Search F News...

“That is what an ice cream truck from Hell sounds Like” — Investigating Chicago’s Tornado Siren

By Arts & Culture, Featured 0

Illustration by Bei Lin.

As a newcomer to SAIC, my touring trip to Chicago concluded with a twist, of twister, on May 25, 2022. Right before the plane took off, the phones on board symphonized the emergency alert tone, as a tornado formed around Des Plaines, Illinois, a town 20 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. A few weeks later, on June 13, a tornado visited the “Windy City,” setting off the sirens in town. Tornado is no stranger to local Chicagoans, as residents of “Tornado Alley.” To newcomers, the encounter of such a disaster is little-known, and proper preparedness is deemed necessary.

My curiosity led me to research more on tornadoes and the alert system in Chicago. What caught my immediate attention was a 2010 Youtube upload titled “Tornado Sirens in Downtown Chicago! (Original Video Recording).” The clip shows an ominous and rainy sky shot in the South Loop. Lightening intermittently lights up the blurred sky. Penetrating the background thunder sound is an eerie siren that leaves this first-time listener puzzled. Unlike a common siren tone that barely runs up and down, the Chicago tornado siren has an outlandish wailing tone. On top of rising and falling tones, it also features a minor third drop throughout. The alternation itself is not unlike a malfunctioning ambulance siren.

The “Windy City” won a place on News Center Maine under the joking headline: “Chicago’s Tornado Sirens Will Haunt Your Dreams.” As the host said, “If there is anything creepier than a tornado it’s this.” The seemingly “cracked” siren does indeed crack many internet users up. The unsettling, yet unavoidably amusing, sound attracted humorous responses to the clip, like user JC Pennys, who commented: “That is what an ice cream truck from hell sounds like.”

This tone that elicits such mixed feelings is credited to the Federal Signal Modulator. The Modulators are capable of producing seven different warning tones and Chicago is infamous for playing the “alternate wail.” Despite the amusing facade, the siren does draw attention well and alert residents of the approaching disaster. Unlike an ordinary siren tone that barely soars up and down, the alternate wail introduces an extra layer of variation as a source of “musical material.” Given its penetrating sonority and loud volume, the siren call can be a promising material for field recordists or sound artists. Field recordists often face the challenge of recording sounds clearly from a distance. The siren is loud enough to be heard throughout the city, and its volume is great enough to mask other noises in the background. 

In the realm of electronic music, creators draw inspiration from soundscapes of all kinds to create musique concrète or acousmatic music. Incoming MFA student Ernest Strauhal spotted the notable use of “alternate wail” in experimental electronic musician Arca’s “Siren Interlude.” Strauhal recalls his own use of an ambulance siren in “The Ambulance Ride.” The track is from “Beuys 1974,” an album commemorating Joseph Beuys’ centennial birthday. The use of such a sample was a parallel to sonic narrative device for Beuys’ performance “I like America and America likes me.” Speaking of inspiration from the Chicago siren, Strauhal imagines stretching and distorting the sample, a usual practice in his works, to create a contemplative sonic space and reprieve from the over-stimulations encountered by many internet users.

Besides the potential musical use of the Chicago siren, one should also honor its actual alert function. In response to the warning system, local pharmacist Wendy Ko comments, “When a [tornado] watch happens, nothing. If [a tornado] warning [is issued], [you are] supposed to go to the basement or protective area.” Tornados, at first glance, have a rather low casualty compared to gun homicides or car accidents. According to weather.gov, “In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and 1500 injuries.” This statistic is far less than lives taken by gunshot per day in America — as Team ENOUGH cites, “Every day, 106 people die from gun violence.”

You might ask if Chicago is prone to such a devastating tornado. Should we be worried about that? Statistically, tornadoes hit suburbs more often than in big cities. That said, the Plainfield tornado, ranked F5 (the highest possible level), struck Illinois on August 28, 1990. It claimed 29 lives, injured 353, and caused $165 million of damage. Another devastating incident was the Oak Lawn tornado outbreak across the Upper Midwest on April 21, 1967. Forty-five tornadoes formed during this outbreak, five were F4 tornadoes. One F4 tornado reached Oak Lawn, a town 15 miles southwest of Chicago, killing 33 people. The whole outbreak that day killed 58 and injured 1,418. Locals call this the “Black Friday.”

Though tornadoes can form anytime and anywhere in the US, they typically revolve around the Central and Midwestern states from March to June. The likelihood of incoming SAIC students hearing the tornado siren in fall semester seems low (and folks say that the “alternate wail” has phased out at some spots), but it would not hurt to get familiar with proper disaster preparedness. For instance, Alert Chicago advises to: “Move to a pre-designated safe place such as a basement. If a basement is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor” and “stay away from windows.” For other tips, check out Alert Chicago’s Tornado preparedness. To see more Chicago tornado sirens in action, check out the Chicago tornado sirens compilation.

Read More

High Chair

By Comics, Featured Comics 3

An armchair says "I've been trying to get high for the past two hours."

High Chair by Audrey Gallacher

Transcript:

An armchair says “I’ve been trying to get high for the past two hours.”

See More

Modern Living

By Comics, Featured Comics 4

Panel one: A common rain frog sits on the ground looking sadly at a cup of coffee in its hand. Panel two: The rain frog stands at a window pane, looking outside where it is blank. Panel three: It sits at a table holding a fork, looking uninterested in the dead cricket on its plate. Panel four: The frog is at a desk on the computer, and on the screen is a picture of a rain frog in the same position as it.

Modern Living by Kelly Wang.

Transcript:

Panel one: A common rain frog sits on the ground looking sadly at a cup of coffee in its hand.
Panel two: The rain frog stands at a window pane, looking outside where it is blank.
Panel three: It sits at a table holding a fork, looking uninterested in the dead cricket on its plate.
Panel four: The frog is at a desk on the computer, and on the screen is a picture of a rain frog in the same position as it.

