Friday, April 29, 2005

Fun with the archives

Say what you will about Rosenbaum, he's far more postcolonial and culturally aware than anyone else on the planet. Just ask him.

-On "Kids": "The New York Times's Janet Maslin called this 'a wake-up call to the world' -- meaning, I suppose, that rice paddy workers everywhere should shell out for tickets and stop evading the problems of white Manhattan teenagers."

-On "Once Upon a Time...When we Were Colored:" "The film has its hokey moments but it also has a good many quiet virtues and strengths, which is perhaps why it was rejected by the trendy Sundance film festival: there's hardly an ounce of hyperbole in it."

-On "Comrades, Almost a Love Story:" "Full of heart and humor, capturing the times we’re living in as no Western film could."

-On "Carrington:" "One should certainly object to the deletion by the American distributor, Gramercy Pictures, of six minutes of the original film (apparently much of it gay sex) on the safe assumption that most Americans, including most critics, won't care enough to object."

Monday, April 25, 2005

Priest School

Posted by: spacecog

Well this is odd. In place of a review of the Amityville Horror, the Reader seems to have accidently run some guy’s Cultural Studies term paper on 70s horror movies, feminism, and the Catholic Church.

According to Benjamin Strong, the author of the mini-dissertation, the original Amityville Horror, with its hero priest, totally rocked because when it came out in 1979 "Catholicism was a perfect placeholder for [anxieties about family values] because it was then facing its own choice between adhering to tradition and keeping pace with a rapidly secularizing society." Uh, yeah, I guess. In the remake, though, it’s apparently hard to look at the not-so-heroic priest without wondering if he’s going to wander off and diddle young boys. Which I gather detracts somewhat from the flick, which gets one little star from visiting scholar Strong.

I keed, but despite Strong’s dully academic prose, his review is still about a zillion times more interesting than anything Rosey ever writes. I give it a B. (As for the headline the Reader attached to the story, "Secular’s Not as Scary," I give it a D-.)

We at The Reader Sucks are willing to engage with moderate elements in the Reader camp – that is, those who write moderately engaging articles, rather than the radically terrible ones that are the Reader’s mainstay. Mr. Strong gives us grounds for cautious optimism, if he can ever learn to write a lead.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Reader: Court TV edition

Another history lesson this week. Between 1969 and 1981, a local guy ran a tiny record label, Bandit Records, with the proceeds from a string of hookers. He died in 1990.

But last year the reissue label the Numero Group released a compilation of Bandit cuts, which is all the excuse the Reader needs to revisit this decades-old bagatelle.

But how to make it seem interesting? Maybe some worn-out cliches from true-crime TV will help:

"strange, sordid life" (paragraph 1)
"a thousand jagged pieces" (2)
"the harem of women he lived with and lorded over" (4)
"lost souls he seduced with hollow promises of stardom" (4)
"Motown meets the Manson family" (4)
"a simple backwoods boy" (5)
"a silver tongue and an iron will" (5)

Gosh, I can hardly stop reading. But not for the reason they hoped. More gems coming soon...

Miner: Laziest man alive?

Posted by: spacecog

Our methodology here at The Reader Sucks is both straightforward and very, very lazy: we page through the Reader until we come to something that annoys us, then we write down the first things that pop into our heads. Hey presto! A post.

Seems Michael "THE CONVOLUTENATOR" Miner has a similar approach. The grain of sand around which his latest column grew was a week-old item in the New York Times on why people don’t trust the media. After digesting it, Miner glanced through a 15-page report from Pew Research on the subject. (Click "media.") Then he wrote up some vague maunderings about how kids ain’t reading the newspapers any more, and – hey, presto! – a column!

Oh sorry. Miner did one other bit of additional research: he took a quick peek at the cover of a Trib sports section. Because it featured a picture of baseball old-timers, Miner deduced that it was "a baseball section that knew it would never be glanced at by adolescent males."

Hmm. If the kids aren’t reading you, Mr. Miner, maybe it’s because you’re a patronizing windbag douche.

