Street Smart Chicago

January Strip: Improv Mafia enforces a no-pants ride

City Life, Events, Transit No Comments »

“I’m sorry. This probably sounds like a bizarre question, but are you here for the no-pants thing?” Upon hearing it a woman, Val, turns with her three children toward the inquisitor and raises her eyebrows. “Yeah, I am,” she replies, “but I won’t be taking any pants off because I have my daughters with me.”

The Eighth Annual No Pants Subway Ride, hosted by Improv Mafia, begins at noon, and a number of participants arrive at the Granville Red Line stop exactly on time.
On the platform the participants walk up with quirky greetings like, “Hey guys. Mind if I take my pants off?” followed by a half-strip in Chicago’s bitter cold. Many leave their shoes, socks and coats on but desert their pants with bravery, even standing up against the three police officers who patiently pace the train platform in case anyone had decided to go “commando.”

Erica, along with about fifteen others, rides the train (with officers in tow) from Granville to Monroe, where they shake hands and take pictures to commemorate the experience. At the end of it all, half of the group goes out for a late breakfast while the other half decides to go out for drinks at a bar. “If we can take off our pants in Chicago in January,” one says, “I think we can go to a bar at noon.” (Micah McCrary)

The Return of the King: Elvis turns 74 at The Original Mother’s

City Life, Events No Comments »

Braving the cold and Gold Coast traffic, people come from in and around the Chicago area for the ninth annual Elvis Fest at The Original Mother’s to celebrate what would have been The King’s seventy-fourth birthday. The festivities include live performances from Elvis tribute artists, karaoke, a look-alike contest, an appearance by Dick Biondi and birthday cake.

The evening begins with performer Ed Parzygnat belting out a beautiful rendition of “I Got A Woman/Amen.” Having attended and performed the Elvis Fest for all nine years, Parzygnat proves to be a crowd favorite as he teases and jokes around with the audience, even dispensing a bit of Elvis trivia concerning his Indian motif jumpsuit.

“I’ve been doing this for five years now,” sweet-as-pie bartender Nikki explains. “It’s a very different crowd from usual, but I see the same faces come out here year after year just for this.” Like Denise Seagle of Chicago, who hasn’t missed a fest in five years, and has spent the last two dragging her friend Cindy Risty along. Mitch Cohen has made it every time for the past three years, always parking his wheelchair against the makeshift stage.

Throughout the night, peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches (Elvis’ favorite dish) are made available for patrons. While they taste a lot better than they sound, the trays remain filled with the bite-sized snacks throughout the night. Likewise, portrait artists creating live paintings of Elvis on stage during the various impersonators’ performances are either ignored or just unnoticed. The only other missed opportunity is the lack of look-alike contestants amongst audience members. With a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas, one would expect more than just a handful of overlarge sideburns and pompadours.

Despite the title, Elvis isn’t the only reason people come out to Mother’s every January 8. Nikki recounts a previous year when a couple drove all the way from Virginia just to meet Biondi. And who can blame them? Biondi takes the time to greet patrons and even pose for pictures. “Elvis is probably my all-time favorite rock singer. He might not have been the first, but he opened a lot of doors for a lot of people,” Biondi admits.

“It’s over the top,” three-year patron Larry Gorchowski points out as two women pull a friend closer to the stage while performer Jerome Marion croons “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” “And you can’t go wrong with Elvis.”

Gorchowski adds, “Fat Elvis. Fat Elvis is king.” (Khaveri Campbell)

411: Personal Maps

City Life No Comments »

Since 2006, as part of its “Notes for a People’s Atlas of Chicago,” local arts magazine AREA Chicago has been distributing blank maps throughout the city and asking Chicagoans to record their own history, knowledge and impressions on them. Beginning this summer, AREA partnered with Around the Coyote to reach the potential cartographers of Wicker Park and Bucktown. This weekend all Chicagoan-made maps created so far will be on display at the Wicker Park Fieldhouse (1425 North Damen). “These maps are really exciting to look at,” gushes Abigail Satinsky, a coordinator on the project. “They are so subjective, but they say so much about how we move through a city. People take them seriously or they just think about their favorite restaurants. But the more I think about it, that’s taking them seriously, too.”

411: Sun-Times, They Are A-Changin’

Media, News etc. No Comments »

Sources who attended Monday night’s meeting of the Sun-Times’ chapter of the newspaper guild say that, unsurprisingly, the union seems to have little information and even less power in the face of an impending cut of another seven percent in wages and benefits and rumors of outsourcing copy-editing to India. A strike against the on-life-support newspaper would likely kill the publication, leaving the union only with grievance-filing in its toolbox, and even that means little if the publication doesn’t survive. The Tribune, smelling blood, announced Tuesday that it was converting its newsstand product to a tabloid, in a move that seems to be a clear attempt at placing the dagger directly in the Sun-Times heart. Sun-Times staffers related details about Monday night’s convocation of union members of the editorial department, including writers, columnists, copyeditors, photographers, designers and some web workers. Union reps told members the proposed pay cuts would not save jobs and working fewer hours did not appear to be an option. The issue of severance arose, and a lawyer explained that fired copy editors would likely get severance, but if the company folds it’s not clear if employees would still receive that benefit. Members militated about alerting the general public about the threat of outsourcing, and picketing was discussed.

