Discover more from Eric Zorn: The Picayune Sentinel
Let's take a mulligan on the Tiger Woods golf course plan
& helmets on scooter riders? As if.
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Eric Zorn is a former opinion columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Find a longer bio and contact information here. This issue exceeds in size the maximum length for a standard email. To read the entire issue in your browser, click on the headline link above. Paid subscribers receive each Picayune Plus in their email inbox each Tuesday, are part of our civil and productive commenting community and enjoy the sublime satisfaction of supporting this enterprise.
Been there? Done that?
To promote his hopes that Gov. J.B. Pritzker will appoint him to the newly formed Illinois Flag Commission tasked with coming up with new ideas for a state flag, Berwyn resident and expert on county seals John Kokoris is disseminating this bingo card through social media. Most of you will have at least one bingo; but how many can say they’ve visited every spot and fill the whole card? (Not I!)
The Tiger Woods championship golf course is a non-starter. So how about Plan B?
Block Club Chicago reports “Obama Foundation Backs Away From Tiger Woods Golf Course In Jackson Park,” which seems to spell the inevitable end of an audacious, expensive plan to combine two somewhat scruffy municipal courses on the South Side lakefront into one tournament-quality 18-hole track against a postcard backdrop of Lake Michigan and the downtown skyline.
The plan to combine the Jackson Park and South Shore courses was announced with some fanfare in late 2016 — seven years ago! — but fundraising lagged for the estimated $30 million cost of completely overhauling the courses, and local residents led the charge against an additional estimated $30 million in public infrastructure improvements that would be needed.
In golf lingo, a mulligan is a second chance at a bad shot with no penalty. It violates the rules, but many casual golfers allow their playing partners one per round in the sportsmanlike spirit of, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to mess up, so we’ll just pretend it never happened and try again.”
So how about a do-over?
How about simply giving the existing Jackson Park Golf Course a facelift, with or without advice from Tiger Woods? Transform it from the relatively basic layout it’s been since 1899, when it opened as the first public course west of the Allegheny Mountains, into a cleverly sculpted, well-groomed layout similar to rival suburban park district courses.
Golf architect Mike Benkusky of Homewood told me in 2018 that “for $3 (million) to $5 million, they could update the greens, traps and the irrigation system, plant new grasses and trees, and pull back some of the tee areas to get more yardage out of the existing footprint.”
“Once the Tiger project is dead, which it will be, they should turn to making a well-restored, historic course accessible to all golfers,” said the prophetic Bill Daniels, founder of Golf Chicago magazine, at the time. “It will be a big value-add for the (nearby) Obama center. For marketing purposes they could rename it ‘The Old Course at Jackson Park.’ ”
Notes and comments from readers —lightly edited —- along with my responses
Ellen S. – One of your Tweet of the Week entries was @xkcd’s mnemonic for remembering the order of the planets “Mary’s ‘Virgin’ Explanation Made Joseph Suspect Upstairs Neighbor.” But I’m amending that in light of Pluto's unfair demotion: “Mary’s ‘Virgin’ Explanation Made Joseph Suspect Upstairs Neighbor, Pierre.”
Zorn – Not sure how many dudes in Nazareth went by “Pierre,” but I’ll allow it.
Debra K. — I am a Christian. My request is that you lay off the tweets that take direct dig at the Christian religion or any religion. This week had two, the one about the planets and the one that offered the “revenge tip” that said, “Paint a Jesus-shaped stain on your hated neighbor's driveway, then alert local churches.”
Zorn — Since you are a Christian, you know that Matthew 1:18-19 deals with Joseph’s doubts that a virgin could become pregnant — he made plans to divorce her discreetly according to many Biblical translations — so a little humor based on that doesn’t seem particularly offensive to me. And gentle teasing of the zealots who see religious meaning in ordinary phenomena such as burn marks on tortillas or water stains on walls doesn’t seem to me like a sharp jab at the tenets of a faith.
In fact I admire how contemporary Christianity tends to react with aplomb if not amusement at the sort of imagery and “blasphemous” chiding that sends certain people of more severe faiths into murderous rages.
Peter Z. — Regarding the story of your son and his girlfriend escaping the muddy hellhole of Burning Man. What is the rest of the story? What did your son and girlfriend do all week? Did they pay money to attend? Why did they leave just as the burning man structure was going up in flames and the fireworks were going off? Wasn’t that supposed to be the high point of this “happening” (please excuse boomer term)?
I will now date myself: Is this like Woodstock except no music or at least no big name bands? I’m very glad to hear they made it out OK. Were they ever concerned for their safety?
Zorn: I’ll let Alex’s girlfriend answer this one:
Most of the week was lovely and went as planned! We did purchase tickets just like everyone else there, as well as buying lots of camping gear!
