Bleader | Chicago Reader

Monday, October 31, 2016

Queen for president, Trudeau for regent

Posted By on 10.31.16 at 05:43 PM

Queen Elizabeth II. Maybe it's not too late to rethink this whole independence thing. - GETTY IMAGES
  • Getty Images
  • Queen Elizabeth II. Maybe it's not too late to rethink this whole independence thing.
According to the New Yorker's humorist Andy Borowitz, Queen Elizabeth II has offered to rule the United States long enough to see us through our current difficulties, and then, perhaps, forever after that.

This could be arranged by writing in her name next Tuesday, said the Queen. Parliament would have nothing to do with it. As for Brexit, schmexit.

This is a tempting offer. But the Queen doesn't seem to appreciate that our current difficulties arise largely from the choice we're facing between an Anglicized German and a woman of a certain age with dynastic issues.

Besides, Buckingham Palace would be hard for American kids to reach by school bus.

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Where the founder of Chicago’s Strange Foods Festival loves to eat

Posted By on 10.31.16 at 03:51 PM

Strange Foods Festival coproducers Keng Sisavath and Jed Swartz - KENG SISAVATH
  • Keng Sisavath
  • Strange Foods Festival coproducers Keng Sisavath and Jed Swartz
The upcoming Strange Foods Festival started with an Instagram account. A year and a half ago Keng Sisavath, a 36-year-old dental technician, launched @strangefoodschicago to "introduce the food of my motherland," he says. Sisavath, who was born in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Laos, came to the U.S. as a toddler and was raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin, by Lao relatives. The problem with trying to photograph Lao food in the Chicago area according to Sisavath, is that there isn't much: unlike Green Bay, Chicago doesn't have a significant Lao population. "When a Lao opens up a restaurant [in Chicago] they have to put the name Thai on it because people don't know about Lao food," he says. "The food isn't mainstream. I want to change that."

As Sisavath's Instagram account gained popularity (currently it has more than 37,000 followers), he documented food from ethnic restaurants all over Chicago and into the suburbs, "strange" and not so. Of course, what might be considered strange in North American culture is perfectly normal in others, a fact that Sisavath recognizes and readily admits. The goal of the festival, which he's coproducing with Jed Swartz (who runs the Instagram account @chicagofoodevents), isn't to shock people with weird food—quite the opposite, in fact. "I want people to know that the food isn't that strange, it's actually good," Sisavath says. "And then the next time it can get really crazy, really authentic."

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Northalsted Halloween Parade, Art Spiegelman, and more things to do in Chicago this week

Posted By on 10.31.16 at 12:32 PM

Northhalsted Halloween Parade - CHRIS BENTLEY
  • Chris Bentley
  • Northhalsted Halloween Parade

Is there life after Cubs home World Series games and candy corn? We think yes—in fact, there's plenty to do this week. Here's some of what we recommend:

Mon 10/31: More than 2,000 costumed Chicagoans march through Boystown during the 20th anniversary edition of the Northalsted Halloween Parade (Belmont and Halsted). It's preceded by the Ruby Red Relay, in which local business owners race in drag to raise money for the Legacy Project. 7:30 PM

Mon 10/31: The Chicago Sinfonietta haunts the Chicago Symphony Center (220 S. Michigan) with a Dia de los Muertos concert. They play skeletal classics: including Danse Macabre, Night on Bald Mountain, and Sones de Mariachi alongside screenings of silent films chosen by the Chicago Film Archives. 7:30 PM

  • Mon 10/31: DJ Collective Porn and Chicken hosts its Halloween Banger, a hell and warfare-themed Halloween party with guest DJs Dark Wave Disco, Jaded Lover, and GoodSex. Fried chicken included. 10 PM

    Tue 11/1: Medea Benjamin, the cofounder of the feminist anti-war organization, Codepink: Women for Peace, comes to City Lit Books (2523 N. Kedzie) to discuss her book Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. 6:30 PM

    Tue 11/1: At Tuesday Funk, a reading series held in the Hopleaf upstairs lounge (5148 N. Clark), patrons can wipe away beer foam mustaches while listening to the stories of local writers. This month's edition includes author and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal. 7:30 PM

    • ThinkStock
    • NaNoWriMo

    Tue 11/1: It's November, and that means it's time to start your novel. Yes, it's NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Volumes Bookcafe (1474 N. Milwaukee) does not want you to perish in alienated despair this month. Twenty-eight patrons will have the opportunity to hang out (with free coffee) all month and write a chapter for a collaborative book.