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the capricious contours of celebrity

Chicago Hype Exchange No Comments »

This Week’s Biggest Gainers

1
Roland Burris
As of press time, Mr. Burris had his credentials in order and was expected to be seated in the Senate after all.

2
Rob Marinelli
The only head coach to post an 0-16 season was hired by the Chicago Bears to instruct the defensive line.  After all, our defense only ranked #21 in 2008, so we have eleven spots to fall.

3
Tina Fey
The Second City alum nabbed two Golden Globe awards for her work on the show “30 Rock.”

4
Paul and Caragh Brooks
The Normal, Illinois couple made national headlines when they tied the knot inside a Taco Bell. Now that’s thinking outside the bun!

5
Rod Blagojevich
OK, so Burris looks like he’s getting in, but…

This Week’s Biggest Losers

1
Rod Blagojevich
…that didn’t stop the Illinois House from overwhelmingly voting for impeachment.

2
Charlene Cheatem
The mother of three children who died in a South Side fire was charged with three counts of child endangerment.

3
Sun-Times Media Group
Announced it will close twelve suburban papers as of January 15.

4
Bob Benson
The city’s director of internal audit was canned.

5
Michael Bobek & Daniel Kolasa
These two morons were arrested and charged with aggravated battery after driving around the city shooting people with a BB-gun from the back of their van, sending a handful to the hospital.

Free Will Astrology

Free Will Astrology No Comments »

By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): According to some historians, Barack Obama won’t be the first American president with African ancestry. As many as six previous presidents may have had black ancestors, with Warren Harding and Dwight Eisenhower being the most likely. None of the others claimed their heritage, however, choosing instead to pass as pure white. Obama is the first to acknowledge his bloodline. In the coming weeks, I see you as being in a position with certain metaphorical resemblances to Obama. You’ll have the opportunity, though it may be a bit nerve-wracking, to thrive by celebrating a truth that no one before you has been brave enough to take advantage of.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): This week’s advice comes to you entirely from the great jazz pianist and composer, Thelonious Monk. It all happens to be in perfect alignment with your astrological omens. 1. “Don’t play everything or every time. Let some things go by. What you don’t play can be more important than what you do play.” 2. “A note can be as small as a pin or as big as the world; it depends on your imagination.” 3. “Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along and do it.” 4. “A genius is the one most like himself.”

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): It’s a favorable time for you to phase out at least sixty percent of your stale old fears. The cosmos is poised to assist you in this noble cause if you’ll exert even a modicum of effort. What’s that you say? You’re afraid you can’t live authentically without a hefty amount of anxieties? You secretly believe that you’d be bored if you didn’t have your worries to entertain you? Well, here’s an idea that might work: Simply replace your hackneyed, knee-jerk fears with a slew of silly and outlandish ones. They’ll allow you to feel the friction you rely on to feel alive, but they won’t bog you down with heavy stagnancy. For example, you could contract automatonophobia, the fear of ventriloquist’s dummies, and apeirophobia, the fear of infinity. Other good choices might be kyphophobia, the fear of stooping, and tutraphobia, the fear of otters.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Maurice Krafft has made a career of filming places where hot lava is flowing. National Geographic describes him hiking across the crater floor of Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano that’s sacred to the Maasai people in Tanzania. The ground is not erupting in torrents of fire and burning liquid rock, but is constantly bubbling and exuding. Through long years of experience, Krafft knows exactly where to walk so that his shoes don’t catch on fire. If you are going to attempt a metaphorically similar adventure in the coming weeks, Cancerian, make sure you’ve studied up on the ins and outs of the terrain. This is no time for guesswork or naive faith.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): The world’s record for most people running in a “Stiletto Sprint” is 265. That’s how many put on three-inch high heels and competed in an eighty-meter race in Australia last September. It’s quite possible that your imminent future will have metaphorical resemblances to that event, Leo. If you want to strive for a certain goal, you may have to take on some limitation or handicap. My advice? Don’t spend a minute resenting the imposed impediment. Just push ahead with cheerful equanimity and liberated pluck. You can win your equivalent of the Stiletto Sprint.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): “Dear Rob: I have the golden eggs. They’re shiny and big and beautiful. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they’re taking waaayyyyy too long to hatch. I’ve been giving them all the love and care I can possibly spare—keeping them warm, playing them Mozart symphonies, thinking good thoughts toward them—but they’re still just sitting there inert. Any suggestions to speed up the process? -Impatient Virgo.” Dear Impatient: From my understanding, the golden eggs are valuable exactly as they are now. You really don’t need them to hatch yet.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Mexican scientists have discovered a way to transform tequila into diamonds. Even the brands that sell for three dollars a bottle work fine as raw material. The catch is that the diamonds produced are too small to be used for jewelry. But they do have numerous practical uses: in surgical instruments, for example. You now have it in your power to preside over a comparable alchemical change, Libra. What could you do that would be like turning lead into gold or tequila into diamonds?

