The Bleader | Blog + Reader, the Chicago Reader's blog

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What we learned at the Chicago Humanities Festival about witches

Posted By today at 10.30 AM

Sollée - COURTESY KRISTEN SOLLÉE
  • 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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Will the Green Line Arts Center help turn the south side into ‘Florence during the Renaissance’?

Posted By today at 06.00 AM

Members of Ayodele Drum & Dance perform at the opening of the Green Line Performing Arts Center on Saturday - ARTS + PUBLIC LIFE, PHOTOGRAPHER: DARIS JASPER
  • Arts + Public Life, Photographer: Daris Jasper
  • Members of Ayodele Drum & Dance perform at the opening of the Green Line Performing Arts Center on Saturday

When veteran film and theater producer Pemon Rami was coming of age in Hyde Park in the 1960s, he didn’t have to travel to indulge his budding obsession with theater. Alongside other fledgling artists including Robert Townsend and Paul Butler, Rami honed his craft on stages that dotted the south side.

"When I left for L.A. in 1982, there were nine theaters on the south side," Rami says. "When I came back 25 years later, most of them were gone."

Saturday marked an important point in the pendulum swing back toward the theatrical bustle of Rami's youth. The opening of Washington Park's Green Line Performing Arts Center at 329 E. Garfield adds roughly 6,600 square feet of art space to the neighborhood, and builds on a foundation companies such as Free Street Theater, Congo Square, eta creative arts, Grown Folks Stories, and Court Theatre have labored to maintain for years.

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Chicago-based Saint Louis rapper Smino gets ‘a lot more ass shaking’ on the new Noir

Posted By on 11.08.18 at 06:00 AM

Smino - PHOTO BY JACK MCKAIN
  • Photo by Jack McKain
  • Smino

Chicago-based MC Smino did a lot of singing on his 2017 debut album, Blkswn, but on his imminent sophomore album, Noir, he seems much more interested in reminding his fans that he can rap. Keeping with tradition, Smino has used this album of smooth beats and swift bars to uplift other artists in his circle. It includes features from Dreezy, Valee, Ravyn Lenae, Bari, and Jay2—the last three are all members of the Zero Fatigue collective Smino cofounded, which is based in Chicago and his old hometown of Saint Louis.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

It’s hard to stay quit on the gig poster of the week

Posted By on 11.07.18 at 06:00 AM

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ARTIST:  Josh Davis
SHOW: Jawbreaker, Naked Raygun, and Smoking Popes at the Aragon Ballroom on Sun 11/4
MORE INFO: deadmeatdesign.bigcartel.com

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Joravsky’s election predictions—going where the New York Times is too scared to venture

Posted By on 11.06.18 at 04:00 PM

In the battle of the billionaires, Pritzker (left) will prevail
  • In the battle of the billionaires, Pritzker (left) will prevail
On Monday, the day before the big midterm elections, when all my friends were losing their minds with angst and anxiety, Nate Cohn weighed in with his election predictions.

Cohn's the numbers-crunching computer geek for the New York Times who goes through every poll from every district in every key race throughout the country to come up with rock-solid predictions about who's going to win what.

In other words, he's the Nate Silver of the New York Times.

Actually, Nate Silver used to be the Nate Silver of the New York Times—then he cut a better deal and took his blog to ESPN.

So now Nate Cohn is Nate Silver. Leading me to wonder—do you gotta be named Nate to get a numbers-crunching job with the New York Times?

Anyway, to ease my own election angst and anxiety, I eagerly dove into Cohn's front-page story. And this is what I read . . .

"Two vastly different outcomes remain easy to imagine. There could be a Democratic blowout that decisively ends Republicans' control of the House and even endangers their Senate majority. Or there could be a district-by-district battle for House control that lasts late on election night and perhaps for weeks after."

Are you kidding me? I mean, Nate Cohn—you call that a prediction? C'mon man, take a stand!

Essentially, Cohn wrote—the Democrats might win. Unless they don't. In which case, the Republicans will win.

