“Whenever the stresses of life build up to dangerous levels, I throw myself into birds, flowers and trees,” writes Stephen Packard on the 15th anniversary of the North Branch Prairie Project, in Prairie Projections (August). “Other people may choose fast cars, the Bible, drugs, or chocolate. Fine. But to me nature is the healer. It nurtures me. It transforms selfishness into generosity, boredom and despair into a hunger for life, compulsion and resentment into grace and peace.”

“They’re not all gun nuts, and they’re not all macho or macha. They’re really a varied group of men and women,” says Chicago Police Department chaplain Father Thomas Nangle in U.S. Catholic (September). “Just when I think I have a good handle on what all cops are like, I meet one that collects butterflies or has a season pass for the symphony.”

On one hand… “When young African-Arnericans on the West and South sides take advantage of a Chicago Bulls championship victory to loot and trash some neighborhood stores, surprised commentators attribute the action to mindless mobs of criminals. Maybe,” writes Salim Muwakkil in the Chicago Reporter (July). “But those mobs were once hopeful children who watched this society withdraw resources from their neighborhoods, where the need is real and often life-threatening, while pouring millions into athletic enterprises (like elaborate new stadiums) designed solely for entertainment. For these youth, handicapped by undereducation and social disdain, the connection between sport and looting is clearer than we care to concede. But our culture denies the connection, and many white Americans are wondering what all this racial fuss is about.”

On the other hand… Number of Arab-owned stores damaged in the Bulls championship riots, according to Michael Rosenfeld in New City (August 20): “As many as 200…. in other words, between seven and 20 percent of all Arab businesses in Chicago were damaged in a few short hours–a dramatic impact on one of Chicago’s smallest and least powerful populations.”

Is nothing sacred? In an effort to “help give bowling the wholesome image it so greatly deserves,” Waveland Bowl on North Western has announced a no-smoking policy on Saturday–until 5 PM, at which time maintaining the image apparently becomes too strenuous.

“How do you warn people who will be around 10,000 years from now to stay away from radioactive waste?” asks Linda Rothstein in the Hyde Park-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (September). “It may not be easy, given that the life span of a language rarely extends much beyond 1,500 years….Architect Michael Brill [who participated on a federal task force on the question] felt that the entire site could be designed in such a way that it would tap a deep archetypal sense of dread and loathing. He favored a landscape of thorn-like stones, a giant pile of rubble, or a black basalt slab he called ‘the black hole.’ Artist Jon Lomberg disagreed, arguing that simplicity was better. Anything too unusual, he said, is dangerous because it may be interpreted as great art.” Gosh–I wonder what Stonehenge is really about?

Looking forward to free trade? This from David Moberg in the Chicago-based In These Times (August 19-September 1): “In many export industries owned by U.S. multinationalists Mexican workers achieve nearly 80 percent of the productivity of U.S. workers but are paid about 6 percent of what their northern counterparts make.”

The state is running out of budget gimmicks, says comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch. “For example, although sales tax revenues increased by $123 million in fiscal 1992, $73 million of that increase was caused by the 10-day acceleration in sales tax collections.” So what appears to be a 3.2 percent rise in sales tax receipts is really only a 1.3 percent increase. Overall, “General Funds revenue…grew by only 2.4 percent, while expenses increased by 3.3 percent.”

Who listens to public radio? Charles Oliver in Reason (October) tells the story of the Chicago Christian Industrial League’s Fourth of July barbecue for the homeless. CCIL executive director Richard Roberts “did an interview publicizing the event on Chicago public-radio station WBEZ and mentioned that the picnic would include the launching of red, white, and blue balloons. The league’s office was flooded with phone calls…protesting the balloon launch. Callers feared that birds might try to eat the balloons and choke on them. Not one caller volunteered to help with the event.”

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