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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Forces of the past in Only Lovers Left Alive and Pasolini's Trilogy of Life

Posted By on 04.30.14 at 04:24 PM

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in Jim Jarmuschs Only Lovers Left Alive
  • Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive
In another one of those fortuitous moviegoing coincidences, I recently saw The Canterbury Tales (1972) in the Siskel Center's Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective just after checking out Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive for a second time. I found the pairing instructive—each one provided insights into the other I might not have experienced had I seen the films separately. In hindsight, though, it wasn't such an unusual pairing. Pasolini had achieved fame for his poetry before he started making movies, and he continued to publish poems for the rest of his life. Jarmusch aspired as a young man to become a poet, and one can feel the influence of poetry on all of his films. (Indeed I can't think of another living U.S. narrative filmmaker as informed by poetry as Jarmusch.) I enjoy revisiting his movies for similar reasons as I enjoy rereading poems—on repeat viewings, motifs I'd considered only superficially become more resonant, and I also find deeper meaning in the overall structure. For instance, it took me a few viewings of Night on Earth and Broken Flowers to realize that the dramatic encounters grow more pessimistic over the course of each film.

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Karen Lewis at the Hideout!

Posted By on 04.30.14 at 03:43 PM

Karen Lewis, the only union leader in at least 20 years who had the guts to defy a powerful mayor, joins Mick and Ben at the Hideout on May 6th.
  • Al Podgorski/Sun-Times Media
  • Karen Lewis, the only union leader in at least 20 years who had the guts to defy a powerful mayor, joins Mick and Ben at the Hideout on May 6th.

Last month's inaugural edition of First Tuesdays—the Mick & Ben talk show at the Hideout—was so successful that we were thinking of retiring then and there to live off the pension Tim Tuten promised us.

We being Mick Dumke and I, the hosts of the aforementioned show.

And Tim Tuten being the Hideout's co-owner, who probably didn't realize he was paying us a pension. Told you not to mix Guinness with McClelland's, Tim.

Anyway, we'll be back on May 6 for show number two. To equal the opener—which included former alderman Dick Mell's eye-opening explanation as to why City Council members sell their souls to the mayor—we have decided to call on Chicago's very own Jackie Brown!

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The community behind La Collection, a new mixtape produced by C-Sick

Posted By on 04.30.14 at 02:00 PM

Yesterday a friend recommended I check out "How Hip-Hop Failed Black America," Questlove's weekly series of essays critiquing hip-hop's evolution for Vulture. So far I'm interested in the map the beloved drummer of the Roots has devised to discuss the style's grasp on culture. In the latest installment (part two of six) Questlove compares the way Run-DMC used their shoes to partially symbolize the everyperson's dreams on "My Adidas" and contrasts that to Jay Z's ode to unspeakable, almost unthinkable wealth on "Picasso Baby." I'm taken by Questlove's framing device for the entire series; he uses quotes from John Bradford, Albert Einstein, and Ice Cube to emphasize three different ideological views to the way we interact with others as a society, which he then ropes back into his dissection of hip-hop history.

I'm most interested in how Questlove reconfigures a scientific quote of Einstein's ("spooky action at a distance") to fit a theory about society:

Einstein was talking about physics, of course, but to me, he's talking about something closer to home — the way that other people affect you, the way that your life is entangled in theirs whether or not there's a clear line of connection.

Reading this I can't help but think of La Collection, a mixtape produced entirely by local beat maker C-Sick that Columbia College's student-run label AEMMP Records released yesterday. It's not just because Nick Astro raps about wanting to "make a guest appearance on Jimmy Fallon"—after all, the Roots are Fallon's in-house band, and that hints at some form of societal entanglement—but because La Collection exists in the first place.

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Hustled by Freddy 'the Beard' Bentivegna

Posted By on 04.30.14 at 12:30 PM

The Beard regales Ben with stories before setting him up for defeat.
  • Nick Murway
  • The Beard regales Ben with stories before setting him up for defeat.
As part of my ongoing education in the psyche of Chicago voters, I agreed to play pool against the legendary Freddy "the Beard" Bentivegna, one of the great hustlers of our time.

There's a connection—just bear with me.

Apparently the Reader needed a mark to get hustled, as part of a video that accompanies a profile of the Beard by staff writer Aimee Levitt .

So on a bright and sunny Friday morning, I headed over to Chris's Billiards, 4637 N. Milwaukee, which, of course, is dark, dank, and dingy. As pool halls tend to be.

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12 O'Clock Track: Driving, organ-stoked cool from Klaus Johann Grobe

Posted By on 04.30.14 at 12:00 PM

Klaus Johann Grobe
  • courtesy of Trouble in Mind Records
  • Klaus Johann Grobe
I don't hang out in record shops as much as I used to, a state of affairs my wallet doesn't mind. But the flip side of that absence is that I don't as often have the sort of epiphanies I did a few months ago while in Permanent Records. I heard something playing on the sound system I didn't know, and after a couple of songs the music had seduced me enough to ask the man behind the counter, Bill Roe, what was playing. The enticing sounds were by a Swiss duo called Klaus Johann Grobe, and Roe was playing an album his label, Trouble in Mind, would soon be releasing. That record, Im Sinne der Zeit, was released yesterday. I listened to it three times. I never listen to records three times in a single day!