Dude, I could have told you that, and my first name's not even Nate!

So allow me to do what the pros, like Cohn, apparently won't dare to do—make a real prediction in several major races, state and national. You can take it to Vegas, folks . . .

Governor: J.B. Pritzker v. Bruce Rauner All things being equal—and what's more equal than two billionaires running against each other?—politics is basically a popularity contest. In this case, you've got J.B., a fairly likable fella, versus Rauner. Nobody likes Rauner—not even the Republicans. Especially the Republicans. Pritzker wins—saving us from the potential nightmare of Rauner turning Illinois into a red state by gerrymandering the legislative and congressional maps after the upcoming census.

Attorney General: Kwame Raoul v. Erika Harold You'd think this would be a gimme for Raoul, the Democrat, what with Illinois being a solid blue state. But Harold has a chance because (1) She's a woman and this is said to be another "year of the woman," and (2) I think a lot of voters will feel compelled to vote for at least one Republican, if only to prove to themselves that they're independent minded. Of course, this prediction is contingent on the notion that Illinois liberals are so clueless that they'd rush to the polls to vote against all things Trump, and then turn right around and vote for an anti-choice Republican who wouldn't have the guts to stand up to the idiotic executive orders on everything from LGBTQ rights to the environment emanating from the Trump White House. I predict Raoul.

Fourteenth congressional district: Lauren Underwood v. Randy Hultgren This suburban congressional district was gerrymandered to protect the incumbency of Republicans—in this case, Hultgren, a Trump puppet. Yet, the district's drifting left as more Democrats move to the western suburbs. Yes, in 2016 Trump beat Clinton by four percentage points in the 14th. But that's down from the ten percentage points by which Romney beat Obama in 2012. Underwood's such a dynamic and exciting new face that she's winning many important endorsements. (Well, the Tribune's editorial board didn't endorse her. But its members also couldn't bring themselves to endorse Hillary Clinton—so I think we'll all agree that the Trib's pretty worthless when it comes to election advice.) At the start of the election cycle, many oddsmakers said Underwood didn't have a chance. But over the last few weeks the polls have tightened. I'm going with my heart—Underwood in a squeaker.

Sixth congressional district: Sean Casten v. Peter Roskam For as long as I can remember, the Sixth has been filled with DuPage County Republicans—it was Congressman Henry Hyde's old district. And yet, it too has been moving left—Hillary won it by seven percentage points over Trump. Roskam is an anti-choice, climate-change-denying Trump rubber-stamper who's done as he's been told to, even when it came to voting for last year's horrendous tax bill. I don't believe a majority of voters in a district that encompasses parts of DuPage, Lake, and suburban Cook Counties would vote for a climate-change denier over an environmentalist like Casten.

Uh-oh, between this race and the attorney general's, I’m exhibiting a lot of faith in voters. Man, this prognosticating thing is tough. No wonder Cohn wimped out. I'm going with faith, gulp. Casten wins.

U.S. Senate Alas, the calendar favors the Republicans, who already have a 51 to 49 advantage. In other words, there are more Democratic incumbents running for reelection in Trump states than Republican incumbents running for reelection in states that went for Hillary. So the Republicans will hold on to the Senate—even if the Dems win in Nevada and, dare I say it, Texas. But it won’t matter so much, 'cause . . .

U.S. House of Representatives The Dems will take the House.

Yeah, you heard it here first, people.

They need to flip 23 seats, and they'll do better than that—even with all the Republican gerrymandering.

So, yes, Trump will still be able to appoint judges, thanks to his Senate rubber-stampers. But the Dems will be able to provide some solid oversight in the House. And almost as soon as this election is over, guess what? We'll be gearing up for the next one.

That's right—2020 is just around the corner. I can't wait.

