WBEZ | Media http://www.wbez.org/sections/media Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en What the heck happened to Chicago's truancy officers? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/truancy thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/152861576&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Over the past few years, Curious City has answered many questions about Chicago streets: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221">why they get cleaned</a>, why <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-some-chicago-streets-got-numbers-others-were-stuck-names-102380">some get names but others receive numbers</a>, and why portions of the Kennedy Expressway <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-do-reversible-lanes-kennedy-expressway-work-101384">sometimes switch directions</a>.</p><p>But what caught Saundra Oglesby&rsquo;s attention is what&rsquo;s <em>missing</em> from city streets, or rather <em>who</em> has been missing. We met Saundra just once, but her question needs little clarification:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why aren&#39;t truancy officers riding around like they used to?</em></p><p>Saundra &mdash; a resident of Chicago&rsquo;s Lawndale neighborhood &mdash; is referring to the men and women once employed by Chicago Public Schools to track down students who did not turn up for class.</p><p>&ldquo;When we was growing up, they would pick us up, take us to the school, call our parents and say, &lsquo;Hey, this kid is not in school, why aren&rsquo;t you in school?&rsquo;&rdquo; Oglesby recalled.</p><p>Hers is a fair question and, we learned, a timely one.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s truancy officers were cut decades ago, but the problem they were tasked with solving &mdash; chronic, unexcused absence from school &mdash; persists and it&rsquo;s hurt kids, communities and the school district itself.</p><p>In May of this year, <em><a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_verified_chronic_truancy_and_absenteeism_data.pdf">Catalyst Chicago </a></em>magazine revealed that a little more than one quarter of CPS students were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#def"><em>chronically truant</em> </a>last year. The district verified that report. (At CPS, a student qualifies as chronically truant if she misses 5 percent of the school year &mdash; or about nine days &mdash; without an accepted excuse. Prior to the 2011-2012 school year, the threshold was 18 missed days, or 10 percent of the school year.)</p><p>The truancy situation&rsquo;s considered bad enough that Illinois lawmakers want recommendations of how to get more Chicago kids to show up at school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy officers don&rsquo;t make the cut</span></p><p>For nearly fifty years truancy officers in Chicago knocked on doors, called students&rsquo; friends and relatives, and stalked neighborhood haunts to find wayward kids. They would also figure out what was happening in children&rsquo;s lives &mdash; at home, in the streets or at school &mdash; that would keep them from class.</p><p>But the job title &mdash; at least at the district level &mdash; disappeared after 1992.</p><p>Aarti Dhupelia, CPS&rsquo; Chief Officer for College and Career Success, says at that time CPS faced a <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-04-30/news/9102080222_1_school-year-ted-kimbrough-schools-supt">$315 million</a> shortfall, and the administration at the time <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-10-01/news/9203290322_1_truant-officers-bargain-in-good-faith-union-officials">zeroed in on truancy officers</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We actually had as many as 150 truancy officers district wide,&rdquo; Dhupelia explained. &ldquo;Due to unclear evidence of their effectiveness as well as budget constraints, those positions were eliminated.&rdquo;</p><p>The district estimated a savings of about $15 million that year, and that it wouldn&rsquo;t miss the truancy officers. Dhupelia says officers could find kids and bring them to school &ldquo;but they could not answer the larger question of why did children leave school in the first place.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, even with truancy officers in place in the early 1990s, Chicago had the highest high school <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-09-24/news/9203270085_1_chicago-schools-local-school-councils-test-scores">dropout rate</a> in the country. In the years after the officers were cut, the district&rsquo;s dropout rate improved, but the district&rsquo;s truancy rates remained <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=StudentCharacteristics&amp;source2=ChronicTruants&amp;Districtid=15016299025">above the state average</a>.</p><p>That&rsquo;s despite various efforts over the years, including dedicated truancy outreach and re-engagement centers.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#addlinfo"><em style="font-size: 16px; text-align: center;">(More on CPS&rsquo; anti-truancy efforts)</em></a></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy and fallout</span></p><p>The consequences of missed days of school add up, a realization all too familiar to <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reporter <a href="http://bio.tribune.com/davidjackson">David Jackson</a>.</p><p>In 2012 Jackson was tipped off to what appeared to be a growing attendance problem. A juvenile court judge told him she was shocked by the number of young kids who were out of school and in her courtroom.</p><p>&ldquo;She noted that those were the kids obviously involved in delinquency and crimes on the streets,&rdquo; Jackson remembered. &ldquo;What they were doing when they weren&rsquo;t in school was either not safe for them or for the community.&rdquo;</p><p>So Jackson and reporter Gary Marx asked for access to a highly-protected CPS attendance database, which tracks &mdash; kid-by-kid &mdash; how often a student misses class. The newspaper team fought a losing legal battle over access to the data. (Jackson said the information is not made public for several good reasons, including privacy.)</p><blockquote><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</span></p><div><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</span></p></div></blockquote><p>Jackson decided to go at it again in 2012 when CPS was embroiled in several of the biggest stories in Chicago (and the nation): at one time the district faced a punishing teacher&rsquo;s strike, school closings and consolidations and escalating violence. After the Tribune team stripped down the original requests, they received the numbers from the 2010-2011 school year. Jackson concluded that the district was facing a <a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/truancy/index.html">truancy crisis</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;We found in the database &mdash; and this is an extremely conservative number &mdash; that at least one in eight elementary students in Chicago missed four weeks of school [during the year we studied],&rdquo; Jackson recounted.</p><p>Translation: If students retain that pattern of missing school between kindergarten and eighth grade, they could miss a year of school before they begin high school.</p><p>And, as Yale University criminologist <a href="http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/TMeares.htm">Tracey Meares</a> explained, education is vital to survival. Meares has spent time studying networks of gun violence in the city of Chicago. She believes the most effective way to save lives &mdash; and prevent a young person from falling prey to gang and gun violence &mdash; is to teach them to read.</p><p>&ldquo;Making sure that children can read by 3rd grade is probably one of the most important things that any city can do with respect to violent crime in the long term,&rdquo; Meares said. &ldquo;Our research shows that people, young men, who drop out from high school, are much more likely to be gang-involved than those who are not.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="442" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/iR3Sz/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">They&rsquo;re going to learn from someone</span></p><p>John Paul Jones, the president of <a href="http://www.sustainableenglewood.org/">Sustainable Englewood Initiatives</a>, said the truancy issue has left the South Side neighborhood with a lot of children learning from others on the street.</p><p>&ldquo;The ex-offenders, the alcoholics, other persons who are just not productive in the community life and those are the ones they&rsquo;re around. And so, it puts them in the way of violence,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It puts them in the way of doing things that puts them and the community at risk.&rdquo;</p><p>One long-term effect of chronic truancy, Jones explained, is that young people in the community aren&rsquo;t rewarded for getting ahead in school.</p><p>&ldquo;Those who do wrong get celebrated when they come back from prison. They come back, there&rsquo;s a cluster of guys who welcome them back,&rdquo; said Jones. But he feels that kind of welcome&rsquo;s not extended to returning college students.</p><p>&ldquo;You come back and you may have somebody who not as thrilled about you coming back,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Another victim: CPS</span></p><p>So kids are directly hurt by chronic truancy and, according to Jones, a whole community can be, too. But as we dug into this question about the absence of truancy officers in Chicago, we found that there&rsquo;s likely another victim: CPS.</p><p>Public school districts are reimbursed by the state and federal governments based on how many kids show up. This complicated formula can be likened to a mortgage calculator.</p><p>A 2010 internal CPS report, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-12-24/news/ct-met-truancy-report-20121224_1_anti-truancy-plan-truancy-and-absenteeism-attendance-data">obtained by the Tribune</a>, suggested CPS could have garnered an additional $11.5 million in state funds if district attendance that year had been just 1 percent higher. Or, in numbers more people can digest, CPS estimated it lost $111 each time a student missed a day.</p><p>Jackson and his reporting team found that more often than not, truancy officers practically paid for themselves.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Will Chicago ever welcome back truancy officers?</span></p><p>Jackson and his Tribune colleagues looked at how other school districts around the state and country tackle truancy. Jackson said in many districts, dedicated truancy officers could handle a key function of finding who was missing on any given day of school, and then prioritizing which ones to reach out to. The kids, Jackson, said, were often findable.