Thursday, January 31, 2008

"It does get worse than dying in a bistro in Madrid. You could die in a Chicken Unlimited."

Posted By on 01.31.08 at 12:08 PM

George Saunders's dad owned a local food chain called "Chicken Unlimited." Its motto was "We don't stop at chicken," which is the second-best fast food motto of all time (#1). I learned that and more from Donna Seaman's interview with him at Open Books Radio. The Russell Banks interview is also worthwhile.

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Brazilian guitars

Posted By on 01.31.08 at 12:06 PM

Sergio Assad is widely celebrated for the classical guitar duo he has with his brother Odair; they've won a Grammy together, released a series of acclaimed albums for Nonesuch, dabbled in a variety of nonclassical styles, and performed all over the globe. They seem to play locally as often as they play anywhere in the world these days, a fortunate byproduct of Sergio's marriage to Angela Olinta, a professor at the University of Chicago; he lives here. Tonight the Assads lead an interesting program of Brazilian music at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on the campus of Northwestern University to kick off the school's 2008 Segovia Classical Guitar series. Their sister Badi, an accomplished and inventive guitarist, singer, and interpreter of the bossa nova, is also on the bill, but it's the presence of two other Brazilian guitarists that most piques my interest.

Romero Lubambo (pictured), who lives in New York, is generally considered a jazz guitarist, but it seems unlikely that anything could take the Brazilian quality out of his style. He's played here before, including some great performances with singer Luciana Souza, but my favorite context of his is Trio da Paz, with bassist Nilson Matta and drummer Duduka da Fonseca; the group masterfully blurs the line between jazz and bossa, and on its fine album Somewhere (Blue Toucan, 2005) tunes by Jobim and Badel Powell segue naturally into works associated with Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck. I wish I could be as enthusiastic about his solo album Softly (MaxJazz, 2006), but he demonstrates gross lapses in taste, from covering "Just the Two of Us" to using a guitar synthesizer. For this concert he'll perform a couple solo pieces--an original and "Influencia do Jazz" by the great Carlos Lyra--and then join fellow guitarist and singer Celso Machado for a spin through "Estamos Ai."

Today's playlist:

Various Artists, South Side Soul Survey (Soulscape)
Francisco Lopez, Untitled #164 (Unsounds)
Bud Freeman, 1939-1940 (Chronological Classics)
Strawbs, From the Witchwood ( A&M)
Eduardo Mateo, Mateo Solo Bien Se Lame (Lion Productions)

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You Shoot: Half Man Half Reality

Posted By on 01.31.08 at 11:53 AM

Chris Diers


Commonplace links

Posted By on 01.31.08 at 10:00 AM

BBC - Radio 4 Document - Radio 10

"For much of the last half of the twentieth century the BBC was preparing for post-Armageddon. Mike Thomson goes in search of the hidden bunkers, and the people told to staff them."

Walking Turcot Yards

"The World’s Largest Urban Abandoned Space"

Food stamps offer best stimulus - study - Jan. 29, 2008

"For every dollar spent on that program $1.73 is generated throughout the economy, he said." 

Jessica Duchen's classical music blog: Tasmin's violin goes naked!

"Two contrasting violins are involved: her Guadagnini of 1757 and the 'Regent' Stradivarius. Listen out for the difference between the instruments, decide which you prefer and why, and let her know via the website!"

crying over sour milk

"ashley in chicago says her roommates are the king and queen of passive-aggressive notes. ('if they ever found this site, they’d think it was a self help group,' she says.)"

The History Place - Child Labor in America

"Richard Pierce, age 14, a Western Union Telegraph Co. messenger. Nine months in service, works from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Smokes and visits houses of prostitution."

Cahiers du Moment

"We are getting the winter this year in Chicago we've avoided for a while. Still sucks, tho. What do midwives say? You get the birth you need..."


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Coming or going?

