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Friday, December 28, 2018

It's still Christmas at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Posted By on 12.28.18 at 03:06 PM

Holiday greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • Holiday greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden

If you’ve never been to the Chicago Botanic Garden, stop reading now and make a note on your 2019 calendar to get there this spring when everything bursts into fantastic, full-color bloom. Because, although the Garden offers year-round pleasures, that’s how it should be seen first.

Otherwise, the next week or so isn’t a bad time to drop in. The pre-Christmas hoopla's over, but the indoor holiday exhibit, the Wonderland Express, stays up through January 6, as does the garden’s judicious and stunning outdoor lighting.

Chicago Botanic Garden - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • Chicago Botanic Garden

The Wonderland Express, housed in Nichols Hall, consists of a dozen garden-scale trains running through a miniature landscape studded with more than 80 Chicago-area landmarks, all surrounded by tiny fir trees, relatively giant poinsettias, and numerous other plants.  President Obama's home is here, as is the former Sears Tower and Millennium Park. If you’re a railroad fan, garden enthusiast, architecture buff, or tyke, there’s something to interest you.

Chicago's Ferris wheel and skyscrapers, amid flowers at the Chicago Botanic Garden's  Wonderland Express - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • Chicago's Ferris wheel and skyscrapers, amid flowers at the Chicago Botanic Garden's Wonderland Express

Like the buildings in the Garden's outdoor railroad exhibit (which is closed for the winter), the landmark buildings here are entirely constructed of natural materials. This is ingenious crafting—by designer Paul Busse—but it makes for a monotone built environment.  Under deliberately subdued lighting, it's a sepia world that might strike you as either cozy or gloomy.

Waud felt figures at Lenhardt Library, Chicago Botanic Garden - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • Waud felt figures at Lenhardt Library, Chicago Botanic Garden

The adjacent Lenhardt Library has a small, charming display of handmade felt storybook characters.  And there’s a fanciful gingerbread village in an anteroom to the railroad exhibit that left me imagining a merry, bright, architecturally accurate, and totally edible Chicago.

The Wonderland Express is open 10 AM to 7 PM through January 6; tickets for this exhibit are $13; $10 for seniors and kids ages 3 to 12; free for children 2 years old and under.  Two-for-one coupons may be available online.  Entrance to the garden is free but parking fees of $25 per car and $30 per van, apply.  Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe;; 847-835-5440.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Dancing into the Felix Vortex on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 12.26.18 at 06:00 AM


ARTIST: Bill Connors
SHOW: Windy City Soul Club at Logan Square Auditorium on Mon 12/31

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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas With the Kranks is an unacknowledged noir masterpiece

Posted By on 12.25.18 at 06:00 AM

Christmas With the Kranks
  • Christmas With the Kranks

Welcome to Flopcorn, where Reader writers and contributors pay tribute to our very favorite bad movies. In this installment, contributor Mason Johnson ponders the darkness that lies at the heart of Christmas With the Kranks.

The joy of Christmas may be all around us, but the majestic, terrifying Christmas with the Kranks firmly plants its feet in film noir, friendo.

The first scene of Kranks feels more like a wistful story of alienation like Lost in Translation or Garden State than it does phoned-in holiday drivel. It begins with a shot of the emotionless faces of Luther and Nora Krank lying awake in bed as their alarm clock goes off. The whiny and melodramatic indie song playing like a war chant in the background almost guarantees you could replace them with Zach Braff and Scarlett Johansson and nothing would feel amiss. You would think: "Oh, this movie was made around 2003." Despite this audio oddity, Luther and Nora aren’t experiencing Noah Baumbach-like internal struggles—they’re just two desperate people at the end of their Christmas rope with nothing to lose.

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Longtime Carol’s house band Diamondback brings new fans and old regulars to the resuscitated country bar

Posted By on 12.24.18 at 09:47 AM

The Carol's Pub facade along Clark Street on Friday, December 21 - MATTHEW SCHWERIN
  • Matthew Schwerin
  • The Carol's Pub facade along Clark Street on Friday, December 21

The lights are brighter, the beer is better, and the bathrooms are finally clean. But Carol's Pub still feels like the neighborhood honky-tonk it was when it opened in 1972.

