Discover more from Eric Zorn: The Picayune Sentinel
Mayor Johnson to the suburbs: Keep our city's name out of your mouth!
& some effin' good news from Apple
6-8-2023 (issue No. 91)
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.
Nonsense! Mayor Johnson says, “If you don’t live in Chicago, you don’t have a right to talk about the city of Chicago.”
Last week’s winning tweet — Another stolen joke!
News and Views — On the F-word, a Catholic charter school, AM radio and more
Land of Linkin’ — Where I tell readers where to go
Mary Schmich — Thanks, George Winston
Race to the Slop — Where we track the Oakland A’s as they stagger toward infamy.
Re:Tweets — Featuring the winner of the visual tweets poll and this week’s finalists
Tune of the Week — The best wedding song ever. And I don’t mean “I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll.”
Nonsense! Mayor Johnson says, “If you don’t live in Chicago, you don’t have a right to talk about the city of Chicago.”
In addressing Chicago Police Department rookie officers at their training academy graduation ceremony on Navy Pier Monday, Mayor Brandon Johnson alluded to harsh coverage of crime and dysfunction in this city, then said, “Let me make this emphatically clear: If you don’t live in Chicago, you don’t have a right to talk about the city of Chicago.”
This sentiment is not uncommon. Harebrained Design, a novelty clothing company on the Northwest Side, offers a line of civic pride T-shirts on the theme —
— with the message aimed at outsiders who obsess over urban crime and the city’s shortcomings while all but ignoring what an overall terrific place it is.
But as a 43-year city resident, I sharply disagree. Suburbanites, even those in the exurbs that stretch up to Wisconsin and into northwestern Indiana, have every right and reason to be interested in and have opinions about Chicago.
The city is the beating heart of this region. When it thrives — when its businesses grow, when young workers and tourists flock to town, and when building cranes dot the skyline — cities and villages from Zion to Ottawa to St. John, Indiana, are better off. If people there have helpful ideas or constructive criticism, it’s virtually their duty to weigh in.
Now, yes, I’m flyspecking what was otherwise an apparently excellent speech in which our oratorically gifted mayor extended an olive branch to 261 new police officers, assuring them that he has their backs — post-election Fraternal Order of Police hysteria notwithstanding — and sees himself as their “brother.”
According to the Sun-Times’ account, Johnson said:
Better, stronger, safer communities deserve better relationships with the very people who are prepared to serve and protect. Chicagoans want to trust the Police Department. … Let me state it here and now I’m committed to working with the Chicago Police Department and the full force of government to ensure that the city of Chicago has everything that it needs to thrive.
Cook County suburbanites as well as residents of DuPage, Kane, McHenry, Will and both Lake Counties should be cheering this sentiment, hoping Johnson proves true to his word and preparing to weigh in if he fails.
Last week’s winning tweet
Instructor: "Welcome to salsa class! Who's ready to learn how to dance?" Me, hiding tortilla chips bag: "There's been a misunderstanding."
This tweet has been stolen and passed off as original far too many times to credit any one person for it.
News & Views
News: Apple announces that the new iPhone operating system will no longer auto-correct a common curse word to “duck.”
View: It has long quacked me up that the fastidious iPhone balked at the use of one of the most common profanities. Since users could override it each time with a bit of effort, I assumed that the apparent censorship was there to prevent potentially embarrassing thumb typos such as “Hi, grandma! I took the kids to the park today to watch the fucks.”
This annoyance was the subject of one of the visual-tweet poll entries Tuesday:
And it may be my imagination or just the increased saltiness of my peer group, but the popularity of the all-purpose, by-now-nearly meaningless interjection/curse word seems to be on the rise. I hear it (and, admittedly say it) more than I used to, and I’m wondering if there isn’t a Roy Kent effect at work.
Kent was a character in the otherwise generally sunny and uplifting Apple TV+ series “Ted Lasso.” He said “fuck” or variations of the word so many times that Reddit user “howitzeral” generated a fucks-per-episode and fucks-per-minute-of-screen time chart for the first two seasons.
