$1,938,500: amount of money the Consortium on Chicago School Research estimates Chicago Public Schools elementary teachers spend out of their own pockets for school supplies every year.

How to become invisible. “Even when clients lived amid the ruins of a renovation, they didn’t quite register the workers,” writes George Packer, who was a carpenter on a quarter-million-dollar kitchen renovation in the late 80s, in Mother Jones (Novem-ber/December). “After a few days we became unofficial intimates, seeing clients in their underwear, overhearing marriages disintegrate, finding pills in the cabinets and dirty magazines in the attic– always privy to the nervous vanity, verging on panic, that overcomes people when they’re sinking huge amounts of money into their shelter. The closer you are to the process of making visible things, the less you yourself are seen.”

As others see us. Keryl McCord, executive director of the League of Chicago Theatres, in Stagebill (October): “This is known as a theater city. What frustrates me is that people here don’t know it…. When I was coming here from California, people said, ‘How wonderful! Such a great theater city!’ And people here say, ‘Why would you want to come to Chicago?’ Why not? You’ve got 120 theaters here! They’re holding death watches over theaters in New York.”

Core curriculum. The Baltic Independent (October 11-17) reports on the combination basketball school and hotel in Lithuania being financed by Golden State Warriors player Sarunas Marciulionis from his earnings: “Besides basketball, good manners and foreign languages will be taught.”

“There are a number of good reasons for being cautious about identifying the women’s movement with abortion rights,” according to Marian Henriquez Neudel in the Chicago-based New Patriot (November/ December). “One is that abortion rights is too narrow an approach even to reproductive rights. The right to terminate a pregnancy isn’t nearly as useful to most women as the right not to start one in the first place–the right, that is, to safe, reliable, reversible, accessible contraception.” Besides, politically speaking, even prochoice people view abortion as at best a necessary evil. “Making it the centerpiece of the women’s movement is like making vivisection the main drawing card for medical research. Even those who agree that it is necessary for some other valid purpose don’t consider it a valid end in itself.”

Only a pawn in their game. Dale Eastman in Chicago Reporter (October): “The Grand Boulevard neighborhood on the South Side has only one bank, but four pawnshops. And while the 33,000 residents of West Garfield Park have no bank in their area, they’ve had a pawnshop for years.” Citywide, the 27 pawnshops do an estimated $14 million worth of business in loans every year.

“Both birds [pigeons and sea gulls] are pests, but they’re also useful,” reflects D. Tulla Lightfoot in Strong Coffee (August). “They are detectors. By watching the horizon for sea gulls you can detect the location of either a large body of water, or the town dump. Sea gulls just happen to love garbage dumps. Maybe it’s because their white coloring blends in with the white of paper towels and other crumbling stuff, so it’s sort of camouflage while they’re waiting for their free meal. Or maybe the landfill is sea-gull entertainment. Maybe they’re all on dates, sitting up there on the ledge watching humans moving below, plopping chests of drawers, box springs, and rusted bicycle frames in a heap and plowing everything under.”

“Third World people literally do not count,” writes Northwestern’s Garry Wills in Sojourners (August-September). “Only 55,000 died in Vietnam–and, miraculously, not one of the Vietnam War’s casualties was Vietnamese. Not as we count, anyway. Actually, at least two million Vietnamese, by the best estimate, died during our own engagement with that country. Ten percent of the entire population was killed or wounded.” And now, “in the Gulf we hear estimates of Iraqi casualties that come on a scale where one must say ‘give or take 25,000 to 50,000 people.'”

“If you’re looking for a cheap, relatively easy way to prevent wholesale destruction of old buildings on the edge of downtown, don’t bother with landmark laws.” That’s what Ed Zotti recommends in Chicago Enterprise (November). “Instead, prohibit new non-accessory surface parking lots. A study in Atlanta found that many of the city’s classy old downtown buildings had been destroyed not for skyscrapers but for surface parking, which generated minimal taxes and looked terrible on top of it.”

You know the yuppies are taking over when both print and electronic journalists can’t stop themselves from calling the Chicago Electric Options Campaign “the Chicago Electric Options Exchange.”

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