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It's Complicated

Friday, July 14, 2017

The secret politics of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Posted By on 07.14.17 at 11:45 AM

Michael Keaton as the Vulture
  • Michael Keaton as the Vulture
(Warning: This post contains spoilers)

Hey, Spider-Man, if you really believe your bullshit credo about great responsibility coming with great power, take off those red pajamas, submit to an independent superhero-review board, and stop playing web-slinging vigilante policeman.

Seriously, take a break from beating up petty thieves and evil masterminds, kid. Think bigger and help solve our nation's systemic ills by twisting the Dakota Access pipeline into knots or by shooting webs at Paul Ryan's mouth to silence him during congressional debates about Obamacare. Even better, arrest the real villain of the Marvel Universe—Iron Man.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Protests at Pride Parade and Dyke March pose questions for Chicago’s LGBTQ community

Posted By on 06.27.17 at 03:22 PM

A scene from Pride Parade this past Sunday, June 25 - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • A scene from Pride Parade this past Sunday, June 25

On Sunday thousands of people gathered in Uptown for the 48th annual Pride Parade, but the festivities were halted for about 15 minutes at the intersection of Belmont and Halsted by a group of 40 protesters. They'd formed a circle, hand in hand, and prevented other marchers from passing. They wore bandanas that read "Black Trans Lives Matter" and held large papier-mache heads of Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and a unicorn, each affixed to a stick.

The action was led by the Trans Liberation Collective and other Chicago-based organizations, including the BTGNC (Black Trans Gender Nonconforming) Collective, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace Chicago, Assata's Daughters, and Pilsen Alliance.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Steppenwolf releases ‘official statement’ on Hedy Weiss review uproar

Posted By on 06.23.17 at 04:01 PM

  • Rich Hein / Sun-Times
  • Hedy Weiss

[UPDATE: Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times issued it own statement in support of longtime critic Hedy Weiss: read it here.]

Last week, after Chicago Sun-Times critic Hedy Weiss's review of Antoinette Nwandu's Pass Over sparked an Internet uproar and drew thousands of signatures on an online petition, Steppenwolf Theatre artistic director Anna D. Shapiro and executive director David Schmitz issued a statement on behalf of the company accusing Weiss of "deep-seated bigotry." They also promised that "an official institutional response" would follow.

Today, that official response arrived, notably more nuanced.  Steppenwolf is now calling for "ongoing community-wide dialogue," and says it will be "eager to participate."

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

In Jaguar Ride, Brian McMahon of the Electric Eels makes the band’s story as defiantly unmarketable as their music

Posted By on 04.13.17 at 04:18 PM

Brian McMahon with a copy of Jaguar Ride - COURTESY OF HOZAC BOOKS
  • Courtesy of HoZac Books
  • Brian McMahon with a copy of Jaguar Ride

Brian McMahon, guitarist and cofounder of the Electric Eels, wrote the new memoir Jaguar Ride (HoZac) to tell the story of the confrontational and underappreciated Cleveland protopunk trailblazers. But it's not till the book's waning pages that he says something explicit and direct (inasmuch as he'll allow himself to be) about how he understands the band's short life: "A peculiar strain of non-selective toxic antibody that cannot exist outside the context of the diseased environment which sustains it."

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Friday, January 6, 2017

For a former believer, The Christians at Steppenwolf is a stunning reminder of a personal crisis of faith

Posted By on 01.06.17 at 01:04 PM

Steppenwolf ensemble member Tom Irwin as Pastor Paul in Lucas Hnath's The Christians. - MICHAEL BROSILOW
  • Steppenwolf ensemble member Tom Irwin as Pastor Paul in Lucas Hnath's The Christians.

(This essay contains spoilers.)

Popular culture often portrays the Christian pursuit of faith as a naive desire for clarity and certainty in an unsympathetic world that offers neither. Those depictions typically show Christians deluding themselves with simplistic stories about a heavenly father figure for the sake of a childlike version of happiness. But it's a rather cynical view, and one that fails to understand that faith is actually a more difficult road than it may seem. It demands you set aside your own desires and submit to a mysterious power beyond human control—a humbling practice that continually invites fear, doubt, and self-loathing.