See More

Bird Seed

By Comics, Featured Comics 3

The first panel shows three pigeons staring at the ground on a grey backdrop. Handwritten text reads "BIRD SEED" By Hali Kleinfeld. The middle three panels show a pigeon contemplating its life, saying "I lead an exceedingly simple life... I think I'm okay with that." The last panel on the page shows a cluster of pigeons with the word "SEED" written all over the panel in various sizes and opacity. The pigeons are heavily fixated on the seeds.

The first panel on the page shows a close-up of our "main character pigeon" observing its pigeon friends mesmerized by bird seed, the droning "seed seed seed" appearing in the background. The second panel shows the mass of pigeons once again, this time the pile of bird seed is visible and we can see our pigeon friend approaching, saying "hey guys." The final panel shows the fixated group of pigeons again with our main character saying "...guys?"

“Bird Seed” by Hali Kleinfeld

Transcript:

Page One: The first panel shows three pigeons staring at the ground on a grey backdrop. Handwritten text reads “BIRD SEED” By Hali Kleinfeld. The middle three panels show a pigeon contemplating its life, saying “I lead an exceedingly simple life… I think I’m okay with that.” The last panel on the page shows a cluster of pigeons with the word “SEED” written all over the panel in various sizes and opacity. The pigeons are heavily fixated on the seeds.
Page Two: The first panel on the page shows a close-up of our “main character pigeon” observing its pigeon friends mesmerized by bird seed, the droning “seed seed seed” appearing in the background. The second panel shows the mass of pigeons once again, this time the pile of bird seed is visible and we can see our pigeon friend approaching, saying “hey guys.” The final panel shows the fixated group of pigeons again with our main character saying “…guys?”

See More

Still All the Rage, The Smashing Pumpkins Come Home to the Metro

By and Entertainment 4

Billy Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins take the stage at Metro in Wrigleyville, Sept. 20. Photo by Zach Spangler.

Billy Corgan had never looked more at home — and in a way, he was home. Playing for a packed house Sept. 20 at the Metro in Wrigleyville, Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins appeared at ease as they tore through a set packed with brand-new material and a back catalog of classics. Corgan, a Chicago-native and longtime Wrigleyville resident, returned to his hometown to kickstart an exciting and ambitious new era for the Pumpkins with a show few will soon forget.

Earlier that day, the band announced a new triple album/three-act rock opera, “ATUM.” The following celebration filled the venue to capacity and blew the roof off with a career-spanning, 23-song set. The intimate gig also celebrated 40 years of the Metro (the venue opened in 1982, during which Pumpkins have played at the venue 39 times according to Setlist.fm). The evening served as a nostalgic homecoming for the band, a proper start to their “Spirits On Fire” tour with Jane’s Addiction.

Local alternative radio station Q101 hosted the concert, giving away tickets via a call-to-win contest. Call traffic stacked up into the thousands in hopes of winning a ticket. On the night of the show, those who did win wrapped around the Metro and into Racine Ave. (a stand-by line of non-winners also developed alongside).

Before the show, ticket-winners and stand-by line alike braved a freak bout of torrential rain, soaking most everyone (article authors included). It felt symbolic that once security began to scan tickets, the sky cleared up and revealed the pink-orange sunset. The scene wrote itself: nothing could or would break the celebratory spirit of both Chicago locals and perennial Pumpkins fans.

The Metro crowd. Photo by Zach Spangler.

Once the show started, it started. The emboldened band blazed through “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” early in the set with brazen, “fuck-you” energy. Knocking out one of their biggest hits in the first five songs might scare off other groups, but Corgan and co. managed to keep raising the stakes. The small-scale capacity of the Metro didn’t stop the band from playing at stadium-level force, minus a few thousand people.

The band debuted new songs “Empires” and “Beguiled” from “ATUM” throughout the set. The heavy-hitting, borderline-metal “Empires” popped up after the opening and rather loud “Quiet.” Later on, the band gave new single “Beguiled” its live debut. The industrial-tinged, handclap-stomp teased a hard rocking outing from the upcoming triple LP, a sequel to the beloved “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”

Some fan reactions:

Corgan had never looked more comfortable on stage. Every guitar strum, every goofy little dance felt calm and precise. Corgan wore a grin across his face the entire set, perhaps never more than during the timeless hit “1979.” Corgan looked like a man doing exactly what he should be doing, in exactly the right spot. Even during a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” Corgan looked at ease as he shimmied and shook across the stage in his black robes.

“Who got in free tonight?” a grinning Corgan called out. The audience roared back. Pumpkins could have chosen to kick off their tour at any venue in the city, but returned to one of their first venues to give their oldest fans a thank-you like no other. Saturday marked Pumpkins’ 39th appearance at the Metro, but based on the energy of the band and fans alike, it will be far from their last. 

SETLIST

  1. Quiet
  2. Empires (new song; live debut)
  3. Drown
  4. Ugly
  5. Bullet with Butterfly Wings
  6. Today
  7. Cyr
  8. Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads cover)
  9. Solara
  10. Eye
  11. Ava Adore
  12. Tonight, Tonight
  13. Snail
  14. Starla
  15. Stand Inside Your Love
  16. 1979
  17. Beguiled (new song; live debut)
  18. Silverfuck
  19. Cherub Rock
  20. Zero

Encore

  1. Rocket
  2. If There Is a God
  3. X.Y.U.

Read More

Photo Essay: ‘Respect our voice, respect our voice!’ — Part-Time Faculty Fight for a Fair Contract

By and Featured, SAIC 1

“This ugly notion that making a film isn’t work or that writing a novel isn’t work or that teaching isn’t work is sexist, racist, and ableist as well,” said Elena Ailes (Assistant Professor-Adjunct, Contemporary Practices). Photo by Aidan Bryant.

