Mayoral race enters the home stretch
& it's time to vote in Tweet Madness' Final Fours
3-30-2023 (issue No. 81)
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.
This week (will finish this later)
News and Views — On the end of Twitter’s legacy “verified” program and more
Land of Linkin’ — Where I tell readers where to go
Mary Schmich — “Spring Light”
Re:Tweets — We are down to the Final Four in both the visual and conventional tweet categories. One shining moment is about to happen!
Tune of the Week — am opening-day number nominated by former New York Times writer Bruce Weber
A few final thoughts on the race for mayor
I spoke with host Mike Pesca Monday morning about the mayor’s race for his podcast “The Gist.” The episode posted Wednesday. The link is here.
It’s been disappointing that education hasn’t been a more prominent issue in the runoff election between Brandon Johnson — a teachers union organizer and lobbyist — and Paul Vallas — an educrat who has run numerous public school systems around the country including in Chicago.
When they made the runoff, I anticipated a robust clash of ideas about neighborhood schools, charter schools, voucher programs, testing and other approaches to public education.
We did see —
“From funding to testing, here’s how Chicago mayoral candidates differ on plans for CPS” and “Chicago’s mayoral candidates have radically different approaches to fixing public schools” at Chicago Public Media.
— but the issues of crime and policing dominated the debates.
And it’s Vallas’ fondness for privatizing public education that’s long been my main concern about him. I think his enthusiasm for using tax dollars to fund private schools or those run by for-profit entities is wrongheaded, divisive and, in the end, counterproductive. Many of those who champion voucher programs and charter alternatives — couching their position in terms of “parental choice” — have very good intentions, but, as I argued in this online debate, whenever I get beyond the utopian slogans and capitalistic bromides about the elevating value of competition, I quickly reach a vision of chaos.
I see public schools trying to educate the left-behind students with less money than they had before. I see snarky entrepreneurs starting up lightly regulated, bare-bones private schools selling false hopes and hocus-pocus to parents in order to have at their voucher money. I see good private schools raising tuition and admission standards in order to keep out kids they consider undesirable.
I see transportation, enrollment and special-education nightmares for parents. I see the emergence of a private-school culture in which we further segregate ourselves by race, income, religion, ethnicity and so on, and in which shabby, defunded public schools cater only to students who have extraordinary challenges — those with various disorders or with parents who for one reason or another can’t or don’t want to put in the time to change their kids’ school placements. I see teaching devalued as a profession as pay for teachers falls.
Voucher proponents speak of “choice,” but how much choice will there really be for the poor? Will they have the same kind of choice in schools as they have in, say, local supermarkets or housing? And why are supporters so quick and willing to wave the white flag on public education? Why don’t we put our brainpower and our education tax resources into making public schools as successful and enriching as we can?
Charter schools were supposed to be laboratories for pedagogical experiments that could then inform educators in the conventional system. Instead, they have become industries all their own.
Chicago’s next mayor will have a significant say in education policy, and I remain highly wary of Vallas’ influence on the direction of the city’s public schools, should he be elected. It was the main reason I was in the (almost) anybody-but-Vallas camp in the first round of voting.
Do I fault Vallas for redirecting pension investment money into current expenses back in the 1990s and early 2000s when he ran the Chicago Public Schools, markets were booming and the pensions appeared to be fully funded? Yes. In hindsight, it was fiscally irresponsible — see “How Vallas Helped Wall Street Loot Chicago’s Schools” in The Lever — even though it did allow for teachers to get better raises and for additional school construction.
Yet Johnson’s professed indignation over the resultant debt we’re saddled with is ironic given there’s little to no record of the Chicago Teachers Union making a peep of protest about the move at the time. And pinning all the mess on Vallas more than 20 years later is so unfair as to be dishonest given how many politicians and bureaucrats have engaged in or enabled similar practices both before and after Vallas.
