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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I'm pretty sure the Canadian and U.S. hockey teams have different coaches

Posted By on 02.18.14 at 05:00 PM

Canadas Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue
  • JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
  • Canada's Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue

When I was a kid in Canada I spotted a mention in the local paper of a high school basketball game with a twist: one of the coaches couldn't make it, so both teams had to be coached by the same guy. The memory of reading this has stuck with me as anecdotal evidence of the casual way the Canadians approached every sport but hockey. Hockey was competitive; everything else was gym class.

(Or curling.)

The anecdote just got more complicated. I've been watching the Olympics, paying special attention to figure skating (and curling), in particular to the showdown for the ages between Canada's reigning gold-medal ice dance team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and America's heirs apparent, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Commentators proclaimed them the two best pairs ever to grace the event, and sure enough, when Davis and White edged out Virtue and Moir Monday, as expected, both teams received the highest scores ever awarded.

They train together near Detroit and share a coach, Marina Zoueva. NBC's commentators have found this relationship endlessly remarkable, but a thousand remarks don't add up to a single exploration of why the relationship exists and whether it can possibly do right by either pair, let alone both. Presumably, a shared coach can equally assist both pairs to reach the separate summits of their art; but can she be trusted by either pair to conceive a battle plan to defeat the other?

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" lives up to its name

Posted By on 02.18.14 at 02:57 PM

Since January 29, the most popular song in the country has been Katy Perry's "Dark Horse," featuring Juicy J. Considering the amount of shake-up happening in the upper reaches of the Hot 100, it's an impressive showing, but for such a successful song it seems strangely unloved. After being on the Hot 100 for 21 weeks it doesn't even have an official video (although one is scheduled to drop Thursday), and despite having a time line full of devout poptimists, I can't remember seeing a single tweet about it.

The song itself doesn't even seem that excited to exist. It's a hybrid of Perry's usual Dr. Luke-assisted pop style and the minimalist rap production that's dominated the past year in music; it's nearly the same formula that Lorde follows but without the sneaky subversive streak that makes her stuff so endlessly compelling. It's an unexpectedly edgy and up-to-date move for Perry, who's usually content to explore new musical territory only once it's been thoroughly checked out and road-tested by other pop stars, but although she deserves an A for effort, the result is a squishy, lifeless blob. Perry just isn't cut out for subtlety, and when she's not playing to the cheap seats her songs crumple.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Street View 167: Winter-proof girlie plaid

Posted By on 02.18.14 at 02:25 PM

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


Yes, it's cold, but Dulce shows low temperatures don't have to equal sloppy looks. She paired a boyish plaid flannel shirt and a flowy polka-dot skirt to great effect, and finished with a camel-colored wool peacoat and much-needed low-top snow boots. Cute, cool, and warm.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

An interview with silent-film accompanist David Drazin (part one)

Posted By on 02.18.14 at 01:48 PM

  • Photo courtesy of David Drazin
David Drazin has been playing piano at silent-film screenings in Chicago for almost 30 years. If you've seen a silent movie in the city (outside of the Music Box, that is, where Dennis Scott is the house accompanist), chances are you've heard Drazin play. I can hardly estimate how many screenings I've attended where he was providing the soundtrack—at some point I began to take for granted that if I went to a silent-film revival he'd probably be there. Yet accompanying a film requires a lot more than just showing up, so I decided to sit down with Drazin to learn more about the nature of his work. We met a few weeks ago in Evanston, not far from the ballet school where he's accompanied classes for about as long as he's accompanied films. In the first part of our conversation, posted below, Drazin explains what led him to play for silent movies and what it's like to be an accompanist for a living. In the second part, which I'll post tomorrow, he provides a brief history lesson about music in silent cinema and reflects on how his knowledge of film history influences his craft.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Double your pleasure: A Two Piece Fest Midwest primer

Posted By on 02.18.14 at 01:06 PM

  • Courtesy Two Piece Fest's Facebook page
On the surface Two Piece Fest Midwest looks like it's been designed to appeal to music fans with a thing for numbers. The daylong DIY event is a celebration of bands with only two members, and it takes place on Saturday, which is 2/22, and there are 22 bands on the bill. In reality Two Piece Fest wasn't created just for this weekend, and it's got a bit of a history: Philadelphia punk dudes Peter Helmis (of Algernon Cadwallader) and Craig Woods (of Towers and Hot Bagels) started it years ago as a way to celebrate their own two-piece band, Peter & Craig; last weekend they put on the seventh installment of the Philly fest.

Dave Collis, who fronts eclectic local punk outfit My Dad, grew up in Philly and caught the third Two Piece Fest in 2010. He wasn't a fan of every group that played, but Collis was taken by the way nearly two dozen disparate bands could be united under the unusual but basic criterion indicated in the event's name. After moving here to attend Columbia College in the fall of 2010, Collis wanted to bring Two Piece Fest to Chicago; he even e-mailed Helmis and Woods to get their permission to launch a local version. But the gears didn't start turning until Collis ran into Woods at an underground blowout Collis put together called Gnarfest back in August. "Woods was like, 'I just moved here,'" Collis says. Their conversation eventually turned to Two Piece Fest: "He [Woods] was like, 'I want to do a Chicago one.'"

