Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Who’s to say what becomes of Chicago's one-time 'Bright One'?

Wednesday was supposed to be the day that the corporate entity that owns the Chicago Tribune would be able to finalize a deal to purchase its long-time competitor; the Chicago Sun-Times.
Who knows how long there will be two?

It would have seen the city’s two ayem newspapers combine into one corporate entity, even though there were promises that two separate publications would be maintained at least for the short-term.

BUT THE POINT of not permitting the deal to be immediately approved when it was announced two weeks ago was to allow for any potential buyers to come forth who could keep the one-time “Bright One” as a truly separate and independent entity.

Not that anybody expected to. It seems the tronc, Inc. types who now run the Tribune (coincidentally, the same people who used to operate the Sun-Times) were confident no one would come forth.

As it was, Crain’s Chicago Business came out with a report indicating that owners of the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald considered a Sun-Times purchase, but backed off. Along with the company that owns suburban daily newspapers in Crystal Lake, Geneva and Joliet, and Gannett – the founder of USA Today and operator of many other daily papers across the country (including in Des Moines, Iowa, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, Ky., and Milwaukee – to name a few).

So who’s going to be crazy enough to want to operate a newspaper whose best days appear to be in the past, and has the drawback of being a Number Two paper in a two-paper town? Most people intrigued enough to buy a newspaper (because they think its newsgathering assets can somehow be used to serve other purposes) would want the Number One paper – or preferably a monopoly operation. Anybody who expects (which owns the Washington Post) to swoop into Chicago for the Sun-Times is being delusional.

BUT NOW, VARIOUS reports are cropping up saying there may be a buyer after all. Although we’re not being told who it could be.

Officials with the Chicago Newspaper Guild are saying they are aware of two entities that are expressing interest in taking over the Chicago Sun-Times. While it seems the Sun-Times chapter of the guild that represents news reporters is making statements saying it would like to see more time beyond Wednesday’s deadline to consider the newspaper’s future.

It’s hard to say whether there’s really someone with interest capable of running a newspaper that would be worth a damn. Or if this is just wishful thinking from people who see the idea of being the junior partner in a two-paper combo as being about as dreadful an outcome that could possibly occur.

It could turn out that we’ll learn by week’s end that there is NO ONE else out there willing to plunk down some token fee to buy the publication.

WHOSE TOTAL PRICE paid may wind up becoming an embarrassment for the Sun-Times; because it could be such a low figure that it would be interpreted as evidence of just how far the ship has sunk!

Of course, I can’t help but remember my former employer, United Press International, which in 1992 was sold for $3.95 million to Middle East Broadcasting Centre. Eight years later, they sold it for nearly $40 million to News World Communications – which operates it these days as an affiliate of the Washington Times and its other right-leaning publications around the globe.

It may be possible that someone could come in, take the carcass of the Sun-Times and figure out a way to dredge some bucks out of its remains. Similar to what billionaire investor Sam Zell intended to do when he bought the Chicago Tribune nearly a decade ago.

Although it’s possible that any new purchaser of the Sun-Times would wind up resembling Zell more than the Saudi royal family that had UPI for a few years a couple of decades ago.

MY POINT IS to say I’m not sure how all of this is going to turn out.

Except for the fact that it’s always a loss whenever a newsgathering organization of any type is diminished. Even for those people who want to believe that the Internet now contains a slew of places where one can find much more information than you ever could in an ink-on-paper medium.

For the reality is there are so many places that rely on the existence of newspapers and their assets to generate the content they publish. Even with the Sun-Times, which remains an entity capable of covering a news story and picking up pieces that otherwise would be missed.

One less newspaper means less content; and the eventual outcome of websites whose business models are predicated on the concept of being able to aggregate copy from elsewhere winding up with nothing but blank space to try to fill our minds.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

700 days w/o a state budget? Why do we feel no shame at such negligence?

It would take a political miracle at this point for Illinois to avoid hitting a particularly embarrassing timeline – 700 days without our government being able to approve a budget for its official operations.

That’s 700 days (not quite two full years) of inactivity, because officially nothing can happen without our government officials detailing how taxpayer money will be spent with a budget program.

THE ONLY REASON we haven’t had a complete shutdown of Illinois government operations is because there are some programs that the federal courts have deemed too significant to have their fate determined by the politically-partisan quirks of the knuckleheads we have chosen to represent us at the Statehouse in Springfield.

Of course, some of the programs that are not protected are amongst those that serve the greatest need for the public. Or just don’t have strong interests pressuring the courts to force themselves to be included amongst the protected.