The race card is face up on the table
(Johnson) said the news outlet that reported he would attempt to pass a 3.5% levy on people earning $100,000 or up has since retracted its headline. He then faced Vallas and demanded: “When Black men tell you the truth, believe us.” (Tribune coverage of the March 18 debate)
Johnson slammed Vallas for pointing out that Johnson taught at CPS for only four years and insinuating that he’s overplaying his former career on the campaign trail. “The fact that he’s being dismissive of a Black man who taught for four years in Chicago Public Schools is, is — you got to stop doing that, Paul, you just do,” Johnson said. (Tribune coverage of the March 28 debate)
When I asked Johnson in the March 14 debate about his promise that he would create 60,000 jobs for city youths, I noted that many young people are not “job ready,” which he interpreted as a racial attack.
“This notion that our people are not ready to experience the economic wealth of this city … is tethered to something that is part of the vestiges of the past.” he said. “I don't want people to ask questions that continue to disparage our people.”
Chicago remains a very segregated city, and racism remains a real and toxic problem, but Johnson’s willingness to insinuate that criticism of him is racist is ominous and will make for a long four years if he’s elected.
If Johnson is elected, don’t be surprised at his bottomless capacity for doubletalk
(Moderator Irika) Sargent then asked Johnson to acknowledge statements he’d made about defunding the police in recent years: “Do you acknowledge making those recorded and documented statements, yes or no?”
Johnson did not answer.
“I’m not going to defund the police,” he said instead.
Sargent repeated the question, to no avail.
“What I’ve acknowledged is the fact that there are people who are incredibly, incredibly frustrated,” Johnson said before Sargent cut him off.
After the moderator’s third attempt to press Johnson, he said, “You’ve already, you’ve already quoted — what I’m saying is, though —”
Sargent tried a fourth time, and Johnson at last relented and said, “Of course I’m acknowledging it.”
But Johnson refused to say that his past comments — including describing the “defund the police” movement as “not just admirable, but is necessary” — clashed with his promise this week to not reduce Chicago police’s budget “one penny.”
“They’re not differing positions,” Johnson said. “I never said we’re going to take money away from the police. … I’ve never said I was going to cut the police budget.”
I would accept and understand from Johnson an admission/explanation that his thinking about policing has evolved since that fraught summer of 2020 when he was undeniably championing the “defund the police” idea, whatever that meant to him exactly. Campaigning takes you out of your ideological silo and exposes you to other perspectives and realities. No shame in that.
But there is shame in mendacious and evasive rhetoric. Two weeks earlier, when I was co-moderating one of the debates in this race, Johnson claimed that when he’d said defunding the police was a goal, he was not implying that it was his goal.
It’s quite clear by now that Johnson has come around to the view that police funding should not be cut. Pointing out the change is more than fair. Pretending it hasn’t happened is foul.
The assertion in pro-Johnson mailers that Vallas opposes abortion rights is similarly sleazy. Vallas has been clear and consistent that he personally opposes abortion, but as a matter of public policy, he supports abortion rights. This is actually a fairly common position among people who understand that their religious inclinations shouldn’t necessarily be written into law.
I was very impressed with Johnson’s presence, charisma, wit, quickness and progressive optimism during the nine-candidate debates before the first round. In those short-answer snippets, he stood out. But I gotta say, the more I hear him talk on these televised debates, the less confidence I have that he’s got the policy chops and political skill to be the mayor. His plans strike me as naive and unrealistic, and his rhetoric feels like bumper-sticker sloganeering.
If Vallas is elected, expect similar gaslighting
Rich Miller has the claim and the receipts, starting with an excerpt from the Tribune:
Vallas was confronted a third time about associations with conservatives when moderators cited a 2021 interview he did with a radio show in which he said unspecific school curriculum inspired by critical race theory was harming families and taking emphasis off more important subjects.
