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Friday, October 24, 2014

Some Movies Out This Weekend, October 24, 2014

The fall season eclecticism continues at full speed this weekend. You have your choice of gonzo action, spooky exploitation of childhood games, and a romantic comedy with some of the best talent in Hollywood on board.
As usual, these three aren't everything you can find in theaters this weekend, but they represent a good mix. So if you Halfstackers aren't at any Halloween parties, a trip to the movies should give you lots of options.

John Wick
Directors: David Leitch, Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane

An outlandish premise – mobsters (?) steal a reformed assassin's dog, he goes to get it back, gleeful violence follows – brings Keanu Reeves back to form as a big time action hero. The cast is filled with fun ringers (Dafoe and Leguizamo) and HBO vets (Allen, McShane) alike. The directors are former stuntmen on some of the best action movies of a generation, like The Matrix – hence the Reeves connection. This is getting the highest of marks and could be the perfect movie to see with a crowd this weekend.

Director: Stiles White
Writers: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Bianca A. Santos

Halloween is only a week away, everyone. You need to get plenty scared. Disregard the flimsy, market tested premise (“People recognize this product, so let's make a movie out of it!”) and focus on the atmosphere. I've seen this trailer a handful of times in theaters recently and I've come away feeling creeped out.

Will the movie be any good in the traditional sense? With the trailer giving away the movie's lazy expository device – the original girl shot videos to warn her friends before she was killed – I doubt it. But I'm anxious and jumpy. Stuff gets to me, especially surprises. I bet this will be an effective movie in that regard.

Director: Lynn Shelton
Writer: Andrea Seigel
Starring: Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell

A play on the man-child narratives that have been so popular for the last decade, Laggies stars Keira Knightley (with an impressive American accent) as a woman who can't grow up. She befriends Chloe Grace Moretz, a high school student, and “lay[s] low” at her dad's (Sam Rockwell) house. Life lessons are learned, romances are kindled, advice is imparted. On its face, it all seems pretty conventional.

But! The cast is among the best in Hollywood, with heavyweights in talent if not pounds (they're skinny, you see) Knightley and Rockwell making a sweet if surprising romantic pair. Director Lynn Shelton has worked on some of the greatest television of the last several years – episodes of New Girl, The Mindy Project, and even a Mad Men thrown in – and her features, especially Humpday and Touchy Feely, have gotten great reviews. There is some solid pedigree at work.

Whiplash Review: Genius is Harsh


Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons

Genius is rare, perhaps even fleeting. It is also not about talent alone. Platitudes about the duration of Rome's construction apply even to the most brilliant people, and it's an unpleasant, sometimes unhinged exercise where things like real life and social pleasantries fall by the wayside in pursuit of greatness.

Writer-director Damien Chazelle's Whiplash unpacks that idea with laser focus. Miles Teller's Andrew is a first-year jazz drummer at the best music school in the country. He's more than raw talent, as established by the film's opening shot, a dolly push-in from a hallway to the practice room where Andrew toils away, sweaty and exhausted. A cut reveals the camera's point of view to be that of Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), the conductor of the school's prestigious jazz band. Their first encounter is not the easiest first impression scene to sit through, and the movie only gets harder from there.

Andrew and Fletcher spar throughout the film. Fletcher is the worst case scenario negative reinforcement teacher, with a motivational style that includes throwing chairs at his pupils' heads and never once offering a word of encouragement. Mirroring the drumming depicted in the film, Fletcher's behavior is constant, repetitious abuse of their physical, mental, and emotional faculties. Even in his more “teacherly” moments, he is a calculating monster, only asking about Andrew's family background to gain an emotional cudgel moments later when Andrew makes a miniscule mistake in practice.

