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How Jessica Hopper Is Changing The Future For Women Writers

Tue, 2015-05-12 07:59

Jessica Hopper named her second book The First Collection Of Criticism By A Living Female Rock Critic knowing it wasn't really accurate. As she mentions in the introduction, there had been Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia in 1969, Caroline Coon's The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion in 1988 and Rock She Wrote in 1995.

But Hopper, a legendary Chicago-based music critic, music editor of Tavi Gevinson's Rookie Magazine and editor of the Pitchfork Review, has put together a game-changing collection of writing. Republishing her best work, which includes a horrifying interview with Jim DeRogatis, the only reporter who investigated R. Kelly's sexual assault allegations at length; an essay on the complicated gendering of emo music; a takedown of Miley Cyrus' "Bangerz"; a reflection on being a teenage girl trying to impress boys with your knowledge of grunge music; and dozens of other essays, interviews blog posts and reported features; Hopper has created a bible for aspiring writers, not just music critics.

Hopper's feminism has always been an important part of her relationship with music, and through her work, she's become one of the leading advocates for other female writers on the Internet. She regularly solicits pitches and shines spotlights on younger writers' work. "This title is not meant to erase history but rather mark a path," she wrote in her book's introduction. "This book is dedicated to those that came before, those that should of been first, and all the ones that will come after." It's a sentiment that easily sums up her take on music and mentorship, too.

Below, Hopper talks about finding your professional cheerleading squad, gender politics in music, and saying "I just can't" to Chris Brown.

When you were editing some of the stories from when you were younger, did it feel like you were editing yourself or a completely different person?

My mom, who is an editor, who’s been an editor for her entire life, gave me advice. I complained to her about how tough it was and she basically said, "Approach your teenage self like you would one of the girls you edited at Rookie." And I immediately was able to drop that realm of my shame-y judgement toward myself, toward my life, toward whatever baggage I had and treat it in a strict, but loving way. It completely changed my ability to reckon with the book.

In the acknowledgements, you thank so many Rookie writers. There’s something so special about thanking people so openly without asking for anything in return. I’m just going to go out on a limb and say mentorship is a big part of what you do. When and how did that become something that you knew you wanted to do?

I couldn’t have written without that sort of cohort of Rookie writers, contributors and editors, and other editors and my sister and Tavi [Gevinson]. It was really like having a cheerleading team on the sidelines at all times. Some of those people are published authors themselves and could give me really concrete stuff and somebody else could be just someone who texts me like, “Fuck yes. You can do this.” It meant exactly the same, whether they were in high school or whether it was Emma Straub, who has a bestseller.

In my mind, I was always writing this book for other younger writers like Hazel Cills or writers I work with at The Pitch, who are 22 years old and are as brilliant as they come. I think only maybe in the last two or three years when I was working at Rookie and I started to feel that elder stateswoman vibe, where it was like, "Oh, I guess I do have some words of encouragement. I do have some experience I can offer."

Part of my whole thing as a writer and as someone who sometimes gets offered special opportunities is that I’ve always tried to open the doors that were opened for me to people who are younger, in part because sometimes people did do that for me, but lots of times that didn’t necessarily happen to me. There’s this sort of mythology in music and music criticism -- the myth of the first or the only, that there can only be one successful woman who can have her name out there. The [book] title kind of speaks to that. I want there to be like 3,000 of us, not 150 loosely affiliated woman. I want it to be a whole cohort, a gang. In the last two years when a lot of doors and opportunities have opened for me, I’m really quick to usher in all the girl geniuses that I’m friends with.

Being the token is sometimes incredibly lonely work. I want to help raise up work and women and ideas that inspire me and got me to where I am, as well as create opportunities for all these people who race past us because their ideas and their ambition is bigger than mine ever was. And mine was pretty fucking big.

As I was reading this book, I wished I had found some of these articles when I was younger. I read your emo essay, "Emo: Where The Girls Aren't" and thought, "This would have meant so much to me 10 years ago." I grew up in the Long Island emo scene, going to shows feeling like I was there to watch boys. I didn't feel like I could see myself in that music until I found bands like Bikini Kill much later, which you also discussed. I’m not an adolescent anymore, but reading these kinds of stories is still powerful. It still makes me really think about being a teenager and having that young, complicated relationship with music we may not fully understand.