The former CEO of Chicago Public Schools denied that and said, “I made no statements of the sort,…”
“Oh, please.” writes Miller. “To the audio…”
Vallas: When you introduce a curriculum that is not only divisive, but a curriculum that further undermines the relationship of children with their parents, with their families, that’s a dangerous thing. And for white parents, I mean, how are you going to discipline your child when your child comes home and your child has basically been told, you know, that their generation, their race, their parents, their grandparents, they have discriminated against others and they have somehow victimized another person’s race. Or for that matter, if you are a Black child, how do you go home and listen to your parent when your parent has failed to be successful in addressing these historically racist institutional obstacles that have denied them a chance at equal opportunity. So I think it’s detracting from our need to focus on our core subject areas. It’s allowing us to avoid accountability in terms of the quality of our teaching, the quality of our schools, and I think it’s not only divisive, but I think it does damage between the children and their own and their own parents, their own family and within their own families.
Wirepoints: Yeah, Paul, I often wonder if you’re a Black kid, why wouldn’t you become a criminal if you’re hearing this stuff in school? It’s everybody with white skin is an oppressor if you have black skin, you’re the oppressed. That makes it pretty easy to justify pretty bad conduct in my opinion.
Vallas: You’re absolutely right. But what you’re also doing, you know, you’re giving people an excuse for bad behavior.
I’m reminded of Vallas’ indignant claim that he never said we need to “take the handcuffs off police.”
Last July, Vallas tweeted ,“We cannot handcuff CPD & must allow them to do their jobs!” And the Washington Post reported earlier this month, “Vallas has promised to ‘take the handcuffs off’ the notorious Chicago police.”
In fairness to Vallas, the quote appears to have been a paraphrase based on his remarks that invoked the handcuffing metaphor that were then conflated with specific words spoken by former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson. But the obvious implication is that these “handcuffs” ought to be removed, and to claim otherwise was beyond slippery.
A pox on all their houses
Brandon Johnson supporters have been planting “Vallas for Mayor, MAGA 2024” lawn signs throughout the city to attempt to connect Vallas with former President Donald Trump. It’s as dishonest an effort as the Vallas campaign mailers that still insist that Johnson favors “defunding the police,” or the Johnson mailers that bleat Vallas is a threat to reproductive freedom.
I resonate more than I ever have with those who feel so turned off by the false, ugly attacks, the preposterous promises and the charmless rhetoric that they don’t want to endorse the process itself by participating in it.
Oh, I’ll vote. Not sure yet for whom. I posted my prediction here on Tuesday, but I doubt I’ll feel good about the result either way.
King as kingmaker?
I had a number of friends tell me this week that progressive 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King’s announcement that she’s endorsing Vallas for mayor moved them from the undecided camp to the Vallas camp. King, who was among the original group of nine hopefuls who ran in the first round at the end of last month, is chair of the Progressive Caucus on the City Council and was someone I would have voted for if the polls had shown her having a chance (she finished in eighth place) or if we’d had ranked-choice voting.
Now, honestly, that number of friends is two.
So my sample size is far too small to be of any value. But King’s nod is yet another anomalous endorsement for Vallas and stands to be as important in next Tuesday’s outcome as Johnson’s get-out -the-vote rally at the UIC Credit Union 1 Arena Thursday featuring Bernie Sanders and other prominent lefties whom one would expect to be backing him.
Johnson’s challenge is going to be to motivate young voters where polls suggest he enjoys a substantial lead. But as Sun-Times political reporter Lynn Sweet writes, “Young people in Chicago aren’t voting.”
Let’s look at the Feb. 28 turnout numbers by age. Of the total ballots cast:
3.23% were voters 18-24 14.95% were voters 25-34 16.98% were voters 35-44 16% were voters 45-54 18.66% were voters 55-64 17.73% were voters 65-74 12.45% were voters 75+ So roughly 2 out of every 3 voters were 45 or older, and, as I wrote Tuesday, if that pattern comes close to holding next week, get used to saying “Mayor Vallas” for the next four years.
News & Views
News: Starting Saturday ,Twitter says it will “begin winding down” its “legacy verified program.”
