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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Criss Angel ruins the illusion on Believe

Posted By on 11.13.13 at 09:49 AM

Criss Angel admires a corpse on Believe.
  • Spike TV
  • Criss Angel admires a corpse on Believe.

I'd always been under the impression that revealing how a magic trick works to a nonmagician was a violation of some sacred magician code. Same as, say, not wearing at least a little bit of smoky black eyeliner. I happen to know exactly where I got that idea: an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm on which Cheryl's cousin—played by a young Anton Yelchin—refuses to tell Larry how he did a card trick because Larry isn't a magician; some people just are, others aren't, he explains.

Apparently no such mandate exists, though, because ol' Criss "Loose Lips" Angel has a new
show called Criss Angel Believe, on Spike, and he's leaking tricks like a sieve. But only the sort-of-lame magic tricks, not the good ones that require NASA-grade technologies, like levitating Shaquille O’Neal 60 feet above your Las Vegas home while your buds Flavor Flav and Carrot Top look on.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

After the Battle, a stirring melodrama about Egypt post-Tahir Square, is free to watch online

Posted By on 11.12.13 at 03:55 PM

Nahed El Sebai (center) and Menna Shalabi (right) star in After the Battle.
  • Nahed El Sebai (center) and Menna Shalabi (right) star in After the Battle.
For three more days Mubi.com is streaming Yousry Nasrallah's After the Battle for free as part of their Dialogue of Cultures International Film Festival. I posted an overview of the program over the weekend, but I feel that After the Battle merits special attention. The movie addresses recent social upheaval in Egypt, and more often in personal, rather than political, terms. As an outsider who's learned about Egypt's ongoing crisis solely through reading news reports, I found the film's human-interest approach eye-opening. Some European critics have complained about the film's melodramatic nature, which can make this topical work feel strangely old-fashioned. Yet Nasrallah employs melodramatic tropes knowingly, using them to bring a sense of urgency to the film's feminist politics and cultural interrogation, neither of which registers as straightforward or self-righteous.

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The environmental wonder of John Luther Adams's Inuksuit

Posted By on 11.12.13 at 03:24 PM

John_Luther_Adams_inuksuit.jpg
I still rue that I was out of town last summer when percussionist Doug Perkins organized and presented a performance of Inuksuit, a massive outdoor percussion piece by John Luther Adams, in Millennium Park. It was a terribly rainy, ugly day, which surely put a damper on the festivities, in which about a hundred percussionists were spread out in the park performing the multilayered work—it's written for anywhere between nine and 99 players—but I still heard wonderful things about the event. Perkins—a cofounder of So Percussion who moved to Chicago last year and now plays frequently in Eighth Blackbird—has been a devoted advocate for the piece, mounting performances in New York and, earlier this summer, in Milwaukee, in addition to the one here. A couple of weeks ago a recording of Inuksuit—taped in June last year in the forest surrounding a recording studio in Guilford, Connecticut, and produced by Perkins—was released by Cantaloupe Records. The performance featured 32 musicians and used 48 tracks.

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Lady Gaga and Katy Perry: The dueling divas

Posted By on 11.12.13 at 02:53 PM

lady_gaga_artpop.jpg
August's MTV Video Music Awards were set up like a head-to-head competition between Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, both of whom had big new albums to promote. Gaga opened the show with a performance of her new single, "Applause," that must have set some kind of record for real-time costume changes in a pop performance, and Perry ended it by doing her new single, "Roar," in a boxing ring set up underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. It would have gone down as one of pop music's greatest showdowns if Miley Cyrus's twerking hadn't stolen the entire show, leaving Perry and Gaga to duke it out on the pop charts.

So far Perry's been winning handily. In the 12 weeks that both singles have been out, "Roar" has lingered around number one and "Applause" around number ten, at times outperformed by Ylvis's novelty song "The Fox." But the promotional push for Gaga's Artpop album—as high-theatrical as we've come to expect from her—is only now starting to kick in, and things may change yet.

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Street View 139: Freddie and Frank's fearless fashion

Posted By on 11.12.13 at 01:04 PM

Street View is a fashion series in which Isa Giallorenzo spotlights some of the coolest styles seen in Chicago.

IMG_4827.jpg

I know I might sound repetitive when I say menswear is all about the right fit, but yeah: menswear is all about the right fit. Not too loose, not too tight, just right. Check out Freddie and Frank. Notice how their jackets hug their shoulders snuggly, how their pants fit them precisely, how their hems stop exactly where they should, giving their charming shoes a chance to shine. Some might say a tailor is a man's best friend, and maybe they have a point. You don't need to venture into bespoke territory, but why not alter pants or sleeves that fall too long? Such a small change, such a big difference. If you're feeling casual—or broke—just alter them yourself by rolling up those bad boys. OK, now let's say it all fits. Wanna take it to the next level? Color! The dudes above clearly don't fear it, and neither should you.

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"Lackey to myself" D.T. Max at City Lit tonight

Posted By on 11.12.13 at 12:24 PM

Proof that at least some New Yorker writers are just really nice
  • Flash Rosenberg
  • Proof that at least some New Yorker writers are just really nice

Assigned a brief write-up of D.T. Max for our Printers Row festival coverage last spring, I e-mailed him via his website asking if he had any new projects in the works. A few days later I heard back from someone named Daniel, asking whether it was too late to provide info. Assuring him it wasn't, I asked to be directed to someone who could answer my question.

His reply?

"i think that person is me! i have a couple of New Yorker pieces that I'm working on and contemplating something longer—mostly by doing the laundry and vacuuming. i also spend a lot of time talking about DFW at various universities—i completely love it!"

Gah.