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Activists protest pro-life event at Holy Trinity Church

Posted By on 11.06.18 at 11:00 AM

Protesters targeted the closing celebration of the 40 Days of Life campaign - MARISSA DE LA CERDA
  • Marissa De La Cerda
  • Protesters targeted the closing celebration of the 40 Days of Life campaign

Despite the rainy conditions on Sunday night, members of activist groups including Refuse Fascism and Chicago Feminist Action gathered outside Holy Trinity Catholic Church to protest the closing celebration of 40 Days for Life, an annual campaign that mobilizes against reproductive rights for women.

Attendees circled the entrance of the church holding signs and yelling chants, including "Pro-life, your name's a lie, you don't care if women die" and "Abortion is health care. Health care is a right!"


Protester Tina Perona says she saw the event on Facebook and wanted to support the rights of the LGBTQ community. "I'm a queer black woman, and we need reproductive rights more than ever.”


As people entered the church, protesters let their rage be known, with one woman yelling into a bullhorn, "What a woman does with her body is none of their goddamn business."


Others then passed around the bullhorn and discussed issues being attacked by the Trump administration and the 40 Days of Life supporters, such as abortion rights, and the oppression of communities of color and trans and gender-nonconforming people.


"There is unity between the white supremacy and the patriarchy that we are seeing forced upon us," said a member of Refuse Fascism. "That's why Refuse Fascism is saying this regime between Trump and them has to go."


Activist Marge Parsons said more protests are planned for after the midterm elections. "We're calling on people to come out on Wednesday and Saturday after the midterms—whether you voted or not, and regardless of who wins—to hit the streets," she says. "There needs to be a sustained and determined movement in the streets to drive these fascists out."

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Rahm’s legacy: fictitious narratives and real obligations

Posted By on 11.05.18 at 05:35 PM

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As hundreds of enthusiastic Democrats packed the UIC Pavilion on Sunday to join President Obama's get-out-the-vote rally in the upcoming do-or-die midterms, Mayor Rahm never looked so irrelevant.

It's not just that he wasn't onstage with Obama, J.B. Pritzker, Susana Mendoza, and other leaders of his Democratic Party to take a stand against Governor Rauner and Trump. Or that no one particularly wanted him onstage. Or that there are still Democrats in Chicago who have a hard time forgiving Rahm for ruling more like Mitt Romney than Barack Obama in his first term.

It's just that in general it seems he's already left town since he announced a few weeks ago that he wasn't running for reelection.

So let me just point out to all those wannabe mayors—Rahm's not gone yet. He's left two things that will haunt his successor for years: a fictitious narrative and some very real obligations.

First, let's deal with the narrative, as Rahm made use of it in his final budget address on October 17. Bragging about a budget that calls for no new property taxes, Rahm did what he does best—patted himself on the back. He reminisced about the dark days of 2010, when he came home from the Obama White House to run for mayor. The city, he said, "had reached a boiling point"—"many believed our best days were behind us." Some, he warned, even predicted "Chicago would be the next Detroit."

But, he went on, the naysayers were wrong. "To those who thought demise and decay were preordained," he proclaimed, "Chicagoans showed resolve and resilience that define the character of this great city."

Nice try, Rahm. Too bad it's not true.

OK, Chicagoans do have resolve and resilience. After all, we survived eight years of Rahm.

But nobody was saying the city Mayor Rahm inherited resembled Detroit. On the contrary, most people were praising Mayor Daley—the mayor Rahm succeeded—from saving Chicago from becoming Detroit. As exhibit A, consider this glowing New Yorker profile of Mayor Daley, published in 2010, just a few months before Daley stepped down.

"Daley took office at a moment when Chicago was paralyzed by infighting and mismanagement," the story begins. "In 1987 William Bennett, the Secretary of Education, said that Chicago had the worst school system in the country—'an education meltdown.' The center of the city was a desiccating museum of masterpieces by Mies van der Rohe and Louis Sullivan. Infant mortality in remote neighborhoods was comparable to levels in the Third World."