We left before the Man burned because it was pushed to Monday from Saturday due to the rain and we had to catch a flight home. Our plan all along was to leave Monday. We were very disappointed to have to miss it!
It’s not like Woodstock for a lot of reasons. I’m going to sound like a jerk because I am now a Person Who Has Been to Burning Man, but it’s hard to explain unless you’re there. It’s not a music festival (although there is music), it’s more like a carnival on the moon. They provide gravity and mostly breathable air and the attendees provide every single thing else. It sounds super hard and pointless because it IS, but it’s still fun!
Thankfully, we were never concerned for our safety. The biggest worry I had was that they wouldn’t be able to service the porta potties and we’d all be using buckets as toilets.
That photo of Alex and Devon is a bit reminiscent of the famous photo of Nick and Bobbi Ercoline at Woodstock in 1969.
Wired reports, “The End of Burning Man Is Also Its Future: Unpredictable and extreme weather is eating Burning Man alive. Now organizers and attendees are faced with a decision: Enact large-scale policy changes or bag the whole thing.”
Peter Z: Last week, against your wife’s advice, you posted comedian Rob Delaney’s response to a challenge going around social media recently to “Make a 20-track comp of your all-time fav tracks, each artist can only be featured once. Not the 'best' songs, the ones that bring instant joy the second you hear the first note, the ones that give other people the best insight into what stirs your soul.”
Well, here is my list of made-up songs:
“Too Much Time on My Hands,” by Rob Delaney
“I am Right,” by Johanna Zorn
“Goofy Taste in Humor,” by Eric Zorn
“Talking the Talk, but not Walking the Walk,” by Brandon Johnson
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” by Mike Ditka
“I Will Always Love You,” by the Trump all white men’s choir
“Happiness is a Warm Gun,” by the NRA boys.
“War! What Is It Good For?” by the Putin string band
“Maybe Baby,” by the Republican platform kazoo group
“Go Cubs Go,” by the citizens of Chicago.
Zorn — The readership was not with me on this one! I still laugh, however, at “‘She’ll Be 16 Next Year,’ by The Gentlemen.” And I prefer to ignore the sarcasm in the following letter and take it at face value:
Jake H — Eric, you are once again correct about what's funny, quite obviously so. There's a point at which you just have to make peace with the fact that you're an honors student of comedy and not everyone, not even your beloved, can say the same. Own it, cherish it, enjoy the delights a mind such as yours is privileged to access, like the philosopher in Plato's allegory of the cave, who can see the light and imbibe the ideal even as the masses are content, chained, as they are, to the cave wall, to remark on the mere shadows that pass before them, and hate the philosopher for knowing a truth they can never understand.
UPDATE: Jake wrote to insist he was not being sarcastic!
Laurence S. — Regarding Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson implying that criticism of him is racist, I tried to tell people before the election what kind of leader he was going to be. His non-answers to most questions is bad enough. But now he’s the aggravated and oppressed Black man victim? We’ve had three Black mayors before him. He just replaced one, remember? Just maybe there are constituents who simply don't like the way he is performing as mayor. When do we get over the "you can't criticize the performance of a Black man man because he is Black" phase?
Zorn — The Tribune editorial on this, “Brandon Johnson uses race to try to preempt legitimate criticism. That won’t work well for Chicago,” was excellent.
If the leader of the city tries to get supporters to buy into this kind of divisive rhetoric this early in the game, that’s just not helpful in the long term, and it puts reporters of color in an especially difficult position. Surely, Johnson has someone on his team who could point this out.
Yes, but I see no evidence that Johnson has a “wait a sec” person on his team, someone who can teach him how to give better non-answers and rein in the self pity. We know racism exists and is toxic, but tens of thousands of white voters helped elect Johnson over a white opponent and even more than that are wishing him well.
Jay G. — The local preference for tavern-cut pizza — squares instead of slices - baffles me. Slice cut allows one to eat pizza with one's hands without getting copious amounts of grease on one’s fingers.
Zorn — Agreed. tavern cut, also called party cut is messier and less satisfying than pizza cut into slices, also called pie cut. Squares are arguably better for snacking — smaller portions, generally — and fitting onto napkins, but it annoys me that many pizza restaurants default to the tavern/party cut for home delivery.
Take the poll
Jake H. — I would prefer Donald Trump as president to Vivek Ramaswamy. At least Trump wouldn't be able to run a third time, and he's far too lazy to govern as anything but a Chamber of Commerce Republican with narcissistic personality disorder. Ramaswamy is a soulless prick, but one with youth and energy and a way with words.
Zorn — Ramaswamy’s recent declaration that he would deport the children born to migrants who are in the U.S. without documentation is an appalling bit of unconstitutional populism. Should play well with the Republican base!
