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Lit & Lectures

Friday, November 2, 2018

What we learned at the Chicago Humanities Festival last night

Posted By on 11.02.18 at 01:42 PM

  • Emmanuel Olunkwa
  • Abbi Jacobson

Abbi Jacobson, best known as co-creator and co-star of Broad City, did what some people wish they could do after a hard breakup: hit the road to distract herself from her pain. Only she was able to pitch her three-week solo road trip as a book titled I Might Regret This (Essays, Vulnerabilities and Other Stuff). She knows this is bizarre and privileged.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

#TimesUp: What's Next? Chicago Ideas Week conversation discusses the next steps for the movement

Posted By on 10.17.18 at 05:00 PM

  • Sona Jones

Earlier this year, the #TimesUp legal initiative was launched to provide steps for women across all career industries who have been sexually harassed in the workplace, but now many women are asking, "where do we go from here?" Chicago Ideas Week hosted a conversation last night titled #TimesUp: What’s Next with activists and experts Amber Tamblyn, Saru Jayamaran, Tina Tchen, and Celeste Headlee to answer this question, offering some suggestions for next steps and examining areas where change needs to occur the most.

Thus far, most of the focus of the movement has been on high profile cases involving celebrities or public figures. Women in Hollywood have stood together at awards show announcing that time was up for abuse and assault on movie sets. "The Screen Actors Guild has changed on-set rules about how women are allowed to be treated and how their bodies can be touched," said Tamblyn, an actress, director, and one of the founding members of the #TimesUp movement.

But there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of inclusivity and diversity within the movement and advocating for women (and men) in all other fields. Tchen, one of the leaders of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, says workplace sexual harassment infects all industries. One of the only ways to implement any real change is to change the workplace culture that has allowed for harassment to grow and continue to be accepted. Opponents of the #TimesUp movement have argued that if companies just followed the law, there wouldn’t be any harassment issues, but those people fail to realize that these laws have not caught up with 2018.

Tchen says these laws do not protect bystanders who report sexual harassment. One change that is occurring, however, is the termination of employees accused of harassment who earlier would've been given a slap on the wrist or made to watch a sexual harassment training video. "Sexual harassment training is really ineffective," she said. Learning about sexual harassment won't change an offender's behavior. It'll only make them more aware of the procedures surrounding the harassment. 

Jayamaran, co-founder and president of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC-United), shifts the conversation to restaurant workers. "In addition to support for legal challenges, we need to dismantle the systems and structures that lead to sexual harassment in the first place," she said. "Like the system of working for tips."

Jayamaran said the tipping economy is rooted in racism and it came into existence as a way to exploit the labor of slaves. It continues to exploit the labor of people of color and perpetuate power dynamics that result in sexual harassment.

The rest of the conversation focused on the importance of women working together. Though the movement has always placed an emphasis on women supporting women, Tamblyn said that white women especially need to be strong allies. In these spaces devoid of men, some white women are coming face to face with their privilege and the realization that sometimes they may perpetuate the same racism and exclusion as men.

"When you see that there is someone who's missing out of the conversation, you have to do everything you can to make sure they're included," she said.

The panel did a good job of recounting the strides the movement has made and what they're currently working towards but I'm not sure if anything that was said hasn’t already been said before. I would have liked them to highlight sexual assault in other, more vulnerable career fields like the public education system. Though I'm aware that a lot of the work the initiative is doing is geared towards workplace culture, I think discussing how the movement can help young women come forward with their stories, too, would be beneficial and a huge step in moving forward as a collective. Regardless, the conversation was one that we need to keep having in order to see more progress. 

Before the event ended, the four women answered audience questions and offered some tangible advice: Don’t be afraid to be the crazy, difficult bitch in the room and go vote in the midterm elections.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

In Stephen Markley's debut novel, Ohio is more than just a political football

Posted By on 08.22.18 at 06:15 PM

Stephen Markley and his debut novel, Ohio - COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
  • Courtesy of the author
  • Stephen Markley and his debut novel, Ohio

Since the election of Donald Trump, Ohio has served as a sort of political Rorschach test. Depending on the ideology or affiliation, some squint and see the state as the avatar of humble, plain-speaking "Real America." Others view it as a downtrodden place that embraced Trumpism after being abandoned by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Then there are those who see a state of racist white people are angry about the crumbling foundation of white supremacy.