Or maybe it’s the “Succession” effect. That just-concluded HBO dramatic series exuberantly dropped f-bombs — “Fuck off!” was patriarch Logan Roy’s catchphrase — and averaged nearly 84 fucks per episode in Season Three, according to the Ringer, which generated this chart.
It was, by one count, the third most common word used on the show.
News: Mike Pence and Chris Christie have joined the field of hopefuls running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
View: The larger the field of rivals, the greater the chances are that front-runner Donald Trump will come away with a plurality of votes — and all the convention delegates — in the Republican primaries that are winner-take-all. Vox notes that the rules are still being set, but that —
(The Republican primaries are) a cornucopia of contests. States can hold conventions, caucuses, or primaries. Some states are winner-take-all primaries, meaning that the candidate who receives a plurality of the votes gets all the delegates; some are proportional, meaning that delegates are awarded in proportion to what percentage of the vote each candidate receives; and some are mixed, with elements of both.
Ranked-choice voting would likely yield a different nominee, one less likely to lose to incumbent Democrat Joe Biden. So as a Biden backer, I should be cheering each new entrant.
But ever since 2016, when I quietly celebrated each of Trump’s primary victories in the belief that Democrat Hillary Clinton would beat the ludicrous, oafish reprobate in all 50 states, I have remained squarely in the “be careful what you wish for” camp.
News: “Oklahoma Approves First Religious Charter School in the U.S.: The school will offer online, Roman Catholic instruction funded by taxpayers.”
View: Getting the rest of us to pay for their kids’ religious indoctrination has been the goal of many school privatization activists for a long time. And my guess is that the current conservative U.S. Supreme Court will think that’s just fine.
News: The Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour and the PGA have reached a deal to merge.
View: I share the general disgust with the Saudi government and the hypocrisy of the PGA, which not long ago was blasting the human rights record of the regime that was throwing literally hundreds of millions of dollars at star golfers to get them to defect to their new tour. Now that the PGA sees a financial advantage, the dreadful human rights record of the Saudi leadership and its complicity in the butchery of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are merely bygones. And the PGA stars who didn’t accept their blood money look like chumps.
But I do hope that, in the merger, the PGA adopts the LIV rule that allows competitors to wear short pants on the course like nearly every other golfer does in warm weather. Long pants on the links is a country-club affectation, like tennis whites.
View: I thought we were in something of a podcast bubble when Spotify paid nearly $300 million for Parcast and Gimlet Media, two excellent digital media firms specializing in podcasts. But I have no doubt that podcasting as a medium is here to stay and that the sputtering in the Washington Post headline above is not a harbinger of anything terribly drastic.
Streaming audio — listening on demand — has for me totally taken the place of live listening with the very rare exception of when there’s breaking news and I’m not near a TV.
Which brings me to …
View: I’m all for AM radio and I hope other automakers follow Ford’s lead and decide to make the modifications needed to allow electric vehicles to operate without interfering with the AM signal.
But the argument that Congress should mandate AM radios in cars as a matter of public safety — as laid out in a Sun-Times editorial Wednesday — seems very thin. In the wake of a catastrophic event during which cell towers are destroyed and you’re in your car but out of range of FM radio stations, yes, having access to AM radio might be a lifesaver. But so might having a supply of food and water in the trunk, and I don’t see the government mandating that.
The real argument is that, without car listenership, many AM stations that provide information and entertainment to millions would fail and that would be a cultural loss. My view is that consumer demand, not government fiat, ought to save AM radio in cars.
But WGN-AM host John Williams, who has a dog in this fight, makes a good point on the current episode of “The Mincing Rascals” podcast that the nation subsidizes farmers, so it should also subsidize AM broadcasters.
What’s your view?
The fight between community journalism and AI goes on
Last week, I highlighted the defiant essay by Justin Kerr, publisher of the McKinley Park News in which he noted the growing threat of artificial intelligence to small publications like his own.
Kerr is now promoting an initiative that, he writes, “seeks to create a legal tool that can be used to effectively and safely conduct discovery related to theft of our content within Large Language Models. According to the attorneys and others I've spoken to, this is one of the foundational problems with initiating legal action against this theft, and a tool to assist safe discovery would be of great assistance.”
