Street Smart Chicago

The Writing Type: The Big Read encourages more Bradbury

Events, Lit, News etc., South Loop No Comments »

bradburyphoto1Columbia College’s Hokin Annex echoes with the sounds of manual typewriters furiously clacking away. The school’s library is hosting the first ever “I Wanna Write Like Ray: The Typewriter Olympics” as one of many citywide The Big Read events.

The contest celebrates Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451″ by allowing students to revive the methods that he used to type the novel’s manuscript and to have their own work compiled into a book. Bradbury’s masterpiece was written on a metered typewriter—which needed to be fed a dime every half hour—in a basement at UCLA. Read the rest of this entry »

Secret’s Out: Frank Warren visits the Windy City

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Imagine your deepest, darkest secret. Maybe its emotional, maybe it’s embarrassing. Now, imagine that secret being on display on the Internet anonymously, scribbled on a postcard, or anything else, for that matter. Welcome to the world of Postsecret. As Frank Warren, the creator of the blog juggernaut, visits DePaul University, a mix of diehard fans and people lured in by curiosity attend. “I’m not sure who Frank Warren is or what his Postsecret project is about, but my friends told me I would find it interesting,” says Alyssa Wieting, a freshman at DePaul. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Field Work

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The Field Museum’s experts are currently training Iraqi archeologists in the latest methods of artifact restoration through the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project. Over the next two years, eighteen archeologists will spend six months at the Field Museum to learn advanced techniques in artifact conservation and collections management. Participants can then teach their colleagues to use updated methods in uncovering ancient Mesopotamian relics. The U.S. State Department is supporting the program through a $13 million dollar grant. In 2003, the Iraq National Museum was damaged during the fall of Saddam Hussein’s reign. “There has been a lot of looting in the anarchy since the fall of Saddam,” says James Phillips, PhD, who is the director of the project. The program will also renovate the museum’s structure and improve the facilities with an equipment upgrade. During Hussein’s rule, Iraq’s archeologists were shut off from the international archeological community thus prohibiting them obtaining the latest technology. The program is making strides in changing that by allowing the archaeologists to learn “a whole suite of new technologies to be able to apply to their own cultural heritage,” Phillips says.

Reading Preview: Joe Meno/Quimby’s

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Fitting that the family Joe Meno’s new novel circles around dons the surname Casper, as all five of them move like phantoms in and out of each other’s existence, directly through one another, yet hardly touching at all. The grandfather, Henry, goes so far as to speak less and less as life continues on, in an effort to completely disappear. With “The Great Perhaps,” Meno deftly moves beyond the teenage angst and wrath he explored in his successful “Hairstyles of the Damned” and the experimental boy-wonder in “The Boy Detective Fails” and glides further into adult territory; the maturation in his writing is a welcomed change of pace, as big questions are asked and decidedly grown-up problems surface. Parental separation, mid-life professional frustration, kids searching for meaning here, there and everywhere—Meno gives ample attention to and offers insight from both parents, their two kids and the receding patriarch. In each of his novels, Meno has dealt with a very specific, very different sort of reality, whether it’s that of teenage punks on Chicago’s South Side, an adolescent crime-solver surrounded by buildings suddenly disappearing or, now, of a family in crisis, handicapped by cowardice and the world’s oppressive weight. And who can blame them? Life is scary. (Tom Lynch)

Joe Meno reads from “The Great Perhaps” May 7 at Quimby’s, 1854 W. North, (773)342-0910, at 7pm. Free.

