Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Bedtime Stories

Monday, May 1st, 2017


We’re bringing back A Memory Palace of Fear this fall — in bigger, better, and spookier form! — and more details on that will be available soon. But in the meantime, we’re dipping into the haunted well with a series of free workshops in West Side parks. I’ll be leading a guided storytelling process (ok, it’s a bit like Mad Libs) to encourage participants to talk about their fears, and Andrea Jablonski will the help those fears take visual form. The resulting audio and visual components will be incorporated into the show in October, but to find out how you’ll have to come to a workshop! See schedule below.

May 6: Humboldt Park (boat house), 1-3 pm
June 4: Simons Park (outside), 1-3 pm
July 1: Garfield Park (Gold Dome, indoors room TBD), 1-3 pm
August 12: Mozart Park (outside), 1-3 pm

Workshops are all ages, and we’ve even managed to scrounge together a little money for snacks. Face your fears and join us!

Supported by Night Out in the Parks in partnership with Theater Oobleck.

Once upon a world

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

So, I’ve been reviewing books semiregularly for the Tribune for a few months now, and it’s nice to be back in a deadline-making, word-count-hitting groove. Thus far I’ve stuck mostly to the food beat, but with this latest I got to branch out into ecology — and I liked it.

JB Mackinnon is a former Adbusters editor and author, with his partner Alisa Smith, of the 2007 bestseller Plenty, one of the first books to popularize the then-fringey idea of local eating. (Canadian title: “The 100-Mile Diet.”) I wrote about that book for the Reader when it came out, and have loosely followed their work ever since, and after I chanced upon a great essay by Mackinnon in Orion (“Appetite of Abundance,” sadly not online) I was inspired to seek out his latest, The Once and Future World.

Here’s the review — which can be found in prettier PDF format if you are a subscriber to the Trib’s Printer’s Row digital supplement.

Charles the not-so-excellent?

Friday, August 30th, 2013


I’m on vacation but by the time a friend texted me this morning to see if I’d seen the news, I was already all over the latest devolution of the Charlie Trotter Story. You know the one I mean. The one in which he reportedly ordered some high school photography students to clean the toilets, hollered and cursed at them when they declined, and offered at least one teenaged girl $500 to get a “Charlie Trotter’s” tattoo before he, allegedly, threw the students out of his now-shuttered restaurant. He also (allegedly) flipped off a bemused WGN-TV reporter.

The facts are still sketchy and schadenfreude is ugly — and the comments on this Sun-Times story are even more so. But it was enough of a news peg to get me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: namely, free my 2002 Baffler essay on Trotter’s business philosophy from behind the MIT Journals paywall.

This piece was the thinkier followup to a 2001 Reader feature I wrote in the wake of a confounding meal at the restaurant, but as the Baffler ceased publication shortly thereafter so too did my piece drop unmourned from the cultural conversation. I was happy to find it a few months ago archived along with other pre-digital-explosion content at the journal’s new MIT Press home.

It’s here: Charles the Excellent (Baffler #15, 2002) (pdf)

Back on the book beat

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

I’ve started reviewing books for the Tribune‘s (relatively) new lit supplement, Printers Row Journal.  As a pretty package, Printer’s Row is only available to subscribers, but the reviews can be accessed through individual links – or at least that’s the impression I have. In any case! The first one, on Lucy Knisley‘s Relish, a sweet graphic memoir of her young life in food, ran May 26 as part of a a package on graphic novels, and it can be read — in somewhat inglorious formatting — here.

Coming soon: My take on Emily Matchar‘s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity.

ETA:  Here is the Matchar review. For the record, I stand by all the words — but not the tacky, sexist, just-plain-wrong stock photo which accompanies them, and which pains me deeply.

James Ellroy: Belligerent feminist?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010


Here’s a link to another recently published something: a review in Bookforum of James Ellroy’s new memoir, the Hilliker Curse. Subtitled “My Pursuit of Women,” it’s essentially that — a twisty travelogue through his romantic life. It’s not an easy ride, though there’s much to enjoy about it. And, interestingly, for all the torment love and lust have caused the man, they seem to be doing well by him. My friend Seth said it well (OK, he “said” it on Facebook…):

“I think his simultaneous awareness of and total inability (or lack of desire) to overcome his own juggernaut pathology does make an important point. These experiences of gender, power and love loom so huge in people’s lives that they become living myths. Awareness by itself isn’t usually enough to change them. Though it can–almost parasitically– profit from them.”

