Street Smart Chicago

Shooting Kids for Hire: A day in the life of a school picture photographer

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By Patrick RobertsIMG_4795

It is school picture day, and the little girl in pigtails won’t stop crying. Perhaps she thinks the camera will steal her soul. I am tempted to reassure her with a firm and pointed “Relax!” but fortunately for her (or actually her parents), photographer Brian Warling has far more patience than I. “Peek-a-boo,” he says from behind the oval light reflector. Sitting on a low table in front of a white backdrop, the sobbing girl turns her head in Warling’s direction. He steps out from behind the reflector and hoots like a monkey. It’s the smart move of a professional who takes pride in his work because, well, who doesn’t love a monkey? Warling’s ploy is just enough to get the girl smiling, sort of, and he quickly takes some photos. When finished, the little girl climbs off the table, gives one last cathartic sob, and then turns her attention to a helium-voiced kid banging on the foosball table in the corner of the room.

“Anyone who hates children and animals,” W. C. Fields is said to have remarked, “can’t be all bad.” For me it depends on the children and the animals. I personally hate ferrets and the Little Rascals. Brian Warling very much likes children (and animals too from the sound of it), which is a good thing because over the next few months he will personally shoot more than three thousand of them. A commercial photographer who specializes in children, Warling started his company Picture Day five years ago with one school. Today he shoots school pictures in more than thirty. Add in summer camps and other youth-oriented gatherings, and all told he and his part-time staff will photograph approximately 20,000 kids over the course of a year. Read the rest of this entry »

American Dogs: The pups are the truly blessed

Avondale, Events, News etc. No Comments »

DogBlackLabHead“A lot of churches don’t recognize animals as souls,” says Linda, the proud owner of an adorable barrel-shaped mutt named Buddy that they found in an alley a few years back. Along with her husband Jim, the family ventures out on a brisk Saturday afternoon to The Irving Park United Methodist Church in Avondale to join their fellow dog lovers in a seasonal event called “Dog Bless America.”

Standing outside the church are a gaggle of furry barking friends and their owners waiting to walk up to the steps and receive a little holy good fortune. Virginia, a member of the community, says this is her first time getting her dog blessed, but has seen other churches participate every year around early October. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the capricious contours of celebrity

Chicago Hype Exchange, News etc. No Comments »

This Week’s Biggest Gainers

1 Barack Obama
The president of the United States was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): You say you not only want to be loved, but that you also want to love? Then learn the fantasies and symbols and beliefs that hold people’s lives together. Be interested in feeling the crushing weight and deep comfort of their web of memories. Every now and then, dive in and swim along in their stream of consciousness. And yes, be willing to accompany them when they’re writhing in their personal hells as well as when they’re exploring the suburbs of paradise. All these tasks will be aexceptionally worthy of your time in the coming weeks, Aries. Read the rest of this entry »

Race Review: Bank of America Chicago Marathon (October 11, 2009)

Running 1 Comment »

Marathon09Walking toward the runner-reunion destination after the marathon, I noticed another finisher walking in the same direction. Her face seemed pained; she looked, well, a bit unwell, so I decided to gently inquire into her status. “Congratulations, how was everything, I asked?” “Great!” she responded. “I did a personal record!” My concerns about her wellbeing clearly unfounded, she went on to tell me that Chicago was her favorite marathon—she was from North Carolina—and that this was her fourth time running it. Favorite, even though she’d been here last two years ago, when the race was cut short due to extreme heat, a turn of events that had been a great disappointment for her.

Her belief, that Chicago is a great race despite its occasional flaws both major and minor, rings true: it is an outstanding race, combing a great course, outstanding fans and crackerjack management—its scale offering resources to focus on details unlike most any other—the bridges are carpeted!—but with a handful of shortcomings, many of them also manifestations of its size (just under 35,000 runners started the race and more than 33,000 finished). Read the rest of this entry »

My Marathon? Running for, and from, life. An unlikely story

Essays & Commentary, News etc., Running No Comments »

By Brian HieggelkeChi-Marathon-08-near-start

Mile 1
Nike changed my life. Ordinarily, I’m no corporate shill but bear with me.

