Christopher Borrelli

Christopher Borrelli

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Artist Samantha Hill reconstructs Bronzeville's history

Artist Samantha Hill reconstructs Bronzeville's history

April 18, 2014

Samantha Hill awaits your input. And awaits.

  • Why sci-fi is obsessed with the near future

    April 15, 2014

    In the West Town loft that Jessica Charlesworth shares with husband, Tim Parsons, along the back wall, on a row of metal filing cabinets, a kaleidoscope of Post-it notes waved in a soft draft, each a kind of dispatch from the future. I leaned in to decipher the scribbles: "Plans to build solar farms on the moon," I read aloud.

  • Meet the woman who pumps up Chicago Bulls crowds

    April 11, 2014

    Walking out of a cramped, stuffy United Center boardroom two weeks ago, Michelle Harris told me that when she was younger and growing up in Chicago, "I dreamed of being a part of corporate America." She said this unequivocally, without a hint of guile, a wink or even a sneer. She loves a good meeting. Almost as much as she loves a good T-shirt cannon.

  • 'Silicon Valley' boys ready to disrupt HBO

    April 4, 2014

    For one of the final scenes of the first season of the new HBO comedy series "Silicon Valley," creator Mike Judge and his production designers re-created TechCrunch Disrupt, the intense annual San Francisco conference where computer engineers, developers and programmers compete for attention, pitching nascent startups to trawling venture capital investors and media figures.

  • Making potholes into art

    March 31, 2014

    It's officially spring. We're deep into pothole season, which, like other holiday seasons, seems to grow longer every year. This pothole season could be the longest yet. Potholes are out of control. The Chicago Department of Transportation said last month that pothole complaints have tripled in the past year; and since New Year's Day alone, the city has filled more than 350,000 potholes. And because, according to CDOT, which assumes there are at least five unreported potholes for each reported pothole, their conservative estimate of the number of potholes remaining is, well, about 60,000 potholes.

  • Movies that never got made

    March 27, 2014

    Make no small plans.

  • Does late Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax deserve a statue?

    March 26, 2014

    Gail Gygax flipped open the blue binder she had been carrying under her arm. On its cover was a shield emblazoned with the words "Gygax Memorial." She was all business, pleasant but driven, barely allowing me time thank her for meeting with me. She turned through the pages until she landed on an elaborate illustration. "OK, there," she said, pointing at penciled concept art of a statue of Gary Gygax, her late husband and the co-creator of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Actually, in the illustration, a bust of Gary stood behind a castle, as well as a dragon, a crest, swords and a big mountain.

  • Inside Hannibal Buress' Comedy Central special

    March 25, 2014

    Neal Marshall wasn't thrilled.

  • 'Divergent' dreams up a broken future Chicago

    March 14, 2014

    The new movie "Divergent" opens on a marsh, wild and untended, its grasses long, wavy and serene. So what follows, considering the relatively benign, "Ferris Bueller"-ed archetype of Chicago on film, might prove unnerving: As the camera pans across those grasses, it picks up a rusting cargo ship, stranded and incongruous; then a tall, vast metal fence; and finally, inside that fence, as the camera pushes forward, an ominous, decaying Chicago. You've seen versions of this shot in many movies in the past few decades, the skyline as seen from Lake Michigan, the camera racing over Navy Pier …

  • It's true: New Yorkers eating up deep dish

    March 13, 2014

    A year ago, the hottest slob food in Manhattan was the cronut. Perhaps you heard about it: Created (and copyrighted) by SoHo's Dominique Ansel Bakery, the cronut, an unholy and addictive union of croissant and doughnut, proved so popular to trendy New Yorkers that waits for the innovative pastry stretched past three hours. A small black market on Craigslist even sprang up to deliver fresh cronuts at inflated scalper prices. A year later, however, fickle New York has moved on, and the cronut, while still somewhat popular (though replicated now at bakeries nationwide), is facing an unlikely slice of competition: Chicago deep dish.

  • Inside Wes Anderson's eccentric aesthetic

    March 12, 2014

    Wes Anderson came to Chicago at the beginning of the month to promote his new film, "The Grand Budapest Hotel." He arrived by train, stopping on his way from Los Angeles to New York, where he lives. He even had his own private train car. Now, you might assume his mode of transportation was about drawing attention to a new movie — pure whistle-stop promotion. And yet Chicago was his only stop: Anderson just prefers traveling by rail.

  • Meet artist Michelle Grabner, Whitney Biennial 2014 curator

    March 7, 2014

    A few months before Michelle Grabner presided over the final details of the prestigious 2014 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art here, a white Buick LeSabre plowed into the side of her small art gallery in Oak Park. This was back in the fall, on a quiet Sunday just after dawn. She knew the car was coming, and she welcomed the impact. She even invited some friends to come over and watch.

  • Sharing a name with an Oscar nominee isn't all glamour

    March 3, 2014

    Jonah Hill had an unremarkable Oscar Sunday. Perhaps you heard: He won nothing; he did nothing. He woke up early and drove to a Starbucks in the suburbs outside Naperville, where he bought a coffee, then he drove home and shoveled the snow from his driveway for the umpteenth time lately: "Yeah, it pretty much sucked," Jonah Hill told the Chicago Tribune in an exclusive Oscar Sunday interview. "I am so sick of this winter." So sick that Hill climbed into jeans, a long-sleeve T-shirt and never once put on a tuxedo. In fact, Hill said he was not planning to attend the Vanity Fair party, or the Governors Ball, or any Oscar soirees at all.

  • This year, ask the Oscar questions that really matter

    February 28, 2014

    "Flowers, but with garbage."

  • Chicago's stuck on brand aid, and it hurts to watch

    February 21, 2014

    The other day I went to see "The Lego Movie," the biggest blockbuster of 2014 so far, currently in the midst of its second wave of word-of-mouth-driven box office, and I left the theater not feeling scuzzy. I didn't feel bullied or solicited. In fact, I felt no desire to buy Legos or declare my love for the endless ways in which mankind has learned to shape a pile of plastic blocks. I didn't even have some overwhelmingly nostalgic yearning for my favorite childhood toy.

  • James Franco and poet Frank Bidart draw a crowd

    February 20, 2014

    Just the other day, the day that James Franco visited the Poetry Foundation to speak with acclaimed poet and mentor Frank Bidart on stage before a sold-out crowd of 800, the following poetic events happened: About 5:40 p.m on Wednesday, outside Northwestern University's law school off Lake Shore Drive, a line of students waited. The event was scheduled for 8 p.m., but the weather was mild. Melting snow cast slushy puddles across the sidewalks. In the lobby beside the auditorium set aside for the reading, Matti Bunzl, artistic director of the Chicago Humanities Festival (which had partnered with the Poetry Foundation for the reading), said, with a wink: "You can't pull this crowd for a historian from University of Michigan, can you?"

  • Q&A with James Franco: Why poetry? Why not?

    February 20, 2014

    Before his poetry reading Wednesday night, James Franco, who has been in town rehearsing for his Broadway debut in "Of Mice and Men" with director (and Steppenwolf ensemble member) Anna Shapiro, spoke to the Tribune about his side job as a poet, his friendship with the Pulitzer-nominated 74-year-old poet Frank Bidart and Franco's new book of poems, "Directing Herbert White," a kind of tribute to his mentor.

  • Chicago Pedway: City's bright, hope-filled underbelly

    February 14, 2014

    You want to know the best thing about the Chicago Pedway? It's not that, despite this Polar Vortex winter, you can cover almost 40 city blocks on the Pedway without ever stepping foot outside. It's not that the Pedway began modestly in 1951 and now stretches through the North Loop, jogs beneath Millennium Park and ventures as far east as the mouth of the Chicago River. It's not that the Pedway could be regarded as a kind of yardstick of municipal progress, always seeming as though it might extend just a little bit longer someday. It's not even that the Pedway's generally mundane, charm-free hallways offer little to see — look, another "For Rent" sign! — and therefore it works perfectly as a daily treadmill for ambulatory meditation.

  • Blood, sweat and crowdfunding for 'Life Itself'

    February 12, 2014

    Late Monday afternoon, the lobby of the Gene Siskel Film Center was thick with expectations. The money guys hovered. They were about to see the result of their investments — they were about to see "Life Itself," the new Steve James documentary about movie critic Roger Ebert. And, frankly, the money guys expected a return, a little something something. Still, they were polite about it: Jonathan Boehle, 23, unemployed, from Cornell, 100 miles southwest of Chicago, said matter-of-factly: "I heard the film needed money. I knew I should donate."

  • Tristan Meinecke's sons have his art, will sell

    February 5, 2014

    Some homes are hard to explain.

  • Can we really separate art from artist?

    February 3, 2014

    Somehow, someway, if you could know of all the ugly moments, questionable acts and transgressions (both large and small) committed by everyone who has ever written a novel, painted a masterpiece, conducted an orchestra or starred in an Oscar-winning performance, would you ever read, look at or listen to anything again?

  • Chicago dancer Lil Kemo ready for bigger breakthrough

    January 31, 2014

    Travon Biggs, a.k.a. the Bop King of the World, a.k.a. the Fastest Legs on the West Side, a.k.a. the originator of the Kemo Step, a.k.a. Lil' Kemo, walked up his unplowed street in North Lawndale the other day, sneakers sliding sideways in the slush. Behind him a rabbit hopped out on the sidewalk, reconsidered it and hopped back beneath a fence. Across the street, an elderly man shoveling a walkway shouted: "Proud of you, Kemo!" Biggs, whom everyone calls Kemo (and I will call Kemo from here), waved over his shoulder.