But former Chicagoan Stephen Markley hopes his novel—named after his native Great Lakes state—will help readers think of Ohio as not just a swing state but a diverse, complicated region full of flesh-and-blood people. It's a book that attempts to be both a murder mystery involving four former classmates who return to the fictional town of New Canaan and a social critique about a place devastated by social, political, and economic upheaval over the last generation.

Out this week, Ohio (Simon & Schuster) is an ambitious debut of fiction from Markley, whose last book was a boozy, irreverent travelogue of a stint in Iceland (Tales of Iceland, or Running With the Huldufólk), written in 2013. Prior to that, in 2010, was Publish This Book: The Unbelievable Story of How I Wrote, Sold and Published This Book. The 34-year-old native of Mount Vernon, Ohio, cut his teeth as a freelance writer in Chicago, with jobs including a gig as a columnist for RedEye, then attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Before making a Chicago stop on his book tour on Thursday evening, Markley spoke with the Reader about his topsy-turvy career, the politics of military service, and, yes, Ohio.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Three Spider-Man outfits, mechanical feathered wings, and other great photos from C2E2

Posted By on 04.06.18 at 04:38 PM

We've rounded up some of the best Instagram photos of the costumes and props that fans and cosplayers prepared for C2E2, the comic, games, movies, and everything expo that hit Chicago this weekend.

Packing up for @c2e2! Can’t tell you guys how excited I am for this year. If you see me say hi! ___________________________________ Ultimate and TASM suits by @therpcstudio (Patterns by @brandonogilberto) 60s Homecoming suit by @zentaizone Modified by me Pattern by @houseofjcustoms ___________________________________ #cosplay #cosplayer #cosplaying #cosplayers #cosplayersofig #cosplayersofinstagram #marvelcosplay #avengerscosplay #spidermancosplay #spideycosplay #spidermancosplayer #chicagocosplay #c2e2 #c2e22018 #spiderman #spidey #spidermanhomecoming #ultimatespiderman #theamazingspiderman #tasm #andrewgarfield #peterparker #tomholland #marvel #marvelcomics #marvelstudios #marvelcinematicuniverse #mcu #avengersinfinitywar #infinitywar

A post shared by Matt Timm (@thespidermatt) on

Totoro #totorocosplay #totoro #c2e22018 #c2e2

A post shared by Ashley Smallwood (@red_hairedash) on

This #Castiel tho!! #c2e2

A post shared by C2E2 (@c2e2) on

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Former FBI director James Comey headlines Chicago Humanities Fest on his big book tour

Posted By on 03.15.18 at 04:41 PM

  • Comey

It’s not exactly a run-of-the-mill book tour.

Former FBI director James Comey is headlining a Chicago Humanities Festival event on April 20—three days after the release of his forthcoming book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.

The former G-man will be speaking about his memoir, which examines "what good, ethical leadership looks like and how it drives sound decisions," according to the release from publisher Flatiron Books.

That’s all well and good from the man who could not stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails before the 2016 election and who signed off on waterboarding at Abu Ghraib, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention during his time as the U.S. deputy attorney general in the Bush administration. But what everyone wants to know is—what the hell is Comey going to say about his more recent boss?

President Donald Trump fired Comey in May 2017 while the FBI director was heading up the investigation into alleged Russian meddling during the presidential election. Trump later told NBC News he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he axed Comey.

Other than his testimony before Congress, Comey has remained quiet about the specifics of his dealings with Trump and developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Flatiron Books is making sure no revelations detailing Comey’s interactions with Trump leak before the book’s release by instituting FBI-level measures of secrecy.

According to Politico, the publisher reportedly locked the book behind a password-protected electronic system, stored it under a code name, and asked warehouse workers to sign nondisclosure agreements. The strategy is working well for Comey and the publisher: the memoir is Amazon’s number one best seller in three categories: politics and social sciences, law, and biography.

"James Comey is without a doubt one of the most interesting and key figures in the transformation of our political landscape over the past year," said Chicago Humanities Festival artistic director Alison Cuddy in a press release. "I’m eager to hear what he has to say."