October 2005, I’m watching the Chicago Marathon on the television in my apartment. Saying the same thing I say every October: “I can’t relate to what they’re doing. I can’t even imagine ever wanting to run 26 miles. Those people are crazy.” October 2009, I’m registered to race in my first marathon, at the age of 47.

What happened? Nike+iPod happened. And I became a distance runner.

Four years ago and fifty-some-odd pounds heavier, I’m at the doctor for a routine physical. High blood pressure. I can either exercise and diet, or I can start the meds now. I think about my dad, who’d had heart-bypass surgery a few years earlier and who’d been on the meds as long as I can remember, adding pills to his diet as quickly as his aging body added maladies. I’m not ready to be my dad yet. My inner self-portrait is youthful, vigorous and thin, like I’d been up until I quit playing football my junior year in college. Up to now, my girth is just a temporary setback. Temporary going on thirty years. The doctor gives me a wake-up call. I’m not in college anymore. Time to change. As soon as I get through the holidays, of course.

January 1, 2006, I start exercising daily. Read the rest of this entry »

Games Over: A wake at Daley Plaza

Loop, News etc., Politics No Comments »

853755_47726595Barely a foot outside the office on my way to Daley Plaza to hear the final Olympics announcement, and Chicago is shockingly eliminated in the first round of voting. There will be no Games on the Lake.

This is what dashed dreams look like. The Olympic supporters still mingle and sway in the Loop, either in disbelief of Chicago’s quick dismissal or simply weary of returning back to work. Orange everywhere—the Chicago Olympic ad campaign, the 2016 logo, on banners, t-shirts, signs and pamphlets. Some optimistic sign-sporters have altered theirs to Chicago 2020, a “there’s always next year” glow of disappointment and acceptance on their drizzle-pecked faces. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Hype Exchange: Charting the capricious contours of celebrity

Chicago Hype Exchange, News etc. No Comments »

This Week’s Biggest Gainers

1 Jay Cutler
The Bears QB tossed two more touchdown passes against the Lions; he also ran for a TD, diving into the end zone. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): The poet Stephen Mallarmé wrote the following in a letter to a friend: “I don’t know which of my internal climates I should explore in order to find you and meet you.” I love that passage. It alludes to one of the central facts about the nature of reality: The quality of your consciousness is crucial in determining whether you’ll be able to attract the resources that are essential to your dreams coming true. In order to get what you want, you have to work on yourself at least as hard as you work on the world around you. This is always true, of course, but it’s especially true for you now, Aries. Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Ride: Kiddieland gives the public its final weekend

Events, News etc. No Comments »

2970394560_553f4b337fWe are seeing a disappearing act in our midst. The wholesome summer safe havens of childhood amusement parks are closing left and right. Another casualty can be checked off the list as the magical landmark of Chicago must call it quits. Kiddieland brought smiles to children and adults alike since first opening its doors in 1929 and served its community well for those eighty-one years. As the oldest amusement park in the Chicago area, the reminiscence alone is reason enough to shed a sentimental tear as it closes its gates on September 27.

The Kiddieland Limited Locomotive, featuring the last steam engine running in Chicago, will soon become a ghost train as it rides the rails one last time on this sunny Sunday afternoon. Along with the Limited, all the rides are free of charge with ticket purchase on the sad, last day of a true Chicago pastime. The Tilt-a-Whirl will stop spinning, the Little Dipper won’t dip and the beloved Log Jammer will jam no more. Tom, a Kiddieland employee from 1967 to 1969, says, “I feel bad about the park closing. I’ve come here all my life. I worked here, came here and it’s the last park in Chicago.” Others share Tom’s feeling, like Mary, who has been coming here since she was a little girl, as she waits nearly an hour with her grandchildren to enjoy the experience one last time. Read the rest of this entry »