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Steve Johnson covers arts and entertainment for the Chicago Tribune. In more than 25 years at the paper, he has written columns, reviews, ...

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Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

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In 'Great War' exhibit, Chicago's role and some rousing tunes

In 'Great War' exhibit, Chicago's role and some rousing tunes

September 18, 2014

It's hard to know, at a Newberry Library exhibition, which to like more, the propaganda posters or the sheet music?

  • Chimpanzees are inherently warlike, finds a new study

    September 17, 2014

    Chimpanzees in the wild become violently aggressive on their own, rather than being driven to warlike behaviors as a result of proximity to or interaction with humans, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

  • Spinosaurus aegyptiacus revealed to be first semiaquatic dinosaur

    September 11, 2014

    If you think it sounds incongruous to describe the largest predatory dinosaur yet known as “half duck, half crocodile,” well, correct.

  • Steve Dawson back with jazz hybrid

    September 10, 2014

    To hear Steve Dawson tell it, the thing he needed most to launch his new musical project, a jazz-Americana hybrid band called Funeral Bonsai Wedding, was courage.

  • Completely unprepped for doomsday

    September 8, 2014

    All across the country people are preparing or, in the shorthand, "prepping" for a coming apocalypse — the day when, in the even shorter hand, the "SHTF." That's an acronym preppers use that stands, almost, for "something hits the fan."

  • Brooks has friends: many, many thousands of them

    September 8, 2014

    Garth Brooks, it turns out, has friends in flat places, too. Lots and lots of them.

  • Comedy for fall 2014: Big laugh lineup in Chicago

    September 5, 2014

    It's a fine fall for comedy in the Chicago area as the latest stand-up renaissance continues. Below are some of the leading shows of the season, and we don't even mention the steady fare at Laugh Factory, UP or Zanies; the wealth of improv and variety shows around town; or touring stints from Moshe Kasher, Mike Birbiglia and — for you fans of musically based political satire — the Capitol Steps.

  • Kyle Kinane's unfinished puzzle

    September 5, 2014

    Before he found comedy, Kyle Kinane was in a Chicago punk band, The Grand Marquis, with some of the friends he grew up with in west suburban Addison.

  • Brookfield Zoo offers a walk on the wild side

    September 3, 2014

    When you enter Brookfield Zoo, it seems as if the big fountain on the broad, open plaza, the one surrounded by circular pathways, ought to be the center of things.

  • New Field Museum exhibit brings ancient Madagascar to life

    August 28, 2014

    More than just the setting for a fanciful cartoon movie, Madagascar, of course, is a real island boasting some of the most fascinating biological history on Earsth.

  • Veer off the masterpiece path at the Art Institute of Chicago

    August 27, 2014

    The challenge in visiting the Art Institute of Chicago is to get beyond the obvious. Easier said than done.

  • China exhibit hall coming to Field Museum

    August 26, 2014

    For the next addition to its permanent exhibitions, Chicago’s Field Museum is looking far to the East.

  • Chicago Humanities Festival releases fall schedule

    August 22, 2014

    Click "I'm a Book Nerd. What's for me?" on the website of the Chicago Humanities Festival, and 36 programs from the schedule for autumn 2014 fill the screen.

  • Art Institute painting gets postage stamp treatment

    August 21, 2014

    Being enshrined on a postage stamp is not what it used to be in the days when people would argue vigorously over which pop-culture figures were or were not appropriate for this quasi-governmental honor.

  • Stolen Silver puts its money where its songs are

    August 21, 2014

    Recording their new record, "We Have Everything/We Have Nothing," was only the beginning for the Chicago band Stolen Silver.

  • At the Chicago Botanic Garden, all the pathways are yours

    August 20, 2014

    It isn't easy to find all of the serene nooks and calming crannies at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Some of the paths at the park seem perfectly content to go only one way. At least a couple of the themed gardens are best reached by walking through another garden.

  • How Discovery Channel's Shark Week didn't (quite) bite the Shedd

    August 15, 2014

    Discovery Channel's Shark Week will never be mistaken for the video version of a scientific journal.

  • Lincoln Park Zoo sets new kiddie train opening date

    August 13, 2014

    Lincoln Park Zoo on Oct. 2 will open the new Lionel Train Adventure children’s train ride, part of its big current improvement project, the zoo announced.

