peteg's blog

Kazuo Ishiguro: The Buried Giant.

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I read this in four long sittings. It's as addictive as ever despite never seeming likely to rise to his earlier peaks. Michiko Kakutani has it about right.


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Some misplaced nostalgia. The dialogue is occasionally risible and wears its message far too lightly. Surely smoking in bars was banned by 2001... Good to see Leah Purcell in action (embodying the best fit between character and actor). LaPaglia was pretty solid too. I liked Colosimo though he isn't asked to do much. Geoffrey Rush is a bit too arch. I tried to trainspot the locations but failed; I don't recall a restaurant anywhere close to upstairs, opposite Ariel's on Oxford; just maybe there was before the Verona got rennovated.

Kazuo Ishiguro at the Logan Center for the Arts.

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$30 ($10 + $20 for The Buried Giant, the first of his books that I've bought), paid on 2015-02-28, supposedly (unsurprisingly) sold out, definitely packed. Presented as "in conversation with Aleksandar Hemon" but really Ishiguro interviewed himself; he benefits from his fame by getting the run that politicians get criticised for. I picked up my copy before the gig but didn't hang around to get it signed. There was some discussion about when in life masterpieces are produced, process and all that stuff that the U. Chicago younguns out on their date night needed to hear. From his reading of the first three pages and summary of the themes, it may be that his latest is too abstract to make his point, or that his point is so generalized and universal that it can be at most a meditation. Perhaps it will be a slow burner; the vibe I get from the reviews I'm pointedly not yet reading was not resoundingly awesome.

I got there and back on the Green line, which got a little shady at times. I had dinner at Daley's Diner on 63rd, a time machine stuck in the days of Daley Senior and the long promise of better days for the south of the city. The service was perhaps the best I've had in an American-style restaurant, discreet, informal and courteous, though the roast beef was not great, and the vegetables absent. It was a little cold but almost comfortable in a singlet and tshirt; the Spring has been wildly unstable thus far.

Vladislav Zhukov: The Kim Vân Kiều of Nguyen Du (1765-1820)

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Apparently I bought this for £12.94 around 2010-07-18 from the Book Depository. I don't know what I was thinking; the last poetry I read was imposed while I was captive in high school. But I recall now that while this poem is widely feted, I could not find much of an exposition of characters or plot anywhere. Having now read it, I'm pretty sure I'm not the person to attempt to do so. I think I picked this particular translation for the obvious reasons: Zhukov is clearly a quixotic type. A review in the Journal of Vietnamese Studies observes, contrary to other translations extent as of 2008: "Incredibly and uniquely, Zhukov reproduces the intricate rhyme scheme of the original throughout his translation [...]." Unfortunately, as Eric Henry goes on to observe, the syntactic and grammatical burden placed on the reader is high, which limits the amount that can be absorbed by a brain yearning for sleep. Throughout Zhukov's passion burns bright while the man remains elusive.

The wikipedia page seems decent now. Here's an excerpt from a book of translations I dug up a while back. Small details as I understand them, all dubious: Kiều loses her maidenhead to her first husband, whose lust earns the chagrin of his business partner, the madam Tu. Kim and Kiều do get married at the end and shack up, but only for one night, after which they revert to a Rousseauian state of nature (chaste youthful infatuation). Kim already had children with Vân (Kiều's sister), allowing Kiều to claim that the necessary had been taken care of. It seems to me that Kiều fell in love with at least two men other than Kim in their fifteen years apart, most spectacularly with a warlord. She meets both men in brothels, which somehow does not reflect poorly on them in her eyes.

The House Theatre: The Hammer Trinity at the Chopin Theatre.

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Goldstar ticket: $32.50 + $7.00 = $39.50. I walked over in the early-Spring cold, wind, and snow, figuring it was only going to get worse. Had lunch at Pot Pan Thai, fuelling up for nine hours of dragons and swords and all the stuff that real people stay home to watch on cable on days like this. It was a lot shorter on nudity than those, however. Zac Thompson swung it with his lengthy review at the Reader, and my fond memory of Season on the Line, from the same company at the same venue a few months back. I regret not attending the other things in their current season.

What can I say. The puppetry is uniformly excellent. The two dragons are awe inspiring, and I spent too much time looking at the foxes that accompanied Kay Kron (last seen in Hot Georgia Sunday at the Den Theatre), who had to thread a very fine narrative needle. John Henry Roberts (writer of The Sweeter Option) had a very funny scene involving a submarine, though my favourite was perhaps between (who I thought were) the strongest actors (Ben Hertel and Christopher Walsh), about imaginary property. Joey Steakley played a foppish statesman quite well, evoking Gary Oldman's aspect and winsome desperation at times. I'm not totally sure I can get on board with the faith placed in chess grandmasters despite Kara Davidson's valliant efforts. Miniature models, excellent anchoring by William Dick for the first two-thirds, ... — what's not to like?

