The new storefront space heralds the continuation of button-filled bliss. (Photo by Diane Alexander White)
Chicago's own Busy Beaver Button Company just moved to a shiny new storefront in Logan Square, where it will continue cranking out pinback buttons for the masses. The company began as the brainchild of Christen Carter, who fostered its growth from the early days (parents' house, mom poised over the manual button maker) to fledgling independence (basement of Christen's Logan Square home) to real, live, grown-up company (now, now, it's happening now!). Busy Beaver received a Small Business Improvement Fund grant from the City of Chicago to cover half the costs of building out their remodeled storefront location, and doors officially opened in early August.
Gay rights activists across the country -- including Chicago's Gay Liberation Network -- caused a stink about scheduled bookings of Buju Banton, a Jamaican reggae singer who's made headlines for his violent anti-gay lyrics.
Protest organizers say their actions led promoters Live Nation and AEG Live to cancel Banton's Oct. 2 appearance in Chicago, plus House of Blues shows scheduled for Las Vegas, Dallas and Houston.
"These cancellations show the power of protest to deliver the goods," said Network member Bob Schwartz, who's led several "murder music" protests, including a 2006 demonstration during Banton's House of Blues show.
Norwegian music star Laarna Cortaan will make her American debut in September at an outdoor performance at Belmont Harbor.
Cortaan has partnered with Redmoon to produce Spectacle '09: Last of My Species, which starts Sept. 5.
The show will feature Cortaan, who is known for her "wild dance music," performing against a backdrop of Redmoon-engineered large-scale sets complete with a weather machine and an "impossibly tall ladder."
Dashiell Hammett's fifth and final novel, The Thin Man, was and is a significant piece of literature. Known for his hardboiled detective novels, Hammett is regarded as one of the best mystery writers of all time. Now his final masterpiece is being presented on the stage in the world premiere City Lit Theatre Company adaptation of the novel.
The story takes place in prohibition-era New York City and follows the lives of former private detective Nick Charles and his young wife, Nora. Against his will, Nick is pulled into investigating a murder, forcing him to interact with a slightly grotesque family, the Wynants. Throughout the story, Nick and Nora attempt to solve the case while sharing witty banter and dialogue, as well as lots of alcohol.
The play version, adapted by artistic director Terry McCabe and directed by Adrienne Cury, previews this weekend, August 28-30. The regular run starts September 1 and goes until October 11. It shows on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. City Lit Theatre: 1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, Chicago, IL 60660. Phone number: 773-293-3682
Hey, everyone. Thanks to a combination of me missing a couple of screenings and a couple films not being screened for critics at all this week, the column this week is a little light. That said, I've heard nothing but great things about the documentary It Might Get Loud, opening at the Landmark Century Center Cinema today. From director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), the film is about nothing less than the evolution of the sound and styles of the electric guitar, featuring a gathering of three of the guitar's most influential players: Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, who not only talk but also jam together. I cannot wait to see this film.
Under the category of running scared we have two horror films sneaking onto screens today that were too underwhelmed by their own magical powers to show the critics (I'll still see them, mind you). Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 and The Final Destination (in 3-D!) were kept from critical eyes so that we wouldn't muddy the opening weekend. The truth is, I've enjoyed most of the Final Destination movies, so it really surprises me that they didn't screen this one, especially considering the 3-D aspect. Anyway, hope that helps you in planning your weekend movie-going endeavors.
You have to give Taiwan-born director Ang Lee credit for at least one thing. The guy never, ever repeats himself. Lee has been making movies for less than 20 years, with about half of his productions being English-language films that have been highly regarded for their sensitivity. Of course, he also like to kick ass with such works as the original Hulk movie and one of the finest wire-fu offerings ever made, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. If you haven't seen them, his earliest films — Pushing Hands, The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman — are equally beautiful, funny and moving efforts that transition nicely into his tellings of Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm, Ride with the Devil and his masterpiece, Brokeback Mountain. His last movie, Lust, Caution, was explicit in its sexuality and its emotional nakedness, but many of the critical press rejected it. I found myself enraptured by its beauty, lust and fascinating wartime story. With Taking Woodstock, Lee returns to his lighter origins, and I think it suits him, at least for now.
If you've ever considered taking a continuing education course in the arts (or simply miss the hitting-the-books, cramming-for-tests collegiate rush) take note: Loyola University of Chicago has just announced their Continuum Fall courses.
The non-credit series of courses, lectures and workshops offer students of any age or interest more than 70 different options, many of which for a less than $300 tuition.
While also offering courses in professional development, sustainability studies and communications, here are some humanities courses--from art and architecture to history and literature--worth checking out, with their schedules and cost.
