WBEZ | Media http://www.wbez.org/sections/media Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Special Series: Global Activism - 'Worldview' Visits India http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/special-series-global-activism-worldview-visits-india-111888 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/India-series%20620%20good.JPG" title="From bottom-center l to r - Jerome McDonnell and Steve Bynum of WBEZ and Nila Vora of India Development Service in Delhi, India with the NGO Community Youth Collective (Photo by Nilesh Kothari)" /><em>Worldview</em> took <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em> to India! And we take you along for the ride. For years, India Development Service <a href="http://idsusa.org/">(IDS)</a>, a Chicago-based investment NGO, has brought from India Global Activists to <em>Worldview&nbsp;</em>who work there to make life better. So IDS brought us to India to talk with people doing service and development projects on-the-ground. IDS guided us through big cities like, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, as well as to remote villages and towns. We met people working to overcome challenges like illiteracy, abuse of women and children, class issues and water security.</p><p><strong>Jerome McDonnell and Steve Bynum of WBEZ&#39;s <em>Worldview</em> and </strong><strong>India Development Service (IDS)</strong><strong> share their adventures in India</strong></p><p>Sunday, May 17th, 2015, 5:00pm-7:30pm</p><p>The Meadows Club2950 Golf Road, Rolling Meadows</p><p>Free of Charge - Dinner Included</p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 09:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/special-series-global-activism-worldview-visits-india-111888 Why aren’t there more Latinos on TV? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/why-aren%E2%80%99t-there-more-latinos-tv-111465 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/0127_cristela-abc-624x415.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The big four television networks have made progress in diversifying their casts, but only among African-American actors. That&rsquo;s according to recent numbers compiled by the Associated Press.</p><p>Latinos represent about 17&nbsp;percent of the American population, but on network T.V., that group represents less than 10&nbsp;percent of characters.</p><p>NPR TV Critic <strong>Eric Deggans</strong> joins <em><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/" target="_blank">Here &amp; Now&rsquo;</a></em>s Lisa Mullins to discuss why it might be that&nbsp;Latino Americans continue to be snubbed in casting, in spite of the fact they tend to consume more media by percentage than another other group.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/01/27/latinos-television-casting" target="_blank">via Here &amp; Now</a></em></p></p> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 18:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/why-aren%E2%80%99t-there-more-latinos-tv-111465 TV In 2015: The Brits are back http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tv-2015-brits-are-back-111325 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/1224_downton-abbey-624x390.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>American television loves nothing better than a spot of tea, singing medieval knights, frightfully polite heirs and heiresses, and those delightful accents.</p><p>NPR&rsquo;s TV critic <a href="https://twitter.com/Deggans" target="_blank">Eric Deggans</a> joins&nbsp;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org">Here &amp; Now&rsquo;</a>s Lisa Mullins about a few of the British-themed shows we&rsquo;ll be seeing on television in 2015.</p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/01/01/television-2015-deggans">via Here &amp; Now</a></em></p></p> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 10:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tv-2015-brits-are-back-111325 The many rabbit holes (or should we say labyrinths) of 'Serial' http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/many-rabbit-holes-or-should-we-say-labyrinths-serial-111259 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/sarah-koenig-dana-chivvis-in-studio-photo-credit-elise-bergerson_wide-33a836b6f38a9d110c6b7b1ae46c8cc3961f7369-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>As <a href="http://serialpodcast.org/">Serial</a> winds to an end, those of us behind Code Switch and Monkey See have been talking a whole lot about the podcast. Here&#39;s part four of our exchange. Later today, Sarah Koenig will talk to All Things Considered about the final episode &mdash; available this morning &mdash; and we&#39;ll give you the details on that as well. </em></p><p>Hey, Matt, Gene and Linda &mdash;</p><p>There&#39;s this <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/kristinchirico/this-parody-of-the-serial-podcast-is-so-ridiculously-on-poin">string of Serial parodies</a> that I think I might&#39;ve shared with the three of you at some point in the past few weeks. (Or, you know, you might&#39;ve just found them on your own, because I feel like they were everywhere, hanging around the many corners of the internet.) The parodies are all pretty spot-on, in that they each hit the nail of Sarah Koenig&#39;s tendency to dive down rabbit holes &mdash; very deep tunnels, and with a lot of gusto &mdash; right on the head.