Beware of cultural literates. Education Week (November 16) reports that the much ballyhooed Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know contains at least one fact that no American needs to know--it twice identified Jacksonville as the capital of Florida. (Which town got the honor in Illinois? Decatur? Peoria? Pinckneyville?)
Kid stuff. Eighteen billion disposable diapers are buried in landfills every year, according to the U. of I's Solid Waste Management Newsletter (October 1988), sending "untreated human fecal material . . . through landfill sites rather than through the sewage plants." Would you rather drink viruses and bacteria or wash diapers?
"Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville depend upon one another for their vitality," write Philip Bess and Howard Decker in Inland Architect November/December 1988). "Night baseball seriously threatens the harmony of a currently healthy, but fragile, urban ecosystem." Why? Parking. Since night games discourage walking or taking the CTA to the ballpark, they could threaten the continued physical existence of the neighborhood itself. Bess and Decker estimate that a Wrigleyville six-flat might gross $36,000 a year, while the same lot devoted to parking might gross $25,000 a year for 81 games--with lower taxes and maintenance costs. "Maybe Wrigleyville can tolerate 18 night games annually [the current limit]; we doubt it could tolerate 40. . . . The residents of Wrigleyville must, therefore . . . denounce even the rumor of a hint of a trial balloon proposing to increase that number."
Beyond creche and menorah. Reverend Stanley Davis of the National Council of Christians and Jews reminds us that there are more Buddhists (85,000-100,000) than Episcopalians (61,000) in the Chicago area.
"Old St. Patrick's could be said to be a 'theme' parish," writes Tim Unsworth in U.S. Catholic (December 1988) about the parish just west of the Loop. "The local color is clearly Irish (even the curbstones outside are painted green), but the climate is accepting, tolerant, and catholic. . . . Old St. Patrick's now has 32 people on its payroll. It is an event-driven parish, earning only 23 percent of its income from the collection basket. Its annual 'World's Largest Block Party' grossed more than $600,000 in 1988. . . . St. Patrick's has been described as 'a parish where one experiences efficacious grace in a pub-like atmosphere'--a marvelous bit of Irish blarney. But it works. People come back to experience some of their ethnic roots, and they end up re-embracing their religious roots."
Dept. of amazing coincidences. A new study from the Women Employed Institute on South Wabash reports that "in every major occupational category, jobs held mostly by women workers generally pay less than jobs held mostly by men, regardless of skill and education requirements."
"Terkel is, surely, the nation's foremost mythographer," writes Jacob Weisberg in the New Republic (November 28); "but he calls his books 'oral histories.' It is important to distinguish them, therefore, from the legitimate social history of which they are the reductio ad absurdum. . . . Terkel's people are straight out of central casting. Farmers say they are scratchin' out a livin'; commodities speculators brag about sitting on a mountain of money, made without lifting a finger. The strikers stand on principle; the scabs have no principles to defend. Terkel seems unable to re-examine the dogma that categorizes these types of virtue and vice incarnate, even when the strikers are millionaire football players and the farmers are getting rich off corporate welfare."
Dept. of unlikely honors. Thom Hudson--a surgical nurse on leave who has AIDS--"recently participated in the Mr. Windy City contest as the Chicago House representative," according to Chicago House's autumn 1988 newsletter. "He won 1st Runner Up, which both surprised and pleased him. . . . The idea of participating appealed to his taste for adventure and his desire to go for the new experience. . . . He felt his participation could only give confidence to those who are impacted.'" The newsletter quotes him as saying, "My great fantasy while onstage was that I could win, which would have been a great honor for PWAs [people with AID ] to have one of their own 'on a meat rack.'"
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.