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Monday, December 31, 2012

12 O'Clock Track: Explosions in the Sky, "The Birth and Death of the Day"

Posted By on 12.31.12 at 12:00 PM

What's the best (sub)genre of music to soundtrack a treacherous, tense drive across an ice-ridden web of midwestern highway? A friend and I asked ourselves this very question last Wednesday as we cautiously trekked through a blustery Indiana on our way back from Cincinnati to our respective cities of Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin. The "Crossroads of America" was anything but that—most of the central part of the state, which had been hit with a medium-size blizzard overnight, was sheeted in ice and well-packed snow, encouraging the day's more daring (and idiotic) drivers to take unwanted detours into medians and snow drifts. For the most part, I-74 was a damn nightmare, and I-65 was barely tolerable.

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2012 was the year of the Cultural Plan—remember that?

Posted By on 12.31.12 at 09:00 AM

Except for the presidential election, nothing in 2012 was the subject of more hoopla than the new Chicago Cultural Plan.

All year long there were proclamations, slogans, logos, buttons, banners, brochures, and programmed talk, talk, talk at expansive town-hall meetings and cozy neighborhood "cultural conversations."

The head of the National Endowment for the Arts even came to town to tell us how visionary and wonderful it was going to be.

And all that time, it was huffed and puffed and stuffed with so much hot air about strategies and stakeholders and innovations and priorities and recommendations and global aspirations and hundreds of initiatives until, like a great big stretched balloon, on the morning of October 15, at an elementary school in Pilsen, when it was finally done, in front of the Mayor and a teeny-tiny, invited audience, it—POPPED AND DISAPPEARED!

So far as I know, it hasn't been seen since.

But the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events says there will be an announcement about implementation in late January.

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Reader's Agenda Mon 12/31 and Tue 1/1/13: Happy New Year!

Posted By on 12.31.12 at 06:00 AM

Today's New Year's Eve, and tomorrow's officially 2013. Looking for something to do? Agenda's sort of got you covered:

If you're still looking for something to do today, our New Year's Eve Guide has the best places to be when the ball drops, including where to eat, where to drink, where to dance, and where to do, well, something different. What's something different? Well, how about a Star Wars-themed New Year's? Or a polka-filled New Year's? Stuff like that.

As for New Year's Day, if you're not working, sleep in. Eat some brunch. Watch college football, or a movie, or read. Take it easy. We'll be back with plenty more events in 2013. Happy New Year!

For more on these events and others, check out the Reader's daily Agenda page.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

You're right George Bailey, you crazy son of a bitch—it IS a wonderful life!

Posted By on 12.30.12 at 09:00 AM

Where have you been all my life?
  • Where have you been all my life?
There's nothing original about becoming introspective this time of year. For about a week, we're all prepared to scale mountains of personal truth and finally obey the Nietzschean dictate to become who we are. In the restraint and relative sobriety that follow in the wake of holiday bacchanalia, we're ready—yep, really ready this time—to become vegans, yogis, patient and attentive partners, and speakers of conversant French. We're ready to embrace the nonsmoking, trans-fat-avoiding teetotaler inside of us who wakes before dawn, always takes the stairs, and does not know anything about the lives of Bravo's real housewives. But after a few days—or in some cases, hours—we inevitably tumble down the mountain of personal truth into the valley of daily reality, becoming, once again, the same person we've always been.

But this year—I dare say, fingers crossed—things are different. Not because I willed them so, but because I didn't really have a choice.

When my boyfriend and I broke up right before Thanksgiving, I became carless for the first time since getting my license at 16. It's not an exaggeration to say that for one, horrifying moment, I felt like my world had collapsed, its borders now defined in blocks rather than miles. How would I get groceries? In my last hours with the car, I went to the store and stocked up on nonperishable goods like some sort of crazed survivalist. How would I get home from work? How would I get my hair cut? How would I get to spin class so I could enclose myself in a tiny, sweltering room and ride a stationary bike next to mouth-breathing strangers while terrible dance music played at deafening levels?

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Reader's Agenda Sun 12/30: Neurosis, a servants' tour, and Lawrence of Arabia

Posted By on 12.30.12 at 06:00 AM

No, New Year's Eve is tomorrow. But you're still looking for something to do today? No worries, Agenda's got you covered:

It's metal Sunday at Metro, where Bloodiest and Atlas Moth open for none other than Neurosis. Monica Kendrick has this to say about their latest album, Honor Found in Decay: "Its particular spin on the moody, atmospheric, and heavy-as-fuck progressive metal that Neurosis helped to invent manages to be folk inflected and slightly futuristic at the same time."

Today is the last day to catch Help Wanted: The Holiday Servants' Tour, an exhibit on display at the Driehaus Museum. Because don't you want to spend Sunday making plum pudding and setting a table for a formal dinner?

The Music Box shows two film classics today, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise and David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia.

For more on these events and others, check out the Reader's daily Agenda page.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Frank Ocean and pop music's online identity in 2012

Posted By on 12.29.12 at 09:00 AM

Frank Ocean at Lollapalooza
To say Frank Ocean had a great year feels like an understatement. The R&B crooner and Odd Future member is responsible for making one of 2012's most celebrated albums, Channel Orange, which cast a pretty big shadow over pop music that, at times, it felt like Ocean was the only person besides Kendrick Lamar and Chief Keef who released any new music this year. But Ocean didn't just dominate music—he's also responsible for one of the best pieces of music writing.