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Beginning with Plato, a number of philosophers have proposed that humans suffer from a collective amnesia about where we come from and what we’re doing here on planet Earth. Other thinkers of a more esoteric nature have suggested that our amnesia goes even further and is more personal, blocking us from remembering our previous incarnations. Then there are the modern psychologists who note that for most of us, the experiences we have before we learn to speak are virtually inaccessible to our memories. That’s the bad news, Scorpio. The good news is that at least some of your amnesia will fade in the coming year, allowing you to glimpse and maybe even gaze steadily upon previously hidden panoramas. And it all starts soon.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): According to expert gerontologists, Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards (a Sagittarius) should have passed on to the next world a decade ago. The man has abused his body so thoroughly, his continued survival is a mystery. You’re currently in an excellent position to achieve equally stupendous feats of persistence yourself, Sagittarius. More than ever before, you have a dogged capacity to keep pushing—even in areas where you’ve been flighty or sketchy in the past. I’d say this is an excellent time to deepen your commitment to your dreams in very practical ways.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): In one of his journal entries, Henry David Thoreau wrote about stumbling upon a single stalk of corn deep in the woods. It looked out of place there, so far from any cornfield, growing next to a pine tree. And yet it was doing just fine. How did its seed get there? By wind or animal? I suspect you will soon make a comparable discovery, Capricorn: a blaze of vitality that seems out of its element but is perfectly beautiful. Should you pluck it or engage with it or simply admire it? The freshest part of you knows the answer.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): This could be an epic year to be an Aquarius. I’m hoping you won’t be satisfied with merely coasting along on the positive vibes that will be flowing in abundance. Rather than just enjoying your rising popularity, for instance, why not use your popularity to double your clout? And instead of simply increasing your productivity, why not supercharge your creativity at the same time? Finally, how about using your high levels of mental acuity to figure out ways to enhance your emotional intelligence? While this year will probably be pretty good no matter what, with some regular tweaks of your willpower you could make it amazingly great.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): If you’re reading this horoscope, you’re not a Cambodian orphan who grew up as a slave in a brothel or a Sudanese man kidnapped by a militia and forced to do heavy labor eighteen hours a day or one of the twenty-seven million other victims of human trafficking around the world. But you may be yoked and subjugated in a less literal way, perhaps to an addictive drug or an abusive relationship or a job that brings out the worst in you. The good news is that the coming months will be a favorable time for you to escape your bondage. Maybe it’ll help you muster the strength you need, Pisces, if I inform you that your freedom won’t be anywhere near as hard to achieve as that of the Pakistani boy tied to a carpet loom in a dark room or the Nigerian woman who’s beaten daily as she toils in the sugar cane fields for no pay.

Homework: What’s the best question you could ask life right now? Tell me by going to FreeWillAstrology.com and clicking on “Email Rob.”

Change Your Brain: Put some class back in your life with our education issue

Education/Training No Comments »

School’s no longer out.

With the country’s unpredictably fluctuating (read: dreadful) economic status, returning to the classroom in an effort to strengthen your influence in the job market doesn’t exaclty seem like a bad idea. More knowledge never hurt anyone, and if eight years of George W. Bush taught us anything, it’s that this country needs people with more knowledge.

But desperation isn’t the only factor driving regular folks back to the books. November’s election of Barack Obama provided a jolt of hopefulness for a morale-ravaged nation, and a growing thought should infiltrate the country’s psyche: if we can improve as a whole, why can’t we improve as individuals as well?

This is an important time for Chicago-area graduate schools and schools of continuing education. As always, the students they educate today will be the community leaders, doctors, instructors and artists of tomorrow. Most schools we spoke with emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary study, to gain mastery not only in one specific area, but to attain the knowledge of how that field of study relates with others. A broader scope of education is the clearest path to tomorrow, they say.

It’s not all heavy with consequences. Personal enrichment certainly hasn’t gone out the window. The same person who studies bioengineering by day at IIT can take a harmonica class at Old Town School of Folk Music by night. There are no rules to this thing, to quote Benjamin Button.

We’re all scholars at heart. Nobody, at least we hope, rejects information. And luckily for us, at several Chicago institutions and schools, it’s all right there for the taking.

The Education Issue was compiled, researched and written by Khaveri Campbell, Tom Lynch, Micah McCrary and Meaghan Strickland

City Colleges of Chicago
About
The seven city colleges of Chicago—Daley College, Harold Washington College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Truman College and Wright College—offer a variety of general studies and career/technical-education programs, with an emphasis on business and industry training. “Part of the mission statement is that community colleges should offer continuing education, and each community college can interpret that differently,” says Russ Mills, District Director of Continuing Education of the City Colleges of Chicago. “If a community college wanted to focus on sports or leisure or personal enrichment, they could. We do have that. But I see more of an emphasis on short-term certificate programs.” Which programs are currently popular? “I do know that the certified nurse-assistant programs, they typically do quite well,” Mills says. “One of the reasons is that with the program, you can get a job in a short period of time. Continuing Education is a good place to study if you want to get back in the job market pretty quickly.”

Major Areas of Study
Programs that train nurse assistants and pharmacy technicians are quite popular, according to Mills, but the City Colleges of Chicago offers a massive range of classes, from language courses to classes in ballroom dancing.

Little Known Fact
Harold Washington College is home to The Center for Creative Aging, whose mission is to provide “dynamic, affordable programs for late middle-aged Chicagoans seeking meaningful, generative lives and for business and community leaders and professionals interested in gifted, mature adults as a resource to enrich the City of Chicago and its neighborhoods.” Titles of classes include “Longevity: To Live is to Give” and “Opening Your Parachute in Hard Times.”

