The Bleader | Blog + Reader, the Chicago Reader's blog

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

While cleaning off my desk . . .

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 05:42 PM

USS Cole after bombing
  • USS Cole after bombing
I just came across the front page of the Sun-Times from October 26, 2000. It carried this banner headline:

US COLE ATTACK
WARNING IGNORED

A 40 x 40-foot hole had been blown in the side of the Cole by a suicide bomber during a refueling stop in Yemen two weeks earlier. Seventeen sailors died. The article reported that a Pentagon intelligence analyst had warned of "impending terrorist attacks" but the warning wasn't passed along to military commanders. A later warning, of "imminent terrorist activity" in Yemen, wasn't acted on.

The thing is, the attack on the Cole was itself a warning: al Qaeda was at war against the United States. If taken as seriously as the 9/11 attacks 11 months later, it might have prevented them. But it was not.

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Four surprising things about the new Wallflowers single

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 03:51 PM

The newer, funkier Jakob Dylan
  • The newer, funkier Jakob Dylan
1. It's a taut dance-rock number with a legitimately funky rhythm track and a deftly handled minimalist arrangement—sounds like Jakob Dylan and company have been listening to a lot of the New York Noise compilation and late-era Clash records.

2. Mick Jones from the Clash is actually on it.

3. Unlike the output of other earnest turn-of-the-millennium pop-rock bands giving themselves dance-floor makeovers, it's completely free of any douche-chill-inducing self-embarrassment.

4. I like it.

Check it out for yourself after the jump.

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The science of swimsuits

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 03:19 PM

speedo.JPG
  • speedousa.com
Watching the swimming events at the Olympics, plus observing my fellow lap swimmers at various Chicago Park District pools, I started wondering why suits designed specifically for competitive swimming look the way they do. The obvious answer is to reduce drag—in major swim events, every tenth of a second saved counts. But swimsuits designed for serious competition are on a whole other level from a Nike one-piece picked up at the Sports Authority.

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One Bite: the mother of all schnitzel sandwiches at Olga's Deli

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 01:50 PM

4-story chicken schnitzel sandwich
  • Mike Sula
  • Four-story chicken schnitzel sandwich

You'd need the cranial kinesis of a boa constrictor to get this absurdly gigantic sandwich between your jaws. The four-layer chicken schnitzel at Irving Park's Olga's Deli is the crowning glory in a small but astonishing repertoire, but it's the lunchtime ritual of lining up and ordering from the eponymous Olga, who is the embodiment of generosity, that gives this towering construction an ineffable appeal.

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Remembering Chris Marker

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 12:44 PM

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When I think of the French New Wave, a few names in particular come to mind. Truffaut and Godard may have been the loudest and the most lauded, but there was a whole slew of brilliant work being done by the Left Bank set, many of whom are only just now getting their due. Chris Marker, who passed away Sunday at the age of 91, was one of these directors.

I first encountered La Jetée—Marker's 1962 international debut and best-known film—in high school. I was just beginning to cut my teeth on cinema, and the sparse, 27-minute short film I found at the library left me with arresting images and apocalypse-fueled dreams. A few months later I saw 12 Monkeys, Terry Gilliam's amped-up reimagining of Marker's story, and couldn't stand it. A mix of romance, war film, and science fiction dystopia, La Jetée is composed (almost) entirely of still images. Photos are linked together, voice-over narration is dropped on top, and somehow the film becomes much greater than the sum of its parts.

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The even more experimental side of Zappa keyboardist Don Preston

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 12:31 PM

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I've never developed much of a taste for the music of Frank Zappa—sacrilege in some quarters, I know—so I didn't really get familiar with longtime Zappa keyboardist Don Preston until I heard him on some great 80s records by Los Angeles clarinetist and bandleader John Carter, in particular the expansive live quintet album Comin' On (Hatology), with coleader and cornetist Bobby Bradford. Preston played piano on the record, as well as some pretty spaced-out synthesizer lines that still rattle me when I listen to them now. Over the years I came across Preston's name on a wide variety of recordings, including the Carla Bley and Paul Haines masterwork Escalator Over the Hill and albums by John Lennon, Robby Krieger, the Residents, and Eugene Chadbourne. But some of his most radical work was released only earlier this year on Filters, Oscillators & Envelopes 1967-82 (Sub Rosa), a bracing collection of experimental electronic music.

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12 O'Clock Track: AC4, "Fuck the Pigs"

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 12:00 PM

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Apparently everyone in Chicago was at the Congress Theater on Thursday for the Refused reunion tour. Hell, even I was there, and I hate Refused. That said, I've always kind of dug the scene around Refused in their native Sweden. One of my favorite records of 2006 was Alienated by the Vicious, a no-frills punk band with Sara Almgren, a member of (International) Noise Conspiracy, on guitar. The Vicious eventually morphed into Masshysteri, another excellent Swedish punk band. In 2008, former Refused members Dennis Lyxzen and David Sandstrom reunited, threw all the stupid pretension and lame posturing of their past band out the window, and formed AC4. Today's 12 O'Clock Track is "Fuck the Pigs" from AC4's 2010 self-titled LP, available stateside on Deranged Records. Take a listen to this blast of Minor Threat-biting punk-rock fury— you may never want to hear Refused again.

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What's new again: Claude Chabrol's Les Cousins

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 10:10 AM

A caress or a choke-hold?
  • A caress or a choke-hold?
One of my favorite things about Alex Ross Perry's The Color Wheel (currently playing at Facets in a return engagement) is how it evokes the early French New Wave films without overtly emulating them. Yes, it's shot in grainy black-and-white, it features plenty of cheap-but-ambitious tracking shots, and it changes tone as drastically as Shoot the Piano Player or A Woman Is a Woman. But the most important connection may be that The Color Wheel is a piece of film criticism as well as a piece of filmmaking. As Perry explained to me in an interview last month, the movie attempts to unite three dissimilar influences, the novels of Philip Roth and the films of Vincent Gallo and Jerry Lewis. In doing so, the film locates a particular aesthetic lineage, rooted in self-examination and often resulting in audience discomfort, to ground new observations about family and Jewish middle-class angst.

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Faster, higher, stronger—younger

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 08:50 AM

Hope Solo: Shut up and step aside, Brandi.
Through all the relentless hype about how great the Olympics have been so far, it's been lost that there's a significant generation gap between the athletes and their elders.

'Twas ever thus, of course, in the world of sport, but I've been struck by how this particular theme—pervasive as it's been—has been ignored by most of the media, at least as an overall trend.

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Turning my office inside-out

Posted By on 07.31.12 at 06:45 AM

Chuckys back, and hes tossing out his old blue pencils.
  • Chucky's back, and he's tossing out his old blue pencils.
Packing up my office this weekend, in anticipation of the Reader’s August 1 move to 350 N. Orleans, I was forced to sift and sort through 15 years’ worth of crap, which turned out to be a real trip down memory lane—maybe not a lane, more like a back alley. Here’s some of the weird stuff I dug up:

An eight-inch rubber sperm I got in the mail as promo for the movie Seed of Chucky. The big sperm also came with a condom labeled “Get a Load of Chucky,” which I stapled to the bulletin board at one point, so it’s probably no good now.

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