On Sept. 21, a large crowd of faculty, students, staff, and others gathered between the two lions in front of the Art Institute of Chicago to show support for part-time and other non-tenure track faculty forming a union. With the success in organizing a union for SAIC and AIC staff last year, there’s precedent for non-tenure-track faculty at SAIC to form a union of their own. This idea has majority support by non-tenure-track faculty, according to the organizers. With speeches from current faculty, city and state representatives, and AFSCME organizers, an excited crowd shouted in support. The classic “Get Up! Get Down! Chicago is a Union Town!” echoed down Michigan Avenue as the crowd marched from the Art Institute to the Sharp building. 

Annie Kielman, lecturer in the print media department, spoke at the rally. “In my time at SAIC, I have witnessed my incredible non-tenure-track colleagues build something more than just a successful curriculum.” She said she hoped that the faculty would be allowed to voice their need for a union and have an election to decide whether or not they wanted to unionize, with “No threats or retaliation, whether direct or implied” from upper administration.

Keefer Dunn, assistant professor adjunct in AIADO, shared, “Our support is immense. Our numbers are immense. We are about to file for our union election, but management also has the opportunity to voluntarily recognize the union and dispense with the election altogether. With the numbers we have and the support that we have, they should do that. It’s the right thing to do.” If President Tenny does not agree to recognize the union voluntarily, the union is expected to file for an election supervised by the National Labor Relations.

Union supporters shouted loudly in front of the Sharp Building — “Respect our voice, respect our choice!” Photo by Aidan Bryant.

 

Kristi McGuire, lecturer in Visual Communications, dressed like a lion, waving around a tambourine that reads “Egalitarian Bangers Only.” Photo by Teddie Bernard.

 

Tracy Abman, associate director for AFSCME Council 31, helped with the organization of SAIC and AIC staff unions last fall. She shared, “It is so exciting to see your union and the continued momentum of so many cultural workers joining together with AFSCME to improve their institutions, improve their schools, and improve their lives.” Photo by Teddie Bernard.

 

A sign held up during the rally reading: “ARTIE SAYS NO UNION WITHOUT U & I.” Photo by Aidan Bryant.

Read More

Today, the ‘F’ Stands for Freshmen

By Featured, SAIC 1

As the day comes to a close, the freshmen are given the opportunity to tour the Modern Wing of the Art Institute.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, over 1,000 freshmen filed into the classrooms throughout SAIC’s campus for what was the first fully in-person freshman orientation since fall 2019. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Freshman Orientation was done entirely online. Without an in-person Welcome Week — which includes a Chicago neighborhood tour, a resource and vendor fair, and an opportunity to visit the Art Institute’s Modern Wing —  many freshmen were left to their own devices when it came to getting familiarized with both campus and city life. 

By fall 2021, the SAIC administration announced a return to an in-person orientation with a modified program. While this gave the 2021 incoming class a better opportunity to get familiarized with the school, many students found themselves quarantined in the dorms through Welcome Week due to Chicago’s travel advisory at the time. This year, many restrictions were lifted, allowing for larger groups of freshmen.  

This year’s orientation was not only special for the incoming class, but also for the Orientation Leaders (OLs) who missed out on these activities their freshman year and could finally experience a somewhat normal Welcome Week. As a junior who never got to experience an in-person orientation, I spent the day following around and interviewing OLs as they guided their freshmen through Welcome Week activities.

Paul Marx and Chana Schwitzer’s Orientation groups. Photo by Mimi Ozormoor.

11:00 a.m. — About 30 freshmen file into Room 308 of the 280 Building, each of them with catering bags of sandwiches in hand. Orientation leaders Paul Marx (BFAAHT 24) and Chana Schwitzer (BFA 25) sit at a table in the front of the room. After everyone files in, the green-and-pink-haired duo introduce themselves, they begin with an icebreaker of typical introductory questions, sprinkling in the zinger of “What was a piece of media that shaped who you are today?”

12:00 p.m. — As the group waits for the afternoon neighborhood tour to begin, they write their favorite songs on the whiteboard to make an Orientation Group Spotify playlist, and play it as they then make collaborative drawings on the wall and mingle with one another. One of the tables starts to bond by playing games over iMessage with each other. Another group stares up at the projector screen critiquing the techniques used in a “5 Minute Crafts” video.

Senior OL Tess Vega crochets away after a long morning of signing in freshmen in the lobby of the 280 Building. Photo by Mimi Ozormoor.

1:00 p.m. — As Marx and Schwitzer prepare to take their group to the Logan Square Farmers Market for their neighborhood tour, Senior Orientation Leader Tess Vega (BFA 24) crochets in the lobby of the 280 Building after a morning of helping freshmen sign in and giving them their lunch. A returning Orientation Leader, Vega enjoys her promotion to SOL as it allows her to have a clear and defined start to the school year — something she didn’t have her freshman year — while also not having to be in charge of a group for the day. “I basically had nothing because we were all online, so [this year] is a lot better. And I think I’m trying to make up for that by continually doing orientation after my freshman year.” 

1:30 p.m. — I then return to Marx and Schwitzer’s group as they made their way to the Monroe Blue Line stop. It was the first time I’ve seen this many people casually gathered on the platform in one group. Prior to this, boarding the CTA in groups even half their size was overwhelming to me. At first I thought they would be annoyed by the 15-minute wait time for the next O’Hare-bound train, but the group was perfectly fine and used the time to get to know each other more.  

Marx and Schitzer’s Orientation group makes their way to Logan Square. Photo by Mimi Ozormoor.

2:00 p.m. — Getting to Logan Square, the group stops at the Pokemon Mural right outside the station and designates it as the meet-up spot. The students are given the choice of going to the Sunday Farmers Market, exploring the various shops and restaurants in the Logan Square Historic District, or to relax on the boulevard and soak in the sun. Having not been exposed to the broad range of places and events in Logan Square until my sophomore year, this neighborhood was a great place to get familiarized with everything. This idea was not just thought of by Marx and Schwitzer’s group however, as fellow OL Carmela Murphy (BFA 24) also decided to bring her group to the market. A current Logan Square resident, Murphy took her freshmen here to check out the vendors and get accustomed to taking the CTA, as she was scared to use the buses and trains at the start of her freshman year. “It’s cool that we get to make everyone feel comfortable and meet people,” Murphy said when asked about her favorite part of being an orientation leader.