He hopes to get momentum for this idea at Media Party Chicago, a three-day international conference of “entrepreneurs, journalists, developers and designers” Thursday through Saturday at the the University of Chicago’s Polsky Exchange Center. I don’t know about the legal and technical issues involved to get behind the specific proposal,and I’m skeptical of efforts to corral the runaway AI technology, but I sure wish Kerr the best.
Land of Linkin’
“44 tickets, one excuse: Chicago cop’s go-to alibi helps highlight troubles with police accountability” is simultaneously one of the funniest and most outrageous stories of banal criminality and bureaucratic incompetence you will ever read. It’s a joint effort of the Tribune’s Jennifer Smith Richards and ProPublica’s Jodi S. Cohen. (ProPublica link to the same story is here.)
This week marks the release of former Tribune TV critic Maureen Ryan’s new book, “Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood.” The Hollywood Reporter offers a chapter-length excerpt about “the power dynamics between (long-time ‘Saturday Night Live’ producer Lorne) Michaels, his cast, writers and the imbalances that helped lead to frequent cast and writer turnover.”
I was angry and disgusted at a political cartoon published in the Tribune Monday, and this led to an exchange with the editor of the editorial board and some interesting views from readers in the comment thread — see Tuesday’s Picayune Plus.
“Hello, little girl! If you were to come to Florida, you could be forced to give birth someday!” writes Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri in “Hello, Infant! I’m Ron DeSantis. Here is my resume of accomplishments!” a channeling of the robotic Florida governor who aspires to the Republican presidential nomination. “We in Florida are so proud of our forced-birth agenda! No abortions after six weeks, not even when the fetus isn’t viable! Forcing the host vessel to undergo nine months of pregnancy, then give birth to an infant who will spend every second of its short, excruciating life struggling for breath, unable to open its eyes! I’m doing the best at this.”
Tim Alberta’s Atlantic article, “Inside the Meltdown at CNN,” is a devastating, thoroughly reported profile of Chris Licht, now former chair and CEO of CNN Worldwide. The profile is widely credited with having dealt the death blow to Licht’s controversial tenure that reportedly shattered the already weak morale at the all-news network: “He was detached, aloof, inaccessible in every way. … Licht came across as taciturn, seemingly going out of his way to avoid human relationships. … Every employee I spoke with was asking some variation of the same question: Did Licht have any idea what he was doing? … CNN employees had asked me, again and again, to probe for some humility in their leader. If nothing else, they wanted some morsel of self-awareness. They hoped to see that he knew how poorly his tenure was playing out and why. But Licht would not bite.”
Thrillist: “Your Guide to Every Weed Dispensary in Chicago.”
Former WBEZ-FM reporter Lauren Chooljian moved to New Hampshire Public Radio six years ago and is the subject of a frightening story in The New York Times, “A Reporter Investigated Sexual Misconduct. Then the Attacks Began.” In defiance of those who would intimidate the station into retracting her findings of sexual abuse at a drug rehab center, NHPR this week launched “The 13th Step,” a seven-part podcast series detailing Chooljian’s investigation and the threats and vandalism against her and those in her orbit that ensued.
“How the ‘deadliest man alive’ stoked Chicago’s infamous ‘dojo wars’” tells an extraordinary local tale that I never knew about. With this episode, my wife Johanna Zorn wraps up her interim stint heading up WBEZ-FM’s “Curious City." She thoroughly enjoyed the time with “Curious City,” and recommends that you dig into their amazing back catalogue of podcast episodes. And she's thrilled that the new full-time editor is former BEZ education reporter Susie An.
In “The Case for Speed-watching: How I came to love watching TV shows really fast. (I swear I’m not a monster.),” Nicholas Quah explained in Vulture in 2021 why he uses Netflix’s speed controls to consume more video content. Though I must say, 1.25x, his preferred speed, is not “really fast” in my book.
