Was the turkey bigger than Tiny Tim this year? “The holiday turkey business is somewhat resistant to recession,” according to a letter promoting Northbrook-based Loewy Foods as an economic barometer. “When economic times are softer, a significant number of companies still buy holiday gifts for associates, however they give smaller-sized turkeys. When the economy is on an upswing, businesses give larger turkeys and sometimes even hams.” Come the depression, look for Spam.
Press releases we didn’t need to finish: “Since the 1850s, jeans have evolved from sturdy and dependable work clothes into a uniform of individualism.”
“Lawyers and law professors have long made an art out of cadging the words and ideas of others and presenting them as their own,” writes Northwestern University law school graduate Mark Melickian in Student Lawyer (October). “You would expect that academics would not tolerate even the slightest bit of unattributed borrowing. In my experience, you would be wrong….I flagged one yet-to-be-published article for dozens of instances where citations were either inaccurate or material was inadequately attributed. Turned out that the author was a big shot, something I didn’t know at the time, although the fact that he cited himself at regular intervals should have tipped me. In any case, it was suggested to me by my superiors that I flag the inaccurate material but leave the issue of attribution alone.”
“I think we titillate ourselves with words like fascist,” U. of C.’s Jean Bethke Elshtain tells the Utne Reader (November-December), “imagining that things are really, really scary. Then, by definition, we become heroic merely by standing apart from it. We don’t need to up the rhetorical ante. We need nuance, not grandiosity. We need to be able to articulate the distinctions between the vast array of groups, movements, and ideas that are getting lumped together as ‘fascist.’ Just as I think we made a huge mistake in the 1950s by rushing to label certain ideas or movements as communist, we are making a mistake when we rush to label the contemporary political climate in the U.S. as fascist.”
The Good Housekeeping award for bad architecture? According to a recent press release from Taylor-Johnson, a marketing and communications firm, local architect Pat Fitzgerald attributes the decline of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie school of architecture after World War I to the rise of women’s magazines. She’s quoted saying, “Page after page depicted homes of the rich and famous. Classical, Revival French, English Revival, Tudor. Simpler, honest architecture was no longer in vogue.”
“Community organizing focuses on people’s strengths,” says Mary Gonzales, director of the Gamaliel Foundation–Chicago, in the 1994 annual report of the Woods Fund of Chicago. “That’s why I keep organizing. It gives you a chance to observe community people in everyday situations transforming their opportunities.”
Why do the reading and math test scores of kids from preschool child-parent centers drop below national norms by fifth grade? According to Chicago school board researcher Nikolas Beruczko: “The cumulative effect of the Chicago public schools” (Catalyst, October).
Those who do not learn from history are destined to vote for Pat Buchanan. Blurb for a new book by Erna Paris from Prometheus Books: “In just a few hundred years, Spain would transform itself from the most tolerant to the least tolerant nation in all of Europe. The Spanish Inquisition gave rise to a reign of terror; the Jews were expelled from the country they had inhabited for 1,500 years; and before long the Moors were banished as well. The End of Days traces this tragic path, explaining how and why a rich culture degenerated into madness. It is about the end of pluralism, the rise of tyranny, and the dramatic events that produced this change.”
Is it antique or just old? “Antiques, produced before World War II, have been fading somewhat in popularity,” says the local newsletter Tirekicking Today (September). “People tend to favor cars that were on the streets when they were young, and Americans of ‘baby boom’ age and younger simply have no memory of such vehicles. In general, then, they haven’t risen as much in value as might have been predicted a decade or so ago.”
“We have tried on a large scale the experiment of preferring ourselves to the exclusion of all other creatures, with results that are manifestly disastrous,” writes Kentucky poet/farmer/professor Wendell Berry in Sierra (September/October). “And now, conscious of those results, we are tempted to correct them by denigrating ourselves, by wishing somehow to efface ourselves. But that is only the opposite kind of self-indulgence, utterly worthless as an answer to any problem. Misanthropy is not the remedy for ‘anthropocentrism.'”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.