Who wants to be a farmer? A lot of Chicagoans would get the choice if Ken Dunn of the Resource Center had his way, reports Holden Frith in Conscious Choice (October). “The time has come for Chicago to commit to the idea of urban agriculture on a citywide scale. Chicago has 6,000 acres of unused land, which he says would support 42,000 full-time jobs if all of it were cultivated.”

While you weren’t looking, the definition of “natural” changed. Martin Marty quotes Noah Efron (Golem, God, and Man) in his newsletter “Context” (September 15): “Depression or melancholia…has been a part of human culture and a part of many people’s lives, for worse, obviously, and for better. Once a drug like Prozac comes onto the scene and melancholia becomes a matter of choice or it becomes a pathology instead of just an existential condition, then what it means to be human has changed slightly. People can conceivably choose not to use Prozac, but then if you’re despondent it’s because you’ve chosen to do so. And no matter what you choose, you cannot change the fact that despondency, or melancholia, is now generally seen as a disease, abnormal, instead of part of the human condition.”

Is this map backward? The Chicago Area Transportation Study’s 2030 Regional Transportation Plan is putting rail and highway improvements in the wrong places, argues Jan Metzgar of the Chicagoland Transportation and Air Quality Commission. The commission’s Web site includes a map showing 161 miles of projects in the most heavily populated areas (more than 10,000 people per square mile, mainly Chicago and Evanston), 445 miles of work in moderately populated areas (2,000 to 10,000 people per square mile, mostly Cook and DuPage counties), and 659 miles in the least densely populated areas.

“If Democrats had a distinct post-September 11, 2001, vision, it was partly that the war on terrorism required a Marshall Plan as well as a Truman Doctrine,” writes Peter Beinart in the New Republic (October 6). “We needed to build schools in the Muslim world, not just crack skulls. Yet, now, with the Bush administration finally recognizing that defeating terrorism requires making sure Iraqis have electricity and clean water, the Democratic presidential candidates are looking for any excuse to avoid saying yes.”

Well, they call it news. New figures from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and the Alliance for Better Campaigns, in the ICPR’s October 1 newsletter, “Spot Check”: “TV stations in Illinois’ media markets took in $68.7 million from candidates and ran over 91,000 political ads during the 2002 elections.” Most of the ads we see are 30 or 60 seconds; ICPR’s newsletter says the average news sound bite on stations in the Chicago market is just 12 seconds.

“Some people will complain that the new ‘Chicago Manual’ [15th edition, 956 pages] is too long,” writes Louis Menand in the New Yorker (October 6). “These people do not understand the nature of style. There is, if not a right way, a best way to do every single thing, down to the proverbial dotting of the ‘i.’ Relativism is fine for the big moral questions, where we can never know for sure; but in arbitrary realms like form and usage even small doses of relativism are lethal. The ‘Manual’ is not too long. It is not long enough. It will never be long enough. The perfect manual of style would be like the perfect map of the world: exactly coterminous with its subject, containing a rule for every word of every sentence. We would need an extra universe to accommodate it. It would be worth it.”

In a sentence. Mike Newirth in In These Times (October 6), reporting on a Chicago appearance by Jacob Sullum, author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use: “Moderate, responsible drug use [by productive and otherwise law-abiding citizens] is the elephant in the room of anti-drug zealotry.”