Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Chicago is a livable city. Or so says The Economist. So stick it, Trump!

I have long been a boaster of the merits of Chicago, thinking that this city on the shores of Lake Michigan is one of the world’s greatest.
Even with its pollution, the Chicago River brings a beauty to the city. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

So I’m not about to dispute the study by The Economist’s intelligence unit that says amongst U.S. cities, Chicago is one of the most livable. Even though I’m sure that President Donald J. Trump with his constantly-snotty criticisms of our city would have his own objecting opinion to that.

THE BRITISH-INFLUENCED news magazine did its annual Global Livability Ranking, which studies 140 cities around the world in various categories, including their economic stability, healthcare and the quality of their infrastructure.

I can’t say personally that they’re full of it in saying that Melbourne, Australia is the most livable city in the world. I’ve never been there. It may well be a wonderful place to live.

Yet I’m not inclined to make a move from Chicago’s Sout’ Side to the land Down Under any time soon.
Amongst the city's cultural amenities
For what it’s worth, the study acknowledges 10 U.S. cities, and finds that in the United States, only Honolulu, Washington and Boston outrank it.

PERSONALLY, I’VE VISITED D.C. and Boston and thought they were interesting places. Although I wouldn’t be inclined to want to move there any time soon.
An edible treat with its Chicago origins
As for Honolulu, I’m sure the weather is fantastic. But the islands’ isolation from the mainland U.S. – or just about any other place on Earth – create complications for daily life.
Our city's nameplate

Everything out there gets ridiculously expensive. I’d hate to hear from the people who are complaining that the pop tax makes the cost of a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola too costly having to deal with life in a place where a gallon of milk can cost $6 (compared to the $1.99 I usually pay).

As for the only other Midwestern city to make the Economist intelligence unit study – Minneapolis – I’ll give my aunt Christine some credit when she says her move from Chicago to Illinois several decades ago was the best thing she ever did in life.

PERSONALLY, I’M INCLINED to like Chicago so much because it has a wide variety of just about everything. Even in terms of weather. When it gets ridiculously humid here, I am eased by thinking that it won’t be much longer before the weather becomes more moderate.
An entry point

And that soon after that, it will be so ridiculously cold that I’ll be wishing the humidity would could back.

There’s also the ethnic composition that includes large groups of Irish, Mexicans and Poles, but also manages to work in just about every other ethnicity on Planet Earth so that you literally can find a trace of anyone and everyone in this city.

While I’m sure that wasn’t a factor The Economist took into account when putting together its study, it’s certainly something I’m going to want to see. I can’t envision living life in places where everybody is alike. I have had short life stints in such places, and they’re the reason why Chicago always winds up feeling like a magnet to my spirit – perpetually pulling me back.
A blot on Chicago's image?

TO THE POINT where the reporter-type person in me couldn’t envision wanting to write about any place other than Chicago. Even when our city takes on a seedy character, it usually manages to do so in a way that intrigues ourselves and makes us wonder how we’ll work our way out of our predicaments.

There is one part of this study that manages to catch my attention. New York City doesn’t manage to make it into the 10 most livable cities in this country – let alone the world.

My guess is that the city can be so expensive that that winds up striking them down. Although I have my own theory that I’d love to believe has some truth to it.

Trump is a New York native and has done some of his most vulgar contributions to architecture and real estate development in that city. Perhaps the notion of being a part of the same city as Trump just makes the thought of having to live there just a little too noxious to tolerate.


Monday, August 21, 2017

EXTRA: The moment arrives!!!

This is the sight we're all hoping to see. I didn't make the sojourn to Southern Illinois, or to anywhere else in the nation where it would be possible to see a total eclipse.

But this was what I saw on television just moments ago, and my understanding is that those people locally who made the trip downstate will see something similar in about an hour.


Missing out on the eclipse yet again; yet I think I’ll survive the moment

Maybe I’m just not adventurous enough, but I’m not amongst the many thousands of people whom the greater Carbondale metropolitan area is counting on to provide an economic jolt on Monday.
Theoretically, this is the ideal image people will see

All those out-of-towners who are showing up in Southern Illinois in hopes of finding a spot where when the solar eclipse occurs, they’ll be able to see the scarce site of the Sun being totally blocked out by the Moon.

ADMITTEDLY, THAT EVENT will only last for a few moments. The darkened sky will disappear within minutes, and daylight will return to all of us on Monday.

If it doesn’t, then of course we will have experienced a catastrophic event that likely will wipe out all life in existence on this planet. We’ll have far bigger concerns than whether the dark will go away.