Cost
$72 per credit hour

Location/URL
Schools at various locations; District Office, 226 West Jackson, (312)553-2500, ccc.edu/academic_programs/Cont_Ed.shtml

Columbia College Chicago
About
Chicago’s foremost destination for arts study offers twenty-one different master’s degrees, in subjects such as Fiction, Poetry, Photography, Education and Journalism. The Film & Video program at Columbia is the largest in the country, and the school’s also recently launched its Music Composition for the Screen program, in which students craft musical scores to supplement filmed footage. “Our applications have increased steadily with each year of offering, and we are beginning to get serious recognition from the film industry,” says Andy Hill, the director of the program. The program’s philosophy, Hill says, “is that music composition for the screen is a specialized and applied art, and that the screen composer is first and foremost a co-dramatist. He or she is applying knowledge of music composition to the solution of dramatic problems, rather than to the pursuit of musical innovation for its own sake. We are dedicated to providing our students with learning experiences they would otherwise have to obtain on-the-job, thus effectively giving them a head start professionally.” Columbia prides itself on a faculty of instructors who are also “practitioners,” including Randall Albers, Joe Meno and Sam Weller.

Major Graduate Programs
Film & Video, Creative Writing – Fiction, Photography, Art & Design, Arts, Entertainment & Media Management

Little Known Fact
Columbia College offers a master’s degree program in Dance Movement Therapy & Counseling, which prepares students for careers as counselors “who use dance/movement as a modality for change and healing.”

Cost
$633 per credit hour

Location/URL
600 South Michigan, (312)369-7260, colum.edu/Academics/Graduate_Study/

DePaul University
About
The largest Catholic university in the nation offers a diverse spread of graduate programs, the most popular of which, according to the school, includes Computer Science, Elementary Education, Information Systems, Finance and Public Service. DePaul’s School of Music has received considerable recognition as well, even garnering recent notice from Rolling Stone’s “Guidebook.” The DePaul University Continuing and Professional Education Programs cover a wide array of topics as well, offering courses in Adult Education, Languages, Communications, Executive Education, Management, Marketing and more. “I think people are really putting a focus on a value equation—‘What can I get? What benefit can I get for the most reasonable amount of money?’” says Hap Bryant, the Director of Continuing and Professional Education at DePaul. Bryant also says that DePaul’s continuing education programs have an advantage over other area schools because it has “a very close connection with the city and the businesses of Chicago. And that’s interesting given that we are a private institution, not state-supported in any way, other than grants. So we have a connection—people can make connections to businesses and to other students. It’s kind of a networking opportunity.” He points out that DePaul is not defined as a research university. “You’ll hear people say that the focus is really on the students, but here, the star faculty are really stars because they’re national experts in their fields. Our professors do research and bring it into the classroom. I think that distinguishes DePaul…our business faculty are pretty accomplished, knowledgeable leaders, but what they do they channel towards the students, ‘here’s what going on in the field,’ ‘here’s what you need to know five years from now to be successful in this field.’”

Major Graduate Programs
Communication, Computing and Digital Media, Education, Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, Law, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Music, School for New Learning, Theatre

Little Known Fact
In the Computing and Digital Media program, DePaul offers a Master of Science in Computer Game Development, which not only includes work in graphics courses “relevant to game development,” but also studies in computer science, software engineering and networking.

Cost
$500-$1,160 per credit hour, depending on the field of study

Location/URL
1 East Jackson, (312)362-8000, depaul.edu/academics/graduate/programs/

Illinois Institute of Technology
About
The Illinois Institute of Technology Graduate College offers graduate degree and certificate programs in Engineering, Computer Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Architecture, Design, Information Technology and Management, Industrial Technology and Operations, Law, Psychology, Public Administration, Technical Communication and more. “We want the students to have strong fundamental knowledge so they can be flexible moving to different areas, as opposed to someone who would learn the latest techniques in a narrow field,” Dean Ali Cinar says. He says IIT strives to prepare students to “make them, from the first day, productive in the work environment, so that once they join a company, the company does not need to send them to training or teach them fundamentals or details of software packages.” In 2005, IIT was named one of the top eighty-one “best value” colleges by the Princeton Review, one of only four in Illinois that was chosen. Cinar says the school looks to produce “innovative, entrepreneurial spirits, rather than [people] waiting for orders to come down to them. They would be the ones who come up with suggestions for various opportunities as they see it. They have positive, proactive attitudes, the current tools [they need] to do what they have to do.”

Major Graduate Programs
Biology, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Applied Mathematics

Little Known Fact
IIT offers a program in Food Safety and Technology, which includes studies in Food Safety, Process and Product Development, Food Process Operations, Packaging, Food Biotechnology and Process and Quality Monitoring and Control, and is taught by scientists from the FDA.