View: This is a wildly stupid money grab that will further degrade the social media platform. In the “legacy verified program,” certain public and semi-public figures (like me) had blue check marks by their names because Twitter had determined that they were who they said they were, not impostors or parody accounts.
The check mark was a very minor status symbol. I appreciated that it discouraged people from masquerading as me. But since Elon Musk took over and began selling verification marks for $8 a month to anyone who wanted them, the blue check has become a symbol of shame, a suggestion that you are the sort of pathetic person who would pay $8 a month to a billionaire to make yourself look more important than other users. That’s no doubt why Twitter is reportedly working on a tweak that will allow users to hide their blue check marks.
I’m thrilled to be losing mine yet wary that it will now be very hard to tell real people from impostors on the site. Monica Lewinsky tweeted out this image, noted that one of the impostors is “verified” and quipped, “Well, this is going to be fun. “
Meanwhile, Musk announced Monday that “only verified users will show up in Twitter’s recommendation feed,” that pops up when users log in.
Twitter’s “For You” tab shows users tweets from people they don’t (necessarily) follow, but that are recommended to them by the social media firm’s algorithm. To date, this has showed accounts from any Twitter users, whether they are verified or not.
These desperate moves seem likely to drive users away from what I still consider to be the most valuable social media site by far. What prompts them?
Musk told employees last week that Twitter is now valued at $20 billion, according to an email sent to employees and seen by the New York Times. That is down more than 50% from the $44 billion Musk paid for the company last year.
View: I have no problem with publishers offering revised, sanitized versions of older works of art for the enjoyment of readers/viewers who might be troubled by language that was of its time, so to speak. The originals should remain available, however, for those who can face historical reality squarely.
Changes to (Agatha Christie’s) source material come after it emerged last month that Roald Dahl's classic children's books had received similar treatment.
The changes to Dahl's books divided fans of works including "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach," with some arguing that rewriting classic literature is a form of censorship.
Publisher Puffin responded to the controversy by announcing that it would release two versions — one amended and one classic — to give readers "the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl's magical, marvellous stories."
That seems fair enough.
News: Non-Disparagement Clauses Are Retroactively Voided, National Labor Relations Board’s Top Cop Clarifies
View: Good. Those of us who’ve taken buyouts from the Tribune had to sign rather vague agreements not to disparage the company, which I found exceedingly ironic given a newspaper’s ostensible mission promoting truth and transparency. I had no particular interest in disparaging the company that gave me so many opportunities and provided me with a decent living for four decades — I have a lot of respect for the people in that newsroom, and I even sympathize with many of the executives who are having to make tough choices in challenging economic times.
But I don’t consider fair criticism of some of those decisions to be “disparagement,” and I never thought for a moment the hedge-fund vultures who now own the place would want the bad publicity that would attend taking legal action against a former employee for, say, raising alarms about predatory subscription practices.
A modest proposal: Pump the brakes on car culture
Daniel Knowles, 35, is the Chicago correspondent for the London-based weekly The Economist. This week sees the publication of his first book “Carmageddon: How Cars Made Life Worse and What to Do About It.” (Abrams Press)
In the introduction, he writes:
The planet on which we live, the only one we have, is warming unsustainably, and vehicle emissions contribute at least a quarter of all CO2 emissions globally, a share which is growing rapidly. The fortune we spend on producing, fueling, and maintaining cars leaves us poorer. And the more we try to accommodate the car, the more it will come to dominate our lives. Car manufacturers want us to believe that driving is freedom. But in fact, we are trapping ourselves in an enormous prison made up of moving metal cells.
He and his wife live in Wicker Park, and, he said, they do just fine not owning a car. His is a provocative thesis, to say the least, and I chatted with him about it recently over Zoom. Here is an edited version of our conversation.
Eric Zorn: The subtitle of your book is "How Cars Make Life Worse and What to Do About It." That certainly suggests a pair of questions, so let's start with the first: How have cars made life worse?