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/many-rabbit-holes-or-should-we-say-labyrinths-serial-111259#thirdcoast">Third Coast&#39;s listening guide to fill the Serial-shaped hole in your life</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>In this particular parody, comedian William Stephen who voices Koenig asks, all earnestly: &quot;Where was the pay phone? What&#39;s a Best Buy? What makes its buy the best?&quot; These questions are, of course, goofy, weird and nonsensical, but not too far of a departure from the type of questioning Koenig delivers in each of her episodes as she examines two very serious things: the murder of Hae Min Lee and the subsequent trial of Adnan Syed. (More on that difficult balance in a bit &mdash; as Gene told me earlier today, to get at the nuance in a complicated story like Lee&#39;s murder, you have to jump down various holes, and you have to let yourself get a little obsessed.)</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/stYkaBFpDyc?showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>The thing about Serial and its endless rabbit holes is that it allows for many different ways to view the podcast. You could consider it, like Linda, to be a true crime show. You could think, like Matt, that in the end Koenig is going to reframe it all as a trial about a trial. Or you could, like Gene, see the many other resonances to what&#39;s going on today.</p><p>At some point, you&#39;ve probably had some questions: <em>Why didn&#39;t Adnan call Hae when she went missing? or What do Hae&#39;s parents think about all this? or What does Jay&#39;s girlfriend &mdash; who refused to talk to Koenig for the podcast &mdash; think or know about this case?</em> (Maybe they&#39;re not rabbit holes; maybe, they&#39;re rabbit labyrinths.) With Serial, Koenig has built a world that her listeners can reference to talk about other things &mdash; Gene&#39;s piece that <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/12/15/370423380/serial-isnt-about-ferguson-but-its-kind-of-about-ferguson">connected Serial to stories like Ferguson</a> is a prime example. So it makes sense that it&#39;s resonated with listeners, that it&#39;s <a href="http://www.avclub.com/features/the-serial-serial/">sparked podcasts</a> <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/slates-serial-spoiler-specials/id935063801?mt=2">about</a> the podcast, that it&#39;s launched <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/serialpodcast">a well-trafficked subreddit</a>.</p><p>All right. All right. So, some of the things I thought about, with varying degrees of depth:</p><p><strong>1. The story is more about Koenig&#39;s process &mdash; and her becoming obsessed with the trial &mdash; than it is about finding a definitive answer about whether Adnad Syed killed Hae Min Lee: </strong>We&#39;re constantly reminded that this podcast contains only fragments of the very real lives it represents.</p><p><strong>2. Koenig&#39;s idea of &quot;casual prejudice&quot;: </strong>In episode 10, &quot;<a href="http://serialpodcast.org/season-one/10/the-best-defense-is-a-good-defense">The Best Defense Is A Good Defense</a>,&quot; Koenig finally addresses issues of race. (How Koenig <a href="http://www.theawl.com/2014/11/serial-and-white-reporter-privilege">has or hasn&#39;t talked</a><a href="http://www.theawl.com/2014/11/serial-and-white-reporter-privilege"> about race</a> has been a <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/12/unpacking-the-social-justice-critique-of-serial/383071/">big point of contention about the podcast</a>.) She plays tape of the prosecutor calling Syed a &quot;Pakistan man&quot; during the bail hearing; the prosecutor was making the argument that Syed&#39;s heritage and religion made him dangerous and a flight risk. She refers to research put together for the detectives working on the case: <em>Report on Islamic Fad and Culture with Emphasis on Pakistan, a Comparative Study relevant to the Upcoming Trial of Adnan Syed.</em></p><p>Also, Koenig says this:</p><blockquote class="edTag"><p>One of Adnan&#39;s teachers for example, &quot;think about what he would have been taught about women and women&#39;s rights.&quot; Another teacher I talked to told me she was terrified at the time that Adnan&#39;s relatives were going to come after her for talking to the detectives. She told me she assumed his parents were evil. On that website that lists all the bodies found in Leakin Park, the author&#39;s commentary about Hae Min Lee&#39;s case is &quot;maybe my prejudice is showing through, but who in their right mind lets their daughter date a man named Adnan Musud Syed?</p></blockquote><p>And yet, Koenig tip-toes around the &quot;r&quot; word &mdash; she refers to the above litany as &quot;casual prejudice.