  • 2014 Humanities Festival full schedule is announced

    August 12, 2014

    Even before Tuesday, a handful of speakers at this fall's Chicago Humanities Festival had been announced: comedian Paula Poundstone, writer Colm Toibin, former Brown University president Ruth Simmons, rocker-poet-autobiographer Patti Smith, conservative columnist David Brooks, “Girls” star Lena Dunham.

  • Adler hosts meteor shower viewing in Wheaton

    August 12, 2014

    Proposed: The best kind of outdoor shower is a meteor shower.

  • Shedd Aquarium takes bite out of Shark Week

    August 11, 2014

    Shark Week is not an official holiday. Not yet. 

  • Field Museum packs in science and much, much more

    August 6, 2014

    The only way Chicago's Field Museum could have had a better benefactor is if there had been a generous turn-of-the-last-century tycoon named "Natural History."

  • Vintage Bill Murray video from Second City stage

    August 1, 2014

    If you're a website touting a new series called the Second City Archives, there's probably no better way to start it off than with a vintage Bill Murray clip. You know, from the days before he became a serious actor mostly in Wes Anderson films.

  • Review: 'Michael Jackson, Inc.' by Zack O'Malley Greenburg

    August 1, 2014

    Michael Jackson made a few brilliant business decisions in his life and a lot of cruddy ones. But probably his most effective move of all — from a financial sense, anyway — was to die of a drug overdose at age 50 on June 25, 2009.

  • Lincoln Park Zoo: 8 reasons to love it

    July 30, 2014

    There are so many ways to enjoy Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo that it might be best just to list them.

  • East meets west at Morton Arboretum festival

    July 30, 2014

    Sure, Lollapalooza is one festival in the Chicago area this weekend. But the crowds. The noise. The teenagers suspiciously unsteady on their feet.

  • Ira Glass hates Shakespeare

    July 29, 2014

    Ira Glass loves the fine storytelling done on his public radio show, the Chicago-based “This American Life.” He’s not so fond of the storytelling done by an English writer named William Shakespeare.

  • More museums skip admission

    July 25, 2014

    Let's start with this: Any cultural institution that has even a smidgen of belief in the part of its mission statement that talks about education and outreach and community service would love to be free. So, all of them.

  • Dave and Phil Alvin get back to their roots

    July 25, 2014

    For a very long time, the Alvin brothers, Phil and Dave, were another in the long line of rock siblings who were musically simpatico but just couldn't stand to be in a band together.

  • South Side creates its own Museum Campus

    July 24, 2014

    The idea sat roughly in the middle of the city's Cultural Plan 2012, a bullet point among scores of bullet points: "Development of a 'Museum Campus South' that connects major institutions on the South Side."

  • Science and showmanship in glorious balance at MSI

    July 23, 2014

    The Museum of Science and Industry lives, vibrantly, in the last remaining building from Chicago's storied World's Fair of 1893.

  • MSI Disney exhibit extended until January

    July 23, 2014

    There's more time for Disney at the Museum of Science and Industry.

  • Contemplating the infinite at Adler Planetarium

    July 16, 2014

    Go to Adler Planetarium if you're feeling big in your britches, a little prideful about our species' role in things.

  • Leaked recording of Britney Spears a window into modern recording

    July 14, 2014

    Starring now on a website near you: Britney Spears, raw.

  • iFly indoor skydiving more than a bag of wind

    June 26, 2014

    One of the great benefits of iFly, the new, wind-based entertainment destination in Rosemont, is that it can confirm for you things you've always suspected.

  • Summer dip at Shedd Aquarium

    June 25, 2014

    At the Shedd Aquarium, it is possible, at times, to imagine yourself as a fish swimming in a crowded school — especially if you try to head downstream while everybody else in the place is going up.

  • Chicago paintings will be part of Art Everywhere

    June 20, 2014

    Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” are among the favored Chicago artworks that will be seen on billboards and at bus stops nationwide this summer, according to results of online voting for favored American art released Friday.

  • 9/11 museum a powerful reminder of the unthinkable

    June 20, 2014

    There is a long list of things that the newly opened National September 11 Memorial Museum doesn't accomplish, or doesn't fully accomplish.

  • The Onion debuts Clickhole; say goodbye to your afternoon

    June 12, 2014

    Here's one irresistible website you won't believe that every person on Earth who likes kittens or bacon should see before they die. Or should they?

  • With Shedd and Field brews, a new kind of exhibit on tap

    June 11, 2014

    The hops that Shedd Aquarium grows cannot claim pride of place.

