Monday, February 27, 2017

Rhiannon Giddens, Ron Trent, D.C. blues, and blockchain: music stories from around the Web

Posted By today at 07.00 AM

Rhiannon Giddens at the 2016 Freedom for All Gala - NICHOLAS HUNT
  • Nicholas Hunt
  • Rhiannon Giddens at the 2016 Freedom for All Gala

Rhiannon Giddens challenges the perceived whiteness of American folk music

You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise these days, but folk music isn't actually just about bearded white dudes who, say, hole themselves up in cabins for months to get in their feels (not to name any names). Black folk artist Rhiannon Giddens, founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, is pushing back against that stereotype on her new solo album, and she has plenty of underrecognized folk history to back her up. [TrackRecord]

Ron Trent gives a history lesson in deep house, hot on the heels of a new retrospective
compilation
Chicago deep-house pioneer Ron Trent just released a Prescription Records compilation with Chez Damier, who founded the label with him in 1993—and in this interview, he tells tales from the world of late-80s Chicago dance music that brought him to his defining take on the deep-house sound. [NPR]

A new documentary explores D.C.'s little-known Anacostia Delta blues style
Washington, D.C., is nowhere near the Mississippi Delta that helped birth the blues or the Chicago bars where it went electric, but the city is home to its own lesser-known subgenre—the Anacostia Delta blues style, to be exact. A new documentary, directed by Bryan Reichhardt (Barnstorming, Pictures From a Hiroshima Schoolyard), is introducing this music to a wider audience. [The Washington Post]

Red Bull Music Academy covers health goth, kawaii, gqom, and grime in the second season of its Hashtags documentary series
Red Bull Music Academy continues to show love for the niche cultural movements that have thrived on the Web with the second season of its Hashtags series—this time its subjects are grime, gqom (a South African genre derived from house music), and the relatively fashion-oriented trends of health goth and kawaii. [Red Bull Music Academy]

The blockchain tech behind Bitcoin is making its way into the music industry
What are blockchains, and why are they supposedly changing everything? Fact answers the first question pretty succinctly: "a blockchain allows people to connect and transact on a 'peer to peer' basis, as opposed to through a third party like a bank." Cool—sounds like the money guys have finally figured out how torrenting works. As for the "changing everything" part, well, that's a little more complicated—but there's some hope that this technology will make it easier to ensure that musicians get paid when their work is streamed. [Fact]

Chicago rap veterans the Cool Kids are back and ready to make good on their legacy
Back when Twitter wasn't yet a thing and MySpace had cred—from roughly 2007 till 2009—Chicago's Chuck Inglish and Sir Michael Rocks, aka the Cool Kids, were one of the biggest names in the local rap game. Now, six years after they disbanded, they're returning to a different scene and a different Internet. But they're hungry to reclaim what's theirs. [MTV News]

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Friday, February 24, 2017

As Trump kicks out reporters, the Washington Post declares war on 'darkness'

Posted By on 02.24.17 at 04:23 PM

New York Times reporter Glen Thrush works in the White House briefing room after being excluded from an off-camera press gaggle by White House press secretary Sean Spicer Friday. The Los Angeles Times, CNN, and Politico were also excluded. - MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES
  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • New York Times reporter Glen Thrush works in the White House briefing room after being excluded from an off-camera press gaggle by White House press secretary Sean Spicer Friday. The Los Angeles Times, CNN, and Politico were also excluded.
Here's what President Trump can do: He can schedule a news briefing and not let certain reporters attend, thereby designating them, in the eyes of his faithful, as enemies of truth and freedom.

That's what Trump did Friday. The New York Times, CNN, and Politico were turned away at the office door of press secretary Sean Spicer. In solidarity, reporters from Time and the AP did what they could do—boycotted the briefing.

Trump has been badmouthing journalists for so long it was only a matter of time before he upped the ante. Earlier in the day he'd called CNN the "Clinton News Network" in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference and called "dishonest" journalists the "enemy of the people."