The corner country music bar, which shut down in September 2016, reopened its doors early last week under new ownership. But it wasn't until Friday, December 21, that people started lining up on the sidewalk outside 4659 N. Clark to get in. They'd come to see house band Diamondback, which in its various incarnations has played six sets a night, three nights a week at Carol's since the 1970s. That makes it one of the longest-running such groups in Chicago—alongside legendary trio the Sundowners, who held court four nights a week at the Double-R Ranch in the Loop between 1969 and 1989.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Carousing with a Kool Katerpillar on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 12.19.18 at 06:00 AM


ARTIST: Josh Davis
SHOW: Kool Keith and Bushwick Bill at Logan Arcade on Fri 12/21

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

In praise of Neil Breen, an auteur who finds new and exciting ways to be bad with every movie he makes

Posted By on 12.18.18 at 06:00 AM

Neil Breen in Twisted Pair
  • Neil Breen in Twisted Pair

Welcome to Flopcorn, where
Reader writers and contributors pay tribute to our very favorite bad movies. In this installment, staff writer Leor Galil tries to fathom the works of Neil Breen.

Anyone who says they understand Twisted Pair is a liar. I'm skeptical Neil Breen could fully explain it, and he practically made the movie single-handedly; he's the writer, director, star, producer, editor, casting director, and head of craft services. And it's not even his first movie! After a one-night-only screening of Twisted Pair at the Music Box last month, I left wondering which of Breen’s choices (if any) were intended to be illuminating or coherent.

Breen made four films before Twisted Pair. I’ve now seen all but one, his second, I Am Here . . . . Now (2009). (Yes, the title’s ellipsis has four periods. If this is alarming, you might not want to watch Breen's movies.) Breen recycles a few core themes and narrative elements in all of his movies, or at least the ones I've seen. The world is usually threatened by a hidden evil; those responsible are generally millionaire CEOs or people who hold high positions of power in government. Breen, always the star, is often the only one who holds the key to the truth and the salvation of the world.

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A teenager sports high fashion on a low budget

Posted By on 12.18.18 at 06:00 AM

  • Isa Giallorenzo

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

"I feel like if I'm not disgusted with what I wore a year ago, then I'm not doing my job," says high school senior Zoe Axelrod, who tries to err on the side of boldness. "If it isn't going to make a statement, then it's not worth wearing. Not every look I put together is 'good,' but it'll certainly get your attention." 

She wasn't always such a fashion enthusiast, though; up until around her freshman year, Axelrod favored basic items such as low-rise leggings and graphic tees. Her sartorial turning point came when she started following fashion bloggers on Instagram and YouTube. "My current favorites are Beth Jones of B. Jones Style, Tara Chandra, and Allison of Titi Alli. They all give me ideas of outfits to put together, but ultimately, my clothes are what inspire me," says the avid thrifter, whose personal style has been developed through "a lot of trial and error."

On the day she was photographed, she ended up missing her school bus because she couldn't figure out what to layer under her olive button-down—an XL pajama top she found at a thrift store in Arlington Heights, her hometown. "The fabric was so beautiful I couldn't pass it by," she says.

The 17-year-old ended up pairing her esteemed shirt with a turtleneck she got on sale at Target a couple of years ago, vintage frames that used to belong to her mom, earrings handed down from her grandma, a belt that used to be a Gryffindor tie from a Hermione costume, and a pair of ASOS platforms, her "pride and glory," thrifted at the Savers in Schaumburg for eight bucks. Axelrod highly recommends that store.

"They have the biggest and most organized kids section, which is where I get most of my funky pieces," she enthuses. The precocious and frugal style savant has another shopping tip: "If you want to save time, skim the aisles for the colors you think your closet needs more of."

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Archive dive: the year 1971 in review

Posted By on 12.17.18 at 01:17 PM

  • from the reader archive

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.

There are plenty of "best of 2018" lists popping up this time of year (including a few to come here at the Reader), but do you ever wonder what were the most memorable movies, meals, and moments of 1971? If so, boy do we have the list for you!

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Healthy Hood wants to make sure people on the south and west sides start living better and longer

Posted By on 12.17.18 at 06:00 AM

  • courtesy Healthy Hood

In the city of Chicago, there is a 20-year life expectancy gap between communities of color and predominantly white communities. If you live in a neighborhood like Pilsen, statistically speaking, you’re likely to not live as long as someone who lives in Oak Park. Pilsen native Tanya Lozano has set out to combat this gap through her nonprofit, Youth Service Corps, and her fitness and dance studio, Healthy Hood.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A guitar transfigured into liquid cheese on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 12.12.18 at 06:00 AM


ARTIST: Ryan Duggan
SHOW: Ryley Walker, Ohmme, and Ben LaMar Gay at the Empty Bottle on Fri 12/28

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