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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Humboldt Park kids' store Peach Fuzz gives hugs

Posted By on 09.11.18 at 09:15 AM

Shop assistant Devyn Mañibo - ISA GIALLORENZO
  • Isa Giallorenzo
  • Shop assistant Devyn Mañibo

"Peach Fuzz is an inclusive kids' shop," says Claire Tibbs of her new business, which opened in Humboldt Park in mid-July. She named the store accordingly: "We all have [peach fuzz], no matter our age. It is tactile, textured, body positive, inclusive, and undeniably human. The space and our goods I hope evoke the same. . . . We want all people to enter and feel hugged by the space."

And that's exactly how I felt after arriving at the store, which is painted in various soothing pastel tones with vibrant neon accents. The walls are covered in unexpected color combinations that surprisingly work beautifully together. One of them opens into a cozy nook designed for more introspective activities: decked with beanbag chairs and minimalist wooden blocks, it's the perfect hideaway for the little ones.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Gone too soon: five films by directors who died young

Posted By on 09.04.18 at 06:00 AM

Jean Vigo's L'Atalante
  • Jean Vigo's L'Atalante
The Music Box Theatre and the Chicago Film Society present the 1930 film City Girl this Saturday at 11:30 AM as part of their monthly silent film series. The film's director, F.W. Murnau, died the year after its release in an automobile accident, cutting short his life and remarkable career. He left behind a substantial body of work, though. The five filmmakers below also died much too young but had only made a handful of movies each, and in one case just a single film. We're spotlighting their work.

L'Atalante
Jean Vigo's only full-length feature (1934), one of the supreme masterpieces of French cinema, was edited and then brutally re-edited while Vigo was dying, so a “definitive” restoration is impossible. (The reassembled version released in France in 1990 is almost certainly the best and most complete we'll ever be able to see—it's wondrous to behold.) The simple love-story plot involves the marriage of a provincial woman (Dita Parlo) to the skipper of a barge (Jean Daste), and the only other characters of consequence are the barge's skeletal crew (Michel Simon and Louis Lefebvre) and a peddler (Gilles Margaritis) who flirts with the wife at a cabaret and describes the wonders of Paris to her. The sensuality of the characters and the settings, indelibly caught in Boris Kaufman's glistening cinematography, are only part of the film's remarkable poetry, the conviction of which goes beyond such categories as realism or surrealism, just as the powerful sexuality in the film ultimately transcends such categories as heterosexuality, homosexuality, and even bisexuality. Shot by shot and moment by moment, the film is so fully alive to the world's possibilities that magic and reality seem to function as opposite sides of the same coin, with neither fully adequate to Vigo's vision. The characters are at once extremely simple and extremely complex (richest of all is Simon's Pere Jules, as beautiful a piece of character acting as one can find anywhere), and while the continuity is choppy in spots—a factor skillfully cloaked by Maurice Jaubert's superb score—the film's aliveness and potency are so constant that this hardly seems to matter. A major inspiration to subsequent generations of filmmakers, yet no one has ever succeeded in matching it. In French with subtitles. 89 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

The House Is Black
Forugh Farrokhzad's black-and-white documentary (1962, 19 min.) about a leper colony in northern Iran is the most powerful Iranian film I've seen. Farrokhzad (1935-'67) is widely regarded as the greatest Persian poet of the 20th century; her only film seamlessly adapts the techniques of poetry to its framing, editing, sound, and narration. At once lyrical and extremely matter-of-fact, devoid of sentimentality or voyeurism yet profoundly humanist, the film offers a view of everyday life in the colony—people eating, various medical treatments, children at school and at play—that's spiritual, unflinching, and beautiful in ways that have no apparent Western counterparts; to my eyes and ears, it registers like a prayer. 19 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

The Conqueror Worm / The Witchfinder General
An unusually restrained Vincent Price stars as Matthew Hopkins, a 17th-century magistrate who took advantage of the English civil war to conduct a massive witch hunt across East Anglia. This sinister 1968 feature was adapted from a historical tome by Ronald Bassett, though director Michael Reeves (whose life was cut short by a drug overdose the next year) seems equally inspired by the stark visuals in Carl Dreyer's Day of Wrath. Tigon Films, a pretender to the Hammer throne in the late 60s and early 70s, released the movie as The Witchfinder General in Britain; American distributor Roger Corman, hoping to capitalize on his earlier Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, retitled it The Conqueror Worm and slapped on some voice-over of Price reading from Poe's poem. 86 min. —J.R. Jones