Our government during the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years (Fiscal ’18 begins July 1) has been run in a scattershot manner, and even after the time occurs that our Legislature and governor are able to put together an operations budget that gets state government fully running again, it will take years for things to settle down.

Which is why I’m not getting all excited over the fact that our Legislature actually worked on Monday and through the weekend (the Memorial Day holiday weekend) to try to do the people’s business. It’s the least they could do, considering how mucked up things have become in government operations.
Anybody who can't spread political blame ...

BESIDES, WHILE I’M sure many of them would have liked to have returned to their home districts to be seen by local voters at Memorial Day parades, I doubt they were missed. Besides, if you’ve seen one parade, you’ve seen them all. And they’ll get their chance to express pseudo-patriotism come July 4 and the Independence Day parades in their communities.

Seriously, 700 days?!?

How can we possibly think it acceptable to go for so long without a spending plan that ensures our government fulfills its obligations to the people?
... is more delusional than old Cubs fans

How is it we haven’t had a serious voter revolt at the thought of such negligence on the part of the electorate at the fact our government officials think they can go so long without acting on their fiduciary responsibilities?

IT WAS EMBARRASSING enough when the entire first full fiscal year of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s term came and went without a budget, and our state officials managed to piece together merely an interim budget for the first half of the second full fiscal year of The Rauner Years.

But considering that we now are approaching the end of the fiscal year (the spring ’17 legislative session is scheduled to end Wednesday night) without anything being done, it seems we have political people more than content to do nothing.

Rauner clearly wants his ideological games to play out, and is determined enough to want to undermine organized labor’s influence within state government that he will refuse to do anything that provides true funding for the state.

While Democrats led by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, clearly want to use the issue to bludgeon Rauner to a political death – hoping for a massive voter revolt that makes Bruce nothing more than a one-term governor whom we remember as “that stupid mistake we (the voters) made back in ’14.” As for the Senate Democrats, they passed something budget-related and issued a statement Monday saying how it would fully-fund higher education -- but also admitted they don't have Illinois House or Republican support. As though the real point is they want to escape blame when nothing happens by Wednesday night.

IT WAS MADIGAN who issued the statement Monday saying he felt he and Democrats had done enough in passing measures related to the acquisition of goods and services by state government. As though now it’s on Rauner to put up or shut up, so to speak, in backing a budget proposal.

“Today’s agreement is proof that House Democrats are willing to make compromises to move Illinois forward,” Madigan said. Although it comes across as a strong desire to see how much dirt they can force Rauner to eat.
No longer the gold standard of local ineptitude
I used to think the most embarrassing aspect of our local scene were those hard-core Chicago Cubs fans who got all worked up over a ballclub that hadn’t won a World Series in over a century, or even a league championship in excess of seven decades. How can anyone take such a ball club seriously?

Yet now that we’re approaching that 700-day mark, it makes me think we have developed a new standard for ineptitude. Thy name is Illinois government.


Monday, May 29, 2017

EXTRA: How time passes

Some of us always want to think of the presidency of John F. Kennedy as a moment of youth and vigor being shot into our national psyche (while others want to think of it as the moment the “grown-ups” lost control).
White House and Chicago pols intertwined in the past

So what should we think of the fact that Kennedy, if he somehow magically were still alive, would now be 100?

IT WAS ON this date a century ago that Kennedy was born in Boston (he was 46 at the time of his death). We’re probably never going to come to a consensus as to how he should be regarded.
Chicago turned out vote for JFK

And we likely will forevermore dispute the significance Chicago and its electorate played in his 1960 ascension to the White House. Or just how much in debt the Kennedys were to Mayor Richard J. Daley in turning out the vote that put Illinois in his Electoral College column that led to victory?

Although the part that most astounds me over the idea of a centenarian Kennedy is that it means his “first lady,” Jacqueline (whom we perpetually envision in her youthful form) would herself now be 87!

Of course, that’s not the only “anniversary” we could be acknowledging this day. There’s always the labor dispute that got ugly in the South Deering neighborhood on Memorial Day eighty years ago.

ANYBODY WHO THINKS that the Chicago police conduct of the 1968 Democratic Convention protests was an isolated incident doesn’t know of the protest that turned ugly when Republic Steel officials called the police – who then came in, began beating picketers and wound up killing 10 men (all of whom were local residents who worked at the plant).
A leftover structure from the old Republic Steel plant

It’s no wonder that neighborhood residents still pay an annual tribute to those who died. And the fact that Daley himself always tried to justify the police conduct of ’68 by saying no one was killed as a result.

Just one discrepancy, for those who want to nitpick.

The actual date of Memorial Day back in ’37 was May 30. So it will be 80 years ago Tuesday that people lost their lives at a now-remote site along Avenue O.


