Wednesday, April 22, 2009


As Chicago swirls slowly around the drain, many of us sit idly by feeling helpless. We are overwhelmed by reports of ever increasing gang violence in our schools, drug abuse, political corruption, rampant racism, classism, and crippling poverty that only leads to more and more crime. We look helplessly out on the encroaching chaos, all the while asking “Won’t someone please do something?”

While the rest of us hide in our apartments, acting the victim, wishing these ever worsening social problems would just go away, an ever increasing number of Chicagoans are saying “I’m not going to take it anymore!” A new breed of vigilantism is on the rise in Chicago, and it should give pause to those of us who feel content simply sitting on our couches complaining about the woeful state of our society. In the tradition of New York’s Guardian Angels, a local group of Chicago heroes recently harnessed their righteous anger and empowered themselves to take on the numerous problems facing Chicago. These brave men and women, armed with pails of gravel and tiny shovels, patrol our vulnerable neighborhood streets- often for up to an hour at a time. With unwavering vigilance, they seek out their foe: Potholes. When a pothole is finally located, they spring into action. Not content to twiddle their thumbs and wait for the wheels of Streets and Sanitation to turn, they pour gravel from their pails into to the pothole. Once the pothole is filled with gravel, they pack it down with their tiny shovels and smooth it out as much as they can. In a world of ever increasing apathy, it is inspiring to see a group of individuals stand up and take responsibility for one of our most pressing social dilemmas.

Perhaps this is the new normal. Maybe a trend of grass-roots social change will finally take root. Maybe, one day, our children will be able to go to school without fear of gang violence or drugs. If everything goes as planned, our shining stars of tomorrow will not have to pass metal detectors on the way to class, or be hobbled by an ineffective educational paradigm-because thanks to a select group of hometown heroes, the streets of Chicago are once again somewhat less bumpy.

Way to get your priorities straight douchebags.

-Gabriel Stutz

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Sunday, April 19, 2009


Mayumi Lake

Japan: Home of the Whopper, and home to Chicago based photographer Mayumi Lake. Lake is an ex-patriot of sorts, teaching at Chicago's School of the Art Institute and finding love with a Midwestern pedal steel guitar player, she is hung-up on the windy city. The photographer currently resides in Chicago’s Northwest side, but the magical realism of her photos place her somewhere between an island of sexy unicorns, and a lunar landscape filled with nationalist history and candy coated autobiography.

In 1995, Lake unleashed her MFA thesis project entitled Poo-Chi onto an unsuspecting public. The mildly erotic, microcosmic photos appear to be a series of youthful genitalia encased in lacy, childlike clothing. Those ‘art-lovers’ who felt a tingle as they peered at Lake’s project were rudely awakened by the reality that the ‘genitals’ in question were actually male armpits encased in lacy, childlike clothing. Suffice it to say, the controversially subversive, yet elegantly cynical photographs were turned into a book, also entitled Poo-Chi. The book received some publicity in 2005 when it was confiscated from the home of Michael Jackson and used as evidence in his trial for child abuse. The book, according to the police record, was found in the king of pop’s bathroom along with other photography and art literature.
Lake continues to be a prolific photographer, and her impressive body of work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions all across the globe. Lake’s sexually subversive, personal work stays with the viewer like a pleasant nightmare. Her visions of sexuality, cultural history and biography etch themselves into the viewer’s memory, and her personal essays become living critiques that go on into the infinite.

Mayumi Lake currently teaches Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lives in Chicago with her boyfriend and her cat Jeff. Visit for exhibition updates, traditional Japanese clothing, cats, sex, innocence, loss of innocence, dreamscapes, and armpits.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009


Jim O'Rourke

For a modestly proportioned man, Jim O’Rourke casts a mighty big shadow. A musical ninja of sorts, O’Rourke has influenced ideologies, mixed countless indie-recordings, played with ensembles the world over, and recorded music for both film and dance. He is superhuman in his ability to colorfully slide between the radar.

Chicago in the early 1990s was a musically rich place. It was a place of purpose and home to a thriving music community. There was not a dominant sound, but rather a collection of divergent sounds all happening at once. Free jazz saxophone players were playing in soul bands, punks were discovering George Jones, indie-rockers were forming Jamaican dub projects, and Jim O’Rourke was in the thick of it all. Already an accomplished improviser and guitarist, O’Rourke first came to the public’s attention as a member of the avant-pop group Gastr Del Sol. The Chicago based band was comprised of O’Rourke, multi-instrumentalist David Grubbs, and a host of talented Chicago area musicians. The band borrowed from a cornucopia of influences and developed a sound that was concise, challenging and expressive. Releasing the majority of their albums on noted Chicago label Drag City, the band separated in 1998. O’Rourke continued to release music under his own name, including the albums Bad Timing, Eureka, and Insignificance. These recordings, capturing O'Rourke's penchant for finger picked guitar lines, atmosphere, and absurdest lyrics, would be an influence on countless musicians.

