Bleader | Chicago Reader

Friday, November 30, 2018

Chance the Rapper offers a video preview of the new Chicagoist

Posted By on 11.30.18 at 05:06 PM

Chance says his vision for Chicagoist is to "allow more people to have voices, to give a bigger platform for Chicago voices to speak." - KAREN HAWKINS
  • Karen Hawkins
  • Chance says his vision for Chicagoist is to "allow more people to have voices, to give a bigger platform for Chicago voices to speak."

When Chance the Rapper announced via a single in July that he was buying Chicagoist—the hyperlocal news site closed by billionaire owner Joe Ricketts the previous November—there was a ton of speculation about what he'd do with it. At an invitation-only event Friday morning, a collection of journalists, young aldermanic candidates, professors, and supporters got a first glimpse of the goods.

The whole event was shrouded in mystery, and the few folks I spoke to as we waited at Northeastern Illinois University's Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies in Bronzeville were as excitedly baffled as I was about what exactly we were in for.

That turned out to be a video, but before it rolled, retired Northeastern Professor Conrad Worrill (a longtime friend of Chance's dad) set the scene by telling us that some of history's greatest black intellectuals and artists had once graced the same stage, among them W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

Then the video began: puppet news anchors—that's right, I said puppet—introduce a Chicagoist investigation by "Champ" the reporter, played by young Chance in a beige throwback suit and a taped-on mustache he keeps pressing back into place as he talks.
Chance as Chicagoist TV reporter Champ Bennett - KAREN HAWKINS
  • Karen Hawkins
  • Chance as Chicagoist TV reporter Champ Bennett

Champ/Chance then delivers a 101-level lesson in Chicago politics, set to music with what Sun-Times journalist Kathy Chaney astutely described as a Schoolhouse Rock vibe.

People-on-the-street interviews demonstrate just how little people on the street know about how their city runs. (What does an alderman do? What's the City Council? How many wards does Chicago have? No one knows.) More formal interviews with local reporters and aldermanic hopefuls, many of them people of color (and many of them in the audience watching the video with us), explore the challenges faced by candidates who lack clout, connections, and resources. A bewigged Hannibal Buress hams it up in the role of fictitious 51st ward alderman Al Durhman, who proudly proclaims that he just votes "yes" to everything and has been re-elected for years after inheriting the seat from his daddy.

During a Q&A after the video, Chance said it would be posted on his YouTube channel but not on Chicagoist, which he noted is still under construction.

Chance said he was inspired to do the piece by the realization that he'd only learned that the City Council is made up of aldermen when he visited one of its meetings last year—and that this kind of knowledge gap keeps people from being engaged in government and electoral politics. The new Chicagoist has a chance to fix that, and Chance said he hopes to get the video included in the curriculum at CPS.

He offered few details about what else Chicagoist is up to, but he promised that it would be "grand"—and that it would offer its audience more context for the news of the day.

"The overall idea is to allow more people to have voices, to give a bigger platform for Chicago voices to speak," Chance said—not just in the realm of hyperlocal journalism but also in the world at large (including, of course, in music). "I'm not trying to say too much, but it's cool, though—it's a cool thing."

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How Logan Arcade got its Misfits-playing robot dogs

Posted By on 11.28.18 at 05:45 PM

The Biscuits at Logan Arcade - JAMES ZESPY
  • James Zespy
  • The Biscuits at Logan Arcade

New to Chicago's hyper-niche scene of barcade robot punk bands are the Biscuits—Logan Arcade's very own Misfits cover act, comprising four animatronic dogs named Glenn Dogzig, Jerry Bonely, Doyle Von Frankenbone, and . . . Robo.

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A highly unprofessional trepanation on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 11.28.18 at 06:00 AM


ARTIST: Bill Connors
SHOWS: Oozing Wound, Conduit, Rectal Hygienics, and Bruges at Sleeping Village on Fri 12/14

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A resolution to a five-year-old Title IX complaint

Posted By on 11.27.18 at 06:00 AM

Olivia Ortiz in 2018 - COURTESY OLIVIA ORTIZ
  • courtesy Olivia Ortiz
  • Olivia Ortiz in 2018

I first met Olivia Ortiz in the spring of 2015, which was three years after she'd accused her then-boyfriend of sexually assaulting her when she was a second-year student at the University of Chicago, and two years after she'd filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights about the way the university had handed the accusation. The linchpin of Ortiz's complaint had been that Dean Susan Art, the administrator who had handled her initial accusation, had offered to resolve the issue through an informal mediation session between Ortiz and her ex-boyfriend, after which she told Ortiz that the university didn't consider her complaint sexual assault. Only afterward did Ortiz learn that informal mediation wasn't an appropriate disciplinary measure for an accusation of sexual assault, both according to the university's own policy and two "Dear Colleague" letters issued by the Department of Education, one in 2001 and one in 2011.