Also in "Hot" Type: Miner read a book on civil liberties that only mentioned the press in passing. So he emailed the author with some questions about the press. The author told him "I didn’t focus on the press." But he proceeded to offer some opinions on the subject and Miner was evidently so excited by this that he quoted several hundred intermittently enlightening words from these emails. Well, that’s one way to write a column, though maybe "write" is the wrong word.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tikied off

Posted by: spacecog

You know that column in The Onion, "The Outside Scoop," in which a perpetually clueless dork attempts to deliver the hottest gossip? Sometimes I think the entire Reader is written by that guy. Take Richard Knight’s Our Town feature on TIKI CULTURE, that exciting trend that’s sweeping the nation – er, that swept the nation, sort of, quite some time ago -- in which young hipsters semi-ironically drink girly drinks and listen to Martin Denny while wearing retro threads!

But wait! It seems the subject of the piece, Tiki enthusiast James Teitelbaum, used to play keyboards in Pigface and Ministry! Which would be weird and ironic – an industrial music guy who loves Martin Denny? – except for the fact that people like ex-Throbbing Gristle-ites Chris and Cosey were making exotica-tinged music something like two decades ago.

Alas, that isn’t even the stupidest thing about this piece. There are at least two things stupider.

Number one: Though the piece is ostensibly about Teitelbaum’s monthly "Tabu Tiki Night," our trusty Reader correspondent didn’t even bother going to one before writing his piece; he just looked at the web site. "Judging from the photos of past events that he’s put online," Knight reports, "Teitelbaum has successfully attracted a healthy subculture of women with a taste for vintage dresses and men who feel at home in floral print shirts and fake-flower leis."

"Judging from the photos...." How lazy is that!?

It’s as if Rosenbaum started reviewing movies unseen, based only on looking at the movie posters. Actually, in his particular case it might be an improvement. But you get the point.

The other stupidest thing: the quote from Tiki King Teitelbaum at the end of the piece, warning us that "it’s really important to keep in mind that it’s just a silly little pop culture thing that I and a few thousand other people get a kick out of. As soon as we lose sight of that, it stops being fun."

Consider yourself warned. Beware the curse of the tiki!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Things I learned from this week's Reader

-Three years ago, local director Dale Goulding was trying to find a copy of a novel by Saddam Hussein. (p. 1)
-Two years ago, Manny Flores beat Jesse Granato in the race for First Ward alderman.
-Thirteen years ago, Pigface/Ministry vet James Teitelbaum became obsessed with Tiki collectibles. (p. 12)
-Seven years ago, local scenester Norah Utley began giving away buttons that said "I heart Norah." (Section 3, p. 5)

Plus, a bonus quiz: What do these historical tidbits have in common? Answer here.

You're a good man, Saddam Hussein

Posted by: spacecog

Oh lordy. So the Reader cover story this week is about three guys ("a theater vet and two precocious teens") intent on transforming a novel by Saddam Hussein – yes, THAT Saddam Hussein – into a play. And, no, they aren’t doing it as some clever postmodern gloss on the notions of dictatorship or democracy; they’re playing it straight. (Previous plays produced by the teens include The Wiz and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.)

The piece never quite answers the obvious questions about this weird theatrical endeavor: "Why?!?" And "What the fuck is wrong with these people?!?" But it does offer some reassurance to fans of Middle Eastern dance.

While the "drawn out philosophical debates" that seem to make up the bulk of Saddam’s novel might "seem a bit dry on the page," Reader writer Justin Hayford acknowledges, one of the teen producers is "quick to point out that the show will have music and belly dancing. And Goulding [the "theater vet"] insists that the implications are fascinating."

Hey, who needs implications when you’ve got belly dancing? Va va voom!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Landmark ho!

This week in Joravskyville:Ben is sort of annoyed by a "gerrymandered" landmark district. Why read 1200 words on the subject when you can get the gist from 14?

Here’s Joravsky’s latest, in haiku form:

Some alderman guy
Wants to save some old buildings
Why not all of them?