In 2002, Chicago area super-group Wilco released their critically acclaimed album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The release was an unusual blend of roots country, pop candy, musique concrete, and surreal ambiance. The recording was named Album of the Year by Rolling Stone Magazine. O’Rourke, known throughout Chicago as an accomplished guitarist and producer, was credited with helping mix the final version of the recording. His blend of warped pop and rainbow colored playfulness can be felt throughout the entire album. O'Rourke also joined Wilco members Jeff Tweedy and Glen Kotche for a side project entitled Loose Fur. According to Tweedy, the group was going to be named Lucifer after everyone’s favorite anti-Christ, but the name had already been taken by countless metal bands. Loose Fur released the albums Loose Fur in 2003 and Born Again in the USA in 2006. O’Rourke also produced Wilco’s second foray into experimental pop, A Ghost is Born. In 2004, this adventurous, sprawling effort was awarded a Grammy for Alternative Album of the Year.
From 2000 to 2005, O’Rourke joined the band Sonic Youth as a multi-instrumentalist. Shortly after joining the group, O’Rourke left Chicago and planted roots in New York City. In 2005, he departed from the group to pursue a diverse set of film and theater work. Currently, O'Rourke lives in Japan and continues to create soundtrack compositions and short film projects.

An under-appreciated hero of both the avant garde and pop music, Jim O’Rourke continues to create sound for those who are lucky enough to listen.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter in Pilsen


It’s Easter in Chicago, and it's time to break out the hammers and nails. What better way to celebrate the sacrifice and the suffering of Jesus Christ than to painfully reenact the whole crazy day of crucifixion with your cousin Juan starring in the lead role.

I love Mexican-Americans. Their culture is rich, their food is delicious, their women wear very tight pants, their men have moustaches, and their children cry like the sound of an accordion in a romantic ranchero ballad. Their unique take on Easter, however, is a little out to lunch. On Good Friday, Mexican-Americans from Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood gather together to celebrate Easter with a reenactment of Christ’s brutal crucifixion. Like Mel Gibson’s much overwrought film Passion of the Christ, the crucifixion features prepubescent boys dressed up as Roman soldiers, girls in blue eye shadow as weeping mourners, and various mustachioed men as the unforgiving populace tossing aspersions at Jesus. There is blood, crying, religiosity and I am guessing, cases of Tecate. One would have to be drunk to watch a guy in a fake beard get faux nailed to a precariously built cross. Even on a slow day, I’d rather organize my socks.

If you find yourself on the Southside of Chicago and want to know what Catholicism is all about, go check out the crucifixion reenactment in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. I recommend brining a six pack of Modelo Negro. If Jesus really is everywhere, he is going to need a few beers in order to sit through this crap.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chicago Print Maker/Musician Jay Ryan

Chicago screen print artist and musician Jay Ryan is a man of many talents and a true Chicago treasure. Back in 1995, when every indie rock band was screen printing posters and album sleeves on uncoated chip-board, Jay Ryan changed the game up. His youthful images for bands like Andrew Bird, Shellac, June of 44, Tortoise, and Modest Mouse are still jubilant and beautiful today. If you need silkscreen work done for your band's design project, peep him out. Jay's company is known as The Bird Machine. Brilliant!

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Comedy Slip Ups 101: The Man Who Filmed Too Much

Comedy in Chicago is like cheese steak in Philadelphia, or crime in Detroit. Chicagoans have perfected the art of self loathing and comic timing into to a profound stew of improv and stand-up. On any given night, drunken patrons can go out and watch people flinch, murmur, and dick joke their way through an endless cavalcade of sets.

Stand up comedy in Chicago, while not as prolific as improv, still has a grand comedic foothold in the stinking onion. The deal with stand up is there are very few stand up comedians, there are however, thousands of Def Comedy Jam copy-cats, retail employees, jilted lovers, and men with under-rated genitalia. These folks are the foot soldiers who populate the world of stand-up in Chicago.

A great place to catch an angry twenty something prattle on about his 'hot' but 'crazy' ex-girlfriend is The Edge Comedy Club, located in the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts in Chicago's River North area. The club is housed within an impressive theater space and the organization hosts sets all week long. On a cold Saturday evening, I was lucky enough to catch The Handsome Bastards stand up review. The review was a mixed bag of horrendous amateurs, weirdly over seasoned vets, conceptual drunks and frat boy idiots.

One particular comic caught my attention and brought to light something no young comedian should ever do: Bring your own Sony handi-cam with an accompanying tri-pod and film your own set. I watched helplessly as the young acerbically awkward comedian finished his set about masturbating and slowly began dismantling his own handi-cam - like an Italian grandmother at a first communion . It instantly made him unfunny and it made me sad. After this event, I could not keep my eyes off of this ego-centric nut bag, and I watched him pack up his handi-cam and text message his friends as he pretended to watch the other comics. I felt sorry for this youthful moron in all of his self centred glory. When the ancient Israelites escaped the tyranny of the Egyptians and invented comedy, I doubt they pictured it would all come down to this.

A Lesson for Young Comics:

If you want to know how good your set is, have a friend film you. If you don't have any friends, you're going to be a great stand-up comedian.

The Edge Comedy Club

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