Street Smart Chicago

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 5, 2015

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): To depict what lay beyond the limits of the known world, medieval mapmakers sometimes drew pictures of dragons and sea serpents. Their images conveyed the sense that these territories were uncharted and perhaps risky to explore. There were no actual beasties out there, of course. I think it’s possible you’re facing a comparable situation. The frontier realm you are wandering through may seem to harbor real dragons, but I’m guessing they are all of the imaginary variety. That’s not to say you should entirely let down your guard. Mix some craftiness in with your courage. Beware of your mind playing tricks. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of February 26, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Lately your life reminds me of the action film “Speed,” starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. In that story, a criminal has rigged a passenger bus to explode if its speed drops below fifty miles per hour. In your story, you seem to be acting as if you, too, will self-destruct if you stop moving at a frantic pace. I’m here to tell you that nothing bad will happen if you slow down. Just the opposite, in fact. As you clear your schedule of its excessive things-to-do, as you leisurely explore the wonders of doing nothing in particular, I bet you will experience a soothing flood of healing pleasure. Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: New Ideas for Winter Holidays

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


Dime Stories: The Real Face of Obamacare

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Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick

By Tony Fitzpatrick

Chances are, the most defining achievement of the Obama administration is the passage of the Affordable Care Act, i.e. “ObamaCare.” After a long battle, the bill that was eventually passed was gutted by Republicans and Democrats alike. The point is that it passed. The reactionary among us want you to equate ObamaCare with a black, yellow or brown face when, truth be told, the greatest beneficiaries of ObamaCare are white baby boomers.

As much quarrel as I have with Guantanamo, drones and the continuous warfare, I must admit to anyone who will listen that Barack Obama saved my life. Without the Affordable Care Act, I would not be here. And I am sure it warms the cockles of your heart to know that my ample white ass was able to purchase health insurance. The true face of ObamaCare is ME. Male, mid-fifties, overweight, with one pre-existing condition that excluded me from the luxury of being able to buy “normal people” health insurance…. anywhere. I went for nearly two years without any health insurance. Insurance companies are particularly offensive to me because they pretend to give a fuck about you. I don’t know who to hate more, big pharma or insurance companies. Big pharma at least admits they are pigs and are in it for the money. What is odious about the insurance industry is that they pretend to care about you and yours: Right… I got your “good neighbor” right here, swinging. Read the rest of this entry »

Checkerboard City: Take This Job and Shovel

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"Every Day I'm Shoveling" Photo: Active Trans

“Every Day I’m Shoveling”/Photo: Active Trans

By John Greenfield

After Mother Nature dumped 19.3 inches of snow on us earlier this month, many viewed Chicago as a post-apocalyptic hellscape, but I felt the city became something of a utopia. Drivers were forced to slow down to sensible speeds, and folks helped out neighbors and strangers in numerous ways. The main sour note was the reappearance of “dibs,” the selfish practice of reserving dug-out parking spaces with old junk.

The day after the blizzard, I found cross-country skiing to be the most efficient way to get around. As I shushed down the middle of unplowed side streets from my home to the library to band practice and back, I encountered five different stuck motorists. Helping them push their marooned automobiles out of the snow’s clutches gave me a warm feeling inside.

However, not everyone can strap on a pair of skis to avoid trudging through the white stuff on uncleared sidewalks. When property owners neglect their civic duty by failing to shovel in a timely manner, it creates a significant barrier for people with disabilities, seniors and young kids, and a major annoyance for the rest of us.

Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke pointed out in a recent blog post that heavy snowfalls make it obvious most cities prioritize driving over walking and biking. Ever since Mayor Michael Bilandic lost reelection in the wake of a 1979 blizzard that paralyzed Chicago, local mayors have generally done a bang-up job of getting the streets plowed for drivers.

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Free Will Astrology: Week of February 19, 2015

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By  Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): There are many different facets to your intelligence, and each matures at a different rate. So for example, your ability to think symbolically may evolve more slowly than your ability to think abstractly. Your wisdom about why humans act the way they do may ripen more rapidly than your insight into your own emotions. In the coming weeks, I expect one particular aspect of your intelligence to be undergoing a growth spurt: your knowledge of what your body needs and how to give it what it needs. Read the rest of this entry »

Free Will Astrology: Week of February 12, 2015

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By Rob Brezsny

ARIES (March 21-April 19): I hope you have someone in your life to whom you can send the following love note, and if you don’t, I trust you will locate that someone no later than August 1: “I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you, and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else, and never will love anyone else.” (This passage is borrowed from author Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Everything Is Illuminated.”) Read the rest of this entry »

Linework: Dynamic Stories From Another Dimension

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


Chicago, Earth

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Cover by Talya Modlin

Cover by Talya Modlin

As we prepare to launch our experiment in the future of cultural globalism, Newcity Brazil (read more about it at, we’ve developed a much deeper understanding of the challenges as well as the rewards of being “a stranger in a strange land.” And while travel is a transformative way to reshape our understanding of the world in which we live, the very city around us is full of such experiences as well, with resources ranging from institutions like Instituto Cervantes, the Goethe Institut and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, to our friends and neighbors, many of whom enter our lives from an entirely different point of origin and enrich us so much more for the experience. And so, on these pages, some of the city’s finest—the world’s finest—novelists, poets and journalists share a slice of their experience. Enrich yourself. (Brian Hieggelke) Read the rest of this entry »

Half and Half and Wholly Human: Searching for Meaning in “What Are You?”

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Nina Coomes and sister in Japan

Nina Coomes and sister in Japan

By Nina Coomes

“What are you?”

The first time Chicago asked me this question, it was out of the mouth of an inquisitive twelve-year-old boy. It was the first day of school at Mary Gage Peterson Elementary. I was the New Girl, wearing blue jeans, white ankle socks and a teal sweatshirt that says “SOCCER CHICK” down the arm because I figured nerds don’t wear sweatshirts with sports words on them. The school yard was riotous–a far cry from the orderly lines of yellow-capped students filing into a Japanese first-grade classroom, even further still from the soft siphon of school bus to hallway introduced to me when my parents first moved us from Japan to rural Illinois.

Boys flung backpacks over the black iron fence, their too-big t-shirts flapping like seagull wings as they hurled themselves onto trampled grass. A flock of girls with gold earrings swarm by the double doors licking Hot Cheetos dust off manicured fingers. Parents crowded nervously around the asphalt where we were supposedly lining up by grade, shouting warnings, farewells, admissions of love in languages I had never heard before.

“No, really, what are you?”

I recalled the question being posed, and examined my options.  Read the rest of this entry »