tonight at 10/9c, cnn will air the first episode of their original series, “chicagoland.” because my employer was involved with some of the filming for this 8-part documentary, this past tuesday night i was able to attend a special debut showing at the bank of america theater in chicago. based on the first episode that i saw, i would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in an insider’s view to how a modern american city works (or, sometimes, doesn’t).
their crews were given access to intimate & uncensored moments we members of the public rarely get to see, if ever: with the mayor, with the principal of a school which needs metal detectors, with the police chief, with grieving families, and—in the episode’s most haunting moment—with 10-year-old students who are literally scared for their lives just walking to school.
but, as someone who loves this city dearly, i want to give all of you not from chicago a viewer’s guide to the things that the cameras didn’t capture, or were edited out, or just plain weren’t explained…
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In college, I remember writing “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool” on a scrap of yellow paper—maybe a Post-It note—and carrying it around in my wallet because I needed to remind myself of the good news.
It’s strange to feel so attached to someone you didn’t know. I didn’t even know the personal details that some fans glom on to about the stars they love: ideology, philosophy, politics, etc. I didn’t know where he’d come from or how they’d mapped his rise to stardom. I only knew his work, and I adored him.
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On Christmas day, while my brother and his wife were preparing dinner, my family told me to select a movie to watch. Because it was Christmas, I thought I should choose something happy and fun that didn’t involve serial killers. So I selected one of my favorite movies from childhood – Hook.
Rewatching your favorite childhood movies as an adult is kind of like meeting your favorite writer for the first time – you’re either going to be even more in love, or you’re going to be hugely disappointed. I know this. I’ve known this since I rewatched Never Ending Story a few years ago and Falcor appeared on the screen and I screamed, “OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?”
That is what nightmares are made out of. It also might be the least dragon-like dragon I’ve ever seen. And adult me knows a lot about dragons.
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It’s 2013, folks. We’ve got naked people on TV, pocket vibrators in the grocery stores, and a few ladies in the government. We are sexually enlightened. We’ve got this whole sex thing down.
At least that’s what I hear.
Thanks to our society’s complete acceptance of all things sexual, I’ve been enjoying a little show called Masters of Sex. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s a Showtime series about the real sex research done by William Masters and Virginia Johnson beginning in 1957. I dig the characters, I want to chisel Michael Sheen a tiny Oscar out of my own dental fillings, and although the pacing was off at first, the interpersonal dramas are gettin’ good. But what keeps me coming back to the show is the eerie feeling I get every time I watch it that in spite of all the progress we’ve made, we haven’t really made much, well, progress.
Take, for instance, one of Masters and Johnson’s primary questions: Is there a difference between and a clitoral and a vaginal orgasm? Decades later, the debate continues.
The fact is, at least in the sexual arena, we’re not really masters of anything. Everywhere you look in sex research you find holes. Some small, others gaping. But for all we lack in understanding and even empathy, we at least try to make up for with endearing curiosity and (sometimes misguided) persistence. So today, with quotes from Masters of Sex as our guide, let’s celebrate some of the questions we’ve thought to ask in recent years, and some of the odd ways we’ve tried to answer them. Read more »
Thanks for your letter about the problem of head injuries in the NFL. My thoughts on this are still evolving as I read more, but I’ll attempt a coherent response.
As you know, I’ve grown up as a die-hard hockey fan. I grew up surrounded by people who loved the sport of hockey in a way that I rarely encounter with other sports fans. Sometimes I’ll catch a glimmer of it in the old-time baseball fans who delight in tracking stats and love to recount the lore surrounding the truly great players, but it’s still different. Hockey is not just a sport that you pick up or discard at will: it is a culture, a history, an ethos, a guiding philosophy, a religion.