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that they disappear into a Bermuda Triangle,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But do observations like this an argument make an argument in favor of truancy officers?</p><p>CPS doesn&rsquo;t take it that way.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that tackling attendance truancy and attendance is really an &lsquo;it takes a village&rsquo; issue,&rdquo; said CPS&rsquo; Dhupelia. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not something that the district can tackle alone. It&rsquo;s something that families need to tackle, that the district needs to tackle, it&rsquo;s something that community partners, elected officials need to help tackle.&rdquo;</p><p>It so happens Chicago&rsquo;s truancy problems are being tackled by elected officials and other stakeholders. The legislature created a <a href="http://www.isbe.state.il.us/TCPSTF/default.htm">Chicago Public Schools Truancy Task Force</a> to recommend how to improve CPS&rsquo; attendance record.</p><p>To find out what the task force thinks of truancy officers, Curious City, spoke to one of its members: Jeffrey Aranowski, who&rsquo;s with the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p>&ldquo;If you look across the state, most all counties have truant officers employed either by districts or regional offices of education, they&rsquo;re very active. CPS seems to be a little bit of an outlier there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But again, whether or not that&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s appropriate or even will be recommended by the task force is yet to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>The task force&rsquo;s homework is due soon; as of this writing, it&rsquo;s set for the end of July. By then state lawmakers hope to have final recommendations on how to address truancy in CPS schools.</p><p>Perhaps by then, Chicago will know whether the state would like to see truancy officers return to its streets.<a name="addlinfo"></a></p><p><em>Special thanks to David Jackson of the </em>Chicago Tribune<em> and Melissa Sanchez of </em>Catalyst Chicago<em> magazine.</em></p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Foll<a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">ow her @katieobez</a>.</em></p><hr /><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: CPS&#39; current anti-truancy efforts</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools is currently expanding what it calls SOAR (Student Outreach and Re-engagement) centers. There are currently centers in three city neighborhoods: Roseland, Little Village and Garfield Park. The centers are to support all students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out. Across the engagement centers are 15 re-engagement specialists who focus on recruiting and guiding students back into school. CPS says that since the February 2013 launch, SOAR Centers have served 1,615 students.</p><p>CPS&rsquo; Aarti Dhupelia says that over the past several months, CPS has developed a comprehensive attendance and truancy strategy that focuses on the root causes of truancy. That strategy, she says, is two-fold.<a name="def"></a></p><ul><li><strong>Building universal systems in schools that prevent absenteeism: </strong>Coach schools on how to build a positive culture around attendance and helping them monitor attendance regularly. Dhupelia says the district is building data tools to enable documentation and tracking.</li><li><strong>Targeted interventions:</strong> Identifying the root cause of a student&rsquo;s absence and connecting them to resources to address it so that the child can return to a school environment.</li></ul><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: Definitions</span></p><p>Attendance rate = percentage of days present out of total days enrolled</p><p>Absence rate = percentage of days absent out of total days enrolled; includes excuses, unexcused and suspensions</p><p>Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</p><p>Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</p><p>Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</p><p>Chronically absent: Missing at least 18 school days, whether excused or unexcused.</p></p> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 The Second City Chicago pushes for diverse voices on stage http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/second-city-chicago-pushes-diverse-voices-stage-110094 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bob%20Curry%20Fellows.JPG" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="For the first time in the history of the Second City, a special fellowship was created this year named after Bob Curry, the first African American to perform on The Second City’s mainstage in 1966. (WBEZ/Mariam Sobh)" /></p><p>Another late night talk show host is leaving CBS.</p><p>Craig Ferguson of <em>The Late Late Show</em> is expected to sign off at the end of the year.</p><p>This news comes just after the network announced Stephen Colbert will replace the retiring David Letterman.</p><p>The announcement raised questions again about why all the networks&#39; late night comics are white males.</p><p>Part of the answer takes us to Chicago, where many of the comedy stars of the last few decades learned their trade &ndash; including Stephen Colbert who studied improv at The Second City.</p><p>While some inroads have been made, comedy is still seen as a predominantly white male art form. Particularly when it comes to the art of improvisation and sketch comedy.</p><p>Improvisation was founded in 1955 at the University of Chicago and since then it has been slow to transition to an art form that is available to the masses.</p><p>While efforts have been made to be more inclusive of women, the LGBT community, and actors of color, there is still a lot of work to do.</p><p>Full disclosure, I&rsquo;m the first Muslim woman wearing the headscarf to graduate and perform at the Second City Training Center&rsquo;s conservatory.</p><p>Diversity is an issue that big improv institutions are keenly aware of.</p><p>Andrew Alexander, CEO, of the Second City has been grappling with this for the last 20 years.</p><p>He said he noticed the problem back in 1992.</p><p>&ldquo;I was in Los Angeles during the L.A. riots and I happened to fly back one of those evenings and I came to Chicago and I went straight to the theater,&quot; Alexander said. &quot;And our actors were 6 or 7 white actors who were struggling to figure out how to sort of deal with the riots in L.A. and it became quite apparent to me that the point of view just wasn&rsquo;t strong. And from that moment on I made a decision to really embrace how can we improve our diversity.&rdquo;</p><p>But, more than two decades later, there is only one person of color on the main stage at Second City.<br /><br />Why is that?</p><p>Anne Libera, director of Comedy Studies at Columbia College and an instructor at the Second City Training Center said it&rsquo;s difficult to cultivate diversity in general.</p><p>&ldquo;You both need people who want to do it, but for people to want to do it, you need them to see representation above them,&rdquo; Libera said.</p><p>For the first time in the history of the Second City, a special fellowship was created this year named after Bob Curry, the first African American to perform on The Second City&rsquo;s mainstage in 1966.</p><p>The fellowship is an intense training program that has accepted only 16 minority students who already have some experience on stage.</p><p>The goal is to mold them into exactly what the Second City is looking for.</p><p>Matt Hovde, the artistic director at the Second City Training Center, said he&rsquo;s confident this program will open the door for more voices.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the first time in a long time that I feel like it will directly translate into a bigger pool of diverse talent at Second City that are working and can work,&quot; Hovde said. &quot;So to me it&rsquo;s a great leap forward.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/147285183&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>One of the Bob Curry Fellows, Patrick Rowland, is also a member of 3Peat, an all black improv team that plays weekly at iO, another comedy institution.</p><p>Rowland said when he took classes back in 2006 he was always the odd man out.</p><p>&ldquo;Every class I was in I was the only black person or person of color,&quot; Rowland said. &quot;There was a tall lanky white guy, a chubby white guy, a white girl who thought she was Tina Fey and then there was me.&rdquo;</p><p>Rowland said that since then, he has seen some changes.</p><p>&ldquo;Nowadays...it&rsquo;s not a lot but to me it&rsquo;s like an explosion of black people,&quot; Rowland said. &quot;And by explosion I mean that you you can count them on two hands.&rdquo;</p><p>3 Peat member John Thibodeaux said he&#39;s slowly seeing a paradigm shift.</p><p>&ldquo;The dominant voices you see in the media, if you&rsquo;re like a black actor in movies or television, you&rsquo;re gonna be the guy who&rsquo;s always the black guy and not just the guy. You don&rsquo;t see a lot of black protagonists in movies. And that&rsquo;s something that can be really inspiring to people coming up. Because I know I don&rsquo;t personally see a lot of people who look like me in the media, telling a story similar to mine. And that&rsquo;s why I like especially playing with this group because when you walk into a scene you know you&rsquo;re not going to be just a black guy. You&rsquo;re just going to be another improviser on stage which is refreshing.&rdquo;</p><p>Thibodeaux and the other members of 3Peat agree that in order for more minorities to get involved, they have to pave the way.</p><p>Which is something I&rsquo;m also now aware of.</p><p>I wrote a blackout sketch for my conservatory graduation show at the Second City Training Center that satirized being a Muslim woman and a person&rsquo;s fear that I was going to blow them up.</p><p>I was playing off a stereotype and people laughed.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s not always funny.</p><p>I was once in a class where the instructor thought it would be amazing if I came out on stage with an American flag and Indian music playing in the background.</p><p>I was confused, because I&rsquo;m not Indian.</p><p>Stereotypes are often another challenge for diverse performers.</p><p>3Peat member Nnamdi Ngwe is all too familiar with this and said he experienced it during an improv class.</p><p>&ldquo;I was actually told, in one of my classes, can you blacken it up,&quot; Ngwe said. &quot;He didn&rsquo;t use exactly those words, but he did want me to essentially blacken it up. I was like no thank you. I wanna do me.&rdquo;</p><p>The process of diversification is complex. But there have been some gains.</p><p>The Second City&rsquo;s smaller stage is now made up of half white and half minority actors.</p><p>But true diversity on the bigger stages promises to be a long term project made more difficult by the fact that it&rsquo;s so competitive.