OL Carmela Murphy at the Logan Square Farmers Market. Photo by Mimi Ozormoor. 

5:00 p.m. — With their new shopping hauls, the group returns to the Loop for the Welcome BBQ, a way for the freshmen to interact with each other outside of
their orientation groups while the OLs also get to reconvene before heading over to the Art Institute for welcome speeches. 

As the day comes to a close, the freshmen are given the opportunity to tour the Modern Wing of the Art Institute. Photo by Mimi Ozormoor.

6:00 p.m. — At the Art Institute’s Modern Wing, SOL and Class of 2026 Social Media Coordinator Kyli McGuire (BFA 24) sports the straw hat that is seen in their online profile picture in order to be recognized by the freshmen online. “It’s kind of surreal to see how all of [the freshmen] have developed in their SAIC journey because there’s a lot of them who experienced a lot of different things leading up to this” McGuire said when asked about what it’s like to meet the freshmen they facilitated over the last nine months for the first time.  

6:30 p.m. — On the stairs of the Modern Wing, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Patrick Spence, Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Felice Dublon and SAIC President Elissa Tenny give speeches to the sea of freshmen, with the Orientation leaders in their bright yellow shirts scattered about. Two years ago, this gathering would have been unimaginable, but this year, both freshmen and OLs alike got to feel a part of something bigger as Tenny said, “As of today, YOU are the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.”

Mimi Ozormoor (BFA 2024) is the Engagement Editor for F Newsmagazine. In their spare time, they enjoy lolly-gagging, tomfoolery, and general acts of silliness.

Read More

The Song Remains the Same: David Hockney’s ‘Arrival of Spring’

By Arts & Culture, Featured 4

27th March 2020, No. 1, iPad Drawing, © David Hockney

David Hockney isn’t getting any younger. The English multi-hyphenate turned 85 this past July, but shows little sign of slowing down as evidenced by his latest exhibition “The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020,” on show now at the Art Institute of Chicago. This French Impressionism-inspired romp finds the artist without anything to prove, but still motivated to push the limits of his medium — in this case, the Apple iPad.

When most of the world was slowing down in the pandemic spring of 2020, Hockney found focus and momentum, executing 116 new paintings from February to July while locked down in the north of France (truly a cruel fate!). These are overwhelmingly landscapes — fields, trees, bushes — and often repeated under different conditions of weather and time. In location, approach, and ethos, Hockney channels his Impressionist forebears — variations on a tree and bushes in a field evoke Claude Monet’s stacks of wheat just a few galleries over.

“Arrival of Spring” represents the latest in Hockney’s decade-plus long fascination with painting via Apple’s iPad and iPhone. Much to many visitors’ surprise, Hockney developed each work on his iPad while working in the field using a bespoke app fitted with brushes and settings catered to his creative needs.

The resulting work relishes in an all-consuming flatness. Viewing the works on a computer screen, perhaps embedded in this article, fails to belay their size but captures the flat and saturated character of each image, as each is a print-out derived from the digital draft. The effect can be jarring — Hockney’s two-dimensional  surfaces make the globules and mounds of paint accumulated across someone like Paul Cézanne or Vincent van Gogh’s compositions tower in comparison. Likewise, a too-perfect saturation makes some works glow with a borderline-sickly tone, just a little too sweet, appearing closer to the video game “Minecraft” than Monet.

The dullness of the artificial character subsides when viewing close up. At this range, Hockney’s meticulous hand begins to show, revealing fine
layers of shading and dots — not at all unlike the pointillist technique pioneered by Georges Seurat and featured in his obscure painting “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” (located, so I’ve been told, in the Art Institute). Hockney, aided by technology, is able to push these pixelated layers to a minuscule scale that impresses despite their digital origin (see the trees of #105 in particular, or the bushes of #1). 

I think it may be easy to dismiss the collection — regular and unamused murmurs of “done on an iPad” floated through the gallery — but, to his credit, Hockney succeeds in channeling the spirit of Impressionism while rethinking its material tenets. French Impressionism was a movement bolstered in part by newfound mobility as leisure time and mass transit opened up the countryside to French city-dwellers. Hockney likewise exercises the mobility afforded by shrinking technology and reminisces on the pre-pandemic period, a moment of relative peace before the coming maelstrom. 

Hockney is old, and I can understand the appeal of toting a tablet over lugging a canvas, easel and paints in the manner of those who came before. The works in “Arrival” exude a casual air, and he conjures a fine dialogue with the likes of Monet and Seurat. This might be the most relaxed exhibition at the Art Institute in recent memory, for better or for worse. At this point in his career he has no need to prove himself, so why not seek out an enjoyable project? With “Arrival,” he has clearly found a personal spark.

“Arrival of Spring” is not ground-breaking nor must-see — if anything, it is aggressively without stakes. But like a good spring day, it is an appreciated and easygoing affair. Analog painting purists may recoil, but I imagine Hockney doesn’t give a sh*t. There are other contemporary painters who can and do carry the early Hockney torch (see: Jake Longstreth and his marvelous canvases of odd commercial spaces). With close inspection, Hockney’s painting/print-outs offer small rewards for those who dive in, and may inspire the novice and hobbyist painter to take their own stab at the digital canvas.

“David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring, Normandy, 2020” can be seen at the Art Institute of Chicago from Aug. 20, 2022 until Jan. 9, 2023.

Pablo Nukaya-Petralia (MAAH 2023) is the managing editor of F Newsmagazine. “MAAH” is not his major, but rather the sound he makes while writing.

Read More

Panicking Over The Pedals: A Day with Liminal Space

By Arts & Culture, Featured 1

A kneeling musician holding a guitar fine-tunes their array of effect pedals.