Steven K. — Like you, I have always loathed “the wife” as a reference to one’s female spouse. It makes it sound like you’re talking about a prop or an object. I don’t think the people who use it intend to be denigrating, I just think they’re trying to be glib, and they don’t realize that they sound like jackasses.
Rick L — About “the wife,” you wrote that you “know several uxorious husbands who use it.” That word stopped me cold in my tracks! I had to look it up. Well played! I’d say thank you for teaching me a new word, but I’ll almost certainly never use it nor come across it again. But for right this moment I’m a slightly more educated man.
Zorn — I love that word. It comes from the Latin uxor, meaning wife, and is defined as behavior suggesting an almost comical fondness for and submission to a female spouse. I used it there to suggest that “the wife” it’s not necessarily or even usually meant to be insulting or belittling.
Bill Love — I read where there are an estimated 500 million atheists in the world. That's only 7% of the total population. Given God's (apparent) failure to "show himself" to humans, how do you account for the fact that 93% of us think God exists?
As a nonagenarian, I find myself closer to God than I've ever felt. And would find it terribly lonely not to have a "Buddy" to chat with, as my sight slowly leaves me through age-related macular degeneration and I experience the loneliness of living with a dear one who can't any longer communicate. What will happen after death? I have no idea, but am confident that answer isn't nothing.
Zorn— You and I have been around and around on this topic for 22 years now – our post 9/11/2001 correspondence on God, belief, evil and so on is archived at ericzorn.com and I feel as though both of us did good work supporting our contrasting viewpoints.
I believe there is a deep human need to believe that there is more to this existence than the flicker of time we are allowed to be alive. And so we create a larger purpose and meaning through stories we tell ourselves. We imagine an afterlife, for instance, and a higher power that cares about us personally.
The fact that there are so many iterations of these stories through history and so many versions of the attributes of this deity is suggestive to me that religion is a form of wish fulfillment. It’s way more comforting than the alternative, which explains its popularity.
But of course I could be wrong! I call myself an indifferent agnostic — I don’t know if God exists and I don’t care. If God exists, God’s purpose and desires are utterly impenetrable, and so the best bet is to live well, respect others and the environment, and try to leave the world a better place for your having been here. My speech on this outlook is here.
Bill, you were an admired mystery novelist in your day and a fair and generous correspondent who dealt with me with civility, humor and warmth in discussing one of the most difficult subjects there is. I have some idea what you’re going through in dealing with a family member with dementia due to my experience with my mother, and my heart goes out to you.
I hope to hear from you many more times!
jl3c — I am upgrading my free subscription to a paid subscription because I tried your advice regarding the Tribune subscription and it worked! I saved more than $30 a month. So reading the Picayune Sentinel literally paid off.
Zorn— Great to hear! That advice, again, is pretty simple. Call customer service at 312-546-7900 and inquire about getting a better rate. If you get home delivery of the paper on Sunday, ask that you not be charged $10 extra every month for “Premium Issues” like that NFL preview insert included in your Sept. 3 paper. Paying for it is optional, something they don’t tell you unless you call.
An article in the Sun-Times last week about developments in the scooter-rental business in Chicago featured this image:
The photo credit was Superpedestrian, a rental company that has left the Chicago market I posted to Facebook my contention that his photo is misleading because 95% of those I see riding rental scooters around the city don’t wear safety helmets.
My Facebook commenters disagreed. Their estimates ranged from 99% to 99.9%. Injury data is reportedly spotty on rental-scooter accidents but those little wheels, that high center of gravity, the inevitability of potholes and car doors opening quickly … I don’t see how emergency rooms aren’t filled with fallen scooter riders.
One study found 95.6% of those treated for scooter injuries in a Southern California emergency room had not been wearing helmets and 94.3% of riders observed on the streets were helmetless, but that number included those who own their own scooters and might be more likely to carry or bring along a helmet.
The news story — “Paris Becomes the First European Capital to Ban Rented Electric Scooters” — earlier this month makes me wonder what the future might hold here.
Paris became the first European capital to outlaw the vehicles on (Sept. 1), following a vote in April in which Parisians overwhelmingly supported a ban, although turnout was low. … Since their eruption onto the streets and sidewalks of cities across the world in 2019, e-scooters have posed unique regulatory problems for city officials. … Cities like San Francisco and Miami temporarily banned e-scooters before reintroducing them.
Ya gotta see these tweets!
Here are some funny visual images I've come across recently on social media. Enjoy, then evaluate:
As a person of German ancestry — “Zorn” translates to “anger” or “wrath”— I am comfortable with the joke on my people.
Vote for your favorite. I will disqualify any tweets I later find out used digitally altered photos to make the joke. I’ll share the winner in Thursday’s main edition.
There’s still time to vote in the conventional Tweet of the Week poll and in the bonus “Bleak Peanuts” poll.
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