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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Muslim blogger Hoda Katebi says WGN ‘didn’t trust her’ to do a follow-up interview

Posted By on 02.15.18 at 07:19 PM


Last week Iranian-American Muslim fashion blogger Hoda Katebi posted video of a five-minute interview she'd done on January 31 with WGN News. It had been pitched to her as a segment about her fashion book, Tehran Streetstyle, but turned into an interrogation of the 23-year-old's politics by anchors Larry Potash and Robin Baumgarten—and some of their questions and comments had Islamophobic overtones, including Baumgarten's suggestion that Katebi didn't "sound American."

Katebi claims she arranged a second interview with Potash and Baumgarten (scheduled to air tonight and Friday morning) about "what went wrong" in January. But she says WGN changed the terms of that interview because it "didn't trust her."

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Assault weapons used to be illegal. What happened?

Posted By on 02.15.18 at 04:30 PM

In Canada, the only assault rifles are on t-shirts. - MRDEVLAR VIA FLICKR
  • MrDevlar via Flickr
  • In Canada, the only assault rifles are on t-shirts.

Nikolas Cruz, the suspect charged in yesterday’s mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 dead, was reportedly armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, a category of weapon that should be—and once was—banned in the United States.

In 2016, after a similar rifle was used in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, we took a quick look at what had happened to the ban.  All of the NRA-endorsed congressional representatives named in the resulting post are still in office:

The United States once had a ban on the kind of semiautomatic rifle that was used in the Orlando massacre. The assault weapons ban was instituted in 1994, with a ten-year life span, and—thanks to the efforts of the National Rifle Association and the (mostly Republican) politicians in its pocket—was allowed to expire in 2004.

In April 2013, California senator Diane Feinstein introduced a proposal that would have brought back a national assault weapon ban. It was defeated by a vote of 60 to 40 that saw 15 Democrats joining with Republicans to squelch it. Both Illinois senators—Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk—voted in favor of the ban.

Notably, Kirk was the only Republican to support it.

As recently as December 2015, Rhode Island congressman David Cicilline introduced an assault weapons ban (HR 4269) that was cosponsored by Illinois representatives Danny Davis, Tammy Duckworth, Luis Gutierrez, Robin Kelly, Mike Quigley, and Jan Schakowsky. It was referred to a committee, and no further action was taken.

The National Rifle Association has in the past given A ratings for their exemplary support of "gun rights" to the following members of Congress from Illinois: Mike Bost, Rodney L. Davis, Randy Hultgren, Adam Kinzinger, Darrin LaHood, Peter Roskam, and John Shimkus, all Republicans.

As it happens, the NRA also gave Florida governor Rick Scott an A+.

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J.B. Pritzker decries this week's Reader cover as ‘not the right approach’

Posted By on 02.15.18 at 03:41 PM

Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker was not exactly excited to pick up this week's Reader and see himself in exaggerated caricature form sitting on top of a lawn jockey. Nope. He characterized the cover illustration by artist Greg Houston as "not the right approach."

"Well, I guess I knew they intended to be provocative at the Reader, but I think this is not the right approach," he said while addressing a seniors' luncheon hosted by Captain's Hard Time Dining & Josephine's Cooking soul food restaurant on 79th Street. ABC 7 reporter Craig Wall, who attended the luncheon, quoted Pritzker in a tweet this afternoon.

Meanwhile Roderick Sawyer, 6th Ward alderman and chairman of the council's black caucus, accused the Reader of "race-baiting" with this week's cover. He told Wall that the illustration was "offensive to whoever looks at it" and demanded that the Reader apologize though he also admitted that he hadn't actually read the articles yet.
Reader executive editor Mark Konkol responded in a statement: “Today’s Reader included a variety of opinions about J.B. Pritzker’s wiretapped interaction with former governor Rod Blagojevich, including the candidate’s own statements in his defense. Alderman Sawyer is entitled to his opinion. We stand by our decision to engage readers on important issues of the day by producing journalism and social commentary that gets people talking.”

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Project Onward artists pay tribute to their African-American predecessors

Posted By on 02.15.18 at 02:14 PM

The exhibition opened last Friday night at the Bridgeport Art Center
  • The exhibition opened last Friday night at the Bridgeport Art Center

Coinciding with Black History Month, the arts nonprofit Project Onward hosted the opening of its new exhibition, "Distinct Portraits by disAbled Artists," last Friday at the Bridgeport Art Center. The exhibition showcased portraits of esteemed African-American artists by Project Onward sculptors, painters, and even glitter artists.