"They are very smart," Trump said. "They are very cunning, they are very dishonest."

And not without resources of their own.

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Taylor Ho Bynum salutes his mentors on a rich, sprawling new big-band album

Posted By on 02.24.17 at 02:00 PM


Cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum is tightly connected to the legacy and sound of visionary composer and reedist Anthony Braxton—he studied under Braxton, has played under his leadership for decades, and serves as executive director of the Tri-Centric Arts Foundation, which administers Braxton's prolific output. In his own music, though, Bynum has usually mapped his own path. He's had a fruitful partnership with drummer Tomas Fujiwara, and he's led an evolving number of medium-to-large ensembles, privileging strings in some and brass in others—such as the band on his most recent album, Enter the Plustet (Firehouse 12).

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Mayor Rahm and Alderman Lopez cut a deal on the property tax rebate

Posted By on 02.24.17 at 01:34 PM

Alderman Raymond Lopez, right, with West Englewood resident Yolanda Scott and her seven-year-old daughter in front of Henderson Elementary School, where 12-year-old Kanari Gentry-Bowers was shot February 12 - JAMES FOSTER/ FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • James Foster/ For Sun-Times Media
  • Alderman Raymond Lopez, right, with West Englewood resident Yolanda Scott and her seven-year-old daughter in front of Henderson Elementary School, where 12-year-old Kanari Gentry-Bowers was shot February 12

With shootings on the rise—seven people were shot on Wednesday alone—the City Council convened this week to spend about $16 million to do something something about it.

They had a choice: They could bow to Mayor Rahm's command and spend the money on a plethora of programs that, though well meaning, have no direct impact on the shootings. Or they could stand up to Rahm and spend at least part of the money on a program that did.

Guess what happened?

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A Field Museum-themed pop-up bar, an Oscars viewing party, and more things to do in Chicago this weekend

Posted By on 02.24.17 at 01:15 PM

The Field Museum's "Specimens" are on display at the Chicago Athletic Association's pop-up bar the Backroom. - COURTESY THE FIELD MUSEUM
  • courtesy the field museum
  • The Field Museum's "Specimens" are on display at the Chicago Athletic Association's pop-up bar the Backroom.

Winter has returned, but luckily there's plenty to do indoors in the city this weekend. Here's some of what we recommend:

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Transgender CPS students will still be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice, and other Chicago news

Posted By on 02.24.17 at 06:00 AM

Madeline Bruni, an 18-year-old transgender woman, speaks out against President Donald Trump's rollback of protections for transgender students. - BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
  • BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images
  • Madeline Bruni, an 18-year-old transgender woman, speaks out against President Donald Trump's rollback of protections for transgender students.

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Friday, February 24, 2017. Have a great weekend! 

  • Chicago Public Schools will continue to let transgender students use bathrooms, locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity

Transgender Chicago Public Schools students will still be able to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice despite actions taken by President Donald Trump to revoke former president Barack Obama's issued guidelines allowing all transgender public school students to use the facilities of their choice. CPS changed its policy prior to Obama's policy change, and won't amend it now. "CPS led the way among school districts on bathroom policies for transgender students and staff, and we have no intention of backing down no matter what President Trump does to discriminate against the LGBTQ community," CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner told DNAinfo Chicago. [DNAinfo Chicago]

  • Seven people killed in gun violence Wednesday as shootings in 2017 already outpace 2016

Chicago saw its 99th homicide in 2017 Wednesday, two days before its 99th homicide in 2016, according to the Tribune. Homicides had been slowing down slightly in comparison with 2016 until seven people were fatally shot Wednesday. [Tribune]

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Internet-free ‘bookbar’ in Lincoln Park has banned laptops in favor of books and conversation

Posted By on 02.23.17 at 05:27 PM

Kibbitznest Books, Brews & Blarney - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Kibbitznest Books, Brews & Blarney

Sometimes even George Orwell had to take a break from writing about injustice, oppression, and totalitarianism and turn his attention to his immediate personal happiness and comfort. In his 1946 essay "The Moon Under Water," he describes in rhapsodic detail his favorite London pub, a quiet, old-fashioned sort of place where the barmaids call you "dear" (more high-class than "ducky") and where you can get a creamy draft stout in a china mug along with a good, inexpensive lunch, which you can enjoy, depending on the season, in a comfortable chair by the fire or under a tree in the back garden with your family. The kicker is, of course, that this paragon of pub perfection doesn't exist, except in his imagination.