&quot; &quot;You can hear me not believing [...] the notion that the cops and prosecutors in this case were driven by anti-Muslim feeling, by racism, and by racism alone,&quot; she tells her listeners. Was she skirting around the word &quot;racist&quot; because she thought it was too inflammatory, or that it might derail the story? If someone was convicted of murder in part because jurors linked his ethnic background to his motive &mdash; then doesn&#39;t &quot;casual prejudice&quot; seem too flip of a descriptor?</p><p><strong>3. Cristina Gutierrez&#39;s voice and the way people talk about it: </strong>So, remember in that very first episode, when Koenig explains how she happened upon the story? Koenig says that Rabia Chaudry found her because she&#39;d written about Gutierrez &mdash; Syed&#39;s lawyer &mdash; years before.</p><p>She says in that episode:</p><blockquote class="edTag"><p>I&#39;d written about a well-known defense attorney in Baltimore who&#39;d been disbarred for mishandling client money. That attorney was the same person who defended Adnan, her last major trial, in fact. Rabia told me she thought the attorney botched the case &mdash; not just botched it, actually, but threw the case on purpose so she could get more money for the appeal. The lawyer had died a few years later. She&#39;d been sick.</p></blockquote><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/XDvPjm10CM0?showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>As Serial gained traction, Gutierrez has been a focus of fierce debate. Folks have criticized the way Gutierrez handled a witness and how she flubbed on some possibly exculpatory evidence. But many people are zeroing in on how she sounded in Adnan&#39;s defense. In recordings from the trial, her voice and delivery were strained, with drawn out words and a rhythm that was more of an amble than a jog.</p><p><a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/12/04/serial_podcast_episode_10_the_best_defense_is_a_good_defense_recapped_and.html">Listeners have called Gutierrez&#39;s voice &quot;grating</a>.&quot; (&quot;I&#39;m an atheist, but if you can convince me Hell is real and Cristina Gutierrez&#39;s voice is piped in 24/7, you&#39;ll see me in church,&quot; <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/serialpodcast/comments/2o96uo/im_an_atheist_but_if_you_can_convince_me_hell_is/">one redditor said.</a> His comment got nearly 800 upvotes.) But it&#39;s worth remembering how often women&#39;s voices come in for this kind of criticism. Earlier this year, NPR&#39;s Selena Simmons-Duffins made a video about talking while female. It illustrates the point that for so long, women&#39;s <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/10/24/357584372/video-what-women-get-flak-for-when-they-talk%29">voices have been criticized for being too high</a>, for being too low, for not sounding authoritative, for not sounding adult, or for phrasing sentences so that they sound like uncertain questions. (It&#39;s not clear that men don&#39;t do these things either, but they certainly aren&#39;t criticized in the same capacity.)</p><p><strong>4. The ethics: </strong>Whenever I talk to people about Serial, at some point in the conversation, these sorts of thoughts get raised: This is a podcast about real people, about a real tragedy that devastated real families.</p><p>It&#39;s something that&#39;s easy to forget, until say, someone saying he&#39;s Hae Min Lee&#39;s brother <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/serialpodcast/comments/2mmldf/i_am_haes_brother_do_not_ama">shows up on a reddit thread</a>, writing about how 15 years after the most tragic moment of his life, it&#39;s become a major pop culture obsession.</p><p>A perfect example is Best Buy&#39;s <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/12/11/best_buy_serial_tweet_what_s_wrong_with_brand_jokes_about_a_murder_podcast.html">tweet from last week</a>, in which it joked about the case&#39;s infamous pay phone. &quot;We have everything you need. Unless you need a pay phone. #Serial.&quot; It&#39;s exactly the kind of mistake someone might make when the line between a true story and entertainment is muddied. It&#39;s serialized drama, but it&#39;s not serialized<em> fiction &mdash; </em>and as consumers of this, we&#39;re not passive participants.</p><p><em>&mdash;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2014/12/18/371293491/the-many-rabbit-holes-or-should-we-say-labyrinths-of-serial" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p><p><em>The folks at <a href="http://www.thirdcoastfestival.org/">Third Coast International Audio Festival</a> offer this guide for filling the Serial-shaped hole in your life with more great audio.&nbsp;<a name="thirdcoast"></a></em></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="450" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//www.thinglink.com/card/602205073581277184" type="text/html" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 10:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/many-rabbit-holes-or-should-we-say-labyrinths-serial-111259 What the heck happened to Chicago's truancy officers? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/truancy thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/152861576&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story has an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/could-truant-officers-return-chicago-public-schools-111101" target="_blank">update that relates to recommendations that a state task force makes regarding attendance policy and school staffing</a>. &nbsp;</em></p><p>Over the past few years, Curious City has answered many questions about Chicago streets: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/street-sweeping-essential-service-or-revenue-scam-109221">why they get cleaned</a>, why <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-some-chicago-streets-got-numbers-others-were-stuck-names-102380">some get names but others receive numbers</a>, and why portions of the Kennedy Expressway <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-do-reversible-lanes-kennedy-expressway-work-101384">sometimes switch directions</a>.</p><p>But what caught Saundra Oglesby&rsquo;s attention is what&rsquo;s <em>missing</em> from city streets, or rather <em>who</em> has been missing. We met Saundra just once, but her question needs little clarification:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why aren&#39;t truancy officers riding around like they used to?</em></p><p>Saundra &mdash; a resident of Chicago&rsquo;s Lawndale neighborhood &mdash; is referring to the men and women once employed by Chicago Public Schools to track down students who did not turn up for class.</p><p>&ldquo;When we was growing up, they would pick us up, take us to the school, call our parents and say, &lsquo;Hey, this kid is not in school, why aren&rsquo;t you in school?&rsquo;&rdquo; Oglesby recalled.</p><p>Hers is a fair question and, we learned, a timely one.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s truancy officers were cut decades ago, but the problem they were tasked with solving &mdash; chronic, unexcused absence from school &mdash; persists and it&rsquo;s hurt kids, communities and the school district itself.</p><p>In May of this year, <em><a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/sites/catalyst-chicago.org/files/blog-assets/files/cps_verified_chronic_truancy_and_absenteeism_data.pdf">Catalyst Chicago </a></em>magazine revealed that a little more than one quarter of CPS students were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#def"><em>chronically truant</em> </a>last year. The district verified that report. (At CPS, a student qualifies as chronically truant if she misses 5 percent of the school year &mdash; or about nine days &mdash; without an accepted excuse. Prior to the 2011-2012 school year, the threshold was 18 missed days, or 10 percent of the school year.)</p><p>The truancy situation&rsquo;s considered bad enough that Illinois lawmakers want recommendations of how to get more Chicago kids to show up at school.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy officers don&rsquo;t make the cut</span></p><p>For nearly fifty years truancy officers in Chicago knocked on doors, called students&rsquo; friends and relatives, and stalked neighborhood haunts to find wayward kids. They would also figure out what was happening in children&rsquo;s lives &mdash; at home, in the streets or at school &mdash; that would keep them from class.</p><p>But the job title &mdash; at least at the district level &mdash; disappeared after 1992.</p><p>Aarti Dhupelia, CPS&rsquo; Chief Officer for College and Career Success, says at that time CPS faced a <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-04-30/news/9102080222_1_school-year-ted-kimbrough-schools-supt">$315 million</a> shortfall, and the administration at the time <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-10-01/news/9203290322_1_truant-officers-bargain-in-good-faith-union-officials">zeroed in on truancy officers</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We actually had as many as 150 truancy officers district wide,&rdquo; Dhupelia explained. &ldquo;Due to unclear evidence of their effectiveness as well as budget constraints, those positions were eliminated.&rdquo;</p><p>The district estimated a savings of about $15 million that year, and that it wouldn&rsquo;t miss the truancy officers. Dhupelia says officers could find kids and bring them to school &ldquo;but they could not answer the larger question of why did children leave school in the first place.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, even with truancy officers in place in the early 1990s, Chicago had the highest high school <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-09-24/news/9203270085_1_chicago-schools-local-school-councils-test-scores">dropout rate</a> in the country. In the years after the officers were cut, the district&rsquo;s dropout rate improved, but the district&rsquo;s truancy rates remained <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=StudentCharacteristics&amp;source2=ChronicTruants&amp;Districtid=15016299025">above the state average</a>.</p><p>That&rsquo;s despite various efforts over the years, including dedicated truancy outreach and re-engagement centers.