It’s funny you say that about the emo essay. The other day, I was talking to Meredith Graves from Perfect Pussy and she was like, "I read this essay so long ago on the Internet and I had no idea you wrote it!" I was like, at least it made it out there somewhere in the LiveJournal/Tumblr/re-share world. It was from a magazine that’s long out of print and never even had a digital version.

When I wrote that [...] the very initial reaction that people had was, by the way, entirely gendered. I got mail for literally years, people writing actual letters talking about how wrong I had gotten it or how they had cried reading that piece. It doesn’t surprise me that that piece has resonance because of the ways that scenes and music and shows are very gendered experiences still.

I was at a Taking Back Sunday concert a couple weeks ago and when I was little, they were like my favorite band. But I was standing in the back and I had such a visceral reaction, like, "I can’t be here. This doesn’t make sense to me anymore." When I was re-reading your interview with Jim DeRogatis, it reminded me of the theme you bring up a lot: what will I and will I not compromise for the sake of something that may sound good to me. That really spoke to me very recently and I’m starting to think about this so much more.

It’s complicated. It’s hard to sometimes make pop or punk or hardcore or techno conform to do the moral gymnastics we need it to if we’re going to keep listening, and keep going to those shows.

How do you reconcile that? Would you go to a show of a totally misogynistic band?

I don’t have that kind of time in my life and I never have. I love plenty of artists that are "problematic." Some of my faves are problematic, but music for me has always been personal since I got into punk rock. Part of that was the politics of it, in the way that I found myself in it and the world that it opened up to me, the vocabulary it gave me, the sense of self it helped give me, the sense of power, the sense of community. I take it far too seriously to ever be able to go, “I just like how this sounds and I don’t care about any of the other qualifying aspects around it.”

You listen to the Nicki [Minaj] record, that song called "Only." I like Drake. I love eras of [Lil] Wayne. We can say, "Oh, this Chris Brown part sounds good." But I was like, “Ah. No. I can’t do this.” Because what they’re saying in this verse about Nicki is just so disrespectful. Then Chris Brown is here. Literally, when I think of Chris Brown I think of him on Larry King and him being giving passes, really sad facts about his own life. This is too much. I can’t unpack Chris Brown enough in a way that feels okay for me to dive into a Chris Brown record, like, “This my shit.” I just can’t.

We have so many choices -- who we listen to, how we listen, how we purchase, whether we pay for it, whether we steal it, whatever. This is sort of one more hurdle that it has to clear sometimes. Is this how I want to participate? Do I want to give this space? Do I want to let this person in my brain or do I want to just turn on a different radio station?

I sometimes forget that we can change the channel, or listen to to something else.

This is the gift of the modern age, the options. There’s plenty of things out there in the world that are just naturally going to fuck us up if we give it half a mind, and sometimes it’s good if we let things disturb us a little and we try to figure out why. But that said, I’m never going to go to an R. Kelly show.

The First Collection Of Criticism By A Living Female Rock Critic is available to purchase on May 12.

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Obama Presidential Library Will Be Built On Chicago's South Side

Tue, 2015-05-12 05:13

CHICAGO (AP) — President Barack Obama has decided to build his presidential library on the South Side of Chicago, where his political career began.

In a news release, the Barack Obama Foundation announced early Tuesday that the library would be erected on park land that was proposed for the site by the University of Chicago. The site was selected over bids made by Columbia University in New York, the University of Hawaii and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"With a library and a foundation on the South Side of Chicago, not only will we be able to encourage and affect change locally, but what we can also do is to attract the world to Chicago." Obama said in a video accompanying the release. "All the strands of my life came together and I really became a man when I moved to Chicago. That's where I was able to apply that early idealism to try to work in communities in public service. That's where I met my wife. That's where my children were born."

The decision was hardly a surprise. The University of Chicago's bid was long considered a front-runner, and people with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press and other media nearly two weeks ago that it was the winner.

Both the president and first lady once worked at the university, and they still maintain a house near campus. Obama taught constitutional law and worked as a community organizer on the South Side. First lady Michelle Obama is a Chicago native and worked as an administrator at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

"Every value, every memory, every important relationship to me exists in Chicago. I consider myself a South Sider," Michelle Obama said.

In recent weeks, city officials were forced to take extra steps to reassure foundation officials after they expressed concerns the city had not secured public park land that would be used as part of the University of Chicago bid. The City Council passed an ordinance to allow transfer of the land, and state lawmakers passed a bill reinforcing the city's right to use the park land for the Obama library as well as Star Wars creator George Lucas' proposed lakefront museum.