Daniel Knowles: Lots of ways, but I think the easiest way of summarizing it is that it's a coordination problem. Basically, if you're the first person to get a car, it's a magical invention, it's this thing that you can get in and get anywhere really easily. Each individual car is a great invention.
But the trouble is that when everybody has a car, they're worth much less than the individual value of each car. We've been trying to create a world in which everybody can have their own individual car, but there are problems: The amount of pollution that those cars create, the amount of land we have to devote to parking, the number of people killed in crashes, the way automobile culture encourages sprawl.
And then most people can't really walk anywhere, and all these journeys that previously you would have been able to do on your own feet, or on a bicycle or a bus or by train require a car. For society to have everybody driving really does not make sense, and every car you add makes it a bit worse.
EZ: Are current environmental concerns causing people to listen to this argument more than they might have previously?
DK: Fears of climate change are motivating a lot of people who are getting on board now. Cars are certainly not the only thing that create CO2 emissions, but they're the fastest-rising source of CO2 emissions all over the world. Partly because of the growth in electric cars,we're probably hitting peak gasoline usage in America this year. But not at all in the world at large. And even if we replace gas-powered engines with electric engines, cars throw off a huge amount of particulate matter.
EZ: You seem to suggest that the growth of car culture was something of a conspiracy hatched by big automakers and big oil companies. But let me challenge that assertion. It seems to me the growth was driven by individuals realizing that having a car made a lot of things in life easier — shopping, seeing friends, going on vacations, visiting distant relatives. That the growth of car culture was organic and inevitable. Am I wrong about that?
DK: No, I think that's basically right. I mean, if you go back to the 1920s and 1930s, there was a lobbying group that was organized, essentially, by car dealers who lobbied for the passage of jaywalking laws, for widening of streets, for elevating highways to keep them away from pedestrians and so on. But once some people began getting cars, it became rational for others to get cars, too.
EZ: It seems to me that with the push for electric and self-driving cars, we may be actually going in the other direction than the one you suggest. People will be in cars even more than they are now because it will be cheaper and easier to get around that way.
DK: True, the cost of driving is much lower with electric vehicles. That's partly because the taxes collected from motorists don't reflect the actual cost of maintaining the roads. And without some sort of vehicle mileage charge or tolling or something, driving is going to get a lot cheaper, and people are going to do more, even though it raises all of these other costs on the general taxpayer who has to make up the difference.
EZ: This brings me to the second question suggested by your subtitle: Assuming you've made the case that, overall, cars have made life worse, what should we do about it?
DK: We need congestion pricing -- charging drivers more to use the roads and streets at the times of higher overall demand, so that they pay the cost of using the roads that they're on. We need better public transportation. We need to get rid of requirements that new developments in cities include parking spaces. Basically, we need to disincentivize car ownership.
Of course, that will be difficult politically because so many people have already invested in the status quo. They've bought their cars. They've moved to communities where they need their cars. Making it much more expensive will create a big backlash. But there's a big generational shift going on. A large minority of younger Americans don't drive, like 20% of people in their late 20s, and 30s, don't have a license. The portion of teenagers who have a license has collapsed. And then there's a whole bunch more people bearing the expense of car ownership who wish they didn't have to.
So I think there's a constituency for change, and increasingly, you have younger idealists turning up at community and city meetings to say they want to be able to bike to work without feeling like they're gonna get killed by Ford F150s. I think it takes creating a movement, and I see it emerging.
EZ: Yeah, but I think of how Americans reacted just recently to the idea that gas stoves are unhealthy. The controversy turned into this incredible clusterfuck with people howling, "You're not going to take away my gas stove!"
And Americans really resisted the change to water-saving toilets, low-flow showerheads and energy-saving lightbulbs. So while I think it's great that you're raising some of these points and getting people to think about cars in a very broad sense, I have doubts how far your suggestion can possibly go politically. How did publishers react to your pitch?