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-all-cps-truant-officers-110282#addlinfo"><em style="font-size: 16px; text-align: center;">(More on CPS&rsquo; anti-truancy efforts)</em></a></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Truancy and fallout</span></p><p>The consequences of missed days of school add up, a realization all too familiar to <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reporter <a href="http://bio.tribune.com/davidjackson">David Jackson</a>.</p><p>In 2012 Jackson was tipped off to what appeared to be a growing attendance problem. A juvenile court judge told him she was shocked by the number of young kids who were out of school and in her courtroom.</p><p>&ldquo;She noted that those were the kids obviously involved in delinquency and crimes on the streets,&rdquo; Jackson remembered. &ldquo;What they were doing when they weren&rsquo;t in school was either not safe for them or for the community.&rdquo;</p><p>So Jackson and reporter Gary Marx asked for access to a highly-protected CPS attendance database, which tracks &mdash; kid-by-kid &mdash; how often a student misses class. The newspaper team fought a losing legal battle over access to the data. (Jackson said the information is not made public for several good reasons, including privacy.)</p><blockquote><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</span></p><div><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</span></p></div></blockquote><p>Jackson decided to go at it again in 2012 when CPS was embroiled in several of the biggest stories in Chicago (and the nation): at one time the district faced a punishing teacher&rsquo;s strike, school closings and consolidations and escalating violence. After the Tribune team stripped down the original requests, they received the numbers from the 2010-2011 school year. Jackson concluded that the district was facing a <a href="http://media.apps.chicagotribune.com/truancy/index.html">truancy crisis</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;We found in the database &mdash; and this is an extremely conservative number &mdash; that at least one in eight elementary students in Chicago missed four weeks of school [during the year we studied],&rdquo; Jackson recounted.</p><p>Translation: If students retain that pattern of missing school between kindergarten and eighth grade, they could miss a year of school before they begin high school.</p><p>And, as Yale University criminologist <a href="http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/TMeares.htm">Tracey Meares</a> explained, education is vital to survival. Meares has spent time studying networks of gun violence in the city of Chicago. She believes the most effective way to save lives &mdash; and prevent a young person from falling prey to gang and gun violence &mdash; is to teach them to read.</p><p>&ldquo;Making sure that children can read by 3rd grade is probably one of the most important things that any city can do with respect to violent crime in the long term,&rdquo; Meares said. &ldquo;Our research shows that people, young men, who drop out from high school, are much more likely to be gang-involved than those who are not.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="442" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/iR3Sz/4/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">They&rsquo;re going to learn from someone</span></p><p>John Paul Jones, the president of <a href="http://www.sustainableenglewood.org/">Sustainable Englewood Initiatives</a>, said the truancy issue has left the South Side neighborhood with a lot of children learning from others on the street.</p><p>&ldquo;The ex-offenders, the alcoholics, other persons who are just not productive in the community life and those are the ones they&rsquo;re around. And so, it puts them in the way of violence,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It puts them in the way of doing things that puts them and the community at risk.&rdquo;</p><p>One long-term effect of chronic truancy, Jones explained, is that young people in the community aren&rsquo;t rewarded for getting ahead in school.</p><p>&ldquo;Those who do wrong get celebrated when they come back from prison. They come back, there&rsquo;s a cluster of guys who welcome them back,&rdquo; said Jones. But he feels that kind of welcome&rsquo;s not extended to returning college students.</p><p>&ldquo;You come back and you may have somebody who not as thrilled about you coming back,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Another victim: CPS</span></p><p>So kids are directly hurt by chronic truancy and, according to Jones, a whole community can be, too. But as we dug into this question about the absence of truancy officers in Chicago, we found that there&rsquo;s likely another victim: CPS.</p><p>Public school districts are reimbursed by the state and federal governments based on how many kids show up. This complicated formula can be likened to a mortgage calculator.