  • Alexis Wilkinson's path to Harvard Lampoon president's chair

    January 29, 2014

    A few years ago in the New Yorker, Tina Fey, in an essay about her time as a writer on “Saturday Night Live,” broke down the show's writing staff into two fundamental groups: “Harvard Boys and Improv People.” The latter (which includes Fey, John Belushi and Bill Murray) are visceral, loose, often rooted in Second City theatrical training. The Harvard Boys (of whom she includes Conan O'Brien and Al Franken) tend to be “hyperintelligent” and headier: “If you're sitting at the Harvard Lampoon Castle with your friends, you can perfect a piece of writing so that it is exactly what you want and you can avoid the feeling of red-hot flop sweat.”

  • On popular NPR podcast, hosts are up for 'Everything'

    January 24, 2014

    On a frigid Monday morning this month, Ian Chillag and Mike Danforth of "How to Do Everything," their dizzyingly random, cult favorite of an advice podcast, gathered with producer Steven Tobiasz in an airy conference room in the corner of the National Public Radio offices on Navy Pier. The occasion was their semi-regular ideas meeting, to see where they were with new segments. Outside the long floor-to-ceiling windows, a pair of men and an old woman cast fishing lines between the frozen chunks of harbor. Tobiasz flipped up the screen on his laptop and glanced out at the snowy scene: "When are we going to talk to someone who swims in the lake now? We talked about it — the people you see swimming?"

  • True voice brings 'True Detective' to life

    January 22, 2014

    Among the many things to admire about the new HBO crime series "True Detective" is the title, which is broad, pithy, self-conscious and laced with a stank of menace. Or maybe that's just the smell it gives off when played against the show's apocalyptic expanses: wide-open swaths of rural Louisiana that nevertheless seem thick with shadows, churning refineries and old churches crumbling picturesquely in the high grasses.

  • Horror director's career back from the dead

    January 21, 2014

    A couple of weeks ago at Lincoln Hall, late on a Saturday afternoon, Chester Novell Turner took the stage. Or rather, to be exact, he climbed onto the stage, throwing a leg sideways and hoisting himself from the floor to the stage. He did not seem to notice the short flight of stairs waiting a few feet away. The scene was awkward, unintentionally funny, yet charmingly befitting: Turner is the director of “Tales From the Quadead Zone” and “Black Devil Doll From Hell,” microscopically budgeted, Chicago-made horror movies from the 1980s, both of which are beyond awkward — awkwardly paced, awkwardly acted. Both were shot on VHS tape, so the picture quality is awkward. And both led to a film career that's as awkward as it is remarkable.

  • The unbearable lightness of Clark, the Cubs mascot

    January 18, 2014

    Someday, Clark the Cub, the Jar Jar Binks of the North Side, the Anne Hathaway of Wrigleyville, the Berenstain Bear of Major League Baseball, will make an ideal Chicago Cubs mascot. Someday. Possibly sooner than we think.

  • Pitchfork taking a stab at print

    January 10, 2014

    Chris Kaskie pulled out his phone and flipped though his pictures until he stopped on an image, then turned the screen toward me and grinned: It showed the local staff of Pitchfork Media, the Chicago company behind the Pitchfork music website and Pitchfork Music Festival, absorbed in what appeared to be — gasp — print media.

  • 99 potential problems for Jay Z

    January 9, 2014

    Is Jay Z like you and me?

  • In 2014, let's not be so touchy, Chicago

    January 1, 2014

    Chicago, this may not be the easiest thing to read on New Year's Day. And God knows, you probably don't want to hear this coming from a former Rhode Islander. But today, our day of new beginnings, this time when we pause, reassess and vow to do better in the next 12 months, is the perfect time for Chicago to proclaim: We can take a joke, we can take criticism, we will listen when others say Chicago isn't ideal and (as much as we say we don't) we will not get defensive when people talk smack.

  • Great Lake: a pizza joint that was both hard and easy to love

    December 31, 2013

    There might have been greater losses to the Chicago food scene in 2013: chefs Charlie Trotter and Jean Banchet died, both of whom raised the national profile of fine dining in Chicago; longtime breakfast queen Ina Pinkney announced her retirement; and the eponymous Graham Elliot planned a New Year's Eve final fling.

  • Audrey Petty's interviews put flesh on city's ghostly high-rises

    December 25, 2013

    A few years ago, when Audrey Petty began interviewing former residents of Chicago's public housing projects and compiling the conversations into an oral history of the Robert Taylor Homes, Cabrini-Green and other notorious (now-razed) high-rises, a woman told Petty, without bitterness, irony or sarcasm, that she had seen people shot to death in her building, she had seen people murdered, "but other than that, it was perfectly lovely." Petty, an associate professor of English and creative writing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was not prepared for this: She had grown up in relatively prosperous Hyde Park, in a townhouse, and never considered that such pain and malevolence could co-exist with such warm feelings.

  • A montage of favorite things for 2013

    December 21, 2013

    Consider this a purge.

  • Bill Kurtis: An anchorman's journey to 'Anchorman'

    December 17, 2013

    There was a time, a time long before the "Anchorman" franchise, when the local Chicago anchorman/journalist/producer/voice-over actor/gala host/restaurant investor/grass-fed-beef maven Bill Kurtis reigned supreme. It was a time when people believed everything they heard on TV, an age when only men were allowed to read the news. And in Chicago, one anchorman was more man than the rest. Kurtis was a god among mortals, with a voice that made wolverines purr and suits so fine he made Sinatra look like a hobo. And then, about a decade ago, director Adam McKay and comedian Will Ferrell wanted him to narrate "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," with an opening narration nearly identical to what you just read.

  • TSA's contraband stocks the best art gallery you aren't allowed to see

    December 13, 2013

    Beneath the concourse of Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport, far from the eyes of holiday travelers, there is an art gallery with an ever-changing, carefully curated selection of remarkable pieces that say a great deal about the United States, security, consumerism and our general frame of mind.

  • A shopper's guide to Eataly Chicago

    December 12, 2013

    Now that Eataly Chicago has been operating about a week, now that lines form daily in front of each of its 23 eateries, it's about time we recognize that Eataly Chicago, at its overstuffed heart, is also a market. A 63,000-square-foot wonderland, importing whole octopus from Spain, making mozzarella twice an hour. But fundamentally, still a market. Which sells, you know, milk, eggs. Also, dried black-eyed fagioli and bomb-shelter-size tins of Italian sardines. Ask Mario Batali — or any of the emporium's investors— what the ultimate goal of Eataly is, and they respond in unison: to encourage the home cook to assemble an Italian meal at home.

  • Furry Friends bond over bowling

    December 11, 2013

    The Lake Area Furry Friends bowl twice a month. They have bowled together almost 10 years. By this point, their routine is established: They meet for dinner at the Patio restaurant in Lombard; then they head over to the Tivoli Bowl in Downers Grove; and finally, around midnight, they drive a few miles away to Steak N' Shake, out by the Hidden Lake Forest Preserve, where the teenage waitresses greet them with smirks of bemusement and wariness.

  • A diner's guide to Eataly Chicago

    December 11, 2013

    Now that I think of it, the Great Nutella Bar Riot of 2013 was probably inevitable. There was nothing anyone could have done; the conditions for an ugly situation were ideal; we are all victims in this. The Nutella bar occupies the west wall of the ground floor of the giant, new feng-shui-fever-dream in River North called Eataly Chicago. The Nutella bar is sandwiched awkwardly between a small-batch gelato maker churning out frozen scoops of sweet milk and jittery espresso junkies tapping their expensive heels at the Lavazza bar. The spot is cluttered, a culinary bottleneck, its tables clustered toward the main counter. Lines snake around the tables.

  • Furry Friends bond over bowling

    December 10, 2013

    The Lake Area Furry Friends bowl twice a month. They have bowled together almost 10 years. By this point, their routine is established: They meet for dinner at the Patio restaurant in Lombard; then they head over to the Tivoli Bowl in Downers Grove; and finally, around midnight, they drive a few miles away to Steak N' Shake, out by the Hidden Lake County Forest Preserve, where the teenage waitresses greet them with smirks of bemusement and wariness.

  • Over and out: When movies end abruptly

    December 6, 2013

    Do you need closure?

  • Eataly Chicago: Mario Batali unveils 'theme park' for Italian food

    November 26, 2013

    Admit it: Thanksgiving festivities aside, a gigantic bowl of tagliatelle with clams, a couple of meatballs, a side of polenta and a robust, earthy red to wash it all down, sounds much better right about now, doesn't it?

  • The trouble with Vince Vaughn and his new movie 'Delivery Man'

    November 22, 2013

    Last week in Vince Vaughn news, the following happened: Vince Vaughn visited David Letterman. He wore a dark suit. He spoke in his familiar, over-confident rat-a-tat. He explained that, as a native of Chicago (actually, Lake Forest), he likes to spend Thanksgiving with family, but the rules and decorum of driving someone to and from the airport are tricky. As always, he was charming, loose and never for a second were you sure if he was Vince Vaughn the star, Vince Vaughn the character or Vince Vaughn the human being.

  • June Squibb: From Vandalia to 'Nebraska'

    November 21, 2013

    June Squibb, who looks exactly like a June Squibb, is short and stocky, with a round, kind face. That warm exterior, however, distracts from the tougher, Midwestern matter-of-factness that seems to rest just beneath. She does not appear to be the type to humor anyone; and as Kate Grant, the stern, disapproving wife of Bruce Dern's Woody Grant in the new Alexander Payne film, "Nebraska," she humors no one, swears at relatives, calls out her husband and refers to elderly acquaintances as "whores."