  • 'Cosmos' host Neil deGrasse Tyson coming to Chicago

    June 9, 2014

    Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, public intellectual and host of the "Cosmos" television series, will embark on a national speaking tour with the first dates set for January, the tour producer announced Monday. Tyson’s Chicago stop, Jan. 27 at the Auditorium Theatre, is the second scheduled so far. Also announced are dates in Madison, Wisc., Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., with more cities to come, according to the producer, Innovation Arts & Entertainment of Chicago. Tickets for the shows, billed as “an evening of engaging conversation on science, exploration and the world as we know it,” go on sale Friday; those for the Chicago event will cost between $55 and $92, said an event spokesman. Tyson is director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium.

  • Walking the floor of BookExpo America with James Patterson

    June 6, 2014

    Just before merging into the convention floor, James Patterson, world's best-selling author, looks up at the hockey-rink sized banners hanging above the entryway to the BookExpo America 2014.

  • Patterson's passion: getting kids to read

    June 4, 2014

    — James Patterson, king of the airport novelists, spent much of last week being celebrated by the nation's independent booksellers.

  • New 'The Greeks' exhibit coming to Chicago in 2015

    June 2, 2014

    Greek yogurt has elbowed its way onto dairy shelves. Greek mythology is now, more than just a school subject, a standard part of children's fantasy fiction reading and movie-going.

  • Our summer list for Chicago-area museums

    May 28, 2014

    Summer is traditionally a slow time for museum exhibit openings. This could be because of the heat or the humidity or the marked decrease in school field trips during the season. No matter. Area museums and zoos do make concerted efforts to bring in adults, usually for evening events. We've scoured the news releases and the websites to come up with a list of summer (or close to summer) potential highlights that could add enrichment to your, or your family's, warm-weather agenda. As always, check the institutions' websites for more details.

  • New glass and a new outlook in Garfield Park

    May 21, 2014

    It sounds like something out of a Gothic novel. Golfball-sized hail falls in the night and blasts football-sized holes in the delicate glass roof covering a storied, turn-of-the-last-century indoor garden.

  • Zoos and Shedd Aquarium join elephant campaign

    May 20, 2014

    Brookfield Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo and the Shedd Aquarium announced Tuesday they are joining a fight to protect African elephants through the newly launched 96 Elephants Campaign. The campaign aims to help the endangered animals in their homeland, educate the public about the damage ivory consumption does to elephant populations and secure a moratorium on ivory trading in the U.S., the world’s second largest importer of ivory. The Wildlife Conservation Society and more than 100 other zoos and aquariums are also part of the effort.

  • 'Sox vs Cubs': Rivalry as an exhibit

    May 15, 2014

    First, a confession: I prefer the Sox, but if the Cubs are having a decent year, I'll root for them too.

  • Adler's 'Destination Solar System' a stunning tour of the planets

    May 12, 2014

    In previous shows since remaking its central domed theater, the Adler Planetarium has taken visitors into deep space, back to the celestial basics, and deep into the kind of awe the cosmos can inspire.

  • Hancock's new 'Tilt!' puts you over the edge

    May 7, 2014

    Step into the new Tilt! attraction on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center and at first nothing happens.

  • Are The Orwells rock's next big thing?

    April 29, 2014

    On an April Tuesday afternoon, a big black van rolled through the streets of Elmhurst.

  • Are The Orwells rock's next big thing?

    April 29, 2014

    On an April Tuesday afternoon, a big black van rolled through the streets of Elmhurst.

  • Comic Demetri Martin's active mind at work at Lincoln Hall

    April 25, 2014

  • Chicago Sports Museum gets into the game

    April 24, 2014

    At last, a place in Chicago that pays attention to sports!

  • Museum stars in 'Mammoths' play

    April 21, 2014

    The museum in "Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England" is no stately edifice adorning a public park, no shimmering repository of great artifacts.

  • William Shakespeare's 450th birthday celebrated at Newberry Library

    April 17, 2014

    Celebrating Shakespeare's birth makes more sense than marking his death.

  • Rodney Crowell espouses some simple wisdom in 'Tarpaper Sky'

    April 14, 2014

    Last decade, in a burst of creativity in his 50s, Rodney Crowell made the three best albums of a storied but never settled career. The new "Tarpaper Sky" (New West) does not, however, hark back to the deeply personal, wildly poetic trilogy that began with 2001's "The Houston Kid."

  • Meet robots at MSI this week

    April 9, 2014

    Our fascination with robots, thus far, outstrips our in-home uses for them.