Over crisp, lean Krautrock-derived rhythms—some recall the motorik groove of Neu! while others have that postdisco hi-hat throb—Sevi Landolt sings in German (even when the song titles are in English) and lays down hypnotic, skittery organ licks and swells as well as well-placed analog synthesizer patterns. Klaus Johann Grobe's music is crafty in its insinuating charm. At times the organ tone suggests the cheesy lounge flavor of Brazilian keyboardist Walter Wanderley, providing a kind of balance to the terse, hard-hitting grooves meted out by drummer Daniel Bachmann. The album's nine tunes convey a wide variety of moods and melodic shapes, but on today's 12 O'Clock Track, "Between the Buttons," the vibe is pure forward motion, with a propulsive, sinister bass line, tightly coiled beats, and staccato organ stabs supporting the chill singing.

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Did you read about Silvio Berlusconi, DJ Rashad, and Frank Lloyd Wright?

Posted By on 04.30.14 at 11:26 AM

Silvio Berlusconi shouldnt have let it all go to his head.
  • AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
  • Silvio Berlusconi shouldn't have let it all go to his head.
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

• That the city of Chicago's convicted former comptroller has been arrested on the lam in Pakistan? Mick Dumke

• About the BASIC computer-programming language, which was first used 50 years ago tomorrow? John Dunlevy

• That Silvio Berlusconi is about to start working with Alzheimer's patients as punishment for committing tax fraud? Ben Sachs

Paul Krugman's review of Capital in the Twenty-first Century, the new book by French economist Thomas Piketty explaining the economics of our "new Gilded Age?" Tony Adler

• This chilling minute-by-minute account by a Tulsa World reporter of yesterday's botched execution in Oklahoma? Aimee Levitt

Jessica Hopper's long interview with DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn? Leor Galil

• An oral history of the zine chickfactor? John Dunlevy

• That for a mere $685,000, a Frank Lloyd Wright rowhouse in Douglas can be yours? Aimee Levitt

• About the 32-year-old who died posting selfies (along with a Facebook status on how happy Pharrell Williams's song "Happy" made her) while driving? Lisa Schulz

• About the Tokyo restaurant that provides stuffed Moomin toys for solo diners? Brianna Wellen

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Gig poster of the week: The Dark Lord of Three Floyds welcomes you

Posted By on 04.30.14 at 07:34 AM

ARTIST: Dan Grzeca
SHOW: Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewing on Sat 4/26

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Reader's Agenda Wed 4/30: Othello, the Encyclopedia Show, and Peter Wolf

Posted By on 04.30.14 at 06:09 AM

The Encyclopedia Show
  • Marshall Goff
  • The Encyclopedia Show
Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered.

Orson Welles exuded a Shakespearean gravitas, and never was it more evident than when he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in an adaptation of the Bard's Othello, "arguably an even more important film in Welles's career than Citizen Kane," writes former Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. See for yourself tonight, when the Gene Siskel Film Center screens the brand-new 2K DCP digital print scanned from the film's 1992 restoration.

After five years in Chicago, the Encyclopedia Show is coming to a close. Poets Shanny Jean Maney and Robbie Q. Telfer host the second-to-last live-lit show tonight at Stage 773. Brianna Wellen writes, "While aspects of the show have been tweaked throughout its run, it has always balanced humor with the seriousness of academia. A fact-checker keeps track of 'truths' and 'untruths' during each presentation, and the two hosts must become impromptu experts on everything from mythical beasts to Alan Turing, the British mathematician."

Rock musician Peter Wolf returns to Chicago tonight for an acoustic performance. Check out the eclectic performer and his band, the Midnight Travelers, at City Winery.

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

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pundits say presidents who won't lead the country into war have trouble leading it anywhere

Posted By on 04.29.14 at 05:18 PM

Obama catches flak for keeping troops home.
  • Obama catches flak for keeping troops home.
Articles in Tuesday’s Tribune and New York Times dwell on President Obama's troubles defending a nonbellicose foreign policy, with the Times saying that the president, while visiting the Philippines, "lashed out at those he said reflexively call for the use of force." The Times described Obama as "visibly frustrated" as he complained that his critics "had failed to learn the lessons of the Iraq war."

But who can blame the critics? I mean, what American doesn't want Washington to somehow give Vladimir Putin a bloody nose? Maybe it’s time Putin learned a lesson of his own, if you get my drift.

Anyway, there's nothing more common than an unlearned lesson. When the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was celebrated earlier this month, journalism looked back and both praised and mourned the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. The praise was for getting the act passed—and much other game-changing domestic legislation besides. But then, alas, the Vietnam war cost Johnson the country.

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More summer concert news: City announces Downtown Sound lineup

Posted By on 04.29.14 at 04:01 PM

Omar Souleyman
  • Hisham Bharoocha
  • Omar Souleyman
The Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events has just announced the lineup for this year's Downtown Sound series, which takes place every Monday evening at 6:30 PM from June 2 through August 11 (with the exception of July 28) at Pritzker Pavilion. All concerts are free. The programming is impressively diverse, making space for some of the international music offerings that were lost when the city shit-canned the Music Without Borders series a couple of years ago, with sets by Omar Souleyman on June 9 and Noura Mint Seymali on July 14. The lineup also makes room for veteran rocker Richard Thompson (on June 16—followed by a screening of Wes Anderson's Rushmore). Check out the full lineup after the jump.

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