Founded in 2004, Project Onward works with mentally or developmentally disabled artists to provide professional guidance and opportunities to help advance their careers. For the current exhibition, the studio paired their artists-in-residence with African-American artists that matched their artistic styles. The finished works include a sculpture bust of Kara Walker, paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat, and an oil-on-canvas of Kehinde Wiley, best known for his recent presidential portrait of former President Barack Obama.

“What better way for our artists to get inspired than to have them honor their artistic predecessors and also their contemporary artists?” asked executive director Nancy Gomez.

In their fourth floor art space—half gallery, half studio—artists and guests mingled perusing racks of painted album covers, charcoal still lifes, and aluminum foil creatures. Some artists proudly stood near their featured art in the showroom, while others were at work on new pieces in the studio. Also in attendance was Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago artist Faheem Majeed.

“Our artists, like their contemporary artists, are just as capable of performing artwork that can go into a museum,” said Gomez.

Here are are a few Project Onward artists with their portraits of their artistic forebears.


Dijon Barrett on Erik Blome's bust of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable: "I chose this picture of the sculpture of DuSable because it's a little bit challenging, so I could just take my time doing my work."


Jacqueline Cousins on Carol Walker: "She does a lot of artwork that has to do with race, identity, sexual culture, violence and slavery. That's what she has her art relate to. So she's not only a feminine artist, but she's a painter, a writer, she's a filmmaker."


George Zuniga on Jean-Michel Basquiat: "This is my rendition of Basquiat. He was painting back in the 80s. He was born in New York City and he became a graffiti artist in the late 1970s. His main mediums are painting and drawing. . . . I haven't painted for a few years. Twelve years. I didn't know I would do this painting for him, as a tribute for him."


Andrew Hall on Kehinde Wiley: "When I got the commission, I said, 'I have a great idea for this guy.' I said I'm going to focus more on color because I wanted everything to be more color coated than flat-out plain. That's where I got the idea for the yellow. . . . I started using the African colors. The black represents the color of the people, the red the blood, the green for land, and the yellow is like the pan-African."


Sereno Wilson (known as Glitterman) on Chakaia Booker: "We had a Black History Month event and they suggested I do her. I said, 'No problem.'"

"Distinct Portraits by disAbled Artists." Through 3/30: Mon-Sat 8 AM-6 PM, Sun 8 AM-noon, Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th, 773-843-9000,, free.

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TBS greenlights Lena Waithe comedy about ‘queer black girl’

Posted By on 02.15.18 at 01:27 PM

Lena Waithe - RICK PROCTOR
  • Rick Proctor
  • Lena Waithe

TBS has ordered a comedy pilot from Chicagoan and The Chi and Master of None writer Lena Waithe. Twenties will be about a queer black girl named Hattie and her two straight best friends, and Waithe previously described it as “my Master of None about life in my 20s, set in LA.”

Waithe’s star has grown exponentially lately. Twenties is the second original series deal she has snagged in recent months, the first being The Chi, a drama set in the south side and which premiered last month on Showtime to positive reviews. In September, she became the first black woman to win an Emmy for best comedy writing, for her work on Netflix’s Master of None episode in which her character, Denise, comes out to her family.

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Smashing Pumpkins announce a tour with most of their original lineup, but they’re still the Billy Corgan show

Posted By on 02.15.18 at 12:42 PM

Billy Corgan at Glastonbury in 2013, which shouldn't be any different from Billy Corgan in Chicago in 2018 - COURTESY OF SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Courtesy of Sun-Times Media
  • Billy Corgan at Glastonbury in 2013, which shouldn't be any different from Billy Corgan in Chicago in 2018

Today Billy Corgan's Smashing Pumpkins announced that three-fourths of their original lineup would reunite for a summer tour, a moment that Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, and guitarist James Iha have been moving toward for a couple years. Corgan resuscitated the Pumpkins brand in 2007, after roughly seven years of dormancy, and since then he and a revolving-door crew of musicians (including Chamberlin on occasion) have released four albums of new material and toured extensively. In March 2016, on the LA stop of the band's acoustic tour with Liz Phair, Iha joined Corgan and Chamberlin for several songs, mostly from 1993's Siamese Dream. Soon after that show, Corgan began teasing a proper Pumpkins reunion—perhaps the closest he'll come to acknowledging that he can't reproduce the band's early-90s cachet on his own.

Since then Iha has contributed to Corgan's second solo album, October's Ogilala, and last month Corgan posted an Instagram shot of himself, Iha, and Chamberlin in front of a studio mixer. A couple weeks later he clarified in another Instagram caption: "We are currently in the studio with Rick Rubin." On Saturday, the Pumpkins' site debuted a countdown clock, which the band's Instagram feed promptly rendered pointless by hinting at performances in Chicago, LA, and New York. Of course, lots of us could tell the Pumpkins were trying to get the old band back together just from the public feuding this past week between Corgan and original bassist D'arcy Wretzky.