DK: My publisher (Abrams Press) has been very supportive, but quite a few publishers who sent rejection slips said the thesis was completely mad. One said something like coming between Americans and their pickup trucks is a bit like getting between an angry bear and its cubs.
But there are people on both sides of this issue. There will be people who think my suggestions aren't radical enough.
I think there are a lot of Americans, particularly people who rely on their car, who do drive, but who are annoyed by it and wish they didn't have to as much. There are a lot of families who have two cars who wish they could get by with one. I want to persuade people that it's possible to look at this situation differently.
Land of Linkin’
I highly recommend “You Didn’t See Nothin’,” a seven-episode podcast series narrated by Chicagoan Yohance Lacour as he revisits the 1997 story of Lenard Clark, a Black 13-year-old who was beaten into a coma by a gang of white, Bridgeport teens when he crossed a bridge into their neighborhood to put air in his bicycle tires. The production values are top-notch — The Invisible Institute teamed up with USG Audio — and Lacour is a compelling and searingly candid narrator. He weaves his own life story into an account of the incident and the long tail of its aftermath. You may be surprised at how badly Rev. B. Herbert Martin comes off. Martin was Harold Washington’s pastor and a prominent local African-American faith leader whose ostensible efforts at racial reconciliation after the beating are, at best, cringeworthy and obtuse, and at worst corrupt.
“The blast effect: This is how bullets from an AR-15 blow the body apart.” Stunning, troubling but not gory visual journalism from The Washington Post.
“Jews know all too well that history can be a bad place,” writes Neil Steinberg. “My education involved seeing footage of the naked bodies of my relatives being bulldozed into pits. Given that, I believe schools can spill the beans about segregation without Republican children crying themselves to sleep.”
“An Impossible Crime” (Part One; Part Two) from the “Criminal” podcast tells the astonishing story of Daniel Taylor, a Chicago teenager who was convicted of a murder that had been committed while he was in police custody. A hero in the story is then-Tribune investigative reporter Steve Mills, whose coverage of the case was a major reason Taylor was ultimately freed and exonerated. Mills, now with the Midwest office of ProPublica, is interviewed in Part Two.
Those who are excited by the prospect of an elected school board in Chicago should read “Conservatives are targeting suburban school boards. And the elections are becoming political battlegrounds,” a sobering report by the Tribune’s Dan Petrella and Rick Pearson. And/or read my column from March 2021, “Nasty, expensive school board elections for Chicago? Hard pass” in which I noted that in the 2020 school board primary in Los Angeles, outside groups — largely dueling supporters of the charter school movement and of supporters of unionized teachers who tend to oppose charter schools — spent roughly $16.5 million to bombard the voters with propaganda.
Point of information: Disgraced racist cartoonist Scott Adams is now peddling subscriptions to his once-beloved “Dilbert” comic strip here for $70 a year.
I laughed until I stopped at this “Saturday Night Live” sketch from a few weeks back.
If you have any faith in humanity, writer Billy Ball will disabuse you of it in “My 6-Year-Old Son Died. Then the Anti-vaxxers Found Out. — Opponents of COVID vaccines terrorize grieving families on social media.” (The Atlantic) The boy’s death had nothing to do with vaccinations, but that did not stop the cruelest, most contemptible people in the world from compounding his family’s grief.
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.
Trump-loving tabloid goes after Tucker Carlson
The National Enquirer describes Fox News host Tucker Carlson as a “two-faced … blowhard … hypocrite” in its Monday issue. Not exactly a scoop, there, but an indication that the Equirer is not relaxing its embrace of former President Donald Trump.
The supermarket rag is wroth with Tuck’ for privately disclosing his contempt for Trump while publicly championing “wild conspiracy theories claiming (Dominion Voting Systems) machines rigged the (2020 presidential) election,” as the Enquirer put it.
In other Enquirer news this week, it seems that actor Gene Hackman is looking “haggard” at age 93. Can you believe it? Time takes its toll even on famous people.
