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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Leftovers left something behind

Posted By on 07.01.14 at 10:43 AM

Justin Theroux is a embattled police chief in a town full of embattled people.
  • HBO
  • Justin Theroux is an embattled police chief in a town full of embattled people.
A mass tragedy can bring people together, and it can just as easily tear people apart.

After a 9/11 or a Sandy Hook, a certain amount of ink is spilled reporting on instances of humanity rising above whatever horror has befallen—unaffected families rallying around neighbors who've lost loved ones, or whatever else tidily encapsulates kindness, empathy, and the resilience of our human spirit. The occasionally ugly flip side, though, is that there's healing and camaraderie to be found in banding together against a common enemy. Pointing a finger feels so much better when everyone around you is pointing theirs in the same direction. But what happens when there are lots of fingers itching to point, and nowhere to point them? Blame will always find a place—but that doesn't mean it'll be the right place.

Tom Perrotta's understatedly great 2011 book The Leftovers imagines a tragedy without a perpetrator, no person or entity on which the like-minded and grieving can focus their ire, a rapturelike event that disappears 2 percent of the world's population. The entire planet is affected, but not enough that daily life can't basically carry on the way it has been, albeit in a world in which everyone is either grief stricken, has severe PTSD, or is suffering some degree of survivor's guilt. It's a darkly funny premise—especially in Perrotta's hands—but it's hardly treated that way on the mostly humorless, overwrought HBO series that Perrotta, sadly, helped create and write.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

When Cheech and Chong made for good company on the national holiday

Posted By on 06.30.14 at 03:00 PM

Cheech and Chong in Nice Dreams
  • Cheech and Chong in Nice Dreams
As the third of July approaches, I'm reminded of one of the more satisfying double features I've attended, Doc Films' pairing of John Carpenter's They Live and Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams on Independence Day Eve 2010. The inclusion of Nice Dreams—and on a newly struck 35-millimeter print, no less—can be credited to my friend and exploitation-film historian Joe Rubin, who was on Doc's programming board at the time. Joe isn't much of a Cheech and Chong fan—rather, he booked the film out of allegiance to celluloid and, more specifically, a loose-knit group of programmers he met through the Internet. One of these programmers, another celluloid buff, had discovered an ally at the Columbia Pictures archive who'd arrange for the studio to strike a new print of any old film in the catalogue if ten or more repertory programmers requested to show it within a certain window of time. (I don't know if he still works there or, if he is, whether he's able to continue this practice.) Joe's colleague wanted to screen a new print of Nice Dreams as the centerpiece of a Cheech and Chong retrospective he was putting together, so Joe and eight other programmers agreed to request the film to help him realize his plan. Nice dreams indeed!

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Can the Cubs still lose 100 this season?

Posted By on 06.30.14 at 02:30 PM

John Baker, after fanning in the first game Saturday.
When the Cubs won five straight early in June, we began to lose confidence in them. We've been tracking the team's campaign to honor Wrigley Field's 100th birthday with a 100-loss season, and the winning streak put that noble effort in jeopardy.

But Saturday was a beautiful day to lose two, and the Cubs restored our trust.

In the afternoon opener against the Washington Nationals, a crowd of 35,770 paid to see a Cubs lineup that featured Chris Coghlan (.211), Darwin Barney (.201), John Baker (.180), and Mike Olt (.142). Dallas Beeler made his major-league debut on the mound for the north-siders, and not only pitched well but lined a single to center in his first big-league at bat. Eight Cubs had gone down in order before Beeler's smash, but the team soon joined him in the hit parade, clobbering two singles the rest of the way. Final: Nats 3, Cubs zip. Beeler was sent back to Iowa, lest he continue embarrassing the big club's offense.

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Beermiscuous does craft beer coffee-shop style

Posted By on 06.30.14 at 02:00 PM

Similarities to the lead photo in last weeks Lagunitas post are entirely intentional.
  • Similarities to the lead photo in last week's Lagunitas post are entirely intentional.
When I first started getting press releases for Lake View "beer cafe" Beermiscuous, which formally opened on Saturday, I didn't feel too sanguine about it. I mean, that name! At least the folks who run the place have committed to it: the cafe's slogan is "Drink around."

