Street Smart Chicago

Soapbox Derby: Hanging with the hecklers at the Bughouse Square Debates

Events, Politics, River North No Comments »

“This is not cable TV… this is not adversarial bullshit.” With this declaration, so opens the twenty-fifth annual Bughouse Square Debate. Actually, heated debates pop up all around Washington Park’s Bughouse Square, off and on the soapbox, but gathered around the small, painted platforms are those who come to listen and those who come to heckle.

During a debate entitled “Students are Americans, Too!” two of the youngest speakers, or “bugs” of the day—and in the end, the winners of the Dill Pickle Award, presented to the best soapbox orator of the day—Pam Selman and Evan Ribot discuss the rights of student journalists. As they tell their story, a heckler in the crowd shouts, “But print journalism is dead!”

Another shouts back, “That’s why they’re up there talking! They’re trying to resuscitate it!”

While many of the bugs prepared in advance, researching and pouring their thoughts and feelings into a sheet of notes or script, the hecklers are flying by the seat of their pants.

“Oftentimes I agree with the conversation or the thing they are saying. I say it’s fun just to mix it up a little bit, that’s the spirit of the Bughouse Square Debates,” Bryan Young says. This is his second consecutive year at the event and he says sometimes people in the crowd aren’t in on the joke.

“I think a couple of people were taken aback that you would actually stand up and say something like that,” Young says. (Lindsey Kratochwill)

411: Power Tea

Events, Loop No Comments »

An iPad and a handful of iPhone 4s sit on the table at the Argo Tea at Dearborn and Adams at 8:30 in the morning. Their owners are gathered around the table, and even while they talk to each other, their devices are hard at work. Pek Pongpaet’s iPad shows off an app he created, a database of inspirational business quotes. Bruno Pieroni’s iPhone snaps a picture of a bar code on a pack of gum and instantaneously he knows what store will give him the best price. I take a photo of Erin Borreson’s business card with my iPhone and, suddenly, I’m directed to her website. It’s not an Apple gathering, it’s likemind, a monthly meetup on the third Friday of the month for people interested in creativity and technology. You don’t actually have to be an Apple devotee to attend, but be prepared to defend your smartphone of choice. Some people come to trade business cards, while others just want to hear what new innovations creative techies are excited about. “There’s no set rules. There’s no set agenda,” says Mike Maddaloni, who helps coordinate the events. Allison Hosack, a leadership development consultant who also does personal training, laughs as she looks at her phone. “He’s a quick little sucker, ain’t he. I already got a LinkedIn request from Pek.” She looks at the QR code on Erin’s business card that sent me to Erin’s website. “You want to barter personal training for cards?” (Ella Christoph)

411: A Breadline for the Byline

Events, Media No Comments »

"Lean on Me": Lou Carlozo, rhythm guitar; Lucy Smith, vocals; Eric Zorn, lead guitar, Jeremy Manier, bass and Mary Schmich on the piano.

It may be fashionable to say that print media is dying, but one group that is dedicated to keeping the industry alive, and to helping the casualties along the way, is the Chicago Headline Club, which recently held a fundraiser at  Rogers Park’s Heartland Cafe. The event was bursting with music and the roaring din of old friends, in the hopes of raising money to benefit unemployed journalists, going toward freelance costs and additional training.

“We’re following a tradition of journalists helping journalists,” says the Community Media Workshop’s Stephen Franklin, who organized the event.

This community isn’t one in which a journalist “leaves the profession and no one thinks about you,” Franklin says. The camaraderie amidst the dark-rimmed glasses and button-down shirts confirmed this. Read the rest of this entry »

Ride a Beercycle: New Belgium Brewing is built on the happy union of cycles and suds

Bicycling, Events, Logan Square No Comments »

That bicycle on your Fat Tire bottle is more than just a logo. In 1989, New Belgium Brewing Company founder Jeff Lebesch gained an affection for Belgian-style beer on a trip bicycling through Europe. His taste for Belgian-inspired beer and reverence for the bicycle that brought him to it remain two tenets of the Fort Collins, Colorado craft brewery, which saw eighteen-percent growth last year. Bryan Simpson, spokesperson for New Belgium, says that bicycle culture “is pretty much in our DNA.” The company went commercial in 1991 when Lebesch and his wife Kim Jordan took their brew from a Colorado basement to bottles bearing a likeness to the fat-tired bicycle Lebesch traveled on over twenty years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Live the horror at the Surgical Museum

Events, Museums No Comments »

