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Saturday, July 30, 2016

At Lollapalooza, Radiohead proved their music can be enjoyed in a big festival setting

Posted By on 07.30.16 at 04:55 PM

Thom Yorke - AP
  • AP
  • Thom Yorke

It is a peculiar thing to see Radiohead live, particularly in the context of a massive festival such as Lollapalooza. In the nearly quarter century since the release of their first album, the Brits have trafficked in sounds best experienced while alone. It's music written from a vaguely isolated perspective that has the general effect of making the listener feel distant, paranoid, alienated, even alien. This ethos runs counter to the harmony and camaraderie typically stirred by the most memorable festival acts like, say, the Flaming Lips.    

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Friday, July 29, 2016

#BankBlack movement sends deposits soaring but Chicago’s Seaway still needs investment to stay afloat

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 03:00 PM

Seaway Bank, located at 645 E. 87th Street - RICHARD A. CHAPMAN/SUN-TIMES
  • Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times
  • Seaway Bank, located at 645 E. 87th Street

Just a year ago the future of Chicago's two black-owned banks—Illinois Service Federal and Seaway Bank and Trust—looked grim. Both banks were under consent orders from federal regulators to raise capital after years of shrinking income brought them to the brink of failure. They badly needed an influx of new deposits to continue making loans, and millions of dollars in investment to keep shareholders from bailing.

Since the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile earlier this month, a #BankBlack movement has picked up steam. Prominent entertainers including Usher, T.I., and Killer Mike have urged African-Americans to move their money from large, commercial banks into black-owned financial institutions.

The push has had immediate impact in Chicago. ISF has received more than $4 million in new deposits since the beginning of the month, according to bank officials. Seaway customers opened 450 new accounts and deposited $1.6 million in the same timespan.

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The Tribune misrepresents the New York Times on Emanuel

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 02:30 PM

The New York Times published an op-ed about Rahm Emanuel in the wake of the Laquan McDonald scandal. - LOU FOGLIA/SUN-TIMES
  • Lou Foglia/Sun-Times
  • The New York Times published an op-ed about Rahm Emanuel in the wake of the Laquan McDonald scandal.
A front-page story in Friday's Tribune about Rahm Emanuel's fall from political grace makes a small, serious mistake. 

Tracing the way in which "Emanuel's profile has sunk nationally," the article describes the blowback after a judge ordered the mayor to release the Laquan McDonald video last November. Says the Tribune:

The New York Times followed with an editorial titled 'Cover-up in Chicago' that noted releasing the video [sooner] would have buried the mayor's re-election chances. The news organization called for him to resign.

This isn't true. The "editorial" was actually a guest op-ed by Bernard Harcourt, a Columbia University professor who used to teach at the University of Chicago. By publishing his argument that Emanuel (and others) should resign, the Times was signaling its belief Harcourt had something to say worth reading, not that the paper agreed with it.

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Two tenors, one musician

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 02:00 PM

Håkon Kornstad - ANDREAS ULVO
  • Andreas Ulvo
  • Håkon Kornstad

Norwegian saxophonist Håkon Kornstad has long been a deeply curious musician. Throughout his career, which began in the late 90s, he's pursued disparate creative ventures with unbending rigor and imagination. I first encountered him in 2000, when he performed at the Empty Bottle as a member of fantastic improvising trio Tri-Dim with Swedish guitarist David Stackenäs and Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach, but at the same time he was creating a vibrant post-Miles Davis fusion with his group Wibutee. Whether exploring electronic and digital or playing purely acoustically, though, he maintains a recognizable improvisational imperative. He led a terrific trio with bassist Mats Eilersten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, and he made duo albums with remarkable pianist Håvard Wiik (Wiik and Nilssen-Love are both founding members of Scandinavian quintet Atomic). He also recorded a series of gorgeous duo albums with bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (a onetime Chicagoan and another charter member of Atomic).

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Learn to make a cocktail using shrubs, the trendy vinegar-based fruit syrups

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 12:45 PM

Advocates of drinking apple cider vinegar cite all kinds of health benefits, from reduced blood sugar to cancer prevention. But when Jenn Fink of Pub Royale was challenged by Brett Lichnerowicz of Luxbar to create a cocktail with the vinegar, she immediately thought of a drink popular in colonial America: the shrub. Made by combining fruit, vinegar, and sugar, shrubs were either mixed with soda water or used as a cocktail ingredient; they fell out of favor after refrigeration became common but have seen a resurgence in the last few years or so. 