  • 'Art and Appetite' underscores a shift in fine dining

    November 21, 2013

    In 1966, Claes Oldenburg created the perfect 2013 comfort meal. Chances are, this was not his intention. He made a 10-foot-wide fried egg. It occupies the last gallery of “Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture and Cuisine,” the sprawling, already popular new show of food-inspired paintings, illustrations and sculptures at the Art Institute of Chicago. As associate curator Sarah Kelly Oehler notes in the catalog, the fried egg is “a rough canvas material that disavows any sense of exacting hyper-realism.”

  • Alternative movie posters fill creative void left by film studios

    November 19, 2013

    Matt Chojnacki couldn't remember the last time he liked a movie poster.

  • Nearly 50 years after its debut, 'Doctor Who' snares another convert

    November 15, 2013

    Until recently I assumed the statute of limitations on my chances of becoming a "Doctor Who" fan had long since expired — sometime around the decline of communism and the rise of Sir Mix-A-Lot, if I had to guess.

  • Bruce Dern's long run to 'Nebraska'

    November 11, 2013

    Bruce Dern runs. 

  • Review: 'Roth Unbound' by Claudia Roth Pierpont

    November 10, 2013

    "What is being done to silence this man?"

  • Piper's Alley Starbucks, now with last call

    November 1, 2013

    Really, in the grand scheme of things, it's a minor, minor point, somewhere between apocalyptic and not-very-apocalyptic-at-all: The 24-hour Starbucks in Piper's Alley, the large, busy one that hugs the corner of North Avenue and Wells Street in Old Town, is no longer a 24-hour Starbucks. Earlier this month, without ceremony, it pared back its hours, albeit slightly: It closes now at 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 1 a.m. the rest of the week. It opens daily at 5 a.m. Which means, each week, it's only closed for 26 hours.

  • Chicago writer/performer takes on James Franco

    October 30, 2013

    A couple of weeks ago, Ian Belknap, who at 47 has the haunted eyes and fixed scowl of the congenitally angry, received an Amazon box in the mail. It had finally arrived, the book he ordered: "Actors Anonymous," the debut novel from James Franco, the actor-author-poet-professor-curator-artist-celebrity. Belknap began reading. Later that afternoon, a few days before he was set to premiere "Bring Me the Head of James Franco, That I May Prepare a Savory Goulash in the Narrow and Misshapen Pot of His Skull," his one-man show at the Den Theatre in Wicker Park about hating the brazen hyphenate, Belknap began to feel pains.

  • Pop legend of '85 Bears transcends football

    October 25, 2013

    Mike Ditka wants me to get a flu shot.

  • Steely Dan singer Donald Fagen just 'being honest' in new book

    October 23, 2013

    Ever wonder what the typical rock star is thinking about on stage? Playing the same songs played a million times before? To the same audiences? Night after night? Year after year?

  • Midwestern memories

    October 23, 2013

    Is there a Midwestern cuisine?

  • Veronica Roth the next literary superstar?

    October 21, 2013

    The black town car pulled up and idled. White smoke curled from its tailpipe, rising in the morning drizzle. The driver stretched, his sportscoat tight at his back. He prepared for a wait. Within a minute, Veronica Roth, tall, with an angular, circa-1981 Pat Benatar haircut, high cheekbones and large Minnie Mouse eyes, bounded down the steps of her Edgewater apartment, still carrying her ceramic coffee mug. There was no time to dawdle. It was five days before the Tuesday release of "Allegiant," the final book in her phenomenally successful "Divergent" trilogy of young-adult novels about a dystopian Chicago and warring teenage factions.

  • Fans give Internet Cat Video Fest two paws up

    October 20, 2013

    On Saturday afternoon, as the Chicago International Film Festival unspooled across town and audiences sat through brooding German family dramas and biopics from Denmark, Julianna Cueuas, of Andersonville, reclined in a small auditorium at the Irish American Heritage Center on the Northwest Side and watched many, many cat videos. She was far from alone. She was surrounded by hundreds of cat lovers wearing cat T-shirts and topped with furry fake cat ears, the pointed tips silhouetted against the bright movie screen.

  • Photo blogs give the arts a dose of reality

    October 14, 2013

    Three years ago, Brandon Stanton, who calls himself “the most followed photographer in the world,” was not a photographer. By his own admission, he did not know much about photography, or even cameras. He was a Georgia native living in Chicago and had been working as a bond trader, first at the Chicago Board of Trade and later from an office in Arlington Heights. “I was involved with relative value trading, fixed-income security futures. Short-term stuff. It was more like playing a video game than anything,” he said. “I stared at screens for three years straight.”

  • Dream a little dream with Junot Diaz

    October 9, 2013

    (Paterson, N.J.) The other day Junot Diaz drove back to his home state. He had promised a college friend who teaches eighth grade here in this tattered, slate-colored, chain-link-fenced town, that he would make an appearance. And so he'd collected his rental car from the valet of his hotel on the East Side of Manhattan, placed an orthopedic pillow against the seat (he has nagging back problems) and, with his iPhone propped on his knee and set to Google Maps, drove slowly toward the George Washington Bridge, then New Jersey.

  • What is curation now?

    October 4, 2013

    For two decades — almost from the first day she started as a curator, assembling shows for Baltimore's Contemporary Museum — Lisa Graziose Corrin has been questioning what it means to curate.

  • Everybody's a curator

    October 4, 2013

    You have a Netflix queue, which you maintain, nurture, cull and arrange just so.

  • Q&A: Jhumpa Lahiri on 'The Lowland' and her upbringing

    September 22, 2013

    Jhumpa Lahiri, who at 46 has already won a Pulitzer Prize (for her first book, the 1999 story collection "Interpreter of Maladies"), and was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (for her new novel, "The Lowland"), does a number of things obviously well: Not one for literary gymnastics, she is a precisionist, a realist, not an ironist. She does not bend genre, slum among dystopias or gauge the state of the nation. A stern admirer of Thomas Hardy, Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant — all of whom remained thematically, stylistically, put — she writes about middle-class South Asian families, assimilation and estrangement.

  • Greetings from Los Santos

    September 20, 2013

    LOS SANTOS, U.S.A. — Toward the end of my first whirlwind afternoon here — on the southern end of this geographically discombobulated island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, a place so lush, seedy and complex that carjacking is a form of public transportation and the city seal includes an owl and a Bigfoot — I found myself at the corner of Eclipse Boulevard and Strangeways Drive.You know, on the north side of Vinewood? Not far from the tourists being mugged on Vinewood's Walk of Fame?

  • Michigan, here they come

    September 19, 2013

    Say you hold even a modicum of interest in the Chicago food scene. Just enough to know that Pleasant House Bakery is a minuscule Bridgeport shack/restaurant that serves savory English pies stuffed with steak/kale/ale. Just enough to be familiar with Greg Hall, the former brew master of Goose Island who left to start Virtue Cider. You know enough to be aware that you should be intrigued by whatever they're working on. Now ask yourself: Would I drive an hour from Chicago to find out? How about two hours out of Chicago?

  • The never-duplicated weirdness of Brain Frame

    September 18, 2013

    Ask Lyra Hill something as innocuous as why she started Brain Frame — the mildly loopy, wildly eclectic and passionately adored comics-and-performance whatchamacallit/updated '60s freak out/cartooning-community rallying point that she launched two years ago in a Wicker Park apartment — and prepare to tumble down a rabbit hole. A natural storyteller, she begins with the summer of 2011, "an intense and magical time, featuring one particularly insane episode." She pauses. Ask her to continue — as she knows you would have to, now — and she explains further: Freshly graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, eager to leave the city, she made plans to move to Los Angeles and live with her then-boyfriend.

  • A feeling that never grows old

    September 16, 2013

    Charlie Phelps wore a baseball cap, a green fleece North Face pullover and sensible eyewear. A 55-year-old software engineer who lives outside Minneapolis, he carried a studious, patient air. He seemed a portrait of responsibility and thoughtfulness, of adulthood itself. So much so that it was very hard to imagine Phelps a quarter century earlier, as a devoted fan of the cheerfully ramshackle indie rock legends the Replacements. It was tough to picture him committed to a band so infamously unreliable — though he swore that he was.

  • Blogger Samantha Irby is as bad as she wants to be

    September 14, 2013

    Samantha Irby, who may well be the most talented inappropriate woman in Chicago, sat against the window, facing the bar, an arm draped across a wooden booth, supremely confident. She delivered great line after great line, quip after quip. She referred somewhat jokingly to the Chicago publishers of her new book as "dirtbag hipsters in the finest sense," described her sex life so vividly that I found myself curling inward, explained so bluntly why white women make up a big percentage of her devoted readers that I wanted to evaporate. Basically, as I picked at sweet potato fries and listened, she was killing, and I was her audience.

  • Famous last words

    September 11, 2013

    Early on in "The Salinger Contract," the new book from acclaimed novelist and West Rogers Park native Adam Langer, the protagonist, a character also named "Adam Langer," stumbles across the truth about J.D. Salinger. He discovers why Salinger seemingly stopped writing in 1965, never to follow up on "The Catcher in the Rye," living out his remaining 45 years in reclusive silence and rarely straying from his hilltop home in New Hampshire. Even more incredibly: "Adam Langer" learns why Harper Lee never wrote anything after "To Kill a Mockingbird," why Truman Capote never delivered on the promise of "In Cold Blood," why Thomas Pynchon — though comparatively prolific, having published eight books since 1963 — is almost never seen in public.

