Street Smart Chicago

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 »

Big Bang: Newcity’s Guide to New Years Eve 2009

Events, Food & Drink, Holidays, News etc. No Comments »

BARS, NIGHTCLUBS, HOTELS AND MOREist2_4331566-champagne-toast

Aberdeen
Listen to DJ Arkitek spin as you take advantage of a premium open bar and appetizers. There’ll be a chance to win prizes and a champagne toast, too. 1856 W. North, (773)772-5500.

Alhambra Palace
This two-floor, five-room spot is hosting an extravagant party from 9pm-1am with entertainment provided by DJs Shawn Edwards, Tony Tone, Ryan Pollano and others. For $75-$100, guests can get their drink on for four hours with a top-shelf open bar and fill up on an appetizer buffet. Additional information can be found at thepalace4nye.com. 1240 W. Randolph, (312)666-9555.

Angels & Kings
The DJ duo The Fabulous Ladies of Fitness will make an appearance alongside additional guest DJs as guests enjoy snacks, a dessert bar, a champagne toast and a souvenir champagne glass. 710 N. Clark, (312)482-8600.

Angels and Mariachis
Tables range from $50-$100 and the party package (10pm-1am) includes an all-you-can-eat taco bar, sangria, beer, margaritas, cocktails and a midnight champagne toast. Bottle service is also available for $50-$300. 1721 W. Division, (773)227-7772. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Your Dreams: Texas Fred gives everyone their fifteen minutes

Bucktown, Events No Comments »

microphoneIn Bucktown on Sunday nights at a squat side-street building with loud antics and a giant graffitied mural along one side, everybody gets their fifteen minutes. Texas Fred hosts the open mic every week at Gallery Cabaret while portraits of Picasso, Joyce, Poe and Shaw look down upon those at the bar. With shoulder-length white hair and wire-rimmed glasses, Texas Fred seems to have ignored every year since 1969. He announces each performer and delivers dusty anecdotes about hitchhiking with a voice rough from what could be the build-up of pot resin in his throat.

Fifteen minutes or three songs, whichever comes first. Pitcher after pitcher of Leinie’s, the Gallery’s special, is spent composing the perfect set list, while a middle-aged single mother is trying her hand at stand-up comedy and isn’t nearly as bad as the spoken-word poet that preceded her. Read the rest of this entry »

Santa’s Upgrade: Doors open on the left at North Pole

Events, Holidays No Comments »

widget_aTT7mKmDHkNQHp8FolyGWZHuddling under the heat lamps at the Brown Line stop at Damen, four rosy-cheeked little girls and three parents chat excitedly as they wait for the holiday train. A distant rumbling signals the arrival of yet another false alarm.

At 6:36pm, the train finally pulls in, just a few minutes behind schedule to the sound of cheers and screams. “Oh my gosh! It has so many lights on it,” one of the girls shrieks with delight.

Indeed, the CTA has gone all-out. The outside of the car is coated in Christmas bulbs, flickering and flashing ceaselessly. Between cars is a giant float, complete with sleigh, Christmas trees, a brick house (presumably Santa’s) and free candy. Inside, people mill around in wonderment, gazing up at the red and green fluorescent lights that bathe the car in an oddly eerie glow. The seats are reupholstered with red and green Santas, and the poles we normally grip with a single finger, like Captain Hook during rush hour, are wrapped in a candy-cane stripe. “Let It Snow” streams from the speakers. Wide-eyed toddlers clutch their parents, at once amazed and terrified. It’s like being in a Christmas-themed dream. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Green Christmas

Events, Green, Lincoln Park, News etc. No Comments »

“You want to give a gift to the earth too, right?” asks Lindsay Maldonado, coordinator of Family and Children Programs at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The museum, located at 2430 North Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park, will host a “green gifting activity room” every Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm through December 20. “It’s just a part of our mission here at the museum to be environmentally conscious,” says Maldonado. “What we try to emphasize is creative reuse. When you think of crafts, you think of glitter and consumable goods that are probably just going to get thrown out later.” This year’s activities include making recyclable CD snowmen, envelopes to mail your thank-you letters in and gift boxes made out of old magazines and calendars. The activity room is free with admission($6-$9). “This is a time when we’re buying all of these things, and it’s important to know where everything comes from,” Maldonado says.

Light Up, Light Up: As if you had a choice at Daley Plaza

Events, Loop, News etc. No Comments »

Picasso-and-Christkindlmarektnight-image for webThis time-honored tradition, which nips at your nose the day before Thanksgiving, is spent in the freezing rain. Swarms of people are bundled in winter coats, scarves, hats and gloves as they stand and wait for the massive tree in the middle of Daley Plaza to illuminate and inform that the holidays are upon us.

Families and couples from all over the Chicago area, spanning from Algonquin to Zion, flock to this historical event that has been a city staple for years, bringing back the Christmas spirit before a dreaded month of crowded malls and retail nightmares consume their lives. Tourists stuff their faces with authentic German-style pastries and bratwurst as they peruse the Christkindlmarket. The aisles are filled with trinkets, artwork and countless other overpriced souvenirs to commemorate the trek downtown during the start of the most wonderful time of year.

Helping to celebrate the occasion is local movie star and daytime talk-show host Bonnie Hunt, always proud to call Chicago her hometown, saying this city makes her feel pretty when compared to Los Angeles, but we can let that slide. Read the rest of this entry »