Anyway, I didn’t try to make the trip to the land known to the locals as Egypt – largely because I think that trip is ridiculously long. Illinois is a much larger state than people usually credit it for; some 500 miles north to south and 350 miles east to west.

Consider all the Chicago-area people who chose to attend college at the University of Illinois and who think the trip to Urbana is one deep into the Land of Lincoln. Then consider that drive isn’t even the half-way point to places like Carbondale and Murphysboro.

IT’S A DAY-long trip to get there, and a day-long event to drive back. And if you think that flight somehow saves you time, a plane to St. Louis puts you about a three-hour drive away from the optimum sites to see the darkened skies.
Did you buy? Or find a freebie pair?

So I’ll pass, although for what it’s worth, my father and step-mother are amongst those people making the sojourn to Southern Illinois. They even managed to get free pairs of the special dark-lensed glasses that you’re supposed to use to protect your eyes when you look directly into the sun.

Yes, it seems the Adler Planetarium made glasses available without charge – which probably burns the toast, so to speak of those individuals who turned to Amazon.com and shelled out as much as 12 bucks for a pair of cardboard shades that make them look like Biff’s sidekick in the “Back to the Future” film.

Or those people who turned to Wal-mart, which advertised on their website that the normal price was $19.99, but that they were discounting them to $9.99 – and as of Saturday were completely sold out.
Biff and his buddies

MAYBE PART OF the reason I’m not up for this excuse for a road trip is that I have to confess to having been around for the last time that the moon blocked the view of the sun back in 1979.

Yet I honestly have only the vaguest recollections of that event having occurred. I certainly don’t remember the sky suddenly darkening as though the Sun ceased to exist!

I honestly believe that many people who make the trip are going to be seriously disappointed by what they see. I only hope they build in some time to their extended weekend so they can check out some of the uniqueness of Southern Illinois so as to make their drive there and back home worthwhile.

Personally, I’m more inclined to think the unique sight could come from right here in Chicago, where we’re not going to see a total eclipse – we’re at the wrong angle so all we’re going to see is a partial one.

I’M STILL TRYING to figure out if it’s worth my trying to take some image – since I’ll be the first to admit to not being worth much as a photographer and that the “camera” I’d be using is a cheap one that usually comes up with passable images on occasions where there are optimal natural lighting conditions.
Watching the eclipse near where I-57 and 70 intersect?

Yet by its very definition, a total eclipse is going to block out all the light.

Which is why I’m sure there will be many millions of people who will be sticking their cell phones in the sky hoping to capture an image that will wind up being blurred and unidentifiable.

Kind of like all those “selfies” that get taken of people supposedly with a celebrity – only the thumb conveniently covers up the prime spot that would have been interesting.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

EXTRA: 66 years since Gaedel had his "moment" in the baseball sun

It was 66 years ago on Saturday that the name Eddie Gaedel became something anyone would bother to remember.

Gaedel was a Chicago native who was a dwarf and would up using his lack of height (3-foot, 7-inches) to make him a performer. On Aug. 19, 1951, he made his grandest performance when Bill Veeck used him to gain national attention for his St. Louis Browns ball club.

GAEDEL PLAYED HIS one-and-only major league game. He was a pinch hitter for the leadoff batter and drew a walk on four straight pitches because the Detroit Tigers hurler couldn't throw strikes to one so short.

It was his only game as a ballplayer. But let's not forget that Gaedel did another stint on a major league playing field. There was that ballgame at Comiskey Park in 1960 where "Martians" landed in a helicopter and used a conveniently-placed microphone placed on the playing field to declare that White Sox stars Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox were honorary Martians (because of their lack of physical stature).

Gaedel being one of the  men from Mars who supposedly took an interest in baseball.

Sadly enough, that latter stunt was his final baseball-related appearance. He was mugged a year later in Chicago, and suffered injuries that resulted in him suffering a heart attack from which he died in 1961. He remains in his eternal rest, buried at St. Mary's Cemetery.
Gaedel one of 'martians' who took to infield at Comiskey Park in 1960


Rauner really needs to make up his mind on how tied he is to Trump

It has always been the political quandary faced by Gov. Bruce Rauner – he may have anti-organized labor attitudes, but he’s really not interested in all the other conservative issues that the ideologues of our society get worked up over.
RAUNER: Trying to avoid Trump burn

So Rauner has always had to do a rhetorical dance around many issues, particularly whenever the name of Donald J. Trump comes up.