Wanda
Perhaps the most depressing film ever made, this 1971 feature by director-actress Barbara Loden tells of a young, ignorant, emotionally deadened, and hopelessly dreary woman from the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania whose life is a succession of dead ends. Doomed from the start to a life of ignorance and boredom, she's victimized by her surroundings, by men hardly less dreary than she, and by her sex. A brilliantly atmospheric film with a superb performance by Loden. 105 min. —Don Druker

Savage Nights
Highly controversial and troubling but undeniably powerful and impossible to dismiss, this French feature cowritten (with critic Jacques Fieschi) directed by and starring the late Cyril Collard follows the last reckless days and nights of a 30-year-old cinematographer and musician who discovers he is HIV-positive but continues to have sex with strangers as well as with his two more regular lovers. Based on Collard's autobiographical novel Les nuits fauves, Savage Nights won Cesars for best picture, best first picture, most promising actress (Romane Bohringer), and best editing a few days after the 35-year-old director himself died of AIDS in March 1993. These honors can't simply be written off as sentimental: stylistically and dramatically, this is an accomplished piece of work. If Collard's driven hero often seems far from admirable—unconsciously misogynistic beneath his apparent bisexual "tolerance," and, as his masochistic behavior often implies, full of self-loathing—the film seems admirably unpropagandistic in permitting spectators to make up their own minds about him. It also gives full voice to the agony of unrequited adolescent love (Bohringer's volcanic performance), and, for better and for worse, offers a treatment of AIDS that's the other side of the moon from Philadelphia—politically incorrect with a vengeance. Whether you like this or not, you'll have a hard time shaking it loose. With Carlos Lopez. 126 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Meet Kidd Kenn, Chicago’s hottest openly gay 15-year-old rapper

Posted By on 08.07.18 at 06:00 AM

"It's a faggot party baby, you cannot get in." - MATT HARVEY
  • Matt Harvey
  • "It's a faggot party baby, you cannot get in."

When 15-year-old Dontrell showed up at the Reader's offices for an interview, he was fresh off a delayed return flight after his first trip to New York. He's better known as Kidd Kenn, Chicago's most popular openly gay male rapper, and he was exhausted—his whirlwind trip east had included a meeting with Def Jam and a music-video shoot. 

"We were there for one day," said his manager and family friend, Sharron Beverly of Family First Music Group. (She asked that we not use Kidd's real last name.) "We had the meeting with Def Jam, and then we had to shoot a video for Kidd's new song."

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Trans woman Strawberry Hampton reports continued assaults while detained at men’s prisons

Posted By on 07.30.18 at 06:00 AM

Strawberry Hampton - THE BLACK LOOP
  • The Black Loop
  • Strawberry Hampton

Strawberry Hampton, a transgender woman currently serving a ten-year sentence for residential burglary at Dixon Correctional Center, the fourth male prison she's been transferred to within the year, filed new claims against the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) on July 17 stating that she's been sexually and physically assaulted by inmates and prison guards, and requesting she be transferred to Logan Correctional Center, a women's prison.

But her harassment at Dixon is only one episode in the ongoing abuse she claims to have suffered while in IDOC custody, according to her complaints. Hampton's lawsuit, filed on her behalf by the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People's Law Center, argues that the IDOC has inappropriately assigned her to a men's prison, stating that  Hampton's "physical and emotional well-being are in jeopardy at Dixon, and will be in any men's facility."

"The IDOC has never articulated any reasons" for why they won't transfer Hampton, said Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People's Law Center, on Thursday. "The most they've said is that women sometimes get harassed in prison, so there's no guarantee she'd be protected."

Hampton has lived as a woman since she was five and has continued to do so through her incarceration. She is chemically castrated, and her testosterone levels are a fraction of the average male's.

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Monday, July 9, 2018

Nerds unite at Challengers for Women’s Comics Night

Posted By on 07.09.18 at 06:00 AM

The June edition of Women's Comics Night - ANDREA THOMPSON
  • Andrea Thompson
  • The June edition of Women's Comics Night

When the owners of Challengers Comics decided they wanted to put on more events, they knew they wanted some of them to focus on women, but they had no idea what that would look like. But when they asked for organizers, Samantha LaFountain volunteered. She knew what she wanted to see.

"I wanted it to be like a party, that was the main idea," LaFountain said. "And to build friendships between women, nonbinary individuals, however you identify. Between people who aren't normally seen."

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Pride double standard? Bars upset after police forced some to close early after parade

Posted By on 06.29.18 at 03:53 PM

Police watch over a Pride celebration in Lakeview. - SUN-TIMES
  • Sun-Times
  • Police watch over a Pride celebration in Lakeview.