Memorial Day; ‘yea’ or ‘nae’ for those who do their military service?

I never served in any branch of the military; that fact doesn’t make me the least bit unique.
How many will gather at Chicago's Vietnam Vets' memorial? How many even know it exists? Photographs by Gregory Tejeda
There are many who for whatever reason manage to avoid a stint in the Army or any other military organization, and certainly don’t think our lives are any less complete as a result.

OF COURSE, THERE also are those in our society who made a point of enlisting the first chance they got, and wind up thinking of their time in uniform and being among those who “serve their country” as the high point of their lives!

Some even come away with thinking their military record entitles them to prime treatment for the remainder of their lives.

We have a serious schism in our society; often viewing various issues quite differently. And not just a matter of whether we think Donald Trump is a “great American” or a “pompous fool” totally unfit to be carrying the title of Commander-in-Chief of our nation’s military!

That split includes how essential we think it is that one have a military service record as part of their permanent record, or how much "lip service" they pay to the concept -- I attended a Catholic mass that included a musical tribute to the armed services in its choir's Sunday program; and while many were eager to support the idea, only a tiny minority of the congregation admitted to actually having served. Which gets down to the essence of the direction we think our society ought to be headed.
No dogs allowed?

THERE ARE THOSE people who will say that one reason, if not the primary reason, that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were unfit to be president is because they never served in the military (and in the case of Clinton used many of the legal maneuvers people of that era engaged in to avoid a call-up to active duty).

Some of an older generation remember back to the military draft, and think that forcing people of various economic and social classes to interact helped ease the societal split that now exists.
Posters or helmet -- which is 'your' side?

Although others, including those who managed to avoid military service, would argue that the very concept of having done a stretch in the military puts a person into a mindset that makes them too narrow and unfit to address the serious problems confronting our nation, and our world.

Perhaps we all ought to be engaged in something more than blind faith in forcing esoteric concepts of what one wants to define as patriotism by a trip out to the cemetery to pay tribute to someone who was unfortunate to have lost their life during their military service.

SOME OF US like to talk about the “ultimate sacrifice” those young men made, I’m sure many of them could have contributed something equally worthwhile to society had they had a chance at a long- and full-life.

While many of those who these days do enlist in the military often do so because their options in life are limited; and that military stretch may be their best option for preparing for an adult life.

I remember in my own case, my mother would have been appalled if I had seriously talked about enlisting. I remember when Army recruiters sniffed around me when I was 16 and in high school, she gave them the cold shoulder.

In my case, that probably was a wise direction. I did make the most of a college education, and it stirred me in the right direction toward what I wanted to do (yes, I actually figured out as far back as age 13 that I wanted to be a reporter-type person). I resisted the Army’s marketing pleas to “be all you can be.”

WHILE I HAD cousins who did stints of military service, and it helped them come up with the funds to pay for future education options they took on or taught them some skills used later in life. It worked out well for them, and I’m sure for many of the individuals who have done military service.
Easier to eulogize past conflicts?

My point in stating all this is that I’m not about to hold it over anybody’s head that I didn’t have to use the military to get ahead in life. Meaning I’m not about to defer to those who want to act as though the fact that they did a stretch in uniform somehow makes them superior.

I actually find such an attitude to be arrogant and unfit for anyone to have in our society. Particularly because it places a view that one can claim superiority for doing something that may well have been their only realistic option in life.

And on this Memorial Day when we pay tribute to the contributions of military personnel throughout our history, perhaps I should even throw in that having such an attitude perhaps even qualifies as un-American!


Saturday, May 27, 2017

News media too trivial to be liberal; the reminisces of a reporter-type person

I get noble ideas occasionally about how being a reporter-type person is my contribution to society, but some of the modern-day world realities make me contemplate that what I do is spread triviality instead.
I still own one, although I can't recall last time I used it

I can’t help but reflect upon what has become of the newsgathering business – and not just because some dink voters these days enjoy the idea their newly-elected congressman committed assault on a British newspaperman.

TOO MANY NEWS people spend too much of their time trying to recycle the stories they’ve already reported into so many venues so as to draw attention to our original published reports. It takes time away from finding new news stories.

Yet I suspect that too many of the people who think they’re being informed by what appears on their social media accounts never bother to go beyond the dinky 140-character blurbs (if they use Twitter) or pithy single-sentence (if on Facebook) accounts to see the real story. It’s no wonder the masses are clueless.

It can be a humbling experience to think that the 1,100-word story I wrote recently out of Gary, Ind., for the Post-Tribune will only capture the public attention for about 20 words – and no more.

