Street Smart Chicago

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 24, 2016

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): When Orville and Wilbur Wright were kids, their father gave them a toy helicopter powered by a rubber band. The year was 1878. Twenty-five years later, the brothers became the first humans to sail above the earth in a flying machine. They testified that the toy helicopter had been a key inspiration as they worked to develop their pioneering invention. In the spirit of the Wright Brothers’ magic seed, Aries, I invite you to revive your connection to a seminal influence from your past. The coming weeks will be a favorable time to feed a dream that was foreshadowed in you a long time ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Life Is Beautiful: Teen Dream

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By David Alvarado (click to enlarge)Life_is_comic_15

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 17, 2016

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Artist Steven Spazuk works exclusively with an unusual medium: soot from candles and torches. He spreads the stuff across a blank canvas, then uses various instruments to sculpt the accidental blobs into definitive forms. I’ve seen the results, and they’re both well-done and intriguing. What would be the metaphorical equivalent, in your world, of using soot to make beautiful and interesting things? I think you’re primed to turn waste into building blocks, rot into splendor, and lead into gold. (See Spazuk’s work at spazuk.com.) Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Donald Trump Versus the People, or Candy-Ass Takes His Ball and Goes Home

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1507888_10208266826845225_3897729117988074983_nBy Tony Fitzpatrick

When I first took this job I had no intention of ever writing about politics. I don’t like politicians and the ones I do, I can count on one hand and still have enough fingers to eat with. I find them to be grimy life-forms who will do and say anything to get elected and stay on the public tit for as long as they can before death or a jail sentence forcibly pries them off of it.

I thought I’d try to write something like “tales of Chicago,” a lighthearted look at life in our city.

Then Rahm Emanuel got elected and I no longer had the luxury of ignoring politics. His mayoralty has been an epic lesson in the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and, on too many occasions, dead. This has been a sobering ice-cold reality in this city. Somehow our murder rate as of this writing is almost double what it was last year.

Almost twenty percent of our citizens live below the poverty line and unemployment among young black men between the ages of twenty and twenty-four is a whopping forty-seven percent according to a Great Cities Institute report. This is significantly higher than the national average, which is a still very high thirty-two percent.

That our schools are in shambles begs the question: Gee, maybe one thing has something to do with the other? Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: Smelting in Chicago

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

At the end of March and in early April of every year the smelts of Lake Michigan decide to kill themselves. The little fish haul ass from the deeper parts of this treacherous lake, and head for the shore. On the way they spawn, which means they bust one more nut on their way off this mortal coil.

For a great many generations, working-class-immigrant Chicagoans were ready for them. Polish, Greek, Irish, Mexican, Ukrainian and Italians waited on Montrose Harbor and other docks lining the lake with fine-mesh smelt nets full of nylon loops in which the smelt would oblige the hungry immigrant by voluntarily hanging themselves.

Every April in Greektown there was a special “Smelt Plate” featuring a dozen or so of the slimy fuckers deep-fried and infused with garlic. There are people who swear by these; I watched Steve Earle gobble down a plate of these a decade ago and he was truly grateful. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 10, 2016

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “He in his madness prays for storms, and dreams that storms will bring him peace,” wrote Leo Tolstoy in his novella “The Death of Ivan Ilych.” The weird thing is, Aries, that this seemingly crazy strategy might actually work for you in the coming days. The storms you pray for, the tempests you activate through the power of your longing, could work marvels. They might clear away the emotional congestion, zap the angst, and usher you into a period of dynamic peace. So I say: Dare to be gusty and blustery and turbulent. Read the rest of this entry »

Life Is Beautiful: Teen Dream

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By David Alvarado (click to enlarge)
Life_is_comic_14

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 3, 2016

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Actress Blythe Baird writes about the problem that arises when her dog sees her eating a peanut-butter-and-chocolate-chip bagel. Her beloved pet begs for a piece and becomes miserable when it’s not forthcoming. Baird is merely demonstrating her love, of course, because she knows that eating chocolate can make canines ill. I suspect that life is bestowing a comparable blessing on you. You may feel mad and sad about being deprived of something you want. But the likely truth is that you will be lucky not to get it. Read the rest of this entry »

Hacking Democracy: Chicago Startup BallotReady Empowers Choice in the Voting Booth

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By Sarah Conway

Aviva Rosman and Alex Niemczewski, two of the minds behind Chicago tech startup BallotReady (ballotready.org), bet you’ve done it before. Scanning the hundreds of names on a ballot, you’ve randomly voted for unknown candidates. Outside of presidential and congressional candidates, they’d wager you don’t know the policy stances of the unheralded yet powerful local elected officials, such as the recorder of deeds or the metropolitan water reclamation commissioner, who reside lower down on the ballot.

You’re not alone. Rosman and Niemczewski have found professors and high-level startup-competition judges from the University of Chicago who have also admitted defeat in navigating candidate choices among little-known school council members and judges who wield immense power over the city’s day-to-day life. Rosman and Niemczewski believe most people are guilty of guessing or leaving a portion of the ballot unfilled and that’s what they are here to change. “We’ve never met someone who has said, ‘I wouldn’t need this app. I know everyone on my ballot,’” Rosman says. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of February 25, 2016

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Just one species has a big enough throat to swallow a person whole: the sperm whale. If you happen to be sailing the high seas any time soon, I hope you will studiously avoid getting thrown overboard in the vicinity of one of these beasts. The odds are higher than usual that you’d end up in its belly, much like the Biblical character Jonah. (Although, like him, I bet you’d ultimately escape.) Furthermore, Aries, I hope you will be cautious not to get swallowed up by anything else. It’s true that the coming weeks will be a good time to go on a retreat, to flee from the grind and take a break from the usual frenzy. But the best way to do that is to consciously choose the right circumstances rather than leave it to chance. Read the rest of this entry »