Street Smart Chicago

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 3, 2016

Free Will Astrology No Comments »

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

Politics No Comments »


By Sarah Conway

Aviva Rosman and Alex Niemczewski, two of the minds behind Chicago tech startup BallotReady (, 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

Free Will Astrology No Comments »

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 »

Dime Stories: Some Thoughts on 2666

Dime Stories No Comments »
Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Shortly before his death in 2003, Roberto Bolaño, the great Chilean novelist, mailed off the manuscript for “2666,” his sprawling, frustrating, multi-layered masterpiece about a world coming apart in many locations and time periods—all at the same time.

Central to this story–stories, actually–are the murders of women in the fictional Santa Teresa, which is actually Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. Authorities fear there may be as many as 5,000 unsolved murders of young women and admit that there are at least 1,200. The Mexican government blames the outlaw Narco-Mafia, as well as members of Los Rebeldes, a notorious Juarez street gang involved in drug and human trafficking. Police have also arrested itinerant workers and bus drivers known to drive the routes where some of the women’s bodies have been found, all to no avail. The murders continue as well as an eerie proliferation of corridos, or “murder ballads;” songs circulated about killings of unfaithful lovers, hookers and “bitches.” It is a horrifying phenomenon that has been going on since around 1993, with the indifference or incompetence of police forces too afraid of the gangs to adequately protect the young women, mostly from other parts of Mexico and Central America. Read the rest of this entry »

Life Is Beautiful: Teen Dream

Comics No Comments »

By David Alvarado (Click to enlarge.)

A Lot You Got to Holler, Episode 3: Immodest Proposals for Chicago’s Lakefront

Architecture, Chicago History, City Life, Loop No Comments »

The Big Shift + Filter Island

Chicago’s most valuable natural asset is its lakefront, forever free, public, and protected by law. This lakefront is so valuable, argues the architects at Port Urbanism, that we need more of it to pay off the city’s massive debts. Or (if you ask the designers at UrbanLab) newly built islands in the lake must be drafted into relieving pressure from an overstressed storm drain system by filtering and cleaning the city’s water. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of February 18, 2015

Free Will Astrology No Comments »

By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “Old paint on a canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent,” said playwright Lillian Hellman. “When that happens, it is possible to see the original lines: a tree will show through a woman’s dress, a child makes way for a dog, a large boat is no longer on an open sea.” Why does this happen? Because the painter changed his or her mind. Early images were replaced, painted over. I suspect that a metaphorical version of this is underway in your life. Certain choices you made in the past got supplanted by choices you made later. They disappeared from view. But now those older possibilities are re-emerging for your consideration. I’m not saying what you should do about them. I simply want to alert you to their ghostly presence so they don’t cause confusion. Read the rest of this entry »

Save The Sun-Times: How I’d Keep Chicago A Two-Newspaper Town

Media 6 Comments »

By Brian Hieggelke

One of the last conversations I had with the beloved Chicago writer Andrew Patner took place after running into him as I was coming out of an event. I mentioned to him that I was thinking about writing a story about how, hypothetically,  I would save the Sun-Times, and he strongly encouraged me to write it. The newspaper was something dear to his heart.

I decided that it was some kind of karmic intervention that the morning after the one-year anniversary of Andrew’s unexpected death brought a surprise announcement—that Michael Ferro, the principal owner of the Sun-Times since 2011, and the man credited with turning Jenny McCarthy into a columnist, was buying a substantial stake in Tribune Publishing and taking on the role of non-executive chairman. Simultaneously, he was stepping out of his controlling role at the Sun-Times parent company, the cringingly named Wrapports. A seismic shift roiled the quicksand of local media. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of February 11, 2016

Free Will Astrology No Comments »

By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “Love is a fire,” declared Aries actress Joan Crawford. “But whether it’s going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.” I disagree with her conclusion. There are practical steps you can take to ensure that love’s fire warms but doesn’t burn. Start with these strategies: Suffuse your libido with compassion. Imbue your romantic fervor with empathy. Instill your animal passions and instinctual longings with affectionate tenderness. If you catch your sexual urges driving you toward narcissists who are no damn good for you, firmly redirect those sexual urges toward emotionally intelligent, self-responsible beauties. Read the rest of this entry »

Dime Stories: I Feel Your Bern

Dime Stories No Comments »


By Tony Fitzpatrick

Well the Iowa clown car has emptied and the good news is the only candidate who seems remotely presidential damn near ran the table. Two days ago, the pundits and talking heads on cable and network news were saying that if Bernie Sanders got twenty percent he’d be exceeding expectations. As usual the pundits have underestimated the appeal of Senator Sanders. I don’t understand why; considering the collection of dolts, dumbbells, dimwits and simpletons on the GOP side of the ballot, this should be a cakewalk if you are a sentient voter whose head does not glow in the dark. The Republicans elevated the truly loathsome Ted Cruz to the top of their ticket, though he didn’t beat Donald Trump by much—it seems the evangelical voters liked Cruz more. The real horse to watch in that race is Marco Rubio, who stealthily crept into third place in the derby of mental defectives. Read the rest of this entry »