And, then, in 1989, Daley was elected mayor. "In the years that followed, Detroit, Cleveland, and other former industrial powers continued to wither, but Chicago did not. It has grown in population, income, and diversity; it has added more jobs since 1993 than Los Angeles and Boston combined. Downtown luxury condos and lofts have replaced old warehouses and office blocks. New trees and flower beds line the sidewalks and sprout from the roofs of high-rises. . . . Chicago is a postindustrial capital of innovation from house music to fashion—the Milan of the midwest, as the Washington Post put it last year."

Wait, wait—there's more in that profile, which was indicative of many written about Daley at that time.

Alderman Joe Moore likened Daley to "a rock star" as he recalled other mayors at a national conference rushing to "shake his hand, get autographs, just express their admiration."

Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania, called Daley "the best mayor in the history of the country."

And former alderman Bill Singer, pointing to all the buildings sprouting up on the west side, proclaimed, "with wonder in his voice" that "people want to live here."

As though before Daley that thought was inconceivable.

So if Chicago had already been "saved" from going the way of Detroit (and Cleveland) by "the best mayor in the history of the country," how can Rahm get away with claiming credit for saving it again only eight years later?

Obviously, he's banking on Chicagoans—for all their resolve and resilience—having lousy memories. Or maybe he's hoping they'll believe whatever propaganda he feeds them. And we all know is that Rahm's been feeding us propaganda from the moment he walked into office.

The reality is that Chicago was not as bad as Daley's admirers say it was when Daley took over, and it wasn't so great when he left. So, yes, Rahm should get some credit for starting to confront the financial obligations that Daley ignored. Just as Daley's predecessors—Mayors Harold Washington and Eugene Sawyer—should get more credit for steering the city through some rocky times during the 80s. Like we'll ever see that happen.

Daley had a bad habit of pushing off debt to future generations, or trying to pay our bills with such scams as the parking meter deal. Anything to avoid raising property taxes. So Rahm ultimately had to deal with the backlash of raising taxes and fees—after having wasted his first four years in office trying to avoid property tax hikes.

And that brings me to the next thing Rahm's successor will inherit—the obligations. For all Rahm's talk about taking on tough challenges, he left billions of dollars of pension debt for his successor to wrestle with. His last budget is a classic election-year budget. By that, I mean it's based on rosy projections of income they expect to have on hand to spend.

Mayors love to make rosy budget projections at election time. That way they can run for reelection on a promise that they're holding the line on taxes even as they brag about paving streets, hiring cops, and offering summer jobs for youngsters.

As Mayor Rahm did in his last budget.

And then once they're reelected, they can turn right around and announce—oops, our income is less than we projected. Looks like we'll have to raise taxes after all.

Clearly, Mayor Rahm was still planning to run for reelection when he crafted this budget. At the very least, he didn't want to make his loyal aldermen have to vote on a tax hike before they run for reelection. So he resorted to a good-news budget that any incumbent would want to use in a reelection campaign.

Now that Rahm's not running, it will be up to his successor to break the bad news about higher taxes sometime next year. By this time, Rahm will be living the good life of an ex-mayor, giving speeches and writing books—probably about how he saved Chicago from becoming the next Detroit.

So it goes with mayors. You watch—in eight or so years, our next mayor—be it Lori Lightfoot, Toni Preckwinkle, Amara Enyia, Troy LaRaviere, Willie Wilson, whoever—will probably be bragging about having saved Chicago from financial ruin. If so, I only ask that he or she refrain from mentioning Detroit in that oration. Poor Detroit has been used and abused enough.

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What we learned at the Chicago Humanities Festival this weekend

Posted By , , , and on 11.05.18 at 05:26 PM

Don't forget Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells
  • Ida B. Wells

Remembering is hard work, and being the guardian of memory for a famous ancestor is even more taxing. Just ask Ida B. Wells's great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster.

Wells was born into slavery in 1862. She became an investigative journalist, an anti-lynching campaigner, and one of the most influential people of her time. An unapologetic intersectional feminist long before that term entered common parlance, Wells co-founded the NAACP and published prolifically. Yet other civil rights and feminist leaders—both black men and white women—resented her radical fervor and outspokenness and sidelined her throughout her life. In 1931 she died in obscurity without so much as an obituary in the New York Times.