BECAUSE THE LAST thing the governor wants to have happen as he seeks re-election in 2018 is for all the people who despise the idea of “President Donald Trump” to take out that hostility by voting against him.

But there’s also the reality that outside of the Chicago area, the part of Illinois where a Rauner re-election effort will focus much of its attention, Trump has his fans.

As in Illinois would have been amongst the Great Lakes states that swung over into his favor – if only the strong Chicago-area electorate hadn’t have pushed Illinois over into the Hillary Clinton column for the Electoral College.

If Rauner goes too hard in speaking out against the incumbent president, he could wind up finding himself alienating the people he’s going to need if he’s to have any chance of getting re-elected.

SO THAT IS why it was considered somewhat of a bold move on Wednesday at the Illinois State Fair when Rauner used a political rally to rip into the nit-witted way in which Trump has handled responding to the race-motivated violence in Charlottesville, Va.
TRUMP: Taking down all in his path?

Under a headline of Governor lays into Trump, the Chicago Tribune reported that Rauner said, “We must stand together against hatred and racism and bigotry and violence and we must condemn those actions in Charlottesville in the strongest terms.”

Much stronger than the presidential rhetoric about how there’s blame on “both sides” and how “not all of those people were neo-Nazis. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”

But just when one thinks Rauner is taking a side and trying to distance himself from the presidential nonsense being spewed to legitimize the people who are the source of our society’s problems, it seems he’s trying not to go too far.

TAKE THE INTERVIEW he gave Friday to WBEZ-FM, where he talked about a pending bill that would limit across the state of Illinois the ability of law enforcement to get itself involved in immigration law enforcement.
How much are J.B., Dems counting on Rauner to beat self

Chicago and Cook County already have such actions on their books – the measures that have caused the Trump types to threaten the federal funding our city and county receive. Rauner won’t say for sure whether he’ll sign it. “An announcement about that in the next couple of days” is as far as he’ll commit.

Could Rauner be contemplating a veto, or some sort of amendatory action, to tamper with the bill that is meant to reinforce the faith people have in their police to behave properly, and which even Rauner himself has called, “a reasonable compromise.”

Something to convince those more ideologically-inclined to keep their faith in him, and not get upset that he bad-mouthed “The Donald” – kicking the president when he’s furthest down (only 38 percent approval as of Friday, according to the Gallup Organization’s daily tracking poll).

OF COURSE, IF he goes too far, he’ll wind up antagonizing the urban electorate of Illinois. What Rauner wants is apathy amongst Chicago voters. What he needs is to not do anything that harms his own interests.
COULTER: Expressing ideologue truth?

Because the ideologues don’t have a natural affinity for him, the significance of that recent outburst by that ninny of a pundit, Ann Coulter, who responded to a Fox News interview the governor gave about education funding in Illinois by saying (rather crudely) Rauner, “either is retarded or is playing retard.”

The honest truth is that if a Democrat manages to win the 2018 gubernatorial election, it’s going to be because Rauner managed to blow it – not because people have any love for J.B. Pritzker or any other Dem hopeful.

Which is what all the mechanizations these days of Rauner are all about – a balancing act to prevent the Age of Trump from incinerating his political future.


Friday, August 18, 2017

EXTRA: “Historically bonkers?” Playoffs nothin’ compared to ‘67 AL

The American League pennant race this season is getting some people worked up because, besides Boston, Cleveland and Houston leading their respective divisions, the New York Yankees are the best second-place team and eight other teams are within 3 ½ games of a wild card spot.

That makes for 12 of the league’s 15 ball clubs (but NOT the Chicago White Sox) having a shot at a playoff spot. “Historically bonkers” is how The Sporting News (the one-time Bible of Baseball) described the current conditions.

YET I CAN’T help but think that all it means is there are many teams that ought not to think of themselves as pennant contenders are being deluded into thinking they have a chance to achieve something of significance this season.

I’ve been thinking about this because of the fact that it has been 50 years since the American League really DID have a bonkers-type season. 1967, which might be the Summer of Love to some people, was also the year that the American League nearly finished in a four-way tie for first place.

The Boston Red Sox have been having ceremonies this week to mark the fact that they ultimately won the league championship.

Just this Wednesday, many old ballplayers turned out at Fenway Park – including our very own Ken Harrelson – the Hawk took time out from his duties as Chicago White Sox broadcaster to remember that year when he joined the Red Sox in mid-season and became a key part of why the team was able to rise from a Ninth Place finish the year before to a league championship in ’67.

HARRELSON MAY HAVE fond memories of that year. We all know he’s shared many a Red Sox-inspired tale during his broadcasts throughout the decades.