    Wed 11/2: The Rogers Park Business Alliance (7046 N. Clark) calls their food event, Taste of Clark Street, a kind of "taco crawl on steroids." We'll leave the steroids but we're down for tacos, beignets, injera rolls, and pizza. 5-8 PM

    Composer Philip Glass - FERNANDO ACEVES
    • Fernando Aceves
    • Composer Philip Glass
    Wed 11/2: Minimalist composer Phillip Glass will be in conversation with Tribune critic Howard Reich at the Symphony Center (22o S. Michigan). The event ends with a solo selection played by Glass. 6 PM

    Thu 11/3: After he saw The Parade: A Story in 55 Drawings, Albert Einstein wrote a fan letter to the artist Si Lewen: "Our time needs you and your work!" The celebrated cartoonist Art Spiegelman believes that our time needs Lewen and his work, too. Spiegelman comes to Francis W. Parker School (2233 N. Clark) to discuss the drawings' 50th anniversary. 6 PM

    Thu 11/3: Young Chicago Authors presents Women of Louder Than a Bomb, an edition of the popular poetry slam focusing on issues facing women and girls. They perform at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center (9603 Woods) 7 PM

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The finest costumes at the the Chicago Athletic Hotel's Halloween party

Posted By on 10.31.16 at 11:34 AM

Street View is a fashion series in which Isa Giallorenzo spotlights some of the coolest styles seen in Chicago.


A great Halloween costume takes commitment, and Elliot Marcille had plenty of it. He hauled an old-school boom box throughout the entire Halloween party at the Chicago Athletic Hotel (an annual event promoted by the Empty Bottle). After a friend told him that he reminded her of John Cusack, Elliot carefully plotted his Lloyd Dobler act, all the way down to the character's mannerisms. Props and attention to detail were also visible in a few other partygoers, pictured below.

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Mark Kirk loses major endorsements after comment about Tammy Duckworth's Asian heritage, and other Chicago news

Posted By on 10.31.16 at 10:12 AM

Senator Mark Kirk speaking in March 2016 - KEVIN TANAKA/FOR THE SUN-TIMES
  • Senator Mark Kirk speaking in March 2016

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Monday, October 31, 2016. Happy Halloween!

  • Weather: Partly sunny

It will be warm for Halloween, with a high of 61 and a low of 58. It should be partly sunny during the day. [AccuWeather]

  • Mark Kirk loses endorsements from Human Rights Campaign, Americans for Responsible Solutions

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Various Artists Independent Film Festival kicks off its inaugural year in Chicago

Posted By on 10.28.16 at 02:36 PM

Various Artists TV
  • Various Artists TV

The Various Artists Independent Film Festival (VAiFF), a Chicago-based competition festival for independent filmmakers worldwide, begins taking submissions November 1 for the "fall season" of its inaugural festival, slated for October 7-8, 2017, at ShowPlace ICON in the South Loop. The festival is sponsored by Various Artists TV, an independent network and website launched earlier this year in Chicago. The network streams films and shows from independent filmmakers and gives viewers the option to vote for their favorites; it also provides production services to independent filmmakers or small business owners looking to "crew up" a film, TV commercial, web series, or music video.

Omar McClinton, CEO of Various Artists TV, tells me that adding a year-long competition and festival to the network's developing roster of projects felt like a natural progression. "Artists are all in this together," he says. "We are all looking for that opportunity. It's no longer a 'studio system' where there are more producers than distribution outlets. The Internet is limitless."

Various Artists Independent Film Festival
  • Various Artists Independent Film Festival
In each of the four submission quarters (fall, winter, spring, and summer), the VAiFF review committee will select semifinalists and post the films on for public screening. After a 30-day voting window, the films with the highest number of positive social media votes will secure the nominations for that quarter, receive cash prizes, and advance to the festival competition to vie for the top prize in their respective categories. All submissions must be under 45 minutes, not including end credits The nine competition categories are:

  • Drama
  • Comedy
  • Horror/thriller
  • Foreign
  • Documentary
  • Animation
  • Children/family content
  • Music video
  • TV/web series pilots

A panel of judges will select the top nine films at the festival; among the confirmed judges are producer Barrie M. Osborne (The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix), writer and producer Bob Gale (the Back to the Future trilogy), and video-effects producer Joyce Cox (Titanic, Avatar, The Dark Knight).

