Elementary education. Among the classes offered this season by the Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago: “The ‘How To Boil Water’ Series.”

A ray of hope for Gardner, or is it Burris? Political analyst David Fremon writes in Illinois Politics (December) that while voter registration in Chicago’s 20 predominantly black wards is almost the same as in 1983, registration in the 19 predominantly white wards is down 20 percent. “The results could prove encouraging for those supporting an African American candidate,” he suggests–but only if black voters turn out in good numbers, and unite behind one candidate who can attract white, Hispanic, and Asian voters as well.

Adventures in architecture. Writer and photographer Jay Weiser wrote in Inland Architect (November/December) about his trip to Cedar Rapids to see one of Louis Sullivan’s bank buildings: “At first, I couldn’t even find the Peoples Savings Bank (1909-11; now a Norwest Bank), because I was downtown, and the bank isn’t. It’s in an area that’s now so desolate that someone who saw me there on a Sunday night called the police. After little questioning, I was released. ‘We’ll tell the complainant that you were photographing a national historic landmark,’ the officer said.”

Well, gosh, dear, if you put it that way. From the sales and marketing director of a company offering “soft bondage marital aids”: “Over the last few years, we have seen bondage move from the dungeon to the bedroom as an age old taboo started to crumble. We surmise that one of the driving factors behind this trend is that spicing up the sex life in a monogamous relationship instead of having an affair may be a life or death decision.”

“Vander Weele believes we need an aroused citizen movement to change things” in Chicago schools, writes Michael Bakalis of Maribeth Vander Weele’s book Reclaiming Our Schools in Illinois Issues (January). “But who will lead it? Can we expect the leaders to come from the over 75 percent of adult Illinois citizens who have no children in our public schools? Or will such leadership come from the teachers? Will we ever see the day when the Chicago Teachers Union threatens to strike because the textbooks are outdated, the school toilets don’t work or incompetent teachers remain in their ranks?”

Percentage of Chicago-area blacks who think media coverage of African Americans is generally inaccurate: 64 percent. Percentage of whites who think so: 30 percent. (Northwestern University Survey Laboratory’s Racial Differences and Select Attitudes Towards Race-Related Issues in the Chicago Metropolitan Area: 1990-94)

“Like a bombastic talk radio host, [national ACLU president Nadine] Strossen does not present counterarguments except in their most absurd form” in her new book Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights, according to U. of C. law professor Cass Sunstein. “She seems to think that sexually explicit speech deserves absolute protection as a matter of constitutional law; and she seems unaware that this is not a simple position to defend. Would Strossen really protect the distribution of any and all child pornography (involving, say, movies with children who are 12 years old, or 8 years old, or 4 years old)? In the name of the Constitution, would she ban states from restricting the time and place when unwilling viewers could be exposed, say, to billboards and subway posters showing child pornography, or acts that are violent and sexually explicit? If Strossen patiently confronted these questions, her argument would be easier to understand and to evaluate; but she doesn’t like to deal with hard questions that might draw her absolutism into doubt.” (New Republic, January 9 & 16)

Just don’t let him do Elvis, OK? Publicity for a western Michigan regional theater: “Walker himself stars as Kennedy, and…so totally invests himself in playing his childhood hero, audiences are convinced JFK has returned to life.”

“Are we subject to the same ethical code as everyone else, one based on the core values?” Ken Shapiro asks his fellow animal-rights activists in a recent issue of the Animals’ Agenda–and frankly answers no. “In controversies with our opposition, we should be allowed some loosening of ethical restraints. It might be ethical for us to offend the sensibilities of some individuals (a furcoat-wearer on the street) or even to damage property when that occurs incidental to some other action (while protesting and then ‘sitting in’ at an animal research facility)….There should be a relatively looser ethical standard for those who advocate for individuals in an oppressed group than those who defend already established groups.” We certainly look forward to visiting the City of Chicago Oppressed Group Licensing Bureau to apply for our certificate entitling us to relaxed ethics.

Hey, I wanna be part of the crowd. Worried about peer pressure? Forget about teenage sex. Look at corporate downsizing, says Southern Illinois University sociologist William McKinley. “There’s no clear evidence that it improves productivity, product quality or profits, and it certainly doesn’t relate to the welfare of the employees. This wave of downsizing is proceeding more because it’s a way for corporations to legitimize themselves than because of economic or market factors.”

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