But we in Chicago have less-pleasant memories of that summer when I turned 2 years old – the White Sox wound up being the team that finished in fourth place out of the four teams.

Albeit only 3 games behind the Red Sox (with the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins finishing in a tie for second place 1 game behind Boston).

That was the season where the four teams went into the final weekend with a very-real chance of a four-way tie for first place. Only the White Sox had to pick then to go on a losing streak – including getting beaten in both games of a final-day-of-the-season double-header, losing to the Kansas City Athletics.

WHO IRONICALLY ENOUGH were the worst team in the American League that year. Tenth place, and in fact they moved from Kansas City after the season to their current locale in Oakland, Calif.

The Kansas City Athletics got to end their existence with a bang – being the team that knocked the White Sox out of contention.

Although for what it’s worth, one White Sox ballplayer that year was outfielder Tommie Agee. He being the same guy who two years later got his chance at World Series heroics and made an outfield catch that New York Mets fans still remember to this day.

So for as much as some people like to bash about Harrelson for being too much of a “homer” who favors the White Sox, keep in mind that his glory days may well be those back in Boston.

THE FAILURE OF ’67 may also sting because that year was the end of a 17-season streak of winning seasons the White Sox experienced. For 1968 was the beginning of a losing period that we’re once again recalling now because of how badly the White Sox are playing this season. The Sox may come close to losing 106 games this year like they did in 1970.

As for Detroit and Minnesota, each had their own odd Chicago connections.

For the Twins, it was their top pitcher Jim Kaat, who by the early-to-mid 1970s became a White Sox pitcher of some talent. While the Tigers had as one of their top pitchers Denny McLain – who actually was a native of suburban Markham and the one-time son-in-law of former Cubs broadcaster Lou Boudreau.

And who went on to his own notoriety in baseball when he managed in 1968 to win 31 games – the last pitcher to come close to that level.


A fitting result for would-be Confederate memorial on South Side

The national stink over removing all those statues erected across the South to pay tribute to the leaders of the one-time Confederate States is taking on a unique Chicago angle.
They rest in a changed neighborhood and under a U.S. flag. How appropriate for old Confederates

I’m talking about the statue that exists at the Oak Woods Cemetery in the Grand Crossing neighborhood. It marks the spot known as Confederate Mound, which actually is a mass grave for thousands of prisoners of war during the Civil War who were shipped to Chicago, held here and wound up dying here without ever seeing their native South again.

MANY OF US probably don’t realize that the one-time Camp Douglas in Chicago wound up being a prison camp for those southern sympathizers whom U.S. interests wanted held in as remote a place from the actual fighting of the Civil War as possible.

That, and the fact there were business interests based in Chicago that sold the goods to the U.S. military that kept the war going, are the local connections to that long-ago conflict over secession that some of us seem determined to want to revive.

Because those men died here, their remains wound up being buried here. They were denied what they most likely would have desired – a return trip home.

It’s not like we have individual graves paying tribute to those men who were willing to fight for the concept of splitting the United States in two – even though many of them probably had no personal interest in such a concept.

WHICH IS WHY I personally don’t get too worked up over this memorial. It’s a grave marker – as opposed to the statues paying tribute to Lee, Davis, Longstreet or any of the others who had leadership roles in the attempt at creating a new nation based on the concept of white supremacy.

Which is why certain people of today are more than eager to refight its battles – they likely do carry a distorted view of what the Confederacy was and think it somehow legitimizes their own racial nonsense.
Another Oak Woods resident who in life shot down the racial ideals the Confederates held
Which also is why Trump is providing aid and comfort to that twisted element of our society when he talks about "the beautiful statues" that are being removed.

But let’s be honest – the Confederate attempt at creating a constitution bore some similarities to what the United States had at the time. But it included provisions ensuring the continued existence of slavery based on race.

THERE WERE THOSE men who gave their lives maybe because they thought they were fighting to protect their homes. But also because their leaders were protecting their rights to keep other humans enslaved for physical labor.

It may have been an economic issue. But not really.

So for those men who died in prison camp conditions, many due to small pox and cholera, their time in life was miserable enough. But I wonder if their “eternal rest” is something that would disgust them even more.

Because the Grand Crossing neighborhood, like much of the rest of Chicago’s South Side, has undergone a significant change in composition. It’s majority African-American, and most people living there now don’t have a clue that white people ever used to call their homes home. Which creates the oddity of a Confederate grave in a black neighborhood.

