Alternative-media mecca Quimby’s

A LOOK AT THE honor boxes on any
busy streetcorner shows
Chicago’s stuffed with printed
matter, from the society rag CS, a local
project that expanded to other cities,
to the nightlife guide UR Chicago to
the green living Conscious Choice.
Factor in Time Out Chicago, the local edition of an international chain,
glossy monthlies like Chicago magazine,
and neighborhood pubs like the
salmon-colored Chicago Journal and
it would appear the town is covered
from Rogers Park to South Shore.
But there’s more to local media than
immediately meets the eye.

Chicago’s home to a clutch of
nationally distributed indies. Punk
Planet
—now with a new and
improved Web site (punkplanet.com)—focuses on punk and DIY culture.
The new issue, titled “The Revenge
of Print 2,” includes a Harvey Pekar
retrospective and interviews with
musician and writer Ian Svenonius
(whose The Psychic Soviet was just
published by the local record label
and publisher Drag City) and queer
authors Michelle Tea and T Cooper.
The gynocentric Venus Zine

(venuszine.com), founded in 1995 in
editor Amy Schroeder’s Michigan
State dorm room, is now a thriving
showcase for coverage of women’s
indie culture; the fall 2006 issue
includes an interview with designer
Anna Sui, an over-the-top homage to
the late, lamented Sleater-Kinney,
and a thoughtful exploration of the
weird world of pro-anorexia Web
sites and blogs. The mag recently got
an infusion of energy (and cash)
from new publishers and is poised
for a redesign and expanded distro.
Rounding out this trifecta is Stop
Smiling
(stopsmilingonline.com), a
glossy lifestyle mag published
approximately every couple of
months out of a Wicker Park storefront
that doubles as an event space
called “The Syndicate.” Stop Smiling
bills itself as “the magazine for highminded
lowlifes,” with each issue
organized around a theme. In practice
that means—as in the recent

“Ode to the Midwest” issue—features
on an eclectic range of cultural producers,
from Garrison Keillor to
Dave Eggers to the founders of
Steppenwolf Theatre. If the features
tend to be a little puffy the organization
as a whole appears to be
thriving—at least if their jam-packed
parties are any indication.

Punk Planet, Venus, and Stop
Smiling
all maintain high profiles
around town, but their content itself
isn’t Chicagocentric. To get more of
Chicago you need to pick up a copy
of Lumpen. Launched in 1990 as the

Lumpen Times, the free, approximately
bimonthly has some of the
most enduring local agitprop. The
zine’s fortunes have waxed and waned
over its 100 issues but the snarky
blend of anarcho-radical politics and
hacktivist theorizing remains the
same. Hell—with CDs, a Web site
(lumpen.com), and projects like the
digital culture, art, and media festivals
Select and Version, it’s become a
brand. In a much more sober vein,
the investigative monthly Chicago
Reporter
(chicagoreporter.com), published
by the nonprofit Community
Renewal Society, does some rigorous
research and data crunching on
issues of race and urban poverty.

The year-old free tabloid AREA:
Arts/Education/Activism
(areachicago.com) functions as a clearinghouse
for artists and activists to
talk about their work. Issue #3,
titled “Solidarities: The Things We
Want and Mean When We Say
‘We,’” is due out September 30; contributors
celebrate with a party at
Woodlawn’s Experimental Station

(6100 S. Blackstone). An incubator
for a range of cultural and artistic
endeavors, the ES is also home to
the Baffler, the long-running if
erratically produced journal of cultural
criticism founded in 1988 by
Thomas Frank and fellow
University of Chicago grad students.

Online, at the three-year-old
Gapers Block (gapersblock.com),
Andrew Huff and crew maintain an
events calendar, blog about local
news, and provide original content
including sports commentary, a
cooking column, and analysis of
local politics. Of similar scope, if
more scattershot and boosterish in
tone, is Chicagoist (chicagoist.com),
part of the national family of urban

“ist” Web sites that began with New
York’s popular Gothamist.
Former Chicago magazine columnist
Steve Rhodes launched the
Beachwood Reporter (beachwoodreporter.com) earlier this year, and
though it has yet to produce the
degree of original reporting Rhodes
promised, he’s doing a fine job as a
media watchdog. For longer-form
treatment of politics and media
check out Fire on the Prairie (fireontheprairie. com). The monthly
half-hour radio show, produced by
the lefty biweekly In These Times,
serves as a forum for progressive
thinkers of all stripes.
On the arts beat, the podcast Bad
at Sports
(badatsports.com) has only
been around a year, but the quick
wit and critical acumen of its hosts
have made it great entertainment for
anyone interested in Chicago’s art
scene. Also fairly new on the block:

Sharkforum (sharkforum.org), run
by artist Wesley Kimler (aka “the
Shark”) and Dave Roth, covers all
manner of local arts and culture,
with some standout longer pieces
like the one by Bloodshot Records
honcho Rob Miller, a blistering account of volunteering with
Habitat for Humanity in New
Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Bookslut (bookslut.com), edited
by Jessa Crispin, has two parts: a
magazine side that’s updated
monthly (give or take) with new
reviews, columns, and author interviews,
and a blog (coauthored with
Mike Schaub) that’s an essential
daily hit of lit news and commentary.
Bookslut and the local advertising
and design firm Coudal
Partners
, whose site, coudal.com, is
an anything-goes experiment in the
creative potential of Web publishing,
were both recently included
in PC Magazine’s list of “Top 99 Undiscovered Web Sites.”

Last but not least are the food
sites—of which, in keeping with
the city’s exploding culinary
culture, there are many. Among
the best are the newbie Hungry
(hungrymag.com), which podcasts
proprietor Michael Nagrant’s
in-depth, often hilarious
interviews with local chefs, and
the culinary chat site LTH Forum (lthforum.com), Chicago’s go-to
resource for informed, opinionated
discussion of everything from the
best fish tacos in town to the politics
behind the City Council’s
recent foie gras follies.