When one talks about child-focused serial killings, humor rarely enters the discussion. But in playwright Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman, which opened Steppenwolf's 31st season this week, humor pervades the dark, harrowing play.
Set in two acts, The Pillowman takes place in a nameless, timeless totalitarian dictatorship -- it could be a shot against censorship in the '50s, a take on life behind the Iron Curtain or a modern-day rub against murderous regimes in the developing world. In any case, The Pillowman is a smartly written, brilliantly acted show. It's a dark yet viciously funny play that focuses on two brothers -- one a talented yet unknown writer (Jim True-Frost), the other his mentally challenged charge (Michael Shannon).
Over the course of the two hours and 15 minutes, the brothers discover and reveal dark secrets about each other that will quickly change the course of their lives. The show opens with the bespectacled writer being interrogated by two hot-headed police officers. At first he's unsure of why he's there and begins to suspect the police don't like the content of his stories. We soon learn he's a suspect in the alleged murders of three children -- murders that are acted out based on the writing in his stories. Through the interrogation, we learn that the writer has a warped past that flawlessly comes out in his twisted writing, where kids are, in many cases, inhumanely maimed, murdered, tossed aside and neglected.
The play is peppered with emotion, but one that comes out time and again is trust in and love for your fellow man. Despite the characters' shortcomings, you can't help but feel sorry for them all. The interpersonal relationships uncover a lot about what we like and dislike about ourselves, but at the end of the day, you can't help but like each of them.
The Pillowman, directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Amy Morton, runs through Nov. 12 and originally played in London and most recently on Broadway.
If you thought techonology wasn't moving fast enough, how's this for making your life easier? Motorola is rolling out 20 "robotic stores," massive vending machines that sell mobile phone and accessories.
The InstantMoto stores will be on-hand in airports and malls throughout the country by November, according to Motorola. San Francisco airport already has one and there are three in Chicago, including one at the "new" Macy's on State Street (don't get me started on that, I'm still bitter about them "killing" Marshall Field's).
With InstantMoto, which was designed by SF-based Zoom Systems, you'll be able to choose from 30 products: 12 different phones including the RAZR and Q, as well as a variety of accessories like Bluetooth headsets. Best quality: you can buy a phone with or without a rate plan.
In case you're worried about your phone getting stuck in the coils like a helpless bag of chips, fear not. Robotic arms will take the product you order and gently place it in your hands.
"It's not about the world of design. It's about the design of the world."
Kicking off this weekend, Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art will attempt to convey, through [sustainable] design, the state of the world -- and where it's heading. The new exhibit, Massive Change: The Future of Global Design, will attempt to change the way we, as a collective human race, look at design -- in the same way design is forcing us to re-examine the way we look at the world around us. The world has entered a new phase -- we are on the cusp of serious morphing, on every level. We, as people, have the ability to force change. This exhibit, conceived by designer Bruce Mau, begs us to look at how we can make change possible through the idea of design as an ever-changing force in our lives.
Massive Change kicks off on Sept. 16 and runs through Dec. 31 -- New Year's Eve. How will you spend the next year? Look around you, decide how design plays a role in your life and how you can welcome it into your world.
Opening up the New York Times Magazine this morning, while sitting down with my coffee, my eyes immediately focused on the words on the front page: "The Taste of Flavorpill." I quickly turned to the article on page 44, titled "Virtually Cool," and laughed when the beaming face of founder Sascha Lewis stared back at me. I then laughed, while holding the paper version of the magazine, read the lead sentence, "If you're not reading this on a screen ..." Fortunately, I qualified for the next two criteria: having a blog and having a phone not leashed to a wall.
Flavorpill is an amazing conglomerate of weekly e-newsletters started by Lewis and his biz partner Mark Mangan, based out of an expansive if not cluttered loft a few floors above the bustle of SoHo's shopping district on Broadway. Flavorpill has been mentioned in the Times magazine a couple of times before, but this, I believe is the first full feature tracking the growth and influence the cultural purveyor has in cities including New York, Chicago, SF, LA and London.
What started as a small, text-only weekly email highlighting hip happenings around New York 326 issues ago in late 2000 following the burst of the Internet bubble, has exploded into a powerhouse of 10 diverse email newsletters highlighting culture, entertainment, world news, fashion and music.
I've known Sascha, one of the most grounded, happy guys I've ever met, for about four years when I started writing for Flavorpill SF shortly after its launch, and met Mark a couple of years ago when the pair was in Chicago launching this city's version. If you don't know Flavorpill and itch to discover interesting, eclectic, sometimes underground happenings in your city (assuming you live in one of the 5 aforementioned enclaves or Miami and Austin, which are up next), check it out and sign up.
Just finished watching last night's episode of "Project Runway" on Tivo and I'm pissed and disappointed. I picked Alison to go all the way from the very first show and for them to kick her off and keep that crazy-ass freak Vincent was an obvious production call. The only reason that idiot is still on the show is because he's crazy. Alison has always made gorgeous, incredible clothes and the judges have time after time complimented her on her ability to style the entire look. I mean, Kayne wasn't even in the bottom two and they all hated his piece! I love this show but sometimes the "reality" of reality TV -- how editing and producers' bottom lines come into play -- totally sucks.
If you are one of those people who truly and honestly believes that gay people choose their sexual orientation, then you need to ask yourself: when did you choose to be straight?
A group, BornDifferent, has created a series of short videos chronicling the life of Norman, a springer spaniel that was born different. His difference: he moos instead of barking. The five 30-second videos show how Norman is shunned by his family, runs away and has difficulty fitting in -- all because he was born different.
In one video, titled "What People Think," the producers stop random people on the street to ask them if they think gay people are born that way or choose to be gay. The responses are interesting -- especially when they ask, "When did you choose to be straight?" It opened up a lot of eyes.
Watch Norman's story. And once you get to the main site, look toward the bottom of the screen and click on the links "Norman on TV" and "What People Think."
The other night, Amy Sedaris went on the Colbert Report to plug her new movie, Strangers With Candy, the wacky tale of Jerri Blank, a boozing, ex-con, sex fiend who goes back to high school. If you watch the YouTube clip, you almost believe the duo had never met. But the reality is they're old friends and writing partners. In fact, Colbert co-wrote the SWC TV series and movie. Their banter during the segment is out of control -- and make sure you watch until the end.
SWC is currently in theaters and Sedaris has a hilarious website.
The Newsmap is a cool app that gathers news headlines pulled from the Google news aggregator and displays it in a visually stimulating treemap. The news is broken up by both time and category (sports, entertainment, business, tech), with the most current, pressing news laid out in larger format. You can even click on each headline to launch the story in a separate browser window.
The latest project that I helped launch and am the editor of is WingmanDaily, a daily email newsletter for men based in Chicago. Wingman delivers a daily report on what is fresh, hip and cool for men -- gadgets, style, grooming, nightlife, health/fitness and more. Wingman focuses on one item each day -- and we never accept payment for editorial. This week, we've already talked about JLindeberg for Puma golf shoes, Sonos digital music system and Task Essential eye cream -- and there are already great items in the archive.
Check it out and register.
Last month, Getty Images, one of the world's largest stock photography houses, launched a promotion called Change Me, an amazing virtual fundraiser. For every image you select and write about, Getty will donate $10 to Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria with a cap of $250k.
Seeing as this week marks the 25th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS (actually, I think it's the anniversary of doctors officially naming the disease acquired immune deficiency syndrome, thus changing it from GRID -- gay related immune deficiency), I urge everyone to visit the Getty site and pick an image. Then head over to Change Me and help reach the goal.