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Things I Hate

Monday, April 23, 2018

Oakland’s Once & Future Band stage a battle between obnoxious prog and massive hooks

Posted By on 04.23.18 at 04:24 PM

Once and Future Band: Raj Ojha, Raze Regal, Eli Eckert, and Joel Robinow - JAPHY RIDDLE
  • Japhy Riddle
  • Once and Future Band: Raj Ojha, Raze Regal, Eli Eckert, and Joel Robinow

I listen to music for most of every day, every week, and I can say without hesitation that the majority of music released today shouldn't be. Though professional and competently played, it's so generic—so lacking in passion or purpose—that I don't know how the musicians involved can imagine that anyone would bother to engage with it. It's not that I'm too jaded to hear value in anything anymore—rather, I've learned how much genuinely interesting new music is being made, and I don't want to waste my too-scarce hours on anything else. Most of the time I can make clear distinctions between what I love, what I hate, and what I think is merely serviceable, but once in a great while an artist defies even that most basic kind of categorization. Oakland's Once & Future Band have been tying my brain in knots since last fall, when I first heard their self-titled 2017 debut—released, like the new four-track EP Brain, via the Castle Face label run by John Dwyer of Oh Sees.

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Friday, September 8, 2017

A comedian's goodbye-to-Chicago rant goes viral for all the wrong reasons

Posted By on 09.08.17 at 05:20 PM

Eric Barry's last Chicago selfie - HUFFINGTON POST
  • Huffington Post
  • Eric Barry's last Chicago selfie
These are trying times: Trump is president, hurricanes batter our coasts, Illinois is dead broke, and we're staring down the barrel of a cold, bitter winter.

That's why I want to personally thank self-proclaimed "writer-comedian-podcaster" Eric Barry for providing us all with a small miracle. His screed about leaving Chicago for New York City, published this week on HuffPost, was so breathtakingly bad that it managed to go viral locally and bring together Chicagoans of all stripes to sing in one loud, unified voice: "Wow, what a pile of shit."

Discussion of the post was everywhere on social media on Thursday and Friday. "Reading all of Chicago Twitter's continued dragging of that HuffPo dude was the greatest way to start my Friday. Bless u all," read one tweet. "Two sources say Jared and Ivanka urged the HuffPo 'I hate Chicago' guy not to publish the article," said another. The social media blowback was hard enough that as of Friday afternoon, Barry has apparently deleted his Twitter account.

I'm not typically a fan of the hate-read or hate-watch. They're a kind of currency on social media used to fuel the constant cycle of outrage that defines much of online discourse. But "Goodbye Chicago: What It's Like to Live in a City You Tried to But Couldn't Love" is a special case. It's the Moby-Dick of cluelessly self-indulgent blog posts.

Perhaps more accurately, it's a volume in A Series of Unfortunate Events of posts, because this is actually the second time Barry has roasted a city on his way out. He gave San Francisco a similar treatment in 2014; decrying it as a haven of clueless techies who ruined local culture—which by Barry's definition equals lots of drug-filled warehouse parties and people cool enough to understand what the term polyamory means. He noted that he was ready to flee the City by the Bay for the greener lakeside pastures of Chicago—though he's also so worried he'd be too edgy for us ("Will I be too 'gay'? Will sex-positivity there just [be] perceived as moral depravity?" he wonders) that he scrubs off his multicolored nail polish.

Three and a half years later, Barry's sequel begins by blaming Chicago for the 40 pounds of weight he's gained since moving from San Francisco ("It's one of many ways my body has felt ravaged by this city," he writes), for the biking accidents he's suffered, and for his inability to make friends or get laid by random women he hits on at bars.
With regard to the latter, he tells an anecdote that begins by observing that he's impressed that a Chicago bar carries a "quirky indie-leaning Bay Area" beer—that'd be Lagunitas, which in fact opened a brewery and tap room in Chicago the same year Barry moved here—but complains that it's $3 more expensive than in the typical San Francisco bar. Then he saunters over to a table of four women who are presumably not there to listen to a random stranger ramble about his move from San Francisco. That's why one of the foursome finally interrupts the chat to say, "Just so you know: we're all taken." It's a clear cue: dude, we're not interested. But Barry does not take this casual rejection well. He lashes out at the group while somehow blaming it on Chicago's—get this—"solidified gender dynamics":

What did that even mean? We had hardly been talking for 60 seconds, and suddenly our relationship status had become central to my attempt to meet people. It felt like in that instant I was being told that solidified gender dynamics were alive and well in Chicago, and I wondered if Steve Harvey and Men Are From Mars were still things here.

