Never be surprised again. The latest “smart” Panasonic stereo receiver knows the frequency, location, and format of 9,400 radio stations across the U.S. It can be programmed so that “new stations–with the same format–are chosen automatically as you drive from one city to the next.” Yeah, but can it find a WXRT format in Sioux City?

“Why shouldn’t there be an Uptown Symphony Orchestra?” asks Rita Simo of the People’s Music School at 4750 N. Sheridan, in Strong Coffee (October 1990). Most of her school’s 189 students come from underprivileged families, she says, “though there are two from Morton Grove, wherever that is…”

“In a number of ways the stretch of Kennedy Expressway visible from the East River Road bridge can be seen as a quite literal re-creation of a traditional downtown,” writes Robert Bruegmann in Inland Architect (November/December 1990). “O’Hare/Rosemont and other outlying business centers give us the extraordinary opportunity to observe with our own eyes the creation of a landscape which is as much a response to market forces and design beliefs in our times as the Loop in the late-19th century was to its….Silvery metal towers line up beside the highway, channeling the view toward the Loop…. the roadway fans out into a maze of ramps, toll booths, and Chicago Transit Authority facilities. The bridge shudders from the combined roar of traffic on the expressway, the CTA train approaching from the Loop, and planes homing in on O’Hare. Though few observers would consider this landscape sublime, it does have elements of an awesome beauty. It is also a quintessentially late-20th-century landscape. As recently as the 1950s there was no bridge, no expressway, no airport; only a country road running peacefully between the forest preserve and fields, a few houses, and a horse farm.”

But gee, professor, playing war is so much more fun. “We are dependent on foreign petroleum only because we have chosen to remain dependent on it,” says U. of I. agricultural economist Folke Dovring, an advocate of alcohol fuels made from coal, natural gas, garbage, or plant materials. “Replacement fuels are possible and we could have had them in place now, if the federal government had taken the lead by adopting a policy of using methanol instead of gasoline.”

“Butts and booze” billboards are not concentrated in poor minority neighborhoods, yet these neighborhoods are overrun with billboards of all kinds, most of them illegal. This according to a Chicago Reporter survey (November 1990). “The percentage of billboards pushing cigarettes and liquor was roughly the same among the neighborhoods surveyed–from 40 to 55 percent. The difference is that while billboards dot middle-income, white areas, they choke low-income, minority areas,” writes Laurie Abraham. “In the predominantly white areas, which had an average poverty rate of 11 percent, the number of signs ranged from 19 in Norwood/Edison Park to 57 in Brighton Park. But black neighborhoods with poverty rates higher than 40 percent averaged 207 billboards; the high was Englewood’s 271, the low Roseland’s 142. The two poorest Hispanic areas also each had more than 200 signs.”

The closest cut-your-own Christmas tree farm to the city, according to the 1990 Illinois Christmas Tree Buyers’ Guide, is Ide Farms on 83rd Street in Downers Grove.

Another reason to be against McDome, from The City That Works (October 1990): “A Presbyterian pastor in Portage Park goes further. Professional football, he writes, is no longer a sport in the ordinary sense–in fact, it’s probably bad for the health of both players and spectators. It’s more like a modern version of gladiatorial combat–with line combatants weighing in at 250 to 300 pounds and success or failure depending in large measure on injuries. (A Chicago writer suggests football now typifies modern society: ‘Violence punctuated by committee meetings.’)”

Insecurity deposit. One of the biggest reasons a homeless mother can’t get back into the housing market, according to a recent report by Loyola University sociologists Kathleen McCourt and Gwendolyn Nyden: “A security deposit. More than three-fourths of those women who had trouble finding housing said it was because they couldn’t afford a security deposit.”

“In many ways, The Hafler Trio transcend mere industrial bombast and conceptual quirkiness,” according to the Club Lower Links listings for December. “They hover somewhere amidst true audio art, psychoacoustic experimentation/subversion and sonic mysticism…. What initially seems to be merely jigsaw pieces of random noise soon manifests a sort of logic/antilogic that is ultimately visual.” OK, now that we’ve cleared that up…

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