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By Harold Henderson

Life in the school of self-expression. From David Sedaris's generic chronicle of life at the School of the Art Institute, in Interrobang (volume 2, number 1): "You turn in your projects and discover that, unlike the study of Spanish or Chemistry, there are no right or wrong answers here. The assignment is to bring in a self-portrait and the fellow beside you shows up with two olives and a coat hanger. After awhile, you can't help but notice the resemblance."

"For 50 years, planners in this country have been saying that when people 'come to their senses,' they'll realize that sprawl is bad and start using transit instead of the private automobile," Northwestern University's David Schulz tells Planning magazine (December). "But people have already decided that the suburbs are where they want to live, and the car is how they want to get there. If we keep waiting for them to come to their senses, we will get even more sprawl. What we could do is universal road pricing. We could equip every vehicle in the U.S. with an electronic transponder.

...You'd pay for your car the same way you pay for your phone or electricity."

"Behind each oily talkshow host is a media conglomerate," Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon remind us in Extra! Update (December)--"Time Warner (Jenny Jones); Rupert Murdoch's Fox (Gordon Elliott); the Tribune Co. (Geraldo Rivera, Charles Perez); Viacom/Paramount (Montel Williams, Maury Povich); Gannett/Multimedia (Jerry Springer, Sally Jessy Raphael); Sony (Ricki Lake)." So where are the Republican morality crusaders? Not merely silent, but worse. "It's quite a feat of hypocrisy for a politician like [William "Book of Virtues"] Bennett to target TV talk hosts while his Republican allies in Congress are trying to pass a telecommunications 'reform' bill giving unprecedented monopoly powers to the same corporations polluting the airwaves."

The bad news is my salary has been cut in half. According to a recent survey conducted for Block Drug Company, "While 38 percent of those with incomes over $30,000 experience gas, only 14 percent with incomes under $30,000 experience gas."

Letting workers wear Walkmans makes them more productive, at least those performing less complex tasks by themselves, according to a study by U. of I. organizational behavior professor Greg Oldham. But, according to a university press release, Oldham cautions there are corresponding risks: "Headphone wearers may not hear warning alarms or sirens; headphone cords can become tangled in machinery; and headphones used at high volumes may cause permanent hearing loss"--with him so far?--"which could lead to lawsuits against the company."

On second thought, let's just have a builder put up a tract house. From a Chicago Architecture Foundation ad touting "great stories of Chicago architecture": "He believed God is in the details" (Mies van der Rohe); "He preached form follows function" (Louis Sullivan); "He ran off with a client's wife" (Frank Lloyd Wright).

Sounds more like your body than mine. "Years ago, French philosopher and diplomat Jacques Maritain warned against the sin of angelism," writes Notre Dame theologian Lawrence Cunningham in U.S. Catholic (December)--"that pernicious view that somehow we are pure spirit trapped in a corruptible, disobedient, and unlovely body that keeps us from soaring up, untrammeled, to God."

You can't always get what you want. What's the best way to reduce people's exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Lake Michigan fish? Writing in BioScience (December), five researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Science Center in Michigan suggest that it might be to stock more rainbow trout and fewer lake trout in the lake. Rainbow trout now average 0.39 milligrams of PCBs per kilogram of body weight; lake trout average 1.74. Unfortunately, lake trout is the native species and rainbow trout is exotic. "In Lake Michigan, two major environmental objectives have been the reestablishment of the native lake trout population and the reduction of human contaminant exposure. Ironically, in this case, two environmental goals do not seem compatible."

Do women lawyers have equal opportunity? In an ABA Journal poll 70 percent of men--and only 40 percent of women--say yes.

"Progressive forces have locked themselves into a prison of their own making: identity politics," writes Catharine Stimpson of the MacArthur Foundation, summarizing Todd Gitlin's new book The Twilight of Common Dreams in the Nation (December 18). "Left-of-center forces can confront and ameliorate America's anguish. Nothing, however, can be done unless the left changes. Because the winds of history have blown Marxism away, the left must revivify the Enlightenment and a democratic Americanism....'What is a Left without a commons, even a hypothetical one?' Gitlin asks with some despair. 'If there is no people, but only peoples, there is no Left.'"

Send tips to cityfile@chireader.com.

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

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