Street Smart Chicago

Tip of the Week: Jon Ginoli

Bucktown, Lit, Literary Venues No Comments »


Jon Ginoli founded Pansy Division in early-nineties San Francisco out of frustration more than anything else, to confront typical gay stereotypes and show that there are no boundaries, no limitations, in music. The pop-punk band—which consisted of all openly gay members—released its first record in 1993 on Lookout!, and by 1994 had some mainstream success with second album “Deflowered.” (The group opened for Green Day on the “Dookie” tour.) Unknowingly, Pansy Division had helped spearhead the Queercore movement, with a little help from some good-spirited, filth-laced lyrics. Ginoli’s written a memoir chronicling his experiences in the band—a band that’s still making records—called “Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division,” and as far as rock ‘n’ roll autobiographies go, it’s a terrifically fun read. You get your typical rock band stuff-the band fights, the label battles, the sex and dope-but with Ginoli’s bent, it seems to have, hmm, more purpose? (Tom Lynch)

Jon Ginoli reads from “Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division” April 8 at Quimby’s, 1854 W. North, (773)342-0910, at 7pm. Free.

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the capricious contours of celebrity

Chicago Hype Exchange, News etc. No Comments »

This Week’s Biggest Gainers

1 Tim Tuten
The Hideout co-owner—who worked tirelessly to get Obama elected—was hired to work for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in D.C. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Organic Survival

Food & Drink, News etc. No Comments »

Despite last week’s closing of Greg Christian’s Catering, his Organic School Project is here to stay. The OSP provides Chicago Public Schools students with healthy, organic alternatives to typical lunchroom fair and was the subject of a Newcity cover story in 2007. “We aspire to inspire children, to excite them to make better food choices,” says OSP Executive Director DiAnne Richardson. In addition to providing students with nutritious lunch options, the program also incorporates the “Grow. Teach. Feed.” model, which allows children to participate in healthy lifestyle workshops and grow a garden at school. “For young people to understand the whole growing process and make better food choices will lead to a sustainable, healthier lifestyle,” Richardson says. OSP is currently operating at Alcott Elementary, Lowell Elementary and Reavis Elementary, where it is running a garden project. The OSP has also expanded to creating community gardens, the first being at the Garfield Park Conservatory. According to Richardson, they are open to reaching out to other schools and communities throughout Chicagoland: “We are always looking to expand and bring healthy food to our young people.”

411: Not Just One Thing

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Storyteller Gene Tagaban will share his experiences as a Tlingit/Cherokee/Filipino-American during the JustStories Concert on Friday at Dominican University. The JustStories Series was formed in 2002 by Susan O’Halloran and Derek Simons of Angel Studios in order to create a series that would be “entertaining but focus on issues of race and cultural understanding,” O’Halloran says. Tagaban is the seventh recipient of the JustStories Fellowship, a program that allows storytellers to develop individual stories relating to personal identity and race. Tagaban, with the help of O’Halloran, has been sifting through his family history and has been practicing segments of the performance on smaller groups in his hometown of Ferndale, Washington. “You see how people are reacting to it and change things; it’s a very live art,” O’Halloran says. O’Halloran hopes that the series will open up audiences’ perceptions of what it can mean to define oneself in multiple ways. “I’m really excited about Gene’s work,” O’Halloran says. “There are so many layers and I think it makes it difficult to stereotype when we get into the true richness of people’s backgrounds and lives.”

Free Will Astrology

Free Will Astrology No Comments »

By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): There’s plain old everyday lightning, which travels about five miles, and then there are superbolts—strokes of lightning that are a hundred times stronger than a normal flash and that can travel over 100 miles. In the coming weeks, Aries, your power levels could be more like these superbolts than your usual output. I suggest you take advantage. Just assume that you’ll be able to shed more light and attract more attention than usual. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ninth Man Out: As baseball begins again, Nelson Algren turns 100

Lit 4 Comments »
"Our Joe" by Tony Fitzpatrick

Tony Fitzpatrick, "Our Joe"

Editor’s Note: Nelson Algren was born 100 years ago this very day, on March 28, 1909

By Jeff McMahon

This is the story of the broken heart of a man, the rusty heart of a city, and how they got all tangled up as one. Like a lot of us, he learned hope and heartbreak first from a baseball team, then from bruising bouts with love, then from the city in which he lived, but unlike a lot of us, he never learned to play along, never stopped seeing the way things are contrasted against the way things ought to be, never stopped championing the nobodies nobody knows—for there, he wrote, beats Chicago’s heart. He followed his own beat straight to the place where pride will lead you every time—to poverty and exile—while describing Chicago as no one had since Carl Sandburg and as no one has again. And save for the devotion of a peculiar few, the City of Big Shoulders shrugged him off. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fearless Mr. Foss: Unlocking the man at Lockwood

Food & Drink, News etc. 1 Comment »

By Michael Nagrantcover

Do you like pinball?