Art has since retired and has not responded to the Reader's request for comment by e-mail or through the university. University officials have been willing to discuss the school's policies but said in a statement: "In view of the limitations imposed by federal law that protects student privacy, the University cannot comment on administrative processes concerning individual students."

When Ortiz filed her initial complaint in April 2013, she was told that OCR was working its way through a substantial backlog of cases going back to 2011, but that the goal was to have a decision within 180 days. Around the same time, several other U of C students filed Title IX complaints, and OCR decided to look at them all together, in a systemic investigation of how U of C handled accusations of sexual assault.

By the time I talked to Ortiz two years later, she was still waiting for an answer from OCR. She'd also withdrawn from school three times, twice because of mental health issues related to her assault and from previously-undiagnosed manic-depression and once because of online harassment. She'd also become an activist for sexual assault survivors' rights and was part of a group of students who had applied pressure to the university to change the way it received and processed sexual assault complaints.

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‘Fashion helps me connect with people’

Posted By on 11.27.18 at 06:00 AM

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

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then security officer Vickie Gould, 59, really had a lot to say with her look. "I need a little happiness right now because I just got discharged from my job," she said. "Emojis are just part of me; they mean being happy, different, and noticeable. I'm just a different person—I dare to be different. My style is unpredictable and nobody does it like me."

Yet Gould's outfits do seem to have one thing in common: her penchant for meticulously matching accessories. "I am the best coordinator. I can just go into a store and find something that goes with what I already have. It just comes to me." After stating this, Gould gleefully pulled her emoji gloves and emoji folder from her emoji backpack, like they were some kind of secret weapon. "I've got gadgets," she grinned. "Fashion helps me connect with people. Through my outfits I'm always giving that little token of love."  v

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Archive dive: how grassroots groups around Chicago put police abolitionist ideas into practice

Posted By on 11.26.18 at 10:56 AM

Jessica Disu didn’t always consider herself a police abolitionist, but an appearance on Fox News in 2016 made her the face of the movement. In a Reader article that same year she said, “our police is not working—we need to replace it with something new.” - DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs
  • Jessica Disu didn’t always consider herself a police abolitionist, but an appearance on Fox News in 2016 made her the face of the movement. In a Reader article that same year she said, “our police is not working—we need to replace it with something new.”

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every week in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Is a Chicago without police a possibility? In the 2016 article "Abolish the police? Organizers say it's less crazy than it sounds." Reader staff writer Maya Dukmasova explored the history of abolitionism, spoke with local activists fighting for change, and reported the Chicago Police Department's response (or lack thereof) to the movement.

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Goodbye to Tony Adler, the best weekly theater critic Chicago's ever had

Posted By on 11.26.18 at 06:00 AM

Tony Adler in his office at the old Reader building at 11 E. Illinois. - KATHY RICHLAND
  • Kathy Richland
  • Tony Adler in his office at the old Reader building at 11 E. Illinois.

Tony Adler stepped down as the Reader's senior theater critic last month. He was an institution, having spent the better part of his career here, and his exit leaves behind a gap that the cultural community at large will have a hard time restoring. He joins Peter Margasak and J.R. Jones on the list of longtime arts writers at the paper to have left recently.

In 2006, Adler became the Reader's arts editor. He wore a lot of hats over the years—not just the dapper fedoras, straw hats, and homburgs he was always seen with at openings, but also as assignments editor and an occasional correspondent on poetry and gallery openings. His writing was a model for everybody who worked under him at the paper; to all serious or casual playgoers in town, who either happened to flip to his page or read him each week with dedication, his reviews' hardscrabble eloquence consistently put this mysterious, sweaty, unique thing called Chicago theater in perspective. He had standards, not favorites, and it was impossible to bait him. Week in and week out, he was always willing to be surprised.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Remember to floss your nipples on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 11.21.18 at 06:00 AM


ARTIST: Sarah Squirm
SHOW: Helltrap Nightmare with Itsi at the Hideout on Sun 12/2

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Jonny Polonsky celebrates decades of guitar-pop perfection with a show in his old hometown

Posted By on 11.20.18 at 11:24 AM

  • Photo by Aurelien Budynek
  • Jonny Polonsky

In 2018, emerging musicians commonly hashtag artists they admire on Instagram or @ them on Twitter, hoping for a signal boost that might get them new listeners. In the 80s and 90s, though, the analog to this social-media circuit was tape trading (eventually people started using burned CDs, but "CD trading" doesn't have the same ring).