Reader Seth writes, "Seeing these by crosswalks all around the loop. Cool, because the paint used is the same as crosswalk and traffic line paint. Any info on the artist or explanation? Inquiring robots want to know."
Starting Aug. 28, improvising thespians hit the stage Fridays for their regular 8pm show and then dust off, regroup and churn out a brand new show, based on a completely different suggestion, at 10:30pm.
Improvised Shakespeare shows start with a suggestion, which becomes the show's title and inspiration, all done in the language and themes of The Bard. That means lots of mismatched love and dastardly deeds, pickled with pop culture nods and just plain silly fun.
Each show (8pm and 10:30pm) is $14 in the Del Close Theater at iO, 3541 N. Clark St. For tickets, call 773-880-0199 or visit the website.
First it was Pat O'Brien, now we find out that Chicago stand-up Hannibal Buress has also been hired to write for the newest season of Saturday Night Live. Buress has been living and performing in New York City, having recently appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and he recently announced on his Twitter page that he would be joining the SNL cast on the 17th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
"hey. i found out that ill be writing on this season of SNL. lots of elaborate poop sketches will be pitched this season:"
Tune in to the season premiere of the 35th season of SNL on September 26th on NBC!
It takes High Fidelity's anti-hero nearly two hours to figure out that he's dangerously close to being "The Most Pathetic Man In The World," but to anyone watching it's pretty clear from the first curtain.
Scrounging up sympathy for Rob, this guy who cheats on his girlfriend, whines about his record store and makes inconsequential lists about music and other ways life has done him wrong is not only impossible, it's infuriating — especially when all the interesting stuff is going on behind him.
That's the rub about High Fidelity, the "rock musical about falling in love, hating your job and your all-time 'Top Five.'" You're supposed to find some humanity in this prick and root for him to reunite with his upwardly mobile ex-girlfriend, but what you really want to do is fast-forward for more hijinks from his entourage of awkward audiophiles.
To the Noble Fool Theater this weekend to witness the marriage of Erin and Paul. Come ready to sing and dance as Married ALIVE, A Love & Marriage Musical takes the stage. Just opening this week, Married ALIVE has received high praise for its humorous and witty portrayal of married life. The play follows two couples--newlyweds Erin and Paul and a more seasoned couple--as they deal with the trials and tribulations of modern marriage. Audiences will enjoy laughing at the pleasures and downfalls all too familiar in the life of a married couple, including babies, jobs, sex, and empty nests.
Showtimes are Thursdays & Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $28-$39, and there are also dinner packages available from $44. Call the box office for tickets: 630-584-6342. Noble Fool Theater: 4051 East Main Street St Charles, IL 60174
We told you about this last year, and now here's this year's opportunity to experience some of the best dance in the country. The Chicago Dancing Festival again brings together some of the biggest names in American dance, and all for us lucky Chicagoans to enjoy for free! The indoor performances this past Thursday and Friday "sold out" (you had to reserve your free ticket) incredibly far in advance, but there's no reservation required for this Saturday's show, which will showcase such heavy hitters as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, and American Ballet Theater. Bring your picnic baskets and blankets and start camping out early because this is sure to draw an enormous crowd. Saturday, August 22, 7:30 p.m., Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park.
In addition to the pinnacle event tomorrow night, if you're hanging out in Millennium Park during the day, you might get involved in the dancing yourself! Members of DanceWorks Chicago will be presenting Twyla Tharp's "interactive performance,"The One Hundreds. They will be teaching random park visitors a collection of 11-count movement phrases that use actions such as walking and throwing a ball. If you want to find them, here's their schedule: Saturday, August 22, 12:30pm Wrigley Square; 3pm Cloud Gate; 5pm on the lawn by Pritzker Pavilion.
My greatest regret going into writing this review is that I've only seen this film once so far, at Comic-Con about three weeks ago. While writer-director Quentin Tarantino has certainly crafted films that almost demand that you see them two, three, four times before you really soak in all of their nuances, his latest, Inglourious Basterds, is a beast of an entirely different nature. And seeing twice before even legally being allowed to discuss it seems necessary. So I guess I'm breaking the law, but here goes.
Basterds feels like the film that Tarantino has been building steam toward his entire career, which I guess goes without saying since it is his latest work. But I'm talking about something different. I don't think Tarantino could have made a film with this scope and level of sophistication without having gone through some of the finest trail-and-error exercises a filmmaker in the modern age has ever gone through. There's a patience and elegance to Basterds that I simply wasn't prepared for. Sure, the blood flows like a geyser at times, but not nearly as much as I thought it would, which makes the film infinitely better. You are actually able to settle down with the movie's many American, German and British characters, and get comfortable in their presence by simply listening to them chat and interact with each other. Then, when the violence begins, it breaks the serenity and lets Hell rush out until it consumes you. Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but that's really what it felt like.
