Bleader | Chicago Reader

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hopper on Sontag

Posted By on 02.27.09 at 02:10 PM

Reader music writer Jessica Hopper's got a nice piece in the American Prospect on Susan Sontag

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Zorn v. Rhodes

Posted By on 02.27.09 at 01:44 PM

The Tribune's Eric Zorn calls Beachwood Reporter's Steve Rhodes a "perpetually seething self-styled visionary."

Rhodes replies, "I'm not a self-styled visionary, I'm a real one."

And beyond debating Rhodes's credentials as a man of tomorrow, the two writers engage in the sort of riveting colloquy about journalism and where it's going that requires two smart people who don't like each other much. Must reading if the future of news is something you've been wondering about yourself.

Update: Zorn comes back swinging.

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Stormin' Norman Van Lier

Posted By on 02.27.09 at 01:34 PM

Just a few words of thanks to the great Norm Van Lier, who was found dead yesterday.

To those of us who came of age in the 70s, Norm was the man. No doubt about. He played basketball with heart and soul and passion--an inspiration to us all. But his greatness extended beyond how he played the game. It was how he lived his life. For me, he was Jimi Hendrix in a hoops uniform: he was his own man. He crossed all racial lines and divides. He was the coolest guy alive.

Fourteen years ago I wrote a profile of Norm for the Chicago Reader. Photographer Jon Randolph and I had a blast doing that story. I hope you like reading it as much as I loved writing it.

God bless you, Norm. I miss you already.

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Save the dates

Posted By on 02.27.09 at 11:48 AM

The economy has already sunk a number of big music festivals for this year, including Langerado in Miami and Pemberton in Vancouver, but the Pitchfork fest has announced dates for a fourth installment--fifth if you count the first, Pitchfork-curated Intonation Festival--July 17-19 in Union Park. Ticket prices have historically been a bargain, which may be this fest's key to survival. No acts have been announced yet, but I'm willing to wager the lineup will be indie as fuck. 

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2/27--Free Burlesque Show

Posted By on 02.27.09 at 11:08 AM

Vaudezilla Productions presents this monthly burlesque showcase at Exit at 10 PM and 1 AM; hosts Red Hot Annie and Wham Bam Pam will perform along with Diva Von Breeze, Lyra Belecqua, Violet Vogue, Salome Slaughter, and others.

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2/27 -- Panel discussion on contemporary composition

Posted By on 02.27.09 at 11:00 AM

Chicago composers George Flynn, Juan Campoverde Q., Bernard Rands, Augusta Read Thomas, and Kurt Westerberg discuss "The State of Contemporary Composition" at 5:30 PM in an event sponsored by DePaul University. The panel is at the DePaul Recital Hall (804 W. Belden; 773-325-7260). Flynn has just released an excellent new CD called American City.

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Free discussion, and local composer George Flynn releases a fine new CD

Posted By on 02.27.09 at 10:37 AM


Composer George Flynn, who chaired Musicianship Studies and Composition at DePaul University for 25 years, has just released his latest album on Southport Records--the sixth recording of his rigorous music for the imprint since 2000. The three pieces on American City were all written between 1995 and '98, while he was still a faculty member at the school, the result of a decision to compose new works for each of the three major student ensembles--chorus/chamber choir, orchestra, and wind ensemble.

As he writes in his liner notes, "These performances are, in my opinion, a vibrant testimony to the high level of musicianship as well as the cooperative spirit promoted by the School of Music," and, indeed, the readings are very sharp. He did draw upon some pros, however, including former CSO clarinetist (and DePaul professor) Larry Combs, who plays on "The Density of Memory," and Cliff Colnot, conductor of the Chicago Civic Orchestra, who conducts that piece.

Flynn continues to be involved in Chicago's contemporary-music scene, codirecting the monthly new-music series at the Green Mill and another new-music series at DePaul. He'll be at the school at 5:30 PM today to participate in a free discussion called The State of Contemporary Composition with a distinguished panel: Juan Campoverde Q., Bernard Rands, Augusta Read Thomas, and Kurt Westerberg. The event takes place at the DePaul Recital Hall (804 W. Belden, 773-325-7260).

Today's playlist:

Jacob Lindsay, Ava Mendoza, Damon Smith, and Weasel Walter, Jus (Balance Point Acoustics)
James Blackshaw, Sunshrine (Tompkins Square)
Matthew Shipp Trio, Harmonic Disorder (Thirsty Ear)
Huong Thanh & Nguyên Lê, Fragile Beauty (ACT)
Various artists, Funky Nassau: The Compass Point Story 1980-1986 (Strut)

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Ciao, chow, for now, James Ward

Posted By on 02.27.09 at 10:02 AM


I have a postcard hanging on the bulletin board above my desk from James Ward, ABC 7's sartorially original restaurant reporter. Dated October 2005, it declared itself "an unabashed fan letter." Do you know how rare it is, even was back then, to get a piece of personal handwritten mail written in grammatically correct English? One that isn't filled with threats? What a nice guy. Anyway I never met him in person, but I wrote him back, reciprocating and thanking him, and couple a months later he retired from his 20-year gig at the station (to be replaced by the Hound).

Today ABC 7's reporting that he passed on yesterday. They've put up a montage of some of his old clips. It's both a hoot and pretty sweet at the same time.