I apologized, explaining that I'd assumed I was corresponding with a lackey. "I am a lackey—lackey to myself," he wrote. Then, perhaps, he went back to vacuuming.

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12 O'Clock Track: The spooky neoclassical rock of These New Puritans' "Organ Eternal"

Posted By on 11.12.13 at 12:00 PM

The cover of Field of Reeds
  • The cover of Field of Reeds
With mid-November approaching, now's around the time when I start thinking about what I'd pick as my favorite albums of the year. That means one of two things typically happens: I'll spend some time listening to albums I otherwise missed this past year, or I'll revisit some of my favorites and realize which ones truly stand out. Of the former, easily the biggest revelation is These New Puritans' Field of Reeds, which I'm glad I only got to now, since it feels much more appropriate for the gloomier late-fall, early-winter days than it does for early summer, when it was released. TNP is a London-based trio consisting of Thomas Hein and twins Jack and George Barrett. Their music doesn't fit neatly into any specific genre, but if I had to pick a band they remind me of it would definitely be late-period Talk Talk, the British synth-pop-turned-art-rock band who incorporated everything from postbop jazz to neoclassical music in their virtually uncategorizable final two albums (Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock). Like Talk Talk, TNP use unusual, classical-leaning instrumentation in pop/rock song structures, but the latter's music is stiffer and more exacting than the former, who often improvised first and assembled the music into songs and albums afterward. It's hard to pick a standout from Field of Reeds, since the album mostly feels like one piece of music, but I'm inclined to choose "Organ Eternal," which appears on the album's back half. The song mostly consists of a piano, keyboard, and vibraphone playing an identical, spiraling melody, creating a focused, hypnotic pattern. But the band adds little touches and breakdowns that give the song emotional heft and character—including slight squeals of what sound like cats and children—and a string section that adds drama without ever sounding maudlin or over-the-top. Whatever references you can find to link this music to, they're not easy to spot, and there's no question that TNP have their own sound, one that is undeniably serious without ever fully succumbing to self-seriousness. Check out the song and its European-art-film-style video below the jump.

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Did you read about Ventra, nude selfies, and the Billy Goat Tavern?

Posted By on 11.12.13 at 11:25 AM

Say it aint so
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

• That all we can do now is wait for the human race to die? J.R. Jones

• About the wide-open spaces in more and more cities? Steve Bogira

• That a new study has found that whites abuse drugs at higher rates than blacks? Mick Dumke

• About how Chicago isn't the first city where Ventra has made transit difficult? Luca Cimarusti

• That the Hijras of Bangladesh are now officially neither male nor female, but a third gender? Tony Adler

• About the landmark court decision in Botswana that restored a family property to four elderly sisters who'd been barred from inheriting because of their sex? Kate Schmidt

• Ariel Levy on the loss of her child? Tal Rosenberg

• That "huh?" is a universal word? Aimee Levitt

• That the Sun-Times probably leaked embargoed news about this year's Michelin stars 12 hours too early? Kevin Warwick

• That the original Billy Goat Tavern is going to be "displaced"? Tal Rosenberg

• Advice on how to take a better nude selfie? Mick Dumke

• About the OkCupid date that lasted for 21 days? Brianna Wellen

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Keeping an eye on Michelin Day so you don't have to

Posted By on 11.12.13 at 10:37 AM

Two-star Grace.

I was listening to an episode of the LA-based podcast Good Food, and one question in a segment on wine with the San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Bonné was whether Robert Parker and his 100-point scale mattered to consumers any more. The gist of his answer was both that wine drinkers want different things than the high-alcohol wines that Parker popularized (to the point of inducing wineries to change their own styles to meet his preferences), and that a scale in which all the action happens within a tiny range (basically 94 points and up) is too blunt an instrument. Today people get their information from all over the place, not just one guide . . .

. . . which is why chefs and foodies are all hanging out by Twitter today to see what the Michelin Guide Gallicly deigns to approve of about our dining scene this year.

By now the criticisms of Michelin are familiar—they prize what our food scene is actively about getting away from (formality in all its forms), they persistently underrate Chicago (we have by far the fewest stars of any of the U.S. guides), and they're the only people left who can't seem to get tickets to Next. (Certainly, every time I've been there, I've never seen a Michelin inspector.) Nevertheless, as arbitrary as it is that we should give the obscure, unvetted representatives of a tire company so much weight for their food opinions, it's a holiday for the food scene and, God knows, it beats thinking about this kind of Chicago rating. So I'm going to keep an eye on the announcements as they come out, and update this post throughout the day, beginning now with the leaked three- and two-star winners.

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The weasel word: A tribute

Posted By on 11.12.13 at 09:39 AM

The journalists not-so-trusty companion
  • Schaef1/Photos.com
  • The journalist's not-so-trusty companion

I mean to put in a good word here for the journalist's unsung friend the weasel word. When you want to say something categorical but are afraid to—because, damn it, what if you're wrong?—the weasel word is the way to go.

For example, pin the message on sources say . . . . Better that sources turn out to have no idea what they're talking about than that you do. Sources say will never go out of fashion, but here's the weasel word that has lately torn up the news columns. Seemingly. It's been hot for two months.

Seemingly hit the big time when the Syrian crisis—remember the Syrian crisis?—took a sudden turn no one knew what to make of. Let's review. President Obama had promised reprisals if president Bashar al-Assad deployed chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. Assad deployed chemical weapons. Very well, said Obama, Assad must be taught a lesson and I will ask Congress for the authority to teach it. But it quickly became clear that Congress was not about to give Obama that authority—even though Secretary of State John Kerry said the missile strike Obama was contemplating would be "unbelievably small"—along the lines of the paddling loving parents administer that "hurts me more than it hurts you."

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