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Chicago Margarita Festival, CLLAW XXV: Summer Showdown, and more things to do in Chicago this weekend

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 12:34 PM

Booty Garland and Stone Cold Jane Austen at last year's Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers showdown. - JAMES MURPHY
  • James Murphy
  • Booty Garland and Stone Cold Jane Austen at last year's Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers showdown.


It's time to gear up for the last weekend of July. Here's some of what we recommend:

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‘I’m still here’: A missive from Chicago’s last stamp store, Stamp King

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 11:44 AM

"In Chicago there used to be dozens of stamp stores," says Stamp King owner Charles Berg. - DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs
  • "In Chicago there used to be dozens of stamp stores," says Stamp King owner Charles Berg.

Chicagoans
is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week's Chicagoan is Charles Berg, 74, philatelist and owner of Stamp King (7139 W. Higgins, 773-775-2100).


"My grandfather was a lifelong stamp collector, and I used to love watching what he was doing; I thought it was really cool. What did I know? I was a six-year-old. On one of those occasions, I was home with the measles, and he said, 'Would you like to collect stamps?' Well, anything my grandfather thought was cool, I was all into. He gave me a box of stamps, he gave me an old album, he showed me what to do, and that was it. I tell people, 'When I was six years old, I caught the measles and stamp collecting, but the measles went away.' 

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Not coming to the Disney Channel: Michel Gondry's Microbe & Gasoline

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 10:00 AM

Theophile Baquet, Ange Dargent in Microbe & Gasoline
  • Theophile Baquet, Ange Dargent in Microbe & Gasoline
No one in his right mind would accuse a filmmaker of having too much imagination, but French filmmaker Michel Gondry has so much that his flights of fancy can overwhelm his movies. When I think of Gondry, I often remember that dream sequence in The Science of Sleep (2006) in which Gael García Bernal gropes around with giant papier-mache hands—the director has an enormous hunger for ideas, but sometimes he can't pick anything up. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) is still his best film, because Charlie Kaufman's cerebral screenplay about a company that launders people's memories was also emotionally centered in a romantic love triangle. As a writer-director on Sleep and Be Kind Rewind (2008), Gondry had trouble summoning the kind of honest emotion needed to counterbalance his surreal visions. His best moment since Sunshine was probably a documentary, Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (2013), which pairs a Noam Chomsky interview with hand-drawn animation and touches unexpectedly and powerfully on the public intellectual's private grief over the death of his wife.

More recently Gondry has enlisted other people to help write his features, but Microbe & Gasoline, his third solo writing effort, is an unexpectedly rich story about two grade school pals hitting the road in a fantastical jerry-built automobile. It's the kind of thing you might see on the Disney Channel, except that it has way too much wit and irreverence and one of its young heroes likes to draw men and women copulating. Gondry has gotten his hands on a fine and slippery subject—the way boys on the cusp of adolescence reason about women and sex—and his portrayal of the heroes' Tom-and-Huck relationship rings true. For the first time in one of his own stories, the people don't take a backseat to the concepts.

"I like to make things with garbage," Gondry once told MTV, and both the timid, diminutive Microbe (Ange Dargent) and the cocksure Gasoline (Theophile Baquet) share a love of junk. They meet in the schoolyard when Gasoline, a new student, rolls in on his bicycle with an assortment of comedy sound-effect boxes mounted to the handlebars. Before long he and Microbe are prowling around the antique shop run by Gasoline's father and the scrapyards where Gasoline likes to pick up mechanical odds and ends. The car they construct is a classic Gondry, a contraption that grows more elaborate as they go along: they acquire a motor for a sit-down lawnmower, mount it to an iron bed frame, install a steering column, transmission, and a pair of seats, and mount a discarded car hood to the front and a section of a wooden dresser to the back. Eventually they decide to set off on a cross-country expedition and use discarded lumber to construct a little shed over the car, turning it into a little motor home. When they see police approaching, they pull off to the side of the road and lower a set of flaps they've installed to hide the wheels. I don't guess a contraption like this would actually run, but it's sure great to look at.

microbe_gasoline_2.jpg

Gondry has reached into himself for this dead-on portrayal of how prepubescent boys reason about love, women, and sex. When Microbe asks Gasoline if he's ever done it, his friend replies, "I gave up after a sad story. Too many emotional complications get in the way." Later in the film, when they're set off on their journey, they make a side trip so that Microbe can profess his love to a girl he knows. "It's a noble, beautiful kind of pain," he tells Gasoline. They both have complicated relationships with their mothers: Gasoline's mom, who suffers from obesity and has survived two heart attacks, lets him run wild, whereas Microbe is smothered by his adoring mom (Audrey Tautou). "[She] loves me too much," he tells Gasoline. "I feel sorry for her."