  • Reading the falling (tea) leaves

    August 31, 2013

    Like you, I have yet not seen any of the fall movies. Nevertheless, perhaps also like you, I still have strong opinions about every single one of them. For instance: This 1970s-period Ron Howard race-car thing, "Rush" (Sept. 27)? If it's so Oscar-ready, why is it opening so early in the Oscar season? Bad omen! (On the other hand, screenwriter Peter Morgan wrote Howard's thoughtful "Frost/Nixon." Good omen!)

  • Schaal enjoys a good failure

    August 29, 2013

    Apocalypse Schaal.

  • 'World's End' stars fight the crawl toward sameness

    August 16, 2013

    Finally Chicago, a movie that asks relevant questions. Like, why has your annual pub crawl gone stale? Is it the gentrifying neighborhood? Or the gentrifying company you keep? How did a celebration of friendship turn into a night of interchangeable, cherry-wooded Lakeview bars and British soccer on flat screens? "The World's End," the latest collaboration from British director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost — best known for their classic "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) — has a poignant, well-reasoned response:

  • Angel Olsen needs videos

    August 14, 2013

    Angel Olsen is leaving.

  • History, and character, is served

    August 14, 2013

    With respect to Ralph Ellison, Forest Whitaker plays an invisible man in the new movie "Lee Daniels' The Butler." Not a Hollywood ectoplasm, but a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fibers and liquids. Nevertheless, his character, Cecil Gaines, White House butler to seven presidents, remains invisible. Not because, as a black man in pre-Civil Rights Washington, people refuse to see him, but because, as his mentor insists, a room should feel empty when he is in it. His job is: Serve, then recede into the sandstone.

  • Review: 'Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe' by Tim Leong

    August 9, 2013

    "Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe" demands a soft toilet seat and, I estimate, 17.4 hours of your time. That's a compliment. In fact, if you don't own a bathroom, build one immediately so you may luxuriate for obnoxiously long, undisturbed stretches with artist Tim Leong's self-described "love letter to the medium," an absorbing, wonderfully unnecessary pairing of inventive, beautiful designs with nerd-friendly comic-book statistics and insights.

  • On the trail of art

    August 9, 2013

    The Bloomingdale Trail runs for 2.7 miles along mostly unused elevated freight line. It cuts a path through Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square. It begins on the east at Ashland; it ends on the west at Ridgeway. Standing alongside the Bloomingdale Trail, looking up at it from the street, it resembles a Chia "L" line, its pale weeds and wildflowers holding firm along crumbling, untended banks.

  • David Bowie art exhibit coming to the MCA

    August 6, 2013

    David Bowie is the Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom, as well-known for his five decades of music as for his slippery personas. David Bowie begat the shape-shifting of Madonna, who begat Lady Gaga. David Bowie, who earlier this year released his first album since 2003, is also likely not touring any time soon.

  • The Blisters at Lollapalooza: Once more for the kids

    August 4, 2013

    A couple of hours before the Blisters played Lollapalooza on Saturday, a drum circle broke out a stone's throw from the stage. The drum circle was composed of small children and toddlers who banged incessantly on bongos and whatever was placed before them, sounding surprisingly like an adult drum circle. While rap erupted at other stages around Grant Park and punishing bass lines rearranged fans' DNA, here at the Kidzapalooza stage, a parent walked past carrying his son upside down, the boy giggling, reaching for the grass. A pair of girls in pink fedoras twirled and flopped in a heap at the lip of the stage.

  • When Kickstarter kicks back

    August 2, 2013

    Everyone thinks Kickstarter is wonderful, the answer to a struggling artist's prayers, the future of arts funding itself. And maybe it is, considering that last year the National Endowment for the Arts appropriated $146 million for arts funding while donations on Kickstarter — the 4-year-old, dream-it-and-a-crowd-of-family-friends-and-strangers-will-fund-it website — brought in $324 million for art and design projects.

  • Al Madrigal: A comic who knows how to let go

    August 1, 2013

    Last fall, comedian John Hodgman toured for a while with comedian Al Madrigal. It was a special, magical time, Hodgman recalled. They have much in common, they're both 42, both regulars on "The Daily Show" — Hodgman as the blowhard "Resident Expert," Madrigal as the amiable "Senior Latino Correspondent." They're both semi-recognizable, Hodgman from his best-selling books of fraudulent trivia and appearances on Apple commercials (he played the PC), Madrigal partly from his string of small roles on failed sitcoms.

  • Stop talking at concerts. For the love of all that's holy.

    July 28, 2013

    Memo to: Everyone.

  • Review: 'Diehards' by Erin Feinberg

    July 19, 2013

    “Diehards,” Erin Feinberg’s touching new book of photographs of music fans, many of whom are captured in moments beyond words, offers little context. Mostly there are no names, places or dates — nothing but a T-shirt, tattoo, some face paint or a prosthetic limb (with a custom Dylan mural) to cue us in on who these diehards are diehard about. And that, flipping through the first time, was my literal-minded, music-geek reaction: I wanted to know who these people were, what they were listening to.

  • Age and rap: Rapper Tree straddles hip-hop's youth, elder statesmen

    July 19, 2013

    Tremaine Johnson, who raps under the name Tree and lives in Englewood, has a boyish face, broadening with age. He has a thick, distinctive growl. And Sunday, when he opens the final day of Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park, it will be because he has had two acclaimed mix tapes, "Sunday School" and "Sunday School II." He's blowing up, modestly.

  • Showing monster love for monster movies

    July 17, 2013

    For reasons I never quite comprehended I have remained embarrassingly devoted to monstrous spiders, radioactive lobsters and fire-breathing pituitary cases, preferably the Japanese brand.

  • Guillermo del Toro shot 'Pacific Rim' from the heart

    July 17, 2013

    Guillermo del Toro is a human dream catcher, a fanboy's fanboy. At 48, the Mexico-born filmmaker is the subject of so much wishful thinking that if he were to actually make all of the upcoming movies that entertainment websites have linked to him, he would be working around the clock until he's at least 78: comic book movies, adaptations of theme-park rides, H.P. Lovecraft stories and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. classics, new takes on "Frankenstein" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," twists on "Pinocchio," haunted house pictures …

  • What's that in the sky? Ask CUFOS

    July 12, 2013

    Oh, where have the aliens gone?

  • 3-D printers debut at Chicago library; future uses still to be imagined

    July 9, 2013

    Welcome to the dawn of 3-D printing.

  • Portrait of this artist begins on city bus

    July 5, 2013

    The other day I met with cartoonist Daniel Clowes. We walked around the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, which just opened a major new retrospective of his work. Clowes is thin and somber, with graying temples and the look of a stoic Midwestern farmhand. He is 52 and wore drab colors and a dark baseball cap and dark sneakers. He said: "You know, sometimes I wonder if I spent half of my childhood riding the Jeffery Express bus downtown from Hyde Park. I would get carsick, so I found myself staring upward and across, at the beaten down faces of our great Chicago." He laughed at his own melodramatic newsreel tone.

  • Hipsters, librarians check each other out

    July 1, 2013

    Mallory Caise, who is 28, hip, wide-eyed and unfailingly polite, pushed her way through the thicket of librarians. She wore a black polka-dot dress and clutched a pile of folders to her chest. She moved slowly, knocking into people, apologizing every few feet. This was Saturday at McCormick Place, midway through the American Library Association's annual conference, which drew more than 26,000 and ends Tuesday. Caise, herself a librarian at the Fossil Ridge Public Library in Braidwood, southwest of Joliet, studied library science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. But for years, she said, she was not convinced being a librarian was her thing.

  • Jim Nayder, host of 'Annoying Music Show,' dead

    June 28, 2013

    Jim Nayder, a longtime fixture on Chicago public radio and pioneering program director at WBEZ-FM 91.5, was found dead in his Rogers Park apartment on Friday.

  • The super summer of Michael Shannon

    June 28, 2013

    In early June, a few weeks before Michael Shannon moved back to Chicago for the summer, he could be found at home on a Saturday morning padding about, doing chores, soaking in a relatively unscheduled moment of free time.

  • Harrah's Joliet renames Paula Deen restaurant

    June 26, 2013

    Paula Deen's restaurant in Joliet is no longer Paula Deen's restaurant.

  • Daniel Clowes previews Chicago mural in MCA show

    June 26, 2013

    "Whenever someone mentions Chicago to me these days, whenever someone just says the word 'Chicago,' literally the first thing I think of are carpet ads," cartoonist Daniel Clowes said this week from his home in Oakland, Calif. "Magikist signs, Mohawk ads. Especially that 'HUdson 3-2700' jingle. That's lodged in my head. And that's my Chicago. I don't even remember the '90s, and I don't accept Millennium Park or The Bean. Chicago 1972 to 1979 is what I remember, and so I figured that's the Chicago that I'd give them."

  • Reference lives on, no question

    June 22, 2013

    20,000 librarians will gather in Chicago this week, and many of them work in the go-to place for homework questions, trivia and computer help. But the desk of old has evolved with the times.

  • Today's zombies are in a hurry

    June 20, 2013

    The contemporary zombie is intensely networked, high-strung and on the move. Just go, go, go, 24-7.

  • Last stand for the printed page

    June 14, 2013

    Bob Katzman of Bob Katzman's Magazine Museum in Skokie first called last summer.

