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Monday, March 31, 2014

Who let that evil wizard into the Music Box Theatre?

Posted By on 03.31.14 at 02:58 PM

William Friedkins Sorcerer (1977)
  • William Friedkin's Sorcerer (1977)
I found it odd that much of the anticipatory buzz surrounding the rollout of the new restoration of William Friedkin's Sorcerer (which I discussed a few weeks back) emphasized that this would be the first time that many viewers would be able to see the film in its original aspect ratio. True, all home video releases of Sorcerer have presented it in the Academy ratio of 1.37:1, which is noticeably boxier than the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Yet Friedkin has often said that he shot his movies to work in either format, meaning that no visual information would be lost when the films converted to the dimensions of old TVs (Stanley Kubrick also employed this method from the 1970s to the end of his career). Viewers wouldn't see more of Sorcerer on a big screen, just a more rectangular version of the movie they already knew.

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At long last Penrose blesses Chicago with its beer

Posted By on 03.31.14 at 02:00 PM

Penrose Brewings first three year-round beers: Proto Gradus, P-2, and Navette
  • Jeff Cagle
  • Penrose Brewing's first three year-round beers: Proto Gradus, P-2, and Navette
Penrose Brewing of Geneva, Illinois, threw a Chicago launch party last Monday at a lovely Humboldt Park studio space shared by Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting. Because that was a week ago, Karl Klockars at Time Out and Chuck Sudo at Chicagoist have beaten me to the punch, and their posts both include a fair amount of the brewery's backstory. So I can skip that stuff, can't I?

Well, I'm not gonna. Maybe y'all just come here to watch me make with the crazy adjectives, but you're gonna get some "journalism" too. Penrose's opening is among the year's most anticipated developments in the local craft-beer community. Even before its founders went public with their plans last March on an episode of Hop Cast, rumors had been kicking around—probably because the two of them started planning in December 2010.

At that point both Penrose principals, Eric Hobbs and Tom Korder, were still at Goose Island. Hobbs, who'd grown up in Geneva, worked in sales, and Korder was an innovation manager at the brewery—alongside John Laffler, who's now with Off Color. The Hop Cast guys joke that he was Goose's "Laffler wrangler," and the friendly teasing goes both ways: the gin-barreled cherry-brett version of Off Color's Troublesome that won a silver medal in the Fruit Beer category at FOBAB last fall was also known as "Tom Korder Is a Jerk."

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Pho now, L.D. Pho has Lincoln Square's only proper pho

Posted By on 03.31.14 at 01:12 PM

Pho dac biet, L.D. Pho

In terms of its commercial offerings, Lawrence Avenue west of Western in Lincoln Square looks kinda Balkan, its smoky bars and dingy coffee shops crowded with an older population of domino-slapping Greeks, supplanted by more recent arrivals from the former Yugoslavia. You wouldn't think of it as a Vietnamese neighborhood just because you can buy the city's best banh mi at Nhu Lan Bakery. But if you subscribe to the rule of threes to determine whether something is an actual "thing," you have to take into account the two recent arrivals just down the block, the Vietnamese billiard hall/coffee shop Cafe Huong, which rivals some of the Greek places for its intimidation quotient, and L.D. Pho, a modest but impressively busy restaurant that opened just a few months ago.

Chef-owner Liu Dang, a veteran of a few sushi bars, told me he targeted the spot simply because you can't get pho in the neighborhood. Well, Nhu Lan makes it, but only for takeout, and there was no place for a sit-down with the proper accoutrement—herbs, lime wedges, bean sprouts, fish sauce, chile sauce, and hoisin—arrayed before you to doctor your own brew. The bowls at L.D. Pho are oceanic; the large size is only $1 more than a $7 small. That's excepting the house special, or dac biet, featuring the full range of beef bits—brisket, flank, tendon, tripe, and meatballs—for $1 more. Dang's broth is plenty fragrant with five spice, concealing a tangled forest of rice noodles under the floating greenery. This is the reason take-out pho is usually a losing proposition—and why every neighborhood deserves a sit-down spot. Those noodles quickly absorb the broth, leaving you with a plastic tub of starch bordering on porridge. L.D. Pho will package orders, but you might as well just get a plate of bun kho, noodles sans soup with grilled pork, shrimp, chicken, or fried egg rolls.

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Best shows to see: Dum Dum Girls, Rich Halley 4

Posted By on 03.31.14 at 12:34 PM

Dum Dum Girls
  • Dum Dum Girls
Today is opening day for the MLB; if you haven't filled up on beer and Cracker Jacks by the end of the afternoon and are in the mood to keep the celebrations going there are some great shows to see tonight and in the coming days.

Tonight Todd Rundgren performs at SPACE. Tomorrow night Iron Chic headlines the late show at Township and . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead plays 2002's Source Tags & Codes in its entirety at Empty Bottle. On Wednesday there's Trentemoller at Concord Music Hall.

There are plenty more concerts to see this week—head to Soundboard or read on for a couple Reader picks.

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12 O'Clock Track: Trail of Dead's 'It Was There That I Saw You,' the opener to its seminal album

Posted By on 03.31.14 at 12:00 PM

Taking into account their overwrought, long-winded band name and knack for writing sweeping, emotional posthardcore epics, . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead were built to rule the moody, dyed-black-hair scene of the early aughts. And in their early Interscope phase, they did. This is mostly because of the revered Source Tags & Codes, the Austin band's major-label debut, still acknowledged as its masterpiece—though they righted the ship with 2012's Lost Songs, there were definitely a couple clunkers released between 2005 and 2011.

