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No Alternative Week

Friday, June 1, 2012

There's always an alternative in Chicago sports, except . . .

Posted By on 06.01.12 at 05:39 PM

Plenty of good seats available at White Sox Park: Im just sayin.
I pity the Chicago sports fans for whom there's no alternative—and by that I mean you, White Sox fans who can't stand the Cubs, and vice versa.

I arrived in this town as an eight-year-old devoted fan of the Baltimore Orioles, so in the years before interleague play the only way to see them was at Comiskey Park. I saw the first game I can remember there on a hot summer night, and I can still recall the cigarette smoke billowing out of the grandstand and into the lights above, and the way Boog Powell sweat-stained his way through one of those old woolen jerseys, so that the road gray turned black, until he changed into a fresh one about the seventh inning.

Yet I was infected by the Cubs in 1969, and once bitten by that bug it's always carried with you—like hepatitis.

I will allow that no Sox fan should give blood to a fan of the Cubs—and vice versa.

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Is there an alternative to being mentally ill?

Posted By on 06.01.12 at 02:06 PM

A ball model representation of Amoxapine, a tricyclic antidepressant
  • A ball model representation of Amoxapine, a tricyclic antidepressant
For the transgression of disliking The Avengers, I recently found myself on the business end of several dozen hateful comments. Some were sent directly to my e-mail address, but most were left in the comments section of my online review, on proud display for the public like so much toilet paper on a front lawn. (I suspect they've polluted other virtual spaces as well, but there are better things I can do with my time than to look for them.) I have little intention of entering a dialogue with these commenters, for all their confrontational goading. If the rampant spelling and grammatical mistakes were any indication, most of them were motivated by impulsive anger rather than desire for genuine conversation—though, in their defense, I wasn’t too interested in entering a dialogue with The Avengers either. I guess that means we’re even now and we can all have dessert.

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Galled by the Reader's sale to the Sun-Times? Not really.

Posted By on 06.01.12 at 06:22 AM

Anatomical guide to career discomfort
  • Anatomical guide to career discomfort
Time Out Chicago media blogger Robert Feder speculated about me last week, and I will address the speculation. But first things first. Feder began his post on the sale of the Reader to Sun-Times Media by asking an excellent question. J.R. Jones offered his answer Monday as the Bleader launched No Alternative Week. Now I'll offer mine.

"It just got harder to call the Chicago Reader an 'alternative weekly,'" Feder wrote when the sale went down. "Alternative to what?"

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

In defense of margarine

Posted By on 05.31.12 at 06:51 AM

  • SpooSpa
  • Delicious!
In Kitchen Confidential (the book people who don't really know that much about food refer to when they try to act like they know a lot about food, like myself), Anthony Bourdain writes about butter:

"In a professional kitchen, we sauté in a mixture of butter and oil for that nice brown, caramelised colour, and we finish nearly every sauce with it (we call this monter au beurre); that's why my sauce tastes creamier and mellower than yours. Margarine? That's not food. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter? I can."

Speak for yourself, Tony! Growing up in my house, our go-to spread was margarine. Like many of the "rules" my parents implemented, being kosher was a half-assed endeavor. No shellfish in the house, unless it's shrimp. All meat in the house had to be blessed by a rabbi; but once we left, my family consumed the most blasphemous chickens. And we couldn't butter our bread, because we frequently ate bread with meat, and mixing meat and milk was not kosher. Therefore, we relied on margarine. At first, we went with Country Crock, and that's what I used for the first 15 years of my life. But when it took my mom that long to discover that Country Crock actually also contains some butter, it was out with the crock and in with strictly kosher margarine. At my parents' house, it's still there.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No Alternative Week: The No Alternative album

Posted By on 05.30.12 at 12:30 PM

When I heard that the theme on the Bleader this week was to be "No Alternative," the first idea that popped into my head was that I should write about the 1993 alt-rock compilation No Alternative. I pitched it at least half as a joke, seeing as the album—which collects live tracks, cover songs, and what often seem to be recordings otherwise destined for the B sides of Japanese CD singles—hasn't garnered much critical respect since it was released.

But despite its flaws, the record remains a fascinating document of a strange time in pop-music history, when members of a stubbornly antisocial subculture found themselves suddenly gaining power over the mainstream, but before they'd completely hardened into cynicism as a result. Nirvana (who contributed the "secret" track "Verse Chorus Verse," better known to bootleggers as "Sappy") and the Smashing Pumpkins ("Glynis") had recently broken through to the pop charts, and for a second it didn't seem too outrageous an idea that Uncle Tupelo ("Effigy") or the Verlaines ("Heavy 33") might follow. For all of Gen X's trend-piece-inspiring snarkiness, there was a genuine feeling at the time that weirdo underground bands showing up on the pop charts meant something, and the "counterculture summit" aspect of No Alternative—it includes not only Nirvana and the Pumpkins but Sonic Youth, the Beastie Boys, and Soundgarden—combined with the fact that it was a benefit for AIDS awareness charity the Red Hot Organization gave it considerable philosophical weight, at least to impressionable teenage fans such as myself.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

What does "alternative" mean anymore?

Posted By on 05.28.12 at 10:51 AM

And neither are we.
  • And neither are we.
When does an alternative form of culture stop being alternative? The issue seemed to be on everyone's mind last week when staffers of the Chicago Reader showed up at 350 N. Orleans—headquarters of our new corporate overlords, Sun-Times Media—to be welcomed into the fold with a cocktail party. Word had already gone out that we'd soon be vacating our longtime digs at 11 E. Illinois for this gleaming new space, with its white walls and glass doors and people in slacks wearing ID cards on lanyards around their necks. When I joined the Reader in 1997, we had a proofreader who was homeless and actually living in the office. Something tells me that isn't going to fly at 350 Orleans.

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