Things you could get a heart attack just thinking about. Professional ice cream taster John Harrison on his family ties to the industry: “My blood runs 16 percent butterfat.”

It makes a difference where you live, judging from Com Ed figures unearthed by Lisa Capitanini and James Ylisela Jr. in the Chicago Reporter (July/August): “Chicago’s South Side may suffer most from the problem [of electrical transformer overloads and resulting outages] because equipment there is older and therefore more susceptible to overloads. In the last two years, Edison had to replace 59 transformers on the South Side, compared to only 12 on the North Side, according to Edison’s two-year outage records. Edison officials could not explain the large number of burned out and overloaded transformers on the South Side.”

“As a ’60s person, I’m drawn to those who burn fast and hot, who live life to the ultimate, who go against nature and all the rules,” says Camille Paglia in the San Francisco Examiner’s Image magazine (July 7), reflecting on AIDS and the sexual revolution. “Who has contributed more to life? The gay men who are dying, those who sought love and beauty? Or the type of careful soul who never risks anything and lives to be 80? I think gay men should be seen as romantics, who were correct in pushing themselves to the ultimate. They pursued love and beauty and they were slapped down.”

Gee, everyone must be pretty happy with Congress, right? “The number of Congressional races won by incumbents during the 1980’s: 1,567. The number of Congressional races lost by incumbents during the 1980’s: 43” (DemocracyWatch, Summer).

Your dimes and quarters in this basket will help kill trees and pave over wetlands. “Because tollroads are not funded by federal tax dollars they are not subject to environmental review or federal safeguards against damage to parklands, endangered species habitat, or wetlands. The Illinois Toll Highway Authority has unlimited power to condemn land, including public parks and nature preserves, for new tollroads,” reports the McHenry County Defenders’ Environmental News (June-July). The organization has a special interest in this issue since one proposed new tollway is aimed at Volo Bog State Natural Area and the local conservation district’s Glacial Park. “Attempts by environmental groups to make the Toll Highway Authority comply with environmental safeguards and standards have been killed in the General Assembly.”

Bulletin from the tobacco wars. U.S. battle deaths in Vietnam, Korea, and both world wars: 426,060. U.S. deaths from smoking in 1988: 434,175 (Healthy Returns, Summer).

“I have participated in several children’s overnighters at the [Chicago] Academy [of Sciences],” writes academy president Paul Heltne in Newscast (Summer), “and when we bring out the passenger pigeons, the reaction is always the same. ‘If someone just told you that millions and millions of these birds once blackened the Chicago-area skies and blocked out the sun–would you believe it?’ I ask the children. Inevitably, all of them say, ‘No, we would think that someone just made it up.’ Seeing an actual passenger pigeon–a bird that no longer exists on earth–suddenly makes it and the issue of extinction very real. The value of that experience is truly immeasurable.”

Attention span alert. From the advance program of the fourth national conference of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (“Love, Money and Power in Chicago”), scheduled for the Hilton and Towers October 3-6: “30/30: Thirty Lectures in Thirty Minutes. In this densely-packed evening event, 30 distinguished designers will deliver a one-minute illustrated lecture on the topic of their choice, vaguely related to the themes of Love, Money or Power. Each presenter gets the mike, a slide projector, 60 seconds and the hook. No mercy, no boredom.”

When suburbanites feed at the government trough. “1990 tax deductions for homeowners: $47 billion. 1990 federal budget for low-income housing: $9 billion” (Common Cause, July/August).

Pieces of glass (2,148) and cigarette filters (779) were the most common items of debris picked up by 77 volunteers on three-quarters of a mile of Montrose Avenue Beach last September. This fall the Great Lakes Beach Sweep (708-597-2988) is calling for volunteers to pick up and document lakeside litter on September 21.

When it comes to stopping drunk driving, Illinois is one of the most successful states, according to MADD’s state-by-state report card, Rating the States. It lists Illinois among the top ten states in leadership, victim issues, DWI legislation, public information, innovative programs, and responsible alcohol service.

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