AND IN A cemetery that contains, amongst others, the remains of one-time Mayor Washington, Olympic athlete Jesse Owens and Ida B. Wells, who during life campaigned against the practice of lynching.
A front page worth framing?!?

In fact, Oak Woods has become known as a cemetery where many African-American people wish to be buried. If there is an after-life, I’m wondering if those wretched old souls are complaining about the “neighbors” their earthly remains now have.

So as far as whether the grave market depicting a southern infantry soldier with crossed arms ought to be removed, I question whether it’s worth the hassle. Having that marker where it is serves as a reminder of just how out-of-place the whole Confederate cause truly is in our society.

Considering how repulsive that cause and what it truly stood for was, maybe it’s all the more appropriate.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Justifying white supremacy? Their efforts to do so further taint the concept

I almost find it amusing the degree to which people try to justify the actions of those in our society who are determined to let their bigotry and prejudice dominate their lives.
TRUMP: At the center of it all
The nation’s president, Donald J. Trump, is amongst them, with his daily changes in statements where he’s determined to give the impression that the people who protested against the racists in Charlottesville, Va., are just as much to blame as the bigots who caused the action that resulted in a fatality and many injuries.

I RECENTLY STUMBLED onto a conversation by some individuals about that incident (I wasn’t a participant; but they knew who I was, that I was there and could hear what they said) who seemed to see a significance in the fact that the white supremacists got a permit from the city for their protest.

But the counter-protesters did not!

Does it really matter that someone took the time to go to City Hall and deal with the bureaucracy to obtain a permit for a public gathering that was intended to rile up the citizenry?

Should it matter that those who were angry went ahead and expressed their outrage? Which is, after all, one of those legal rights our society is based upon. Or do we only permit people to speak out with the appropriate permit in place?

THESE THOUGHTS POPPED into my head after learning of the Tuesday night protest that occurred outside the Chicago Police Department area headquarters at Belmont and Western avenues – three people wound up being arrested.

One tried to strike a police officer while another tried interfering with police when they were arresting someone else. A third insisted on trying to walk during the protest in the middle of the street – instead of the sidewalk as police requested/demanded/insisted.

This protest was meant to express the idea that police were just as much a part of the white supremacist structure of our society.

I have no doubt that some in our society will want to view these people as being the real problem, and not those people who choose to wear swastika-bearing logos or the blood-drop symbol of the Ku Klux Klan or any of the other myriad symbols that exist for fringe groups whose only purpose is to make those white people who join them feel less insecure about their place in life.

THESE PEOPLE WHO are more than eager to shift the blame are the ones to whom Trump is speaking with his continually-changing comments that relate to the happenings of Charlottesville.

Just as Trump knows he got elected president despite the political opposition of a majority of the population who bothered to vote, but doesn’t concern himself with that fact, he’s now focusing on appeasing that segment of society determined to live their lives in some sort of fantasy existence.

One in which it’s still the 19th Century and certain types of people can be marginalized with full legitimacy.

I’m sure in the mindset of Trump and his staffers, the 46 percent of the electorate who voted for him are the only people who matter – and a majority of them probably have no problem with the presidential double-talk and inability to pick a side against bigotry with regards to this issue.

ONE OTHER POINT that some like to try to make is that the original protest by the supremacists last week was meant to be a statement against the removal of century-old statues (in many cases) commemorating the leaders of the failed Confederacy.

Statues that, in many cases, were erected by government officials wanting to make a public statement about which “side” of the racial equation they were backing.

If anything, the latest outbursts may well wind up scaring enough public officials into wanting to remove those statues because of the stink they impose on our society as a whole.

Which would be a societal plus if the outcry winds up becoming the impetus to removing those memorials to a cause that advocated treason against our nation – and ought to have been eradicated so many decades ago.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dem ‘top of the ticket’ that 99 percent of voters likely know nothing about

The jokes already are starting up about gubernatorial hopeful Ameya Pawar’s choice for a lieutenant governor running mate – he picked a mayor from the southernmost tip of Illinois.
PAWAR: Went far beyond Sout' Side for running mate
Which certainly gives a geographical sense of balance; an alderman from the 47th Ward up on the Northwest Side of the city and a mayor from the town where both Kentucky and Missouri lie on the other side of the rivers that create Cairo’s location.

BUT JUST AS most people don’t have a clue who Pawar is (the first Indian-American individual to serve in the City Council), I suspect most are going to be equally clueless about Tyrone Coleman – who is in his second term as Cairo mayor and also cites that he used to be a full-time Baptist minister (he's now an interim minister of a different congregation) and is founder of a community organization that serves young people as being amongst his credentials.