I usually think of "The Moon Under Water'' whenever I visit a new bar or coffeehouse, and a recent trip to Kibbitznest Books, Brews & Blarney was no exception. Will this be the place, the one with good coffee and good food and comfortable chairs and music that is not intrusively bad and outdoor seating if I want it and isn't too far from my apartment so I can visit regularly?

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Ruth Ratny, chronicler of Chicago’s film industry, dies

Posted By on 02.23.17 at 04:59 PM

Ruth Ratny - CARMEN REPORTO/SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • CARMEN REPORTO/Sun-Times Media
  • Ruth Ratny

Some journalists don't have much of anything going for them but grit. But sometimes that grit can be enough. When I looked in on her in 2001, Ruth Ratny, who died in her sleep Tuesday night, was one of those journalists.

Ratny launched Screen magazine, to cover Chicago's film industry, as a mimeographed newsletter in 1979. She built it into a weekly everybody in the business read. But she was in her mid-60s when I caught up with her—and times were terrible. As I wrote in the first of four columns about her, Ratny had quietly cut back to biweekly publication months before. "This was in response to the six-month-long actors' strike that began last May 1 and all but shut down the commercial-making industry in this country."

And that wasn't all. She'd fallen down an elevator shaft. Making light in Screen of an accident that laid her up for a couple of weeks, she wrote that she "landed on my back on the mechanicals, a tangle of electric wires and criss-crossed metal tubing. . . . For 90 minutes I half-sat, half-lay, half-stood in the black, 3x5-foot enclosure, fingering with enormous frustration the recalcitrant cell phone." When she finally was able to dial out she told 911, "I am bruised, achey and frequently cranky, but I am alive."

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Columbia College prof Michael Fry says he quit after being used and disrespected

Posted By on 02.23.17 at 03:58 PM

Michael Fry - COURTESY MICHAEL FRY
  • Courtesy Michael Fry
  • Michael Fry

Michael Fry, one of Columbia College Chicago's most celebrated faculty members and a tenured associate professor, resigned January 20, citing discrimination and racial insensitivity in the television department, where he's been a full-time faculty member since 2007. He began teaching at Columbia as an adjunct in 1997.

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The newly renovated Davis Theater is a vaudeville house for the 21st century

Posted By on 02.23.17 at 03:25 PM

COURTESY OF DAVIS THEATER
  • Courtesy of Davis Theater

In the "Utopia" episode of Easy, the Joe Swanberg-directed series for Netflix, Malin Akerman plays a woman in charge of renovating the nearly 100-year-old Davis Theater in Lincoln Square, which began as a vaudeville house in 1918. The actual owner of the Davis, Tom Fencl, appears in a walk-through of the grand auditorium that Swanberg shot midrenovation; in the scene, Fencl wears a pink hard hat and asks Akerman how many seats the auditorium will hold.

Last week Fencl gave me a tour of the theater, which reopened after a multimillion-dollar makeover in December. In addition to the rehabbed auditorium—that seats 300, by the way—and two other 135-seat screening rooms, the first-run movie house at 4614 N. Lincoln sports a revamped lobby and several new restrooms, all decorated in an industrial-meets-art-deco style to evoke the theater's 1920s heyday; a concessions area that doubles as a box office; and an adjacent bar and restaurant, Carbon Arc Bar & Board, where customers can stop in for a sit-down meal or take their food and drinks into the theater with them.

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