinton, who died a few weeks ago at 65. Mardi Gras warhorses like “Oh! When the Saints,” “Iko, Iko,” and “Meet the Boys (on the Battlefront)” were given a sublimely heavy backbeat, and supporting the outsize singing and call-and-response chants was a richly textured mesh of cross-cutting rhythms, propulsive guitar licks, and the rollicking keyboards of Willie Tee, the band’s musical director.

They Call Us Wild isn’t as inspired as the debut—Eaglin is sorely missed—but it’s still pretty burning. The double CD also includes a PDF file of the lavish and informative 68-page booklet that accompanied the French version of the reissue.


Perhaps, like me, you initially missed the short item in Wednesday’s Tribune, but the Jazz Showcase has found a new home, in Dearborn Station. The club, far and away the most important presenter of national mainstream jazz heavies, has been closed since January, after losing the lease on its Grand Avenue location. It's supposed to reopen early next year.

Today’s playlist:

Bonde do Role, With Lasers (Domino)
Keiji Haino & Tatsuya Yoshida, Until Water Grasps Flame (Noise Asia)
Orchestra Baobab, A Night at Club Baobab (Oriki Music)

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Thanks for nothing

Posted By on 08.31.07 at 12:04 PM

Continuing his relentless campaign to win the hearts and minds of local Chicagoans for the 2016 Olympics, Mayor Daley showed up at Wednesday's opening of the Attack Training Center, a "$15 million state-of-the-art athletic facility" at 2641 W. Harrison.

"This will be a very special place for young amateurs to come together and get the training necessary," Daley said at the opening."This is very important for our [Olympic]s bid. You need a facility like this."

According to the Sun-Times, "the center was build on city-owned industrial land sold to the developer at a bargain price."

But even though the public is subsidizing the facility, it's not a public facility--it's a private operation. Yes, its owner, noted trainer Tim Grover, promises to make it available at times to local students. And, yes, an argument can be made that it's beneficial to use tax dollars to put vacant land back on the tax rolls.

But let's not kid ourselves. As wonderful as this training center might be, it's hardly an attempt to rectify inequities that plague sports and recreation in Chicago.

Once again the city's forcing taxpayers to fund athletic facilities that will have almost no benefit for ordinary citizens. The city is planning to spend hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars on the games, while there is still no -- not a one -- indoor running track for its public schools. Most schools scrounge for land to play their soccer games, while the Park District is turning over prime land in Lincoln Park so the Latin School, one of the most expensive private schools in the area, can build a soccer field. (The Latin School will be guaranteed use of the field during prime hours). The proposal to build an Olympic stadium in Washington Park only means that sometime in the next few years, hundreds of local softball, baseball, and tennis players will have to find somewhere else to play as their park becomes a construction zone. And Daley is planning to use Park District money to build an aquatics center in Douglas that will have no walls, so it will be useless for at least eight months a year after the Olympics leaves.

Despite Daley's public relations campaign, the essential point regarding the Olympics remains the same: Chicagoans will get nothing from the games except the bill.

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