  • Neil Shubin tells the story of us in 'Your Inner Fish'

    April 8, 2014

    Moving downward from the shoulder, the arms of Neil Shubin, fish paleontologist, are built like this: one bone, two bones, lots of bones, digits.

  • Art Institute taking its work outside this summer

    April 6, 2014

    Washington crossing the Eisenhower? “Nighthawks” at the bus stop? Come August, American art will be meeting the public in public, with such possible combinations as Grant Wood's “American Gothic” on a subway poster, a Frank Lloyd Wright stained-glass window on a bus stop's digital screen, and Andy Warhol's “Campbell's Soup Can,” a painting that critiques commercial culture, turned into a roadside billboard.

  • 'Railroaders' at the Chicago History Museum

    April 2, 2014

    Roundhouse worker William London is a sight: raccoon eyes, thanks to the goggles he had been wearing; soot on his face, thanks to his job amid coal-burning trains; and a freshly lit cigarette burning in his mouth.

  • Vivian Maier exhibit at Harold Washington Library

    April 2, 2014

    For a woman of mystery, the late North Shore nanny Vivian Maier certainly is easy to find these days. The latest installments in the posthumous story of Maier and the compelling photographic images she snapped — but rarely developed — come in a new film and newly opened gallery exhibition.

  • Can the arts get smart about the smartphone?

    March 28, 2014

    Shulamit Ran likes her ring tone.

  • Survival, extinction at Notebaert Nature Museum

    March 26, 2014

    The new exhibition at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is like a roll call of lost, or nearly lost, species: the passenger pigeon, the American bison, the black bear in Illinois, the Carolina parakeet.

  • 'Earth Explorers' exhibit overwhelms with sights, sounds, facts

    March 19, 2014

    The new "National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers" exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry is a bit like its title or a good Chicago pizza: overstuffed, but with a lot of quality ingredients.

  • Biomechanics exhibit shines at Field Museum

    March 12, 2014

    It's when you're sitting in an office chair in the center of an interactive museum exhibit, swiveling around at a dizzying pace because you are flapping an arm-length wing, that it really hits you:

  • Reporter Bill Plante reflects on a changing White House

    March 10, 2014

    Bill Plante's journey from his Rogers Park upbringing to his current and longstanding post as CBS News White House correspondent has been, in many senses, a conventional one for reporters of a certain age. Plante, now 76, got into radio young — at 17, he recalls, in Evanston and then with WNIB-FM in Chicago — transitioned to television and then to the network. While covering some of the major events of the last half-century, he's earned a reputation for humility, hard work and a certain old-fashioned sense of the role of, as he puts it, "an actual, everyday, working reporter."

  • David Layman, exhibit designer, tells our harrowing stories

    March 7, 2014

    The signs spread across the floor of a high-end Chicago printer's office on this winter Friday afternoon probably should seem disjointed or abstract.

  • David Layman on situating Field Museum's Sue

    March 7, 2014

    David Layman describes his approach, as Field Museum's lead exhibit designer, to situating Sue, the world's most famous and expensive T. rex skeleton, in the museum for her 2000 debut:

  • Review: 'Sirens' takes comedy for a ride

    March 5, 2014

    In concept, "Sirens" could be the third leg of Dick Wolf's Chicago first-responders stool, a locally made show about paramedics to go with his series about cops ("Chicago P.D.") and firefighters ("Chicago Fire").

  • Fire Museum of Greater Chicago settles into new home

    February 26, 2014

    The Fire Museum of Greater Chicago isn't a grandiose thing, looming over a park like the Field Museum or over Michigan Avenue like the Art Institute.

  • Poehler, Biden boost Meyers' 'Late Night' debut

    February 25, 2014

    Seth Meyers took the “Late Night” stage Monday night like a man who didn’t have anything to prove.

  • Fallon a gracious host in 'Tonight Show' debut

    February 18, 2014

    Starting his “Tonight Show” hosting tenure Monday, Jimmy Fallon proved he can snag A-listers and, in the early going, ratings. The numbers that came out Tuesday showed him crushing the competition, at least for now. 

  • Flower power at the Chicago Botanic Garden

    February 12, 2014

    It's not the Fakahatchee swamp, exactly, inside the Chicago Botanic Garden public greenhouse building known as the Regenstein Center.