"Over the past months, the city has come together to bring the library to its rightful place in Chicago," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in the release. The foundation said it will open offices on Chicago's South Side by the end of the year.

One remaining question is how the foundation will select between two properties near campus, Washington Park or Jackson Park, both of which are potential sites under the university plan.

Foundation Chairman Marty Nesbitt, a friend of Obama, and Emanuel are scheduled to appear at a news conference about the library on Tuesday afternoon.

The news release said the University of Chicago's "has pledged to make resources and infrastructure available to the foundation in the near term for its planning and development work."

Meanwhile, the foundation said it plans to collaborate with each of the other three finalists. It will pursue a long-term presence at Columbia University, work with the state of Hawaii to establish a presence in Honolulu and will also collaborate with the University of Illinois-Chicago.



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We Made A Commencement Bingo Card To Track All The Clichés You'll Hear

Mon, 2015-05-11 22:01
"As we go forth" into graduation season, let's take a moment to acknowledge that your commencement speaker is not being original when they announce "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."

Perhaps Ira Glass said it best during his speech at Goucher College in 2012 when he declared them a "doomed form" in a commencement address of his own. "Commencement speakers give stock advice which is then promptly ignored," Glass said. Stock, indeed.

We created a bingo card you can use to track all of the clichés you are bound to hear or encounter while going through your commencement and subsequent graduation festivities. Many of these tropes are based on what you'll hear during your commencement speeches. Others are things that'll happen later on at the graduation party, like getting a copy of "Oh, The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss. (It's a great book, but we're just saying "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?" could work too.)

We're not totally against each one of these -- you really should pursue your passion and, if it's actually funny, pulling some sort of stunt on stage is a nice way to spice up the ceremony. But let's see how many of these you can spot during your commencement.

Graphic by Tiara Chiaramonte

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Here's What It Would Look Like If Inspirational Quotes Were Honest, Vol. 3

Mon, 2015-05-11 16:40
You're inspiring me to death!

There is such a thing as too many inspirational quotes. We're talking about the scores of quote photos that your most annoying Facebook and Instagram friends incessantly post. At some point, you have to stop being inspired and go out and do that thing you're inspired to do, right?

That being said, we're not sure they're all that effective anyway. If these quotes were being more honest, people would probably hesitate to share them as much. And we're all for that.*

*Except for these. Definitely share the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of these.

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Kanye West Receives Honorary Doctorate From School Of The Art Institute Of Chicago

Mon, 2015-05-11 16:00
Kanye West might be a college dropout, but now he has an advanced degree.

The rapper received an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) Monday for his "transformative, genre-defying work." In his acceptance speech, he described what the honor means to him.

"This honor is gonna make your lives easier," he said. "Two reasons: You don't have to defend me as much and I'm going to make all of our lives easier. And it's these Floyd Mayweather belts that are needed to prove what I've been saying my entire life. Whether it's the cosign of Paul McCartney grabbing me and saying, 'It's okay he doesn't bite white people.' Or The New York Times cover. Or the Time 'Most Influential' cover. And now, a doctorate at the Art Institute of Chicago."

"When I was giving a lecture at Oxford," he continued, "I brought up this school because when I went on that mission to create in other spaces -- apparel, film, performance -- it would have been easier if I could have said I had a degree at the Art Institute of Chicago."

Lisa Wainwright, dean of faculty and vice president of academic administration at SAIC, told the Los Angeles Times that it had decided to give West the honorary degree after he publicly mentioned the school.

“I read it and thought, ‘Wow, this is a fantastic moment.’ Here is this major figure in the cultural landscape promoting art school, this guy from Chicago saying art school is cool. So we thought, ‘This man deserves an honorary doctorate from us!’ He should have gone here."

Kim Kardashian, who is currently in Brazil on business, commemorated her husband's milestone with an Instagram post.

Dr. Kanye West!!!!!!! I'm so proud of you baby & I know your mom would be so proud too!!!!

A photo posted by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on May 11, 2015 at 1:18pm PDT

West attended Chicago's American Academy of Art for one semester on a partial scholarship before transferring to Chicago State University, where his mother, Donda West, was head of the English Department, according to Rolling Stone. After one semester there, he dropped out to pursue his music career. And the rest is history.

