Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, publishes papers on brain science with titles like “Vesicular acetylcholine transporter defect underlies devastating congenital myasthenia syndrome.”
Chicago has played a role in the arts. Poetry, of course, ever since a teenage Charlie Sandburg took $1.50 earned on a milk truck in Galesburg and came here to check out the city’s big shoulders. Music certainly, from Louis Armstrong coming up from New Orleans to the Rolling Stones cutting an album at Chess Records on South Michigan Avenue in 1964.
Alexander Graham Bell was not trying to invent the telephone when he did just that. What he was trying to do, at first, was make a better telegraph. It was the 1870s, and the telegraph was 30 years old — about as old as cellphones are now. Like cellphones, the telegraph had become enormously popular, so popular that messages backed up at telegraph offices, waiting to be sent. The problem had to be solved; there was no point in telegraphing a message from Washington to Baltimore if it took three days for operators to get around to tapping out your message. You could walk it there in two.
When I go to Target with my wife, I’m like a bored 6-year-old. She’s busily checking items off her list, muscling slabs of paper towels into the huge red cart while I wander off, not quite humming “la la la,” but gazing dreamily around finding . . . what?
The presidents were not all men of greatness. The briefest stroll through the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s exhibit on the presidents confirms that. There was dim party tool Warren G. Harding and crony catspaw Ulysses S. Grant. The feckless and imbecilic James Buchanan and the tragically twisted Richard Nixon.
PHILADELPHIA — George Washington didn’t want to attend the Constitutional Convention, never mind be its president. But duty called, and the weary general left his beloved plantation over the summer of 1787 to sit in a mahogany armchair that is still there, a gilt half sun carved into the back.
The Law of Unintended Consequences isn’t written into the statute books, or taught in law school, though maybe it should be because it rules over our lives with a stronger hand than almost any ordinance.
Given my hobby as a connoisseur of really bad Republican candidates — I once wrote a prayer, begging God to allow milkman Jim Oberweis to run for office yet again, and it worked — I could not pass up the chance to handicap the field of Republican presidential hopefuls. Only 10 will be onstage at the first Republican debate in Cleveland this Thursday. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t examine them all.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is one of those quaint bits of Americana that persists in the face of being utterly mooted by technology. Who needs to know how to spell? Tap out a jumble of letters somewhat close to the correct spelling and your phone will do the rest.
Call me a sap. But my heart bleeds for people handing out stuff on the street. Talk about a tough job. The public ignores me, too, but I don’t have to watch them do it. These poor folk have to stand there, like a rock dividing a stream, while indifferent humanity flows around them, spurning whatever pathetic scrap they’re trying to give away, inevitably some green flier about a barbershop opening or a new deli.
On the afternoon of Jan. 20, 1961, Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower slipped away from the Inauguration Day festivities, piled into their 1955 Chrysler Imperial and famously drove to their farm at Gettsyburg, Pa. Contrary to myth, they were not alone — two servants and a chauffeur, Leonard Dry, were with them, but even then, the ex-president felt “an eerie loneliness about the absence of motorcycle escorts and caravans of Secret Service and press cars” according to Ike’s grandson, David.
Americans are a punitive bunch. We love to punish people. Nearly 3 percent of American adults are in prison, jail, probation or parole, a figure far beyond any other industrialized nation. But that’s only the beginning. We entertain ourselves with elaborate revenge fantasies on TV and in the movies, and of course arm ourselves in order to deliver swift justice to anybody who might cross us, changing the laws to better encourage each other to stand our ground. While vengeance feasts, forgiveness starves, which is part of what drew my interest to a thin new book—155 pages—by Jeanne Bishop titled Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and
With the election over, thank God, I thought pesky telephone polls would subside. But if anything, they’ve increased. Not the “Who has your vote?” polls, or what I call “Slur Polls” — questions designed not to collect answers but to deliver attacks; polls that start out normal and then slide into insinuation: “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most disgusted, and 1 being not as disgusted as you ought to be, how revolted were you to learn of the secret slush fund of Rep. Peckinsniff …”)
History will sort out whether the bitter, right-wing hatred of Barack Obama was significantly greater than the bitter, right-wing hatred of John F. Kennedy or Franklin D. Roosevelt or any previous president.
We live in cages of conformity, shuffling, shackled by habit and timidity. How we act, what we wear, even how we think, are limited to traveling along these set rails of behavior, and it can take an iconoclast for us to even realize it.
Before 91 veterans of World War II board a jet at Midway Airport early Wednesday, before the Southwest pilot powers up the engines and the tower clears the plane for takeoff to Washington, D.C., where they will be heaped with honor and visit a monument to themselves that most have never seen, Lindi Strobel has to answer their questions, calm their fears and coax them aboard that plane.
Only one member of the orchestra is mimicked with any regularity. The average guy doesn’t tape empty soda cans together and pretend to play the bassoon, or sit on a chair and saw away at an imaginary cello. Nobody plays the air flute.