What do you mean?

You know, do you play it? Do you find it fun?

A minute or so passed without an answer from one of Chicago’s mega-celebrity chefs, as he faced a local food reporter while they stood near a pinball machine. The chef was usually so prepared that he’d given the same answers to many questions for almost twenty years with almost no variation in delivery or syllable. His ability to stay on message made even the disciplined Barack Obama look more like the drunken political godchild of Gerald Ford and Sarah Palin.

But that’s when the chef expected to be interviewed. The reporter had not given the chef a heads up that he’d stop by this particular photo shoot. And when he did, the chef was so befuddled he couldn’t even answer a simple question about an arcade game without calculating what the answer might say about him.

Sure, chefs are the new rock stars, but rarely have they acted like them. I chose to write about chefs and restaurants in no small part because I had no interest in profiling celebrities so doped up on fame that their paranoia and control made Kim Jong Il look asleep at the wheel. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Eat These Words

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

The Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago is hosting its 10th Annual Edible Books Show & Tea event on Wednesday, an event hosted at various venues across the globe in which artists, chefs and book lovers whip up recipes and create books that are made to be eaten. “It’s a fundraiser for the Center for Book and Paper Arts equipment fund,” says Steve Woodall, Director of the Book & Paper Center at Columbia. “This is something that’s been going on since 1999 and it was kind of the brainchild of Judith Hoffberg, who was the founder, and she died a couple months ago. And so part of this year’s event is a tribute to Judith and part is connected to Ray Bradbury.” This year’s Big Read sponsored by the Chicago Public Library is “Fahrenheit 451″-themed, and the Edible Book event will do its best to honor that. “It’s an open invitation for anyone who wants to make one!” Woodall continues. “If you bring an edible book with you, you get into the event free. It’s a really fun, kind of informal and interesting event. The winner last year was an edible book called ‘The Velveeta Rabbit’ that was a rabbit carved out of Velveeta. Somebody [else] made a tablet out of marzipan and a scroll out of pie dough, so it’s just kind of a fun, somewhat surreal event.” The event starts at 6pm at the Columbia College Library.

411: Back, with more Heart

News etc., Rogers Park No Comments »

The Heartland Café is back in business after being temporarily shut down by the Public Health Department on March 12. The inspection resulted from a 311 call made by a customer who felt ill after eating a tofu and vegetable dish at the restaurant. Café owners Katie Hogan and Michael James consider the circumstance to be a hard lesson learned and completely overhauled their restaurant’s kitchen as a result. The staff spent five days renovating floors, scrubbing equipment and patching up “endless nooks and crannies.” When inspectors returned on March 18, the café passed the follow-up inspection with flying colors. “Inspectors were literally oohing and ahhing,” Hogan says. As a result of the situation, Hogan says that they have taken additional safety measures, such as changing certain purveyors and promoting an employee to the position of sanitation manager. “We’ve taken lemons and turned them into lemonade,” Hogan says. “We will never be caught in that situation again.”

Tip of the Week: Mary Gaitskill

Events, Lit, Literary Venues No Comments »


Acclaimed novelist and essayist Mary Gaitskill comes to Harold Washington to discuss her career, which, to the frustration of many, has only produced two books and three collections of short stories since the publishing of her first, “Bad Behavior,” in 1988. Maybe it’s for the best, however, as an overabundance of Gaitskill’s various tales of sexuality, sadomasochism, death and self-image would shove some of us over the edge. Her work is haunting not because of the explicit content, but because of her writing’s humanity, life’s treachery, the comfort-and discomfort-found in everyday pain. “Veronica,” Gaitskill’s 2005 novel, focused on two female friends, one who has contracted AIDS. This is no tearjerker. You want sugar, give Mitch Albom a ring. “Don’t Cry” is her newest collection of shorts, released just this week, at it features more snapshots of lives lived with thunderously beating, profusely bleeding hearts.  (Tom Lynch)

Mary Gaitskill discusses “Don’t Cry” March 26 at Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State, (312)747-4300, at 6pm, as part of the “Writers on the Record with Victoria Lautman” series. The event is free.