Cost
Beginning at $832 per credit hour

Location/URL
10 West 33rd, (312)567-3020, www.iit.edu/graduate_college/

Loyola University
About
Loyola University offers more than forty master’s degree programs, more than twenty doctoral degrees and a handful of grad-level certificate programs, in everything from political science to nursing to theological studies. Its School of Continuing & Professional Studies specializes in management courses, including paralegal studies, business communication and organizational psychology. “The mission of Loyola is that we promote knowledge in the service of humanity. Both ethics and social justice are key components of our graduate program,” says Samuel Attoh, the Dean of the graduate school. “In terms of mission and the core values of the graduate school,” Attoh says, “one is the commitment to intellectual rigor. Certainly [students] have to gain mastery over their own discipline, but in addition to that, breadth of knowledge is an important component, so we try to foster a certain level of interdisciplinary study. Students should not only be a master of their own discipline, but also have a sense of how it connects with other related [areas of study]. The main distinguishing factor is the fact that we promote knowledge in the service of humanity. Part of that involves training ethical leaders who are committed to social and economical justice. We [foster] engaged scholars, the kind of scholars that utilize intellectual talent and resources to contribute to the common good, or the public good. Part of that means being an ethical leader who is sensitive to social and economic justice.” Attoh adds, “Especially in these times, you certainly have corruption in the public circle, so to speak, so it’s important to train decision makers.”

Major Graduate Programs
Humanities, Professional Programs, Social Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Little Known Fact
Loyola offers a graduate program strictly based in nineteenth-century studies, with a focus on British and American literature

Cost
Anywhere from $655-$780 per course for the Graduate School, and beginning at $500 for the School of Continuing & Professional Education

Location/URL
6525 North Sheridan, (773)274-3000, luc.edu

Northeastern Illinois University
About
The Graduate College at Northeastern Illinois University specializes in education programs and programs in arts and sciences, but also offers a handful of degrees in business and management, thirty-eight separate concentrations in all. “Quality Can Be Affordable” is the school’s mantra, and NEIU’s graduate programs heavily accommodate part-time, working students, so the majority of the coursework is during the late afternoon and evening. Most students in the graduate school at NEIU are part-time.

Major Graduate Programs
Programs in Arts and Sciences, Programs in Business and Management, Programs in Education

Little Known Fact
Northeastern offers a Master of Science in Exercise Science, a program built “to promote fitness, wellness and optimal human performance through teaching and research.”

Cost
Resident $220 per credit hour, non-resident $440 per credit hour

Location/URL
5500 North St. Louis, (773)442-6005, neiu.edu/~gradcoll/index.htm

Northwestern University
About
“The only truly unsuccessful [graduate] student is the one who doesn’t finish,” says Andrew Wachtel, Dean of The Graduate School of Northwestern University. The Graduate School, often abbreviated TGS, offers MAs, MFAs, MPHS, MSs and PhDs in more than seventy disciplines, plus degrees from several specific specialty schools, including the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music and the Medill School of Journalism (and both Evanston and Chicago campus sites). Interdisciplinary study is encouraged, says Wachtel, and Northwestern provides opportunities with combined degree programs. The school “prides itself on interdisciplinary research,” says Wachtel. And, he says, the school’s willing to adapt to new developments. “We need to redefine what success looks like,” he says. “[We’re] trying to make an atmosphere with as broad a definition of success as possible.” Separately, Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies offers master’s degree programs in Creative Writing, Literature, Public Policy and Administration, Sports Administration and more. The school’s designed for working adults so it predominantly offers evening programs.

Major Graduate Programs
Feinberg School of Medicine, Medill School of Journalism, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Kellogg School of Management

Little Known Fact
The School of Continuing Studies’ Psychology Department offers a course titled “Psychology and ‘Weird’ Beliefs,” in which students study topics as wide-ranging as witchcraft, alien abduction, parapsychology, repressed memories of abuse and spirit possession.

Cost
For The Graduate School, $12,252 each term. For the School of Continuing Studies, roughly $2,000-$4,000 per course depending on the field of study and type of degree sought

Location/URL
633 Clark, Evanston, (847)491-3741, tgs.northwestern.edu, scs.northwestern.edu

Robert Morris
About
Robert Morris Graduate School of Management offers three different tracks in its MBA program: Human Resources, Management and Accounting. The school’s Master of Information Systems program involves study in database management, information security and networking. Many of the school’s students attend part-time, and with seven different campuses, classes are available during evenings and even weekends.

Major Graduate Programs
Master of Business Administration, Master of Information Systems

Little Known Fact
The Accounting track of the MBA program offers a class focused solely on Fraud Prevention and Detection, which explores “how and why occupational fraud is committed, how fraudulent conduct can be deterred and how allegations of fraud should be investigated.”

Cost
$1,700 per class

Location
Several different campus sites (Chicago location: 401 South State, (800)225-1520), robertmorris.edu.com

Roosevelt University
About
Roosevelt University offers graduate study in several different fields, including Business Administration, Computer Science, Acting, Journalism, Music Composition, Real Estate and Women’s and Gender Studies. Divided into five separate colleges that encompass arts and sciences, business, education, performing arts and professional studies, Roosevelt has two campuses, one in the South Loop and another located in Schaumburg.

Major Graduate Programs
Business Administration, Theatre, International Business

Little Known Fact
The Evelyn T. Stone College of Professional Studies offers a Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management…could be pretty useful if we get those Olympics.

