Bleader | Chicago Reader

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The mayoral race and the color of inequality in Chicago

Posted By on 03.31.15 at 04:16 PM

In a 1983 debate with Mayor Jane Byrne and Cook County States Attorney Richard M. Daley, Harold Washington called attention to an enormous black unemployment rate in Chicago, a problem that continues more than 30 years later.
  • Don Bierman
  • In a 1983 debate with Mayor Jane Byrne and Cook County state's attorney Richard M. Daley, Harold Washington called attention to the enormous black unemployment rate in Chicago, a problem that continues more than 30 years later.
Tonight at 7 PM, WTTW will televise the last of the three mayoral runoff debates between incumbent Rahm Emanuel and Cook County commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. The Tribune says moderator Phil Ponce should focus the debate on "the only question that matters"—how to fix the city's finances. He should force the candidates beyond their usual talking points and accept only very specific answers, the Trib asserts.

In late January 1983, WTTW hosted a mayoral debate in the memorable Democratic primary campaign for mayor between incumbent Jane Byrne, Cook County state's attorney Richard M. Daley, and Congressman Harold Washington. Byrne sought to frame the campaign the way the Trib sees today's: "The economic life in this city is the real issue in this election," she said that night.

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Decades later, Steve Poindexter's raw house 12-inch Street Fighter is finally released

Posted By on 03.31.15 at 02:30 PM

Chicago producer Steve Poindexter helped mold the raw underground sound known as ghetto house during its formation in the late 80s. His irreplaceable 1989 Work That Mutha Fucker 12-inch is a standard-bearer in ghetto house—the title track propels forward atop dirty, interlocking drum patterns, brittle hi-hats, and a sample of the words "work that mutha fucker" sporadically played on a loop. Poindexter crafted an arsenal of tracks he'd play live, but not all of them saw a physical release. That changes today, as buzzy label LA Club Resource—founded by 24-year-old California producer Delroy Edwards—releases Poindexter's Street Fighter EP.

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Teen poets of Louder Than a Bomb—beware of groupthink

Posted By on 03.31.15 at 01:30 PM

  • Courtesy Louder Than a Bomb
The team finals of this year's Louder Than a Bomb poetry slam competition were held Saturday evening in the Arie Crown Theater of McCormick Place. I hadn't been inside the Arie Crown in close to 20 years, when I saw a ballet there. If then it was a fancy theatrical showcase, today it's on the wrong side of the Metra tracks. The building's vast and charmless, the carpet worn and patched, and screaming teenagers suit it perfectly. Almost every one of the 2,500 main-floor seats was taken, and the crowd made the kind of noise teens make in gyms at basketball games. The slammers and jammers they cheered on were competing in the heady task of raging against racism, sexism, and xenophobia. At least four poems addressed lynching, and another bluntly remembered a childhood of sexual abuse. The judges were generous to everybody who performed, but the highest marks went to the fiercest language and most incantatory cadences. A poet who wasn't feeling angry and defiant had no place on the Arie Crown stage, and the defiance needed to come across loud and clear. Clear was less important than loud.

Everyone had a wonderful time. This might have been the most enthusiastic and celebratory audience I've ever been part of.

Afterward, my party of old poops discussed what we'd seen and heard. I'd been blown away by the energy in the hall as well as the talent, but I saw trouble ahead. The kids were dredging a deep but narrow stream. There's more in the world to write poetry about than racial and sexual oppression, and I wondered if any other kind of poetry had a prayer of a chance of making it to the Arie Crown stage. Could a shy high school junior who found her soulmate in Emily Dickinson find the same haven in Louder Than a Bomb that her rowdy classmates did? And will kids one day start phoning it in, delivering potted outrage addressing accredited injustices?

No one has to worry about this just yet. But orthodoxy can crop up anywhere. Sometimes you don't see it even after it's consumed you.

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Listen to 'Rise' and 'Rotation' for Herb Alpert's 80th birthday

Posted By on 03.31.15 at 12:00 PM


Today is the 80th birthday of American musician Herb Alpert: trumpet player, denizen of numerous junk-store record crates, and "schlockmeister" according to a mid-90s "Spot Check" column by Peter Margasak. No argument with Peter there, though I would say that Alpert has one triumph under his belt—the late-70s double whammy of "Rise," a number-one-charting single, and "Rotation," which is essentially a continuation of the style and melody of "Rise." Both are on the 1979 album Rise, and the title track is arguably more famous for being sampled by Diddy and Notorious B.I.G. on "Hypnotize"—one of the greatest songs ever made—than it is for being an instrumental song that hit number one on the Billboard charts. "Rise" and "Rotation" are slow-burning jazz-disco cuts running on a steady pulse, with vapor-trailing guitars gliding over the rhythm section like a slow-motion shot of a speedboat. Alpert may have produced more than his fair share of cheesy material, but give him credit for these two jams. Listen to them back-to-back for today's 12 O'Clock Track.