Among the highlights of “The Menagerie,” the International Museum of Surgical Science’s upcoming fundraiser, which also includes burlesque dancers, karaoke, and, perhaps, a large python, participants will be given the rare opportunity to “own [their] own death,” says Death by Design Co.’s co-founder Teena McClelland. She and her team of video and special-effects experts will transform individuals into Dr. Moreau’s grotesque half-man, half-animal experiments, who will then enact their revenge on one of H.G. Wells’ more memorable anti-heroes. And it will all be available for posterity on tape. “We like to help people realize inner narratives,” McClelland says. “We like to tell stories with people and people have interesting stories to tell.” Death by Design staff members will play directors and producers as participants come to terms with mortality in a strange yet controlled scenario. Inspired by her own fear of horror films, McClelland insists that once people experience death, in some capacity, it seems less intimidating. Beyond the obvious reasons, the International Museum of Surgical Science, 1524 North Lake Shore Drive, was a natural choice for such an event after the latter played host to the Threewalls Gallery’s vampire-themed fundraiser, “You Oughta Be In Fangs,” last spring. Spend $50-$100 for a good cause and come see “who gets torn apart” on Saturday, June 12 from 7pm-11pm.  (Emma Ramsay)

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

Education/Training, Events, News etc., Politics No Comments »

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 »

Food Fight: The girls of roller derby get in the spaghetti

Events, Sports No Comments »

This is Exit, right? One of the bar-backs wears a Ben Sherman polo, and women wrestle on the TVs behind the bar. But there are also gin and tonics. Flannel. Middle-aged men in Bears pullovers flirting with the roller-derby girls selling raffle tickets near the door. The girls, sporting heavy makeup and Chicago Outfit t-shirts, point everyone up the stairs. Tonight, the Outfit host their second annual spaghetti-wrestling fundraiser, with part of the proceeds going to Action Against Hunger.

Upstairs, the feeling is a little bit more punk—at least it definitely smells more punk. Bodies are crammed together, anxiously looking around waiting for the action to start. In the middle of the crowd is an inflatable kiddy pool filled with a gross amount of shimmering spaghetti. The crowd is equal parts guys and women, but a few guys—in an oddly perverted way—are much more vocal in their urging on of the wrestlers. Around 11pm, someone interrupts the Dead Kennedys to say there are some technical difficulties, but that the wrestling will soon start. Rory, one of the louder and bigger attendees, is crammed against the side wall. He shouts, “I will be your technical difficulty if you don’t start the show!” Read the rest of this entry »

Unplug and Recharge: Arianna Huffington addresses Columbia College

Events, Loop, Politics No Comments »

Nearly two hours before the night’s speaker is scheduled to go on and yet people are already buzzing around shaking off the weather inside the Conaway Center at Chicago’s Columbia College. A woman directs people to the registration line. A man jokes to his friend about her hair, but she chalks it up to the wind. A trio of adults weigh their chances of getting into tonight’s event. It feels not unlike lining up for dodgeball. No one wants to get picked last.

Two student ushers direct people to the overflow room and tell the lucky ones—those who registered early enough for tonight’s event—that the Film Row Cinema will open shortly. A few men try to flirt their way out of the room and into the theater. “I’ve got overflow tickets,” a man in a ball cap says, smirking. “How likely is it we’ll get in?”

A woman appears in a headset, “You know it’s really hit or miss. I don’t want to promise anything.” Read the rest of this entry »

Crazy for Coco: Supporters rally for Conan O’Brien at NBC

Events, Loop, News etc. No Comments »

On a Monday afternoon, diehard fans of a late-night legend huddle in the cold outside NBC headquarters in Pioneer Court. More than a hundred people stand in the picket line, waving colorful signs displaying admiration for the redheaded funny man who has been making people laugh for his entire adult life.

A mother and her two young daughters stand clad in orange attire, the theme for this evening’s march along Michigan Avenue. “My daughter is the biggest Conan fan,” says the proud mom. Fans in Conan wigs and orange wool caps pace in front of the tower as security guards keep them just beyond the NBC property. “This is actually a Trump wig,” says Qais of his hair garb. “This feud is worse then Leno vs. Letterman.” Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2009: City Life and Pop Culture

Bicycling, Events, News etc. No Comments »

Top 5 Local TV Media Moments45730943-15085940
ABC-7’s Judy Hsu gives birth on the shoulder of the Ike.

WGN weather-bard Tom Skilling defies the age-old wisdom of the Farmer’s Almanac. The venerable publication calls for a rough winter, but Channel 9’s meteorological merlin says the 2009-2010 winter will likely be El Nino-induced milder than usual.

CBS 2 goes all A&E, recruiting Bill Kurtis to do shorty Cold Case Files.

NBC blunders Bob Sirrott’s contract and lets a Chicago media legend slip away.

CLTV’s Garrard McLendon shows poise and divine-fueled gumption after the double murder of his parents.
—Sam Weller Read the rest of this entry »