Ocean inspired plenty of great music writing, but that's not what I'm talking about—Ocean managed to put together some memorable writing work this year outside of penning the lyrics for Channel Orange. As Grantland's Steven Hyden wrote in his "Year in Music" article, "The year's most notable music writing came from non-music critics." Hyden focused on a couple pieces that sparked heated online discussions about the state of the industry: Emily White's NPR post about music ownership and Damon Krukowski's Pitchfork feature on music streaming. Those articles are certainly among the most notable pieces of music writing, but Ocean topped them with a short Tumblr post detailing the first time he fell in love with a man and the confusion and struggle surrounding those feelings.

Given Ocean's fame, that article went viral shortly after he posted it back in July, and it launched countless think pieces about sexuality in popular music—specifically hip-hop, which is confusing considering Ocean isn't a rapper. Notability aside, Ocean's writing is as touching and heartfelt as his music, and his post is worth a read. Many news stories about this particular post stuck to reporting the basic content of Ocean's announcement and glossed over certain other details, namely the writing program Ocean used for the piece—TextEdit.

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Reader's Agenda, Sat 12/29: Soul Clap & Dance Off, Mind Spiders, and Batman burlesque

Posted By on 12.29.12 at 06:00 AM

Mind Spiders
  • Mind Spiders
The weekend is in full swing, and you wanna hang hard. What's going on? Agenda's got you covered:

All you need is a little soul. Well, maybe a lot of soul, and a dance-off, and girl groups too. You get all of them at the Hideout, where New York DJ Jonathan Toubin brings his "recession-friendly" Soul Clap & Dance Off to Chicago. Girl Group, who covers songs by—well, I'm sure you can guess—opens.

Texas punk all-stars Mind Spiders will be at the Empty Bottle tonight. The buzzy, catchy band's lineup features members of Marked Men and Bad Sports, both of which will be tearing up the same venue for a party on New Year's Eve. Novice and Dumpster Babies open.

Two of my favorite things, Batman and boobs, team up tonight for Holy Bouncing Boobies: A Batman Burlesque at Gorilla Tango Theatre in Skokie at 9 PM. "Clothes are shed early and often as our hero(in)es deal out double entendres along with bams and pows in their battles against the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, and other villains," writes Marissa Oberlander, "the whole cast show sexy confidence and solid comedic timing, creating a Gotham City that's a lot more fun than Christopher Nolan's."

For more on these events and others, check out the Reader's daily Agenda page.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

The uncompromising realism of musicals

Posted By on 12.28.12 at 04:26 PM

Singing through the implausibility?
  • Singing through the implausibility?
Last week, NPR's All Things Considered ran an interview with Tom Hooper, who directed the new movie version of the Broadway megahit (two productions, 7,143 performances) Les Miserables. ATC host Melissa Block asked Hooper why he'd chosen to "have, really, no spoken dialogue" in his adaptation, and he replied that the "central challenge" of making a movie musical is that "you are creating an alternate reality where people communicate through song, but you have to make this reality utterly convincing or all is lost."

Most musicals, he went on, "stick to the format of dialogue interspersed with songs," which is a problem because "you go from one ear to another, you know? If suddenly I burst out singing . . . you'd think, oh, why now? Why did Tom suddenly feel that now was the moment? And I began to think, actually, maybe it's more honest to say, no, this is a different reality, this is a world where the primary communication form is singing, and let's own it and be confident about it."

Couldn't disagree more.

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Five-dollar* lunches: slipped the tongue at Taqueria Traspasada

Posted By on 12.28.12 at 03:05 PM

Yep, thats black salsa.
There's this movie that I liked a bunch when I was a kid and it's called Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Maybe you've seen it. Maybe you haven't because none of the Indy sequels will ever live up to Raiders. If we had this conversation aloud, in real life, we'd all slowly die of boredom.

So, let's not do that.

Anyway, in Temple of Doom, our hero, Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, and the cute Asian kid from Goonies travel to India to save a village of children who've been kidnapped and forced to work in a mine by a guy who pulls people's hearts out of their chests sometimes. Their journey is long and tiresome. They make it to the Pankot Palace, where a well-meaning Indian fella tries to feed them all manner of exotic foods—chilled monkey brains served in the skull, most memorably—much to the chagrin of Capshaw's character. Finally someone brings her soup. She heaves a sigh of relief. Alas, she nudges the innocuous-looking broth with her spoon, and discovers it's loaded with eyeballs, an albondigas soup that stares back at you.

I felt vaguely like Kate Capshaw when I nudged my soup at Taqueria Traspasada.

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The city's first hangover clinic and other food news bites

Posted By on 12.28.12 at 02:30 PM

Must rehydrate
Crain's reports a surgeon is opening Chicago's first hangover treatment clinic.

Matchbox owners David Gervercer and Jackie Fields are decamping for Mexico. Luckily, longtime barkeep Colleen Bush will hold down the fort, says DNAinfo.

Chicagoist interviews Gene Kato of the forthcoming Sumi Robata Bar on the history and ins and outs of Japanese robata grilling.

The Chicago Food Snob reads the entrails for the year in food 2013, and makes his predictions, including the establishment of the 32nd Mexican state, Bayxaca, in River North.

More food news after the jump:

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