Although the Internet already is buzzing with the snide remarks of some who point out that Coleman is one of those African-American individuals who cites his religious faith as justification for snubbing (to put it mildly) gay people.

Which could be a factor that tanks this particular ticket amongst the kinds of people who vote in Democratic primaries. Although I’m sure others will look at this non-white ticket and be skeptical of its chances for succeeding.

It will be interesting to see just how many people do wind up casting votes for Pawar/Coleman – since I’m not kidding when I say that many would-be voters are not aware of the pair, who had their first public appearance Tuesday night at the German/American Cultural Center near Pawar’s home neighborhood.
Will we get a Coleman/Stratton ...

IT SEEMS THAT many people are thinking of this as the J.B. Pritzker/Chris Kennedy campaign, with those aware enough to want to have a third option focusing their attention of Daniel Biss – the one-time math teacher from Evanston who serves in the General Assembly and is willing to openly criticize Dem leadership.

Which could be the reason that Pawar felt compelled to publicly name a running mate. It creates the impression that his campaign has something resembling a full structure and ought to be taken seriously.

Compared to everybody else except for Pritzker, who as of yet have not paired up with anyone for the second spot within Illinois government.
... debate for lieutenant governor?

Biss’ big move for Tuesday was to announce his “The Road Forward” tour that is meant to be a 2,000 mile trip across the state so he can meet with people everywhere.

A NICE GESTURE, to be sure. But there are those same snide Internet commenters who are saying that Pawar has just one-upped Biss and shown himself to be the guy whom voters ought to focus their attention upon if they absolutely can’t stomach the thought of voting for either Kennedy or Pritzker.

Could this be what gives Pawar’s campaign chances a jolt of attention – even if just for a few days?

He is the guy who has been going about this campaign continuously offering up what he calls his own “New Deal” of ways to improve the quality of life in Illinois. Although I really doubt anybody thinks he’s the Second Coming of FDR.

They’re probably not thinking of him much at all. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if down in the land of Southern Illinois, Tuesday’s announcement by Pawar about Coleman was the first time they ever acknowledged his existence.

BUT THEN AGAIN, the fact that Pawar may be able to take the majority of votes in Cairo may not mean much. Because Cairo is a shrinking community – largely due to the historic racial hang-ups of area residents.
BISS: Is he now lagging behind Pawar?

The one-time city of some 20,000 people had, in 2016, an estimated population of 2,359 – with 69.62 percent of its population being African-American. Much of the white population of Southern Illinois fled the city long ago and is content to let it rot – similar to the attitudes felt by some Chicagoans toward select South and West side neighborhoods.

So maybe Coleman has a life experience (he was born-and-raised in Cairo, left for 10 years to serve in the military, and says he was shocked by how decrepit his home city had become during his absence) that some in Chicago can identify with.
For those of you not quite sure of Cairo's location
At the very least, Chicagoans may finally figure out the local pronunciation of the municipality named for the Egyptian city on the River Nile. Because it sure ain’t “KY-ro.”


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A half-century later, and we still don’t have a clue what Picasso statue is

It’s Oh, So Fitting of Chicago’s character that one of the most prominent landmarks our city has – the statue created by famed artist Pablo Picasso – is something we don’t have a clue what it’s supposed to be.

A daily sight in Daley Plaza
It has been 50 years to the day since the Picasso, as we simply refer to it, since Pablo himself never gave his creation for the city a proper title, was unveiled to the public.

OF COURSE, AS also is so befitting of Chicago’s character, city officials chose to celebrate the half-century mark of the statue last week.

As in the official ceremonies marking 50 years of the statue’s presence in the Daley Plaza were held Aug. 8, rather than on Tuesday.

I’d like to joke that the reason the ceremonies were held a week early was because we wanted to detract from the pair of events that otherwise would have had their anniversaries on Aug. 8.

As in the 29th anniversary of the Chicago Cubs’ first attempt at playing a night game at Wrigley Field (it was rained out, and the first actual game didn’t occur until the following day), or the 41st anniversary of the time the Chicago White Sox tried playing an official major league ballgame in shorts.

INSTEAD, WE CHOSE to jump the gun on the Picasso structure, which now is such a part of the city’s composition that we don’t really notice it. We walk through the Daley Plaza in the shadows of the Daley Center courthouse or the County Building/City Hall where the real Richard J. Daley prevailed and we expect to see it.
Would something like this really be better?

It’s just there.