  • Drawing insight into Google's Doodles

    June 12, 2013

    Google.com is the most visited online front door in the United States. According to Alexa, a longtime Internet statistics firm, it is also the second most visited home page in the world behind Facebook.com; roughly 40 percent of global Internet users visit Google's primary portal at least once a day. And yet, considering the culture-changing ubiquity of the Silicon Valley-based tech giant — which reported more than $50 billion in revenue last year — what a user tends to find there is famously, comically austere. It is a digital Antarctica: Sheer white for miles, no ads, no headlines, just a search bar and the Google logo.

  • 'Man of Steel': Superman a true Midwesterner

    June 7, 2013

    Metropolis was founded in 1839 on the banks of the Ohio River, about as far south as you can go in Illinois without stepping into Kentucky. Its settlers were enthusiastic: They assumed the waterfront real estate would result in a metropolis, hence the name. They were a bit off. Metropolis became a small city (population: 6,500), though in 1972 DC Comics proclaimed it the home of Superman, and the town found its identity. So every June for the past five decades, Metropolis has hosted a four-day Superman festival (this year's concludes Sunday), the centerpiece of which — indeed the centerpiece of Metropolis — is a colorful, 15-foot-tall bronze Man of Steel, his hands poised at his hips, standing watch at the foot of the Massac County Courthouse.

  • Memoir blends food and comics

    May 30, 2013

    The hardest thing to accept about Lucy Knisley's "Relish: My Life in the Kitchen," the lovely new graphic food memoir from the former Chicago cartoonist, is that Knisley grew up to be a cartoonist at all.

  • New food magazines hit the spot

    May 30, 2013

    Food writing's tough. To paint contemporary food writing in admittedly broad strokes: Every charred tomato is "smoky," every childhood meal a revelation, every chef recounts the inspiration for their parsnip soup as though they collided atoms. On the other hand, there is more food writing than ever before because there are more people who think they can do it better — not including online.

  • 'Check Please!' names Catherine De Orio new host

    May 29, 2013

    Citizens of Chicago, food-TV obsessives, our long nightmare is over:

  • Jeffrey Brown is some kind of wonderful

    May 25, 2013

    Jeffrey Brown — cartoonist, Lincoln Square resident, serious adult who has several cat-themed products under his name, including a box of novelty postcards titled "The Cutest Sneeze in the World: 30 Cat Postcards" — has been asking for it. For some time. Man, oh, man, this guy.

  • Art Spiegelman's art obliterates category

    May 25, 2013

    "Who's got a gag for me today?"

  • Richard Linklater finishes trilogy with 'Before Midnight'

    May 24, 2013

    CHAMPAIGN -- Richard Linklater's sneakers squish-squish-

  • 'Fast & Furious 6' revels in childlike love of vehicular mayhem ★★★ 1/2

    May 23, 2013

    “Fast & Furious 6,” — which surely maxed out Universal’s tank-top budget for the year, and sustains its joyful, unpretentious ridiculousness so perfectly that I secretly hoped the “6” meant “hours long,” — ends with a disclaimer, the sort of small-type legalese that typically arrives at the tail end of the closing credits. Except here it’s at the immediate end of the story, like a Viagra warning/promise of a potential nine-hour, uh, adrenaline rush.

  • Being numb to it all no longer big shock

    May 17, 2013

    Sometime in the next few weeks, if you're walking down Fullerton Avenue around DePaul University and have 15 minutes to spare, duck into the tidy brick building alongside the CTA station. Here you will find the DePaul Art Museum, an institution so humble that only "Art Museum" is spelled across its modest facade. The admission is free, though the lessons offered in its first gallery, at least through June 16, feel priceless.

  • Inside the actors' studio, with Zach Braff

    May 10, 2013

    Zach Braff (Northwestern University, class of '97), the third most popular Zach in Hollywood (after Galifianakis and Efron), went back to his old school last week. He'd returned to teach an acting class, a one-time workshop. The day before, he tweeted: “Illinois, I am in you.” Then later, more nostalgically: “Northwestern University, I'm back. Are we good at sports now?” I had assumed Braff was not a big deal anymore — that, though “Scrubs” reruns remain a fact of life and memories of “Garden State” linger, his voice acting (“Oz The Great and Powerful”) and Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a “Garden State” follow-up spoke volumes.

  • Revisiting Ginevra King, the Lake Forest woman who inspired 'Gatsby'

    May 7, 2013

    Remarkable how two words, scribbled nearly a century ago about a 16-year-old Lake Forest debutante, can evoke a whole country, its hypocrisies and promises, its aspirations and crushing realities.

  • 'Mortal Kombat' creator Ed Boon back with DC superhero game

    May 1, 2013

    Ed Boon was pulling punches.

  • Day 2 of C2E2: Too much

    April 27, 2013

    A few notes from the second day of C2E2 -  a.k.a., the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo - which runs though Sunday at McCormick Place, and in its fourth year, shows signs of not only getting bigger (attendance wise), but becoming comfortingly archetypal (programming wise): Lots of con legends (Burt Ward, Ron Perlman) but not too many, lots of insider chatter (but nothing off-putting), and lots and lots of people in handmade costumes. On the other hand, Adam West canceled at the last minute (back injury) and, surprisingly, DC Comics, which has a full slate of artists, writers, editors and programming (the publisher even designed the official, Superman-centric C2E2 poster), decided against maintaining a booth at the last minute (and would not explain why when asked, though convention costs have been mumbled about).

  • C2E2: Comic book stars walk among us

    April 27, 2013

    C2E2 -- the annual, gargantuan Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo at McCormick Place -- opened Friday, and as usual for the first day of a major comic book convention, things started slow, geeks were still arriving, B-list celebrities just settling in, Green Lanterns getting off work.

  • 'David Bowie Is' features Ziggy Stardust in pictures

    April 26, 2013

    "David Bowie Is," the exhibition catalog for the "David Bowie Is" retrospective that opened recently at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (currently breaking museum-attendance records, and running through August), is vast. "David Bowie Is," the coffee-table book, is also a pleasant orange. That's the first thing you notice: The front is orange, the back is orange, many interior graphics are orange; on the front, faded into a sunset hue, Bowie as youthful and spiky, that iconic lighting-bolt makeup slashing his face, and on the back, Bowie in his 40s, haggard and stricken. But composed. Always composed. There is not a picture in this doorstop — toothy Bowie at 6, sitting for what appears to be a school photo; cool Bowie at 20, cigarette at his side, staring questionably at the camera on a London rooftop; disguised Bowie several decades later, in a silver wig and disorientingly exact as Andy Warhol, on the set of the movie “Basquiat” — that appears candid or not self-consciously aware that someday, someone will wonder about this image, its meaning and how to replicate it. 

  • 'Fast and Furious' series depicts post-racial America, plus fast cars

    April 26, 2013

  • Marvel vs. DC: Inside dope from the kings of comics

    April 25, 2013

    Around this time last year during C2E2 — the busy, sprawling Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo held each spring at McCormick Place — we spoke with the heads of DC Comics and Marvel Entertainment. We told them that, because we're curious, we would soon be bringing up an age-old question, a schoolyard tussle without a satisfactory answer.

  • It's a nerd world

    April 23, 2013

    Once a month, at Third Coast Comics in the Edgewater neighborhood, the store closes for the evening and the knitting comes out. Followed by the drinks. Drink & Draw & Knitting Night is the second Thursday of each month, as it has been since Terry Gant opened Third Coast nearly five years ago. When I asked who actually comes to this, he replied: “Nerds, artists, fiber-arts folks, nerds — by and large, super-nerdy people show up for knitting nights at comic book shops.”

  • Ebertfest: Poignant tribute to late founder

    April 18, 2013

    CHAMPAIGN — Film festivals — festivals themselves, let alone films — are rarely as poignant as the one unfolding right now in this college town. The 15th Annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival began Wednesday without its founder, who died two weeks ago. Earlier in the evening, an hour or so before the opening-night gala, Chaz Ebert, his widow, told a reception at the University of Illinois’ president’s home that every year after Ebertfest, on their way back to Chicago, the couple would write down movies to show next time. Before he died, Roger left her a long list, of dozens of movies to show.

  • Must menu choices be so difficult?

    April 18, 2013

    A year or so ago, not long before chef Ryan McCaskey opened Acadia in the South Loop, he began thinking about what his soon-to-be restaurant might serve at brunch. A lifelong Deadhead, he was traveling around the country, following what remains of the Grateful Dead, eating far more breakfasts and brunches than he typically does as a workaday Chicago chef: "I guess I had never thought much about how regional breakfast can be — how in the South, you'll find lots of sweets, biscuits in the morning, then in San Francisco, things get ultra-handmade and inventive, lots of pastries. I ate this blueberry muffin that probably weighed like 2 pounds."

  • Alt-comics great Gilbert Hernandez wanders back into childhood

    April 17, 2013

    Gilbert Hernandez is 56 now.

  • Director William Friedkin comes home

    April 15, 2013

    William Friedkin, the director of “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist,” a pair of acclaimed Tracy Letts adaptations (“Bug” and “Killer Joe”) and author of “The Friedkin Connection,” a new memoir about his 50-plus-year filmmaking career, answered the door of his hotel room. It was a lousy room. “Small,” he said simply. He stepped aside to let me in, looking disappointed and resigned. He wore large, 1970s-style eyeglasses, sneakers, black socks and a black shirt. He tugged his chinos high above his waist. This is not much bigger than the one-room apartment that he grew up in at the corner of Foster Avenue and Sheridan Road, he said.

  • Culture clash: New history of Chicago taps into our malaise

    April 12, 2013

    "The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream" has an elegant, unflinching, non-nostalgic clarity about Chicago that you rarely see in books about Chicago.

  • Robinson actor swings for the fences

    April 11, 2013

    There is the legend.

