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The past creeps closer. "Is it an architectural gem?" asks architect Leonard Koroski, referring to Michelle Clark Middle School, at 5500 W. Harrison, a glass-walled modernist creation that has suffered from poor maintenance since being built in the early 1970s. "Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But it has a [thoughtful] plan with an interior courtyard, and we took the attitude of respecting it for its modernist tradition" (from the May issue of Focus, the newsletter of the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects).

There goes the queen of hearts! University of Chicago researchers Mathew Leibold and Amy Downing (now at Ohio Wesleyan) have found that when a reasonably complicated ecosystem--one that includes rooted aquatic plants, herbivores, and carnivores--starts losing species, it also immediately starts losing productivity. "The animals weren't reproducing as quickly," Downing says in a recent university press release. "The plant communities weren't absorbing as much sun so they weren't growing as fast. Everything was slowing down." She adds, "It's like a house of cards. As you build more stories, you're going to have a more severe collapse when you finally pluck out a card. It all depends on how complicated your house is."

In other words, he hates it. Editor Veronica Anderson of Catalyst Chicago (May) struggles to combine charity and accuracy in her description of former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas: "He is a natural, voluble speaker who relishes press conferences and the rough and tumble of debate (as long as no one criticizes him)." Yeah, and I'd enjoy playing quarterback for the Bears (as long as no one tackled me).

Being a great poet means being interpreted in ways you never intended. From the on-line news service (May 16): "'April is the cruelest month,' T.S. Eliot lamented in his epic 1922 poem, The Waste Land. State lawmakers might be inclined to agree after tallying up April income tax collections."

"Despite changes in state law designed to hold landlords accountable," writes Sarah Karp in the May issue of the Chicago Reporter, "many continue to find ways to keep their identities hidden beneath layers of paperwork. And city inspectors and attorneys charged with going after unscrupulous landlords don't have the time or the technology to investigate repeat offenders." Unsurprisingly, most of the properties owned by recidivist landlords (20 or more buildings with code violations since 1997) are located on the south and west sides.

What would real "family values" mean? Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn's idea, which she lays out in the May 6 New Republic, is probably not what you think. "If it is a natural basis for the family that we are seeking, I propose a more reliable one: that marriage actually allows for a much greater degree of sexual expression--in quantity and in quality--than would be attainable for scavengers in the wild. In other times--in times less fixated than we are on superficial sensation--a notion of marriage as providing an unparalleled opening of the floodgates of sexuality prevailed. But today endless choice poses as the promise of transfiguration and transcendence."

In the war against the car, the car is winning. In 1980, 42 percent of northeastern Illinois commuters got to work by carpooling, taking mass transit, walking, or bicycling, according to census figures compiled by the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission in a May 14 press release. The other 58 percent drove to work alone. In the following 20 years the alternatives to solo driving lost popularity. In 2000, 69 percent drove to work alone and only 27 percent got to work in other ways. The reason: transit is slow. Chicago, with by far the highest proportion of people using transit in 2000 (26.1 percent), also has the longest average travel time to work (35.2 minutes). Kane County, with a mere 2.7 percent using transit to get to work, enjoyed the shortest commute time (27.3 minutes).

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