Aliteracy in action, from Cat Tales, the newsletter of Second Editions bookstore in Skokie: “A very nice lady discovered Second Editions one day while she was out shopping with a friend. While the reader was browsing, the friend stood at the counter, staring into space, and finally announced to Hope ‘I don’t like to read….I have other hobbies that are more productive.’ ‘Oh, what kind of things do you enjoy?’ ‘I like doing laundry.’ Astonishingly enough, the woman finally got a little peeved when we offered all of ours to entertain her.”

Proposal least likely to be implemented, suggested by the Anonymous Museum on West Ontario for the AIDS-awareness observance of “A Day Without Basketball” on February 8: “Discuss safe sex, national health care, rights to privacy, or the AIDS Crisis with your family; or go to your favorite sports bar and engage your friends in a discussion.” How ’bout those HIVs, guys?

Your tax dollars at work? Last month, with great lamentation, Secretary of State George Ryan announced the closing of 52 “driver services facilities.” Among them were two downstate offices, one in Nashville (Washington County) and the other in Wyoming (Stark County), each of which employs three people to serve an average daily volume of 18 customers.

Roll over, Beethoven. Northwestern University School of Music’s Concertline (Winter) previews a March 2-7 festival and symposium focusing on the work of influential experimental composer John Cage with this quote from “music public services librarian” Debbie Campana: “John Cage is of Beatles’ stature in the contemporary music world.”

I think we already knew that. American Demographics (January) asked a consulting firm to rank all U.S. places with more than 50,000 residents according to how close they were to national averages in age distribution, race distribution, and housing values. Sure enough, four Illinois cities ranked in the top 30 “most ordinary”: Springfield (4th), Bloomington (7th), Rockford (10th), and Peoria (29th).

“In the latter part of the 20th century, people should not be dying from asthma,” Dr. Richard Evans of Children’s Memorial Hospital tells Rachel Jones and Lisa Capitanini in the Chicago Reporter (January). But they are: annual asthma deaths in Chicago rose from 52 in 1980 to 110 in 1989; more than two-thirds of the victims were black.

The entire Peoples Gas main distribution system needs an overhaul; in fact, “Peoples Gas is gambling with the health and safety of a million Chicago residents”–cries of outrage following last month’s firestorm? No–the gist of a 1982 report by the Labor Coalition on Public Utilities, which found that gas leaks were occurring in Chicago at double the national rate. The Illinois Commerce Commission, exercising its usual level of judgment, declined to investigate.

TV we could use a lot more of. “Racism is hardly a historical relic,” writes Martin Lee in Extra! (January/February), “as ABC’s Primetime Live (9/26/91) showed when it filmed two clean-cut collegiate types–one black and one white–seeking jobs from the same employer, seeking housing from the same landlord and looking to buy a car from the same dealer. ABC’s hidden cameras provided vivid footage of how the black man encountered discrimination at every institution….If done week after week–as often, let’s say, as TV news focuses on the ‘war on drugs’–it would debunk the malarkey coming from Duke and other politicians about ‘rampant discrimination against white people.'”

Percentage of the 583 major Great Lakes polluters who exceeded their monthly average discharge limits at least once between October 1989 and March 1991: 84. Pounds of lead allowed to be discharged into the lakes, per day, in 1990: 244. Gallons of oil and grease: 20,000 (U.S. General Accounting Office testimony, October 4).

We love art, but we love tax deductions more. In 1991 people who donated artworks to museums were allowed to claim the full market value of their gifts, rather than just the original purchase price, as a tax deduction (this provision has been extended six months). As a result, the Art Institute received 1,895 donations in December 1991 alone–compared to 272 in all of 1990.

Fully assimilated. “In some cases, the biases [exhibited by schoolchildren at Saucedo Magnet School on West 24th] have nothing to do with race,” writes Michael Selinker in Catalyst (February). “For example, some Hispanic students fluent in English were calling those who weren’t ‘wetbacks.'”

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