Part of the ethos of hockey, as in many sports, is that the team comes first. Taking a stupid penalty is bad because it hurts the team; being selfish with the puck hurts the team; not sticking up for your linemate if he suffers a cheapshot from an opposing player hurts the team. Those are cultural norms. But another part of the culture, one of the most revered pillars of the temple of hockey, is toughness. Whatever the physical problem is, you play through it– especially during playoffs. Broken wrist? Play through it. Broken ankle? Play through it. 100 mph slapshot to the face? Play through it. A separated shoulder and a broken rib which then punctures your lung? You better believe he played through it.
You can see how this would be a problem.
The NHL has also suffered greatly from player concussions over the years, and many players in the recent past suffered from the lack of knowledge and hard science about concussions. The NHL began mandating baseline neuropsychological testing in 1997, however– many years before the NFL– and the current league culture (for the most part) respects a player like Sidney Crosby’s decision to sit out for as long as it took until he felt 100% with absolutely zero symptoms. That wasn’t always the case– see Eric Lindros, given the mantle of the Next Great One at age 18, whose career was destroyed a decade ago not only by repeated concussions but by the Flyers organization’s response to them. Lindros eventually became an unwilling poster boy for the dangers of concussions, and though his experiences were validated by later scientific studies, at the time, he was crucified for not playing through his multiple concussions. I’m thankful that now, hockey culture has a much, much higher level of knowledge about concussions, concussion symptoms, and how to treat each one individually. Both the league and individual players speak freely about how seriously they take concussions, and the impact on one’s brain that repeated concussions can have. The trickle down effect of this knowledge has permeated junior leagues and children’s leagues as well, so there’s a consistent conversation about player safety. And while the NHL certainly isn’t perfect, they’ve managed to respond to the scientific evidence and help educate players so that concussions aren’t a hazy, illegitimate concept: they are a scientific fact. This is so obviously not the case in the NFL. As you said, ”it seems like we’ve got an epidemic of concussive & cumulative sub-concussive hits that are causing some serious fucking damage to players’ brains.” Amen. So what’s to be done? Read more »
Not too long ago, I graduated with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. That makes me an expert in two things: Cost-effective liquor and every crime drama that TV Guide has deemed “smart and sexy.” Don’t believe me? I thought you might be the Scully type. That’s why I emptied this bottle of Cruzan® and whipped up a little quiz for you.
Match each scenario with the show in which it would most likely appear. You can choose the same answer more than once, but…do you think that’s wise? Be the first to answer all six correctly in the comments section, and I’ll reward you with a token of my appreciation. Just a small something to express how nice it is to finally find a worthy adversary. Mua ha ha ha–
[Note: For the sake of page space, "Female Protagonist" will appear as "FP," and "Male Protagonist" as "MP."]
Question 1. The scene: The MP is a cocky rebel with boyish good looks and eyes haunted by memories of a traumatic loss. He smells of sandalwood, even under intense stress, and wears tailored suits whether he’s out jogging, pumping gas, or checking the mail. Read more »
I don’t understand people who read spoilers. I don’t understand, really, why spoilers exist. Is it just because we all have this innate need to know something before other people do or is it because we’re too lazy or busy to actually experience something?
I think people are lazy (hey, I’m not judging – I can be lazy as hell sometimes, especially when laundry is involved). But we also all have a million things to do, which doesn’t help. We’re lazy and busy at the same time. We don’t have time to do math in our heads anymore. We don’t want to try to access our memory banks for the name of that 90s song that we recognize and used to love. We want to hold up our phones and have it tell us the answer, and then we want to say out loud, “Oh yeah, I knew that.” Because we did know that. We just didn’t want to work to retrieve the information.
Instant gratification, I guess, is what I’m getting at. But it’s more complicated than that. I can still remember the people who found it so satisfying to shout in the halls or to post on facebook, “SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE!” There are 652 pages in that book, and I’m fairly certain that most of the people who engaged in this spoiler attack hadn’t read a damn one of them. Information is power, and there’s the type of spoiler who wields information (that they didn’t earn) in order to feel powerful. And that type of spoiler sucks. Read more »
210 works selected from over 700 submissions.