I had two coffees ($1.50 each) and a Żywiec ($4) as the thing unfolded, and a chicken kebab from the Mediterranean on Milwaukee at the one hour dinner break. The breaks were a little too frequent and a little too long, but I guess it did give the cast time to recuperate. I was a little disappointed that this session was only perhaps a third full, and moreover most people seemed connected to the cast, which does not bode well for future sessions. I later read that Lee Kuan Yew carked it, which caused me to reflect on his "white trash of Asia" prediction for Australia, and his alternative to the politics of this piece. "The story will save him whether he wants it to or not."

Escobar: Paradise Lost

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I missed this one at the Music Box Theatre last year. Good thing I did too, as it is quite drecky. Del Toro is as solid as ever but is not in the frame long enough to make the critical difference.

Romeo Is Bleeding

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n-th time around, for large-ish n. Pretty good for a while and then it all falls apart. Oldman at his finest? Lena Olin is pretty decent though totally implausible.


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Third time around.

Point Blank

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For Lee Marvin, but not for me.

Chappie (2015)

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$10.40 at the AMC River East 21, 3.15pm session on a beautiful Spring afternoon. I spent a bit of time reading Zhukov's Kim Vân Kiều down by the lake, of which, more later. Despite the poor reviews, I went to prove that I will watch Sharlto Copley do just about anything, even green-screen. Jackman's early scene in the bathroom is a pure recycling of his acting in Erskineville Kings, and if you listen carefully you can hear him yell "Run Forrest!" at Copley. The gold-plated AK47 was a kack, just for a second. I like Blomkamp's earlier stuff but this was perhaps too much of the same, and stuffing it with stars is not the way forward for him — he'd be better off doing a Kubrick or Coen brothers and working with more unknowns. Dave is telling me I need to come to terms with Die Antwoord. Anyway, it's easy to sink the boot into this one, and I did enjoy some of it immensely, so I'll stop here.

Manohla Dargis. I concur that it's time for Blomkamp to move beyond gesturing at things and really have a go. Gary Marcus at the New Yorker.

Babes with Blades: Titus Andronicus at City Lit Theatre.

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$22.00 + $1.76 in something-or-other = $23.76, bought 2015-02-06. I had lunch at Dawali Mediterranean Kitchen, and sent Dave Lish's Preparation for the Next Life at the worst USPS ever, near De Paul. (I heart the USPS, but trust me, avoid this office.) After that a coffee at Osmium, and fixed some of Dad's IT problems while standing and shivering near the lake; the day was warm but cooled off rapidly. Had dinner at The Little India, just like last time I went to City Lit Theatre. The bicycle needs a tune-up. St Patrick's Day festivities made the riding somewhat painful due to drunk and entitled pedestrians.

I have some vague memories of seeing Titus Andronicus at NUTS a long time ago. It's spectacular but a long way from plausible. The all-women cast valliantly tried to make it into more than it is. Despite the warnings that the first two rows were free-blood-splattering zones, I still coped a bit sitting in the third. That the Babes with Blades essentially celebrate violence (see their mission statement) makes me wonder about supporting them.

Dan Jakes at the Reader.

Chicago Slam Works: Redlined at Stage 773.

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$20.00 + $3.50 (Online Processing Fee) = $23.50 on 2015-03-01. Closing night. This was a lot closer to what I was looking for in Chicago theatre: performance poetry with a local focus. Rahm copped it in the neck, but he is a soft target. I'm pretty sure the race politics were straight up black and white, and not so much Asian or Latino; we'll see what these guys do if Chuy gets up. Not all was hit, but the misses were still mostly good. The girl behind me got into the cat-calling but not the you-go-girls. Perhaps this is what you do at Second City (comedy club). The white boy in love with hip-hop put me in mind of Morganics. I had some direct pro-forma experience of the Lakeview bros on the ride up: a bloke in his big black Ford SUV pulled out in front of me on Lincoln; I swore loudly in pseudo-shock. He stopped a bit further up the road, where the traffic got thick, and told me he that it was my fault for not having a headlight. I told him he still needed to check, he said F-U and roared off. Given how I ride, the shock came in it being the first such incident in this city.

Jena Cutie at the Reader probably swung it. I wasn't feeling particularly attacked as I'm not a tourist and not really a resident (etc).

Profiles Theatre: The Other Place.