  • Jeff Lemire, super writer

    April 6, 2013

    On page 12 of issue No. 1 of DC Comics' latest reiteration of "Constantine," which tells the ongoing story of John Constantine — a.k.a. Hellblazer, the publisher's three-decade-old, morally slippery sorcerer/sleuth to the occult world (played by Keanu Reeves in the 2005 "Constantine" movie) — an airline stewardess explodes. Sure, she slips poison into Constantine's drink just before exploding; and sure, she kind of chants something to herself in the plane's lavatory, resulting in self-immolation. But in one panel she explodes; and in the next, Constantine, stone faced, is straightening his tie in the lavatory mirror, apparently unimpressed.

  • Let's make some rules on movie remakes

    April 5, 2013

    Normally I don't complain about the proliferation of movie remakes any more than I complain about movie sequels and communal tables in restaurants — what's the point?

  • Fake Shore Drive: A tastemaker of Chicago rap

    April 4, 2013

    Andrew Barber deals almost exclusively with young men who have come into money. Some are newly rich; some started poor and worked their way to comfortable; and others, arguably his bread and butter, are not wealthy yet but stand to make a chunk of change. Some, he finds, and some come to him.

  • Fat Rice: Pedigree not required

    April 4, 2013

    Adrienne Lo and Abraham Conlon, the proprietors of the hugely popular new Chinese-Portuguese restaurant Fat Rice in Logan Square, are interesting looking, the kind of couple you see around town and wonder what their deal is.

  • The man behind the people who know the story behind 'The Shining'

    April 4, 2013

    You know the Calumet Baking Powder cans in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"? You know — the Calumet Baking cans? Lining the pantry of the film's Overlook Hotel? No, no: The baking cans behind all the carnage! Right, those baking cans. What's that, you didn't notice those cans, red and white, with the familiar Indian-headdress logo, what with all the rivers of blood and the axe-wielding and the bug-eyed Shelley Duvalls?

  • Movie secrets are there, in the script!

    April 4, 2013

    You know what "Star Wars" is about? I mean, really about? Vietnam. It's a critical allegory of the war: The Rebels are the scrappy Viet Cong, hastily assembled, devoted and relentless; the Empire is the American military, tripped up by an enemy using guerrilla tactics and inferior weaponry. Oh, there's more here, but...

  • 'Happy Endings': A good word for a dying TV show

    March 31, 2013

    Consider this TV hospice.

  • Move is a real scream for Berwyn collectibles shop Horrorbles

    March 27, 2013

    You're alone in the far back corner of a basement on Roosevelt Road, the air choked with the dank smell of age. Above you, a Berwyn storefront. Around you, the cluttered office of its owner. What kind of maniac intentionally keeps his desk in the far back corner of a musty basement, removed from any possibility of sunlight, the otherworldly scream of a heating duct the only sound to keep him company?

  • Banned book club a real-time lesson in censorship

    March 24, 2013

    Four Hundred Fifty-One Degrees is not a boy band. The group was founded by a boy, and it is led by a boy, but its ranks are primarily girls. It came together just 18 months ago and, depending on the week, it claims 15 to 20 members. That fluctuation should not be misread as a lack of commitment: The members have matching T-shirts, with “451 Degrees” emblazoned across the fronts. That said, matching T-shirts should not be misread as popularity: Until the other day, 451 Degrees was not especially well-known.

  • 'Check, Please!' narrows field for new host

    March 20, 2013

    At last, after great deliberation and much wringing of hands, David Manilow made a decision.

  • Brooklyn dodgers

    March 19, 2013

    NEW YORK — Sorry, but I've heard that Brooklyn is over. You can get your hipster mustache waxed; just don't do it in Brooklyn. You wouldn't go to Seattle now, would you? If you wanted to visit the American community of the moment, you would visit, say, Portland, Ore. Haven't you heard: Brooklyn's compromised, edge-free; it's Portland five minutes ago.

  • 'Book of My Lives': Aleksander Hemon's remarkable tale

    March 15, 2013

    Aleksandar Hemon landed in the United States two decades ago, January 1992. He was 27, a young Bosnian journalist from Sarajevo arriving on a one-month visa, arranged through a cultural exchange program sponsored by the State Department. Just after he arrived, war broke out in Yugoslavia. Hemon was stranded. In the years since, as he settled into this country and became an acclaimed writer — became one of Chicago's finest contemporary writers and arguably its most important literary talent since Saul Bellow — Hemon has told this immigration story many, many times.

  • Opera in Focus: Puppets and opera come together

    March 14, 2013

    It's the damnedest thing:

  • Taking science to the masses

    March 8, 2013

    Neil Shubin has the wide, happy eyes of a Muppet and the casual, ingratiating prattle of a car salesman. His thick, graying hair lends gravitas. He has written a new book, and on a bitter afternoon in Hyde Park he is explaining to me how he writes.

  • Theaster Gates makes no small plans for new U. of C. arts incubator

    March 7, 2013

    Google the corner of East Garfield Boulevard and South Prairie Avenue. Map it, zoom in: If you're using Google Maps, you'll see an old picture of the corner, a long marble building just west of Washington Park, a former Walgreens, boarded-up, decaying, flanked by a fried chicken stand and a former currency exchange.

  • A loaded question for you: Are you happy?

    March 1, 2013

    The other day, somewhat on a whim, I walked around downtown Chicago for a while and stopped random strangers and asked if they were happy. I carried a notebook and identified myself as a reporter and wrote down what they said, and though I've done my share of man-on-the-street interviews, the off-putting baldness (and boldness) of the question made me skittish.

  • Oscars speeches: Honestly sincere, or expertly faked?

    February 26, 2013

    Los Angeles looks lush.

  • What does hate-watching mean?

    February 24, 2013

    Anne Hathaway — insufferable, grating, insistently chipper, with those big stupid puppy-dog eyes and that dumb pixie hair, shocked, shocked, at the fortune and appreciation bestowed on her talented head, so rehearsed in her faux-humility, so rehearsed in her faux-uncertainty (“Thank you very much for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self-doubt,” she barfed at the Golden Globes, after receiving an award she was assured of winning) — is wonderful.

  • 'Variety' coffee-table book displays the evolution of an iconic magazine

    February 23, 2013

    As it says here, on page 64 of the glossily fascinating coffee-table book "Variety: An Illustrated History of the World From the Most Important Magazine in Hollywood," Al Capone, interviewed in his Chicago home, told Variety he was approached often to appear in gangster films but "snorted at most." He hated gangster films but liked movies and often had "private showings with professional projectionists to run the show." He was also famously self-aggrandizing, and on a wall of his home — a home protected by 70 bodyguards — it was noted his portrait hung beside portraits of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

  • Confronting artist Kara Walker

    February 20, 2013

    Kara Walker will be difficult. This gets whispered to you by enough people in the art world and you start to believe it: She's humorless!

  • MCA show explores destruction and how it relates to creation

    February 18, 2013

    It's not every day you get invited to witness a museum destroy a work of art.

  • The art behind Michael Jordan's image

    February 15, 2013

    Michael Jordan, today you are 50.

  • Michael Hainey book raises questions about truth versus family

    February 12, 2013

    Say you had a family secret.

  • Tony-winning set designer Todd Rosenthal wows again at Steppenwolf

    February 8, 2013

    "Whoa."

  • Oscar Micheaux: A legend's links

    February 6, 2013

    Leroy Collins never says anything about it. He never tells his neighbors he was once a movie star — once.

  • Author George Saunders maps the origins of his writing

    February 1, 2013

    We sped south on Cicero Avenue. Through Oak Lawn, Alsip, Crestwood, a flat, aging strip-malled landscape of crumbling pizza joints and ancient tanning parlors, fast-food chains, tile-supply stores and —

  • Wiseguys Walken and Pacino on how it might end

    January 30, 2013

    At times it felt like an exit interview — the ultimate exit interview.

  • Disney-style princesses show staying power

    January 25, 2013

    Before I explain what it was like to be a childless man surrounded by Disney princesses and the parents who love (and bankroll) them, seated by himself at Disney on Ice and soaking in princess culture — a story:

  • Going to school on video game violence

    January 18, 2013

    The students filtered in.

  • On the PR trail with 'Broken City' star Mark Wahlberg

    January 16, 2013

    Say hello to ya mutha for me, OK?

  • When movies feel like TV

    January 11, 2013

    Last month after a screening, even as the lights came up in the theater, I could feel "Zero Dark Thirty" fading, its images and impact already softening in my head. No, no, wait: not fading — mingling. If our cultural experiences rub shoulders at a kind of cocktail party in our brains, then "Zero Dark Thirty," as soon as we were done chatting, as much I admired its company, slipped away quietly into the cultural crush.

  • Breakout puts author Gillian Flynn on the go, go, go

    December 27, 2012

    A year ago this time, Gillian Flynn was just another former Entertainment Weekly TV critic turned Chicago author of murder-mysteries who lived in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood and had already sold film rights to her first two novels ("Dark Places" and "Sharp Objects"). You know? C'mon, do something with yourself, sister! Then June arrived, and so did Flynn's blockbuster novel "Gone Girl."

  • Lovers, family, first dates dip into Geja's

    December 27, 2012

    A month ago I ate at Geja's Cafe in Lincoln Park for the first time. The morning after I smelled like Geja's. The afternoon after I also smelled like Geja's.