"There are long periods in the lives of all of us, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive," Flannery O'Connor once wrote. "Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints . . . "

Part of what makes Chicago playwright Lucas Hnath's The Christians, being performed at Steppenwolf Theatre through January 29, so remarkable is that it explores this rugged underbelly of faith and demands—uncomfortably so—that we stare into the interior lives of its doubting, yet devout characters.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

A Hasidic rabbi outside Wrigley Field teaches Cubs fans how to bless their team

Posted By on 10.17.16 at 07:49 PM

Rabbi Dovid Kotlarsky and Cubs fans in Wrigleyville - COURTESY DOVID KOTLARSKY
  • courtesy Dovid Kotlarsky
  • Rabbi Dovid Kotlarsky and Cubs fans in Wrigleyville

The 2003 National League Championship Series coincided with the weeklong Jewish festival of Sukkot. During that week, Rabbi Boruch Hertz, an emissary of the Lubavitch Chabad, built a sukkah across the street from Wrigley Field and encouraged everyone, but especially Jews, to come in and pray with him.

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Street preacher Steve the Rebuker calls for Cubs fans to repent

Posted By on 10.17.16 at 07:16 PM

Outside Wrigley Field, a van driven by an acquaintance of Steve the Rebuker evangelized before game two of the NLCS. - AIMEE LEVITT
  • Aimee Levitt
  • Outside Wrigley Field, a van driven by an acquaintance of Steve the Rebuker evangelized before game two of the NLCS.

The crowd started gathering around Wrigley Field midafternoon on Sunday, approximately four hours before the Cubs were scheduled to face off against the Dodgers in game two of the National League Championship Series. And on the corner of Addison and Sheffield, amid the stream of fans, vendors, drinkers, gawkers, and wanderers all clad in blue, stood one lone stout, white-haired figure in red with a hands-free microphone over his ear and Bible in his back pocket.

His name, he said, was Steve the Rebuker. He rooted for neither the Cubs nor the Dodgers. "I'm on Team Jesus Christ," he said, though when pressed, he allowed that he is nominally a Baptist. His mission was to preach the word of God to people. There were a lot of people outside Wrigley Field.   

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Spike Lee says Chi-Raq will save lives on the south side—but can't say how

Posted By on 12.03.15 at 03:52 PM

Spike Lee and John Cusack speak at a panel at an Apple Store in NYC. - RYAN SMITH
  • Ryan Smith
  • Spike Lee and John Cusack speak at a panel at an Apple Store in NYC.

Spike Lee believes Chi-Raq will save lives on the south side of Chicago and beyond—but so far he's done a poor job of articulating how that will happen.

Chi-Raq, which opens nationwide on Friday (and which Leor Galil wrote about in a long review we published last week), is a satire loosely based on Aristophanes's Lysistrata. Set on Chicago's south side, it portrays the murder of a child and how a group of women decide to go on a "sex strike" until the gun violence ends. The Brooklyn-based filmmaker proclaimed his latest work a "lifesaver" during a panel and Q&A that was sponsored by Apple and took place in the tech giant's SoHo-neighborhood store in Manhattan on Wednesday night. I was one of roughly 120 attendees.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Man in the High Castle imagines a world ruled by Nazis

Posted By on 12.02.15 at 02:30 PM

The Man in the High Castle - AMAZON
  • Amazon
  • The Man in the High Castle

Amazon's The Man in the High Castle made headlines last month for its marketing campaign, which involved plastering the Nazi insignia on the seats of New York City subway cars. Sure, it probably wasn't the best advertising strategy, but the stunt did one thing effectively: it provided a glimpse into the world of the show, where the Axis powers won World War II. 

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What's the story behind the old-school Chicago house track that Aphex Twin recently remixed?

Posted By on 11.11.15 at 12:00 PM

Courtesy of Warp - APHEX TWIN
  • Aphex Twin
  • Courtesy of Warp

Since January Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, has filled a Soundcloud account attributed to user18081971 with nearly 300 previously unreleased tracks and remixes. Late last month he dropped a remix of "I Want to Be With You," a decades-old Chicago house track credited to Street Side Boyz. On the extended edit James removes the original's sensual, snarling vocals and darkens its late-night thump—the shuddering synths and needle-sharp hi-hats take on a monstrous form.

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