According to McClinton, combining the familiarity of independent film screenings and competitions with the convenience of mobile streaming and the ease of social media also lent itself to extending the submission process. "The competition is a year long, so we can make the best of the opportunity the Internet gives us and bring exposure to as many filmmakers as possible," McClinton notes. "We also include social media as a way to engage people from around the world who may not normally be exposed to the festival world."

Another unique characteristic of VAiFF is the lack of expiration date on the festival entries. "If a filmmaker spent their money, blood, sweat, and tears on a project that happens to be over two years old," McClinton says, "does that mean the project is no longer eligible for competition? Until VAiFF, that was [largely] the case. But if a film is 'great,' it's great, and needs to be seen and given its time."

For more information on VAiFF, including submission guidelines and rules for each category, visit

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Things to do in Chicago on Halloween 2016 weekend

Posted By on 10.28.16 at 02:21 PM

Play Spooky Selfie at the video game-themed Halloween party Little Bash of Horrors.
  • Play Spooky Selfie at the video game-themed Halloween party Little Bash of Horrors.

Whether you're looking for a trick or a treat this weekend, there's plenty to do. Be sure to check out Chicago's best Halloween 2016 events and seven theater and comedy shows for the spooky season. And see more of what we recommend below.

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Bassist John Lindberg drops two new trio albums

Posted By on 10.28.16 at 01:26 PM

In my preview of this weekend's performances by trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith at Constellation, I discussed how active he's been of late, dropping strong new work at a prodigious rate. But his partner in Celestial Weather, the project he brings to town, bassist John Lindberg, has also been getting busy, releasing new albums by a pair of very different-sounding trios. Lindberg remains best known for his invaluable work alongside Anthony Braxton during the 70s and 80s and as a founding member of the String Trio of New York, a combo that forged a special brand of chamber jazz, but these new efforts reinforce an easy versatility in his abilities.

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A week after its completion, the new leg of the Riverwalk is almost done

Posted By on 10.28.16 at 11:49 AM

The Chicago Riverwalk on a sunny day - STEVEN VANCE
  • Steven Vance
  • The Chicago Riverwalk on a sunny day

Last weekend, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, city officials, and the guy who greased the skids on a $98 million federal construction loan, former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood, celebrated the completion of the third and so far final phase of the Chicago Riverwalk.

"We have reclaimed this space to transform the river into Chicago's next great recreational frontier," the mayor said, according to a statement released by his office.

Then construction resumed. Maybe it'll be done next month. In the meantime, however, the Riverwalk is walkable.

I went on Thursday, a cold, gray day with a damp, bone-chilling wind. I didn't have to worry about crowds.

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Cook County Jail fights left ten people hospitalized, and other Chicago news

Posted By on 10.28.16 at 06:00 AM

A detainee at Cook County Jail - JESSICA KOSCIELNIAK/SUN-TIMES
  • Jessica Koscielniak/Sun-Times
  • A detainee at Cook County Jail

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Friday, October 28, 2016. Have a great weekend, and go Cubs! 

  • Weather: Warm and very windy

It will be warm again Friday, with a high of 67 and a low of 62. It will be sunny during parts of the day, and expect strong gusts of wind. [AccuWeather

  • Video released of one of the Cook County Jail fights that sent eight inmates, two officers to the hospital

Fights broke out in a maximum-security division of the Cook County Jail Tuesday evening, leaving at least 20 inmates and two correctional officers injured. Officials have released a surveillance video of one of the fights, but there's no audio, and it's still unclear what started the brawl. Fights also broke out in two other living units, and authorities "were trying to determine if the fights were coordinated by inmates and whether they were sparked by gang tensions," according to the Tribune. Eight inmates had to be taken to the hospital with stabbing or beating wounds. [Tribune]

  • Chicago Torture Archive puts 10,000 files on CPD torture online

The Chicago Torture Archive at the University of Chicago has put 10,000  documents relating to Chicago Police Department torture cases online, where they can be accessed by anyone. The People's Law Office worked "to gather interrogations, criminal-trial files, civil-litigation documents, works of journalism, and records of activism spurred by the CPD torture cases documented between 1972 and 1991," according to the Atlantic. More documents will be added to the archive as they're collected and reviewed. [Atlantic]

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