I could’ve walked away. I would indeed later learn that meeting people in bars was not done the same way it was back home. But I like using my words.

“Just so you know, I don’t want to fuck ANY OF YOU,” I snapped back.

I downed my beer and left my glass on their table. Truth is, I would’ve fucked all of them. But that wasn’t the point.

He doesn't stop there, either, going on to discuss Chicago's public transportation, food (it's either too pricey or "lacks nuance"), and family-friendliness.

Buying a home and getting married are much more in the sights of Chicagoans. And that makes dating hard. It seems like Chicago is a city of serial monogamy, which means any culture centered around being single can feel lacking.
By the end of what's basically a 1,500-plus-word diary entry, you get the sense that Barry (whose Full Disclosure was named Best Sex-Positive Podcast in the Reader's 2015 Best of Chicago issue) sees cities not as living, breathing communities to invest in, but as a consumer good—an adult playground meant to revolve around him and host his nonstop eating, drinking, and fucking escapades. That's why the essay has rightly earned so much ire from readers—well, beyond the fact that he manages to come off as spectacularly elitist, entitled, creepy, and wrong about Chicago in one fell swoop.

I can't wait until 2020, when we'll get to read his newest HuffPost piece: "Goodbye, New York City, I Guess I'll Try Portland, Maine?"


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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Peter Thiel and “the YouTube couple” stir Chicago’s Second City syndrome

Posted By on 09.20.16 at 01:21 PM

Tech billionaire Peter Thiel recently told a Chicago audience: "If you are a very talented person, you have a choice: You either go to New York or you go to Silicon Valley." - REUTERS
  • Reuters
  • Tech billionaire Peter Thiel recently told a Chicago audience: "If you are a very talented person, you have a choice: You either go to New York or you go to Silicon Valley."

There's been an unfortunate recent outbreak of Second City syndrome—the nagging inferiority complex that causes Chicagoans to reflexively overreact to every dig and perceived slight directed at the city, even if it's much ado about nothing. 

Take, for instance, Peter Thiel's recent remarks: "If you are a very talented person, you have a choice: You either go to New York or you go to Silicon Valley," the tech billionaire told a group at Roosevelt University last week. The implication: Chicago is flyover territory for anyone who's anyone. Thiel later claimed that he was speaking in "metaphor" and didn't mean to insult Chicago.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Outdoor ice skating is hell frozen over

Posted By on 01.27.16 at 03:09 PM

Urban outdoor skating rinks resemble a mosh pit in reverse: a mass of people desperately trying not to slam into each other. - LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS DIVISION
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
  • Urban outdoor skating rinks resemble a mosh pit in reverse: a mass of people desperately trying not to slam into each other.

It’s five degrees on a Friday evening, even colder with the wind chill, and you’re shivering while in line to ice skate at Millennium Park. After the hour-long wait, you cough up 12 bucks to rent a pair of bladed boots that smell like a clammy YMCA, spend another ten overheated minutes struggling to stuff your feet into them, and then cram your remaining possessions into a tiny rental locker.  

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sexism is alive and well in 21st-century sportscasting

Posted By on 10.10.15 at 08:00 AM

Olympian/sports announcer Jessica Mendoza in 2008 - AL BELLO/GETTY IMAGES
  • Al Bello/Getty Images
  • Olympian/sports announcer Jessica Mendoza in 2008

ESPN's broadcast of Tuesday's play-in game between the Astros and the Yankees featured baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza, an Olympic softball player who in calling it became the first woman to announce a nationally televised playoff game. I didn't watch, but my partner, Ted Cox, a longtime Reader sports columnist and Daily Herald media critic as well as a past member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, has been impressed: "She knows her shit, and she's super up on sabermetrics. And she's eloquent too."