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Did you read about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the bubonic plague, and kosher bacon-flavored crackers?

Posted By on 03.31.14 at 11:32 AM

Hard to believe, but theyre kosher.
  • Hard to believe, but they're kosher.
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

• That part of the reason Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 hasn't been found is because the oceans are polluted? Drew Hunt

• About how 911 response times in Chicago vary by neighborhood? John Dunlevy

• About age bias in Silicon Valley's tech community? Tal Rosenberg

• That an activist claiming to be Darth Vader is running for president of Ukraine? Mick Dumke

• About new findings that suggest the 14th-century bubonic plague was actually a pneumonic plague, spread through the air? Tony Adler

Meg Wolitzer on the inspiration for her novel The Interestings? Aimee Levitt

• Or see this map of baseball fandoms, at least based on Facebook "likes"? Aimee Levitt

• About how Ritz's new bacon-flavored crackers are also kosher? Aimee Levitt

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Support sustainability in beermaking, and other food news

Posted By on 03.31.14 at 11:15 AM

You drink the stuff on top, pigs eat the grain it came from, win-win.
  • Michael Gebert
  • You drink the stuff on top, pigs eat the grain it came from—a win-win.

You make beer. From grain. You think, what to do with the grain after it's been boiled for a while? Hey, don't pigs eat grain? Yes, they do, as do other farm animals. And so brewers have been giving brewery waste products, nice and mushy like Irish oatmeal, to farmers since, oh, Russell Crowe was building an ark or something. And so far as anyone can seem to figure out, the number of health problems this has caused (as opposed to decades of perfectly legal antibiotics abuse, say) is basically zero.

So to combat this scourge of sensible sustainability with no downside, the FDA is about to ban recycling spent grains into animal feed unless the grains have been purified in some expensively technological way. (True, the grains don't strictly boil in the brewing process, where temperatures are in the range of 160 degrees, but again, there's no apparent case of this being a problem ever.) Of course, big farms and big brewers can afford to put in the equipment to dry, test, and package this stuff, so as often happens, regulation has the purely coincidental side effect of favoring big, well-connected business and harassing little guys. Reason and Boing Boing have more on this, but the reason I bring it up today is that you have exactly today to go to the FDA site and politely suggest that fighting forms of sustainability that have existed since the dawn of drinking is kind of a poor choice of priorities. It's virtually impossible to find where you can actually leave a comment, citizens, so here's the link. Protest before midnight tonight!

And in other food news . . .

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Reader's Agenda Mon 3/31: Chicago Improv Festival, Extinct Entities, and Pattern is Movement

Posted By on 03.31.14 at 06:14 AM

Pattern is Movement
  • Peter English
  • Pattern is Movement
Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered.

Some of the world’s funniest people gather to make stuff up at the Chicago Improv Festival. Groups from as far as New Zealand (not to mention the exotic cities of Athens, Ohio, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin) perform. But tonight’s all about local flair. The Best of Chicago Improv showcase features Baby Wants Candy and the Improvised Shakespeare Company at Stage 773.

The Extinct Entities Festival, which re-creates defunct and legendary artistic venues and performance spaces, releases its eponymous book tonight at Links Hall. The launch features readings from contributors Jason Foumberg and Thea Liberty Nichols, with music by Colin Blantonn.

Philadelphia indie-pop duo Pattern is Movement perform tonight at Schubas. Leor Galil writes in Soundboard that they've "beefed up their sound with more strings and horns, taking cues from contemporary soul and R&B; over the past few years, Pattern Is Movement have taken to covering D'Angelo's 'Untitled (How Does It Feel)' at shows, at least once backed by the Roots."

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

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekly Top Five: The best unrealized films

Posted By on 03.30.14 at 08:30 AM

This week the Music Box is showing the new documentary Jodorowsky's Dune, which details Chilean cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowksy's failed attempt to adapt Frank Herbert's sci-fi novel Dune. The film shows us the production materials designed by Jodorowksy that illustrate his (suitably ridiculous) vision for the film. Film history is duly marked by the form's major accomplishments, but, really, you could argue that film history has been shaped by the films that didn't make it to screen too. Such storied examples as Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon, Orson Welles's adaptation of Hearts of Darkness (initially primed as his debut feature), and Alfred Hitchcock's Kaleidoscope have as much to say about each filmmaker's impact and influence as the films they actually made. And the examples don't end there. Here are five failed films I'd most like to see.

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"Performing Images" exposes our parochial view of pop culture

Posted By on 03.30.14 at 07:30 AM

Chinese, Qing Dynasty (1644—1911), Mask Designs for Court Opera Characters, ca. 1746—95, Album leaves, ink, and color on paper
  • The Field Museum, John Weinstein
  • Chinese, Qing Dynasty (1644—1911), Mask Designs for Court Opera Characters, ca. 1746—95, Album leaves, ink, and color on paper
In the U.S. we tend to think of pop culture as our thing: a recent, Western phenomenon based in rock music, hip-hop, Hollywood film, and maybe the occasional YA novel. The Smart Museum's exhibit "Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture" demonstrates just how parochial that view is.

The show features a dazzling array of materials, from the 1700s to the present, that surround the stories and pageantry of the widely popular form. This includes production artifacts, such as costumes and instruments, as well as a series of jaw-dropping paintings, some of which served as reference for stage makeup, in which snakes, crabs, scorpions, and birds dramatically drawn on an actor's face obliterate the person's features.

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Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
March 21
Performing Arts
July 31

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