Listen to West's acceptance speech:

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Chris Rock: I Won't Be Alive To See Cops Stop Killing Black Kids

Mon, 2015-05-11 15:44
In support of the UK premiere of his flick, “Top Five,” comedian-actor Chris Rock conducted an interview with The Guardian, in which he shared his thoughts on everything from Hollywood’s ongoing diversity issues to Barack Obama’s presidency and police violence against black men in America.

During the interview Rock, who was pulled over by police on three separate occasions over the span of seven weeks, went on to reveal his feelings on America's string of fatal police encounters.

It’s not that it’s gotten worse, it’s just that it’s part of the 24-hour news cycle. What’s weird is that it never happens to white kids. There’s no evidence that white youngsters are any less belligerent, you know? We can go to any Wall Street bar and they are way bigger assholes than in any other black bar. But will I see cops stop shooting black kids in my lifetime? Probably not.

More Notable/Quotables:

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More Proof That A Disney Princess-'Mean Girls' Film Needs To Happen

Mon, 2015-05-11 14:54
"God, Ariel!"

We've seen a Disney princesses meets "Mean Girls" parody before, but this one is especially funny and effective (and with custom GIFs)!

With all the remakes and crossovers and reboots happening in entertainment these days, it's only a matter of time before Disney execs sit down with Paramount execs and realize that they have brand hybrid gold on their white-gloved four-fingered hands.

Oh well, until then, let's keep enjoying the best of the fan-made versions.

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Illinois Politicians React To The Supreme Court Pension Ruling

Mon, 2015-05-11 14:36
The Illinois Supreme Court delivered their unanimous decision May 8: Illinois' pension reform law, signed by former Gov. Pat Quinn in December 2013, is unconstitutional and cannot stand. Illinois politicians and organizations began to respond right away, some more pleased with the decision than others.

From Governor Bruce Rauner's spokesman Lance Trover:

The Supreme Court's decision confirms that benefits earned cannot be reduced. That's fair and right, and why the governor long maintained that SB 1 is unconstitutional. What is now clear is that a Constitutional Amendment clarifying the distinction between currently earned benefits and future benefits not yet earned, which would allow the state to move forward on common-sense pension reforms, should be part of any solution.

From Senate President John Cullerton:

From the beginning of our pension reform debates, I expressed concern about the constitutionality of the plan that we ultimately advanced as a test case for the court. Today, the Illinois Supreme Court declared that regardless of political considerations or fiscal circumstances, state leaders cannot renege on pension obligations. This ruling is a victory for retirees, public employees and everyone who respects the plain language of our Constitution.

That victory, however, should be balanced against the grave financial realities we will continue to face without true reforms. If there are to be any lasting savings in pension reform, we must face this reality within the confines of the Pension Clause. I stand ready to work with all parties to advance a real solution that adheres to the Illinois Constitution.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat from Northbrook, said:

Our goal from the beginning of our work on pension reform has been to strike a very careful, very important balance between protecting the hard-earned investments of state workers and retirees and the equally important investments of all taxpayers in education, human and social services, health care and other vital state priorities. In its ruling today, the Supreme Court struck down not only the law but the core of that balance. Now our already dire pension problem will get that much worse and our options in striking that balance are limited. Our path forward from here is now much more difficult, and every direction will be more painful than the balance we struck in Senate Bill 1.

From Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno:

Illinois has the nation's worst-funded pension system and the biggest pension deficit of any state. Nearly a quarter of our budget goes directly to pensions or to pay off past loans used to cover short-term pension costs.

I am committed to working with everyone to find a solution that adheres to the Constitution. We must work together in bipartisan cooperation with Governor Rauner - who has demonstrated his commitment to tackle the most difficult problems facing Illinois.

Check out Reboot Illinois to see more reactions from other Illinois politicians, including from House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and State Rep. Tom Morrison, as well as Illinois civic organizations.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois politics.

NEXT ARTICLE: 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites in Illinois in 2015

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Amy Schumer's Beer Commercial Reveals The Truth Behind ALL Beer Commercials

Mon, 2015-05-11 14:09
At long last guys, there's a beer you can have sex with.

Amy Schumer has been on a roll lately, and that continues with this beer commercial parody, which raises some solid points. Mainly, guys in these commercials seem to be way more interested in the beer than the girl. Doesn't seem very accurate based on, you know, ALL OBSERVABLE REALITY? Anyway ...

New episodes of "Inside Amy Schumer" air Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. EST on Comedy Central.

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