Cost
College of Education $13,640 per year, College of Performing Arts $26,125 per year, other colleges $14,730 per year

Location
430 South Michigan, (312)341-3500, roosevelt.edu

School of the Art Institute of Chicago
About
The city’s famed School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers graduate degrees in several areas, including Architecture, Art Therapy, Modern Art History, Theory and Criticism, Journalism, Historic Preservation and Fashion. Faculty includes Cynthia Coleman, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Anne Elizabeth Moore and Duncan MacKenzie. In its mission statement, the school’s graduate programs strive to provide “an extraordinary range and diversity of curricular offerings through studio and academic departments, and students are encouraged to work as multidisciplinary arts practitioners. Cross-curricular exploration allows students to deeply examine their orientation, which often provides a quintessential experience that shifts thinking and takes a student’s art making and/or scholarship into new levels of creativity.”

Major Graduate Programs
Art Education, Art Therapy, Modern Art History, Theory and Criticism, New Arts Journalism, Design in Fashion, Body and Garment

Little Known Fact
The Master of Design in Fashion, Body and Garment program provides a learning environment “through a combination of dedicated design studios, topical seminars, self-directed research, technical labs, design history and theory courses.”

Cost
$1,180 per credit hour

Location/URL
37 South Wabash, (312)629-6100, saic.edu

The University of Chicago
About
With 15,000 current graduate students and seven Nobel Prize winners currently on the faculty, the esteemed University of Chicago is renowned for several separate graduate schools, including the Booth School of Business and the Graham School of General Studies. “These are turbulent times, so the Graham School is only beginning to discern the shifting interests of our students,” says Daniel Shannon, Dean of U of C’s Graham School. Of current trends in enrollment, Shannon says, “There appears to be a slightly declining interest in single course offerings in the humanities, arts and sciences, but continuing strength in our humanities certificates,” including in the fields of Asian Classics and Creative Writing. “It is clear the economy is having an impact,” he continues. “Students seem to be looking to increase or broaden their knowledge base and, at the same time, improve their resume.” The University of Chicago is also home of the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, the highly regarded and advanced interdisciplinary graduate research program, which once held T.S. Eliot, Saul Bellow and J.M. Coetzee as faculty members (current members include classicist James M. Redfield and philosopher Jonathan Lear). Austan Goolsbee, of the university’s Booth School, currently serves as staff director and chief economist on President-elect Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Obama, of course, taught law for more than a decade at U of C.

Major Graduate Programs
Four graduate divisions in Biological Sciences, Humanities, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences. Six separate graduate schools: Divinity School, Booth School of Business, Pritzker School of Medicine, Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies and School of Social Service Administration. Plus, the Graham School of General Studies, which offers degrees, certificates and open enrollment programs.

Little Known Fact
The Graham School offers a Master of Science in Threat and Response Management, which is “designed to prepare public health professionals, law enforcement officials, fire and emergency personnel, medical and nursing professionals and policy makers to respond to and recover from complex incidents regardless of their size or cause,” according to its description. Incidents include, but are not exclusive to, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and disease outbreaks. Interest in the program’s development, according to Shannon, “grew out of the University of Chicago’s leadership in establishing a center of excellence in infectious disease research supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.”

Cost
Anywhere from $1,500 to more than $5,000 per course, depending on the graduate school. Courses in the Graham School start under $100.

Location/URL
5801 South Ellis, (773)702-1234, uchicago.edu

University of Illinois at Chicago
About
Best known for its medical school, one of the largest in the United States, UIC’s Graduate College specializes in medicine, health, nursing, nutrition and surgery studies, but also has renowned programs in business, chemical engineering and mathematics. The diverse programs offered at UIC make the school unique among area universities, with more than eighty different master’s degree options and more than fifty separate doctoral degree programs. UIC’s aim is to bring “together superb students with outstanding research faculty in a diverse and stimulating urban environment,” according to Dean Clark Hulse’s official message to prospective students. Currently there are more than 6,000 graduate students at UIC, helping make the school Chicago’s largest university.

Major Graduate Programs
Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, Nutrition, Nursing, Nursing Practice, Occupational Therapy, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy

Little Known Fact
UIC’s master’s program in Forensic Science teaches you to be a real-life “CSI,” focusing on several areas of laboratory disciplines, including trace evidence analysis and pattern evidence. (Also drug identification and toxicology.) According to the program’s description, “the role of forensic laboratory sciences in justice system processes is an integrating theme,” so, basically, you learn to catch bad guys.

Cost
For in-state students, from $1,422-$4,265, depending on how many hours are carried per semester.

Location/URL
601 South Morgan, (312)413-2550, grad.uic.edu/cms/

SPECIALTY SCHOOLS

The city is full of other places to study arts, crafts and avocations, including a few noteworthy institutions noted below.

Flashpoint Academy
The flash-y Flashpoint Academy specializes in media arts and sciences, offering two-year programs in Film/Broadcast Media, Recording Arts, Visual Effects/Animation and Game Development. Faculty includes filmmaker and visual artist Paula Froehle, writer and director Peter Hawley, recording engineer Bernie Mack and artist and animator Ted Gordon.

Cost
$25,000 per year

Location/URL
28 North Clark, (312)332-0707, flashpointacademy.com

Archeworks
Founded in 1993, this alternative design school offers a one-year multidisciplinary program in design in which students work “in multidisciplinary teams with nonprofit partners to create design solutions for social and environmental concerns.” Facutly includes Director of the Chicago Urban Parks Program for the Trust for Public Land Andrew Vesselinovitch, architect Mason Pritchett and landscape architectural designer Kees Lokman.

