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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What we learned at the Chicago Humanities Festival about witches

Posted By on 11.13.18 at 10:30 AM

  • courtesy Kristen Sollée
  • Sollée

Last Thursday, Kristen Sollée, writer, editrix of the sex-positive feminist website Slutist, and lecturer at the New School, visited the Museum of Contemporary Art to speak about her book, Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive. According to Sollée, witches are having a moment (politically, aesthetically, and spiritually), and it's no coincidence that this comeback is happening now.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Warped for life by Fanny and Alexander

Posted By on 09.14.18 at 06:00 AM


My parents took me to see Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander when it was released in the United States in 1983, and it warped me forever. I don’t recall what month we went to see it, but I was either about to turn 13, or had just turned 13. I do remember that we saw it at the Nickelodeon Cinema, just off Commonwealth Avenue, located in between buildings belonging to Boston University. That movie theater is long gone, as are many other landmarks of my Boston youth, but memories from those years linger and are reactivated often. Especially when I revisit a movie or book from long ago. The Siskel Film Center's celebration of Bergman has provided a great opportunity to plunge into my own past.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Chicago police ‘satanic panic’ document from the 80s goes viral

Posted By on 05.08.18 at 06:00 AM


A Chicago Police Department document from 1989 that outlines (in absurd fashion) how to identify teens involved in ritualistic crime went viral on Twitter on Sunday.

On May 6, Jennifer Jordan, a PhD student at Stony Brook University in New York, tweeted that her sister, a Florida art teacher, had found a 25-page pamphlet called "Identification, Investigation, and Understanding of Ritualistic Criminal Activity," by a Detective "Robert Semandi" of the Chicago Police Department in a supply closet. That tweet was shared 7,000 times, liked more than 25,000 times, and made Twitter's "Moments" section on Sunday. Some outlets, like the digital news sites the Daily Dot and Mashable, have posts responding to the document pictured in Jordan's tweets.

But the detective's name was misspelled—it's actually Simandl. He was a "gang crimes and ritual abuse specialist" for the Chicago Police Department who traveled the country and held seminars and spoke at conferences to train police and other child-protection-affiliated professionals in the 80s.

"It's a very complex subject that makes street gang activity look like a nursery school rhyme," said Simandl in a 1987 Minneapolis Star Tribune article. "It's not a pleasant topic, but I believe it's going to be the crime of the 1990s."

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Friday, April 27, 2018

How to meet and greet little green men

Posted By on 04.27.18 at 06:00 AM

The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation - NERDIST
  • Nerdist
  • The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation

Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

The year is 1989, and Star Trek: The Next Generation is in its second season, maintaining the mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before." The voyages of Captain Picard and his crew are dismissed by the scientific community as works of far-out fantasy, as they certainly are. It's a TV show, not a documentary. Yet Allan Goodman, a dean at Georgetown University, is spearheading an initiative to essentially carry out Picard's orders; by 1992, he hopes the United Nations will sign off on an agreement between world leaders to search the skies for intelligent life.

That's all well and good, but should the search bear fruit, what then? The Reader's hefty 1989 profile of Goodman, authored by Greg Kitsock, outlines his proposed protocol for when—not if—our planet makes contact with aliens. It contains multiple mandates, leading with one as prescient today as it was then:

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Definitive proof (?) that the 13th of each month will most likely fall on a Friday

Posted By on 04.13.18 at 06:00 AM

Jason Voorhees enjoys an additional Friday the 13th, as measured over the course of 400 years. - SCREENGEEK
  • ScreenGeek
  • Jason Voorhees enjoys an additional Friday the 13th, as measured over the course of 400 years.

Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

In 1979, the Reader's Lawrence Weschler ran into a stranger on a bus who claimed that with simple mathematics, anyone could verify that the 13th of each month will likely fall on a Friday more than any other day of the week. The stranger then exited the bus, but not Weschler's mind:

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Discover the erotic, macabre world of French director Jean Rollin

Posted By on 03.01.18 at 11:58 AM

Lips of Blood screens at the Music Box Theatre this Friday and Saturday at midnight.
  • Lips of Blood screens at the Music Box Theatre this Friday and Saturday at midnight.
This Friday and Saturday at midnight, the Music Box Theatre will screen Lips of Blood (1975), the first in a three-film series devoted to French exploitation director Jean Rollin (1938-2010). Upcoming are The Iron Rose (1973) on March 9 and 10, and Fascination (1979) on March 30 and 31. All three films come highly recommended to purveyors of the macabre, sexploitation freaks, and fans of Jacques Rivette, another French director who specialized in opaque, dreamlike narratives. That’s to say that Rollin is not just an acquired taste, but a fusion of several different acquired tastes. At the same time, there’s something inherently admirable about his tenacity (he signed about 20 very personal films over five decades and directed dozens of others pseudonymously), which has made him an underground favorite for decades. The films in this series are obsessive works that hammer away at a mad personal vision. Not for nothing did Dave Kehr, writing about Rollin in the New York Times in 2012, describe him as an outsider artist.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The new horror film Winchester is a missed opportunity

Posted By on 02.06.18 at 03:30 PM

Helen Mirren in Winchester
  • Helen Mirren in Winchester
As an admirer of Michael and Peter Spierig’s previous feature, Predestination, I had high expectations going into their latest, Winchester, which is now playing in general release. Predestination told a tricky, engaging tale that involved time travel and multiple identities; I hoped the Spierigs would create another fun puzzle narrative around the fabled Winchester mansion, a former farmhouse that owner Sarah Winchester transformed, through constant renovations between 1886 and her death in 1922, into a multi-story building with mazes and secret passages. Yet the film fails to generate much sense of mystery about the house. The brothers race through scenes of the characters exploring the mansion when they should be slowing down the film to build atmosphere. Moreover, the routine ghost story that the Spierigs spin doesn’t take full advantage of the environment either.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Mothman cometh? My friend thinks he may have encountered Chicago’s new monster

Posted By on 10.26.17 at 03:18 PM

  • Illustration by Ryan Smith

"So . . . I think I may have seen that flying thing or whatever," Jeff said sheepishly before taking an extra-long drag from his cigarette.

This was last month. We'd been drinking beers and lounging on the rooftop of his Fulton Market District loft when he revealed that he'd personally witnessed some kind of giant owl/man-bat/flying humanoid thing soaring in the August night sky. You know, the Chicago Mothman.

"Huh," I replied.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Happy Death Day isn’t just a horror movie, it’s a kids’ movie

Posted By on 10.25.17 at 05:52 PM

Happy Death Day
  • Happy Death Day
I consider Happy Death Day to be a lesser Blumhouse production, but the teens and preadolescents at the screening I attended last weekend seemed to love it. I can understand why—for an audience that doesn't remember Groundhog Day, the premise, which finds a college student reliving the same day over and over (and getting killed at the end of it), might seem inventive. Moreover, the film offers a vision of early adulthood that could seem appealing to kids, presenting college as a time for socializing, dating, and self-discovery. None of the characters are particularly complex, but at least one of them learns to be a better person during the course of the picture, which makes Happy Death Day surprisingly optimistic for a slasher comedy. The violence isn't even scary, since the audience knows the heroine will reawaken after she gets stabbed to death. Yet in removing a sense of consequence from violence, the movie crafts an interesting metaphor for early adulthood as a time when you can fail repeatedly at life until you get it right.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

This year’s edition of Music Box of Horrors isn’t just for horror buffs

Posted By on 10.03.17 at 03:27 PM

Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse screens in the marathon on Saturday at 8:30 PM.
  • Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse screens in the marathon on Saturday at 8:30 PM.

This Saturday at noon, the Music Box Theatre kicks off Music Box of Horrors, its annual 24-hour, horror-movie marathon. The event is commendable for being one of the most cost-effective shows around. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 on the day of the event—which means if you see all 12 movies in the marathon, you spend less than three dollars per film. Several of the titles would be worth seeing at full price, however; adding to the enticement, almost everything in the marathon will be screening from celluloid. The selections range from artful to schlocky, with enough of the former to make this event of interest not just for horror buffs, but for anyone who cares about movies.

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