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Studs Terkel in letters (to the editor)

Posted By on 02.15.18 at 09:00 AM

Studs in 1985 - PHIL VELASQUEZ
  • Phil Velasquez
  • Studs in 1985

The 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.

Years after Studs Terkel published his best-known work, he was writing letters to the editor in the Chicago Reader in response to pieces he disagreed with—and some he agreed with as well. The first that survives in digital form is from 1991 and concerns a story about venerable journalist John Callaway; the last is from late 2002, when Terkel was 90 years old.

Because his letters mostly concerned news stories, many aren’t especially relevant today (the John Ashcroft jokes feel particularly dated). Still, there are nuggets of insight and humor in many. His letter about a 1999 piece by Mara Tapp (on the birth of the Old Town School of Folk Music) begins with this paragraph: “When a journalistic lout writes a piece that is patently dishonest or untrue, I take a pass. It's par for the course. But when someone I respect does a slovenly job of like nature, it does bad things to my blood pressure.”

A letter in defense of the Chicago cabbie (his last to the Reader) is particularly lovely, including this line: “The cabbies these days are of all worlds, the new, the old, the first, the second, the third. Their stories are invariably the same.”

My favorite, though—and the letter that's perhaps most worth reading in full—is Terkel’s gleeful takedown of Joel Sprayreger, Esq., who’d written to the Reader in response to another letter to the editor by Terkel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Throughout, he refers to Sprayreger by his full name, title and all. After contrasting the man's views to those of Einstein and the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, Terkel notes, "I realize that anyone who appends an Esq. after his signature is a figure of some importance."

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Salonathon ends its weekly performance series with a joyous celebration

Posted By and on 02.15.18 at 07:00 AM

  • Allison Ziemba

Salonathon has always felt like an artistic sanctuary, a safe place to worship and embrace the creative spirit, and the final event last Monday in the hallowed, sparkly halls of Beauty Bar was no different. The experience felt especially religious in part because of actual references to church, starting with a story from Jasmine Henri Jordan about growing up Baptist and ending with a performance by Bea Cordelia that involved washing the feet of participants and felt straight out of a queer, inclusive Bible.

The performances were, as they always are, genre-defying and inspiring. But some of the most reverent moments happened offstage: the curators watching the audience watch each artist with a warm glow on their face, the new friends being made at the manicure station, even the conversations in the bathrooms contained some of the 14-hour celebration’s most beautiful moments. The weekly shows at Beauty Bar may be gone, but Salonathon & On & On & On proved that the spirit of the performances will live on outside those walls.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Second City Cop blog celebrates slain CPD commander

Posted By on 02.14.18 at 05:02 PM

In a rare show of respect toward a member of the Chicago Police Department's top brass, Second City Cop—the prolific, anonymous blog run by members of the department, which often features vicious commentary about both police leadership and citizens involved in crimes—points out that 18th District Commander Paul Bauer "held a rare position in regard to this website . . . we can't think of a single significant instance where he was the target of someone's ire."

Bauer, 53, a 31-year veteran of the force, was shot to death by a man at the Thompson Center Tuesday afternoon. Shomari Legghette, 44, has been charged with the murder.

SCC refers to Bauer as a "voice of reason" and praises him for his skepticism of criminal justice reform, such as Chief Judge Timothy Evans's push to make bonds more affordable and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's efforts to reducing the jail population. The blog quotes at length from an interview with Bauer about these issues that appeared on the Loop North News website last fall.

"It's certainly a refreshing honesty not often seen on this Department nowadays,"  SCC wrote. "And now it's silenced. He will be missed."

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Norwegian singer Susanna receives tribute from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and issues a stately new album

Posted By on 02.14.18 at 04:33 PM

  • Anne Valeur
  • Susanna

Remarkable Norwegian singer Susanna Wallumrød, who usually records under her first name, has spent the past decade and a half triangulating between several compelling personas, though it's always clear as day who you're listening to—her crystalline voice is just as clear. She first made waves in 2004 leading Susanna & the Magical Orchestra, a duo with keyboardist Morten Qvenild of In the Country fame. They combined sorrowful, gorgeous originals and occasional inventive covers at a molasses-slow pace, their lovely melodic shapes moving so patiently they seemed like frozen clouds. She eventually began making even starker records simply as Susanna, often accompanied by nothing but her own piano playing.

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Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
The Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery Water Tower Place
June 16
Galleries & Museums
William Blake and the Age of Aquarius Northwestern University Block Museum of Art
September 23

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