Dylan Sidun of Liminal Voice fine-tunes his effects pedals for a show. Courtesy of the author.

July 16th, 2022. 9:31 p.m. It’s the beginning of the last performance at Darkroom, a small suburban backyard venue in Elgin, Illinois. The crowd is starting to simmer down, and slowly they begin to disperse after the band The Grow Ops had just blown out the venue’s only pair of speakers. Just as the host begins to light a tiny fire pit in the center of the yard, a small group of partygoers begin encircling the glass picnic table beside the entrance. It’s been converted into a merch booth where another group, Doublespeak, is selling a pack of t-shirts they made with fabric markers not thirty minutes before the doors opened. Clime, who kicked off the show at 7 p.m., is peeling out of the driveway, leaving a microphone in the venue’s possession by accident. 

The backyard has nearly cleared with only a handful of people on their phones waiting on the last act in the lineup. Someone is leaning on the fence finishing up the half-way point of a scarf they had been knitting the entire show. The members of the small trio Liminal Space, the closing act, are getting antsy while The Grow Ops continue to occupy the stage despite their set time going past the limit. Nevertheless, a backup speaker is hooked up to the sound system to ensure the final performance kicks off without a hitch.

“You guys better be good, I’m tripping balls right now,” says a man loitering around the front of the stage with a beer in his hand.

A long-haired bass player plucks his instrument during an outdoor concert.

Amos Lungu of Liminal Space caught in the moment. Courtesy of the author.

July 16th, 2022. 9:45 p.m. There’s a groan from the speaker that drags everyone’s attention back to the stage as Amos Lungu, the bassist of Liminal Space, slams the amp with a guttural note. Their hair drapes down the front of their head like the onryō from the Japanese-American horror film “The Grudge.” Meanwhile Naser Mansour, the drummer, is still setting up what he calls his “trash stack”: a trash lid sitting on top of an upside-down crash cymbal. It’s Dylan Sidun, the guitarist/vocalist with a little bit of a sore throat, who stammers over the microphone:

“Yeah this isn’t gonna work, we need all of y’all to scooch over to the front.” 

Their first impression to the audience is a little underestimating, with an ear-shattering amount of volume emanating from the band’s Sunn amplifier. It’s just a bunch of noise. Sidun selects one of the two guitars he has on set, but Mansour has just finished setting up his playing field after wrestling with the carpet beneath the drum kit for a hot minute. And when the band is all set, Mansour is the first member to jumpstart the show with a rapid succession of tight snare raps and a couple of splashes from a closed hi-hat. Trust me when I say that this self-described “Chicago Loud Group” gets even louder inside the studio.

At Liminal Space’s rehearsal studio, a “wall-mounted clock.” Courtesy of the author.

July 16th, 2022. 1:13 p.m. Sidun only brought a browned banana and some water to the practice location in the lower east side of Bridgeport. It’s a multi-story brick building adjacent to empty overgrown lots and abandoned/burned housing. The building reeks of mildew. Fortunately, the band has been able to scrummage up just enough money to make rent and prevent their mothers’ ears from shattering by practicing at home. The production studio looks more like a storage closet than anything else. It’s all Liminal Space really needs to kickstart their careers as musicians.

The studio comes with two wall mounted lamps, a landlord-special paint job, and a pull-cord switch light bulb that has only ever been tugged once: when I asked to take photos in the space. LED strips litter the walls, but they haven’t been touched in a while. There’s almost no soundproofing; actually, I lied there is a torn piece of foam on the door, but when I asked Sidun about it Lungu claimed that it came with the space. Somebody, most likely Mansour, nailed the butt-end of a snapped drumstick to the top of the door. It seems to have blood on it upon closer inspection.

“That’s just our wall-mounted clock.” Mansour affirms.

Loading begins at six, so the band has maybe four hours to kill before the hour-and-a-half long drive through Chicago rush hour traffic. Sidun is sporting a white “Duster / Stratosphere” t-shirt with blue cuffed jeans and middle school-dated gym shoes (he uses them to mow the lawn). Lungu’s head is covered by a red beanie with some strands of hair they pulled out from underneath. They’re dressed in dark loose-fit jeans and a brown long-sleeve shirt despite the room reaching a suffocating ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Mansour already has his shirt and boots off by the time I’ve entered the shoebox studio. No shirt, no shoes, all service. This trio seems to leave you wondering the same question every time you lock eyes with one of them: how can one human being be this abnormally sweaty?

A long-haired drummer works his way through a beat while performing.

Mansour mid-set at the Darkroom. Courtesy of the author.

July 16th, 2022. 2:03 p.m. “You’re gonna need earplugs,” Sidun says as he motions his head over to the jar on the shelf next to the door.

There’s an interesting communication that happens between Sidun, Lungu, and Mansour. Each player watches another, awaiting their next move, and there’s the slightest hesitation between all three just to see if they’re on the same plane. Mansour leads his own charge with a murderous intent that nudges Sidun to occasionally ask him to slow down. Lungu doesn’t really speak during these sessions, only chiming in for a slight joke every now and then. There’s no leading figure to this team; every member seems to share an equal amount of weight.

Lungu and Sidun have set up a number of guitar pedals on the floor linking to different effects and pre-recorded sounds. The emotional adrenaline-inducing instrumentals are juxtaposed by intermittent sounds of nonsense voices as the band begins its slow descent into a mental prison of their making.

Imagine the televised Emergency Alert Sound System made a band. Now imagine they’re playing in a vacated and unfurnished office building. Each song interconnects another, progressively becoming more distorted and jaded. An endless audio experience pulling you away from reality. 

When you’re standing in the audience of their performance, the space starts to morph into the band’s personal playground, and your surroundings begin to feel detached as you sink deeper into their music. Liminal Space achieves derealization, and it’s not an effect you can ever achieve sitting at home listening to their voice-memo-recorded demo on Spotify. Liminal Space is one-hundred percent best experienced live. 