Those numbers are a few of the ways Terrain, the visual arts/cultural extravaganza held in Spokane every October, describes itself. But to really get a sense of this incredible event, you’ll want to show up. You’ll want to meet some of the emerging young artists, experience the interactive art installations, view the incredible amount of talent housed in the region, hear some poems read, watch a film, dance your ass off.
Terrain is entering its 6th year, brought to fruition by the hard work of co-founders Ginger Ewing, Luke Baumgarten, and Patrick Kendrick. All three have full-time jobs, side projects, and their own art to concern themselves with, and yet every single year, they manage to put together an incredible, exciting, well-juried event that incorporates visual art, music, film, literary arts and more.
EWU MFA alumna Aileen Vaux will be reading her poetry during the event, and various other members of the literary arts community will be participating, attending, and marveling at what an amazing arts community Spokane has. Don’t miss it!
Friday, October 4
5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Music City Building, 1011 W. First Avenue, Spokane, WA
you know it’s bad when stephen colbert mentions your hometown & syria in the same sentence. as in:
before, [assad] was just using bullets—but if america cared about shooting people, we’d be invading chicago.
how bad is it? it’s so bad, in fact, that an al jazeera america reporter sets up his story this way:
I’ve covered stories in war zones and places where people were desperate for food and life itself, but I never felt the same level of intensity on the streets as I did when I started reporting on the south and west sides of Chicago.
this isn’t anything new. i wrote about it a few months back, and various media outlets have been reporting on it occasionally for years now—usually in the aftermath of an especially violent incident (and, believe me, if something is seen as more violent than usual here, it’s REALLY fucking violent).
but for whatever reason, the stories seem to be piling up faster now, and not necessarily coming from the places you might expect. it isn’t just traditional news outlets (like 48 hours), or even parodic news sources like colbert. i don’t know what you’d call vice, but i never really thought of it as a go-to place for hard news. then again, i don’t really think of cnn/fox/msnbc that way either. in any case, vice produced an insider’s look at chicago that even residents like me don’t really see. and now the next time i see a local/ “not for tourists” guide to chicago, this is going to be exactly the first thing that comes to mind.
once in a while one of my neighborhood community groups will post something on facebook about local gang activity (it’s positively shocking what can happen two blocks from your home without your slightest awareness of it). so, even seeing videos of young men flashing gang signs & guns doesn’t feel all that revelatory. it’s all over youtube, in fact. what did hit me in the gut, however, was another non-traditional news source covering this madness: a filmmaker named will robson-scott. this london-born guy made a short film called chi raq, and i thought the most shocking thing about it was the startlingly normal subjects. they weren’t drug-addled adults & deadbeat dads & boy soldiers. they were parents who lost their children, men in poverty desperate for a job, and young men painted into a corner by circumstances well beyond their control. they were you if you’d just been born somewhere else—the catch being, “somewhere else” is very much still in america & really isn’t that far from where you really do live. take 13 minutes & see for yourself:
We shouldn’t have to say that the arts are important; we shouldn’t have to defend them. Earlier today, I read an article about how the CIA funded Abstract Expressionists during the Cold War, because that artistic movement, level of creativity, intellectual freedom was something a rigid communist regime could never have. Just think of that: art is cultural power. Look at how Japan has maintained soft power through its cultural exports the past twenty years. Arts are a sphere of influence as powerful as natural resources and technology.
“A bill approved by the House of Representative’s committee on appropriations would cut funding for a number of cultural organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts, whose budget would be slashed to $75 million for the 2014 fiscal year, a 49% decrease from the agency’s funding for 2013 before the budget sequester.
The proposed NEA cuts are part of an across-the-board reduction in federal spending that was put forward this week by the committee, which is led by Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky. The bill calls for an overall federal spending cut of 19%.” -David Ng, LA Times
The National Endowment for the Arts funds dance, design, folk & traditional arts, literature, local arts agencies, media arts, multidisciplinary, museums, music, musical theater, opera, presenting, theater, and visual arts. Give them more funding and we could be a powerhouse of culture.
So take a minute and tell your congressperson to stand behind the arts. It’s easier than ever with this link.