But is Fletcher really the bastard he seems to be? This is where Chazelle moves the film from straightforward character drama into a thesis on the manipulative nature of cinema. Despite the opening shot, most of Whiplash is shown through Andrew's subjective, go-getting eyes. He is not a heroic character. This is not an example of Chazelle showing how his protagonist is flawed or bringing a level of “real world” humanity to him while retaining likeability – he does and says some despicable things to the people who surround him. This may not be on the same abusive level as his teacher, but his tunnel vision to perfection sends him into callous fits of egoism. He emotionally tramples his girlfriend and holds an air of superiority over his father's dinner guests for not having his gifts, which pale in comparison to the way he treats his bandmates, with belittling statements about their abilities and a possible bit of sabotage to gain early sway with Fletcher. Even the climax of the film revolves around an act of spiteful showboating that makes it about the conflict between these characters. This is uncompromising storytelling, some of the best film has to offer. But from a character standpoint, and for the other musicians who have to be bystanders to this drama, with their futures just as much on the line as Andrew's, it's selfishness.

This calls into question Andrew's emotional stability and maturity, as he cannot see at times obvious tricks, cruel as they are, to put him on the right path. One of his rival drummers, of a good natured personality, reminds him that Fletcher is “all bark, no bite,” which could be closer to the truth than Andrew's mind allows him to perceive. There are pointed scenes where Chazelle shows some non-grotesque aspects to Fletcher's personality, cracks in the mask, with the camera pausing on Simmons's face during moments of horrible self-realization/public deception, or voyeuristic peeks at a good nature outside of his practice room behavior. Fletcher even goes so far as to lay out his ethos in clear terms to Andrew in a third act scene, but his pettiness makes it worse for both of them, setting up the grand finale of selfish oneupmanship. Or is it just another Fletcher motivational ploy to wring greatness from Andrew? That's the wonderful mess Chazelle leaves for the audience to decide.

Andrew's goal is to be “one of the greats,” and he'll probably do it if he doesn't collapse under his own and his teacher's pressure. Chazelle, the first-time director, might be on the same route, and his first features is probably already there.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Painting in Public: Audrey Ushenko's Thompson Center Piece

Imagine hurrying to your midday meeting in the Thompson Center. You start across the atrium with several things on your mind. The crowd parts and there’s a canvas the size of a sofa. In front of the canvas is a small woman with red hair painting the scene. She has a little crowd behind her. You continue on, but the juxtaposition of creativity amidst the hard geometric lines of the building makes you think. The artist is Audrey Ushenko. She paints large scale canvases in public to soak up the energy of the space and be inspired. After three years, Ushenko has finished her piece of the Thompson Center.
Ushenko has done several large scale public painting projects. It started twenty years ago when Audrey was intrigued by the idea we are a web of people. We are all connected, dead or alive. At an exhibit in Boston, she saw works of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. The individual portraits dealt with finding the significance of life. Looking at the pictures and the onlookers admiring them, she felt we were still in the same ship. Ushenko enjoys being in the flow of life, seeing the different people coexisting in the same space and all stories they bring.
“Creating in public makes more sense than creating in isolation,” says Ushenko. “People who collect art don’t have much to do with the pieces.” People overall are very respectful and positive. Where she creates people have a reason to be there. They’re working, they’re going somewhere. She's not particularly interested in people's response to her work, but enjoys the comments and encourages people to ask questions. "There's a whole universe behind one pair of eyes," she says. She also does a lot of work behind closed doors. For her current piece she spent two months’ worth of planning ahead of time. The work needed to be far enough along before she set up in public.
Ushenko's work is flush with people, capturing the community that makes the place what it is. The subjects volunteer as they're either part of the commission or part of her audience. If they’re from the audience, she’ll ask if she can sketch them. Look closely at the Thompson Center composition and you'll see a cop with his drug dog. The dog, Max, had terminal cancer. "As many terminally ill people, Max didn’t want to be off the job," Audrey explained. "So Brian would bring him by. Soon people would recognize them, 'Oh that’s Max.'" She feels she a storyteller and feels best when telling a story, working with people to help them with the ideas they want to communicate. As she says, art is a form of communication. Ushenko’s Thompson Center piece debuts in November. For more information visit her site at www.audreyushenko.com

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Old Fashion is in Style

It is just too easy to dream of the days when you would get a handwritten invitation, note, and (for all my romantics out there) love letters. Luxe Craft Paper Co. is bringing it back with modern style. The two sisters running this communication revolution have fashion cards, mini envelopes, gift tags, and more ready for you!

Handwritten letters aren't just for the hipsters...join the craze at the Luxe Craft Paper Workshop this Saturday, the 25th, at 520 N Kingsburg St in Chicago, on the 8th floor lounge. From 2-4 pm you can be crafting 5 cards and 5 envelopes using decorative papers. The end product is beyond cute... I have to hand it to the Gennace sisters for the originality that makes me want to hang it on my wall! This workshop is an opportunity to embrace the fashion and Italian influences.

Come be inspired, and let those creative juices flow. Think how refreshing it is to get an envelope in the mail...not a magazine issue...not spam...and definitely NOT bills! Add a little spice to your day; bring a pen-pal to the workshop to light up your days as you take your daily walk to the mailbox. 

Sparta in Illinois...The Spartan Race

The Spartan Sprint and Super race brought the legendary Sparta to Illinois. Well it wasn't like the movie 300, but it did bring forth many super athletes from our great state to compete in this extraordinarily difficult obstacle race. The Spartan Super (which was the one we had our contributing writer Dylan compete in) consisted of 8 miles and between 20-30 obstacles. This race, unlike others such as the Gladiator, requires strength, agility and speed to make it through.

So which types of obstacles did the Spartan Super race offer their victims, oops, meant challengers? There was a javelin throw (yes I was surprised there weren't any casualities), swimming across puddles, lifting boulders and carrying them, rope climbs from water, crazy monkey bars and much more. " The Spartan had a good variety of challenges" Dylan stated. Also if you couldn't complete a challenge, unlike the real Spartans where you literally would be killed, here you had to complete 30 burpees. Our writer, Dylan, had 2 failures so he endured 60 burpees. His nemesis, the javelin throw and the rope climbing out of water.

Other than the unique obstacle races and the burpee penalty, there is a team work social aspect to these races. People help strangers out, creating a fun atmosphere that is non competitive except for against yourself. Out of a rating from 1-10, 10 being the absolute best score for a race, our writer rated the Spartan Super at a 8. He recommends this race to anyone who wants a challenge. It is a unique challenge and great for versatile athletes since the terrain is all over the place.

So interested in competing in the next Spartan race? Check them out here, they have many upcoming races but you must hurry now, since space IS limited!!!

Thank you to contributing writer Dylan Diesing for taking on this challenge for us!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Fashion Roundup & a Giveaway with Ruff Hewn

When it comes to fall style, color pattern and layers seem to be on everyone's mind. The rich deep and dark colors create a visual of warmth which really helps to transition our mindset from the warm days of summer into the cold days of fall.

This fall roundup features a focus on Fabrics, colors and layers – opulent brocades in jewel tones, clean neutrals and darks that create a polished look. Brands like JJ S LEE and Alice & Olivia really played up these trends for A/W 2014. The modern take on the suit mixed with opulent fabrics really created a statement.

In our round up, we are featuring a structured jacket from a brand like Ruff Hewn. Ruff Hewn & Ruff Hewn Grey, which is carried at Carson's /Bon-Ton, is a vintage inspired casual brand that focuses on special detailing, on trend clothing and items that are comfortable, but still put together.

We are also showcasing slim cut pants in black from Slimsation. Slimsation is a great brand of pants that helps to complement your shape. Basically they contour your waist, slim the lower tummy and shape the hips without constricting. We are also showcasing soft netural colored base layers, striped loose sweaters and patterned leggings from brands like Isle. Isle is all about creating beautiful pieces that become your go to for lux, comfy style that makes you feel as good as you go. Each of these pieces all help to create a simple, tailored and luxe look.

For fall footwear, combat boots continue to be a popular go to. Sugar brand takes this traditional look and gives a it modern twists with an all in one tongue and wraparound laces. Leggings from Lemon add some color and a hint of athletic wear with their striped style and come in a range of options from cotton, velvet, suede and even micro fiber. They are made to last and are incredibly affordable ranging from 15-35 dollars. Convertible and fashion tights from brands like Hane’s Silk Reflections are all perfect layering pieces to keep you looking chic, but leave you feeling warm on colder days. These are a great way to keep wearing those tailored shorts well into the fall. Accessories like fashion glasses and bold costume jewelry add some fun to simpler looks.

For this roundup - we have teamed up with Ruff Hewn and Carson's/Bon-Ton for a giveaway! We will be giving away one Ruff Hewn Grey Coated Blazer in Navy. This jacket features a slimming silhouette with contrast cuffs and a seamed design. To enter, simply follow @Bonton and @Halfstackmag on Twitter and tweet the following: “I want to add #RuffHewn to my closet this fall @Halfstackmag and @Bonton!” Entries must be posted by Monday October 27th, at 5 P.M. CST, and one winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!

*Sorry, limited to U.S. readers only. $99USD total value. Winner will be contacted by email once contest closes, and announced soon after.

Check out our video roundup here!

Target Style Competition Chicago

Target, or otherwise known as TargeĆ© by the fancy, has impressively raised the bar in affordable fashion over the years.  Target Style, an extension of the Target brand, has a mission of "Design for All", highlighting stylish, yet wallet-friendly fashions. 

On Thursday, October 9th, Target Style hosted their Ready, Set, Target Style event at Target located at 1200 N Larrabee St.  This Project Runway meets game show featured three Chicago based stylists/bloggers, Yanira Garza, Dana Weiss, and Emma Arnold.  

Each stylist competed to create the best look highlighting a white button down blouse, (an essential piece for any wardrobe) for two outfit challenges presented by Master of Ceremonies, Courtney Kornegay of Courtwalk and host, Senior Fashion Editor of Marie ClaireZanna Roberts Rassi.  Each look was judged by four stylists including Rassi, stylist, Ikram Goldman, Editorial Director and advice columnist for PAPER Magazine, Mikey Boardman, and style/beauty blogger, Mary Alice Stephenson.  

For the first challenge, each stylist was given just a few minutes to create a look that would take the Chicago gal from brunch in Bucktown to tailgating at a Bears game, using a preselected assortment of Target pieces.  With a rating out of 10 points, Arnold won the highest score with a casual, yet modern combination of skinny fit stretch leggings, a short sleeve sweater top layered over the mandatory white blouse, a plaid shirt tied at the waist (for those chilly fall nights at the game) and a comfortable and stylish ankle boot.  Honestly, it was my favorite look from the challenge as well!  I would definitely wear the combination for a fun-filled fall day. 

The second challenge involved each stylist selecting one item from a grocery basket full of things found at Target.  The items selected by the stylists were a light bulb, lighter fluid, and a padlock.  Interpreting the lighter fluid to represent "hotness", Garza was awarded the winner of the challenge with an outfit including a sexy, striped sweater over the white blouse, a fierce heel, and gold accessories.  

The audience had the final say in the overall winner of the style competition.  It was a close one, but Arnold ended up taking home the gold!  

Guests of the evening also enjoyed delicious fall inspired appetizers and cocktails, while shopping the latest fall trends at Target and consulting with Pixi cosmetics artists for makeup makeovers.  

Of course, I did some shopping myself at Target during the event after being inspired by the stylist's looks.   Fall is my favorite season, especially because of all of the wonderful fashions.  Currently, I'm on a mission to find the perfect flannel top and I will definitely be stocking up on accessories, boots, and layers at Target! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

John Hodgman: 2 Shows, 1 Night at UP Comedy Club

John Hodgman will perform two shows Tuesday October 21st, 2014 at Second City’s UP Comedy Club. The first show, “I Stole Your Dad,” will cover how to dress young and hip, obsolete technology, Downton Abbey and many other subjects. The second show, “Vacationland,” discusses with summer and death.
If you’re a writer, Hodgman’s career is one to admire and be inspired by. Before he became a regular on The Daily Show and was the PC in the “Get a Mac” Apple commercials, Hodgman was a writer, humorist, and literary agent. His work has been featured in McSweeney’s,The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine, and “This American Life” on public radio. He put together a book of fake trivia, The Areas of My Expertise, including secrets of the Loch Ness Monster, which nine US Presidents had hooks for hands, and a list of over 700 hobo names. His next book, More Information Than You Require, helped readers survive a terrier infestation, win at crab racing, and learn over 700 mole man names. He went on the Daily Show to promote his books and was asked back, as the Resident Expert solving all of John Stewart’s problems. He thought they were being polite, but he’s been there over seven years. His final book, That Is All, completes the trilogy of Complete World Knowledge. It came out just in time for the end of the world as we know it that didn’t happen.
Hodgman also has a weekly podcast, Judge John Hodgman, available on maximunfun.org where he listens to real life disagreements and weighs in. He put together the shows based on material in the books as well as tells stories he’s experienced. He gets to be himself, he told Theatre Talk on CUNYTV. He is not a character on stage.
John Hodgman performs this Tuesday, October 21st, at Second City’s UP Comedy Club. For more information and tickets, visit johnhodgman.com or upcomedyclub.com

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Halfstack Highlights - Meet Brede Baldwin

A couple of weeks ago, Halfstacker Cora Vasseur introduced us to up and coming singer/songwriter: Brede Baldwin. He's a 15 year old who is passionate about music, grateful for his opportunities and has a boat load of talent! Today, we share with you Cora's up close and personal chat with Brede about his journey so far on our most recent episode of Halfstack Highlights. This kids is going places and it is inspiring to hear from such a talented young individual with his priorities straight, dreaming big and making it happen.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Listen and subscribe via iTunes.

If you liked the interview - make sure to listen to this podcast to hear more from Brede Baldwin. And if you have not checked out or subscribed to his youtube channel, you can do so here and check out the video below to hear a great cover from this young crooner. Also, make sure to keep up with him on facebook and twitter to stay up to date on the projects he is working on!

The Daily Om: The Benefits of Meditation

The act of mediation dates back thousands of years and is still practiced today in various forms. Some of the more commonly known forms of meditation include Tai Chi, Qi Gong, yoga, as well as guided and mantra. Further, it is commonly agreed upon that long-term meditative practice fosters such benefits as reduced stress, improved mood, as well as improved cardiovascular health. It is also suggested that people with greater meditation experience have better emotional intelligence as well as less perceived stress and negative mental health (Chu, Li Chuan).

However, you don’t have to become a yogi in order to achieve better health. In fact, performing a few simple exercises throughout the day can lead to improved mood, memory, and everyday functioning; as well as reduce fatigue, depression, and confusion.

To unleash your inner yogi, start with these brief exercises to practice and experience mindfulness:

Deep breathing. Deep breathing techniques are as it sounds. Focus your attention on your breath, consciously slowly inhaling and exhaling. The process will force you to slow down and empty your thoughts, if only for a minute or two.

Body scanning. When performing a body scan, concentrate on how each portion of your body feels, working your way down from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes. The practice reveals where tension exists in the body and then allows you to fully relax.

Mantra. Mantra meditation requires you to repeat a particular word or phrase you find calming. By focusing all of your attention on the words, the mind is able to release itself of the worries and anxiety it may feel, and as a result, allow the rest of the body to unwind.

Focus on love & gratitude. If you have a tendency to sweat the small stuff, perhaps focusing on love and gratitude may put you at ease. By concentrating on the larger things in life, such as friends, family, your home, your job, your dog – whatever you love and are thankful for, your mind is then allowed to reconsider what is really important rather than getting wound up over what would otherwise be seen as inconsequential.

Regardless of what type of meditative practice you try, first seek out a quiet setting where you can be comfortable. Once you have pinpointed your location relax your breathing and focus all of your attention on your practice.  Simply repeating these exercises 3-4 times per week can help you reap the benefits that yogis, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi practitioners have experienced for thousands of years.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Some Movies to See This Weekend, October 17, 2014

It's another eclectic (eccentric?) weekend at the movies, with the wide releases covering as huge a range of interest and audience as possible, and the latest acting showcase from one of cinema's best premiering at the Chicago International Film Festival. As usual, this isn't a completely comprehensive list of everything you can find, but you're likely to find something of interest when you look at a marquee this weekend.

The Book of Life
Director: Jorge R. Gutierrez
Writers: Jorge R. Gutierrez, Douglas Langdale
Starring: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum

This is the big time animated family release, featuring the voices of big time stars and showcasing a big time adventure. In a faux-stop motion CGI style, a lovesick young man (Luna) has to return from a party-filled afterlife to reunite with the woman he loves (Saldana) and save his town from destruction at the hands of other supernatural beings.

The trailer features two frustrating modern crutches, a dated pop culture reference (Biz Markie's “Just a Friend”) and the use of “Seriously?” (see also: “Really?”) in place of a constructing a true punchline. Pet peeves aside, there's some pedigree here, with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) producing a fairy tale that is refreshingly non-Anglophile in origin. Luna and Saldana always do strong work, and Tatum's dopey charisma is palpable even in animated form. You're probably in good hands here, especially if you have kids in your life.

The Best of Me
Director: Michael Hoffman
Writers: J. Mills Goodloe, Will Fetters
Starring: Michelle Monaghan, James Marsden, Luke Bracey, Liana Liberato

The latest from the Nicholas Sparks adaptation factory, The Best of Me spans two decades in the lives of a pair of high school sweethearts torn apart by drug-related prison time. They reunite 21 years later, looking absolutely nothing like their high school selves – the Bracey-Marsden age-up is particularly mystifying – to give it another go despite some big life obstacles.

Sparks adaptations are overwrought with schmaltz, but sometimes they can work – The Notebook is a fairly strong melodrama – plus Monaghan and Marsden (Mr. Liz Lemon himself) have done strong work elsewhere. This fulfills the romance portion of the weekend bill.

Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Starring: Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf, Logan Lerman

The grim, horrific nature of war is on full display in this men-on-a-mission film from End of Watch writer-director David Ayer. I wouldn't count on much uplift here, despite the premise taking place at the very end of the European theater, with our heroes on the cusp of their most triumphant moment.

Ayer is working in John Ford-Sam Peckinpah territory here, with camaraderie, duty, violence, and masculinity being the driving forces. Brad Pitt does his gravitas thing as a tank sergeant and the no-way-he's-possibly-22-years-old Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) continuing his progression toward leading man status. Despite its gritty violence, this is likely to get a big Oscar push, so you can probably expect to be seeing it mentioned a lot in the coming months.

Two Days, One Night
Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Writers: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Pili Groyne

A woman (Cotillard) on the verge of losing her job has to make a frustrating, demeaning choice to visit her coworkers, one-by-one, over the course of a weekend in order to convince them to give up part of their salary to leave her position off the chopping block. They have already voted on pay raises for themselves at her expense, so she's in a precarious, frightening spot.

Coming off The Immigrant earlier this year, the already great Cotillard (Inception, Rust and Bone) is at the height of her skills as an actor, able to turn desperation into strength and tenacity. It's a theme that has followed her throughout her career, and she is able to make broken characters become something more than victims, avoiding easy sympathy-only pathos and creating rounded, human people. And she gets to do it again Sunday at CIFF.

Chicago International Film Festival Celebrates 100 Years of Chaplin

The Chicago International Film Festival got commemorative last night by bringing Charlie Chaplin biographer David Robinson for a discussion called “Centenary of the Tramp,” about the 100th anniversary of Chaplin's entrance to the filmmaking industry.

Robinson, author of Chaplin: His Life and Art, which formed the basis for the 1992 biopic starring Robert Downey, Jr., gave a collegial lesson, PowerPoint and all, about Chaplin's early life and his first forays into the movies. He showed rare slides of a young Chaplin on the London stage, as a young side character in Sherlock Holmes stage shows, as a prestigious West End actor at the age of 16, and others before he left for America in 1913.

Robinson knew his venue, though, and quickly moved to Chaplin's early film career, with some slides of his first screen appearance in Makinga Living, as a 25-year-old Keystone Comedy Company player in 1914.

As it's impossible to talk about Chaplin without discussing his Little Tramp character, Robinson focused the rest of his talk on a more important anniversary, the 99
th of the Tramp's first screen credit, in Kid Auto Races at Venice, which Robinson screened for the audience.

As a film, Kid Auto Races at Venice is nothing fancy, which Robinson admitted before showing it, but it's a fascinating historical document nonetheless. Chaplin's Tramp look is basically fully formed, but his mannerisms are not quite to where they would be. He's more restrained, less fluid than he would later be, and his antics are subdued, with the entire plot of the six-minute short revolving around Chaplin trying to hog the camera from a group of newsreel cameramen at a children's boxcar race. It's silly but obviously an early attempt at something that would be important without being important in any way beyond historical firsts.

It turns out that first showing of Chaplin's signature creation wasn't a product of months of hard work and character building, but rather something he pulled from the top of his head when asked by the studio to create a comedic character on the fly. He went to the wardrobe department and pulled out the “baggy pants, tight coat, small hat, big shoes” before applying his goofy mustache and eyebrows, Robinson said, which were all an attempt to make the youthful Chaplin look much older.

Robinson said the character wasn't the “lovable” person he would later become in films like the romantic, sentimental City Lights. In his earliest appearances, the Tramp was actually sometimes a villainous man, and oftentimes not even exactly what one would consider a tramp, that poor, ragged vagabond guy.

“Tramps don't usually give tips,” Robinson said after he showed a clip of a drunken Tramp at a country club bar. He also sometimes rode a motorcycle, had upper crust friends, and a comfortable family life, depending on which early short films you watch, Robinson said.

But, Robinson said, one primary theme remained true of virtually all of Chaplin's Tramp pictures: He was “always struggling to belong to conventional society.” Regardless of his starting point in his films, the Tramp was always something of an outsider, a goofball that can't quite crack social norms.

Robinson ended the night with a showing of one of Chaplin's earliest directorial efforts, The Immigrant, which showed off his technical chops and the lovable, destitute version of the Tramp character we recognize. The short mostly takes place on a boat to American shores, and the camera wobbles back and forth as the “waves” hit the boat, nauseating the passengers, including one bearded man who is perpetually on the verge of vomiting on Chaplin. The dining room aboard the boat is a masterful set piece, a possibly hydraulically lifted room – some sort of physical manipulation is being done to it, whether it's mechanical in nature or not – that allows Chaplin to roll all over the floor, toss about atop other passengers, and have a bowl of gruel shift from the Tramp to his nauseated friend and back again. It's a beautiful, vibrant piece of technical filmmaking from a director known more for his acting and sentimentality than anything.

And now we get to be excited every year, because for a long time to come, each calendar shift will mark a new 100th anniversary for the Tramp.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Halfstack Beauty Test Kitchen - The at Home Facial

In this episode of Beauty Test Kitchen - I am rounding up some products for an at home facial! It's easy to do and effective and you don't need to break the bank going to the spa when you can give yourself a facial at home!

All you need is a cleanser, a facial scrub, a towel, hot water and a facial moisturizer!

Watch our video for a guide on how to go about completing the facial at home and check out the products that we mention below. Some of these items are on the more expensive side, but as I mentioned in the video any moisturizer, scrub and facial cleanser you have at home will do - these were just some great products we were testing out that we actually thought worked really well.


Products highlighted in this episode include:

Goldfadden MD Moisturizer - www.goldfaddenmd.com - There are two types of moisturizers highlighted, the lightweight version for day time: Vital Boost Moisturizer. Vital Boost delivers hydration, antioxidant protection and a brightening glow to all skin types. Skin boosting and rejuvenating Vitamin D maximizes the skin's immunity, provides powerful antioxidant protection, improves elasticity and promotes a more youthful complexion. What I loved most about this is that is so lightweight and is oil free which is perfect for my sensitive skin! The second is the Wakeup Call Overnight Regenerative Facial Treatment. I love this stuff. I put it on at night before bed and my face feels awesome in the morning after I wash it off. It helps with spots and makes my skin feel really fresh.

Amala jasmine hydrating face polish - This is a great face polish/scrub for those of you looking for some hydration. It's has a beautiful smell and despite it being a scrub, it isn't like your scrubbing rocks on your face. The polish really does a great job at retexturing dry, dehydrated skin. The whole plant ingredients soothe and hydrate while removing dead skin cells.

Boscia Tsubaki oil infused Face Powder - This is another scrub that is gentle on your face, but packs a powerful punch when it comes to exfoliating. This comes in powder format so all you do is add water and you are good to go. It is gentle enough for everyday use and for all skin types, Tsubaki Oil-Infused Exfoliating Powder removes debris and oil from pores and skin’s surface while providing long-term deep-hydration and antiaging benefits. The grains of this powder are dried and then coated in Tsubaki Oil.

Equitance Brightening Collection - This collection focuses on beauty both inside as well as out. At the heart of the collection is the key in supporting skin’s vitality and radiance. So they utilize formal made from precisely balanced herbal ingredients. This helps in terms of keeping skin healthy and glowing. The kit incorporates toners, facial washes, moisturizers as well as supplements that give you the vitamins needed inside for healthy skin on the outside.

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Maybe Sunday - Local Love

As Kickstarter Alums, all of us at Halfstack know what it takes to have a dream and chase after it! Which is why we are always so excited to share local people and brands doing big things and following their dreams. Our mission, after all, is to share the love and get these up and comers to attention they deserve! So, without further ado - meet Maybe Sunday. Maybe Sunday is a recently launched, Chicago based brand brought to us by two Alumni from SAIC - Jason Guo and McKenzie Thompson.

Maybe Sunday makes fully printed apparel for the active lifestyle. Their first collection includes hats, scarves and shirts with creative, bright and on point printed photo imagery. They are taking "street style" to the next level with their fun and spunky product range which highlights everyday, mundane and pop culture items like gumballs and gummy bears in an interesting manner on shirts, hats and scarves. They use Italian inks on Korean fabrics which showcases vibrant colors and clear imagery. They are a brand that is as devoted to making clothing that not only looks good, but feels good too. As serious as their product development techniques are, the line is as fun as can be!

All photos courtesy of Maybe Sunday, Shot by: Aric Crafford

During the past six months the duo has worked tirelessly to finesse the brand’s identity and goals, and to design and produce apparel that is both unique and accessible to many.They also just recently opened up a concept store in Chicago's burgeoning art district in Pilsen. The team is working hard at crafting the brand in real-time and making plans to expand their line and grow.

It is always amazing to see students fresh out of school following a dream. It is even more refreshing to see them staying right here in Chicago to do it and putting in the due diligence to make sure they can see some success. So, make sure you help support your local dreamers and check out their kickstarter page! Remember, any donation amount helps bring this Chicago brand closer to its goals. If you have some time, make sure you check out their pop up shop in Pilsen at: 1711 S Halsted Street, Chicago IL, 60608

You can also check them out on social media here

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maybesunday312

Instagram: http://instagram.com/maybesunday312

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maybesunday312

Jen Lezan
Editor in chief
Halfstack Magazine

Stephen Hunley's Debut Album The Other Side of Never

Stephen Hunley released his first national album, "The Other Side of Never," October 7th, 2014. The Knoxville, TN native’s stylistic vocals and sophisticated fusion of blues, rock, jazz, and soul with a contemporary edge is quickly seeping into the hearts of critics and music lovers.

“We only use twelve notes in the Western world of music, so you can only be so “original,”” Hunley says. “I hope people hear something recognizable, but with original flair.” We do. Stephen Hunley is refreshing and a needed artist. He is unlike other contemporary singer- songwriters. Some performers he’s compared to are Marc Broussard and Jason Mraz. He reminds me a little of John Mayer on "Continuum", but more elegant. Hunley music is sophisticated, but approachable.

As you would add drops of water to scotch to open up the flavors, I feel the album really opens up as it goes along. The whole thing is beautiful in its honesty. That is one thing you will really connect with as you listen. As the third track begins, the album wakes up. I’m rapt and intrigued by his voice and the music. I see this playing in the background at the end of the day as you’re making dinner with friends but also dancing to keep the beat when you see him live. The third track is “Love You in the Dark,” one of my favorites and one Hunley describes as “easy on the ears.” Hunley is described as a natural poet leaning towards more abstract expression. He challenged himself to combine “some of Nashville’s more logical” songwriting techniques. It’s still plenty complex, but maybe also the water that unlocks the flavor profile.

I also really enjoyed “Speakeasy,”” I’m Not Who You Think I Am,” and “Call Me Baby.” They are juicy blues numbers that harken that appropriate in public sensuality that blues does. While he has his “fun” numbers, in “Pictures in Her Mind” he also turns his writing skills to communicate the pain of witnessing addiction and how it affects everyone involved. If you love blues, jazz, and rock or you’re looking for something new and refreshing, check out Stephen Hunley’s The Other Side of Never, available on iTunes and his website.