July 16th, 2022. 9:58 p.m. The musicians that have come together to form the group Liminal Space live up to their name as they turn this townhouse backyard in Elgin, IL into a setting of their own. I think this is my first time experiencing music that doesn’t actually move a crowd — and not in a bad way. Throughout the whole thirty minutes of playtime there wasn’t a person moshing, dancing, or even just bobbing their head. It was all just people, staring. They were in their own little world as I jumped on and off the stage capturing photos and footage for the band.

Coming into the climax of the show, the noise they produce slowly becomes more incomprehensible. There’s a story in this performance of mental health and anguish. I don’t really even know what genre to call this band anymore after seeing them live. Perhaps it’s not really a genre, maybe Liminal Space is just venting in their own awkward yet unique way. I asked Sidun later about the lyrics he shrieked over the microphone. Apparently, it’s mostly improvised.

“We don’t have lyrics, I just scream into the microphone whatever I’m angry about at that time.”

Sidun takes a breather during their Darkroom show. Courtesy of the author.

July 16th, 2022. 10:31 p.m. It’s the end of the show, and Sidun is curled into a ball on the side of the stage, unable to bear the music they’ve created. Mansour is fumbling angrily over the drums, and Lungu is full force beating the shit out of his guitar pedal with his right hand; he left with a swollen pinky at the end of the show. 

Then, the music stops, and you’re just standing there with a party of other enchanted wallflowers realizing that this trio of sweaty twenty-year-olds just created something extraordinary. Liminal Space is a mental health crisis in action, one that really leaves you asking yourself:

“What the fuck guys- Are you okay?”

Rating: Liminal Space cured my neck pain / 10 

Liminal Space is on break for the month of August, but is planning new shows for the beginning of September. Follow their Instagram for show updates and releases @liminalspaceband. Keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming album scheduled to be announced this August. Inquiries and booking done via email [email protected]

It’s DJ (BFAW 2024.) They make pretty pictures, but sometimes write nifty articles, narratives, and poems. He’s also a graphic artist for “White Noise Magazine.” You can browse their photography shenanigans @iss.green on Instagram. Inquire via email [email protected] or shoot me a DM on my socials. When’s the last time you properly flossed?

Read More

Moving Pictures: ‘Breaking,’ Tragic and True

By Entertainment 0

A distraught Black man with glasses holds a cell phone.

John Boyega as Brian Brown-Easley in “Breaking.” Courtesy of Bleecker Street.

“Breaking” bears many similarities with director Sidney Lumet’s 1975 classic, “Dog Day Afternoon,” outside of both being based on true stories. Both are tense crime-thrillers about U.S. war veterans attempting to steal from banks to right a societal wrong. Both feature hostage negotiators far out of their depth, trying to restore peace and order in a frantic and chaotic situation. And both reframe the American Dream and veteran affairs against  pressing contemporary issues: “Dog Day Afternoon’s” story examined queerness and gender conformity in 1975, while “Breaking” focuses on race in America in 2017. But neither movie is consumed by their themes; instead they are both sleek, affecting films that remind us of sad, true stories. 

John Boyega, eager to break away from Star Wars, the mega-franchise that spurned him, plays Brian Brown-Easley, a real veteran, whose story is adapted from this article in 2018. Boyega’s career moves most clearly match with Daniel Radcliffe, another British actor who many thought would be defined by his biggest hit. Like Radcliffe, Boyega has had some misses and some hits. But despite an uneven track record, it is undeniable that Boyega is an incredible talent. He manages to bring humanity to every character he plays, even if sometimes the scripts don’t rise to meet him.

In “Breaking,” it finally feels like he’s getting a role that challenges him, demands him to rise to it. And he succeeds. As Brown-Easley, Boyega walks a very thin line. Much of the tension stems from the audience not being sure what Brown-Easley will do next. Our attention is held hostage, as we never know if or when he will do something dangerous. But Boyega isn’t playing a serial killer or supervillain. Boyega isn’t merely making us stay on our toes for the sake of tension. Brown-Easley is an ordinary man, forced into an incredibly difficult situation. Boyega recognizes this, and brings a humanity and kindness to the character that makes us sympathize with him, like when he answers the phone on behalf of one of the bank tellers, taking down notes from a disgruntled customer. Despite our unease, we never resent Brown-Easley. Instead, we resent the circumstances that forced him into this predicament. It’s akin to Al Pacino’s performance of Sonny Wortzik in “Dog Day Afternoon,” but where Pacino was charismatic, Boyega is bumbling; where Pacino was loud, Boyega goes quiet. Wortzik and Brown-Easley are more than characters; they are people.

That humanity underwrites much of “Breaking” and the rest of its cast. Sometimes, that’s about empathy. But other times, it’s about human error. There’s the mistake that led to Brown-Easley losing his veteran benefits, but there’s also the missteps of the other characters along the way. Connie Britton plays a news producer, who stumbles into this major news story. But the situation is unprecedented for her; she is not trained to handle a hostage situation. Neither are some of the police officers who pick up Brown-Easley’s calls from inside the bank, like the 911 operator who can’t seem to connect Brown-Easley to the right department. Beyond the understated performances of its cast, this focus on error makes “Breaking” feel real. It isn’t an explosive Hollywood spectacle; it’s a down-to-earth drama about small mistakes that compound into tragedy. 

Writer and director Abi Damaris Corbin recognizes the importance of the little things. Much of Brown-Easley’s story is told in snapshots, rather than stretched out exposition. We don’t need to know Brown-Easley’s war story — all we need to see is his glazed expression as a helicopter flies overhead. We don’t need to see how he was hurt in war to know that he was hurt. The outcome matters more than its origin.