Good news unless you’re into the politics of fear: “The Murder Rate Is Suddenly Falling: The first five months of 2023 have produced an encouraging overall trend for the first time in years,” by New Orleans-based crime analyst Jeff Asher in The Atlantic. “Murder is down about 12 percent year-to-date in more than 90 cities that have released data for 2023, compared with data as of the same date in 2022, he writes. The likely cause is the end of most COVID-19 restrictions.
“Lately, it seems that many of the same MAGA Republicans who once wore ‘Fuck Your Feelings’ T-shirts to Trump rallies now exist in a perpetual state of emotional outpouring,” writes Joe Berkowitz in a sharply observed essay at the Daily Beast. “Everywhere conservatives have looked over the past few years, they’ve glimpsed something they didn’t like, had an apoplectic outburst or two, and then tried to legally ban it. … Whatever happened to ‘melting the snowflakes’? When did being ‘triggered’ go from the most shameful and hilarious thing that could happen to a person, in the eyes of Sean Hannity stans, to conservatives’ default mode of existence?”
In what you might think of as a companion essay, Steve Chapman writes, “Republicans used to be champions of individual freedom. Not anymore.” He writes, “Conservatives occasionally make perfunctory efforts to claim to defend personal liberty against intrusive government. But what today’s Republicans truly cherish is their freedom to trample on your freedom.”
The Picayune Sentinel preview: Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. I talk with WGN-AM 720 host John Williams about what’s making news and likely to be grist for the PS mill. The WGN listen-live link is here.
Mary Schmich: Thanks, George Winston
My former colleague Mary Schmich posts occasional column-like entries or observations on Facebook. Here, reprinted with permission, is her most recent offering:
In 1980, when I was living in Palo Alto, California, I walked into a little store on University Avenue and heard some piano music that stopped me in my tracks.
It was different from anything I’d ever heard. And yet it felt oddly familiar, in the way great folk songs do. By which I mean, it felt both known and unknown, original and primal.
I wanted to listen to more of it. I wanted to play piano like that.
Who is this? I wondered.
Turned out it was George Winston, who just died, at the age of 73.
I’d moved to Palo Alto to go to journalism school at Stanford, then stayed because I got my first newspaper job at the local newspaper, the Peninsula Times Tribune. In those days the rolling, golden hills of Northern California were being vanquished to make way for Silicon Valley.
Still, the full tech-bro revolution was in the future, which meant some old orchards and ranches remained, and Palo Alto still had a slightly hippie/artsy edge. A local guy named Will Ackerman—as I learned that day in the store—had founded a record label called Windham Hill. The label had other good artists but George Winston was the guy who made Windham Hill a big deal.
During those Palo Alto years, when I lived in an attic apartment in a rickety old house downtown, I bought my first piano, a Baldwin spinet, and had it lugged up the winding stairway. I played my George Winston albums over and over and over on my cheap stereo.
I wrote songs in the style of George Winston. I can still fumble through the one I called “Palo Alto Trilogy.”
A year or two after I left Palo Alto to work at the Orlando Sentinel, I found some pretext to call George Winston up for an interview. He was not loquacious but I was dazzled anyway. In his obituaries today, I see him referred to as a "new age" pianist. I hate that term; sounds waftier than he was.
I think I remember him dubbing his style “folk piano,” and whether or not that was his phrase, it’s the phrase that stuck with me for how he played.
He wasn’t Keith Jarrett. He wasn’t Arthur Rubinstein. His music was simpler than jazz or classical. Some would say more aimless.
But especially in his two early albums, Autumn and December, his wordless songs sneak under your skin and into your heart. Listening to them today, after learning that he died, I’m transported back to the emotional turbulence of my mid-20s and grateful, again, that I had George Winston's music to tell me:
Go ahead and feel it all, honey, the up and the down and the sideways. And then carry on.
If you get home delivery of the Sunday Tribune, you will pay an extra $8.99 per month for monthly “premium issue” inserts such as “Spice Up the Summer,” which came on June 4. It contained some useful recipes, and you might find it worth the money.