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Heads Up

Posted By on 02.27.09 at 09:30 AM



The Dill Pickle Food Co-op, a member-owned grocery store forming in Logan Square that hopes to open this spring, hosts a benefit concert tonight at the AV-aerie (2000 W. Fulton) starting at 8:30 and featuring performances by Baby Teeth, Make Believe's Tim Kinsella, DJ Damon Locks of the Eternals, and Willis P. Jenkins. Suggested donation $12.

The Irish American Heritage Center kicks off its annual Friday Night Lenten Fish Fry, running through mid April; the buffet includes french fries and veggies as well as cod. Fridays through 4/10, 6:30-9 PM, Fifth Province Pub, Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox, 773-282-7035, $12, $8 kids under 13.

Chicago Restaurant Week, originally scheduled to end today, has been extended through Friday, March 6. That gives you one more week to get $22 three-course prix fixe lunches and $32 dinners (not including tax and tip) at participating local restaurants. 


Karen Wilson, a research associate at the Oriental Institute, discusses the food of ancient Iraq in The Haute Cuisine of Ancient Mesopotamia; food-related artifacts like clay tablets with recipes recorded in cuneiform will be on display. Hosted by the Chicago Foodways Roundtable; reservations required. 10 AM, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, 1155 E. 58th, 847-432-8255,, $7.


Shawn McClain (Spring, Green Zebra, Custom House) is teaming up with local chefs including Giuseppe Tentori (Boka, Perennial), Bill Kim (Urban Belly), Carrie Nahabedian (Naha), and Dean Zanella (312 Chicago) to cook for a "Soup-Off" to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Attendees can sample all the soups and vote for their favorites; there'll also be a panel of journalists to select the critics' choice winner. 1-4 PM, Custom House, 500 S. Dearborn, 312-523-0200, $15.

The Publican continues its monthly Brew Masters series with a four-course prix fixe dinner featuring Three Floyds beer, including Gumballhead and Behemoth barley wine as well as Banana Split 7-Inch, a brew chef Paul Kahan created in collaboration with the brewery. On the menu: seafood crudo; porcini mushrooms with duck hearts; pot au feu; and passion fruit, yogurt, and cardamom. Reservations recommended. 5-10 PM, 837 W. Fulton, 312-733-9555, $45, plus $20 for optional beer pairings.


The newly reopened local outpost of Trader Vic’s celebrates the chain’s 75th anniversary with a party from 5 to 6:30 PM. Admission covers tastings of “wood-fired house specialties” and three cocktails per person. At 7 PM the group will move one block west to the Ruth Page Center for the Arts (Oak and Dearborn) for a performance of George Bernard Shaw’s John Bull’s Other Island. 5-9:30 PM, Trader Vic’s, 1030 N. State, $69.

The Oriental Institute continues its series on the cuisine of the near East with a dinner of Persian food from northern Iran at Masouleh. Chef-owner Azim Nassiri-Masouleh will prepare traditional dishes featuring meat, poultry, and eggs combined with vegetables, nuts, spices, and native herbs. Wine included; reservations required. 7 PM, 6653 N. Clark, 773-702-9507, $49.


The second-ever tapping party for the new Metropolitan Brewing features their Dynamo Copper lager and Flywheel Bright lager, plus a drawing for free beer. 7-9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Charge it to my account once more

Posted By on 02.26.09 at 08:01 PM

These are tough times, but last summer aldermen successfully fought off the idea of cuts to their expense allowances—accounts worth $73,280 that they can spend on “ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the performance of an alderman’s official duties,” as the budget ordinance puts it. Before 2008, aldermen were receiving $33,280, a figure that most said was just too low to cover even basic needs like rent, utilities, and office supplies.

As Channel 32 showed with a series of investigations last year, and I noted here, the meaning of “ordinary and necessary” can be rather wide-ranging for aldermen, who in the course of their work in 2007 required taxpayer-funded pizza, trips out of state, rubber stamps, low-mileage cars, and the gas to fill them (the cars).

Not much changed in 2008, according to the most recent set of aldermanic expense reports. A few highlights:

·          Aldermen racked up a total of $3.1 million in itemized expenses in 2008, up from $2.3 million in 2007.

·          Forty aldermen spent less than their allotment. In fact, two of them didn’t even use half of it: the 31st Ward’s Ray Suarez, who spent $21,014; and the 11th Ward’s James Balcer, $33,775.

·          $486,816 worth of expenditures wasn’t itemized. That’s 16 percent of the total.

·          The biggest chunk of the money went toward rent—more than $805,000. But the amount aldermen spent varied widely, and not always in line with market rates in their neighborhoods. Alderman Isaac Carothers, whose 29th Ward includes some of the poorest parts of the city, paid $49,500 in rent, tops in the council. On the other end, 46th Ward alderman Helen Shiller paid less than $11,000 for rent in her Uptown office.

·          Phone and Internet service cost aldermen at least $311,945; office supplies and printing, $269,902; and utilities $174,744.

·          Nineteen aldermen are leasing cars out of their expense accounts, costing taxpayers more than $115,000. They and other aldermen spent another $40,000 on gas and parking fees.

·          Though Chicago has some of the best tap water in the country, aldermen spent more than $10,000 on bottled water.

 ·        We the people also paid for aldermen's coffee (Lona Lane, Ariel Reboyras, Scott Waguespack, Richard Mell), parking tickets (Danny Solis), and political consulting (Anthony Beale).

 You can look over an Excel file of the reports by clicking here.

UPDATE: Alderman Waguespack's office tells me the coffee bills were racked up by his predecessor, Ted Matlak. 

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