Sounds we never expected to hear: The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that one of its engineers has hooked up a stethoscope to a loudspeaker and a computer in a system “so sensitive that he’s been able to hear, in a few seconds, the movements of a single one-day-old maggot in a grapefruit.”

“At least once a day, a truck of wet ash pulls away from the [city’s northwest-side] incinerator and carts the ash over city streets and expressways to the Stearns quarry” at 28th and Halsted in Bridgeport, writes Thom Clark in The Neighborhood Works (August/September 1987). “There the ash is dumped along the rim of the quarry, later to be plowed over the side. A stilled waterfall of discarded ash flows down one side of the quarry wall, uncovered and at the mercy of any prevailing winds. Is this the ‘high tech’ solution to our garbage problems the experts have been selling us?”

“Surrogacy reinforces the patriarchal view that the woman is just a container, an incubator of the man’s sperm,” writes Rita Arditti in Science for the People (May/June 1987). “The term ‘surrogate mother’ is a misnomer, reflecting the male perspective that pervades this whole issue. Clearly, the woman who carries and labors to give birth to a baby with her own ovum, genes, and from her own womb is a real mother. She could be considered, however, to be a surrogate wife to the man whose legal wife is infertile. But the surrogacy agreement, the media, and all of the literature on this subject always call her a ‘surrogate mother,’ while referring to the sperm donor as the ‘natural father.’ Proponents of the surrogacy business want us to forget that the woman is the natural mother.”

Letters we were afraid to finish: “Dear Editor: The statistics are that one out of five of your readers is, or has been phobic. The latest epidemiology study shows it to be the most common emotional condition in this country, exceeding even alcoholism, drug dependence, or depression. The Phobia Society of America estimates about 30 million Americans are actively phobic!”

“Boxing is like chess,” says commodities account executive and boxer Linda Casey in Today’s Chicago Woman (July 1987). “I think ten moves ahead. I have to be offensive and defensive at the same time. It’s challenge and discipline–mentally and physically. It uses all of me at once. . . . I don’t think about hurting. I think about winning.”

What do Oink! Press Inc., CPA’s for the Public Interest, a poet attending a Beat literature conference, and Chicago’s “Expansion Arts Decentralization Program” have in common? They were among the grantees upon whom or which the Illinois Arts Council bestowed money at its last quarterly meeting.

But what about motorcycle racing? Steve Schroer, director of the University Theater, unleashes a blast against the University of Chicago’s Mitchell Tower bells in the letters column of the Chicago Maroon (July 17, 1987): “The bells do not produce music. They produce mathematical patterns of sound. These patterns resemble the noise made by everything falling out of all the closets in the world. Changeringing is perhaps the most massively inarticulate form of self-expression ever devised by sociopaths.”

“I could not exist without one.” “I would probably pull my hair out of my head. I wouldn’t know what to do without it.” “I’d slit my wrists.” “If it was that or the kids, I guess I would keep the kids.” That’s what the Chicago-based Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers heard when it asked consumers what they would do without a microwave oven–“the appliance of the ’80s.” “For the first time ever,” gloats AHAM, “a “microwave oven generation’ is growing up. Its young members have lived with the appliance all of their lives, feel comfortable with it, and learned how to use it before learning to use conventional cooking equipment.”

To be a firefighter. Terrance Smith trains women in Chicago’s Female Firefighters Pilot Program before they enter the Fire Academy. “They are abused on the job all day and then they come here until eleven in the evening and take abuse from me after that,” he tells the Newsletter of the Mayor’s Commission on Women’s Affairs (August, 1987). “I train them like the military–there’s no time to worry about feelings.” Says the newsletter, “Some of his candidates consider him cruel and inhumane. However, he considers himself a role model.”

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