Posted By on 01.30.08 at 07:23 PM



If he wants to take a bird home with him tonight, it's none of your business

Posted By on 01.30.08 at 06:57 PM


From today's OPRF Journal.

(h/t Kevin, Irma)

It's a gusher!

Posted By on 01.30.08 at 06:47 PM


Sound like anything you've seen lately?:

"An ice-pack of a movie, a masterpiece in every insignificant detail ... [that] suppresses most of the active elements that make movies pleasurable. The film says that people are disgusting but things are lovely. ... It's a coffee-table movie ... like a three-hour slide show for art history majors."

A lot of the complaints about There Will Be Blood (and there've been more than a few) strike these kinds of disenchanted notes: "a thudding bore," "tempered and wrought, to the point of dullness ... its very scale almost obscures its blankness," or in general simply wondering "what's the point of it all?"—though in fact the passage I've quoted is from Pauline Kael's notorious pan of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, one of the "100 best films of all time" if you believe what the critics tell you. Is it too great a stretch to argue that what's problematic in both films comes to almost the same thing? Since both adapt generally forgotten period novels that demand a sympathetic jump: the issues of the characters aren't exactly ours, and even when they are we talk about them differently, in terms already conditioned by the history of the discourse. Which is partly why Upton Sinclair's moralizing harangue, against vampire capital and religious quackery, comes across as obvious and dated: who's exercised about this anymore, or in quite this way? It's ground we've all been over a thousand times before. But of course the characters haven't, and for them the issues have an urgency we can't begin to match. Here's what it's like when the idea gusher's raging, when concepts old and hoary seem fresh and alive, still eminently arguable. They have to care because we no longer can.

And maybe we're not supposed to. Aristocracy's a problem in Barry Lyndon's world, less so in our own—even if our democratically "classless" class divisions tend to create similar kinds of hierarchy, more economic than hereditary, more under the surface than on it. So both of these films walk a conceptual tightrope, half in the mentalite, half out, which arguably accounts for their seeming distant and cold, dramatically estranged. But what if instead we see Blood as ... well, an experiment—doesn't that sound like the P.T. Anderson we know? Not so much an invitation to engage as a kind of excavation, to uncover obsolete layers of thinking and responding. It's a double game being played—that implicates our own received opinions—or even several games at once. But maybe I'm making too much of a minor point ...

Also, in a free associating mood, there's that (obvious?) connection to Erich von Stroheim's Greed, which goes considerably beyond the shared avaricious theme. Not since 1987's Shy People, Andrei Konchalovsky's Daily Bread/Tol'able David excursion into the Louisiana swamps, has there been anything so Stroheim-like, in the packed-in naturalism, the classically distanced shooting, the ways scenes develop through gradually emerging detail. But already enough critics have picked up on this, and there's not a lot left to add. Time to stop being redundant ...

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Are you gonna take the RPM Challenge?

Posted By on 01.30.08 at 05:33 PM

Friday is the start of this year's RPM Challenge, which is sort of like NaNoWriMo for music. Over the course of the 29 days of February, people who sign up will attempt to record an album (minimum ten songs or 35 minutes) from start to finish. There are about 25 Chicago acts on the current list of participants (sort by postal code to find them), including a couple I recognize. If you live here and you're planning on taking the challenge, would you be so kind as to e-mail me at mraymer[at] I'm interested in seeing what you're up to.

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You Shoot: The body, the blood, the machine

Posted By on 01.30.08 at 05:10 PM

Matthew Taplinger


Wandering with Golden Rule Jones

Posted By on 01.30.08 at 02:00 PM

The local lit blogger Golden Rule Jones has a blog called Wandering With Robert Walser, devoted to the work of the sui generis Swiss author. Jakob von Guenten, his most well-known work, was one of the best books I read last year. I have trouble articulating why I loved it so much--then again, so does J.M. Coetzee, so I'm in good company--but it puts me in the mind of Kafka, Rushmore, The Remains of the Day, and Peanuts.

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