A little love for some not-so-little greenhouses

Sunday, September 27th, 2009


“Some greenhouses grow vegetables. Some grow flowers. What grows at the two gleaming 2,500-square-foot greenhouses rising from a gray industrial district at South Canal Street and 14th Place is a bit more complex.”

Really great story on the Greenhouses of Hope at PGM in this weekend’s Sunday Tribune Magazine. Though it does remind me how bummed I was I wasn’t around when the former resident — unnamed in the story, but who dropped out after eight months in the program and whose reappearance provided the Tribune reporter with a sweet lede — turned up unexpectedly to say “hi.”  Dude — come back and visit again!

For your consideration

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Soup and Bread: The Cookbook

Meanwhile, in Washington

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Did you know that one measly kitchen garden can threaten the future of Big Ag? It can if it’s at the White House. From the letter writing campaign launched by CropLife, the website of the agrichemical industry [via Tom Philpott at]:

“The garden is a great idea and the photo op of the First Lady and local elementary schoolchildren digging up the ground was precious, but did you realize that it will be an organic garden? What message does that send the general public about the agriculture industry that the majority of you are so proud to serve? What message does that send to the non-farming public about an important and integral part of growing safe and abundant crops to feed and clothe the world — crop protection products?

“Bonnie McCarvel, executive director of the Mid-America CropLife Association and Janet Braun, CropLife Ambassador coordinator, “shuddered” at the thought that the White House garden will be organic.”

To which … really? REALLY? You “shuddered”? I feel strangely empowered all of a sudden. As, I’m sure, does “Mrs. Barack Obama.”

And, in the other Washington, WSU pulls freshman reading of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. For “budgetary reasons” — though they’d already bought the books. It’s all very murky.

She’s no green

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Anne Ford — who is, by the way, a great example of a writer-as-polymath and whose work I always enjoy for its thorough, open-minded take on whatever it is that has captured her attention — has a nice piece in this week’s Reader on my friend Nance Klehm

This passage handily sums up why I like her so much:

But don’t call her green. “Those terms are marketing terms,” Klehm says. “They are not helping us connect to a more abundant and self-renewing way of being.” The question she wants people to ask isn’t “Which ‘green’ products should I buy?” It’s “What’s the nature of my connection to the soil, and can I deepen it?”

I would also add that I was on the foraging walk where she found the morels (mentioned a bit further down the piece), and not only did she scream, she jumped up and down shrieking like a little kid and then flung herself into the grass, kicking her feet in the air. I think the last thing to get me that excited was the popsicle man.

I’ve been on several of these walks and taken a bunch of her clases, but, frankly, my retention is not so great. I still have trouble identifying lamb’s quarters from a foot away, and I think I have killed all the worms in my compost bin. What I have internalized from Nance’s work is the belief that it’s still possible to see the world as source of unending discovery. And that’s pretty cool.

Go, Mike, go!

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

My former colleague and sometime dining companion Mike Sula is a finalist for a James Beard award, for the Whole Hog Project — a yearlong chronicle of the care, feeding, and, yes, eating of a mulefoot pig. The multimedia project was a collaborative effort, with culminating in a terrific two-part video by Sky Full of Bacon‘s Mike Gebert and a reportedly delicious five-course, snout-to-tail dinner at Blackbird cooked by Paul Kahan and an all-star squad local chefs.

This is a huge honor, and well deserved. The WHP landed Mike on the hit list of more than a few vocal vegetarians, but I think it’s one of the best contemporary  examples of how a close read of one story — in this case, that of  a pig named Dee Dee — can illuminate the dim corners of the bigger picture, ie: the murky but ultrabuzzy concept of “sustainability.” It’s the kind finegrained narrative storytelling that doesn’t get done so much anymore, being rather hard to fit into a tweet.

PS: I picked up a copy of the RAFT book, Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods, this weekend in Madison and was stoked to see a familiar little snout illustrating the entry for “Mulefoot Hog” on page 128 (the same photo that’s on the Reader’s blog post today). Mike, I hope they asked for permission!