Then I learned that my friend Austin Bainard Harvey would be running the beer program. (I say "friend," but it's not like I'm gonna end up godfather to his kids—we're beer-nerd buddies, mostly. For instance, this winter he traded me a bottle of Cthulhu for a Two Brothers Midwestern Death Metal.) Austin used to be a floor manager and cicerone at Goose Island's Clybourn brewpub, and from 2007 till 2009 he ran the beer program at the big Sam's Wines & Spirits in Lincoln Park (now a Binny's), which has since become Adam Vavrick's domain. All of which is to say I trust his taste. I visited Beermiscuous on Friday night, during a "soft open" for neighborhood folks.

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A local guy created a smartphone game that wants you to look up, not down

Posted By on 06.30.14 at 01:30 PM

The first season of Cartegram
  • Len Kendall
  • The first "season" of Cartegram

Smartphones have become an incredibly diverse platform for game designers, but most don't go beyond the screen. The result? Lots of people looking down at their phones rather than out at the world around them. Local game designer and digital strategist Len Kendall wanted to create a new way for smartphone users to incorporate apps like Instagram into a game that would require people to explore their surroundings and to share their discoveries with friends and fellow players. As Kendall points out in a promotional video, the game, called Cartegram, is sort of like Choose Your Own Adventure, but for the digital age.

"I want to encourage people to look up and see what's around them," he says of being inspired to create the game, which he's currently attempting to fund through a Kickstarter campaign. "Chicago is such a beautiful city—I hope this gets people to appreciate it."

Here's how it works . . .

Players receive a notebook (each notebook represents a "season") with a variety of photo prompts—for example, find a place with no man-made objects within 500 feet, or construct an object from things you find outside—which they complete by attaching a biodegradable sticker to a place or object, then taking a photo and posting it to Instagram with the appropriate hashtags ( e.g., #cartegram and #1x2, for first "season," second prompt). Each book, or season, makes up a "self-guided city tour," according to Kendall, and as photos accumulate, Kendall hopes a community will form in the physical and digital world.

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12 O'Clock Track: 'The New World,' classic evergreen prophecy from X

Posted By on 06.30.14 at 12:00 PM

More in the New World was the last great album by the LA postpunk band X and also its penultimate effort with original guitarist Billy Zoom. The 1983 album is getting reissued for the second time tomorrow by Real Gone Music, but really, there's no need for such an occasion to sing its praises. On this release the group embraced a bigger, more polished sound, although the timeless rock 'n' roll riffery of Zoom remained at the center of the band's attack—the album includes the band's cover of the Jerry Lee Lewis classic "Breathless," which it had recorded for the awful remake of the Jean-Luc Godard film with Richard Gere. Despite the glossier veneer, the songs featured some of band's darkest, most apocalyptic lyrics. John Doe and Exene Cervenka (who seems to have utterly lost her mind in recent years) were starting to sound rather cranky and bitter, glorifying the good old days: on "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" they get ultraspecific, name-checking the Minutemen, Black Flag, Big Boys, and Flesh Eaters while disparaging the dominant synth-driven new wave and singing "Astronauts going back in time to hang out with the cave people" and "Woody Guthrie sang about b-e-e-ts, not b-e-a-t-s." Still, the album's opener, "The New World," is today's 12 O'Clock Track, and its message sounds even more relevant today than it did three decades ago, at the height of Reaganism. In fact, the tune embraces the ultimate old-man cliche in expressing doubts about mainstream notions of progress, particularly in the face of a then-declining automobile industry: "It was better before, before they voted for what's-his-name / This was supposed to be the new world." You can check out the original, dated video clip of the song after the jump.

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Did you read about Facebook, pot legalization, and Brian Eno?

Posted By on 06.30.14 at 11:19 AM

Eno looking at another green world
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

• That Facebook really is fucking with you? Aimee Levitt

• About the legal and logistical problems slowing pot legalization in Washington? Mick Dumke

• That the French are making it harder for Amazon to drive everybody else out of business? Tony Adler

• This sad and moving memoir about trying to understand a disabled sibling with no sense of language?Aimee Levitt

• That e-mail is "the cockroach of the Internet”? Steve Bogira

• Sasha Frere-Jones on the quiet influence of Brian Eno? Tal Rosenberg

• About the Mary Celeste? Drew Hunt

• About Stormé DeLarverie, the drag king who allegedly threw the first punch during the raid on the Stonewall Inn in 1969 and who died last month at the age of 93? Aimee Levitt