  • David Chase: coming-of-age stories never get old

    December 26, 2012

    David Chase's new movie, "Not Fade Away," his first major work since concluding "The Sopranos," tells the story of a thoughtful teenage boy (John Magaro) growing up in New Jersey during the 1960s. Flat December light settles over the film's suburban snowbanks in winter, mountains of leaves clog the gutters in autumn, the Jersey shore beckons in summer. The teen plays in a garage band with an outside chance at fame; he meets a girl who understands him; he runs afoul of his father (James Gandolfini), revealing a generational divide; he discovers the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and, at the movies, Antonioni. "What kind of movie is this?" the boy asks his girlfriend as they slump before "Blow-Up," simultaneously mystified and rocked to the core. "What kind of movie is this?"

  • My favorite moments of 2012

    December 20, 2012

    Years ago when I was a student at Northwestern University, a handful of executives at America Online came to my class and explained that you, I and everyone we know would soon find ourselves pleasantly stranded on "information islands." We nodded, though we didn't entirely understand. What they meant was that broadcasting would soon end and nichecasting would take over. Your island would become a mirror of yourself, what you knew, liked and watched, and you would rarely have the incentive to venture off of your narrowly prescribed landmass.

  • Video game creator Eugene Jarvis is Player One

    December 17, 2012

    The young guy in the trucker cap, skinny jeans and Air Jordans squeezed the trigger on the toy shotgun and his umpteenth round of “Big Buck Hunter” blasted to life. The guy was maybe 25 and so focused on bagging digital deer, the butt of the gun pressed hard into his shoulder, that he never noticed the tall, smiling man behind him, watching.

  • Thank God I'm not watching 'Book of Mormon' with Mom

    December 13, 2012

    Last spring, during Easter dinner, my aunt leaned across the table and asked: "Chris, have you read this 'Fifty Shades of Grey?'" I said I had not but I had heard about it and, changing the subject, had she read —

  • Foraging for taste of the city

    December 13, 2012

    Foraging, I said to the couple across from me. It's kind of the thing here.

  • Pinning down Chicago artist Lilli Carre

    December 10, 2012

    Lille Carre is 29, petite, moon-faced and unassuming. She curls forward as she speaks. On a quiet morning in her Noble Square apartment, she speaks softly and gives off an air of frailty. It's not hard to picture her stepping out of one of her own creations. She is an illustrator, an animator and a cartoonist, and her characters are similarly ethereal and angular and look exhausted. They appear to be moments away from floating off into space. They are like her work: hard to pin down.

  • Monsters really rock in 'Too Much Horror Business'

    December 7, 2012

    Rock star money buys stuff. Homes, planes, influence. For Kirk Hammett, the longtime guitarist of Metallica, rock star money also bought the horror-movie childhood he never quite had. Around the mid-1980s, as the band started to make a name for itself, Hammett, who grew up in San Francisco obsessed with monster movies and comic books, began collecting the monster movie paraphernalia that he once pined for but could never afford as a child. Newly flush, he began contacting dealers and developing relationships with collectors around the world. And soon he owned many of the same toys and models and masks that he had once ogled in the back pages of the legendary horror fanzine “Famous Monsters of Filmland.” Then he went further: He bought original movie costumes, props, Halloween masks, ultra-rare posters, even the original art that had graced the covers of “Famous Monsters.”

  • 4,667 'Jerry Maguire' videos and counting

    December 7, 2012

    There are days when you wake up and think that there is no wonder left in this world, no mountains left to conquer, no oceans left to explore, no frontiers left to discover. That, of course, is exactly the day you find yourself in an apartment in Logan Square surrounded by 2,700 VHS copies of "Jerry Maguire," stacked from floor to ceiling, stacked so high and in so many teetering rows that you are reminded of layers of the Earth's crust, only instead we're talking layers of Jerrys.

  • Hotel Lincoln's Wall of Bad Art: 'You are looking at awesomeness'

    December 5, 2012

    The Wall of Bad Art at the Hotel Lincoln, the newly renovated boutique hotel in Lincoln Park at the corner of Wealthy and Twee, is a monument to iffy talent and questionable taste. It is a reminder of how bad art can get funneled through wood-paneled rec rooms and yard sales and come out the other end as good taste, warm memories and enduring charm.

  • Dog books certain to give you paws

    December 1, 2012

    My first dog was a golden retriever named Tisha. Tisha was quiet and friendly, a perfect golden for a 4-year-old boy; my mother swears that when we took her to the vet one last time, as the dog lay dying on the operating table, Tisha lifted her head at the sound of my voice, though I doubt this actually happened. My next dog, the dog that I remember best, was an Irish setter named Hombre. I would wrap him in a blanket and drag him around the house and he loved it.  

  • At indie craft fair, a common thread

    November 30, 2012

    If you're planning to attend a holiday arts and crafts show sometime in the next few weeks — say, for instance, the massive, annual Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse in Noble Square, which wraps up Sunday — please allow me a moment to play personal shopper:

  • Rare treats

    November 29, 2012

    Rodrick Markus reached for the top shelf of a metal cabinet at the back of his office. "I know, I know, I know," he said to himself. His fingers worked across a row of jars and stopped at a tall glass cylinder. I had asked him about rare ingredients. Rare ingredients is about 40 percent of what he does. He locates tough-to-acquire things for chefs who, being chefs, want something especially bad when they are told it will be impossible to get. Rare vegetables, salts, oils, spices, nuts, fish eggs — he finds the guy who locates the guy who heard of the guy who knows the guy who knows about, say, a place in the Pacific Northwest where, with the right permit at the right time, you can forage for a rare pine bark that grows 25 feet in the air.

  • Rare treats

    November 29, 2012

    Rodrick Markus reached for the top shelf of a metal cabinet at the back of his office. "I know, I know, I know," he said to himself. His fingers worked across a row of jars and stopped at a tall glass cylinder. I had asked him about rare ingredients. Rare ingredients is about 40 percent of what he does. He locates tough-to-acquire things for chefs who, being chefs, want something especially bad when they are told it will be impossible to get. Rare vegetables, salts, oils, spices, nuts, fish eggs — he finds the guy who locates the guy who heard of the guy who knows the guy who knows about, say, a place in the Pacific Northwest where, with the right permit at the right time, you can forage for a rare pine bark that grows 25 feet in the air.

  • The boldness and brilliance of one-star reviews on Amazon.com

    November 21, 2012

    They're cranky, contrary, oblivious and, sometimes, dead-on: One-star Amazon.com reviews have a lot to say about art

  • Bookshelves don't lie

    November 16, 2012

    Until recently I owned just two books that were composed of little else but pictures of people's bookshelves. Not nearly enough. One book I received last year for Christmas, a compendium of pictures of author's bookshelves, a sort of literary rubbernecking. The other book I received many Christmases ago, a coffee-table book of pictures of people reclining at home surrounded by their mammoth collections of books. The latter contains a picture I have never forgotten: Keith Richards in a chair in the center of a large home library, probably in a mansion in the British countryside, strumming a guitar and surrounded (you realize the closer you stare into the picture) by shelf after shelf of war histories, biographies of generals and tactical manuals.

  • You know bookstores are still around, right?

    November 16, 2012

    Last Sunday morning I arrived at Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park a couple of hours before it opened. The Co-op, founded by 17 University of Chicago students in 1961 and beloved by Hyde Park, had spent its 51 years in the cloistered, claustrophobic, labyrinthine basement corridors of the Chicago Theological Seminary, a graystone cathedral on South University Avenue with gothic curves and heavy wooden doors several inches thick.

  • Pain, praise for celebrity chefs

    November 16, 2012

    Maybe when you're a grown man with frosted bangs, criticism shouldn't come as a surprise?

  • Pain, praise for celebrity chefs

    November 16, 2012

    Maybe when you're a grown man with bleached hair, criticism shouldn't come as a surprise.

  • Movie makeup: The good, the bad and the 'J. Edgar'

    November 9, 2012

    Attention, vampires.

  • Cursing is no curse for Ian Frazier

    November 7, 2012

    Ian (expletive) Frazier, whose journalism has been a mainstay of the New Yorker for almost four (expletive) decades, whose subjects have included fly-fishing, Native American reservations, (expletive) Siberia, the security detail for hip-hop performers, typewriter repairmen, Don Cornelius, (expletive) meteorites, (expletive) trees, cellphone-sniffing canines and his own (expletive) (expletive) Ohio ancestry, has written his first novel, "The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days." It is inspired by his "Cursing Mommy" columns for the New Yorker. It is the satiric daybook of a tightly wound mom with a terrible family.

  • Steve Downes is the 'Halo' master

    November 5, 2012

    Steve Downes leads a double life.

  • Gaming grows up: A video game revolution

    October 31, 2012

    The video game is 40.

  • Larry Wilmore takes shots, not sides

    October 26, 2012

    Larry Wilmore occupies an unusual place for a comedian, an original place. He often seems to be neither here nor there, his vantage neither staunchly one way nor another, neither completely serious nor entirely kidding. Before he went in front of the camera in 2006 and became known as a correspondent on "The Daily Show," he stayed mostly behind the scenes, as a writer on "In Living Color," "The Jamie Foxx Show" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," as a producer on "The Office" and as creator of "The Bernie Mac Show," among other positions.

  • A day in the life of a zombie writer

    October 26, 2012

    I climb out of the car, step into damp October leaves and stare up at the Logan Square apartment building across the street. A chill rushes up the street. I notice a man standing in the front yard, shuffling back and forth. He does not appear rabid. He appears to be in his mid-30s, with black-frame glasses, maybe a graduate student. He is behind a black fence, and as I take a tentative step in his direction, I realize: He is Scott Kenemore, zombie writer, the most prolific zombie writer in a subgenre I had assumed was dead.