</p><p>A 2010 internal CPS report, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-12-24/news/ct-met-truancy-report-20121224_1_anti-truancy-plan-truancy-and-absenteeism-attendance-data">obtained by the Tribune</a>, suggested CPS could have garnered an additional $11.5 million in state funds if district attendance that year had been just 1 percent higher. Or, in numbers more people can digest, CPS estimated it lost $111 each time a student missed a day.</p><p>Jackson and his reporting team found that more often than not, truancy officers practically paid for themselves.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Will Chicago ever welcome back truancy officers?</span></p><p>Jackson and his Tribune colleagues looked at how other school districts around the state and country tackle truancy. Jackson said in many districts, dedicated truancy officers could handle a key function of finding who was missing on any given day of school, and then prioritizing which ones to reach out to. The kids, Jackson, said, were often findable.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not that they disappear into a Bermuda Triangle,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But do observations like this an argument make an argument in favor of truancy officers?</p><p>CPS doesn&rsquo;t take it that way.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that tackling attendance truancy and attendance is really an &lsquo;it takes a village&rsquo; issue,&rdquo; said CPS&rsquo; Dhupelia. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not something that the district can tackle alone. It&rsquo;s something that families need to tackle, that the district needs to tackle, it&rsquo;s something that community partners, elected officials need to help tackle.&rdquo;</p><p>It so happens Chicago&rsquo;s truancy problems are being tackled by elected officials and other stakeholders. The legislature created a <a href="http://www.isbe.state.il.us/TCPSTF/default.htm">Chicago Public Schools Truancy Task Force</a> to recommend how to improve CPS&rsquo; attendance record.</p><p>To find out what the task force thinks of truancy officers, Curious City, spoke to one of its members: Jeffrey Aranowski, who&rsquo;s with the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p>&ldquo;If you look across the state, most all counties have truant officers employed either by districts or regional offices of education, they&rsquo;re very active. CPS seems to be a little bit of an outlier there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But again, whether or not that&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s appropriate or even will be recommended by the task force is yet to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>The task force&rsquo;s homework is due soon; as of this writing, it&rsquo;s set for the end of July. By then state lawmakers hope to have final recommendations on how to address truancy in CPS schools.</p><p>Perhaps by then, Chicago will know whether the state would like to see truancy officers return to its streets.<a name="addlinfo"></a></p><p><em>Special thanks to David Jackson of the </em>Chicago Tribune<em> and Melissa Sanchez of </em>Catalyst Chicago<em> magazine.</em></p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Foll<a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">ow her @katieobez</a>.</em></p><hr /><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: CPS&#39; current anti-truancy efforts</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools is currently expanding what it calls SOAR (Student Outreach and Re-engagement) centers. There are currently centers in three city neighborhoods: Roseland, Little Village and Garfield Park. The centers are to support all students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out. Across the engagement centers are 15 re-engagement specialists who focus on recruiting and guiding students back into school. CPS says that since the February 2013 launch, SOAR Centers have served 1,615 students.</p><p>CPS&rsquo; Aarti Dhupelia says that over the past several months, CPS has developed a comprehensive attendance and truancy strategy that focuses on the root causes of truancy. That strategy, she says, is two-fold.<a name="def"></a></p><ul><li><strong>Building universal systems in schools that prevent absenteeism: </strong>Coach schools on how to build a positive culture around attendance and helping them monitor attendance regularly. Dhupelia says the district is building data tools to enable documentation and tracking.</li><li><strong>Targeted interventions:</strong> Identifying the root cause of a student&rsquo;s absence and connecting them to resources to address it so that the child can return to a school environment.</li></ul><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Additional information: Definitions</span></p><p>Attendance rate = percentage of days present out of total days enrolled</p><p>Absence rate = percentage of days absent out of total days enrolled; includes excuses, unexcused and suspensions</p><p>Truant: A student who is absent for no valid cause. Valid excuses include illness, death in the family, family emergency, special religious holiday and case-by-case special circumstances.