The paper of record is trying to remedy that oversight and published a long-overdue tribute to Wells last spring. But the resurrection of Wells’s memory is an ongoing project.

Wells lived in Chicago for many years, at 36th and King Drive, and became the namesake of the city’s first public housing development for black families. With the destruction of the projects her name was erased from the city’s landscape. For the last ten years, Duster has been fundraising to build a monument in Bronzeville to preserve Wells’s memory—often at the expense of her own identity, since most people want to talk to her only about her great grandmother and seem to overlook that she, Michelle, a writer and lecturer at Columbia College, is her own woman.

This year, boosted by the social media activism of some of today's prominent black woman journalists, educators, and organizers, Duster’s family’s dream came one step closer to fruition. In the span of two months, they raised $200,000 to pay for a commission by sculptor Richard Hunt. The sculpture will stand in a small plaza where the Ida B. Wells Homes used to be; after demolition was completed in 2011, they were replaced by a mixed-income community. Last summer, the city also moved to rename Congress Parkway to Ida B. Wells Drive. And people are eager to do more. When asked how else they could keep Wells’s memory alive, Duster responded plainly: "Vote." —Maya Dukmasova


Tom Hanks prefers his sandwiches breadless

Hanks and Sagal, admiring the simultaneous transcription - DAVID T. KINDLER
  • David T. Kindler
  • Hanks and Sagal, admiring the simultaneous transcription

As Tom Hanks strolled out onto the stage, holding hands with NPR’s Peter Sagal, his interviewer for the evening, the audience was palpably star-struck. However, as the these longtime pals, who are two of the more iconic voices of the last few decades, started their conversation, an equally strong sense of ease swept the crowd, as if we were all listening to our cool uncles sharing advice over a couple of pints. This is an odd sensation to have while in the same room as one of the most acclaimed and successful actors of a generation, but that seems to be Tom: hero to many and friend to all.

Hanks has had his fair share of portraying heroes. It’s through his newest role though, as a first-time novelist, that he finally shares what he thinks makes a hero. After writing and putting together his collection of short stories Uncommon Type: Some Stories he had to step back and ask himself "What are the connective tissues that tie these works together?"
None are grand tales with extremely terrible situations or extremely wonderful outcomes. And yet, to Hanks, they are examples of heroism. They are all studies of people's ability to make it through each day and still feel good about themselves, aided by unexpected allies. That's it, and it's the exact same combination of conditions and attitude that shaped the epics of Jim Lovell, Captain Miller, Robert Langdon, Chesley Sullenberger, Ben Bradlee, and Forrest Gump. For Captain Phillips literally and the rest metaphorically, what made them heroes was the constant thought of, "How can I get these people off this boat" and the wherewithal to see it through.

About the bread thing. When asked, by an audience member, what his ideal sandwich would be, Hanks replied that the nutritionist who helps him manage his type 2 diabetes told him that for his metabolism, bread is poison. But adding an egg is always a good idea. Even to oatmeal.

When Sagal asked what his favorite story in the book was, Hanks said it was the one based on his father-in-law’s escape from Communist persecution in Bulgaria. Until pressed on it by Hanks, he had never spoken about his immigration to the United States. He assumed that no one would be interested. To Hanks, it was the pinnacle example of, again, someone just trying to make it through his day, not knowing he is doing so against great odds, but aided by bravery, luck, and the goodness of fair people.

According to Hanks 90 percent of people are good. And, yeah, 5 percent are assholes (with 5 percent unaccounted for) but it’s that far greater majority that matter. Hanks recounted that while growing up in pre-Civil Rights Act Oakland, California, he rode the bus every day. He rode side by side with people of every color, and day in and day out all that happened was that people got on the bus and people got off the bus. He didn’t realize it at the time, but that was extraordinary. That was the 90 percent in action.