Comey’s Chicago appearance will be the third stop on his tour following back-to-back New York City dates on April 18 and 19. Tickets for the event, scheduled for 7 PM on April 20 at the Harris Theater, go on sale to CHF members March 22 and to the general public on March 28. Tickets will be available at the CHF website.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Twenty years ago, in Moscow, Matt Taibbi was a misogynist asshole—and possibly worse

Posted By on 10.27.17 at 04:40 PM

  • Penguin Random House
  • Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi has a new book out now, I Can’t Breathe, about all the forces that conspired to kill Eric Garner. It's an important story that has become part of our national conversation, as evidenced by Ryan Smith's interview with Taibbi in this week's Reader. But it's also inadvertently become part of another conversation that has risen to a crescendo in the past few weeks: the Weinstein conversation. This, of course, encompasses not just Harvey Weinstein, but the misogyny and abuse of power that allowed him, and men like him, to harass and abuse women for decades with no apparent punishment.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Alison Cuddy’s appointment at Chicago Humanities Festival signals an important change

Posted By on 07.25.17 at 02:20 PM

Alison Cuddy is CHF's new artistic director - BEN GONZALES
  • Ben Gonzales
  • Alison Cuddy is CHF's new artistic director

Not counting cofounder Eileen Mackevich, who once did just about everything at Chicago Humanities Festival, current staff member Alison Cuddy will be the festival's first full-time artistic director and first full-time Chicago resident to hold the job. Although Cuddy's an insider, her promotion is evidence of a major change at the organization—the attempt to break out of its narrow calendar slot as a festival and to function as a year-round entity.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

New Algren bio slanders my poker table

Posted By on 03.27.17 at 04:19 PM

  • Robert McCullough/Sun-Times Archive
  • Nelson Algren in 1972

A new biography of Nelson Algren is out, and I immediately turned to the part about me. I hadn't come off well in Bettina Drew's 1992 Nelson Algren a Life on the Wild Side, and I wondered if Mary Wisniewski's Algren: A Life would be any kinder.

It isn't, although Wisniewski's more efficient.

Our paths had crossed in 1976, when Algren was leaving Chicago. Drew wrote: "As collectors, fans, hangers-on, old friends, reporters, and photographers descended on the Evergreen apartment, asking, How much for the signed Playboys? Was the dishwasher for sale? Algren gloried in his own swindles: he'd fetched a tidy sum for a table he said was the very one on which he'd played poker with the neighborhood guys while writing Golden Arm. Actually, it was just an old table."

Wisniewski uses fewer words: "Before he packed to leave, Algren held an auction of much of what he had stuffed into his Evergreen apartment over sixteen years, trying to sell every piece of junk he had—photographs, autographed magazines and copies of manuscripts, ancient crockery and a rickety table he pretended was his legendary poker table."

The notion that Algren flimflammed a putz—me—has taken on a life of its own. That's OK. I can live with it.

But what about the table's feelings? Rickety?

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Monday, February 13, 2017

The heartbreaking tale of the Visions was the best comic of 2016

Posted By on 02.13.17 at 12:00 PM


I recently had a discussion with my sister in which she was going on and on about how recent additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, such as Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, were "stupid" characters. I explained that, first off, Doctor Strange is actually not stupid, he's the sickest character of all. He also typifies modern-day Marvel Universe's skill for taking campy, kind of silly, and outdated characters and placing them in a contemporary setting.

One of the best examples of this ingenuity is the character of the Vision—created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, and John Buscema in 1968—and his introduction to the current MCU roster. Paul Bettany brilliantly portrayed the all-powerful AI in its debut in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, a mysterious and ridiculously colorful force who turns out to be one of the strangest and most exciting parts of the team. But on paper, the Vision's origin is a silly one, heavily rooted in the dramatic sci-fi of the 1960s: the Vision is a "synthezoid" created by the genocidal robot Ultron to lure the Avengers—his greatest foes—into a trap. But deep within his programming, the Vision is motivated to help save humanity rather than destroy it, and joins the team as one of its most powerful members.

Perhaps due to the popularity of the Marvel movies, the Vision was given his very first solo series last year, and it's the best comic of 2016.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

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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