It causes a trivialization of the information we gather, which is what leads me to say that the concept of a “liberal” media really is a myth. We have a “trivial” media, with too much space taken up by fluff that fills column inches.

WHICH MAY BE why readership is down, publications shrink to offer less space and the quality of the product declines even further. An endless cycle – even though the ideologues amongst us want to believe it’s because we don’t pander to their narrow thought.

Yet still, I have to confess to feeling the urge to be a reporter-type person. In some ways, the desire to be the eyes and ears of the community is all the more important now in this hyper-partisan era than it was that day some three decades ago that I walked across a stage and was handed a college diploma.

My strongest memory from that day (aside from thinking that our commencement speaker was deadly dull and that it rained during part of the outdoor ceremony) was that I felt pleased in knowing that I had a job interview scheduled for later that week.
Still a comforting sensation

As things turned out, that newspaper in suburban Chicago Heights didn’t think I was totally useless and wound up putting me to work beginning Monday.

THE 30-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of which occurred this week. My first news assignment was covering a plan commission hearing in Orland Park held entirely in executive session (meaning I sat outside while officials met privately) and I had to try to decipher what was taking place inside.

Since then, I’ve had my share of interesting (and historically-significant) moments. But much has changed since the days when Ronald Reagan and Harold Washington were actual living beings, rather than pseudo-iconic figures to differing segments of our society (including the ones most upset we don’t cater exclusively to their ideological beliefs).

For one thing, that Chicago Heights newspaper is no more. Neither is the old City News Bureau for whom I once toiled. United Press International for whom a part of me will always think myself tied still exists in some form, but the old bureaus in Chicago and Springfield, Ill., where I worked are no more.

In fact, I was the one who had to pack up the belongings of that latter bureau when it closed. It’s enough to make me feel like a professional “kiss of death” to news organizations. Perhaps I should keep quiet about it, lest my current employer get paranoid about my potential influence and give me yet another job layoff.
A long-lost image we'd like to keep of ourselves

ALTHOUGH IF I think of the equipment I have used throughout the years, it seems like a collection of antique junk – although I must confess to still owning a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 computer. The famed “Trash 80” that a generation of reporters relied upon to file copy – which can’t do anywhere near what my laptop can these days.

I recall when a “fax” machine was a newsroom novelty and it was considered a revolutionary act that organizations could instantly send us statements or other detailed information. Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time I got a fax. And I’m sure that when I did, it was for something stupid and trivial.

I also recall the habit of always scanning a room for the nearest payphone in case I had to make a quickie call. Actually, I still do that, even though more and more there are no payphones anywhere to be used.

But the ultimate change may be that I actually wrote my first stories on typewriters, whereas one of my contemporary (and about two-decades younger) news colleagues admitted recently to never having touched a typewriter in her life.

IT’S ENOUGH TO make me feel antique. Particularly since some people think these changing tools ARE the significance of the news business, instead of merely new toys to “play” with on the job. As though I endured all that prep time early in life just so I could talk to anonymous schmoes what they think of the latest mindless ramblings of our political geeks.

Even more so than the fact I remember who were Carmen Fanzone and Harry Chappas, while most people merely draw a blank in their eyes at the mention of the one-time infielders who bobbled many a ball on both sides of Chicago but were entertaining in their own unique ways.


Friday, May 26, 2017

What’s good for Hyde Park sticks it to South Chicago, while the masses yawn!

In my mind, I already can hear the lone voice or two out of the South Chicago and South Shore neighborhoods along the lakefront who will express furious anger at the thought of the limited access to public transit they already have being cut even further.
Metra may make it easier to get to Hyde Park from Randolph and Michigan at the expense of other parts of the South Side. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

The rant will be vociferous. It will be sincere in its emotion. And I also don’t doubt that the masses, particularly those involved with mass transit in the Chicago area, will care less.

I’M REFERRING TO the proposal being put forth by the Metra commuter railroad system that takes people from all across the metropolitan area into downtown Chicago to alter the set-up of the Metra Electric line, which goes from Millennium Station at Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue south to University Park, with branches that break off and take people both to Blue Island and also to the aforementioned South Side neighborhoods.

According to Metra officials, their intent is to boost the number of trains on the line that pass through the Hyde Park neighborhood. Under the current set-up, once the morning rush hour is over, trains go through at the rate of one per hour – the same as through the rest of the south suburbs on the line.

But because Chicago Transit Authority “el” service doesn’t stretch into Hyde Park, people living there rely on the Metra for contact with the rest of the world. Metra officials say they’d like to have trains stopping in Hyde Park stations (every two blocks from 51st to 59th streets) every 20 minutes.

