News & Politics » City File

The City File

by

comment

Hey, I can't find the clutch on this thing. Piano rebuilder Paul Revenko-Jones of Music of the Spheres Pianoworks (Chicago Industrial Bulletin, May/June): "There are 11,000 to 12,000 parts in a piano. That's more parts than there are in a car."

Musical inspiration. According to Mike Konopka in the Eardrum (June), "It is a common [recording] studio practice to...line ducting inside and out [with felt] to reduce unwanted AC and heating mechanical noise from entering the studio. The downside of such lined ducting is that moisture removed by the air conditioning process itself becomes trapped in the felt lining. This causes foul odors akin to dead rodents to permeate into your otherwise sweet smelling gig."

We support the circulator. We have always supported the circulator. Dennis Constant in Taxnews (Summer): "In 1947, the Chicago Tribune, which editorialized against trolley systems on page one, quoted George W. Barton, a traffic engineer and consultant, as saying, 'The principal objection to the street car is that it is an obstacle in the middle of the street where it is desirable to have the traffic move rapidly. The bus, on the other hand, operates next to the curb and leaves outer traffic lanes open for uninterrupted traffic flow.' Now, almost 50 years later, the Chicago Tribune is supporting this boondoggle, and the firm Barton co-founded, Barton-Aschmann Associates, is recommending this trolley as the 'preferred alternative.' The smell of bacon is obviously too strong to resist!"

"It is certainly part of the politically correct Western press to see us [Catholics] as only interested in sexual ethics," Father Richard Rohr, O.F.M., tells the Chicago-based U.S. Catholic (May): "The papal visit in 1992 illustrated that. In his talk the pope must have outlined three times the elements of the 'seamless garment' on the value of human life. But sure enough, on prime-time news that night, they said, 'Pope condemns birth control and abortion.' That is not what he said. He clearly talked about the poor, the homeless, the prisoners, the handicapped--the most defenseless in our society. But when he said the 'most defenseless,' everybody just heard abortion. He didn't even use the word abortion. So Catholics don't always get a fair assessment."

The persistence of platters. Charlie Edwards of Reckless Records on North Broadway tells Illinois Entertainer (July): "I'm continually surprised at how much vinyl we do sell....We will sell twice as many vinyl copies of the new Sonic Youth than we will sell CDs."

"There's no shortage of empty space in downstate Illinois," writes David Foster Wallace in Harper's (July), recounting his visit to last year's state fair. "The fairgrounds take up 300-plus acres on the north side of Springfield, a depressed capital of 109,000 where you can't spit without hitting a Lincoln-site plaque. The fair spreads itself out....I suspect that part of the self-conscious community thing here has to do with space. Rural Midwesterners live surrounded by unpopulated land, marooned in a space whose emptiness is both physical and spiritual. It is not just people you get lonely for. You're alienated from the very space around you, for here the land is not an environment but a commodity. The land is basically a factory. You live in the same factory you work in."

"Why does everyone want to study this neighborhood?" a student at Richards Vocational High School, 50th and Laflin in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, asked U. of I. historian James R. Barrett. And indeed, Barrett writes in the Illinois Historical Journal (Winter 1993), "the community on Chicago's South Side is one of the most intensely studied places in American urban history....As early as the turn of the century, Back of the Yards had become an urban laboratory for pioneering sociologists, partly because of its proximity to the University of Chicago's Hyde Park campus. By 1906 it was famous as the setting for Upton Sinclair's muckraking novel The Jungle....Finally, the history of Back of the Yards makes a very good story. Starting out life under wretched conditions at the end of the nineteenth century, the community remade itself and its public image, first through a series of militant labor movements like the Stockyards Labor Council and the United Packinghouse Workers-CIO, and then through Saul Alinsky's model community organization, the Back of the Yards Council. For many, then, Back of the Yards represents the classic slum with a happy ending."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.

Add a comment