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Goldstar ticket: $12.00 + $6.25 = $18.25, bought 2015-02-19. Slightly caught out by the beginning of daylight saving. Walked up in some mild but not quite warm weather, dodging puddles once more. Stopped off at the Bowtruss on Broadway for a so-so hot chocolate. Red line back. It may be time to get the bike out. Tony Adler at the Reader tells you everything you need to know.

Inside Man

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Great cast. Spike Lee used this thriller to sell a mid-2000s NYC social commentary to a mainstream audience. Good for him. I really enjoy his hypotheticals, like the one in the middle of this and at the end of 25th Hour: he just may flick the switch to actual, for all you know at the time. Denzel Washington's one-liner disses are the funniest, and he anchors the show with a louche appeal that somehow (now) evokes Obama. Must be in that loose gangly stride. Jodie Foster is a natural sharky hustler. Clive Owen is robotic; they could have cast Nick Cage. Christopher Plummer is as excellent as always. And so on. Can't believe I hadn't seen it before now.

The Poor Theatre: Edgar & Annabel at The Side Project.

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$16.00, bought on 2015-03-01. I took the red line up with the expectation of getting out at Argyle and having a phở. Instead it dumped me at Sheridan with a much longer schlepp than I had intended. (The driver was pretty funny: after announcing that he wasn't going to stop until Howard, he got rather insistent that everyone pile back on, ride to Howard, and take the all-stops south-bound from there.) Le's was its usual uninspired but reliable self. After that I walked up to the Edgewater Chicago Public Library, which is a fantastic new facility, and then to the Elipsis Coffeehouse near Loyola. Dinner at the nearby Five Guys; pretty much as advertised, if only I'd known what to order. And still more schlepping up to The Side Project on Jarvis. As it hit 10C sometime during the day, one needs either galoshes or giant strides to make it through the puddles. I mostly stuck to the roads.

The theatre is near the Jarvis red line stop, somewhat opposite a sign that says "Thoreau's Corner". Nice spot. I was there early but by the time they got under way it was packed with young people who seemed to be attached to the cast somehow. The best part was an inspired combination of karaoke and bomb making, which somewhat unfortunately went on for a little too long. Otherwise it evoked a NUTS production: skillful kids doing something with a cute premise that cannot make the distance. There was only one way for this one to go, and sure enough, there it went; Orwell reduced to a single note.

I think Zac Thompson's review at the Reader tipped it, but it got generally positive reviews everywhere. More details from Kerstin Broockmann.

The Church at Double Door.

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$30.00 + Ticket Fee $6.50 = $36.50. Bought January 30. Apparently sold out. Still crook, coughing and spluttering, getting messy; would've preferred not to go, but maybe the last chance to see these dinosaur psychedelic pop rockers, for me at least. Caught the 70 bus down Division, walked up Milwaukee to North in the last of the sub-zero weather for the right now. First time at Double Door. It's direct opposite the Damen blue-line station, and is something like a mildly scaled-up Hopetoun Hotel: on the affirmative, 550 capacity, bar running down the side, standing-room only, small stage, painted black. And for the negative, it's ugly with a poor beer menu. I got there around 8.20pm. There was a small queue at the door.

While waiting around I got talking to a bloke who'd flown up from Kansas City, with a far better idea of what to expect than I had. The warm up band played a short set: The Sharp Things from NYC, who couldn't help themselves but poke fun at the amiable mid-west crowd. Small break, and without too much fanfare, The Church. Kilbey played it somewhat mystical, wearing a third-eye t-shirt, gathering himself before particular songs, like they meant a lot to him, getting quite twitchy at times; he looked like a rock god etched from heroin. The acoustics were so-so, but he did sound English and from the wiki I see I'm not wrong. Ian Haug looked like the music wasn't taxing him. As always I got lost in the bass, and a lack of familiarity with their material made it difficult for me to get into it.

The Hypocrites: Endgame by Samuel Beckett, at the Den Theatre.

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Goldstar: $14.00 + $4.25 (service) = $18.25, bought January 27. I can't say no to a show by The Hypocrites, well, not unless it's Gilbert and Sullivan. Given the snowy but not super-cold ambient conditions, I walked over from Clybourn/Divison, and had some lunch at Pot Pan Thai; their Ba Mee noodles are just what I'm looking for, most days. Still recovering from the time in West Lafayette, and coming down with some throat/nose thing, I wasn't as totally compis mentis as you need to be to get into a Beckett. The acting was uniformly excellent and the set was quite good but didn't quite block out the things happening off-stage, like late-comers dropping their programs. The play itself is stuffed with the familiar end-of-personal-days preoccupations familiar to me from Happy Days, right down to Donna McGough's wedding veil. I should have recognised Sean Sinitski from Season on the Line.

Chris Jones at the Tribune. Alex Huntsberger. Zac Thompson at the Chicago Reader.