I believe that captures the essence of his piece. I didn’t read the whole thing, on principle.

P.S. Even if you don’t want to read his story, take a look at the graphic, which may well be the most boring graphic I’ve ever seen that was not part of a powerpoint presentation or an economics paper. This even though it’s in COLOR!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Girls! Girls! Girls?

Posted by: spacecog

The new Reader is here, and with it new revelations.

In his review of Hal Hartley’s THE GIRL FROM MONDAY, our boy Rosenbaum reports a startling fact: "The ‘girl’ of the [film’s] title looks like a grown woman. …"

Watching television this evening, unsettled by Rosey’s discovery, I came to a realization of my own: The so-called "real girls" featured in the DVD series "Girls Gone Wild" are in fact not girls at all, but full-grown women, many of them apparently well past the "training bra" level and sporting full womanly bosoms.

I will research this further and report back.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

First Lizwatch, and now...

a review of our blog's teeny but brave site stats reveals that approximately half of our 20-or-so visits a day are I don't know why I was surprised, considering their propensity for navel-gazing. At this rate we're only weeks away from a Liz-esque jeremiad in the paper itself. (Miner, let it be Miner...)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Thumbs up my ass!

Posted by: spacecog
Thumbs up!
A fresh batch of Rosenblurbs, culled from this week’s Section 2. (Note: Films that receive the coveted "Reader Recommends" backwards-R will be labeled "Two Thumbs Up My Ass"; those that fall short of Rosey’s highly peculiar standards will be labeled "Rosenbauminations." Exclamation marks added for a little extra va-va-voom!)

FEVER PITCH: "It doesn’t require any knowledge of baseball!! Does a pretty good job of exploring the more regressive aspects of sports fandom!! Two Thumbs Up My Ass!" –Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

HITCH: "A mannerist mugfest for all concerned!! Two Thumbs Up My Ass!" –Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

THE JACKET: "I could swear I heard Noam Chomsky’s voice briefly coming from a TV!! A Rosenbaumination! –Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

MILLION DOLLAR BABY: "A few awkward point-of-view issues!! The past-tense narration enhances the sense of fatality!! Two Thumbs Up My Ass!" –Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

THE UPSIDE OF ANGER: "Loses focus and begins to get a little soggy!! Two Thumbs Up My Ass!" –Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader


Rosenbaum and assorted other reviewers provide capsule reviews of a number of classic and/or non-first-run films in the latest Reader. Which of the following DO NOT get the "Reader Recommends" mark?


A: It’s thumbs down for every single one of them !Yes, that’s right: Rosey would rather you go see Will Smith and Kevin James mug shamelessly in Hitch.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Scratching his nuts

Posted by: spacecog
Scratching his nuts
Michael "The Convolutenator" Miner is such a terrible journalist it’s hard to know even where to begin in cataloguing his various flaws. But I suspect a lot of them stem from the little problem of his missing nuts.

Well, not nuts, per se. Nut grafs. The term is a bit of journalistic jargon for the paragraph, or sentence, or whatever, that tells readers, in a nutshell, where the story is going and why they should care.

Alas, the question of why the reader should care is not one that Miner seems very interested in asking, much less answering. Try to find a nut graf in his latest column. There isn’t one. There never is. That’s one of the reasons that reading a typical column of his feels so much like falling into a vat of taffy. (Bad tasting taffy, I hasten to add.) Miner is a journalism critic who doesn’t understand how to practice good journalism himself.

Take his column this week. The column starts with what Miner intends to be a sort of comedy routine, essentially a 500-word warmup, in what Miner apparently believes is humorous prose, to his awarding Sun-Times sports columnist Toni Ginetti a little award the Reader has made up called the BAT (or Baseball Acumen Test). (Apparently she’s great at predicting.) The whole thing is written with a sort of mock pompousness that manages to be about ten times as irritating as real pompousness. But nowhere a nut graf.