</p><p>The Second City for example may have only one or&nbsp;two positions open in any given year.</p><p><em>Mariam Sobh is Midday Host and reporter at WBEZ. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/mariamsobh">@mariamsobh</a></em></p></p> Tue, 29 Apr 2014 11:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/second-city-chicago-pushes-diverse-voices-stage-110094 This American Life changing distributors http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/american-life-changing-distributors-109899 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Ira Glass - Stuart Mullenberg (2)_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Yesterday WBEZ&#39;s <em>This American Life</em> announced that Public Radio International will no longer be the distributor of the show after June 2014. That&#39;s led to some confusion with listeners about what this means for them and how they&#39;ll get access to the show in the future.</p><p>A distributor oversees the sales, marketing and transmission of the show to other radio stations. <em>This American Life</em> will be working with a new distributor, which will be announced soon. Listeners will conitnue to get the show through their local public radio station during and after this transition.</p><p>This morning <em>This American Life</em> Host and Executive Producer Ira Glass&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/blog/2014/03/leaving-pri">posted an update on the show&#39;s blog</a> explaining the change, which we&#39;ve posted below:</p><blockquote><p>We&rsquo;re leaving our distributor Public Radio International. What this means for listeners is ... nothing! We&rsquo;ll continue to make our radio show and podcast. The same public radio stations will continue to broadcast it. They just won&rsquo;t be getting it through PRI.</p><p>PRI has been a great partner. When we signed up with them in 1997, we were already on over a hundred public radio stations. It&rsquo;d taken us a year to get that many. In three months, PRI doubled the number. A miracle. Over the years since, they built that number to 587 stations.</p><p>But looking at where PRI is now pushing its business and where we&#39;re growing &ndash; especially on the digital side of things, which we&rsquo;ve always done without PRI &ndash; both we and our colleagues at PRI came to the same conclusion: to go our separate ways.</p><p>Most listeners I meet seem utterly unaware of who our distributor is, or they think &ndash; mistakenly &ndash; that we&rsquo;re part of NPR. NPR is the company that puts out Morning Edition and All Things Considered and many fine programs. But there are several other companies that distribute public radio shows around the country. Local public radio stations get shows from all of them.</p><p>We&rsquo;ll announce sometime soon what our new plan is to distribute the show to radio stations.</p></blockquote></p> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 09:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/american-life-changing-distributors-109899 How prominent Chicagoans handled their first tweet http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-prominent-chicagoans-handled-their-first-tweet-109900 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/firsttweet.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today is Twitter&#39;s 8th birthday, marked by the first tweet ever sent, a short introduction from Chairman Jack Dorsey at 3:50 p.m. on March 21, 2006.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>just setting up my twttr</p>&mdash; Jack Dorsey (@jack) <a href="https://twitter.com/jack/statuses/20">March 21, 2006</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Since that first tweet Twitter has amassed more than 600 million users, with 240 million active every month.</p><p>To celebrate its beginning, Twitter launched a tool Thursday that lets all its users do the same thing by <a href="https://discover.twitter.com/first-tweet">looking up their first tweets</a>. Since then the social network has been flooded with digital nostalgia as users reflect on their first interaction with what has become a major part of communication on the Internet.</p><p>We wanted to take a look at how prominent Chicagoans used their first tweet, so we put together a list of the biggest names and other interesting accounts. Let us know if there&#39;s anyone you think we should add</p><h3>Big Names</h3><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Thinking we&#39;re only one signature away from ending the war in Iraq. Learn more at http://www.barackobama.com</p>&mdash; Barack Obama (@BarackObama) <a href="https://twitter.com/BarackObama/statuses/44240662">April 29, 2007</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>HI TWITTERS . THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY .</p>&mdash; Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) <a href="https://twitter.com/Oprah/statuses/1542224596">April 17, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Attention sneaker fiends, future legends and fans of the game: the official Twitter for Jordan is now live.</p>&mdash; Jordan (@Jumpman23) <a href="https://twitter.com/Jumpman23/statuses/27874665743">October 19, 2010</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>One of the surprises you get when growing older is that the people you knew when you were young are young forever</p>&mdash; Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) <a href="https://twitter.com/ebertchicago/statuses/4608482314">October 4, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>NEW SONG AND VISUAL FROM MY NEW ALBUM BEING PROJECTED TONIGHT ACROSS THE GLOBE ON 66 BUILDINGS, LOCATIONS @ <a href="http://t.co/7BZwfPawwZ">http://t.co/7BZwfPawwZ</a></p>&mdash; KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) <a href="https://twitter.com/kanyewest/statuses/335569132214972416">May 18, 2013</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>GOD IS GREAT!</p>&mdash; Billy Corgan (@Billy) <a href="https://twitter.com/Billy/statuses/1529035061">April 15, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23aye&amp;src=hash">#aye</a> aye watchu say WATCHU Think I SAY !</p>&mdash; AlmightySo (@ChiefKeef) <a href="https://twitter.com/ChiefKeef/statuses/16339561136">June 16, 2010</a></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><h3>The Machine</h3><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>The new City of Chicago website launched today. Visit www.cityofchicago.org and let us know what you think.</p>&mdash; Richard M. Daley (@MayorDaley) <a href="https://twitter.com/MayorDaley/statuses/10384380367">March 12, 2010</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Ready to tell it like it is? Welcome to the official Chicago for Rahm twitterfeed!</p>&mdash; Rahm Emanuel (@RahmEmanuel) <a href="https://twitter.com/RahmEmanuel/statuses/26591737245">October 6, 2010</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Wait for it....getting the house in order...</p>&mdash; ChicagosMayor (@ChicagosMayor) <a href="https://twitter.com/ChicagosMayor/statuses/76670258823438336">June 3, 2011</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>An official announcement from the CTA: Hello.</p>&mdash; cta (@cta) <a href="https://twitter.com/cta/statuses/131399950058786816">November 1, 2011</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Traffic alert: On July 3-4, the City anticipates closing several downtown streets, as conditions warrant. Public transit is recommended.</p>&mdash; CDOT (@ChicagoDOT) <a href="https://twitter.com/ChicagoDOT/statuses/2443171909">July 2, 2009</a></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><h3>The Media</h3><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>This is the unofficial Twitter account for the Chicago Tribune newspaper. Follow me for your daily dose of news!</p>&mdash; Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) <a href="https://twitter.com/chicagotribune/statuses/138936822">July 7, 2007</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>A man is facing jail after admitting he stole 1,613 pairs of panties and bras from laundry rooms. http://tinyurl.com/yu38o9</p>&mdash; Chicago Sun-Times (@Suntimes) <a href="https://twitter.com/Suntimes/statuses/656068932">January 29, 2008</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Reform is in the air at City Hall. So is bullshit. http://tinyurl.com/cpy5v8</p>&mdash; Mick Dumke (@mickeyd1971) <a href="https://twitter.com/mickeyd1971/statuses/1309013571">March 11, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Do you know what Chicago neighborhood you&#39;re in? Don&#39;t believe the Realtors. Read Konkol&#39;s Korner in the Sun-Times. http://tiny.cc/qSoTt</p>&mdash; Mark Konkol (@Konkolskorner) <a href="https://twitter.com/Konkolskorner/statuses/6813694197">December 19, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Tweet #1. A new post on the WGNtv.com weather blog about some of the T-Storms headed our way &amp; 90 deg temps? http://tinyurl.com/weatherblog</p>&mdash; Skilling (@Skilling) <a href="https://twitter.com/Skilling/statuses/2552095891">July 9, 2009</a></blockquote><h3>&nbsp;</h3><h3>From WBEZ</h3><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>This twitter feed will deliver all stories produced by the WBEZ news team, as well as special programming announcements and breaking news.</p>&mdash; WBEZ (@WBEZ) <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZ/statuses/766752291">March 4, 2008</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>is finally here! Will this take up all of my time?</p>&mdash; Niala (@NialaBoodhoo) <a href="https://twitter.com/NialaBoodhoo/statuses/1131600348">January 19, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>listening to Andrew&#39;s shared i-tunes. No rap.</p>&mdash; JustinKaufmann (@JustinKaufmann) <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinKaufmann/statuses/868444247">July 25, 2008</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Have joined Twitter, just because somebody told me to.</p>&mdash; Peter Sagal (@petersagal) <a href="https://twitter.com/petersagal/statuses/825474818">June 2, 2008</a></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 09:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-prominent-chicagoans-handled-their-first-tweet-109900 Bracket Madness http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/bracket-madness-109893 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kpcc bracket.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>March Madness is upon us.</p><p>Thursday 64 college basketball teams will begin their mad dash through the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, and the Final Four, to vy in the NCAA championship game on Sunday, April 6.</p><p>But bracket madness has been going on a lot longer. Many folks have sweated over their selections or watched office mates - or President Obama - mull, debate, and endlessly discuss their own bracket choices.</p><p>If you&rsquo;re like me though, the word brackets usually conjures something other than basketball. Like those handy crescent-moon shaped punctuation marks. Or supports for a shelf.