  • Inside 'Cloud Atlas' directors' Chicago workshop

    October 24, 2012

    The Wachowskis lie low. It's what they do. Indeed, They do it so well that when you meet the Wachowskis and ask them about their lying low, you find yourself reminding yourself: You have never really seen them before. Not really. They don't stand for pictures often. Their withdrawal, their lack of participating with press, Andy Wachowski says to me, reporters have always seemed to take this personally. He's a thick and barrel-chested guy with the shaved scalp and narrow, skeptical eyes of a film-noir heavy.

  • 'Word Jazz' pioneer Ken Nordine's career gets a closer look at film festival

    October 19, 2012

    Chicago's Oldest Living Hipster lives in Edgewater, on the North Side. He is 92 but looks 83. He lives behind a wrought-iron fence, surrounded on all sides by the drabbest of stone-colored apartment complexes.

  • Absurdity comes out at night in 'Graveyard'

    October 15, 2012

    People do ridiculous things in the middle of the night. Questionable things. Like decide they will shoot the entire season of a Web series — all 14 episodes, with 50 pages of dialogue — before the sun comes up.

  • How to ruin an arts panel

    October 12, 2012

    Today is the first day of the Chicago Humanities Festival and last day of Chicago Ideas Week. Not that it matters anymore when one annual celebration of creativity ends and another begins. Somewhere, every day of the year, morning, brunch and night, there seems to be an arts panel, arts seminar, book talk, onstage discussion between a moderator and artist, onstage discussion between a moderator and several artists, onstage discussion between an artist and artist, or discourse on the state of something artistic happening.

  • 'Argo' director/star Ben Affleck grows smarter and more ambitious with each picture

    October 10, 2012

    In the last shot of Ben Affleck's "Argo" — relax, there are no spoilers here — the camera pans slowly along the shelves of toys in a young boy's bedroom. The year is 1980; the film spends most of its time on the true story of how a CIA operative named Tony Mendez (Affleck) used the faux production of a low-budget sci-fi picture as the cover to sneak a handful of American embassy workers out of an Iran in the midst of post-revolutionary upheaval.

  • The Rahm identity shines through in 'Chicago Fire'

    October 8, 2012

    This is not a political story.

  • Waging heavy cloudiness

    September 28, 2012

    What do you expect from a rock star? I just closed the back cover of Neil Young's “Waging Heavy Peace,” his big anticipated memoir (of sorts), clocking in at 500 pages (75 shy of the rock star-memoir mountain peak established by Keith Richards' “Life”); then I walked around the block; listened to his album “After the Goldrush” on my iPod from beginning to end; checked on the Blu-Ray price of “The Neil Young Archives Vol. 1” on Amazon (still $350); thought about whether I could make an Orange Julius at home; double-checked the date of Neil Young and Crazy Horse's show at the United Center (Oct. 11); admired the library book-spine design of “Waging Heavy Peace”; flipped to a random page and read a random line (“I am fascinated by the power of nature”); stood up, went out, got coffee, returned, sat in front of the book I just finished and tried to remember if I read that correctly — Young once lived in a cabin with a band featuring Rick James on vocal and the cabin was attacked by polar bears?

  • Cartoonist Chris Ware is in his own category

    September 26, 2012

    If you were building a Chris Ware, if you were constructing the most celebrated cartoonist of the past couple of decades, drawing up the plans for an Oak Park illustrator so routinely referred to as a genius that the accolade is more like fact than opinion, the first thing you would need is doubt. Preferably, self-doubt. But uncertainty, self-flagellation, humility-verging-on-delusion — any of these would work.

  • Vivian Maier's photos worth 1,000 Instagrams

    September 24, 2012

    "Pardon me," Richard Cahan said, leaning in to stop a young woman. She cast a sideways glance, not quite stopping, not quite moving on. "Can I ask what you think?" he said. "What you think as a viewer?"

  • Teen fashion maven Tavi Gevinson is 16 going on 30

    September 18, 2012

    Tavi Gevinson, for whom we will all work one day, was walking home from school, books pressed to her chest, skirt swishing. It was a portrait of suburban idyll, the first day of class at Oak Park and River Forest High School. And yet, during the first two class periods, she held back tears, she said. She didn't have friends in those classes and couldn't help thinking she had a great summer and now, with the start of her junior year, it was gone.

  • Add David Foster Wallace to 'unlikable' pantheon

    September 13, 2012

    The last time filmmaker Jason Reitman came through town we got into a conversation about unlikable characters. He knows something about unlikable characters: "My first movie was about the head lobbyist for Big Tobacco ('Thank You for Smoking'), my second was about a sarcastic pregnant teenager ('Juno') and my third was about a guy who fires people for a living ('Up in the Air')."

  • JC's got a brand-new bag

    September 12, 2012

    Ten minutes to showtime.

  • The 'Check, Please!' effect

    September 6, 2012

    Popular WTTW-Ch. 11 restaurant show "Check, Please!" is among the most successful locally produced series in Chicago television and an oasis of public television reasonableness in an otherwise frenetic restaurant scene. The series begins its 12th season next month. In the meantime, it will be reruns up the wazoo. Once a season is finished, its episodes are replayed Friday nights (the show's traditional time slot), then again Saturday and Sunday afternoons. It's rerun often, said V.J. McAleer, WTTW's vice president of production, for the obvious reason that it is among the highest-rated shows on WTTW, occasionally the highest rated, with 150,000 weekly viewers. Somehow, though, if you have a DVR set for "Check, Please!" three airings a week seems wrong.

  • You too can attend Yale, sort of

    September 2, 2012

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — There's April in Paris, January in Park City and November in Tokyo. There's October in New York, resplendent in Halloween oranges, its crimson leaves choking every gutter.

  • The angst of the square-jawed man

    August 24, 2012

    They're commanding, confident.

  • Annoyingly talented

    August 23, 2012

    You know what's annoying?

  • Worth their weight in words

    August 17, 2012

    “Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things” only slightly exaggerates. It is 100 stories about 100 things, though only a handful of the stories are extraordinary. In fact, fewer are memorable.

  • 'ParaNorman' poses a parental challenge

    August 10, 2012

    As someone who does not have kids, I can attest to the fact that parents of small children love being told what they are doing wrong by the childless.

  • Meet Marcus Samuelsson

    August 9, 2012

    Just when the chef memoir had started tasting a little overly familiar — the long struggles to cook their food their way, the breakthrough review, the stove burns, the final 60 pages where nothing much happens but happiness and prosperity — along comes a chef memoir with a story that's worth 300 pages.

  • Brian Azzarello: Shake-up artist

    August 8, 2012

    Brian Azzarello sat at his dining room table in Andersonville, eyes wide, looking skeptical, as expected. He often looks this way: skeptical, paranoid, wary, a bit wild. It's his face. With his bald head, granny glasses and brittle little beard that reaches out from his chin, looking more like punctuation than hair, he resembles a crazed Dust Bowl farmer. He doesn't say much either. He glares a lot. One of his friends said he does this thing where if he stays quiet long enough, eventually you talk, just to fill the silence.

  • Informal poles: Totems add flair to Lolla fest

    August 5, 2012

    People wave things over their heads at concerts. Especially during weekend music festivals. Lollapalooza, for instance. Cigarette lighters, cell phones, hands, of course. That forked, heavy metal hand salute, for sure. And the rain on Saturday brought out umbrellas, as you’d guess (though fewer than you’d expect).

  • It all started with a walnut pesto sauce

    July 25, 2012

    April Bloomfield looks like a cop. Her chin juts. Her eyes assess. She's quiet, short, compact, her manner direct and unfussy. Though there is a compelling argument that Bloomfield has done more in the past decade to change the way we eat than any other chef in this country, in person she is more serene, shy and no-nonsense than evangelical or dourly insistent; though she may have inadvertently inspired more urbane food trends than you could shake a hipster foodie at, she herself seems unassuming, even oblivious.

  • Burgers, beer and bourbon smackdown

    July 5, 2012

    The first salvo of the Great Burger-Beer-Bourbon Skirmish of 2012 was fired June 8. The last salvo was also fired June 8. There were no casualties or damage, and to be honest, it was a one-sided skirmish.

  • 'Magic Mike' director Steven Soderbergh working now, not later

    June 27, 2012

    There are moments amid the cheerful sleaze of Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike" when, no matter how much fun you're having, it becomes extremely clear this is never going to be the Channing Tatum male-strip-club movie Warner Bros. promised. It's as exuberant as promised. It's just not as clear. By design, it's not as clear.

  • 'Brave' co-director, producer take up arms to promote Pixar's latest

    June 21, 2012

    There's this thing they do at Pixar called plussing. Jonah Lehrer, in his book “Imagine,” describes Pixar plussing as "a technique that allows people to improve ideas without using harsh or judgmental language." During production meetings, instead of merely shooting down ideas, every criticism must come with a plus, with a better idea attached.

  • Lit Fest holds on to that printed feeling

    June 11, 2012

    As obvious as this may sound at first, the 28th annual Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest, which concluded Sunday afternoon and drew an estimated 130,000 attendees and 200 authors to the South Loop on a sweltering, cloudless weekend, was not the kind of thing you could call up on a Kindle.

  • On the 'L,' e-books change spy game

    June 7, 2012

    Strange as it sounds, reading a book while sitting on public transportation may be what I like best about living in a big city. I would even go as far as to say reading on a train or bus is what urban dwelling is about, a near perfect illustration of how living in a city often means being simultaneously public and anonymous, surrounded by strangers at exactly the moment you just want to be left alone.

CHICAGO

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