Unfortunately, there is more than one tragic true story captured in “Breaking.” The only person who can really get through to Brown-Easley is the Georgia Police’s hostage negotiator, Sergeant Eli Bernard, played by the late Michael K. Williams. Unlike other members of the police force, Bernard sees the inherent humanity of Brown-Easley and understands the path that led him to this ultimately misguided position. He doesn’t play mind games with Brown-Easley, though he does make promises he isn’t sure he can keep. Above all, Bernard values human life, not just of the hostages but of Brown-Easley as well, who Bernard sees in his totality. Brown-Easley is not reduced to a criminal in Bernard’s eyes; he is a veteran, a Marine, a husband, and a father. Sergeant Eli Bernard is Michael K. William’s last performance, after he tragically passed away late last year. He was 54. 

Williams has been a force of nature in movies and TV, performing across genres, famously as Omar in crime show “The Wire,” as Montrose Freeman in horror anthology “Lovecraft Country,” and in one of my favorite comedic performances as Dr. Marshall Kane in NBC sitcom “Community.” No matter the role, Williams brought a pathos to his characters, making them feel fully lived in. Sergeant Bernard is no exception. In fact, it is a testament to Williams’ prowess as a performer: we fully believe that he wants the best for Brown-Easley, for everyone involved, despite his own frustrations within the confines of the Georgia police. We believe in Bernard, like we believe in Brown-Easley: they are human beings trapped in unfortunate circumstances, that we desperately want them to be free from. 

Hanlon’s Razor asks us to never attribute to malice what could just as easily be explained by incompetence. “Breaking” repeatedly shows us that whether it be malice or incompetence, the outcome is the same. People are hurt, neglected, left by the wayside, whether intended or not. And sadly, some mistakes cannot be undone. The best we can hope for is that we learn from both our own and others’ mistakes, and celebrate each other’s humanity while we can. And though “Breaking’s” story is ultimately tragic, its creation is clearly an act of love. It wants to remind us that Brown-Easley was more than a news story; he was a full person. And through this film, perhaps he, and Michael K. Williams, can live on in legacy.

Myle Yan Tay (MFAW 2023) cares a lot about movies and comic books. One day, maybe they will care about him. Find more of his writing at www.myleyantay.com.

Read More

Moving Pictures: ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies,’ by Twitter, for Twitter, from Twitter

By Entertainment, Featured 1

Rachel Sennott as Alice in “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” Photo courtesy of A24.

Several uber-wealthy Zoomers gather at one of their parents’ uber-mansions, to wait out (and party through) an incoming uber-hurricane. To pass the time, they play a drinking game and pick a secret “murderer.” That “murderer” has to sneak around in the dark, tapping their victims’ backs, until no “survivors” remain. But suddenly, the game becomes dangerously real.

That’s the premise of “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” the new A24 horror-comedy from Halina Reijn, that satirizes the narcissism, the self-flagellation, the tone policing that characterizes the Zoomer generation. Or at least, what this film thinks characterizes Zoomers.

Everyone in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is unlikable. That’s by design. But being intentionally irritating doesn’t take away from the fact that they are truly, truly irritating. Pete Davidson as David and Rachel Sennott as Alice lean fully into the ridiculousness of their characters. They mine the comedy, and despite how detestable David and Alice are, they manage to eke out some charm.

But the rest of the cast struggle to walk that same line. They end up being more irksome than watchable, insufferable rather than fascinating. This is despite great casting decisions, and talented performers. Because, again, they are designed to be unlikable. But at some point, it feels like the audience is meant to suffer.

The only character that isn’t outright loathsome is Maria Bakalova as Bee, the group’s outsider and the film’s protagonist. That’s primarily because her character is empty. While the others are narcissists, serial manipulators, or master deflectors, Bee is boring. Bakalova does what she can with the material, but the script provides her character with no traits or individuality. As the film progresses, it never quite becomes clear why we are over Bee’s shoulder, instead of one of the other eccentric characters.

This sense of inanity only grows as the danger heightens. As the stakes rise, the group becomes increasingly more frantic, conversations spiral out of control, screams overlap one another, and egos dominate. Conversations become hard to hear as they shout over each other’s voices, hoping to drown out anyone else’s argument with volume. Fingers are pointed, only for other fingers to be pointed back at them. Years of shared friendship and tension boil over at the most inopportune moments, through flirtation, seduction, passive aggression, or pure aggression.

This may be how a murder mystery would go between these characters, with much shouting, more insults, and plenty of accusations of political incorrectness. But that accuracy isn’t so much entertaining as it is incredibly grating.

This is particularly so in the film’s emotional climax, a heated argument at gunpoint. The conversation is a hodgepodge of Twitter-speak, satirizing the language of safe spaces, while the characters are in, quite literally, a very dangerous place. But the lines feel like they were written to be processed through a Twitter screencap, for a corporate account to post with a caption like, “Where are the Alice stans at???” The initial joke would still be funny, and it is also objectively correct to stan Alice, in this movie. But it is unclear who this movie is speaking to. Is it speaking to the people who engage in Twitter discourse? Or is it meant to be lampooning those people for everyone else? Is this the crowd that says on the regular, “Kids these days?” Or is it meant to appeal to said kids, in its heightened reconstruction of their identities? As the group bickered about who was most oppressed, I found myself more interested in those questions than in any of the characters’ arcs or secrets.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t a funny movie. There are plenty of laughs to be had throughout the film, particularly with Lee Pace’s astonishingly accurate portrayal of a 40-year-old man dating a 22-year-old. The most recurring laughs throughout the film hinge upon the characters’ shallowness, whether it be their conveniently self-victimizing politics, the superficiality of their friendships, the facile attempts at allyship, or their thin, thin egos. But because of this same shallowness, the film ends up coming off as more of a sequence of well-thought out jokes than a narrative with strong characters to anchor it.

“Bodies Bodies Bodies” is a visually charming movie, largely because of its inventive lighting choices. Reijn boldly uses plenty of practical lighting, giving scenes a natural glow. Characters are either adorned with glow sticks, donning headlamps, or, most frequently, shining the bright flashlight of their iPhones. There is an immersive quality to these lighting choices, making “Bodies Bodies Bodies” look quite unlike other films of its kind. The shadows mean something, probably more than the characters do.

