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Best of Chicago 2014: The Polls Are Open

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Best in Print

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Cover by Ivan Brunetti

Cover by Ivan Brunetti

With the great digital beast devouring the media landscape at a still-ferocious pace, those of us who retain an affection for and livelihood from print have spent the last decade contemplating the future in ways more emphatic, perhaps, than those who do not. We can’t speak for others, but here’s what we’re thinking: print is not dead, or even dying. In an increasingly ephemeral digital world (coming soon, the end of cash!), the tangible object becomes increasingly dear. Maybe not for everyone, not for the masses who once flipped their nickels to the newsies for a fix on the day’s headlines and stock prices, but for a discerning audience. Because print serves a smaller, if more selective crowd, than not long ago, its Darwinian struggles are not over. So what will separate the tetrapods who climb out of the media sludge and onto the dry land of the twenty-first century from those doomed to sink in the mud? Quality, we think, of writing and of image-making. And, most of all, finesse in integrating the whole into something that conveys the essence of print—that is, something that would be inherently inferior experientially in byte form. Read the rest of this entry »

Best way to keep your balance on the El

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Stand sideways like you’re on a surfboard and hang on
As difficult as it is to give up the sight of tourists and businessmen falling over like drunken idiots whenever the El has a lead-foot conductor, the time has come to establish an easy method for maintaining balance while riding the El. Step one: stand facing sideways, parallel to the window. Step two: hold on to a standalone bar, or one connected to the back of a seat. Step three: wait until the train car stops and exit with dignity.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best tribute show that’s actually a play

Culture & Nightlife No Comments »

“Hank Williams: Lost Highway”
When American Blues Theater was casting “Hank Williams: Lost Highway” they were savvy (and darn lucky) enough not to settle for actors with a bit of musical talent (or musicians with some light acting chops) but managed to snag a cast full of double- (and in some cases, triple-) threats. Most notably, Matthew Brumlow captures the heart, soul and voice of Hank Williams throughout. And his band (consisting of impressively talented actor/musicians Austin Cook, Michael Mahler, Greg Hirte and John Foley) knocks each song out of the park, making this moving portrayal of the country legend feel like a tribute show with dramatic moments built around it.
American Blues Theater, (773)404-7336,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best art exhibit in the last year or so

Audience Choice, Culture & Nightlife No Comments »

Amalia Pica, Museum of Contemporary Art
This past spring and summer, MCA visitors were introduced to an artist they’ve probably never heard of, with a large career survey of the Argentinian-born, London-based Amalia Pica. It was a treat to see so many of her artworks in one exhibition; they made sense as a body of work by an artist with a vision. Pica’s work is a friendly type of conceptualism. She abstracted the way we communicate, from secrets to media outlets, and asked viewers to piece them back together, in our minds. Maybe we never reassembled her puzzles perfectly, but that may have been the point.

AUDIENCE CHOICE: “Picasso and Chicago,” Art Institute of Chicago

Best of Chicago 2013

Best boozy dessert

Food & Drink, South Loop No Comments »

French apple at Acadia
Calvados roasted Granny Smith apple still has a subtle crunch, nestled in a cool and creamy cinnamon custard, with a quenelle of canelé ice cream. The dish is topped with arcs of caramelized puff pastry reminiscent of flaky croissant crumbs. The booze factor steps up with a side shot of apple cider and Armagnac in pastry chef Thomas Raquel’s version of a hot toddy. All the familiar fall flavors are here, yet this dessert is unique, more alluring than any apple pie, crisp or apfelstrudel you’ve tasted.
1639 South Wabash, (312)360-9500,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best thrift destination for brand-name clothes

Goods & Services, Lakeview No Comments »

Lakeview Brown Elephant
If you thrift not for the love of the hunt for that perfect “Mad Men”-era outfit, but because you like your name brand on the cheap, then the nigh-secret brand-name rack section at the Lakeview Brown Elephant is for you. Here you’ll find a spectacular array of the otherwise unaffordable and usually a few designer pearls among the usual dung. Check back often and finally score that affordable Ermenegildo Zegna jacket you’ve been seeking for years.
3651 North Halsted, (773)549-5943,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best bet as to which team gets to the World Series first

Audience Choice, Sports & Recreation No Comments »

White Sox
It’s not that the Kenny Williams replacement, Rick Hahn, showed flashes of brilliance during his first year run at rebuilding the Sox by tearing them down first, but Theo Epstein’s plan over on the North Side seems so screwed up that the answer to this question is like picking who’s going to win the race of the slowest turtles.


Best of Chicago 2013

Best-dressed artist

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Jenny Kendler
Artist and environmental activist Jenny Kendler is not only concerned with looking fabulous, which she does, but with how ethically her garments were produced. She mostly buys second-hand from eBay , handmade from Etsy, or from local shops featuring responsibly made goods. It might seem hard, but she promises it’s a breeze, and ends up scoring unique pieces with a history, like the pair of earrings made by a tribe in Afghanistan and a “Blade Runner”-inspired faux-fur cape. Being the new artist-in-residence at the Natural Resources Defense Council, she is not just talking. Her work covers the delicate relationship between humans and nature and is currently showing at the Salon Series Projects, 1319 West Wilson.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best expatriate turned international music community ambassador

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Jim O’Rourke
By the early nineties, Jim O’Rourke was already collaborating with experimental Japanese musicians while based here in Chicago, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise when he ended up relocating there. What has been a surprise is the fruitful exchange he has fostered with artists worldwide as varied as Mats Gustafsson and Keiji Haino. Fresh off releasing eight albums of ambient music this year, O’Rourke remains as prolific as ever, stretching his multi-genre talents to embrace elements as disparate as acoustic folk and electronic drone. Even far from home, O’Rourke embodies the catch-all spirit that forms the foundation of our city.

Best of Chicago 2013