Mary Schmich: ‘Spring Light’
My former colleague Mary Schmich posts occasional column-like entries on Facebook. Here, reprinted with permission, is her most recent offering, which she refers to as”a bad poem to go with a nice photo of March light on my piano.”
We wait and wait and wait for spring We cry, “Goodgawd, it’s time!” These cold March days, this flurried snow It ought to be a crime! But let’s look on the bright side At the thing that’s going right: The days are getting longer We begin to see the light. The light descends in angles And it spreads across the room It chases out the darkness And it chases off the gloom. And soon there will be daffodils! Plus tulips and fresh grass! Too bad the light illuminates My filthy window glass.
Panelist Austin Berg says on this week’s episode of “The Mincing Rascals” podcast that Chicago is one of only two of the 15 largest cities in America that does not have a formal city charter or constitution. To learn the other one, you’ll have to listen to the show or go here in the video of Berg’s recent speech to the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago. Brandon Pope, host John William and I round out the panel. Subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. Or bookmark this page. If you’re not a podcast listener, you can now hear an edited version of the show at 8 p.m. most Saturday evenings on WGN-AM 720.
Tweet Madness has come down to the Final Four. Click here to vote for one of these as the tournament winner:
Social media has shown us why there are directions on shampoo. — @Social_Mime
Someone said I was the last person they’d call if they were ever in trouble and honestly, I’ve never been so relieved. — @Parentpains
A priest, a rabbit and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender asks the rabbit, “What’ll you have?” The rabbit says “I dunno, I’m only here because of auto-correct.” (various sources)
My wife screamed "You haven't listened to a single word I've said, have you?!” I was taken aback....what a weird way to start a conversation. (various sources)
Again, Click here to vote.
Reader/voters have also winnowed the field of visual tweet contenders down to a Final Four, and you can vote for your favorite on this page:
POLL CLOSED AFTER 735 votes cast.
For instructions and guidelines regarding these polls, click here. Regular weekly polls will resume next week.
Tune of the Week
In honor of opening day for Major League Baseball, author and former New York Times reporter Bruce Weber has submitted the timely “What a Game!” from the late 1990s Broadway musical “Ragtime” based on E.L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel of the same name.
Weber and I have been friends since our college days at the University of Michigan. He is currently working on a biography of Doctorow, who died in 2015. He wrote the following to accompany his nomination.
“Ragtime” is a kaleidoscopic faux chronicle of America just before World War I, a book that famously mingles known historical occurrences and people recognizable from history with imagined events, characters and dialogue. The song mirrors this cocktail of fact and fiction. Within the lyrics are several ballplayers’ names – Schnabel, Doyle, Herzog, Perdue and Murray (which in the singing is pronounced, for the purposes of scansion, Muh-RAY), and all but Schnabel (which Ahrens appears to have made up for its Germanic sound) are taken not just from the novel but from baseball records.
Second baseman Jack Doyle, catcher Jack Meyers and third baseman Buck Herzog were all members of the New York Giants from 1911-1913. In the game in the song, they are playing the Braves (“Braves and Giants, 2 to 2”), the name of the Boston team in the National League from 1912 until 1935. (After a five year stint as the Boston Bees, they became the Braves again in 1942 and eventually moved first to Milwaukee and finally Atlanta.) Hub Perdue was a pitcher for the Boston team for four seasons, beginning in 1911, when the club was known as the Rustlers. The batter at the plate in the song, Jack Murray, was an actual ballplayer too, John Joseph Murray, better known as Red, an outfielder for the Giants from 1908 to 1914. Murray faced Perdue at the Polo Grounds, the Giants home stadium, in one game in 1912 and three games in 1913, though unlike in the song he never homered off him.
It's like the Constitution The institution Of dear ol' baseball Where every man is treated the same!
Listeners will note the ironic juxtaposition of this sentiment with the ethnic slurs hurled by the fans.
Speaking of baseball and Bruce Weber, I had a long online conversation with him in 2009 about his book “As They See 'Em -- A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires." It remains a good read.
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