Among the most successful at this organic style of self-promotion was Jonny Polonsky, a Chicago-born, Wilmette-raised singer-songwriter who began hand-distributing his self-produced cassettes at shows around the city when he was still a teenager. By 1994, when he reached legal drinking age, he'd already made fans of the likes of Marc Ribot, Jeff Buckley, and John Zorn. That same year he released a demo produced by Frank Black, which quickly persuaded Rick Rubin to sign him to American Recordings. Polonsky's 1996 debut album, Hi My Name Is Jonny, brims with smart, pristine power pop, and it made him a critical darling; stints on Lollapalooza and other cross-country tours followed.

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Rahm & Rauner help Amazon play New York City and Virginia like a bunch of saps

Posted By on 11.20.18 at 06:00 AM

  • Sue Kwong
As a longtime subscriber and avid reader of my beloved Sun-Times, I think it’s okay if I respectfully make two corrections to their recent story about Amazon’s decision to build its second headquarters someplace other than Chicago.

Thank goodness.

“Chicago’s dream of landing Amazon HQ2 and the 50,000 jobs that would come with it—is all but dead," read the lede in a recent story.

Okay, first correction: It’s not 50,000 jobs. Yes, Amazon promised to bring 50,000 jobs to the winning state or city, when they began their headquarters competition 14 months ago.

But they ended up pulling a fast one and splitting the headquarters in two, so that the “lucky” winners (New York City and Arlington, Virginia) only get 25,000 jobs each.

Man, the contest’s barely over and already Amazon’s broke its promise.

As for the second correction—it was never Chicago’s “dream” to land the headquarters.

Oh, hell, no—that was the dream of Mayor Rahm and his faithful sidekick Governor Rauner—both of whom will be leaving office shortly, thank you very much.

Most ordinary Chicagoans I know—and I know a lot of them—were okay with Amazon coming to town, so long as they didn’t have to pick up the bill to get Amazon to come here.

Unfortunately, picking up the bill was always part of this deal.

How much of a bill? We’ll probably never know—unless some enterprising reporter gets a copy of the bid details from City Hall or the state with a Freedom of Information Act request.

Cause Rahm and Rauner never told us—so much for transparency in government.

Actually, Rahm and Rauner were forbidden from telling us any details of their offer—estimated to be at least $2.25 billion—by a non-disclosure agreement they signed with Amazon.

That non-disclosure agreement apparently went so far as to prevent Rahm and Rauner from revealing such mundane matters as which locations Amazon’s site-selection committee visited on its tour of Chicago.

In fact, one of my favorite Amazon moments came when Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman tried to pry that site-selection info out of mayoral aide Robert Rivkin.

“Amazon wants to do this on a very confidential basis,” Rivkin told Spielman. “Everybody is under strict nondisclosure. So, I really can’t talk about it.”

When Spielman pressed further, Rivkin said: “What about, ‘I can’t talk about it’ don’t you understand?”

You know, it's too bad for Rahm the contest didn’t hinge on sarcastic city officials. Otherwise, Chicago would have won hands down.

In the aftermath of Amazon’s decision, Mayor Rahm waxed philosophically. “One of the things I do know about in life: You don’t succeed unless you try,” he said. “Sometimes your biggest lessons in life where you learn the most is if you don’t succeed.”

Meanwhile, ordinary New Yorkers are learning a few hard lessons from having won this contest.

It’s going to cost them at least $2 billion in various handouts to appease the egos of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, who felt compelled to enter what is essentially a who’s-got-the-bigger-wang contest.

“Some Queens residents and many elected officials expressed anger that the costs—in crowded subways, rising home prices and state and city tax dollars—could far outweigh the benefits of at least 25,000 new workers, making an average of what the company said would be $150,000,” reads a story in The New York Times. “Local politicians were promising protests, objecting to the incentive package that could far exceed $2 billion, including existing city tax breaks.”

Newly elected New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, summed it up with this tweet: “We’ve been getting calls and outreach from Queens residents all day about this. The community’s response? Outrage.”

You know, for once I gotta say—it's not so bad living in the Second City.

Before all is said and done, just about everyone in New York City—as well as in Arlington—will realize they were played like saps in a con job devised by clever corporate hustlers who masterfully worked one city against another.

Between Arlington and New York City, Amazon will probably receive close to $5 billion in public subsidies—money for which there are undoubtedly far more pressing public needs.

Speaking of which, on the opposite page from the Amazon story, the Sun-Times ran an article about how the Chicago Public Schools still aren’t providing “all special education students with the services they need and are entitled to.”

So Rahm found billions for Jeff Bezos, but only pennies for our most vulnerable, at-risk kids.

Hey, Amazon, how about kicking back a little something for the special education kids that Rahm and Rauner left behind.

It’s the least you can do for using us to squeeze more millions out of those suckers in Virginia and New York City.

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