Gondry has taken a lovely snapshot of children at the age when they're first confronted with sexuality and recoil in fear, disguising it as disgust. When Microbe and his brother listen to their parents arguing in the next room, Microbe comments, "At least they're not screwing. The idea grosses me out." After finding the explicit drawings under Microbe's mattress, his mother assures him, "It's normal to masturbate at your age!" He clamps his hands over his ears and runs away. "I promise not to talk about your sexuality!" she calls after him. Gondry puts his finger on the girls as well as the boys. "They're all so immature," says one female student of her male classmates. But in the final shot of the movie, a girl who's hovered on the periphery of the action stares after Microbe as he walks away, wishing he would turn around and look at her. He will someday, and it'll be the same day he stops building motor homes out of junk.

Microbe & Gasoline opens Friday at Music Box Theatre.


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Dividing Chicago hip-hop into ‘Chance and friends’ and ‘the drill scene’ insults its richness and variety

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 07:00 AM

The album art for Sol Patches' new mixtape, one of many recent local hip-hop releases worth your time
  • The album art for Sol Patches' new mixtape, one of many recent local hip-hop releases worth your time

Earlier this week Chance the Rapper announced he'd take over U.S. Cellular Field in September with Magnificent Coloring Day, a single-day festival packed with high-profile musicians: Skrillex, John Legend, Lil Wayne, Tyler the Creator, Alicia Keys, Young Thug, 2 Chainz, and Lil Uzi Vert are on the bill (not to mention the "special guests"). Magnificent Coloring Day is the latest example of Chance using his pop-star power for the benefit of his hometown—and specifically for the benefit of kids on the south side. The promotional poster for Magnificent Coloring Day says U.S. Cellular Field is on "Chicago's Southside"—this isn't news, of course, but it represents an important statement of intent. Though the festival is for the whole city, it celebrates the youth of the south side, and it's set up to be easier for them to experience. (Tickets are relatively cheap, starting at $35—Ticktetmaster's ridiculous service fees add almost $13 to that price.)

I'm fascinated by the way Chance is pressed into service as a representative of the local music scene, especially when people living outside Chicago try to document it. On Monday, Stereogum published a well-intentioned piece on the shift in Chicago's hip-hop scene: drill acts used to attract all the hype, but now that's passed to the rappers and singers who surround Chance. Clumsy and factually flawed, the story was doomed from the start because of its thesis: that is, that Chance and friends are self-consciously using hopeful music to combat drill and its bleak image of "Chiraq." It's an idea informed more by Chicago's image abroad than by the city's reality—and it steamrolls over the subtleties of hip-hop made by artists roped into the drill/nondrill binary just so it can advance the narrative that these arbitrary groupings are pitted against each other.

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Rahm gets 'thrown under the bus' in Obama DNC video, and other Chicago news

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 06:00 AM

President Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015 - ASHLEE REZIN/FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media
  • President Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Friday, July 29, 2016. 

  • Weather: Bring an umbrella 

Friday will be cooler, with a high of 78 and a low of 68. A thunderstorm and/or rain is possible throughout the day and evening. But rain's not expected on Saturday or Sunday, which is much better for Lollapalooza attendees. [AccuWeather]

  • Rahm takes being "thrown under the bus" in stride

Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not appear fazed by a perceived slight in a video retrospective of President Barack Obama's administration shown at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday. Before Obama took the stage, the video highlighted Obama's work to pass the Affordable Care Act through Congress, and noted that Emanuel, then White House chief of staff, told Obama to pull the bill or else lose in 2012. The moment ignited a firestorm on social media, with users saying the mayor was "thrown under the bus" by Obama and the Democrats. Emanuel sought to justify his actions as chief of staff to reporters Thursday, saying that he'd given the president a "fresh, honest assessment" at the time. [Sun-Times] [DNAinfo Chicago]

  • Data: Chicago Police rarely using stop-and-frisk strategy in 2016

Under Superintendent Garry McCarthy, stop and frisk was one of the Chicago Police Department's main strategies for deterring criminals, according to WBEZ. The method is supposed to discourage people from carrying weapons or drugs. But during the first six months of 2016 (and without McCarthy), stops were down 84.1 percent from the first six months of 2015, according to data obtained by WBEZ through a Freedom of Information Act request. [WBEZ]

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