“Whether the motivation is to control nature, bring order to chaos or to leave one’s mark on the face of this planet, we salute America’s passion for the yard–its private kingdoms,” writes Bruce W. Pepich, director of the Wustum Museum of Fine Arts (Racine, Wisconsin) in the catalog for its current exhibition, “Artists and the American Yard: Lawn Gnomes, Pink Flamingos and Bathtub Grottos.” “In fact, the decoration and maintenance of one’s yard or property is the major personal aesthetic statement most Americans make in public.”

“Social problems are created by those who decide what is to be problematic rather than by those who are declared to behave in a problematic fashion,” writes sociologist Herbert Gans in his new book People, Plans, and Policies. He therefore wonders “why illegitimacy, the single-parent family, and adolescent motherhood have become such urgent social problems–and more important, to what extent these phenomena are actually harmful and for whom…. There is no reason to believe that growing up in a single-parent family is problematic above and beyond the obviously problematic poverty in which the growing up takes place….We do not know whether a twenty-six-year-old poor unmarried mother without parental training will be a better mother because she is ten years older than a sixteen-year-old with the same attributes. In an era in which professional people–who are the primary definers of social problems–have their babies in their thirties, the fact that increasing numbers of poor women will have them in their teens is understandably disconcerting, but that still does not prove that the practice is harmful.”

Hey, if they’re discreet enough, no one will notice. From Illinois Resources (May/June): “The major issue is whether the existing rules appropriately encompass the various types of discontinuous noise, i.e., noise characterized by a series of discreet noise events…”

“Supposedly we are out there beating the drum for equality,” one female labor-union representative told Luis M. Corral of Chicago Enterprise (July/August), “but within our own structure equality is not reflected. Nothing ever changes around here, but don’t say I said that. I want to keep my job.”

From the eye of the storm. Dr. Kenneth B. Smith, recalling in the Trust Quarterly (Spring) his year as president of the Chicago Board of Education under Jane Byrne: “I felt uncomfortable having to be careful of everything I said–me, a preacher! Looking out over the congregation I used to serve, I would observe reporters present hoping that I would say something about the Board of Education… Well, that was unnerving, to say the least.”

I’m sorry, sir, your demeanor is politically incorrect. Richard Bolton in the Chicago-based New Art Examiner (June/Summer): “During a recent public discussion about my own artwork, someone asked me, ‘You aren’t a woman, you aren’t gay, and you aren’t a person of color. What’s in this for you?’ I responded by saying, basically, that we all have a stake in creating a more just society. The questioner followed up with this observation: ‘You seem so calm. Aren’t you angry about anything?’ I assured her that, whatever personality problems I may have inherited from my Swedish, Lutheran, and midwestern background, I still held strong political feelings.”

City of the Big PACs. Among political action committees, the two biggest givers to U.S. House members during the 1980s are headquartered just north of the Loop: the National Association of Realtors ($8,129,128 to 395 current House members over five elections) and the American Medical Association ($5,970,606 to 385 current members). Common Cause compiled the figures, and its president, Fred Wertheimer, says the PACs “aren’t contributing to Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives. They are investing in incumbents and looking to influence congressional decisions….There is no patients’ PAC….There is no home buyers’ PAC.” The realtors favorite investment is Missouri Republican Bill Emerson ($50,000); downstate Illinois Republican Robert Michel is fourth with $45,500; and the doctors’ most valuable asset is Virginia Republican Frank Wolf, with $46,500.

Illegally levied property taxes in Illinois, outside of Cook County, according to Illinois Tax Facts (June): between $246 million and $1,025 million.

Catholics with an attitude. “Martha Miller, a Chicago speech writer, went to Medjugorje [Yugoslavia, where the Virgin Mary has allegedly appeared] with a sick friend and a lot of skepticism and came back a believer,” according to John Whelan in U.S. Catholic (August). But she wasn’t happy with some of the other Americans there: “I saw people with an attitude like, ‘I came all the way across the ocean. Where the hell is the Virgin Mary?'”

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