If you were celebrating Pride last Sunday night, you may have been forced to cancel your plans and head home early. For the past 48 years, queer people and their allies have commemorated the 1969 Stonewall riots every June with marches, parades, and bar crawls through gay neighborhoods. The riots themselves were a reaction of transgender and gay people to the constant police raids on their bars and are considered the landmark event that sparked the LGBTQ radical liberation movement and its subsequent parades. But this year, police successfully shut down postparade celebrations at many bars beginning around 10:30 PM, according to several witnesses and bar employees.

The police targeted a specific section of Boystown: Halsted between Addison and Belmont between Halsted and Sheffield, ending at the gay dance club Berlin. According to interviews with ten managers and bartenders, some of these bars agreed with the early shutdowns and even closed their own doors before the police asked. Other bar owners, especially those of bars that close at 4 AM, said the shutdown resulted in hours of profits lost.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

What I learned about gay pride from the Mattachine Society

Posted By on 06.22.18 at 06:00 AM

National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Washington, D.C. (October 14, 1979) - ONE ARCHIVES AT USC LIBRARIES
  • ONE Archives at USC Libraries
  • National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Washington, D.C. (October 14, 1979)

I would not have survived long in the Mattachine Society. The organization's own founders were ousted in its third year. Even five cisgender white men were considered too radical to run a homosexual group seeking respectability, especially one fearful of FBI infiltration. Although the society was founded in 1950 in order to declare homosexuals a cultural minority and became the first successful American homosexual rights organization, the leaders who overthrew the proud founders were determined to declare us a group just like everyone else in mainstream society. Their lack of pride in their queerness took the organization down a narrow path. It's a story I began studying in 2015 in order to produce my podcast, Mattachine: A Serialized Story in Gay History.

The conservatives of the Mattachine Society believed that, despite our queer existence, there was no special queer culture: queers had no unique identity or perspective on life. It was a form of self-protection, even as the FBI was collecting Mattachine publications and showing up on the founders' doorsteps. The conservatives wished to come out of the closet quietly, to get in line with mainstream society, and make no disruptions. Never ask too much in the way of human rights, they said, never wear clothes of the wrong gender or swish down a sidewalk, but always remain loyal to the American family values in which you can never participate. For maintain the safety of its members, they pushed out the communists and the femmes. The new iteration of the Mattachine Society asserted its homosexuality meekly.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Alicia Swiz wants to make you a better feminist—by taking her online course

Posted By on 06.21.18 at 01:00 PM

Alicia Swiz hosting Feminist Happy Hour Galentine's Day 2018 - STEPHANIE JENSEN
  • Stephanie Jensen
  • Alicia Swiz hosting Feminist Happy Hour Galentine's Day 2018

Alicia Swiz is a feminist. She's also a writer, a performer, and an educator who uses her various platforms to initiate conversations about women's issues, intersectionality, and the representation of gender in media. Now, thanks to her recently released online course, potential students don't have to be enrolled in college to learn from her.

After receiving her master's degree in women's and gender studies from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Swiz began teaching at Alamance Community College in Graham, North Carolina. In 2010, she moved to Chicago intending to find more opportunities to perform and to explore more creative ways to create dialogues about issues related to gender.

Since then, Swiz has become an important figure in the Chicago feminist community. Her writing has been featured in a number of local outlets, including a roundtable discussion on the importance of intersectionality in feminism for the Reader. She's also the cofounder of Chicago's local chapter of Shout Your Abortion, a network created to empower people to share their experiences with abortion, and the creator of SlutTalk, an organization that raises awareness of slut shaming and encourages sex positivity through performances, workshops, and social media.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Queer filmmaker Derek Jarman gets a Pride Month retrospective at FilmStruck

Posted By on 06.20.18 at 06:00 AM

Derek Jarman's Caravaggio
  • Derek Jarman's Caravaggio
The queer British filmmaker Derek Jarman, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1994, is one of the artists featured by the streaming channel FilmStruck during Pride Month. We spotlight five of his eclectic and highly original films.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Drag queens find unlikely spot to perform—on a 50-foot climbing wall

Posted By on 06.11.18 at 06:00 AM


Dressed in a yellow leopard-printed bodysuit and a colorful skirt, Bambi Banks climbed a 50-foot wall while lip-synching to "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus. The crowd below cheered as Banks reached the top, let go, and gracefully rappelled down.

A climbing gym in Chicago might seem like an unlikely place for a drag performance, but in the spirit of Pride month, Brooklyn Boulders Chicago earlier this June hosted its second annual Out to Climb event to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

To many of the drag artists who attended, the evening wasn’t just an opportunity to try a new sport but a chance to reach a wider audience and expand their communal space.

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Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
BigMouth Chicago Shakespeare Theater
September 18
Performing Arts
Communion Den Theatre
September 20

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