</p><p>I know I&rsquo;m not alone here. But these days I do feel like an outlier. The President&rsquo;s annual interview with ESPN has helped turn brackets &ndash; or &ldquo;Barackatology&rdquo; -&nbsp; into the must-have spring accessory.</p><p>But used to be, if you weren&rsquo;t a sports fan, a college student or college grad, or someone subject to hard-core inter-office peer pressure, it was pretty easy to maintain your bracket blindness.</p><p>Not anymore.</p><p>Don&rsquo;t get me wrong. I haven&rsquo;t caved. I&rsquo;m not pondering shooting percentages or whether Coastal Carolina has the coolest name in the Big South conference. But these days everything seems to have a bracket. <a href="http://thisismadness.starwars.com/">Star War characters</a>, <a href="http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2014/03/bracket-day-best-fictional-president/359085/">fictional presidents from television or film</a>, <a href="http://jezebel.com/5510811/pie-vs-cake-pie-is-champion">baked goods</a> - all have been entered into those tidy little slots.</p><p>More recently, bracket-mania has hit even closer to home. Yes, public radio shows (and hosts) have a bracket.</p><p>&ldquo;We went through shows that we like from around the country, shows that are interesting and new and that people may not know as well,&rdquo; said Mike Roe, a web producer and blogger with KPCC in Southern California. &ldquo;You know, trying to have a mix of those while also having people&rsquo;s favorites like Wait Wait Don&rsquo;t Tell Me and Radio Lab.</p><p>KPCC started their <a href="http://projects.scpr.org/static/marchmadness/">Public Radio Bracket Madness!</a> last year. The bracket was such a big hit they did it again this year. Next year Roe hopes to expand it to a full 64 shows, just like the NCAA.</p><p>When I asked him why KPCC went the brackets route, Roe gave me a very public radio answer. It&rsquo;s about starting a conversation.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean that&rsquo;s part of what makes it interesting is that it&rsquo;s a thing that you can debate,&rdquo; said Roe. &ldquo;That makes it a blast to be a part of.&rdquo;</p><p>Conversation, debate, passion &ndash; sure. But it&rsquo;s also about money. Roe says his bracket drives traffic to KPCC&rsquo;s website.</p><p>That&rsquo;s exactly what the NCAA figured out &ndash; that the people who fill out brackets far outnumber the sport&rsquo;s fan base. Dave Zirin, the sports editor at the Nation Magazine has done the math countless times.</p><p>&ldquo;Ninety percent of the NCAA&rsquo;s operating budget comes from the television contract for March Madness alone,&rdquo; said Zirin. &ldquo;So everything they do except for ten percent is tied to this tournament.&rdquo;</p><p>So I get why the NCAA loves brackets. But what about the rest of us?</p><p>Zirin chalks it up to our love for underdogs. A bracket &ndash; in sports or pop culture &ndash; is designed to produce lots of upsets. Even the lowliest team can pull a game out from under a top contender when all you have to do is play them once.</p><p>Plus anyone can participate and even win, whether they study records and stats or just pick teams based on their mascots or uniform colors. Take the same model, apply it to baked goods or TV characters, and you get all the pleasures of competition with none of the downsides - like reality.</p><p>Zirin says reality - or the lack thereof - is another big driver. Most of us won&rsquo;t ever be top athletes. But thanks to brackets, we can entertainment another fantasy - about playing basketball, like a boss.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was growing my dreams were about playing for the New York Mets or playing for the Knicks,&rdquo; said Zirin. &ldquo;Basically when they&rsquo;re playing fantasy sports people are dreaming about being owners, about being the executive who sits behind the desk and through their masterwork makes their own decision. It&rsquo;s like everyone is playing risk instead of playing sports.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alison Cuddy is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy">Twitter</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://instagram.com/cuddyreport">Instagram</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 08:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/bracket-madness-109893 The Handsome Family kills it on HBO http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/handsome-family-kills-it-hbo-109589 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HFTD.jpg" style="height: 333px; width: 500px;" title="Rennie and Brett (WBEZ file)." /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HFTD2.jpg" style="height: 333px; width: 500px;" title="Matthew and Woody (HBO)." /></div></div><p>Almost all of the well-deserved praise showered on producer T-Bone Burnett of late has come thanks to his role in crafting the music of the Coen Brothers&rsquo; moody homage to the pre-Dylan folk scene <em>Inside Llewyn Davis</em>. But as impressive as that accomplishment is, even more awesome are his choices as music supervisor for <em>True Detective, </em>the new HBO anthology series wowing TV critics with stellar performances from Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as cops chasing a serial killer through rural Louisiana in the show&rsquo;s first eight-episode season.</p><p>Rather than the predictable Cajun sounds some might have picked to power this tale, Burnett has instead matched the ominous Southern gothic mood with one exquisitely well-chosen song after another spanning a wide swath of different genres and eras, from &ldquo;Clear Spot&rdquo; by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band to &ldquo;Honey Bee (Let&rsquo;s Fly to Mars)&rdquo; by Nick Cave&rsquo;s Grinderman, and from &ldquo;Stand By Me&rdquo; by the Staple Singers to &ldquo;The Kingdom of Heaven&rdquo; by the 13<sup>th</sup> Floor Elevators. Best of all, however, was his choice for the show&rsquo;s theme song, kicking things off every Sunday night.</p><p>I recognized the dulcet tones of Brett and Rennie Sparks from the Handsome Family 10 seconds into the first episode, but I&rsquo;ll confess that as much as I love their now 10-albums-rich catalog&mdash;all of it released by the under-heralded Chicago indie Carrot Top Records&mdash;I had to do some digging in the stacks to place &ldquo;Far From Any Road&rdquo; as a rather deep album cut from <em>Singing Bones</em> in 2003.</p><p>That isn&rsquo;t to say it&rsquo;s not perfect for the job, or that it&rsquo;s not a great song&mdash;just that those twisted but lovable Sparks easily have a hundred tunes that would fit this tale of the undercurrents of evil and nihilism versus the forces of faith and humanism, and this one wouldn&rsquo;t have even been in my Top 20 picks, until T-Bone brought it to my attention once again.</p><p>&ldquo;The world needs bad men&mdash;we keep the other bad men from the door,&rdquo; McConaughey&rsquo;s philosophical sleuth said in this week&rsquo;s episode. I don&rsquo;t know about that, but even if they continue to prefer life in New Mexico over their old stomping grounds of Chicago (wonder why, with weather like this?), the world always has and always will need the Handsome Family.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/p4zluA60hjs" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong> or join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 14:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/handsome-family-kills-it-hbo-109589 11 alternative Christmas movies to watch this year http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/11-alternative-christmas-movies-watch-year-109384 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img 20th="" alt="" century="" class="image-original_image" edward="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Edward-Scissorhands-movie-still.jpg" style="height: 342px; width: 620px;" title="A still from &quot;Edward Scissorhands.&quot; (AP Photo/20th Century Fox)" /></div><p>Ah, Christmas movies. Everyone has a favorite, whether it be an old classic&mdash;the Rankin/Bass version of &quot;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xqACmJvqaU" target="_blank">Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer</a>&quot;&nbsp;comes to mind&mdash;or a newer addition, like Jim Carrey&#39;s &quot;How the Grinch Stole Christmas&quot; or Will Ferrell&#39;s &quot;Elf.&quot;</p><p>I will admit that a few traditional Christmas films still hold my heart, particularly &quot;It&#39;s A Wonderful Life&quot; (because I love Jimmy Stewart) and &quot;A Muppet Chistmas Carol&quot; (because I love Michael Caine as Scrooge, plus muppets), but my tastes have changed considerably over the years.</p><p>Once I began to realize that schmaltz-fests like &quot;The Family Stone&quot; were unfulfilling, and garish clunkers like &quot;Jingle All the Way&quot; were actually&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/jingle-all-the-way-1996" target="_blank">materialism incarnate</a>, I made a conscious decision to venture outside the Hallmark Channel-approved box for my holiday viewing.&nbsp;</p><p>I started watching movies set at Christmastime, often with plots still somewhat impacted by or connected to seasonal tropes, but that also contained much weirder, darker, and more complex themes than the simpler stories I enjoyed as a child. (I blame you, film school.)</p><p>Then there are those beloved holiday staples that toe the line, but never quite cross it. For example, &quot;A Christmas Story&quot; has enough acerbic wit to balance out the nostalgia, but also plays to the masses for <a href="http://www.tbs.com/stories/story/0,,97568,00.html" target="_blank">24 hours on TBS</a>. National Lampoon&#39;s &quot;Christmas Vacation&quot; may veer hilariously towards the irreverent, but stops short of real oddball territory due to the near universal accessibility of writer John Hughes.</p><p>If you&#39;re looking for a new yuletide tradition that doesn&#39;t involve endless rounds of carol-singing, or if you&#39;ve simply had your fill of Bing Crosby and &quot;Frosty the Snowman,&quot; then I suggest treating yourself to a Christmas movie with a little more bite.&nbsp;</p><p>Here are my Top 11:</p><p><strong>11. &quot;Brazil&quot; (1985)</strong></p><p>Terry Gilliam&#39;s &quot;Brazil&quot; is one of the most bizarre movies I&#39;ve ever seen; and consequently, one of my all-time favorites. The warped Christmas setting, though completely random and unexplained, is a perfect match for the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Wh2b1eZFUM" target="_blank">dystopian terror</a> of a society utterly devoid of holiday spirit. Plus, if you ever wanted to see Jonathon Pryce, Jim Broadbent, Peter Vaughn, Katherine Helmond, and Robert DeNiro in a film together&mdash;or rather, spiraling out of control in a wacky, retro-future Orwellian universe&mdash;herein lies your opportunity.