  • Primates use iPads in zoo study

    February 5, 2014

    Most afternoons at the Lincoln Park Zoo, visitors can see something that is both extraordinary and a sight they may also have witnessed in the back seat on the way to the zoo: a primate using an iPad.

  • James Franco to talk poetry for Humanities Fest

    January 29, 2014

    Actor James Franco will talk poetry and filmmaking as he headlines a February event in Chicago, the Chicago Humanities Festival announced Wednesday.

  • In 'Out at CHM,' gay history is museum-ready

    January 20, 2014

    When "Out at CHM" began in 2004, the idea for the series was "to do more inclusive history about the city of Chicago, to do more history that was risk-taking," said Jill Austin, a curator at the Chicago History Museum.

  • When it comes to burning energy, humans are slacker mammals

    January 14, 2014

    You may think you're working hard. But relative to other mammals, you're kind of a slacker.

  • Dick Wolf talks about his new series 'Chicago PD'

    January 7, 2014

    After a couple of decades of centering his TV empire on New York, the home of "Law & Order" and most of its spinoffs, the veteran producer Dick Wolf has suddenly become a man of the Midwest.

  • Museums' reach is wider than walls

    December 12, 2013

    Most of Chicago's major zoos and museums are more than just showpieces for their collections, animal or anthropological.

  • Review: 'Furious Cool' by David Henry and Joe Henry

    November 10, 2013

    In truth, there has been just one big new Richard Pryor pop-culture artifact of recent vintage, this year's Showtime documentary “Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic.” But even that feels like a cavalcade, because Pryor lived such a vivid life, blazed such a clear trail through America, American comedy and American movies that attempted to be comic. When you learn about him, or are reminded of him, he sticks with you. And now comes a new biography that, with fits of lyricism and surprising patches of original research, seconds and builds on the work done by the film and will implant Pryor in our consciousness for years to come — as, the book makes clear, he deserves to be.

  • Meet our oldest animals in Chicago

    November 7, 2013

    From a cockatoo at the Brookfield Zoo to a chimpanzee in Lincoln Park, animals at zoos are living longer. Cookie, the Brookfield Zoo's resident 80-year-old cockatoo, was in fine form Tuesday morning. ...

  • At MSI, a power play with a specific goal

    September 18, 2013

    At the Museum of Science and Industry, past energy is amply represented. The Coal Mine exhibit is a behemoth, an all-star there for eight decades running.

  • From Nazis to Lincoln, from World's Fair to bees

    August 30, 2013

    Once again this year, the fall museum and zoo schedules are full, and not just because of the now-requisite Halloween and Christmas programming. Highlights include a World's Fair revisitation at the Field, commemoration of the Gettysburg Address' 150th anniversary at Springfield's Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and new holiday fare, including an ice-skating rink at Lincoln Park Zoo and a new variety of winter light display at the Morton Arboretum.

  • New direction for the Field, with a curious blogger leading the way

    August 21, 2013

    "It doesn't look like it would do very well in the water," Emily Graslie is saying, dryly.

  • Blue Men wanted: Auditioning for Chicago's 'Blue Man Group'

    July 25, 2013

    It's not easy becoming blue. It's pretty easy to be sad. It's a piece of cake to paint your face cerulean or powder or some other sky or sea shade. But actually becoming a Blue Man? That's a multipart challenge, sort of a decathlon of acting, or, perhaps, a postmodern pentathlon.

  • Specializing in the outdoors: It's summer at the Morton Arboretum

    June 26, 2013

    When people talk about the Morton Arboretum, the too easily overlooked west suburban woodland preserve and living laboratory, summer is not the first season that falls from their tongues or springs to their minds.

  • Monkeys take center stage in $15M Lincoln Park Zoo construction plan

    June 26, 2013

    Lincoln Park Zoo will feature a new Japanese macaque exhibit and a new train for little kids under a construction plan announced by officials at the Chicago zoo Wednesday.

  • Richard Pryor and Don Draper, soul mates

    June 19, 2013

    Somewhere in the middle of Showtime's new documentary about Richard Pryor, it hit me: They're also talking here about Don Draper, the antihero at the center of the TV series "Mad Men," which concludes its sixth season Sunday night.

  • The Force not always with Star Wars

    June 13, 2013

    Since I expressed displeasure last month with Star Wars and the cultural expectation that we know and care all about it, I've received a steady stream of letters offering critiques of my viewpoint, although "critique" may be too delicate a word for some of the sentiments expressed therein.