If you've felt like there's been a gaping void in your life since "Perfect Strangers" went off the air, then there may be something out there to fill the emptiness that you've been feeling. At iO, "Guy Friends" is going into the fourth season of their fully improvised sitcom, which has been drawing crowds with their hilarity and series of very special guests. This season the friends move to Paradise Cove to open a beach-side bar, which seems to be a loving wink to sitcoms of past who do their string of "on the beach episodes". Tonight the second episode of the season "airs" at midnight and tickets are $5.
"Guy Friends" at iO, 3541 N. Clark St. midnight. Call 773.880.0199 for tickets.
I'd rewrite this, but it's so short as to be silly. The estimable Whet Moser writes in Chicagoland...
My colleague Will Atwood Mitchell tipped me off to a phenomenon called "Manhattanhenge," "a biannual occurrence in which the setting sun aligns with the east-west streets of Manhattan's main street grid." Naturally, it works here in Chicago as well: 9/25 at 6:41 AM and 6:42 PM. The screencap is taken from the outstanding program The Photographer's Ephemeris.
Still basking in the glow of Lincoln's bicentennial, the Chicago History Museum plans on celebrating two influential presidents struck with the perils of turbulent change--The U.S.'s Abraham Lincoln and Mexico's Benito Juárez. The dual exhibitions, opening October 10, will tell the stories of how the then-contemporaries helped transform and unite their countries during the 1800's.
Lincoln's exhibition, "Abraham Lincoln Transformed," is geared towards his radical steps to end slavery and extend equal citizenship rights, featuring more than 150 original artifacts, including fan and hate mail sent to Lincoln during his time in office. Juárez' exhibition, "The Making of Modern Mexico," on the other hand is co-curated by the National Museum of Mexican Art, displaying more than 25 artifacts never before exhibited in the United States, including a bronze Juárez death mask. Juárez' exhibit will also highlight his devotion to equal citizenship rights and economic development in Mexico, among other accomplishments. Both will have their signature top hats on display.
The New Colony, a recent arrival to the Chicago storefront theater scene, is urging fellow Chicago theaters: Buck up. Think big. The New Colony's blog is publishing Goals for the Future of Chicago Theater, which thus far is a call-to-arms for Chicago theater companies to dust off their economy-addled selves, stop playing it safe, and make new work that matters.
Follow along here, and look out for their upcoming season.
Editor's Note: Chicago Revenant is a new occasional feature by Gapers Block writer Dan Kelly examining some of the less well-known neighborhoods of Chicago -- or as he likes to put it, "shambling through the Second City." This is the first in the series, visiting Dunning and Schorsch Village on the Northwest Side.
The neighborhood of Dunning is a perfect place for a horror film — and I mean that in the nicest way.
Situated on the northwest side, Dunning (and its next-door neighborhood Schorsch Village), will charm your pants off with gingerbread houses, neighborhood stores and pleasant parks. Simultaneously, the place hosts three graveyards, a mental health facility, a semi-abandoned troubled children's facility and a camouflaged potter's field. It's a pretty place, and I met some nice folks, but it's ripe for a cinematic boogyman.
Naturally, I took my 19-month-old son Nate with me. Blithely unaware of anything beyond fire trucks and giraffes, Nate offered little commentary during the three hours we drove around Dunning. Mostly he babbled in the car seat, or tried to outrun me on his stubby little legs whenever we made a stop. I didn't bother with explanations. I didn't need to. Nate's world consists of home and the playground, with little elaboration. It made no difference to him if the Kentucky bluegrass and dandelions he ran across covered the bones of the insane dead or not — especially if a puppy was nearby.
Dada knew better. Dunning is the name of community area 17, bordered by Cumberland, Irving Park, Narragansett, and Belmont and containing the neighborhoods of Irving Woods, Belmont Terrace, Belmont Heights, Schorsch Village and Dunning proper. The place dates back to when the Northwest Side was still a rural area on the city's outskirts. The name came from Andrew Dunning, a speculator who bought 120 acres of land there not too long after the Civil War. First Dunning built a nursery. Then, assumably fantasizing about naming a village after himself, he set aside 40 acres for future settlers. But Mr. Dunning failed to consider the effect his peculiar neighbors might have on potential homesteaders.
"Blue Mountain," by Clare Rosean, is the fifth in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.