</p><p><strong>10. &quot;Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy&quot; (2011)</strong></p><p>A Cold War<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aco15ScXCwA" target="_blank"> espionage thriller</a> starring Gary Oldman may not sound very Christmasy, but factor in a holiday office party as the scene that frames the movie&mdash;with gaudy &#39;70s suits, clouds of cigarette smoke, and a discordant sing-along to the Soviet Anthem, no less&mdash;and the idea of seasonal communion is turned wickedly on its head, like a wind-up doll gone deliriously mad. Meanwhile, in yet another sinister detail from director Tomas Alfredson (&quot;Let the Right One In&quot;), the singing is conducted by a eldritch-looking Santa Claus in a Lenin mask.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>9. &quot;Eyes Wide Shut&quot; (1999)</strong></p><p>In acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick&#39;s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXEziyz9duA" target="_blank">final film</a>, which premiered shortly after Kubrick&#39;s sudden death&nbsp;from a heart attack, then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a charged game of art imitating life. Here is a husband and wife who attend holiday parties together, then seperate, and fleetingly experience sordid lives outside their own. But when their wildest dreams turn to nightmares, notice the perverted symbolism: a Christmas tree (or related seasonal bauble) appears in almost every scene.</p><p><strong>8. &quot;The Apartment&quot; (1960)</strong></p><p>Leave it to filmmaker Billy Wilder (&quot;Some Like It Hot,&quot; &quot;The Lost Weekend&quot;) to write and direct a movie that focuses on the very darkest chasms of the human heart come Christmastime. Jack Lemmon plays the antihero, C.C. &quot;Bud&quot; Baxter: a lonely insurance salesman who decides to drown his sorrows in booze on Christmas Eve. He meets a fellow lonely heart at his neighborhood bar, and then brings her up to his apartment for a little more forgetting. But in a startling twist, they find that Shirley MacLaine&#39;s character is already there, passed out on his bed from a drug overdose. This sequence of events is beyond unfortunate, but also painfully true to life: a mirror reflecting back on those of us who know all too well how <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CufD9Tu1uLE" target="_blank">soul-crushing</a> the holidays can be, and how forced that &quot;cheer&quot; can often feel.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>7. &quot;Gremlins&quot; (1984)</strong></p><p>If you haven&#39;t seen this cult classic about evil little monsters going beserk on Christmas, then I am slightly jealous of your good fortune. The very &#39;80s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoK0BzYUTrU" target="_blank">black comedy horror film</a>, directed by Chris Columbus (&quot;Home Alone,&quot; &quot;Harry Potter&quot;) and produced by Steven Spielberg, centers on a teenage boy who gets a critter called a Mogwai for Christmas. His dad found the thing in Chinatown, of all places, and he must follow three rules to care for it properly: never expose it to bright light; never get it wet; and most importantly, never feed it after midnight. Of course, the boy does not follow these instructions, and his cuddly little pet, whom he calls Gizmo, eventually mulitiplies into a horde of scary reptilian gremlins that begin terrorizing his small town. Honestly, I always feared that my Furby would do the same thing.</p><p><strong>6. &quot;Batman Returns&quot; (1992)</strong></p><p>Tim Burton&#39;s first appearance on this list, with his second and last entry into the live-action &quot;Batman&quot; franchise of the &#39;90s, is also perhaps the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman_Returns" target="_blank">most Christmasy superhero film</a> in recent memory. Corrupt businessman Max Schreck (Christopher Walken) is described as &quot;Gotham&#39;s own Santa Claus,&quot; Michelle Pfieffer&#39;s Catwoman kisses Michael Keaton&#39;s Batman under the mistletoe, and Danny DeVito&#39;s deranged Penguin wreaks havoc on a snow-covered Gotham City. Ironically, the movie also enjoyed a successful June release in theatres, giving it the highest opening weekend&nbsp;of any film up to that point.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>5. &quot;Kiss Kiss Bang Bang&quot; (2005)</strong></p><p>In this underrated crime caper from writer/director Shane Black, a theatrical thief (Robert Downey Jr.) teams up with a gay detective (Val Kilmer) to solve a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-ekNtkhLjs" target="_blank">murder mystery</a> at Christmastime. Downey and Kilmer have surprisingly great comedic chemistry, likely aided by the kitsch romanticism of a snowless LA with plastic trees and Christmas lights. An actress also entagled in the crime (Michelle Monaghan) even shows up in a sexy Santa costume at one point.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>4. &quot;The Shop Around the Corner&quot; (1940)</strong></p><p>Two employees at a Budapest gift shop (Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, respectively) can barely stand one another; and yet, unbeknownst to both of them, are falling in love through the post as each other&#39;s anonymous pen pal. But as fate would have it, Christmas is ultimately what brings these squabbling soulmates together. In the film&#39;s memorable final scene, Stewart puts a red carnation on his lapel&mdash;thus revealing his identity to Sullivan as her longtime mystery correspondent&mdash;and the two share a passionate embrace on Christmas Eve. Does this <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033045/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1" target="_blank">oft-repeated romantic comedy</a> scenario sound familiar? Watch &quot;You&#39;ve Got Mail&quot; (the 1998 Nora Ephron-directed remake starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks), relive the nostalgia of AOL dial-up, and feel old.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>3. &quot;Edward Scissorhands&quot; (1990)</strong></p><p>Magical is the first word that comes to mind when I think of &quot;Edward Scissorhands,&quot; which is exactly the spirit that director Tim Burton conjures up in every fairy-tale frame. Johnny Depp&#39;s impressive silent film actor performance is another revelation (how could one not fall in love with his sweet, gentle, sadly<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099487/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1" target="_blank"> scissor-handed hero</a>?) and the bizarro world that the rest of the characters inhabit looks positively ethereal once the snow starts to fall. In fact, Winona Ryder twirling like an angel admist snowflakes and ice sculptures is perhaps the purest embodiment of Christmas I have ever seen put to film: an exultation of whimsy, wonder, and most of all, hope.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>2. &quot;The Nightmare Before Christmas&quot; (1993)</strong></p><p>Yes, Christmas features prominently into the plot, but Tim Burton&#39;s story is just as much about Halloweenteen and its delightfully creepy inhabitants as it is about what Jack Skellington discovers in the land of elves and Santy Claus. Plus, the incredible <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-LXKoNOMj0" target="_blank">stop motion animation</a> from director Henry Selick (&quot;James and the Giant Peach,&quot; &quot;Coraline&quot;) remains as mind-blowing today as it was when the film was first released.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>1. &quot;Die Hard&quot; (1988)</strong></p><p>I don&#39;t care what <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/here-is-an-opinion-that-is-not-as-clever-as-you-might-think" target="_blank">Buzzfeed</a> says; this movie is the epitome of yuletide joy. If you don&#39;t believe in miracles after watching Bruce Willis bungee jump through explosions on a fire hose, what hope is there for the world? Also, as a card-carrying member of the Alan Rickman fan club, I simply cannot fathom why audiences tout his role in &quot;Love Actually&quot; (quite possibly the most overrated holiday film of all time, in which he plays one of the most unlikeable characters) over his turn in this priceless gem. Old standbys like &quot;Miracle on 34th Street&quot; and &quot;Home Alone&quot; aside, &quot;Die Hard&quot; reigns as the ultimate Christmas movie.</p><p><strong>What are your favorite unconventional Christmas films?</strong></p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about art and popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/11-alternative-christmas-movies-watch-year-109384 City Self exhibition attempts a portrait of Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/city-self-exhibition-attempts-portrait-chicago-109394 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/mca photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicagoans do not always welcome critiques of their city by outsiders.</p><p>Take Rachel Shteir. In <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/books/review/the-third-coast-by-thomas-dyja-and-more.html?pagewanted=1&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">a now infamous essay for the <em>New York Times</em></a> last April, the DePaul University professor and New York native confessed she was &ldquo;bugged by Chicago&rsquo;s swagger,&rdquo; given its laundry list of economic and social problems. She even called out some local writers for perpetuating the &ldquo;bloviating.&rdquo;</p><p>The response, at least here, was swift, severe, and resoundingly negative. Shteir had more than touched a nerve. She started a fight.</p><p>So when Dieter Roelstraete decided to curate an exhibition about Chicago&mdash;currently running at the Museum of Contemporary Art&mdash;and include work by artists from outside the city, he was well aware he too might &ldquo;rile&rdquo; people.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a city that likes to talk about itself, and doesn&rsquo;t like other people talking about it, which is true of many cities,&rdquo; said Roelstraete, whose installation is called <a href="http://www.mcachicago.org/exhibitions/now/2013/318" target="_blank">City Self</a>. &ldquo;So this show for me is a little bit of an experiment. Because I myself go out on a limb.&rdquo;</p><p>Consisting largely of photography, Roelstraete says City Self functions as kind of a &ldquo;dialectic&rdquo; about Chicago: between the views of insiders and outsiders, from both bird&rsquo;s eye and &ldquo;from within the bowels&rdquo; points of view.</p><p>Works by local artists such as cartoonist Chris Ware and photographer Jonas Dovydenas present up-close, mainly warm, and people-centric views of Chicago&rsquo;s neighborhoods and ethnic communities. Alongside those are works that cast what Roelstraete calls a &ldquo;forensic&rdquo; eye on the city.