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Friday, July 24, 2015

The time I almost found a show that explained my cancer perfectly

Posted By on 07.24.15 at 08:00 AM

Italia Ricci is April on Chasing Life. - ABC FAMILY
  • ABC Family
  • Italia Ricci is April on Chasing Life.

Since being diagnosed with cancer in April, I've become oddly obsessed with pop-culture portrayals of the disease. My mother stared at me with horror when a few days after my first oncology appointment I suggested we watch The Fault in Our Stars. (I'd read the book and wanted to see whether Shailene Woodley did a good job!). Certainly there are moments in the movies and TV shows I've filled my life with that strike a chord. I related all too well to a cancer-stricken Kristina Braverman when she curled up on the bathroom floor on Parenthood. And when I was in pain in the hospital, my mom pulled a full Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment to make sure I got my meds, damn it. I can even see a bit of Walter White in myself (season-one Walter White, don't worry). But even with those bits and pieces of familiarity, none of these things attempted to tell my story, the story of a twentysomething aspiring journalist with a blood cancer who's trying to make it in a big city while balancing friends, family, and career. I should have known to look to ABC Family, a bastion of young-adult melodrama, for such a show.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The best and worst of this year's Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short Film

Posted By on 01.27.15 at 07:00 AM

Boogaloo and Graham
  • Boogaloo and Graham
Starting Friday at Landmark's Century Centre you can see each of the 87th Academy Award's nominees for Best Live Action Short Film. The two worst offerings from this year's nominees suffer from similar issues, most glaringly a surplus of plot unfit for the short-film form.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dating Naked needs to put its goddamned clothes on and go

Posted By on 07.22.14 at 04:20 PM

Naked people on an date
  • VH1
  • Naked people on a date
Back when I was dating, there was always one thing that kept getting in the way of my meeting and forming meaningful bonds with prospective long-term mates: clothes.

I mean, how can you really know a person unless you've gotten a good long look at his naked body—and vice versa—upon first meeting? What secrets could lie beneath those hateful rags?! We've all attempted to expose our emotional selves to people, sometimes successfully, oftentimes not. Technically, it's a lot easier to just pull down your pants and expose your genitals. And why not do it on television to prove you mean business?

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Opening soon: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Posted By on 12.17.13 at 11:30 AM

I knew this would suck, but I had no idea it would suck so loudly. Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Steve Carell return as the 70s TV newsmen from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), recruited this time around for a pioneering 24-hour cable network. The jokes are more weird than funny, and Ferrell and Carell, never the most subtle of performers, labor to put them across by bellowing, howling, and screeching; watching them work is like being locked in a broom closet full of Tourette's victims. Because the first movie was a gigantic hit, everyone wants in at the teat now; the blue-chip supporting cast includes Kristen Wiig, Greg Kinnear, and Harrison Ford, and a last-minute reprise of the original movie's street-rumble gag draws cameos from Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Marion Cotillard, Vince Vaughn, Liam Neeson, Kanye West, Sacha Baron Cohen, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, John C. Reilly, and Kirsten Dunst. Adam McKay directed; the movie opens Wednesday.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

A good movie can be spoiled in a moment

Posted By on 12.09.13 at 12:40 PM

Don Taylor and William Holden in Stalag 17
  • Sun-Times
  • Don Taylor and William Holden in Stalag 17
I spotted a review in Sunday's New York Times Book Review of David Thomson's new book, Moments That Made the Movies. (Reviewer Lisa Schwarzbaum didn't like it much.) This reminded me of a project of my own I'd never followed through on—making a list of moments that ruined movies. Good movies, that is—good movies blighted by a horrible misjudgment on the part of their directors.

Readers are welcome to submit their own nominations. I had a list of just two. It was basically the same scene in each movie, a scene in which a truculent tough guy reveals he's a good guy after all by flashing an out-of-character grin. My project was really just me nursing a pet peeve.

Sergeant Sefton is a loner and a cynic in 1953's Stalag 17. The other American POWs have him pegged as an informer until he reveals the real barracks spy at the end of the movie and volunteers to help Lieutenant Dunbar—hiding in the water tank—break out of the camp. "Just one more word," snarls Sefton, just before he disappears into the tunnel the POWs have dug under their barracks. "If I ever run into any of you bums on the street corner, let's just pretend we never met before."

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