“Bodies Bodies Bodies” is like being in a group chat with six people you hate. There’s some moments of comedy, some of schadenfreude, of second-hand cringe, and maybe that’s worth the price of entry. But at the end of the day, you are still the person trapped in a group chat with six people you hate. So who’s really losing?

Myle Yan Tay (MFAW 2023) cares a lot about movies and comic books. One day, maybe they will care about him. Find more of his writing at www.myleyantay.com.

Read More

Hello, Guten Tag

By Featured, SAIC 0

A photo of the Guten Tag burger with a bite taken out of it.

The Guten Tag sandwich in all its glory. Photo by Teddie Bernard.

“Guten Tag” is a German phrase used as a greeting, roughly translating to “Good Day/Morning/Afternoon.” It’s one of those phrases you learn in the first week of German 101. Simple, to the point. Guten tag. 

Guten Tag is also the name of a sandwich offered at Food for Thought, SAIC’s three cafeterias. It is a sandwich that I have spent twelve months tirelessly describing to my peers, and it is now — for a limited time only — available again for purchase as a seasonable menu item.

The Guten Tag is the kind of sandwich you write epic poems about. While eating the sandwich, there are moments of glorious, beautiful triumph and moments of lows so deep you feel trapped in a canyon of sorrow. I have not stopped thinking about the Guten Tag sandwich since I first tasted it in September of 2021. 

“Well, was it good?” my friends have asked when I tell them about this sandwich. The Guten Tag is not the kind of sandwich you can categorize in such simple adjectives as “good” or “bad.” The Guten Tag rejects your mortal terms, your easy labels. 

The Guten Tag was not a pleasant experience, but equally, it was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had in my life.

An Oktoberfest item offered in mid-September, the Guten Tag immediately caught my eye, first, for its incredible name and, second, for its promise of a pretzel bun. This sounds like a regular burger, I thought, with a pretzel bun. So I took my food slip and ordered this very special sandwich.

I had no idea how special the Guten Tag would be or the amount of space it would come to occupy in my mind. I have considered odes, perhaps paintings, even a knitted recreation to pay tribute to this sandwich. Ultimately, I decided none of these mediums could truly recreate the experience of eating the Guten Tag. It is something that must be experienced as it is.

I went back for the Guten Tag a few weeks later, but it was gone. That was the end of it. I shrugged my shoulders and went about my life, pretending as though I hadn’t had an experience that had shattered my reality — showed me some sort of life beyond the matrix.

Until now. September 2022.

When I saw it was back on the menu, I knew I had to have it again. And I knew I had to document the experience and share the word of the Guten Tag with the student population at large. 

Here is that review: 

I arrived at Sharp cafeteria’s Food for Thought cafe just after 6 p.m., hungry and eager. I grabbed my food slip and eagerly circled the Guten Tag. (It’s worth noting for those interested in copying my endeavor that the Guten Tag is not with the burgers, despite its main protein being a hamburger patty. Instead, it can be found on the other side of the food slip, in between the “Tecate Wrap” and “Salsa Roja Black Bean Tacos.”)

On the food slip, the Guten Tag is described thus:

Angus beef burger, muenster cheese, caramelized onions, whole grain mustard, pretzel buns.

This was exactly how I remembered being served it one year ago. To my dismay, however, I saw the lone cook that evening adding whole grain mustard to a regular hamburger bun. This is it, I thought. It’s done. Sharp cafeteria has been known to, on occasion, substitute regular buns when they don’t have the specialty kind. I knew the sandwich would still be a journey, but would it really still be the Guten Tag? I found dread slowly building in my stomach. Despite all this, I admired the cook’s ability to make three sandwiches at once, and I took the Guten Tag from them when it was finished with nervous trepidation.

While checking out, the person working at the cash register informed me that they had only added the button for the Guten Tag earlier that day. I thought about telling them how special this sandwich was, but instead wished them the very thing the sandwich promised to me: a good day. The sandwich cost $8.50.

Biting into the Guten Tag, the first thing I was hit with was the heat of the burger patty, still fresh off the grill. The first few bites were pleasant, slowly becoming accumulated to a hint of mustard and the tender taste of the Muenster cheese. Though I had been worried about the lack of a pretzel bun, I was immediately having an excellent time eating the sandwich. The dread I had been feeling upon holding the aesthetically unimpressive burger in my hands faded into a kind of bliss, a state of peaceful meditation. 

As I enjoyed the sandwich, I felt my brain racing fast. Yes, yes, I had enjoyed the Guten Tag the last time I had it. But this felt… different. Were there no canyons of sorrow waiting for my arrival? Was the sandwich less of a journey and more of a seasonally themed lunch or dinner item, just to be mildly enjoyed and forgotten until the next year? Surely not! 

But oh, the onions. They brought me back to reality, assured me that this sandwich had much more in store for me. The onions had been heated on the grill but still had the irregularity of many cafeteria onions. Some bites, they were a nice addition, mixing well with both savory and sweet undertones. Some bites, they were devastating snakes, betraying my mouth with too much crunch and an awful, slimy feeling. 

The rollercoaster of the Guten Tag had reached me yet again. Unlike last time, I was prepared for it. The hamburger bun, the tangy mustard, the crispy patty, even the onions, all worked together to create an unexpectedly tasty experience. 

Near the end of the sandwich, I realized that despite it all, despite my hours of obsession, my hopes and my dreams, my worries and my fears, despite every one of the things that had brought me to this moment, I was hungry and, boy, was this sandwich hitting the spot. 

The Guten Tag will not be for everybody. But, a fairly enjoyable seasonal treat that it is, I hope that I may have convinced some of you that it is an experience you must have before it’s taken off the menu. 

The Guten Tag can be found in all three cafeterias. It will be taken off the menu at the end of the month. After that, all we’ll be left with is our memories, trying to cling to the aftertaste of flavor, as we dream and obsess about the Guten Tag for the rest of the year. 

Read More