</p><p>Ruth Thorne-Thomsen and Tom Van Eynde capture small, enigmatic scenes that convey a sense of desolation and at times disaster. Catherine Opie and Andreas Gursky&rsquo;s epic photographs of Chicago&rsquo;s economic and architectural infrastructure render the city as a dazzling, if impersonal, space. The show&rsquo;s centerpiece unfolds on a floor-to-ceiling screen housed in a long, dark, rectangular gallery. Chicago, a 2011 film by Sarah Morris, is a spectacular, almost glistening panorama of the city.</p><p>Chicago takes a very familiar and even boosterish point of view. There are long, repeating shots of well-worn tourists spots such as the John Hancock Building and Manny&rsquo;s Deli. Regular Chicagoans hang out at the beach, eat lunch, and motor down Lake Shore Drive. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley holds a press conference.</p><p>But all of it has an uncanny air. Morris&rsquo; camera wanders through spaces that are now shuttered, such as the former Ebony Jet Magazine offices. She films industry that has largely vanished (meat packing, much of local newspaper publishing). All ambient sound is stripped away. Instead, everything plays out over a minimalist (and eventually annoying) electronic beat. If the film comes across as an advertisement, it is for something nobody seems interested in buying anymore.</p><p>Roelstraete said Morris&rsquo; film inspired the show&rsquo;s theme.</p><p>&ldquo;Her obsession with surface is duplicated in quite a few of the works by outsiders who really don&rsquo;t care so much about getting to know the city,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re kind of more interested in this slightly alienated spectacle of the modern metropolis.&rdquo;</p><p>Morris is an outsider. She is British and lives in New York. But in a post-screening discussion, she revealed that her ability to make this film relied on her connection to the most insider of insiders: Penny Pritzker, the Chicago billionaire-businesswoman currently serving as U.S. secretary of Commerce.</p><p>That complicates the insider-outsider dynamic that Roelstraete is attempting to explore. And though Roelstraete too is an outsider -- he moved here from Berlin less than a year ago -- he seems less interested in Chicago as a specific locale, seeing it as the &ldquo;quintessential American city.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Just the intensity of gun violence, or the byzantine complexities of bipartisan politics in this country,&rdquo; said Roelstraete. &ldquo;So if there is a dark undertone, I guess it is the dark undertone of American society as a whole.&rdquo;</p><p>City Self is at the Museum of Contemporary Art through April.</p><p><em><a href=" http://www.wbez.org/users/acuddy-0" rel="author"> Alison Cuddy</a> is an arts and culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on <a href=" https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy"> Twitter </a>, <a href=" https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison"> Facebook</a>&nbsp;and <a href=" http://instagram.com/cuddyreport"> Instagram</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 17 Dec 2013 15:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/city-self-exhibition-attempts-portrait-chicago-109394 25 inspiring authors for writers http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/25-inspiring-authors-writers-109352 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" dominique="" penguin="" press="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Dominique%20Nabokov.jpg" title="Press photo for Zadie Smith, author of &quot;NW.&quot; (Dominique Nabokov/Penguin Press)" /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The great endeavor of writing a novel, I have discovered, is equal parts exhilarating, exasperating, and exhausting. One day can bring a huge breakthrough, with ideas overflowing and fingers flying across the keyboard, while the next can amount to nothing more than a tiny black cursor blinking desperately on a blank page.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In these moments, I search for traces of kinship in the literary giants who came before me.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Did Hemingway ever struggle with writer&#39;s block when he was scribbling away in those Paris cafés? Did Salinger obsessively re-write sentences and anguish over syntax, too? Did Woolf realize her writing would continue to be read and cherished by women in the 21st century&mdash;that a lonely girl from Texas would pick up &quot;A Room of One&#39;s Own&quot; and yearn for the freedoms she described?&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Meanwhile, Buzzfeed is running a wonderful&nbsp;<a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/colinwinnette/aimee-bender-there-is-such-genuine-happiness" target="_blank">interview series</a>&nbsp;on writers recalling and dissecting the books that have formed them, which prompted me to further examine which authors have had the most profound impact on my life.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">When did I realize that I wanted to be a novelist? At first, I thought it must be around the time that I first read &quot;To Kill A Mockingbird&quot; (my first classic, age 8) or &quot;Harry Potter&quot; (my first serial obsession, age 11), but then remembered a host of other novels written by authors who still feel like old friends, though we&#39;ve never met.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Turns out, I have many to thank for shaping me into the writer that I am today.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In no particular order:</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>1. Zadie Smith.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;White Teeth&quot; (2000), &quot;On Beauty&quot; (2005), and &quot;NW&quot; (2013)&nbsp;</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else. 2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.&quot;&nbsp;<em>&mdash;&nbsp;</em><em>Smith, from her &quot;10 Rules of Writing&quot; published in the <a href="http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/09/19/zadie-smith-10-rules-of-writing/" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</em></div></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>2.&nbsp;Gabriel García Márquez.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;One Hundred Years of Solitude&quot; (1967) and &quot;Love in the Time of Cholera&quot; (1985)</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;If I had to give a young writer some advice I would say to write about something that has happened to him; it&rsquo;s always easy to tell whether a writer is writing about something that has happened to him or something he has read or been told. Pablo Neruda has a line in a poem that says &#39;God help me from inventing when I sing.&#39; It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there&rsquo;s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality.&quot; &mdash; <em>Márquez, interviewed for <a href="http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3196/the-art-of-fiction-no-69-gabriel-garcia-marquez" target="_blank">The Paris Review</a> after winning the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature for &quot;One Hundred Years of Solitude.&quot;</em></div></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>3. Nick Hornby.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Fever Pitch&quot; (1992), &quot;High Fidelity&quot; (1995) and &quot;About a Boy&quot; (1998)</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;One of the questions that is probably troubling you at the moment is this: How do I know whether I&rsquo;m a writer? And the question can only be answered with another question: Well, do you write? If you don&rsquo;t, you&rsquo;re not. If you do, you are. There&rsquo;s nothing else to it...Walk into a bookshop and you will see books that you love and books that you hate, books that were written in three weeks and books that took thirty years, books that were written under the influence of drugs and alcohol, books that were written in splendid isolation, books that were written in Starbucks. Some of them were written with enormous enjoyment, some for money, some in fear and loathing and despair. The only thing they all have in common&mdash;and actually there is the odd honourable exception even to this rule&mdash;is that their authors finished them, sooner or later.&quot; - <em>Hornby, in an excerpt from his <a href="http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/nick-hornby" target="_blank">Pep Talk</a> for National Novel Writing Month, 2013. &nbsp;</em></div></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>4. Chuck Palahniuk.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Fight Club&quot; (1996), &quot;Survivor&quot; (1999) and &quot;Choke&quot; (2001)</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;Your audience is smarter than you imagine. Don&#39;t be afraid to experiment with story forms and time shifts. My personal theory is that younger readers disdain most books &mdash; not because those readers are dumber than past readers, but because today&#39;s reader is smarter. Movies have made us very sophisticated about storytelling. And your audience is much harder to shock than you can ever imagine.&quot; &mdash; <em>Palahniuk, from his &quot;<a href="http://chuckpalahniuk.net/features/essays/13-writing-tips" target="_blank">Essays on Writing</a>.&quot;</em></div></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>5. Joan Didion</strong></span><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Joan Didion.jpg" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Joan Didion in 1977. (AP Photo/File) " /><strong>. Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Slouching Towards Bethlehem&quot; (1968), &quot;Play As It Lays&quot; (1970) and &quot;The Year of Magical Thinking&quot; (2005)</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;Of course I stole the title for this talk, from George Orwell.&nbsp;One reason I stole it was that I like the sound of the words: Why I Write. There you have three short unambiguous words that share a sound, and the sound they share is this: I,&nbsp;I,&nbsp;I. In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It&rsquo;s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions &mdash; with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating &mdash; but there&rsquo;s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer&rsquo;s sensibility on the reader&rsquo;s most private space.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Didion, from &quot;<a href="http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/10/16/why-i-write-joan-didion/" target="_blank">Why I Write</a>&quot; in the New York Times Book Review, 1976.&nbsp;</em></div></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>6. Ernest Hemingway.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works: </strong>&quot;The Sun Also Rises&quot; (1926), &quot;A Farewell to Arms&quot; (1929), &quot;For Whom the Bell Tolls&quot; (1940) and &quot;The Old Man and the Sea&quot; (1952)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you, so try to remember it.