Time was nearly up when Hanks and Sagal realized that everything they were saying was being transcribed and flashed on a screen above them, and we learned that if Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Tom Hanks can marvel at something he simply hadn’t yet noticed, then we can all look a little closer at something each day and realize there is something new to be delighted by.

Oh, and to always add an egg. —Brita Hunegs


Dessa has to sign copies of her book even at the airport

Dessa - DAVID T. KINDLER
  • David T. Kindler
  • Dessa

Dessa knows how to entertain people. What's more, the rapper, singer, poet, and author understands how to reach a crowd regardless of whether they're deeply invested in her solo work or the music she's made as part of the independent Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree. So as an introduction to her Chicago Humanities Festival talk at the Chicago Athletic Association on Sunday, she read fragments from the second chapter of her new memoir, My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love. That section is laid out as a glossary, and it offers a snapshot of Dessa’s rise through the international independent music circuit.

Her reading showed why she's survived in a brutal industry. Witty, easygoing, and magnetic, Dessa didn't so much read aloud as interact with her writing, at one point enlisting a volunteer to act as her hype-man in order to explain the term "hype." Dessa knows how to wrench life out of the dull and mundane. In My Own Devices, she uses the repetitive rituals of tour life to shed light on her Doomtree compatriots or to consider idiosyncratic questions concerning science and nutrition—like how many cashews she’d have to eat in a day to survive if that’s all she were allowed to consume.

Dessa also discussed the peculiar hiccups she encountered as an indie musician working on a book for a big publisher. The Penguin Random House imprint Dutton is a world away from Rain Taxi, the Minneapolis alternative publisher behind Dessa's 2013 poetry book, A Pound of Steam. Now Dessa has a book publicity team encouraging her to sign copies of My Own Devices at every bookstore where she can spot the memoir. Even in airports—yes, on at least on occasion she got handed a stack of her own books to sign in an airport bookstore.

In her conversation with Tribune music critic Greg Kot, Dessa dug deeper on what it’s meant for her to select an unconventional career path and stick with it. She dropped her solo album Chime on Doomtree's independent label in February and turned 37 a few months later, an age that’s conventionally seen as ancient by hip-hop standards. A mixture of her own ambition and stubbornness along with a little luck have helped Dessa, but she also acknowledged that the possibility of failure has been a motivating force. "For me, the idea of having wasted my life is a prospect that pushes me back to the lab, or back to the microphone, or back to the writing desk," she said. "I affirm the idea that we’re more sensitive to losses than to gains." —Leor Galil


Jessica Hopper got through her 20s with a lot of help from her friends

Jessica Hopper - DAVID SAMPSON
  • David Sampson
  • Jessica Hopper

Jessica Hopper looked to her personal journals while writing her memoir, Night Moves, and there's one passage in particular that she can't shake: "If I'm not living my most hopeful politics at the ripe old age of 29, then what the hell am I doing?" Hopper says reading that line at age 40 is what steered her back toward writing.

"That line kicked my ass," she told her interlocutor, poet José Olivarez. "What would 29-year-old me think? It made me take an immediate inventory of my life."

Now a 42-year-old suburban mom, Hopper mostly remembers the period covered in her book—2004 to 2008—as years of being broke and living in a gross apartment, trying to make a living by writing concert previews for the Reader and taking DJ gigs for measly amounts of money. But writing the book has right-sized her vision, helping her appreciate what was really happening at that place and time while still not romanticizing it.

The core of the memoir is about how Hopper came to find who she calls her "forever friends" and how they shaped her time in Chicago. She specifically avoided any romantic arc in the book (though her now-husband is mentioned throughout) because there are plenty of books about women who go through torrid love affairs in their 20s. And that's not what was as important to Hopper, anyway.