That’s nice for them. I think that’s great. Particularly since I often use the Metra Electric (I’m old enough to remember when the line was a part of the Illinois Central railroad, and there are many old-timers who still think of it as the “IC line”) to get to Hyde Park, and it would be nice if trains ran more frequently.

BUT I ALSO was born in the South Chicago neighborhood, and know that CTA trains don’t go anywhere near the neighborhood. Even the number of bus routes are limited.

A trip downtown on the Number 30 South Chicago bus route that eventually puts you on a Red Line train at 69th Street is slow, makes multiple stops and can take over an hour each way to make the commute.

It’s part of the reason activists in this area are pushing for the CTA to extend the Red Line train south to 130th Street, which would make it possible to use other bus routes to catch the “el.”
UChgo influence makes Hyde Park transit a priority

But just at a time when CTA officials are moving forward with that long-rumored project, Metra now wants to come in and reduce the service the area already had.

NOW I’LL ADMIT a bias here. I was born in the South Chicago neighborhood, and remember as a kid visiting my grandmother who lived just one block from the 91st Street station that is the end of the South Chicago line.

I know Metra officials are arguing that the specific train lines they’re talking about cutting so as to shift the service to benefit Hyde Park have fewer than 10 passengers, and sometimes only one or two.

But I’d argue that it’s because Metra in recent decades has offered such a scant service to the area that local residents have come to not expect it as an option when they need to get from place to place.

Older area residents recall the days when trains ran regularly on the South Chicago branch – in fact, as frequently as the every 20 minutes that officials are talking about creating for Hyde Park! I’m sure area use would increase if service were available.

YET THAT ALSO requires some ambition and a desire to actually provide a product. Whereas in the past, Metra has clearly considered getting people from suburban locations into downtown Chicago as its priority – with the stops that Metra trains make within the city considered as a thing of the past.

You'll need a car to get to area around 95th St. bridge
So yes, Metra officials deserve some praise for wanting to bolster Hyde Park service – possibly by summer’s end.

Yet here’s hoping that residents of South Chicago and the surrounding neighborhoods that would rely on Metra service if it were more frequent and reliable can get their voices up loud enough where they’re heard over the din of public anger on so many issues.

Otherwise, it will be too easy for Metra officials to dismiss them as insignificant; leaving a sizable part of Chicago further isolated from the rest of the city.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Is government too political?

Sometimes, I think what is most wrong with our government is politics.
PRECKWINKLE: 18 months of caution to get re-elected

Now I know some of you are going to be confused by such a statement; largely because you use the words “government” and “politics” as though they’re inter-changeable.

BUT GOVERNMENT IS the process by which our elected officials create public policy for our benefit – the work that some political observers sarcastically refer to as “the people’s business.”

Politics, meanwhile, is the process by which our government officials get elected, thereby enabling them to do the people’s business for a living. Which causes circumstances by which people focus too much attention on getting themselves elected – and wind up slacking off in the process of operating the government!

Repeatedly this week I have been sensing the equivalent of slaps across the face from government officials behaving in ways meant to ensure they remain in office for many more years – rather than focusing on their current positions.

Take the circumstances of Toni Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board president, who in recent radio appearances has said she’s seeking re-election come November 2018 – which is a year-and-a-half away from now.

BUT SHE’S ALREADY focusing her attention on getting term number Three, which is a potentially-risky spot for a public official to be in.
EMANUEL: Already garnering re-election endorsements

Because the official has to convince the electorate that we really ought to want to have that person return. Many of us may be tired of that face and wish for someone new, and the people who have been building up grudges against Preckwinkle during the past six years will most definitely want to see her gone.

Meaning Preckwinkle will have to be particularly cautious during these next 18 months to ensure she doesn’t do anything to offend – and also has to hope there are no circumstances arising that will create a controversy that could drag her down.

Of course, if she manages to make it past this point, she then becomes such a part of the political scene that people won’t be able to envision a government without her.
TRUMP: Some prefer 4 more years to Rahm?

JUST AS IS the case with Jesse White, the Illinois secretary of state, who is coming up on 20 years in that post and where Republicans are getting desperate in their tactics to try to depose him.

Of course, it isn’t just Preckwinkle. I was amused by the six aldermen who felt compelled to publicly endorse Rahm Emanuel for re-election to a third term as mayor. The six, who are all black, are pleased to see appointments of African-American persons as city water management commissioner and budget director.