Personally, I’m not going to take a crack at guessing at what it was Picasso was trying to portray when he created the statue on commission for the architectural firm that designed the Daley Plaza for Chicago back in the mid-1960s (although I do get a kick out of the White Sox warmup jacket he occasionally was photographed wearing).

Although the artistic experts who say it is a profile of a woman (if viewed from behind at just the right angle) may be on to something. Personally, I think the confused perception it creates amongst so many people may be totally befitting of Chicago.
Celebrating the shorts?

A PLACE THAT outsiders may find bewildering, but that we locals accept for all its flaws and complications.

In fact, I wonder if a more conventional attempt at public art would have created something that would be oft-ignored and long-forgotten. Or wind up creating an image that would totally tick off a segment of the city.

Such as the ideas that were tossed about publicly back in 1967 by those who were offended by Picasso’s effort to create an image that would come to personify Chicago. Then-alderman John Hoellen (I knew him later in his professional life as a CTA Board member) was the guy who suggested a statue of Chicago Cubs slugger Ernie Banks.

Which I’m sure would have gone over terribly with the segment of Chicago that has no use for the Cubs, or baseball in general.
Says about Chicago?

ALL I KNOW is that the Picasso (which actor John Belushi’s character made reference to in “The Blues Brothers”) is now a common backdrop – particularly for all the activist-types who choose the Daley Center for their protests against local government.

I suspect Picasso himself would have appreciated that idea, since the artist himself had Communist leanings (but that didn’t stop him from accepting payment from the city for his work).

Besides, perhaps it’s a good thing that Picasso’s work of vague perceptions exists for Chicago.
Picasso used to be part of the holiday festivities when city tree was in Plaza
Otherwise, our city’s most prominent work of public art might very well turn out to be the Bat Column statue by Claes Oldenburg (whom the now-defunct City News Bureau used to like to boast was one of their former reporter-type people) that exists outside of the Social Security Building on Madison Street. Just think of all the confusion that image could cause!


Monday, August 14, 2017

What kind of twisted twerp thinks white supremacy is the “American” way?

There is one positive aspect I can think of related to the white supremacist rally in Virginia that resulted in fatalities – maybe now we’ll stop thinking of such events as a laughable spectacle.
Popular spot to express Trump contempt

Because that is what happens all too often whenever these people with their racial hang-ups insist on exercising their right to free expression (their ‘right to be wrong’) – the end result is usually something so laughable.

WE GET OUR chuckle at the thought anybody could be deluded enough to think such thoughts. We comment about third-rate brown shirts who likely would have been rejected by the real Nazi Party had they tried to join back in 1930s-era Germany.

Or maybe we joke about wondering just how those Klansmen get their sheets so white.

We laugh them off because the spectacle usually is ludicrous.

Like the time I once covered a Klan rally held outside the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield – the Klan chaplain (I forget the goofy K-laden title they gave him) led the protesters in a “prayer” that God strike Planet Earth with a plague that would wipe out all the undesirable life forms and leaving the globe free and clear for white people.
ROCKWELL: Brought Nazis to United States

OR ANOTHER RALLY I once covered outside the Bloomington, Ill., hospital where American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell was born. They laid a wreath to pay tribute to their founder, and the followers who came uniformed in swastika armbands and helmets took a public pledge that bore some resemblance to the one that the “Illinois Nazis” took in the film “The Blues Brothers.”

Remember? They pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler, only to see the one-time Mount Prospect police car driven by noted scofflaw Elwood Blues come roaring at them – forcing them to all dive into a nearby river.

The rally held recently in Charlottesville, Va., had no such laughable moments.
TRUMP: Election emboldened modern-day Nazis?

What wound up happening was that a white supremacist backer drove his car into the group of counter-demonstrators who wanted to make their opposition known.

WE NOW HAVE fatalities caused by these people whose insecurities about life cause them to want to think the accident of Caucasian conception makes them a superior form of life.

One-time Klan leader and Louisiana politico David Duke described the events as being one of, “We are determined to take our country back.” President Donald Trump has taken some abuse because his initial statements about the matter came so many hours after it occurred, and were lukewarm as though he were trying to shift blame to the counter-protesters – who are the ones who suffered a casualty in all this.

When Trump tried making a harsher statement that acknowledged the absurdity of the white supremacists, Duke retorted by telling the president, “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror and remember it was white Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

These are the racist ideologues who were the bulk of the 46 percent of the electorate that was able to give Trump an Electoral College victory making it clear they won’t be ignored.