"Blue Mountain," oil paint on canvas, 2009
"Blue Mountain" is an illustration from a series of drawings Clare Rosean did for her picture book, "The Poet." It is about a woman who is afraid to leave her house. "Blue Mountain" illustrates her love for solitude.
Word of a colleague's success travels like wildfire through the comedy community, and this week all forms of social networking were burning up with news of Pat O'Brien's recent hire by Saturday Night Live. Pat currently performs on the Second City mainstage and also at iO with The Reckoning, but will be leaving for New York in a couple of weeks. Congrats to Pat, and may his move to New York yield many more funny videos with former Chicago comedy player, and current "Colbert Report" writer, Peter Grosz.
John Crouch took this photo of the Zaha Hadid pavillion in Millennium Park, designed as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Burnham Plan. The Tribune's preview of the exhibit from a few weeks ago offers some insight into how it was constructed.
I've seen this film twice now, under fairly similar circumstances in two different cities, and I'm really dying to see this very different take on the "alien invasion" style of film plays to a paying audience that really has no idea just what kind of film District 9 transforms into before your very eyes. I'm tempted to keep this review extremely short. I've said this before about other films, but in the case of this one, I think it's crucial that you know as little going in as possible. What you have seen on the film's various websites and different commercials and trailers is certainly a part of what District 9 is about, but the marketing people for this film have been almost incomprehensibly wise about not showing too much. And what they have shown you isn't even a fraction of the most interesting elements of this seriously well-made science fiction epic that combines politics, social commentary, aliens, extreme cartoony violence, and one of the best classic Hitchcock-ian, wrong-man-pursued plots in recent memory.
"Isolated Building Study 42 (Chud's)," by David Schalliol, is the fourth in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.
"Isolated Building Study 42 (Chud's)," digital archival print, 20" x 13" inches, 2009
"'Isolated Building Study 42 (Chud's)' was taken on the South Side of Chicago in March 2009. I was out shooting for another project when the storm clouds broke and revealed the late afternoon sun -- I had to stop. Like so many buildings on South Ashland, this building has been converted into an automotive supply shop.
"The photograph is part of my Isolated Building Studies, a series exploring neighborhood change through the association between form and perception. Subject buildings are consistently framed to emphasize their relationship with their surroundings and to draw attention to the tension between their urban form and the absence of neighboring buildings. Examination of that tension is the starting point for a conversation about urban history and social change."
The pavilions for the Burnham Centennial join the ongoing list of dynamic and engaging exhibits that have been displayed at Millennium Park. The pavilions were commissioned to Pritzker Prize winning architect Zaha Hadid and UNStudio's Ben van Berkel. While there was some tension in the architecture community about chosing two foreign (to Chicago, that is) designers, a global city, much like the one Burnham envisioned, should integrate different sensibilities with ease. The true struggle, however, is not whether Chicago will accept the company of two talented designers, but will the designers allow Chicago to inform their own design process.
"Untitled," by Mark Hansen, is the third in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.
"Untitled," acrylic and oil on canvass, 62.5" x 47.5", 2009
"In 'Untitled,' I am acknowledging my direct references to architecture, the grid and hand painted signs. By working with the themes of slipping, breaking, tension and gravity, I am interested in manipulating form and space as a means of blurring the line between object and abstraction."
"Like an Asteroid," by Sharon Parmet, is the second in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.
"Like an Asteroid," ink on paper, 2009
"This piece was inspired by a recent New York Times article discussing the likelihood of sending a manned shuttle to the Moon. Not very likely! I thought it strange that NASA may be asked to shift its focus to something else, like an asteroid."
The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival will soon begin accepting applications for their 9th Annual festival which will take place this January. Applications are being accepted from August 15-October 15, and details and application forms are available at ChicagoSketchFest.com.
The Festival is in its ninth year, and as usual, will be showcasing both local and national acts, in addition to workshops, networking opportunities, children's programming and other special events.
"O'Hare Staging Area #10," by Dmitry Samarov, is the first in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.
"O'Hare Staging Area #10", gouache on paper, 13x9 inches, 2009
"O'Hare Staging Area #10" is from a series of paintings done on site at the O'Hare Taxi Staging Area while waiting to be dispatched out to the terminals to pick up fares.
A street corner stirs plenty of connotations, memories and meanings for any urban dweller.
LiveWire'sVisionFest 2009 takes this universal setting and presents six scenes, each with its own tone, energy and playwright.
We sit in on an awkward first date; we get to know a man who wants his wife killed because he can't face telling her he cheated; and (for a more local flavor) we cheer on two Oprah fanatics dance-battling to the front of the line at Harpo Studios.
Hey everyone. I just wanted to toss in a couple notes before we move on to the reviews regarding some recent headlines that have moved across my desk in the last couple of days.