How premature is this? He doesn’t have to worry about running for re-election until 2019, and is hoping that his appearance as the political force who can stand up to Donald Trump’s Chicago-hostile and erratic presidency is sufficient to keep him in office.
CULLERTON: Tried to govern

Although it should be noted there are those who want to believe it will be Emanuel’s own bordering-on-obnoxious persona that will ensure Trump ultimately succeeds. Are there people who despise Rahm so much that it drives them into the Trump Camp? We’ll have to wait and see.

POLITICS ALSO IS managing to intrude its way into the Springfield Scene and the attempts Tuesday by the Illinois state Senate to pass measures that would FINALLY give state government a balanced budget.

Democrats led by state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago,  banded together to pass a budget, only to have Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, issue a non-committal statement that didn’t reject the plan, but sure didn’t commit to supporting it either.
RAUNER: Prefers politicking

Meanwhile, Gov. Bruce Rauner seemed more interested in his 2018 re-election bid, indicating a willingness to reject this budget plan because it doesn’t fit his vision of what the state needs. Which is using the budget and state government operations as a pawn to tout political pot-shots at organized labor’s influence.

We’re likely to see our state’s Legislature finish yet a third session without being able to do a budget to ensure government operations, all because the process of mere governing doesn’t fit into the political visions of our alleged-government officials. Too common a phenomenon these days across government’s multi-layers.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Too many “Bonds” for Moore’s death to be definitive blow to film franchise

I’ll state one fact up front – when it comes to James Bond films, I do enjoy “Live and Let Die.” Particularly for its use of Paul McCartney on its film soundtrack, and its inclusion of the New Orleans scene for its storyline.
Moore at his Bond best

But I’ll have to confess that when I heard the headlines Tuesday of “Bond actor dies,” my gut reaction was to think “Sean Connery finally passed.” When I learned it was British actor Roger Moore instead, my reaction was along the lines of, “Oh, well.”

I KNOW I’M going to trigger a brawl amongst film buffs, particularly those who get into the Bond series of adventure films that we’ve been getting off-and-on for the better part of a half-a-century.

Yet those six films that starred Connery as the British secret agent with the license to kill people reach a certain standard that none of the other Bond film actors manage to do.

In terms of pure fantasy (and when you come down to it, how else should you view a guy who hangs around the casinos of Monaco, jets all over the world for adventure, and always finds time to romance the local fair maiden no matter how old he gets), they don’t get any more out-of-this world than Connery’s vision of the role.

So as for the death of Moore, I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter. But it’s not THE DEFINITIVE PASSING that we should think of. Although I’ll admit it’s more significant than the eventual passing someday of actor George Lazenby – who also took on the Bond role.

OR PERHAPS THAT of actor Pierce Brosnan, whose performance in the film “Goldeneye” always manages to capture the spirit of the Connery versions of the “Bond” films.
Pierce has his 'Bond' moments

As for the most recent Bond, I’ll confess that Daniel Craig’s take on the role just doesn’t do as much for me. Although he probably does appeal to the people who are most interested in action sequences rather than the Bond-like campiness leading up to them.

I always figured Craig’s Bond was the kind of guy who would stand up to actor Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” Callahan character (bearing his gaudy Smith & Wesson .44 caliber “hand cannon”), disarm him, then show the “superiority” of the Walther PPK.
Pit Craig's 'Bond' in a boxing ring ...

Whereas Connery’s Bond was the kind of guy who managed to get out of a jam by planting his “Playboy Club card” on a corpse – thereby giving the brief impression that he was dead, and thereby able to leave the scene undetected.

ALTHOUGH I’LL GIVE Moore’s “Bond” character one bit of praise. Like I already mentioned, it gave McCartney a prominent place that led to him getting one of his post-Beatles hits with the title theme song to “Live and Let Die.”
... against 'Dirty Harry'

Considering that Connery’s “Bond” was the guy who in the film “Goldfinger” said that lukewarm Dom Perignon champagne was, “as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.”

Yes, this commentary is a collection of fluff and trivia. Although perhaps it also is a way of coping with the misery of the British explosion at a concert this week that managed to kill 20-plus people.

Religious fanatics in the form of ISIS, thinking they have accomplished something grand in the name of Allah, have taken credit for that attack. Although I suspect if we had a real-life “Bond,” he’d already be on his way to the Middle East to infiltrate the group, commit an act of vengeance, and perhaps taste for himself a few of those unspoiled virgins who supposedly are the prize for those kind of nutcases.

SO WHAT SHOULD we do to pay tribute to Moore, who admittedly starred in seven “Bond” films – one more than the six Connery did.