Cost
$6,200 per year

Location/URL
625 North Kingsbury, (312)867-72544, archeworks.org

Old Town School of Folk Music
Chicago’s premier music-lesson institution offers eight-week courses in a variety of instruments, including guitar, bass, banjo, fiddle, accordion, mandolin, harmonica and percussion, and also classes in performance production, songwriting, theory and dance and movement.

Cost
$160 per course

Location/URL
4544 North Lincoln & 909 West Armitage, (773)728-6000, oldtownschool.org

Free Will Astrology

Free Will Astrology No Comments »

By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): During his time in the Senate, former U.S. presidential candidate John McCain has been a strong advocate for Native Americans. As chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, he sponsored or co-sponsored seven bills in support of Indian rights. And yet Native Americans voted overwhelmingly for McCain’s opponent, Barack Obama, who has no such track record. When asked why, Native American author Sherman Alexie said that unlike most other groups, Indians don’t vote merely for their own narrow self-interest, but rather for the benefit of all. They felt Obama would be the best president for America. That’s the standard I urge you to use in the coming weeks, Aries. Stretch yourself as you work hard for the greater good, not just your own.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Hope “is not the conviction that something will turn out well,” wrote Czech writer and politician Vaclav Havel, “but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” That’s the kind of hope I suggest you invoke during your current adventures, Taurus. Be hungrier for meaning than for any specific outcome. If you do that, ironically, the outcome is more likely to be one you feel pretty good about.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Describing my writing, one critic said that I was “like a mutant love-child of Anais Nin and Jack Kerouac.” That also happens to be an apt description of the spirit you should bring to life in the coming weeks. So be like the memoirist Anais Nin: a collector of secrets, a connoisseur of intimacy, a fiercely sensitive alchemist who knows her own inner terrain better than anyone else knows their inner terrain. And also be like the novelist Jack Kerouac: a free-wheeling, fast-talking, wide-open traveler in quest of the spirit as it makes its wild plunge into matter.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): In giving the Nobel Prize for literature to French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, the award committee praised him as an “explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.” I suggest you consider doing some of that kind of exploring yourself in 2009, Cancerian. According to my reading of the astrological omens, you will generate rich benefits for yourself by learning from people and influences that are beneath the notice of the mainstream, whether they’re outside the box, off the grid, under the radar or immune to the taint of the collective delusions.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): “Obstacles are a natural part of life, just as boulders are a natural part of the course of a river,” notes the ancient Chinese book the “I Ching.” “The river does not complain or get depressed because there are boulders in its path.” I’d go so far to say—this is not in the original text, but is my twenty-first-century addition—that the river gets a sensual thrill as it glides its smooth current over the irregular shapes and hard skin of the rocks. It looks forward to the friction, exults in the intimate touch, loves the drama of the interaction. Sound like a pleasure you’d like to cultivate, Leo? It’s an excellent time to try it.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Until last August, Nigerian religious leader Mohammadu Bello Abubakar had eighty-six wives. Then an Islamic council ordered him to divorce all but four of them. He was reluctant at first—many of his 170 children were born of wives he’d have to separate from—but since the alternative was punishment by death, he ultimately agreed. From the standpoint of your own evolution, Virgo, 2009 will be an excellent time to draw inspiration from Abubakar. I encourage you, in other words, to cull the excess and chaos from your love life. If you’re single, narrow your focus down to a couple of fantasies rather than a wide variety. If you’re in a committed relationship that’s worth working on, swear off any possibility of cheating or escaping. In either case, perform an exorcism of all the ghosts that might threaten to distort your long-term romantic future.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): “It takes a lot of time to be a genius,” said author Gertrude Stein. “You have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.” I agree with her statement, which is why I have high hopes that you’re going to tap into more of your dormant genius in the coming days. The cosmic rhythms are nudging you to enjoy a time of profound slack, and I think there’s a good chance you’ll agree to that.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): If you’re an artist and you want to get steadily better at your craft, you need to continually refine your approach to telling the truth. The novelist Willa Cather said that. Now I’m here to invite you to adopt that strategy in 2009, whether you’re an artist or simply a person who wants to live your life artfully. The coming months will be one of the best times ever for you to penetrate to the heart of the truths you aspire to live by and become highly skilled at expressing them in every little thing you do.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): When gasoline prices soared last year, a Christian group called Pray at the Pump organized vigils at gas stations, where they prayed for God’s intervention. No one knows if their efforts were the cause, but the cost of gas did begin to plummet soon afterward. Inspired by their work, I have asked my team of non-denominational Prayer Warriors to gather in your behalf. Every evening for the next ten days, they will be calling on their connections with the Divine Wow to help you Sagittarians come up with smart and practical long-term plans for your financial well-being. On your end, you can supercharge their efforts by doing the appropriate research and meditation.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Please don’t wear a t-shirt that says what I saw on the canary yellow t-shirt of the Japanese tourist at JFK airport: “Sorry, I’m a loser.” I also beg you not to read Ethan Trex’s book “How to Seem Like a Better Person Without Actually Improving Yourself.” It’s very important, in my astrological opinion, that you not demean or underestimate yourself in the coming days. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that you have a sacred duty to exalt your beauty and exult in your talents. Now go read Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” and periodically murmur the first line all week long: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself.”