For those of you who were at my Ain't It Cool screening of Public Enemies at the end of June, I told the very true story of how John Landis' The Blues Brothers and Michael Mann's Thief were the primary reasons when I was in high school that I wanted to move to Chicago. When the summer of 1986 came around, I had just graduated high school and was mentally preparing for my move from a suburb of Washington, D.C., to Northwestern University in an immediate northern suburb of Chicago. In June 1986, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, written and directed by the recently departed John Hughes, came out, and I went from planning a big move to Chicago to actually having a blueprint for some of the things I wanted to do when I got there. Chicago stopped being a big, scary city and became a place where I was going to have fun for a very long time. A year or so later, my all-time favorite Hughes film was released, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, an absolute holiday standard in my house every Thanksgiving.
Feel free to go to a thousand other sites to get a complete list of all the movies John Hughes directed, wrote, or otherwise had a hand in. But favorite films and favorite directors aren't about lists; they're about the personal connection you have to that person's work. And these two films hold a very special place in my life, as do many of Hughes' works. I vividly recalled seeing The Breakfast Club and immediately slotting in my friends into the different roles and types presented in that film. It also made me realize that it was OK for someone under the age of 18 to have grown-up thoughts. Even reading the David Bowie lyrics that open that movie made me shutter and think, This filmmaker knows me: "And these children that you spit on / As they try to change their worlds / Are immune to your consultations / They're quite aware of what they're going through." Indeed.
If you're sick of fake-speaking in tongues to impress your fundamentalist friends at small group pot-lucks or anti-gay protests, look no further. The Best Church of God has come to save your soul from eternal damnation--and it's Boystown adjacent in case that doesn't take.
The church*, whose letterhead reads, "We read the bible, so you don't have to," returns to Chicago with a rapture-ready, apocalypse-retardant word of God starting Sunday, September 20th and will run through October at Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway.
For ticket information on the critically acclaimed *religious satire Sunday services, visit BestChurchofGod.org. The "suggested tithing" is $10 and shows are "open to all of God's children--even the unborn."
The button was first patented in 1896 in a small town in New Jersey and since then has been used to promote, market, or simply express people's agendas. Chicago-based button company Busy Beaver Buttons has been, well, busy expanding upon this 100+ year medium. Since 1995 the company has been providing bands, companies, really anyone they can with colorful buttons for an extremely fair price in a very creative manner. From their Button-o-matic series, which can be found in their button machines all around the country, to their unique connection to Chicago the company itself has grown quickly as a major competitor in the button world. In celebration of their ever-growing business Busy Beaver is hosting a grand opening party for their brand new location on 3279 W. Armitage Avenue. From 1 to 5pm on Saturday, August 8th you can tour the company's new headquarters, enjoy some free drinks, and of course make some buttons.
Busy Beaver is also releasing a set of gold plated and nickel plated buttons curated by Dustin Hostetler, from Threadless and Faesthetic, as a part of their Button-o-matic series. The release party for this new set of designs happens right after the open house from 5 to 8pm, with some "golden beer" and music provided by Devin Davis.
You could describe it as "Dancing with the Stars" and the "The Price is Right" meets the American Kennel Club.
Local non-profit canine rescue shelter, The Dog Saving Network (DSN), has quite a show for Chicago this month, entitled, "Life's Ruff," packed with basketball-playing Beagles, trivia question-answering Australian Shepherds and a prize wheel-spinning Shar-Pei mix, to name a few. The "game show" style dog show had DSN training not only amateur dogs, but their owners as well--the goal being to show regular dog owners of Chicago the benefits of positive-reinforcement training.
The performances, set at the intimate Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., took DSN three months to train for as they rehearsed in parking garages and city parks all over the city. With a new reality-based dog show in the works to generate awareness, DSN hopes to develop a state-of-the-art "Rescue and Rehabilitation Center" to expand on their outreach programs and services.
"Life's Ruff," rated G for ages 5 and up, will be on Saturdays at 4 pm and 6 pm, August 15 - 29. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone: (773)598-4549.
Churches, temples and synagogues represent some of the most beautiful buildings in Chicago, yet typically remain unvisited except by members of that particular denomination. Sacred Spaces International is hosting a summer tour series with the hopes of exposing these Chicago gems while simultaneously sparking useful discussion among members of different faiths.
Suzanne Morgan, founder of Sacred Spaces International, possessed experience as a liturgical architect and, according to their website, started the organization in 2002 as a response to a cooling of interfaith understanding after 9/11. In intention if for people to explore these spaces and learn about the uniqueness and nuance of a particular religion set in the universal language of architecture.