Museums Review: Harry Potter: The Exhibition/Museum of Science and Industry

Hyde Park, Museums No Comments »

harry-potterMuggles across the country have already booked their ticket for “Harry Potter: The Exhibition,” which made its much-ado’d world premiere at the Museum of Science and Industry on April 30. This well-oiled showcase features more than 200 beautifully crafted costumes and props from the Harry Potter film juggernaut. The temporary space is packed with iconic movie artifacts presciently salvaged from the films’ production, including Harry Potter’s glasses, wand and the Golden SnitchTM. The museum staff dons black robes and faux English accents to further submerge guests in a fantasy realm. Noise is sure to be an issue, with jittery children riding fanatical adrenalin highs and promos blasting from screens in every corner. This is less a museum exhibit and more a Warner Bros. marketing attraction. Much like Planet Hollywood, it is a chance to ogle memorabilia from the films. Because it was created by Warner Bros. Consumer Products, “Harry Potter: The Exhibition” makes little mention of the literary phenomenon on which the films were based. J.K. Rowling’s name appears fewer times than Robert Pattinson, the swoony actor who played Cedric Diggory and has since gone on to “Twilight” fame. In fact, the only time the books—instead of the movies—make an appearance is at the end…in the gift shop. (Laura Hawbaker)

“Harry Potter: The Exhibition” runs through September 27 at the Museum of Science and Industry, 57th and Lake Shore Drive.

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the Capricious Contours of Celebrity

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This Week’s Biggest Gainers

1 Jody Weis
The police superintendent received some good news for a change when three of his officers on trial for the Jefferson Tap brawl were acquitted. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): When they pray, Muslims face the Kaaba, a cube-shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Every mosque around the world typically has a niche that shows the precise direction of that holy place. Recently, however, worshipers have discovered that many of the older mosques in Mecca itself have niches that aren’t pointing the right way. They’re concerned that the prayers they’ve dispatched in the past weren’t aimed correctly. Is it possible that there’s a comparable scenario in your life, Aries? Might you be filled with righteous intentions, but not quite delivering them to the correct location? If so, this is an excellent time to make adjustments. Read the rest of this entry »

Reading Preview: S.L. Wisenberg

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Adapting her blog to full-fledged book, local author S.L. Wisenberg transforms her illness memoir into a fiercely engaging and often very, very funny account of her battle with breast cancer. The title, “The Adventures of Cancer Bitch,” should be the first clue that Wisenberg wasn’t prepared to linger in an overly sentimental region and play to readers’ fears and Lifetime-movie expectations. She claimed “Bitch,” she writes, because “Babe was too young and Vixen was already taken.” Presented in a diary format, the piece is, at its core, a 160-page staring match Wisenberg has with herself. Doctors, diagnosis, medication, chemo, surgery—sure, it’s in there. The most devastating offerings aren’t found in the cold facts that are beaten into our bodies by health magazines and prescription-pill commercials, but rather under blog entries with titles like “How Not To Tell Your Class About Your Breast Cancer.” (Wisenberg, Jewish, deftly adapts the wit of Woody Allen as well.) But, like the best of the savage memoirs, it’s doused in hope, and as readers, we share a most important reward in the end: life. (Tom Lynch)

S.L. Wisenberg discusses “Adventures of Cancer Bitch” May 6 at 57th Street Books, 1301 East 57th, (773)684-1300, at 6pm. Free.

411: It’s a Mystery

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catherine-oconnell-photoThe newest installment from Chicago- and Aspen-based author Catherine O’Connell is “Well Read and Dead,” a continuation from the story of heroine Pauline Cook in “Well Bred and Dead.” Pauline experiences new locales and people in the second novel, while still upholding her persona O’Connell affectionately refers to as “a snob with a heart.” O’Connell’s main inspirations for “Well Read” include her experience in wine trade, her friendship with David Grafton (whose death influenced her first novel) and her life in Aspen. “Well Read and Dead” is no flake piece of chick lit. “The novel gives me the opportunity to write a murder mystery while underneath the surface it is also a satirical piece,” O’Connell says. Elements of high society are present; however there are issues that stray from glitz and glamour. “I always have messages [in my writing] if readers want to find them.” O’Connell touches on societal issues in “Well Read” and the concept that there is “‘no one better than I, and no one lesser than I.’ I like to show that they’re all the same.” She reads from the book Thursday at Book Cellar.

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the Capricious Contours of Celebrity

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This Week’s Biggest Gainers

1 Joel Quenneville
The Blackhawks coach guided his team to the NHL semifinals, the first time for this squad since 1996. Hockey in Chicago. Who knew? Read the rest of this entry »