"For me," Hopper says, "friendship is really the thing that's evolved my thinking and being more than my romance." —Brianna Wellen


There was a real girl behind Nabokov's Lolita—of course there was

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When I first heard about Sarah Weinman's research project—now a book called The Real Lolita, the research for which was the topic of her CHF discussion with Rachel Shteir of DePaul University in the sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church, I was captivated. There was a real girl behind Vladimir Nabokov’s most renowned fictional creation? Of course there was. A man known as Frank LaSalle—although he had about 20 aliases—kidnapped an 11-year old girl named Sally Horner from her home in Camden, New Jersey in the summer of 1948. (This is mentioned in Nabokov’s text.) If the legacy of #MeToo leaves us with no other lasting lessons, let it leave us with the knowledge that there is always a real crime against a real woman or a girl at the heart of all fiction.

Lolita is the perfect story to consider in this post-#MeToo moment: Weinman says she wanted to "create a portrait of what this 11-year-old girl had gone through," including sexual abuse, repeated rape, and trauma. Because the novel is told by way of unreliable narrator Humbert Humbert, readers aren’t even made aware it was happening.

Of course, the audience was paltry, which gives us further insight into the #MeToo legacy: It'll still be awhile before we learn to give a shit about real things that happen to real women and girls. —Anne Elizabeth Moore

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Eighties rockers the Service birthed venerable Chicago indie label Pravda Records

Posted By on 11.05.18 at 04:56 PM


Since 2004 Plastic Crimewave (aka Steve Krakow) has used the Secret History of Chicago Music to shine a light on worthy artists with Chicago ties who've been forgotten, underrated, or never noticed in the first place. Older strips are archived here.

Continue reading »

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Who's that speaking for the Sun-Times this time?

Posted By on 11.05.18 at 06:00 AM

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When this fall the Tribune endorsed Governor Rauner for reelection, it was being true to itself. It's a Republican paper. Over the years, as the Trib endorsed Republicans I had no intention of voting for (and a few I did), I came to understand how it saw its duty: it would make the best case it could make for the GOP candidate for high office—a case usually better than the candidate made for him—or herself—and readers could take it or leave it. 

Readers (and more nonreaders) would mutter Godalmighty! at some of these endorsements. I used to be one of them, but I stopped. The Tribune knew what it was. I did join in the general ridicule two years ago when the Trib—unwilling to endorse Hillary Clinton for president and unable to endorse Donald Trump—put its editorial page behind Gary Johnson, the Libertarian. But that was the Tribune being true to itself in its fashion.

Today we consider the alternative. The editorial page of the Thursday Sun-Times observed that this time around "we endorsed all Democrats in 12 Chicago-area races for Congress. We can't remember the last time we've done that."

Just two years ago, the editorial page went on, "we endorsed [Randy] Hultgren in the 14th District . . . and we might have endorsed [Peter] Roskam in the 6th . . . had he bothered to fill out our questionnaire.

"But things have changed. Roskam and Hultgren have lost their way."

Here's what else has changed. Two years ago the Chicago Federation of Labor wasn't an owner of the newspaper. That era began 16 months ago.

It doesn't really matter what the Sun-Times remembers about its past. It isn't the Sun-Times of 2000, which endorsed George W. Bush for president and, when Al Gore appealed the count in Florida, ran an editorial that began "Desperation does not make a pretty picture" alongside a Mark Steyn op-ed headlined "Following Gore over the cliff: Democratic troops make clear their intention to stick with their fearless leader, no matter how big a fool he makes of himself" and a George Will op-ed headlined "Gore's weak case coming apart at the seams: Democrats' arguments so thin that together they still add up to nothing."

That was the Sun-Times of Conrad Black and David Radler, a Tory and a cynic, neither a friend of labor, and both—beg pardon for the digression—on their way to prison. Nor is today's Sun-Times the Sun-Times of the earlier Rupert Murdoch nor the later Michael Ferro. And it's not the Sun-Times of Marshall Field V, the young Mr. Old Money who benignly presided over the paper's golden age in the 60s and 70s.

When the Sun-Times invokes its history it's not invoking much of anything. 

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