Street Smart Chicago

Dime Stories: The Killing Ghost and Her Falling Stars

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

The more I read about owls, the more I realize how paranoid white people have always been. In Western culture, owls are almost always associated with witchcraft  or some other nefarious practice. Maybe it is the eyes; they’ve always weirded people out. The eyes that Athena found “burning with inner light” freaked out the civilized types.
I must admit, when I found the down-covered screech owl, I was intrigued because I thought owls were mysterious and weird. I was not a popular kid, an ill-tempered little fucker who didn’t have many friends; mostly art kids and the other weirdos like me who hung around the pet store and drew pictures. I was thirteen when I found him and my sister named him Oliver. That summer he ate his weight in cicadas and eventually mice. He was not a friendly pet, in fact not really a pet at all, but an orphan. He was a gray screech owl and when he shed his down and his plumage filled in he was a beautiful bird; odd in all of the ways that I myself was. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Why Rolling on the River Is No Easy Task

Checkerboard City, City Life, Loop No Comments »
Tight turns and bottlenecks making cycling on the riverwalk a tricky endeavor. Photo: John Greenfield

Tight turns and bottlenecks making cycling on the riverwalk a tricky endeavor./Photo: John Greenfield

By John Greenfield

Earlier this month, the Bloomingdale Trail, aka The 606, grabbed the spotlight as our city’s latest fabulous public space. However, the Chicago Riverwalk extension, which partially opened on May 23, is another strong contender. The new two-block stretch between State and Clark takes you down to within a foot or two of the sea-green water, and there are unique, breathtaking views of the city as you round the bridge houses.

The roughly $100 million project, funded by a federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act Loan that needs to be paid back in about thirty-five years, is slated to be extended all the way to Lake and Wacker by 2016. The now-open sections are the Cove, which has stone-like concrete seating units and will feature kayak rentals, and the Marina, with elegant teakwood banquettes whose tops will double as bar seating for eating and drinking establishments. Upcoming amenities include amphitheater seating, a water play area, fishing piers and a boardwalk.

The new spaces are already a hit with Chicagoans from all walks of life, and you’ll see dozens of people strolling, lunching, catching carp and relaxing there on nice days. The one fly in the ointment is that, while the riverwalk extension was designed to be a transportation corridor, it doesn’t function particularly well as one. Narrow sections of the path create bottlenecks, and sharp turns in the route are tricky to navigate, making it difficult to walk—let alone bike—the route efficiently when it’s crowded. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 18, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Would you like to stop pushing and struggling for a while? Is there a clenched attitude you would love to let go of? Do you wish you could take a break from having to give so much and try so hard and be so strong? Then do it! Now would be a good time to take a sabbatical from any situation that feels too demanding or frustrating. You wouldn’t incur the wrath of the gods or the twists of karma if you sneaked away to indulge in some recreational frivolity. For the foreseeable future, “relax” and “surrender” are your words of power. Read the rest of this entry »

Dynastic by Design: How The Field Museum Built the Nation’s Largest Chinese Historical Museum Exhibit

Museums, News etc., South Loop No Comments »
Guardian Lions

Guardian Lions

By Nona Tepper

“When I look at it straight it looks straight, but when I look at it sideways it looks crooked,” says Jaap Hoogstraten, director of exhibitions at the Field Museum.

The man paces in front of an arch decorated with red, blue and gold images of ancient Chinese life. The air smells like dust, and a saw grinds on a bench in the middle of the gallery. Project manager Tom Skwerski stands behind him.

“It’s tricky to do an immersive environment,” Skwerski says. “We don’t want to look like a Chinese restaurant.”

The men are standing in the Cyrus Tang Hall of China, an upcoming exhibit at The Field Museum slated to open just three months from that day. The arch is stenciled with what look like the same designs that decorate the entrance gate to Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood, but is it crooked? Hoogstraten and Skwerski have had this debate before, Hoogstraten says. Perhaps they’ll have it again. The men walk away and start talking about what still needs to be done. The nearly 400 objects need to be mounted; the mounts need to be attached to bases; the bases need to be covered in decorative felt. The producers need to speed up the slideshows on Chinese dynastic history and, speaking of technology, the technology for the projections of Neolithic China still needs to be developed.

The men have three months.  Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 11, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “To look at a thing hard and straight and seriously—to fix it.” Aries author Henry James said he wanted to do that on a regular basis. He didn’t want to be “arbitrary” or “mechanical” in his efforts. I invite you to make this perspective one of your specialties in the coming weeks, Aries. Pick out a tweaked situation you’d like to mend or a half-spoiled arrangement you want to heal. Then pour your pure intelligence into it. Investigate it with a luminous focus. Use all your tough and tender insight to determine what needs to be transformed, and transform it. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Volition America Half Marathon (June 6, 2015)

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The finishing chute of the Volition America Half Marathon/Photo: Zach Freeman

The finishing chute of the Volition America Half Marathon/Photo: Zach Freeman

Breakdown: Billed as a collection of half marathons that is “the first of its kind to honor America through running,” the Volition America Half Marathon series kicks off its inaugural season this year with six races across the country. This weekend’s American-themed races—a half marathon and a 5K—down Chicago’s Lakefront Trail marked the second event in the series (the first was in Boise, Idaho in April). And it was just as “steeped with patriotic distinction” as the website promised. Read the rest of this entry »

Afternoon Delight: In Praise of “The Afternoon Shift” On Its Final Day

Media No Comments »
Niala Boodhoo

Niala Boodhoo

By Eric Lutz

Radio is a uniquely intimate form of media. We accept these voices into our cars and our kitchens, into our headphones and routines. And when you listen to enough radio, certain voices come to sound as comforting and familiar as the voice of a smart, curious friend.

For the past three years, “The Afternoon Shift” on WBEZ has been home to many such voices, first under the guidance of Steve Edwards, then the great Rick Kogan, and, since 2013, host Niala Boodhoo. Yesterday, the station announced they were pulling the plug on the program and letting go of Boodhoo. This is sad news, in part, because it cuts local weekday programming in half, but also, much more viscerally, because it feels like the departure of a friend. Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Settle Down, Marie

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By Nick Drnaso. Edited by Ivan Brunetti and Aaron Renier. (Click on image to enlarge.)


Dime Stories: Brian Wilson’s Second Act

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Ghost Thank You (Nocturne) 100

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

About halfway through “Love and Mercy,” the Brian Wilson biopic, one realizes how Brian Wilson’s songs have never lost their currency. We still sing along to these happy tunes. Of all the music from the 1960s, only the Brian Wilson’s Beach Boys offer a safe harbor from the cynicism and tragedy of that troubled decade. Even forty-nine years later, “Pet Sounds” still stands as a transcendent recording that would influence a good measure of what came after—including the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Just listen to the layering of sounds; Wilson did it first. It is to the picture’s credit that this period in Brian Wilson’s life is rendered in sunshine and bold, vibrant colors. Brian has broken it wide open, even if he is the only one who understands this. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 4, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): The Persian scholar Avicenna was so well-rounded in his knowledge that he wrote two different encyclopedias. Even as a teenager he was obsessed with learning all he could. He got especially consumed with trying to master Aristotle’s “Metaphysics,” which did not easily yield its secrets to him. He read it forty times, memorizing every word. When he finally understood it, he was so excited he celebrated by giving out money and gifts to destitute strangers. I suspect you will soon be having an equivalent breakthrough, Aries. At last you will grasp a truth that has eluded you for a long time. Congratulations in advance! Read the rest of this entry »