Same thing with his second item, which is about a couple of Pioneer Press columnists he thinks were wrongly sacked, but he only gets to them after several hundred words – I almost wrote "pages" – of duller-then-dirt prose.

Surely Miner knows what a nut graf is. So either he’s simply incapable or writing them or he thinks he’s somehow above them, that he’s such a masterful prose stylist that he can simply dispense with journalistic convention and just, you know, fly free. Alas, like Monty Python's famous flying sheep, Miner's prose does not so much fly as plummet.

In Rosenblurb Country!

Posted by: spacecog
In Rosenblurb Country!
The weekly reading of the Reader has not yet commenced in earnest; in the meantime, tide yourself over with this:

In My Country: "Liberal-minded!! … Somewhat diagrammatic at times!…. Sufficiently nuanced!!!" --Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

(Note: All quotations taken out of context. Exclamation points added for extra blurby flavor!)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


If you just can't get enough Rosenbaum, here's a way to fill the void between Thursdays: The Chicago Reader Review-O-Mat. Courtesy of Mark Rosenfelder at

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A walk in the park

Strange shit happens in Chicago. In Chicago’s neighborhoods, even. Birthday revelers fall into rivers and vanish forever. Bathrobe-clad women try to bum cigs on the Red Line. That sort of thing.

But the Reader doesn’t seem much interested in the, well, interesting tales. Ben Joravsky’s "The Works" column – formerly known as Neighborhood News – focuses relentlessly not on actual neighborhood news per se but on earnest activist types and their many complaints. No complaint, it seems, is too trivial to merit the full-on Joravsky treatment.

Take his column this week, a 1300-or-so word epic telling the fascinating story of some NICE YOUNG PEACE ACTIVISTS who were told to leave Millennium Park when cops spotted them walking through it with anti-war signs. Yet police DIDN’T pester them when they set up their own-mini-protest in front of the Art Institute. Lulled into a false sense of security, they were accosted again by the men in blue as they walked back through the park to their car – and one of their friends got himself arrested after arguing with the cops.

I’m getting bored even writing out this short summary. Joravsky goes on and on and on, making as much hay as he can over the SHOCKING POLICE NON-BRUTALITY in front of the Art Institute. And the fact that the protestors didn’t actually look like wild-eyes anarchists. "The funny thing is, we didn’t even look like radicals," one of the protestors told Joravsky’s hard-working tape recorder. "We looked like Yuppies." (A photo of the protestors appears to confirm that they do in fact look like a nice, clean, slightly earnest, middle-class couple.) Also, they apparently had LOVELY SIGNS. No photographic proof is provided on this front, but one of the sort-of-free-speech-martyrs assured Joravsky "we worked hard on them, and they were good signs."

Monday, April 04, 2005

Things I learned from this week's Reader

It's not totally worthless, really. Things I learned from this week's Reader:

-Theater critic Kelly Kleiman doesn't know the difference between the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre. (p. 3)
-If you try to protest the Iraq war in Millennium Park, the police will tell you to leave. But the security guards at the Art Institute will treat you nicely. (p. 8)
-At the recent Refine the Paradigm benefit at the W hotel, Liz Armstrong got so drunk "my friends told me I was talking gibberish, like vowels only." (p. 11)
-Jeff Griggs, who used to be Del Close's personal assistant, got the job by behaving saucily toward ImprovOlympic founder Charna Halpern. (p. 13)
-Drug addicts with felonies on their records have a hard time finding work. (p. 19)

Friday, April 01, 2005

Haters unite

OK, I admit I learned about this person because I was putting our URL into the Technorati search engine. (What can I say? That fat 750 hits has me ready for my closeup.) I've been meaning to set up a list of other Reader-haters around the city (yay Reverend). But Lord knows when I'll get around to that, and anyway I want to quote a couple of nice lines from Keidra's Reader comments:
"[The] Reader hasn't been indie or underground since I was in diapers. So why bother? I'd much rather read journalism than the ramblings of some 20-something hipster white chick from Wicker Park about what she did last weekend. I can get that on the train."
Well said. Now, about what you said about Miner...