Once Woods got settled in town, he and Collis began planning the first local Two Piece Fest. They came up with a list of bands, including acts that played the event in Philly and groups Collis pinpointed going through his record collection, and Collis set about contacting everyone on the wish list. "Some I didn't hear back from, some wanted a lot of money, some had to deal with bullshit agent stuff," Collis says. But, he adds, "some were really excited about it." Plenty of groups were enthusiastic about the idea of performing with other bands that only had two members even though they don't all play the same type of music. Sure, a lot of the acts slated to perform Saturday can be filed under the general umbrella of "alternative" or "punk," but there's a nice blend of hardcore, math-punk, grindcore, scuzz-punk, sludge-pop, and noise—that's not always something you can see on a bill for an underground show.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fact checking should begin at home

Posted By on 02.18.14 at 12:36 PM

The tools of the trade
  • Pixsooz/
  • The tools of the trade

The mistakes journalists make that actually bother us—as distinct from the "mistakes" that incite readers to curse our names and demand our heads—are simple things: a faulty statistic, a date a year off, a name misspelled. A false fact, in short. Everything needs to be checked.

And double-checked—because every reporter makes mistakes. And I think it's safe to say—on the basis of a decade spent watching journalism retrench financially and reading the results—that the mistakes we make these days are more likely to see the light of day because there's next to nothing left in the way of fail-safe systems to eliminate them. The ranks of copy readers, at the Reader and everywhere else, are a wisp of what they were.

That's why, in a recent series of pieces critical of the New York Times, I put the blame for stories marred by egregious lapses of logic not merely on the writers of those stories but also on the Times institutionally for not providing editors who might have saved the writers from themselves. The best writers can get so caught up in whatever point they're trying to make that they blind themselves to why they aren't making it. It's up to an editor—expecting no thanks and getting none (maybe tomorrow)—to step in and say This is stupid! If they don't readers will.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

12 O'Clock Track: That Nick Cave song that was in The X-Files

Posted By on 02.18.14 at 12:00 PM

The truth is out there.
  • photo courtesy FOX TV
  • The truth is out there.
Thanks to Netflix, I've been pretty immersed in the brilliant, creepy, and amusingly self-aware 90s TV series The X-Files. I watched some of season two and all of seasons three and four when it was originally on the air, but only upon rewatching the show am I starting to become aware of its true genius. Last night I was watching the season-two episode "Ascension," and while deranged abductee Duane Barry is driving through the North Carolina woods with agent Dana Scully tied up in the back of his trunk, what's playing but Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "Red Right Hand." That's something I would have missed back when I originally watched the show, but now I can see that series creator Chris Carter must have sensed some kinship between Cave's noir-tinged, whiskey-soaked lounge act and The X-Files' dark, campy vibe. This is one of Cave's more Tom Waits-y numbers, originally appearing on the singer's strong 1994 album Let Love In. Check it out below.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Did you read about Wall Street, Pussy Riot, and Lil Herb?

Posted By on 02.18.14 at 11:35 AM

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of the Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot
  • Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of the Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

That "if the scientists are right, we may have to change the way we think about tackling violence and crime"? Mara Shalhoup

• About the hedge-fund billionaire who's organizing and funding election challenges to politicians who refuse to act on climate change? Mick Dumke

• About Kappa Beta Phi, a fraternity for superrich Wall Street bankers? (Their initiation rituals are so much like a college fraternity, I thought this article was a joke.) Aimee Levitt

• That former U.S. congressman Mel Reynolds has been arrested on pornography charges in Zimbabwe? —John Dunlevy

• That members of Pussy Riot were briefly detained in Sochi? Drew Hunt

• About stoned driving versus drunken driving? Steve Bogira

That divorces are a sign of a good economy? Brianna Wellen

• That the chronically itchy may just need a fix for their itch receptor? Steve Bogira

• About the musical lineage of Chicago rapper Lil Herb? Leor Galil

Tags: ,

A few more tales from the amazing life of Ruth Gruber

Posted By on 02.18.14 at 09:40 AM

Ruth Gruber in Alaska, looking more fabulous in the freezing cold than you could ever dream.
  • courtesy Illinois Holocaust Museum
  • Ruth Gruber in Alaska, looking more fabulous in the freezing cold than you could ever dream.
Ruth Gruber, the 102-year-old photographer whose work goes on display this Sunday at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, has had an amazing life. Some of it has been described in a preview of the exhibit, called "Ruth Gruber: Photojournalist": her travels in the Soviet arctic and through the Alaskan frontier; her stewardship of 1,000 Jewish refugees who traveled from Italy to upstate New York in 1944 aboard the ship Henry Gibbins; her photographs showing the deplorable conditions aboard another ship of refugees, the Exodus, which had been denied entry into Palestine by the British and was eventually sent back to Germany.

Amazingly, Gruber never studied photography formally. Her only professional instruction came from Edward Steichen, who told her, "Take pictures with your heart."

Gruber's life would still be remarkable, though, even if she'd never had her adventures as a photojournalist. Here are a few more stories from her life that she never photographed.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reader's Agenda Tue 2/18: Delorean, Kill Yr Idols, and Camille Claudel 1915

Posted By on 02.18.14 at 06:06 AM

  • Nacho Vidal
  • Delorean
Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered.

Tonight at Lincoln Hall, Delorean play their electronic dance music for people who can't stand electronic dance music. "They look like the scruffy-faced dudes in your typical guitar-centric indie band, but they happen to use those instruments (guitar, bass, drums, keys) to play glimmering, euphoric dance-pop," writes Leor Galil in Soundboard.

The Kill Yr Idols reading series prematurely celebrates the death of still-living pop culture icons. Tonight they give the fake posthumous honors to Bill Cosby with readings from Heiko Julien, Muyassar Kurdi, Stephen Dvorak, and Elizabeth S. Tieri and a performance from the Iceberg. It all goes down at Cole's.

Juliette Binoche stars in Bruno Dumont's French biopic Camille Claudel 1915, which tells the story of the sculptor's time in an asylum. J.R. Jones writes, "Still beautiful at 49, Binoche has the sort of delicate features that might compel a sculptor, and she gives an extraordinary performance in a role of near-complete suffering." See it tonight at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Agenda Teaser

December 12
Performing Arts
July 04

Tabbed Event Search

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories