Street Smart Chicago

Losing Our Sages: The past and future imperfect

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Bob Dylan with Joan Baez

By Dina Elenbogen

I have a bust of Honest Abe that my father brought back from a trip he’d taken to Washington D.C. when I was a child. I keep him on my desk because he was honest and forthright as legend had it, and helped abolish slavery. He is also a gift my father gave me. As Abe traveled with me from desk to desk, in college and beyond, I had my father, who also represented “the truth” and endless knowledge, with me as well.

I hadn’t thought for a long time about Abe Lincoln, Bob Dylan, the poet Yehuda Amichai or others who had once been my idols until my Ethics teacher Chava asked us the seemingly simple question, “Who are our sages?” in response to a quote by the twelfth-century philosopher, rabbi and doctor, Moses Maimonides. I drew a blank. The ten students in our adult education class were uncharacteristically silent as well. We returned to the text with Maimonides’ sage advice: “Eat and drink with your sages, live as they do.” As I took in these words, I realized that I have lost sages from living too close to them and discovering discrepancies between what they say and how they live their lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Lost and Found in Improv: Or, how Del Close changed my life

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The muses: Charna and Del

By Jack Helbig

“When the student is ready, the teacher arrives.” That’s what it says in the I Ching, and that’s how it has worked in my life.

I was certainly ready for a teacher—and a new direction—when I began taking classes with Del Close at the ImprovOlympic in the summer before I turned 27. I had dropped out of graduate school and returned to Chicago the previous January, broke and broken, all my belongings (books mostly) packed into six boxes and stored in a friend’s basement in Lincoln Park.

I was utterly lost. So for six months I did as little as possible. I worked when I had to, as a temp downtown, and otherwise I read, wrote in my journal, and road the El endlessly, watching the city slide by.

Then I saw the ad in the paper. A small ad announcing that Del Close was teaching classes in improv. At the time I knew only three things about Del Close—he was famous, he used to direct at Second City, and he was somehow connected to (and important to) a whole bunch of comic actors I idolized, among them John Belushi, Bill Murray and Betty Thomas. Read the rest of this entry »

The Musical Martial Art: Capoeira, where you get serenaded while you kick ass

Education/Training, Ukrainian Village No Comments »

By David Wicik

Anyone who has seen the ultra-sleek heist sequel “Ocean’s Twelve” will no doubt remember the flamboyant scene when Vincent Cassel’s character, the Night Fox, dances his way through a blue-laser security grid—as if the standard red laser just wasn’t hip enough for the Ocean’s palette. What you might not know, however, is that Cassel’s moves weren’t gleaned from watching the “Step Up” series like a Billy Blanks training video, but that the performance was actually an exhibition of the actor’s own training in Capoeira, a centuries-old Brazilian martial arts style. And while Capoeira might not be able to teach you how to dodge lasers (then again, maybe it could), the practice carries the potential to enrich your life in many ways.

But before you start googling “Capoeira gym,” you should understand that Capoeira is not like any other martial art form, in fact, calling it a martial art is kind of like saying that Chinese culture is fried rice and dim sum. Instructor Bambu, whose real name is Steven Kolhouse, of Grupo Axé Capoeira explains that Capoeira includes certain martial elements, but that this aspect is part of a much larger cultural fabric which also comprises acrobatics, music and dance. As Kolhouse points out, “we teach a full art form, a full culture,” which is echoed by the saying of one great mestre (master) of the art, that “Capoeira is everything the mouth eats.” Read the rest of this entry »

Spanish Lessons: Turning language games into tools for home and abroad

Education/Training, Logan Square No Comments »

The fruits of my studies included quality time spent in Puerto Natales, Chile

When it comes to learning foreign languages, I’ve been a Jack of all trades, master of none. I’ve dabbled in French, Hebrew, Russian and Japanese, sometimes achieving the ability to hack my way through a conversation with a tolerant native, but never becoming fully functional in another tongue.

One reason Anglophones like me tend to be lazy about learning another idiom is that much of the world speaks English as a lingua franca. But one language that is very valuable for Americans to learn is Spanish, and it will only become more so as the U.S. Latino population grows. It’s especially handy here in Chicago, where more than one in four residents is Latino, many of them recent immigrants.

I made a half-assed attempt at learning Spanish during a one-semester early morning course at the University of Chicago. Although the teacher was a charismatic, funny woman from Argentina, sleep deprivation often led me to nod off in class. Since then I’ve worked a bit with books and tapes, and I got to practice the language during a college road trip in northwest Mexico, and when I was the lone Chicago delegate at the Cycle Messenger World Championships in Barcelona. Read the rest of this entry »

Think About The Future: If you did, you’d already know there’s a school for psychics

Education/Training, Lakeview No Comments »

Maybe this is the year you finally quit smoking, or drop those fifteen pounds, or get that online degree from Phoenix U. But probably not. So save that money you were going to waste on a gym membership and invest in something useful, like learning to become psychic.

InVision, 3340 North Clark, has been Chicago’s leading school for psychics, energy healers and clairvoyants since 2003 (in a past life it was known as The Midwest Psychic Institute). They offer both introductory six-week classes and more advanced six-month training programs in topics ranging from basic Psychic Meditation (think “Being Psychic 101”) to Astral Body Training. And while you may not think you have it in you to read psychic energy or heal chakras, InVision’s guiding philosophy is that we all have the potential. Read the rest of this entry »

Lesson Plan: What the hell do you know about Afghanistan?

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The crowd inside the Hideout is gently packed by 8pm. Pockets of conversation get swallowed up in hugs and the toasts of pint glasses. Twenty minutes later, a young man named Aaron Hughes takes the stage. He’s tall, but his soft voice and earnest expression seem to shrink him. It’s disarming, then, when he ends his monologue with a confrontational question: “What the hell do you know about Afghanistan?”

The backroom of the Hideout is now full and leaking into the bar area. Someone from the crowd shouts out, “Taliban!” Another yells, “poppy fields!” After a few more keywords, there is a decided stillness among the audience, proving what organizers of the night’s event hoped. The general public really doesn’t know much about Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry »

Life 101: The 2010 Education Issue

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education_coverWe learn every day. About ourselves, about others, about…gather ’round…life. The beauty of learning is that it never stops; we never grow too old, and it’s never too late.

Fantasies come and go. You might want to be a rock star one week, a contestant on “Top Chef” the next. That’s natural—most of our brains are wired to bounce between desires. If you’re lucky, you don’t have one dream, but a whole army of them. Dreaming is ageless, too.

We live in a great city bulging with prestigious universities and arts schools. We’re also blessed with smaller-scale learning centers that specialize in certain fields. When we discussed what should be the theme for our 2010 edition of annual Education Issue, two things became instantly clear: not only does Chicago boast an abundant amount of educational outlets, but many of those outlets have the potential to properly prepare you for immediate work in the applicable field, even in the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Education 2010: Youth in Revolt

Education/Training 1 Comment »

Martin Atkins believes he’s beginning a revolution. Fed up with traditional educational systems, believing academia doesn’t adapt quickly enough to properly educate students and challenge their minds, he’s bringing chaos into the classroom through his new school, launched last summer, Revolution Number Three.

Atkins is a music-industry veteran. A member of bands such as Public Image Ltd., Ministry, Pigface and Killing Joke, he’s also run his own independent label for two decades and has taught—most recently at Columbia College—courses on the behind-the-scenes aspects of the music business, like the logistics of touring. Last Spring Atkins helped re-brand Columbia’s student-run record label, AEMMP, the subject of a 2009 Newcity cover story.

Atkins is quick to note that he “doesn’t have all the answers. Teachers used to be, ‘I’ve got all the answers, let me regurgitate answers to you.’ But the Internet has taken away the need for that. Once you start to realize that we might not have all the answers, just knowing we don’t have all the answers, we’re so far ahead of traditional academia, which is still pretending that it does.” Read the rest of this entry »

Education 2010: Digital Planet

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logo_1000The starving-artist stereotype has unfortunately maintained a decent amount of credibility, which could explain why myriad parents scoff at kids who harbor Dawson Leary-like dreams of being the next Spielberg past adolescence. Flashpoint Academy, with its combination of real-world practicality and a passion for the digital arts, is helping to dispel that notion. “Thanks to the ubiquitous nature of media, and the downscaling of technology, anyone can make a living in the arts—with the right education to get them started,” says Academic Dean Paula Froehle.

Founded in 2007, the fledgling digital-arts college in downtown Chicago offers intensive two-year programs in one of four areas: Game Development, Film & Broadcast, Recording Arts and Visual Effects & Animation.

Flashpoint differs from other four-year colleges in its cross-disciplinary, immersive approach to teaching that keeps current with the pace of the industry. “Today keeps changing to tomorrow; it’s a constantly evolving field,” says Perry Harovas, Chair of the Digital Effects and Animation Department. Timeless skills, like the ability to follow a project through from start to finish, teamwork and problem-solving skills are emphasized. “Rather than having them be button jockeys, [they] learn how to use all the tools together and have them know everything that’s going on behind the scenes.” Read the rest of this entry »

Education 2010: We’re Rolling

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summercampFor some movie fans, if not all fanboys between the ages of 15 and 25, film school is a distant dream, an unlikely path that even if accomplished will lead to more barista jobs and, if lucky, a P.A. gig on a second-rate television show. Trying to get your own film made in Hollywood might be a near impossibility for an outsider, but scaling back, surrounding yourself with dedicated, skillful artists and learning how to put together your own project might just make your movie come to life. That’s where Chicago Filmmakers Co-op comes in.

“Chicago Filmmakers Co-op is designed to offer students a chance to participate in making media, specifically people who otherwise don’t have access, voices left out of the mainstream marketplace,” says Todd Lillethun, program director at Chicago Filmmakers, a position he took just over a year ago. “We try to get different perspectives, invite people from different backgrounds to participate in making media.” Read the rest of this entry »