Do we have a collection of Bond actors throughout the years gather together to pay tribute to Moore – drinking a “shaken, not stirred” martini in his honor? Even though fans of televisions “The West Wing” remember when actor Martin Sheen’s “President Bartlett” character mockedP such a martini, saying, “James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.”
Now that's the real "Bond, James Bond"

Perhaps they’ll then gather around and watch “Live and Let Die,” writhing in excitement as Moore’s “Bond” avoids being eaten by crocodiles while also trying to bed the mystic “Solitaire.”

Although if they want the ultimate Bond experience, they’d have to tune in to my personal favorite – none tops “From Russia with Love,” and no Bond girl (in my mind) tops the loveliness of Italian actress Daniela Bianchi!


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

EXTRA: $40, and a new life

My Aunt Christina (who always wants me to say she's my favorite, even though I don't want to bloat her ego) managed to come up with an interesting piece of documentation -- the official record of when her father (my maternal grandfather) first entered the United States on a summer day in 1926.

And for what it's worth, he had $40 in his pockets at that significant moment in his life. Definitely a detail I'm going to have to use when I tell the tale of my family tree in the future.

THE U.S. INFLATION Calculator estimates that's about $552 in monetary value today. Or about one week's pay at some jobs I have held in my life. How many of us would be willing to skip away from everything we know with just a week's salary to tide us over?

It definitely makes me think more highly of the life change that my grandfather made nearly a century ago.

And for coming up with this documentation, I may have to break down and give my Aunt Christie the praise she has long sought.


Is city’s “One Chicago” initiative meant to tell Trump’s nativism to ‘drop dead?’

Both of my grandfathers were Mexican-born who came to this country while technically still teen-aged back in the 1920s.
Grandpa Mike shows style long before my existence

Both entered the country at Laredo, Texas, and my maternal grandfather came with the understanding that a great American company had a job for him if he could get himself into the country.

WHICH IS HOW my grandfather, Michael Vargas, wound up working at the now-defunct Wisconsin Steel plant in the South Deering neighborhood for his entire adult life.

And before anybody asks, he died just before that tragic event when the steel mill closed, all its workers were laid off, their final paychecks bounced and some retirees lost pension benefits.

Whereas my other grandfather, Ignacio Tejeda, Sr., (my father is 'Junior') came with less of a plan – other than knowing there wasn’t much opportunity back home. He came to Texas, got caught up by recruiters who brought him north, and he worked jobs in Detroit and Gary, Ind., before he finally crossed over the Illinois state line into Blue Island, then Chicago where he worked at a variety of factory-type jobs throughout his life.

As things turned out, they both wound up settling in the South Chicago neighborhood just a couple of blocks from each other – which is how my parents met as children, grew up together and ultimately begat myself.

THAT’S THE QUICKIE version of my own life story – I’m here because of life-altering acts by my grandfathers who likely had no concept of my eventual existence. They were just looking for a better life, and were more than willing to work their nalgas off (or do you prefer to call it a kiester) in order to achieve it.

And in the process, I’m most likely much better off for it. A muchos gracias to my abuelos for having more ambition in life than most men.

Now what compelled me to feel the need to share this abbreviated tale?
My grandpa Nacho, along with my father and uncles Arturo and Carlos
Part of it is the new One Chicago initiative, which is going to be a public service campaign by which it will be made clear that Chicago is a city comprised of immigrants. We all have grandfathers or great-grandfathers (or some of us may be more recent) who came from some other national place and figured things might work out better in life here, rather than there.

WE’RE GOING TO be asked to do a massive share of our families’ life stories. It’s part of an effort to let people know that they’re welcome in Chicago, regardless of where they’re from.

And also that the people who have the  tnativist hang-ups are the ones who’d be better off not setting foot in the Second City.

Now all of this debate over immigration is the product of our mental midget of a president, Donald Trump, who campaigned aggressively last year by appealing to those people who can’t handle the thought of anyone not exactly like themselves being allowed a place within our society.
Part of Emanuel's response ...

Every time Trump feels compelled to take another pot shot at Chicago, we’re likely to point to yet another of these immigrant stories that make up our fair city.

EVEN MAYOR RAHM Emanuel includes himself amongst these stories – using a weekend appearance touting the One Chicago initiative to let us know of his own grandfather, who came to Chicago at age 13 not speaking English.
... to Trump's appeal to our worst nature

It’s a part of what makes the fine character of this city, no matter how much Trump wants to play politics with the FBI’s crime statistics for Chicago to make us think Englewood and North Lawndale are typical of the whole city – while also ignoring the very serious problems that exist in those inner-city neighborhoods!

Which is the very serious point trying to be made behind what might come across as a touchy-feely initiative to share family stories.

Personally, I’m pleased to add my own grandfathers’ tales to an effort meant to extend a certain vulgar digit to those individuals for whom xenophobia is their preeminent sentiment toward life.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Could Chicago White Sox become beneficiaries of Cuban beisbol legacy?