  • Shedd Aquarium's got the touch

    June 12, 2013

    At the Shedd Aquarium these days, there's almost as much touching going on as at a massage therapist's spa or an Apple store.

  • Star Wars is overrated: Blasphemy or truth?

    May 31, 2013

    May the Force be dissipated.

  • Chicago native Susan Aikens stars on NatGeo's 'Life Below Zero'

    May 29, 2013

    Seeing Susan Aikens in "Life Below Zero," the new National Geographic Channel reality series about enduring Alaska, it's hard to fathom that she was once a child of Chicago's northwest suburbs. Aikens, who for 11 years has run the Kavik River Camp near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, seems so at home in her parka and her remote outpost that it's hard to imagine her anywhere else.

  • Toned down 'Today Show' hits Chicago

    May 22, 2013

    Big picture, not much went right for the “Today Show's” planned broadcast from Chicago this week. 

  • Secret's out: Brookfield Zoo dolphins are pregnant

    May 21, 2013

    One secret to a dolphin ultrasound is that the machine is pretty much the same one used on human women, except the “Logiq e Vet” branding badge is replaced with something more species-appropriate.

  • Stingray Touch exhibit opens for summer at Shedd Aquarium

    May 15, 2013

    The surprise isn't that the Shedd Aquarium now has an exhibit where visitors can touch stingrays as they glide by, but rather that the most popular aquarium in the U.S. hasn't had one before now.

  • 'Cosmic Wonder': New Adler show goes deep into universe

    May 14, 2013

    I've seen three shows now in Adler Planetarium's still new, still state-of-the-art central domed theater, and I remain amazed at the quality of the celestial imagery and at the precision with which it is projected up on the dome.

  • Peter Sagal takes educational ride with 'Constitution USA'

    May 6, 2013

    “Constitution USA With Peter Sagal,” the new PBS series about the country's ever-disputed founding document, tests an important constitutional principle: that the framework for a federal government, drafted with high hopes and noble purpose back in 1787, can be taught via flush toilets, marijuana buds and a public-radio host riding a Harley.

  • 'Alpha' leads Amazon's pilot pack

    May 2, 2013

    Not content to just sell us books, lawn implements, baseball bats, printers, devices to read books on, bar tools, printer paper, used printers, ink cartridges, used ink cartridges and automobile floor mats — did I miss anything? — Amazon is trying to join cable, broadcast and Netflix in providing America with original, TV-like series.

  • 'Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!' hits the silver screen

    April 30, 2013

    Peter Sagal is, at minimum, amused to be following a theatrical-presentation path cleared by Glenn Beck.

  • Steve Harvey hits on winning daytime formula

    April 23, 2013

    "Steve Harvey" is not everyone's cup of afternoon tea.

  • Chicago Humanities Festival lets in the Animal

    April 23, 2013

    In announcing its fall programming theme, “Animal: What Makes Us Human,” the Chicago Humanities Festival provides one answer to the question that, for want of a question mark, it doesn't quite pose.

  • Let's talk about the Comcast experience

    April 9, 2013

    Consumer loyalty, in the digital media era, seems to be as valued as an AOL start-up disk. Customers of most cellphone companies finish their contracts and win the right to keep paying the same high prices that supposedly included the cost of their once-new phones.

  • Going one-on-one with Paula Poundstone

    March 28, 2013

    (BY STEVE JOHNSON) ... Paula Poundstone lives in Santa Monica, Calif. "We're near the Jack in the Box," she says. "But I don't like to brag." And although she doesn't perform her stand-up comedy in Chicago often, she's here all the time.

  • To Xfinity, and beyond: A critique of television providers

    March 22, 2013

    Even now, even as paid critics become an endangered species, there remains a lot of television criticism, discussion of the import and meaning of the various filmed entertainments that flicker across our ever-larger screens. 

  • Exhibit at Field Museum sheds light on Lascaux caves

    March 20, 2013

    “It's almost too beautiful,” said the first scientist to descend into the Lascaux caves, according to “Scenes From the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux,” an important and highly engaging new exhibit at the Field Museum.

  • 'Animal Inside Out' is Body Worlds' take on beasts and birds

    March 13, 2013

    The last time the Body Worlds people displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry, in a 2011 exhibition showing the development and decline of the human corpus, they included, with seeming incongruity, an ostrich.

  • Ocean wonders abound in Field Museum's 'Creatures of Light'

    March 6, 2013

    It's dark in the rooms that hold the new exhibition at the Field Museum, dark almost like in the deep ocean where many of the featured "Creatures of Light" live.