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): While loitering on a sidewalk outside a nightclub in San Francisco on a September night back in 1994, I found the cover of a booklet lying in the gutter. Written by Marilena Silbey and Paul Ramana Das, it was called “How To Survive Passionate Intimacy with a Dreamy Partner While Making a Fortune on the Path to Enlightenment.” Unfortunately, the rest of the text was missing. Over the years, I’ve tried to hunt down a copy of the whole thing, hungry for its wisdom, but have never had any success. I’m hoping that maybe you will consider writing your own version of the subject in the coming year, Aquarius. With the luck I expect you to have, you might actually be up to the task.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Now and then you may be able to whip up a wonderful breakthrough in the blink of an eye. But more often it’s the case that beauty and truth and love and justice emerge in their full glory only over the course of a painstaking, step-by-step, trial-and-error process. “All that I made before the age of 65 is not worth counting,” wrote renowned Japanese painter Hokusai. “At 73 I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes and insects. At 90 I will enter into the secret of things. At 110 everything—every dot, every dash—will live.” At this juncture in your personal evolution, Pisces, it’s a perfect time to re-commit yourself to your life-long work.

Homework: Send me a list of your top five New Year’s resolutions. Go to RealAstrology.com and click on “Email Rob.”

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the capricious contours of celebrity

Chicago Hype Exchange No Comments »

This Week’s Biggest Gainers
1
Chicago Blackhawks
Even though the team lost, the game between the Hawks and the rival Red Wings at Wrigley Field on New Years Day achieved the best ratings the NHL has seen in thirteen years. Continued good play on the Hawks behalf has sportswriters chirping resurgence.

2
Milton Bradley
The Cubs signed the troubled outfielder to a three-year, $30 million deal. Please, don’t go crazy, Milton.

3
Jay Mariotti
The sports columnist everyone loves to hate debuted at a new venue, AOLsports.com.

4
Aaron Miles
The Cubs welcomed the utility infielder to the team with a two-year contract.

5
Roland Burris
The former Attorney General of Illinois was Blago’s choice to fill Obama’s vacated Senate seat, but…

This Week’s Biggest Losers

1
Roland Burris
…failing to have Secretary of State Jesse White’s signature of approval, the Senate would not seat him, and it’s embarrassing and sad, yet a little funny because…

2
Rod Blagojevich
…they wouldn’t even let him in the building, so to speak, so nice try, Blago.

3
Barack Obama
Amid all the Burris/Blago drama, the President-elect was forced to face more controversy in the Bill Richardson withdrawal, who he had nominated as Secretary of Commerce.

4
Lucas M. Bailey, Jerry Bryant
The Joliet men were arrested and charged with a hate crime after beating an African-American man with garbage cans outside a gas station.

5
Mark DeRosa
The much-liked Cubs utility player was dealt to the Cleveland Indians for three measly second-rate prospects. So long, DeRo. You were good.

Season’s Greenings: Putting wrapping paper to use at the Notebaert Museum

Green, Museums No Comments »

Each Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa season, people spend hours wrapping presents for co-workers and bosses, neighbors and pets, paperboys and babysitters, favorite teachers, insurance adjusters and loved ones. Then, in a matter of a few short seconds, all that hard, heartfelt work and beautiful paper is cruelly slashed through and carelessly discarded, never to be used again. It’s a holiday tragedy of epic proportions. But, never fear, the Peggy Notebaert Museum is here.

“So many people throw away wrapping paper and we are trying to reduce what goes into the waste stream,” explains museum educator Kat Silverstein. “There is so much to do with wrapping paper instead of throwing it out.”

As part of its annual Gifting Green Holiday Recycling Program, the Nature Museum organizes the creation of a community wrapping-paper mural.

“It is partly to create something beautiful for ourselves and partly to show people how to re-use,” Silverstein elaborates.

Upstairs at the Peggy Notebaert Museum, it’s a workshop of post-holiday production. Kids flutter here, there and everywhere using recycled wrapping paper to fill in the colorful painting created by freelance museum educator Erik Peterson.

“I can touch the sky!” exclaims 4-year-old Noah Goldblatt as he uses bright blue Chanukah paper to decorate the sky of Peterson’s painting. “Well, not the sky outside, but this sky,” he dutifully corrects himself.

In another corner, 5-year-old Kalea abandons the paint-by-numbers structure of the community mural and uses wrapping paper to create a thank-you note for Mrs. Claus, perceptively sensing, perhaps, that she is often overlooked and under-appreciated.

“Dear Mrs. Claus, You are very nice. Thank you. Kiss Kiss Kiss,” it reads.

The community-wrapping-paper-mural, a work almost entirely dependent on the attention span of young museum-goers, often becomes a long-term project.

“The two murals we created last year took two weeks to finish,” says Peterson.

Understandably. Earth-saving and masterpiece-making can’t happen overnight. Fortunately, the museum is willing to put in the time.

“Green programs are our M.O. here,” says Silverstein. “We want to show people that there is nature in Chicago and that city-dwellers can be responsible for their own imprint.”

Practicing what they preach, the museum gets greener every day. They rely heavily on natural light, use solar panels, eat with environmentally friendly, made-from-potatoes cutlery and walk around on compostable carpet squares.

While Chicago does not yet have a comprehensive recycling program (“If New York can do it, we can do it,” says Silverstein), the mural project and all others like it at the museum demonstrate daily progress. (Meaghan Strickland)