It has been just over two years since the two living icons of Chicago baseball – Ernie Banks and Minnie Miñoso – passed on. Banks, as many have pointed out, didn’t live long enough to see his Chicago Cubs win a World Series.
The grandfather of Cuban baseball in Chicago

While Miñoso was around back in 2005. He even was a participant in that World Series parade wending its way from Armour Square through the Sout’ Side and into “da Loop.”

BUT IT’S ACTUALLY a shame the ballplayer, whose many nicknames included being called “the Cuban Comet,” isn’t still with us. Not that he didn’t live a long-enough life (about 90).

But it would be a sight to see if Miñoso could be present if the modern-day attempt by the Chicago White Sox to rebuild into a winning ball club were to succeed with all the Cuban talent the team has managed to obtain.

That talent appeared to have been bolstered this weekend (it won’t be official for a few more days) with the signing of Luis Robert, a 19-year-old who is among the Cuban national team’s stars and who has decided he wants to have a baseball career in the United States.

That led to a bidding war amongst several ball clubs, although is appears the fact that the White Sox have developed a reputation as being Cuban-friendly led him to want to play in Chicago.
Wore No. 9 in Cuba, but in Chi, that's Minoso

ALTHOUGH LET’S NOT make a mistake; he’s going to be paid well. The still-a-teenager living in Cuban poverty now will be paid some $25 million to play the next couple of seasons for Chicago White Sox minor league affiliates – possibly resulting in him working his way to Guaranteed Rate Field by about 2019 or 2020.

That is about the time the White Sox’ rebuilding effort is supposed to be complete. It is an effort that will include Yoan Moncada, who is the big Cuban star whom the White Sox obtained during the winter and could become a part of the Chicago baseball scene by this season’s end.
Robert and Moncada could join ...

It also may include the star slugger Jose Abreu, who when he broke into U.S. baseball did so with a jolt, winning Rookie of the Year and showing himself to be a consistent slugger in U.S. baseball ever since. And yes, it seems that Abreu was a part of the effort to sway Robert to want to come to Chicago (or at least to the South Side) on the grounds the White Sox "get" Cubans and what they go through to adapt to life in this country.
... w/ existing star Abreu for Cuban trio

With Abreu often saying he’s happy with the White Sox because of the large number of peloteros Cubanos they have employed throughout the years. Including Miñoso, who was around to see Abreu play, and many of the other Cubans such as former shortstop Alexi Ramirez, outfielder Dayan Viciedo and the two pitching stalwarts of that 2005 World Series-winning team, Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez.

THE LATTER OF whom gave what I still consider one of the most amazing pitching performances I have ever seen, in the ’05 playoffs against the Boston Red Sox, when the pitcher known as “El Duque” came in relief that one game and pitched three shutout innings right at a point when Boston was threatening to retake the lead, and momentum, in that playoff round.
Yankee had his moment in White Sox 'sun'

I’m still trying to figure out who looked most ridiculous – Johnny Damon swinging at that “Strike Three!!!!!” in the dirt, or Manny Ramirez an inning later looking totally hopeless as he struck out.

This Cuban connection of sorts leading his old ball club to a championship is something I’m sure Miñoso would have liked to have seen. Although to be honest, those of us beisbol fans who enjoy the growing Latin American presence will also get our kicks if this phenomenon becomes a reality.
A tie between Venezuelan and Cuban Sox heritage

Which, I’m sure, means there’s some xenophobic type out there who’s teeth are gnashing and his “I (heart) Trump” pin jiggles on his chest as he rants about the need to tighten the immigration laws AND undo the efforts former President Barack Obama made to improve U.S./Cuba relations.
A recent Cuban Sox star

SO WE’LL HAVE to see how all this plays out, particularly if it turns out to be that a Cuban influence helps rejuvenate the White Sox into a championship ball club.

Who’s to say the Chicago Cubs don’t have another championship run in them as well, and we really could get that all-Chicago World Series our city has dreamed of, yet been denied since 1906.
Will Ernie, Minnie quarrel in heavens?

Those Cubs with a Puerto Rican presence in the form of infielder Javy Baez taking on the Cuban- and Venezuelan (Chico Carrasquel and Luis Aparicio to Ozzie Guillen to Magglio Ordonez to today’s Avisail Garcia)-influenced Sox.

That really would make a Chicago “city series” into a World-Wide spectacle the World Series likes to think it is – something for us to look forward to in coming years. Even if Miñoso won’t be around to see it; he and Banks will have to watch from that realm above.