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Why are your shelves full of identical old books? For $29.95 each, Hammacher Schlemmer's catalog (Spring) offers videocassette covers with "a hand-painted spine that actually resembles a classic leather-bound volume, with the name 'Ruskin', the 19th-century writer, printed on it."

"Sometimes people just don't want what other people (including experts like us) think is good for them," reflects Mary O'Connell in The Neighborhood Works (April-May). "Sustainable development, for example, would call for weather-sealed windows with low-E glass and super-insulated shades; but maybe folks would rather spend the money on lace curtains. (Like the Chicagoans who led the fight for community gardens so people could raise nutritious food--only to discover that local folks would rather grow flowers, thank you.)"

Average donation to charity per adult in the six-county area: 15 minutes a week, 0.8 percent of income. What the average adult thinks he or she should donate: 2 hours, 4.1 percent. What the Volunteer Network, on West Washington, hopes to persuade each of us to give: 5 hours and 5 percent.

Worse than a war zone. Chicago psychologist and Erikson Institute president James Garbarino, coauthor of Children in Danger: Coping With the Consequences of Community Violence: "There are many similarities between children growing up in war zones around the world and American children growing up amidst chronic community violence. The one major difference is that in war zones, there is hope of peace and the renewal of community life. In public housing, the war never ends."

Lobbyists who've had one too many. This message from Illinois Taxpayers for Common Sense, which opposes Governor Edgar's proposal to raise taxes on booze: "GOVERNOR EDGAR SHOULD ALSO BE ADVISED that: a) George Washington was a distiller; b) Abraham Lincoln owned and operated a tavern in New Salem, Illinois. The tavern has been the focal point of many historical events; c) The first idea for independence was argued in a tavern..."

Our island of prosperity. According to state figures, the city of Chicago's unemployment rate has been slightly below the statewide figure for the past six years (Comptroller's Monthly Fiscal Report, February).

Will the Daleyites ever learn? "Of the 16 African American [state House of Representatives] seats in the city of Chicago, white candidates have gained control of six," write Victor M. Crown and Robert Heuer in Illinois Politics (March-April). "The defeat of African American candidates [including two incumbents, Paul Williams and Nelson Rice] has opened the door to the Harold Washington Party, which is poised to nominate a slate of candidates in five of the districts....It appears that white Democrats propped up several [extra] black candidates in order to siphon off black votes and capture the Democratic nominations."

"The really subversive thing about the sun is that, even if you were a Very Important Person indeed, you couldn't buy it all for yourself or send an army to beat some sense into the sun-dwellers," writes Jonathan McVity in In These Times (April 22-28). "More concretely, the sun can devalue honest work. People who have sweated many years for a nuclear or petrochemical or architectural degree, possibly putting themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt, naturally want to feel that their cleverness is not wasted. They do not want to be reminded of energy guru Amory Lovins' observation that running million-degree reactors to heat hundred-degree showers is like 'cutting butter with a chain saw.' They do not want to hear that if you spend 1,000 hours a year working to pay for a car you drive 5,000 miles, you are getting about five miles per hour and might, therefore, be happier enjoying the view on foot."

And replace people like you. Great Lakes United (Spring) quotes an aide to Michigan Governor John Engler, who has tried to reorganize that state's Department of Natural Resources in order to minimize public input: "If they, the 'citizens,' want to run state government, they should get elected or get jobs in that government."

Being oppressed means never having to prove anything. Statement approvingly quoted by the editors of the new book Sexual Harassment: Women Speak Out: "Women get to determine what is and isn't sexual harassment. Just as blacks should determine what is racist and gays what is homophobic. And if we say it happened, it happened."

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

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