&quot;&mdash;<em>&nbsp;Hemingway, in an October 1935 article about writing for <a href="http://www.openculture.com/2013/02/seven_tips_from_ernest_hemingway_on_how_to_write_fiction.html" target="_blank">Esquire</a>.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>7. J.D. Salinger.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Catcher in the Rye&quot; (1951), &quot;Nine Stories&quot; (1953) and &quot;Franny and Zooey&quot; (1961)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;I have to know my character thoroughly before I start, and know how he&rsquo;d act in every situation. If I am writing about Mr. Tidwinkle&#39;s golf game, I must also know how he would act when drunk, or at a bachelor dinner, or in the bathtub or in bed &mdash; and it must all be very real and ordinary.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Salinger, to journalist Shirley Ardman in New York,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thedrum.com/news/2012/01/26/top-tips-writers-jd-salinger-advice-beyond-grave" target="_blank">1941</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>8. Mary Shelley.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable work:</strong> &quot;Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus&quot; (1818)&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>&quot;How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Shelley, &quot;Frankenstein&quot; (written at <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein" target="_blank">age 19</a>) &nbsp;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>9. George Orwell.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;1984&quot; (1949) and &quot;Animal Farm&quot; (1945)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.&nbsp;This sounds easy, but in practice is incredibly difficult. Phrases such as&nbsp;toe the line,&nbsp;ride roughshod over,&nbsp;stand shoulder to shoulder with,&nbsp;play into the hands of, an axe to grind, Achilles&rsquo; heel, swan song,&nbsp;and&nbsp;hotbed&nbsp;come to mind quickly and feel comforting and melodic. For this exact reason they must be avoided. Common phrases have become so comfortable that they create no emotional response. Take the time to invent fresh, powerful images.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Orwell, from his <a href="http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/george-orwells-5-rules-for-effective-writing/" target="_blank">1946 essay</a>,&quot;Politics and the English Language.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><b>10. Toni Morrison.&nbsp;</b></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Beloved&quot; (1987) and &quot;Song of Solomon&quot; (1977)</p><blockquote><p>&#39;&#39;I am not able to write regularly. I have never been able to do that&mdash;mostly because I have always had a nine-to-five job. I had to write either in between those hours, hurriedly, or spend a lot of weekend and predawn time [doing it].&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Morrison, in an excerpt from her 1993 interview with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1888/the-art-of-fiction-no-134-toni-morrison" target="_blank">The Paris Review</a>.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><b>11. Virginia Woolf.&nbsp;</b></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Mrs. Dalloway&quot; (1925), &quot;To the Lighthouse&quot;(1928) and &quot;A Room of One&#39;s Own&quot; (1929)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to.&nbsp;Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.&rdquo; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Woolf, in an excerpt from &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Room_of_One%27s_Own" target="_blank">A Room of One&#39;s Own.</a>&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>12. Dave Eggers.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius&quot;(2000) and &quot;The Circle&quot; (2013)</p><blockquote><p>&#39;&#39;And here is where I spend seven or eight hours at a stretch. Seven or eight hours each time I try to write. Most of that time is spent stalling, which means that for every seven or eight hours I spend pretending to write&mdash;sitting in the writing position, looking at a screen&mdash;I get, on average, one hour of actual work done. It&rsquo;s a terrible, unconscionable ratio.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Eggers, from the 2010 article &quot;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/10/AR2010121003215.html" target="_blank">Dave Egger&#39;s Writing Life</a>,&quot; published in the Washington Post.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>13. Mark Twain.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works: </strong>&quot;Adventures of Huckleberry Finn&quot; (1885) and &quot;The Adventures of Tom Sawyer&quot; (1876)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.&#39;&#39; &mdash; <em>Twain, on how <a href="http://www.rebellesociety.com/2012/11/14/writing-lab-11-juicy-tips-from-mark-twain/" target="_blank">writing is re-writing</a>.</em></p></blockquote><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ROALD_DAHL_AP_.jpg" style="height: 433px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Roald Dahl in 1964. (AP Photo/File)" /><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>14. Roald Dahl.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;James and the Giant Peach&quot; (1961), &quot;Charlie and the Chocolate Factory&quot; (1964) and &quot;Matilda&quot;(1988)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;The prime function of the children&rsquo;s book writer is to write a book that is so absorbing, exciting, funny, fast and beautiful that the child will fall in love with it. And that first love affair between the young child and the young book will lead hopefully to other loves for other books and when that happens the battle is probably won. The child will have found a crock of gold. He will also have gained something that will help to carry him most&nbsp;marvelously&nbsp;through the tangles of his later years.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Dahl on the power of <a href="http://scribblepreach.com/2013/04/25/how-to-write-like-roald-dahl/" target="_blank">children&#39;s books</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>15. Margaret Atwood.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works: </strong>&quot;The Handmaid&#39;s Tale&quot; (1985), &quot;Cat&#39;s Eye,&quot;(1988), &quot;Blind Assassin&quot; (2000) and &quot;Oryx and Crake&quot; (2003)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Sometimes people are surprised that a woman would write such things.&nbsp;<em>Bodily Harm</em>, for instance, was perceived as some kind of incursion into a world that is supposed to be male. Certainly violence is more a part of my work than it is of Jane Austen&rsquo;s, or George Eliot&rsquo;s. They didn&rsquo;t do it in those days. Charles Dickens wrote about Bill Sikes bludgeoning Nancy to death, getting blood all over everything, but if a woman had written that, nobody would have published it. Actually, I grew up violence-free and among people who were extremely civilized in their behavior. &quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Atwood, on writing violence, from her 1990 interview for the <a href="http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2262/the-art-of-fiction-no-121-margaret-atwood" target="_blank">The Paris Review</a>.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>16. Vladmir Nabokov.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable work: </strong>&quot;Lolita&quot; (1955)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;After waking up between six and seven in the morning, I write till ten-thirty, generally at a lectern which faces a bright corner of the room instead of the bright audiences of my professorial days. The first half- hour of relaxation is breakfast with my wife around eight-thirty... Around eleven, I soak for 20 minutes in a hot bath, with a sponge on my head and a wordsman&rsquo;s worry in it, encroaching, alas, upon the nirvana. A stroll with my wife along the lake is followed by a frugal lunch and a two-hour nap, after which I resume my work until dinner at seven. An American friend gave us a Scrabble set in Cyrillic alphabet, manufactured in Newtown, Conn.; so we play&nbsp;<em>skrebl</em>&nbsp;for an hour or two after dinner. Then I read in bed&mdash; periodicals or one of the novels that proud publishers optimistically send us. Between eleven and midnight begins my usual fight with insomnia. Such are my habits in the cold season.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Nabokov, when asked how he works and relaxes in an 1968 interview with the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/02/lifetimes/nab-v-things.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>17. Richard Wright.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Uncle Tom&#39;s Cabin&quot; (1938), &quot;Native Son&quot; (1940) and &quot;Black Boy&quot; (1945)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Our too-young and too-new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Wright, from &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_boy" target="_blank">Black Boy.</a>&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>18. Hunter S. Thompson.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works: </strong>&quot;Hell&#39;s Angels&quot; (1967), &quot;Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas&quot; (1971) and &quot;The Rum Diary&quot; (1998)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I&#39;m not sure that I&#39;m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says &#39;you are nothing&#39;, I will be a writer.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Thompson, from &quot;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Gonzo-Hunter-S-Thompson/dp/097860766X" target="_blank">Gonzo.</a>&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>19. Kurt Vonnegut</strong></span><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/kurt_vonnegut_ap_img.jpg" style="float: right; height: 212px; width: 320px;" title="Kurt Vonnegut in 1979. (AP Photo/File)" /><strong>. Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Cat&#39;s Cradle&quot; (1963), &quot;Slaughterhouse-Five&quot; (1969) and &quot;Breakfast of Champions&quot; (1973)</p><blockquote><p>&quot; 1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. 2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. 3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. 4. Every sentence must do one of two things &mdash;reveal character or advance the action. 5. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them&mdash;in order that the reader may see what they are made of.&quot; &nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;<em>From Vonnegut&#39;s &quot;<a href="http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/538" target="_blank">8 Basics of Creative Writing</a>&quot; in the preface of his short story collection, &quot;Bagombo Snuff Box.