Or you might think — as I do — that this is not something you want to pay nearly $9 for. If so, you need to call customer service at 312-546-7900 and ask the operator to opt you out of paying for them. Operators are allowed to exempt you from the charge for six months at a time only because, well, you know why — they hope you’ll forget to call them in six months.
With the savings, you can get a $5 monthly subscription to the Picayune Sentinel and Picayune Plus and still have $4 left over!
Race to the slop
Update on the Oakland A’s chances of being the worst team in big-league baseball’s modern era (since 1900). That mark currently belongs to the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, who finished 36-117 — a winning percentage of .235.
Even after Wednesday afternoon’s second straight victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, the A’s record was 14-50 — a winning percentage of .219.
As of last Thursday, the A’s were 12-46 — a winning percentage of .207.
So the trend is upward and the WAR room channel may be jumping the gun a bit with the title of this video:
But the Picayune Sentinel plans to watch the scoreboard avidly as long as the worst-ever record seems possible.
As far as the bad, the ugly and the weird goes, don't worry, because the Oakland A's have all three covered in 2023. They're arguably the worst team Major League Baseball has ever seen playing in undoubtedly the worst baseball stadium of all time while putting up record-breaking attendance numbers. And when I say “record breaking” I mean because of how few people are showing up. And the fans who do show up are protesting the ownership of the team. We've seen some laughable franchises in the past, but this is beyond that point. … The War Room
Veteran broadcast journalist Anna Davlantes of News Nation and WGN-TV joined the panel this week for the first of what I hope will be many appearances on “The Mincing Rascals” news-chat podcast.No one on the panel has yet commented that I’m using a photo of John Williams’ studio as my Zoom background. Subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. Or bookmark this page. If you’re not a podcast listener, you can hear an edited version of the show at 8 p.m. most Saturday evenings on WGN-AM 720.
It was on Twitter last week that I first saw mention of the fact that the last day of this year will be 12/31/23. Math geeks and numbers nerds delight in these interesting dates.
In Tuesday’s paid-subscriber editions, I present my favorite tweets that rely on visual humor and so can’t be included in the classic Tweet of the Week contest in which the template for the poll does not allow the use of images. Subscribers vote for their favorite, and I post the winner here every Thursday:
The new nominees for Tweet of the Week:
As part of the merger in the golf world, the PGA controls holes 1-8 and 12-18. The Saudis do 9-11. — @JamesHesky
After the age of 50, men’s tattoos become known as "Gramp Stamps." — @DonGetschman
Establish dominance over your grandma by giving her a crisp $5 bill on her birthday. — @TheAlexNevil
I have a hard time believing that bears made porridge and the only thing wrong with it was the temperature. — @MyInfo44162055
Green is just blue that someone peed in. — @justmebutnot1
My kid’s super power is knowing he won’t like a food before he even tries it. —@mommeh_dearest
I'm sure God made me for grander things than folding my own underwear. — @wildethingy
"AI, AI, Oh!" … Old MacDonald, realizing he's being replaced. — @WilliamAder
The Duolingo owl and the Hooters owl are brothers. One chose the path of knowledge. The other, the path of jumbo bazoingas, short shorts and chicken wings. An unbridgeable schism. A tale as old as time. — @TVsCarlKinsella
Those five minutes when a man is shaving and all that’s left is the mustache and he’s walking around saying, “Maybe I’ll keep it,” are the most terrifying five minutes of a woman’s life. — @cat_elg
Tune of the Week
Since June is a very popular month for weddings, I thought I’d share the best wedding song I know: Kate Wolf’s “Give Yourself to Love.” It manages to be celebratory and poignant without being sappy, which is a neat trick for a love song:
Love is born in fire; it's planted like a seed. Love can't give you everything, but it gives you what you need. And love comes when you're ready, love comes when you're afraid; It'll be your greatest teacher, the best friend you have made. So give yourself to love if love is what you're after; Open up your hearts to the tears and laughter And give yourself to love, give yourself to love.
Wolf died of leukemia in 1986 at age 44, and “Give Yourself to Love” was the traditional closing song of the Kate Wolf Music Festival, a folk gathering in California for several decades that was discontinued after 2022.
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