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"The fear that many citizens have of being murdered by an unknown assailant is contrary to statistical evidence," reports the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority in Trends and Issues 90. "Only 14 percent of the 989 murders reported in Illinois during 1988 involved verified situations in which the victim and offender were strangers to one another. In more than half the murders [57 percent], the victim and offender knew each other in some way..."

How to tell when you're dealing with alien beings disguised as sportswriters. Roger Angell in the New Yorker (July 16): "Chicago White Sox fans, toiling along in the darkness like Welsh pit ponies, draw our attention only when they occasionally emerge, blinking, from the depths....'This franchise could be fifty miles away,' Jerome Holtzman, the Chicago Tribune columnist, said to me. 'These people are more Gary, Indiana, than Chicago.'"

Tales from the burbs. Ex-Chicagoan Marti J. Sladek writes to Illinois Issues (July 1990), "When I went to register to vote in DuPage as an independent, the clerk didn't know it was legal and didn't know how to do it."

"I do challenge you to take the 10 p.m. news and clock the categories of coverage over a two-week span," writes Ann Seng in One City (May/June 1990). "Does it reflect your interests, your values?...Local television news...would tell me that Chicagoans place their highest value on sports, the weather, crime (preferably violent) and maybe another urban problem here and there." No, that's not me. I think the weather is more important.

Don't jump yet, ma'am. We're still working out the cost-benefit analysis. Bill Bolte, an activist for the rights of the disabled, in In These Times (July 4-17): "The argument that... low 'quality of life' makes 'life not worth living' [pictures] death as yet another program to help the handicapped....As a former mental-hospital administrator, I know that a 24-hour watch would be put on a patient who expressed suicidal intentions. Why is the society outside institutions doing the direct opposite for people with physical disabilities? Why is what would be interpreted as a 'cry for help' from an able-bodied person assumed to be a genuine desire for extermination when it comes from a disabled person?"

Still macho after all these years. Psychological support for reporters who stress out from seeing too many mangled bodies--who needs it? City News Bureau managing editor Paul Zimbrakos tells the Chicago Headline Club News (July-August 1990), "In the 32 years I've been with City News we've never--or at least I haven't--had a situation where people really became depressed or needed counseling. I guess it's because these kids come to us eager for some hard work; they're usually just out of school. They look at news stories as a challenge....I never felt the need to talk to anybody else, to get it off my shoulders or to get help facing the stress. It might come out with your coworkers when you're having a brew after work, but then it becomes just a war story." It's called Billy Goat therapy.

Thank heavens we can still export something. Left-wing legal scholar Peter Gabel reports on being invited to confer with Polish and Czech groups now rewriting their countries' constitutions (Tikkun, May/ June 1990): "We knew that we would be looked upon with some skepticism....Our expectations were borne out by our Polish sponsor's initial remarks on the night we arrived in Warsaw: 'We like to argue with people on the Left,' he said, 'but unfortunately there are no leftists remaining in Poland. Therefore, we have invited you.'"

No more night work. "Today's astronomers no longer have to go to the telescope and wait for the ideal weather conditions and stellar positions," says Dr. James E. Sweitzer, assistant director of Adler Planetarium. "Instead, they can store a list of objects to be observed in local computers, and the computers schedule and execute observation instructions to the telescope automatically, at the moment of optimal observation."

Behind the scenes at the Chicago Community Trust, back when the Lincoln Park Zoo submitted proposals for several years running in an attempt to convince the top brass that it was a "major arts institution" eligible for the trust's cultural-arts grant program. "Finally we presented the proposal to the executive committee," recalls Barbara Massey, then assistant director of the trust, in the Trust Quarterly (Spring 1990). "One member who also was a director of the Museum of Science and Industry sat back and complained, 'Well, I don't know--it's not a museum.' Another retorted, 'It's not a coal mine, either.' The zoo proposal was accepted."

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

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