IT’S GOING TO be hard for Trump to continue to deny he’s president because of the bigots amongst us who saw his repeated ridiculous rhetoric as backing of their own racist ideals. Particularly since the gaudy tower that contains the hotel he operates in Chicago is now a popular gathering place for the protesters.
Friday's incident not comical like this Blues Brothers scene
That may be the significance of the counter-protests held Saturday and Sunday in Chicago, amongst other cities, in which people were able to peacefully express their outrage over the racist radicals who think this Age of Trump is their age of empowerment!

Many of us who would have dismissed Friday’s event for the Wal-mart-purchased Tiki torches carried by the white supremacist protesters or the ridiculous attempts at being clad in paramilitary gear are going to have to take a more serious look at this segment of our society.

Which may be a minority going about chanting “You will not replace us.” But it is one with an un-American ideal in that they’d want to use their freedom of expression to overpower everyone not like themselves into a position of submission.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

For way Dems backed J.B., we might as well have been at Bismarck Hotel of old

We’re several years into the 21st Century and we’d like to think we’re urbane and sophisticated. Yet when it comes to electoral politics, the spirit of the smoke-filled room and political party hacks gathering together to tell us what is for our own good come Election Day still prevails.
PRITZKER: The officially-preferred Dem gov hopeful

For the Cook County Democratic Party, the heart and muscle of Democratic organizations in dominating Illinois, decided Friday amongst themselves that the gubernatorial campaign of J.B. Pritzker is the officially-preferred choice come the March 20, 2018 primary.

FORGET CHRIS KENNEDY and his family aura, or the idealism of Ameya Pawar or Daniel Biss, or the political delusions any of the other gubernatorial dreamers may have.

The party will put its money, so to speak, on the member of the Pritzker family whose wealth originates with the Hyatt Hotels chain, betting he is the most likely to have a chance to defeat Gov. Bruce Rauner’s dreams of re-election come the Election Day on Nov. 6.

Actually, that phrase about “put its money” is a misnomer, since the party hacks largely see the advantage of a Pritzker campaign is that he has a large private fortune and has expressed a willingness to make many large donations to himself in order to pay the costs of a political campaign.
Political spirit of the one-time Bismarck Hotel ...

Democratic Party organizations won't have to make a priority of trying to raise money for a governor's race where they will be outspent overwhelmingly by Rauner's own personal fortune.

DEMOCRATIC REGULARS SEE that as absolutely essential to compete with the significant private wealth that Rauner is prepared to spend to try to get himself re-elected, and also to alter the General Assembly composition in ways to create political allies for himself.

Because it has been a hostile Legislature run by urban Democratic Party interests that has been the buffer between the public interests and the many anti-union fantasies that Rauner repeatedly tries to portray as “reform.”

Cook County Democrats gathered Friday at the Erie Café restaurant (Italian food, but the prime rib looks scrumptious) to come to their decision to officially slate Pritzker’s campaign over all others for governor.
... carries over to a Near North restaurant

But the spirit may well have been that of the one-time Bismarck Hotel where politicos used to merely have to walk across the street from City Hall to gather in those aforementioned smoke-filled rooms to decide which candidates were worthy of political support.

THAT ACTUALLY IS the key to comprehending what the value of the party’s slate truly is.

It means the party regulars are now bound to back Pritzker for governor. They’re bound to have their campaign workers out on the streets trying to stir up the vote for J.B.

If by chance they are absolutely appalled at the thought of a Pritzker as governor, they’re required to keep their mouths shut about it. They can’t go off and offer support for anybody else – unless they want to be viewed as renegades.

Although Pritzker’s preferred status by the party isn’t really surprising – he did have a sister, Penny, who served as Commerce Secretary under President Barack Obama. The family isn’t new to electoral politics.

AS FOR WHAT the other gubernatorial candidates wanted was for the party to slate no one. Which would have given the individual party regulars the ability to make up their own minds and allow their campaign workers to push for votes for whomever they truly supported.

Now, J.B. has something of a political army willing to do the legwork to try to gain him more political support beyond what he hopes to buy during the election cycle.
BAULER: Some sentiments never change

Dems may think this is a strength, but it also is potentially the Pritzker weakness – one that Biss already is trying to play off of. He says that a “Gov. Pritzker” would be no different than a “Gov. Rauner,” just another rich guy who won’t have the public interest in mind.

So while we might be nearly two full decades into the current century, there’s just enough of the old sentiment remaining that the idea of letting political people pick which pol they prefer may just be too modern a concept and the decades-old ideal of one-time alderman/saloon-keeper Mathias “Paddy” Bauler (“Chicago ain’t ready for reform”) still applies.