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Did you read about Tidal, Rahm Emanuel, and Indiana?

Posted By on 03.31.15 at 11:30 AM

A few of the celebrities who stood awkwardly on stage during yesterdays Tidal press conference
  • Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
  • A few of the celebrities who stood awkwardly on stage during yesterday's Tidal press conference
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, alarm, amuse, or inspire us.

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The long day of a BBQ man, continued

Posted By on 03.31.15 at 08:30 AM

Joe Woodel at Husky Hog BBQ

Yesterday I talked with Husky Hog Bar-B-Que owner Joe Woodel about how he got into competition barbecue—the romance of competing mano a mano with smoke and fire. Well, today's more about the gritty reality of having a food truck and a stand-alone restaurant and trying to make a living making barbecue. Husky Hog is in Bridgeport, a rare example on the south side of Tennessee-style barbecue, which doesn't revolve around rib tips and hot links like most south-side barbecue. Instead Woodel's primary meat is pulled pork shoulder, usually served with a sweet sauce (though he also makes Carolina-style vinegar- and mustard-based sauces). Customers don't always understand the particulars of different regional styles, and he finds that his very good pulled pork (served dry unless you ask for it to be sauced) and his sliced beef brisket and burnt ends (also good) seem off to some customers, who have their own firm idea of what barbecue should be based on the style in a different part of the country. Nonetheless, he carries on, starting his fire around three each morning to be finished cooking by lunchtime, and building an audience in every way he can. Here's his frank account of the reality of running a barbecue operation in Chicago.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

'It's like smokin' weed': An Oceanique chef makes high-end French fare with hemp seed

Posted By on 03.30.15 at 03:35 PM

Hemp seeds are prized as health food for their abundance of proteins and essential amino acids—but Mark Grosz of Oceanique, challenged by Campagnola's Vince DiBattista to create a dish with the ingredient, had never tried them before. "I'm not a health freak," he said. "But I brought [in] somebody who is."

Grosz was referring to his friend Aryst Kirsch, who says he eats hemp seeds all the time: "I can eat them with a spoon. They're very rich in protein, so your body really craves, really likes [them]."

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What happens now that Chicago is taxing the 'share' economy?

Posted By on 03.30.15 at 01:00 PM

  • Thinkstock
A local woman who rents out her Ukrainian Village condo on Airbnb says she has nothing but great things to say about doing so. Using the service has introduced her to cool strangers and changed her perspective on people for the better—and it often makes her as much as two times more money in a month than she would make with a standard tenant. But she'd rather not be named because of a lingering fear of being caught in a gray area that had become familiar territory to people participating in the sharing or peer economy.

Airbnb recently took a big step toward legitimacy in Chicago when, on February 15, it agreed to start collecting a 4.5 percent tax on rentals, but that hasn't appeased everyone. Hoteliers in particular, who have to contend with the city's 16.4 percent tax, have called for the city to crack down, enforce existing regulations, and require all property owners using the service to obtain vacation rental licenses.

"If they get a license and pay the full 16.4 percent tax, then maybe they're competition, and we have no problem if they do it legally,” says Marc Gordon, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, an industry trade group. "If they do it illegally without being a licensed renter in Chicago, we do have a problem with that. They get away with not paying the hotel tax, and they’re not providing the guests with the same security and putting the guests at jeopardy. As soon as there’s a major incident, people will go crazy about why nobody is enforcing the rental ordinance."

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Listen to the ear-clearing work of Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq

Posted By on 03.30.15 at 12:00 PM

Tanya Tagaq
  • Ivan Otis
  • Tanya Tagaq
I spent the past weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee, attending the Big Ears Festival, an unabashedly eclectic three-day extravaganza focused on the intersection of contemporary classical, improvisation, experimental rock, and international music that's unlike any other music fest in the U.S. I took in quite a bit of music, including a killer set by Chicago's own Ryley Walker (who plays a record-release show tonight at the Chopin), Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, and a crushingly loud and visceral multimedia blitz by Holly Herndon (who makes her Chicago debut Tuesday at the Empty Bottle). I wouldn't call the performance I caught by the Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq the best thing I saw by any stretch, but it sure was the most gripping.

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Did you read about Jose Abreu, ISIS, and Syria?

Posted By on 03.30.15 at 11:43 AM

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, alarm, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

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