• James McManus's New York Times review of George Will's new book about Wrigley Field and its, ahem, lovable losers? Kate Schmidt

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How chef Michael Lachowicz created a stripped-down steak house in a tricked-out strip club

Posted By on 06.30.14 at 10:39 AM

Michael Lachowicz

If there's anything more ridiculous than a group of food nerds in a strip club ignoring everything else around them while taking pictures of their steaks, I can't think of it. But not long ago I journeyed out to the suburban Stone Park "gentleman's club" Club Allure. That's the one next to the convent, whose nuns have raised their proverbial pitchforks against it. But I wasn't there for the entertainment, inside or outside. Honest. I was there to eat from the steak-house-style menu developed by veteran North Shore chef Michael Lachowicz, whom you might know from his work at the late Le Francais, Le Deux Gros, or the current Restaurant Michael—or perhaps even from this week's Key Ingredient, in which he cooks up some calves' brains.

What you might not know about Lachowicz is that he's a recovering alcoholic, addict, and overeater. Near the height of his problems, current Club Allure attorney (and former owner) Bob Itzkow, who was a fan of the chef's food, tapped him to open a kitchen in his first strip club, the Pink Monkey. A year and a half ago Lachowicz was stone-cold sober when the sprawling, glitzy, Moulin Rouge-style Club Allure opened. When I sat down to talk with him about what it's like to open a restaurant inside a strip joint—which turns out to have the Best Food at a Gentleman's Club—he was looking lean, mean, and fairly ripped in a sleeveless Harley Davidson T-shirt. Here's an edited version of our conversation.

You've been in recovery for three and a half years now. What prompted you to get help?

Fuck, I was a mess, dude. I was petrified. Part of it was death. I was afraid of dying. I was taking 40 pills a day, a couple bottles of scotch, and I was 430 pounds. The writing was on the wall. I was not even 41 years old. I could feel my heart popping out of my chest, my liver was huge, it was a fucking mess. So I just got scared. I decided I gotta do something. My body was just laying on the carpet in this disgusting condo that I had, looking for pills under the couch because my guy didn’t show up. Surrounded by wrappers and shit, and a fucking mess, man.

I go to Overeaters Anonymous as well as Narcotics Anonymous. And trainers and—I go to a lot of meetings now. It's good. It's better.

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Best shows to see: My Brightest Diamond, Amp vs. Amp, Human Feel

Posted By on 06.30.14 at 07:18 AM

Human Feel
  • Human Feel
Oh man, New Order is in town this week—I saw them at last year's Lollapalooza, and it was legitimately mind-blowing. Too bad for us, that show is sold out. But, there's still tons of other great stuff to see this week as we close in on Independence Day.

On Mon 6/30, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline pairs up with Julian Lage at City Winery, while Berlin plays there on Tue 7/1. Huge indie-rock band the Hold Steady play at Concord Music Hall on Wed 7/2 and Gillian Welch is at Thalia Hall in Pilsen.

These, of course, are just some the great shows in town during the first half of the week; below we have a few more top picks from Reader writers.

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Reader's Agenda Mon 6/30: Off the Top, My Brightest Diamond, and the Queer Bits Film Festival

Posted By on 06.30.14 at 06:15 AM

My Brightest Diamond
  • Bernd Preiml
  • My Brightest Diamond
Looking for something to do today? Agenda's got you covered.

Think freestyle rapping is as easy as it looks? Spit a rhyme at Subterranean's Off the Top freestyle battle. SamIam the MC hosts while DJ Encyclopedia Brown provides the beats. The final round features a grab-bag finale and cash prizes.

Chamber rock act My Brightest Diamond performs at Pritzker Pavilion. Indie rock beats fuse with contemporary classical music in the airy voice of front woman Shara Worden, who studied opera and formerly sang backup for Sufjan Stevens. Reader music critic Peter Margasak says the band's first two records—Bring Me the Workhorse and A Thousand Shark's Teeth—"are among the strongest, most distinctive pop records I've heard in the past decade."

Pride weekend isn't over yet. Eight short films and three webseries premiere at the Queer Bits Film Festival, hosted by Pride Films and Plays. Animated and live action films from the Netherlands, United States, and United Kingdom are showcased at the Pub Theatre, followed by a Q&A with some of the filmmakers.

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

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Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
April 24
Performing Arts
April 08

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