Purity: the impossible dream. Environmentalist Tom Kinder describes his family’s “awakening” to the ubiquity of plastics, in Greenkeeping (September/ October): “We looked around our house and saw the very chemicals that we had fought in hazardous waste dumps or chemical factories….We had to do something. So we piled all our plastics–okay, not quite all, we kept the records, phone, car, computer, etc.–we piled all the plastics we could stand getting rid of into the car and drove them off to a consignment store.”

Uh-oh, there goes the transmission. David G. Sowerby in Affiliated Bank’s Economic Report (third quarter): “The likely course for business conditions over the next six months will be an economy stuck somewhere between neutral and first gear.”

“If we can’t have distinct political parties in America, let’s at least have politically distinct long-distance companies.” So says Peter Barnes, cofounder of Working Assets, the family of socially responsible enterprises that has launched a new long-distance service. Its customers will receive with their bills brief descriptions of two pending issues, and the phone numbers and addresses of key decision makers on those issues. If customers call any of these people on the first Monday of the month, their calls will be free.

Sandburg? Algren? Bellow? Never heard of ’em. First paragraph of a promotional letter we didn’t finish: “Perhaps you’ve noticed, Chicago’s quickly gaining a hometown literary reputation. Think of Scott Turow’s courtroom thrillers, Bill Granger’s spy novels, Sara Paretsky’s tough detective tales, and Fred Pohl’s science fiction epics.”

Works of art. Poet Carla Dennis at a June 27 “Women in Verse” poetry reading (quoted by Joe Kraus in Letter Ex, August): “After I had my child, I had a hard time writing poetry again because writing a poem is like having a child. When I looked at my child, I thought, ‘This is the best I’ll ever do.'”

“‘Our experience almost universally has been that [learning Catholic social teaching is] way down on people’s lists,’ says Jim Lund, director of the Chicago archdiocese’s Office for the Ministry of Peace and Justice. ‘If you’re trying to figure out what to do on Thursday night, I think that watching “L.A. Law” is going to come out higher than going to a study group on Centesimus annus'” (Salt, November/December).

Even Roeser isn’t always wrong. “Did it strike you as odd that George Bush dawdled until we became the 32nd nation to recognize the independence of the Baltics?” asks conservative curmudgeon Thomas F. Roeser in Crain’s Chicago Business (September 16-22). “That we snubbed Yeltsin when he was more on our side than Gorbachev? It shouldn’t. No matter how hard they preach about liberty, free markets and the like, when it comes down to it, establishment politicians–Republicans no less than Democrats–grow fidgety when confronted with people who really want to implement the very idea of freedom.”

“For many of these situations there aren’t easy solutions,” attorney Maurice Dore tells Chicago Lawyer (October) about juvenile court. “They are complex human problems, and I learned a long time ago that for some human problems there are almost no solutions available….Juvenile Court is the illegitimate offpsring of a one-night stand between the art of law and the art of social work.”

I think he means Shakespeare and not Ogden Nash. Randy Duncan, in the newsletter of Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre (Summer): “Dancers do steps. The artist feels the dance. If I were to compare the process to something outside of dance, you could say that a dancer represents everyday prose, while the artist is the equivalent of poetry.”

From one teacher’s diary of school reform, as published in Catalyst (November): “June 14. As a cost-cutting device, the board has circulated a letter among its employees asking them to report the insurance carrier on any second job they might have. In what other profession would it be assumed that the employees have second jobs?”

Last word on the gulf war, from Wendell Berry (the Progressive, November): “We were evidently determined to preserve at all costs a way of life in which we intend no sacrifices and contemplate no restraints. We sent an enormous force of our young men and women to kill and be killed in defense of our oil supply, but we have done nothing to conserve that supply or to reduce our dependence on it. We will not ration petroleum fuels. We will not mention the possibility of more taxes. We wish to give our people the impression that, except for their children, nothing will be required of them.”

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