  • 'This American Life' tackles Chicago violence

    February 13, 2013

  • Beck Bennett's calling answered with AT&T ads

    January 30, 2013

    It probably still happens the old-fashioned way: a beautiful face spotted sipping a milkshake at Schwab's, a screen test and stardom.

  • Song barkers: Cutting through the 'Heys'

    January 23, 2013

    There's a question that someone paying close attention to contemporary pop music would not be considered crazy for asking:

  • Music story isn't over yet for Dolly Varden

    January 17, 2013

    A sampling of how it works for a rock 'n' roll band in middle age:

  • Logging family time with Lincoln

    January 16, 2013

    Abraham Lincoln has been given many titles over the years: Rail Splitter, Great Emancipator, even, to the detriment of the undead, Vampire Hunter.

  • 'Shameless' season 3 review: Bumpy start but room to grow

    January 9, 2013

    To spend time with the Gallaghers, of Chicago's South Side and Showtime's Sunday night lineup, is to enter a world of unrelenting near chaos. Almost every time the viewer blinks, an eye is blackened or love is made or fraud is committed.

  • Adler Planetarium names Michelle Larson new president

    December 11, 2012

    Michelle Larson's faculty page at Utah State University displays a picture of her cozying up to a bust of Albert Einstein. Lego Albert Einstein.

  • Power is on at ZooLights in Lincoln Park and Brookfield Zoo's Holiday Magic

    December 5, 2012

    You can call it humbuggery, but I had a pretty low-voltage reaction to ZooLights the first time I went to see it, probably 10 years ago.

  • What is the future of Lincoln Park Zoo's rabies program in Africa?

    December 4, 2012

    BUNDA, Tanzania — Tucked in a quiet corner of the bustling area occupied by this town's bus station and central market, the setup doesn't look like much: a few of the country's ubiquitous four-wheel-drive vehicles, some men in dress shirts, and a red bucket and a couple of picnic coolers that are at least as beat-up as the trucks.

  • Chicagoan saves one dog at a time from rabies in Africa

    December 3, 2012

    NANGALE, Tanzania — Only about half the dogs Anna Czupryna is studying in Tanzania have names. Dogs are different here. They are foragers and night watchmen who are treated more like livestock than pets.

  • Lincoln Park Zoo works to eradicate rabies in Africa

    December 1, 2012

    NANGALE, Tanzania — Huddled with his younger brother, the young man laughs easily, conspiratorially, at the commotion caused by the presence of curious foreigners in his family's modest compound outside this small village. 

  • Zoo's anti-rabies program attracts local donations, big and small

    December 1, 2012

    Drink lemonade, save a lion.

  • Emo Philips is still ... Emo

    September 20, 2012

    It may surprise those who remember Emo Philips from his white-hot 1980s days to learn that Downers Grove's favorite son is still performing stand-up comedy and, at 56, still doing it the same way: as a sort of querulous, bowl-cut man-child squeaking out devastatingly clever one-liners.

  • At City Winery opener, Lewis Black stews while kitchen lags behind

    August 16, 2012

    Lewis Black goes from zero to peripatetic faster than almost anybody you've met, or seen.

  • Reopened Santa's Village feeds nostalgia

    August 14, 2012

    It is probably not accurate and certainly not provable to say Phil Wenz willed Santa's Village back into being. But it's not a crazy thing to believe either.

  • Don't touch that NPR dial

    July 13, 2012

    For a confederation of supposed liberals, public radio can be awfully conservative.

  • Three summer reality TV shows use Chicago settings, but only one satisfies

    June 27, 2012

    Jerry Springer may have abandoned Chicago three years ago, but the impresario of camera-ready interpersonal conflict will be pleased to know that his influence remains.

  • Ecologically advanced Smart Home at Museum of Science and Industry redesigned

    June 27, 2012

    They weren't kidding when they named the modular house just east of the main Museum of Science and Industry building the Smart Home.

  • Reviews from Just for Laughs Chicago: Kevin Smith, Hannibal Buress, Janeane Garofalo + Kyle Kinane, Scott Adsit + Kevin Dorff, Patton Oswalt and Stephen Merchant

    June 15, 2012

    Going into "An Evening with Kevin Smith," it was difficult to imagine Smith answering audience questions as a Chicago Theatre show and one of the centerpieces of this year's TBS Just for Laughs Chicago comedy festival.