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>20. Elie Wiesel.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable work:</strong> &quot;Night&quot; (1955)&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Why do I write? Perhaps in order not to go mad. Or, on the contrary, to touch the bottom of madness...There are easier occupations, far more pleasant ones. But for the survivor, writing is not a profession, but an occupation, a duty. Camus calls it &#39;an honor.&#39; As he puts it: &#39;I entered literature through worship.&#39; Other writers have said they did so through anger, through love.&nbsp; Speaking for myself, I would say &mdash; through silence.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Wiesel, in an excerpt from &quot;<a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0CC4QFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.litjunkies.com%2FWhy%2520I%2520Write.doc&amp;ei=gbWpUr2NAuamygGVqoDoDg&amp;usg=AFQjCNGSnkS4wm30rmI_li7l-ILEuIDfVA&amp;sig2=mqauA92_eJtyi_KE1ZtopQ&amp;bvm=bv.57967247,d.aWc">Why I Write: Making No Become Yes</a>.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>21. Jack Keroauc.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;On the Road&quot;(1957) and &quot;Big Sur&quot; (1962)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy, 2. Submissive to everything, open, listening, 3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house, 4. Be in love with yr life, 5. Something that you feel will find its own form.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Keroauc, from his 30 essentials in &quot;<a href="http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/464" target="_blank">Belief and Technique for Modern Prose.</a>&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>22. Harper Lee.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable work:</strong> &quot;To Kill a Mockingbird&quot; (1960)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Lee in <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/thick-skin" target="_blank">Writer&#39;s Digest</a>, September 1961.&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>23. Stephen King.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Carrie&quot; (1974), &quot;The Shining&quot; (1977) and &quot;Misery&quot; (1987)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it &#39;got boring,&#39; the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.&quot;<em>&nbsp;</em><em>&mdash;</em><em>King, from &quot;<a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/stephen-kings-top-20-rules-for-writers/" target="_blank">On Writing</a>.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>24. John Steinbeck.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Of Mice and Men&quot; (1937), &quot;The Grapes of Wrath&quot; (1939) and &quot;East of Eden&quot; (1952)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.&quot; &mdash; <em>Steinbeck, from his &quot;<a href="http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/03/12/john-steinbeck-six-tips-on-writing/" target="_blank">Six Tips on Writing</a>&quot; in the Fall 1975 issue of The Paris Review.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>25. J.K. Rowling.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> the &quot;Harry Potter&quot; series (1997-2007)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me...And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss.&quot; &mdash; <em>Rowling, on living as a single mother on welfare before publishing the first &quot;Harry Potter&quot; book at age 32.</em></p></blockquote><p><strong>Honorable mentions:</strong> Marya Hornbacher, David Sedaris, the Brontë sisters, and the poets: Whitman, Poe, Dickinson, Plath, Silverstein, Frost, Ginsberg, Yeats, Angelou, Emerson, and Wilde.</p><p><strong>Which authors, poets, and essayists have inspired you?</strong></p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about art and popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 12 Dec 2013 08:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/25-inspiring-authors-writers-109352 Inside the eye of photographer Todd Diederich http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-12/inside-eye-photographer-todd-diederich-109348 <p><div><img alt="" at="" by="" chicago="" class="image-original_image" diederich="" displayed="" exhibit="" is="" new="" pentagram="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pp.jpg" style="float: left; height: 279px; width: 350px;" the="" title="" todd="" />Todd Diederich&rsquo;s work is robust. His passion as a photographer can be measured by the heft of each of his images. Subjects and scenes tell a complete story in each photograph, never leaving room for doubt in their liveliness or authenticity.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He captures a part of Chicago far from the sterilized energy of downtown&mdash;one that is young and potent.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>One of his many images, shown left, is on display at &quot;<a href="http://d-weinberg.com/" target="_blank">Chicago Style</a>,&quot; a new salon-style group exhibition at David Weinberg Photography.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Chicago Style&quot; features 34 Chicago photographers &quot;whose eclectic works,&quot; according to the gallery, reflect &quot;the nuanced and refined style of the stormy, husky and brawling city of big shoulders.&quot;&nbsp;It runs through February 15, 2014.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Diederich hails from Brookfield and attended Columbia College on scholarship before leaving the downtown art school in 2003. Afterward, he left the city entirely, spending time in Athens, Georgia, a city known for its extensive arts and culture community. Diederich eventually moved back to Chicago in 2009.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Diederich&rsquo;s breakthrough came with work for the Chicago Reader and a column with Vice&nbsp;Magazine online. From both experiences, he has gained a greater sense of control of what he photographs and how the images are represented. Diederich&#39;s chosen photograph for the exhibit,&nbsp;titled &quot;Pentagram Perception,&quot; was taken during his residency with local nonprofit&nbsp;<a href="http://www.acreresidency.org/">Artists&#39; Cooperative&nbsp;Residency&nbsp;and Exhibitions</a>,&nbsp;or ACRE.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It is a good representation of my mind pressed flat against a two-dimensional surface,&rdquo; Diederich&nbsp;said of the photograph. His time at ACRE &ldquo;cracked open something inside me. My future was there and where I am still headed ... a bridge between the celestial and terrestrial.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Since then, Diederich&#39;s projects have included a successful <a href="http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/752279352/luminous-flux-photography-book" target="_blank">Kickstarter campaign</a> to fund his first photography book, &quot;Luminous Flux&quot; (the cover of which featured &quot;Pentagram Perception&quot; and was created with the help of <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=2&amp;ved=0CDMQFjAB&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fblogs%2Fbritt-julious%2F2013-03%2Fground-building-new-art-communities-chicago-106218&amp;ei=kaeoUun5GaGr2QX2yYDIBg&amp;usg=AFQjCNER4uLl13nA6M1LzMyF2-7zN-UNxw&amp;sig2=aGqXN3xYK2ybV4wX5Dg7AA&amp;bvm=bv.57799294,d.b2I" target="_blank">Matt Austin and The Perch</a>), an exhibition at Johalla Projects, and directing a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=lmg3uXezQCY">music video</a>.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>His tumblr,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.beodddierich.com/" target="_blank">Be (T)Odd Die(De)Rich</a>,&nbsp;remains the most prominent and updated source for his work. It is also where he has gathered a substantial fanbase of other artists and creatives.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I do what I love. I&#39;m trying to continue with that,&rdquo; Diederich said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s all I can meditate on.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Each blog post gives a look at a sliver of Diederich&rsquo;s life, and the blog as a whole is a visual diarie that reveals without sacrificing the friendships and bonds he has formed with his subjects. It&#39;s his reality shared with those who may not live in Englewood or attend underground balls, but are curious.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Diederich understands this, certainly more than most, and captures within each photograph the complexity of his settings and subjects&mdash;their wealth and ambition, their pride and beauty, their youth and tradition.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I am really photographing a strange reflection of my minds eye,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Subjects are friends, or friends of friends, or new friends. Situations can be loving, sweet, soft, angry, demonic and ugly. But the energy attracted me. It&#39;s one element of the magic of photography.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He makes a point of mentioning that he is not afraid of death. And so he makes art that looks like his subjects are willing to die for their performances or relationships or passions. During the course of our two-hour long interview, Diederich recounts stories and anecdotes which are at once humorous, shocking, and unnerving.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I photograph for the future, for the next Earth, the one after this era ends,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Because if I&#39;m reincarnated again, it would be fun to see what really went down in this place called Chicago.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>His use of pineal gland&nbsp;or &quot;third eye&quot;&nbsp;activation plays a large part in his vision, allowing him to unlock a personal vision that captures more than just the essence of his subjects and settings. He also recognizes their humanity and leaves it open to be visually consumed by audiences online and in person.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Since I noticed their energy I am sure others will,&rdquo; Diederich said. &ldquo;They are not ignored, they are just down the street from me vibrating.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>David Weinberg Photography is located at 300 W Superior, Suite 203.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Britt Julious&nbsp;blogs about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow her essays for WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/">here</a>&nbsp;and on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 11 Dec 2013 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-12/inside-eye-photographer-todd-diederich-109348