  • Love for Laughs is growing: How the TBS comedy fest got to be the biggest in the U.S.

    June 8, 2012

    You won't find universal love for the Just for Laughs festival in Chicago's comedy scene. But as the aggregation of local, national and international talent prepares to begin its fourth annual run here this week, you will find something close — plus recognition that Just for Laughs, the country's largest comedy festival, has played a key role in tying the city to stand-up comedy.

  • So these new comedy clubs walk into Chicago ...

    May 10, 2012

    One Friday night in Chicago, two stand-up worlds. The first world: In the established, Old Town room, the nationally known Greg Proops fires off his California hipster comedy, heavy on attitude, high on his own intelligence, thick with high-culture words and pop-culture references.

  • 'Change agent' for the Field Museum

    April 13, 2012

    In choosing controversial former University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere as its likely next chief executive, the Field Museum has opted for a "change agent," according to the man hiring him, and a "gentleman with elbows," according to one of the references the Field received about the scholar and veteran university administrator.

  • Super Bowl ad winners and losers

    February 7, 2012

    To the showrooms, America! Automobile advertising dominated Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI, with everything from apocalypse-defying Chevy trucks to a vampire-killing Audi. Meanwhile, Clint Eastwood, Chrysler and General Electric pushed economic recovery and patriotism during the marketing 'n' football extravaganza, while Budweiser and the NFL delivered history lessons. Pop culture references fizzled (Ferris Bueller) and sparkled (Twinkies), while the E-Trade baby and Careerbuilder.com chimps did their usual crowd-pleasing things. Oh, and GoDaddy, once again, delivered its particular version of class.

  • Those party photos could cost you a job

    January 17, 2012

    In a controversial twist on the exploding use of online social media, more employers are poring over the websites to weed out job applicants whose posts reveal that they use foul language, take drugs, associate with gangs or have other questionable characteristics. Some employers are even demanding that job candidates disclose their social network user names and passwords up front.

  • Lifetime's 'Untouchable' throws the book at Drew Peterson

    January 16, 2012

    It's rare that you can say a piece of television is inevitable. But throughout the media circus following the disappearance of Stacy Peterson, the notion that there would be a Drew Peterson Lifetime movie was about as close to a sure thing as you could get.

  • Showtime's 'Shameless' hits its wobbly stride

    January 4, 2012

    It would be easy to write the series "Shameless" off as another cable TV excuse to show nudity, alcoholism, rampant drug use, petty theft, unlicensed day care, home growing, purse emptying, fiscally motivated courting, foster child exploitation, credit card fraud, murder by information omission, wife cheating, ice-cream-truck-based beer selling, Little League bookmaking and behind-the-back name calling.

  • Oprah begins 'Next Chapter' with Steven Tyler interview, mixed results

    January 3, 2012

    There is a moment in the first episode of "Oprah's Next Chapter," the new celebrity and spiritual travelogue starring Oprah Winfrey and also her interview subjects, that feels more like something out of "This Is Spinal Tap" than a star debriefing on an ostensible cable network for women.

  • 'Bossypants' an entertaining but safe foray into Fey's life

    April 14, 2011

    Tina Fey doesn't tell a lot of stories on herself, not really, in her new book "Bossypants," which is actually bits of so many books that it could be placed fairly in Memoirs, Management, Women's studies, Comedy, or that section where they give you book club recommendations. (This assumes that you can find a non-shuttered bookstore.)

  • Chicago's lord of the riff is king of New Yorker

    November 11, 2010

    To anyone who has encountered New Yorkers' maddeningly internalized sense of superiority about their place of residence, a hubris perhaps best expressed in Saul Steinberg's famous New Yorker magazine cover, "View of the World from 9th Avenue," here is a bit of good news. This also applies to those who take the Chicago-as-Second-City thing a little too personally.

  • Ticked-off Sue's eyeing you, bud

    May 27, 2010

    It is, apparently, lonely at the top of the list of the world's most intact Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons.

  • What statement did the 'American Gothic' knockoff make about public art?

    September 30, 2009

    It's not a shocker, really, that the figures lifted from one of American art's most famous images and made enormous and three-dimensional have proved so popular.

  • 5 shocking revelations from the criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich

    December 10, 2008

    The most shocking revelations in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich (after, that is, the specific criminal charges):

  • Substance overcomes novelty

    July 24, 2007

    It was a bad night for news anchors and Washington bureau chiefs, the traditional interrogators of would-be holders of American high office.

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