</p><p>Truancy: Being absent without cause for one or more days</p><p>Chronic truancy: Being absent, without an excuse, for five percent of the previous 180 school days (a full school year) &mdash; or, about nine days for CPS students.</p><p>Chronically absent: Missing at least 18 school days, whether excused or unexcused.</p></p> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-heck-happened-chicagos-truancy-officers-110282 The Second City Chicago pushes for diverse voices on stage http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/second-city-chicago-pushes-diverse-voices-stage-110094 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bob%20Curry%20Fellows.JPG" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="For the first time in the history of the Second City, a special fellowship was created this year named after Bob Curry, the first African American to perform on The Second City’s mainstage in 1966. (WBEZ/Mariam Sobh)" /></p><p>Another late night talk show host is leaving CBS.</p><p>Craig Ferguson of <em>The Late Late Show</em> is expected to sign off at the end of the year.</p><p>This news comes just after the network announced Stephen Colbert will replace the retiring David Letterman.</p><p>The announcement raised questions again about why all the networks&#39; late night comics are white males.</p><p>Part of the answer takes us to Chicago, where many of the comedy stars of the last few decades learned their trade &ndash; including Stephen Colbert who studied improv at The Second City.</p><p>While some inroads have been made, comedy is still seen as a predominantly white male art form. Particularly when it comes to the art of improvisation and sketch comedy.</p><p>Improvisation was founded in 1955 at the University of Chicago and since then it has been slow to transition to an art form that is available to the masses.</p><p>While efforts have been made to be more inclusive of women, the LGBT community, and actors of color, there is still a lot of work to do.</p><p>Full disclosure, I&rsquo;m the first Muslim woman wearing the headscarf to graduate and perform at the Second City Training Center&rsquo;s conservatory.</p><p>Diversity is an issue that big improv institutions are keenly aware of.</p><p>Andrew Alexander, CEO, of the Second City has been grappling with this for the last 20 years.</p><p>He said he noticed the problem back in 1992.</p><p>&ldquo;I was in Los Angeles during the L.A. riots and I happened to fly back one of those evenings and I came to Chicago and I went straight to the theater,&quot; Alexander said. &quot;And our actors were 6 or 7 white actors who were struggling to figure out how to sort of deal with the riots in L.A. and it became quite apparent to me that the point of view just wasn&rsquo;t strong. And from that moment on I made a decision to really embrace how can we improve our diversity.&rdquo;</p><p>But, more than two decades later, there is only one person of color on the main stage at Second City.<br /><br />Why is that?</p><p>Anne Libera, director of Comedy Studies at Columbia College and an instructor at the Second City Training Center said it&rsquo;s difficult to cultivate diversity in general.</p><p>&ldquo;You both need people who want to do it, but for people to want to do it, you need them to see representation above them,&rdquo; Libera said.</p><p>For the first time in the history of the Second City, a special fellowship was created this year named after Bob Curry, the first African American to perform on The Second City&rsquo;s mainstage in 1966.</p><p>The fellowship is an intense training program that has accepted only 16 minority students who already have some experience on stage.</p><p>The goal is to mold them into exactly what the Second City is looking for.</p><p>Matt Hovde, the artistic director at the Second City Training Center, said he&rsquo;s confident this program will open the door for more voices.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the first time in a long time that I feel like it will directly translate into a bigger pool of diverse talent at Second City that are working and can work,&quot; Hovde said. &quot;So to me it&rsquo;s a great leap forward.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/147285183&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>One of the Bob Curry Fellows, Patrick Rowland, is also a member of 3Peat, an all black improv team that plays weekly at iO, another comedy institution.</p><p>Rowland said when he took classes back in 2006 he was always the odd man out.</p><p>&ldquo;Every class I was in I was the only black person or person of color,&quot; Rowland said. &quot;There was a tall lanky white guy, a chubby white guy, a white girl who thought she was Tina Fey and then there was me.&rdquo;</p><p>Rowland said that since then, he has seen some changes.</p><p>&ldquo;Nowadays...it&rsquo;s not a lot but to me it&rsquo;s like an explosion of black people,&quot; Rowland said. &quot;And by explosion I mean that you you can count them on two hands.&rdquo;</p><p>3 Peat member John Thibodeaux said he&#39;s slowly seeing a paradigm shift.</p><p>&ldquo;The dominant voices you see in the media, if you&rsquo;re like a black actor in movies or television, you&rsquo;re gonna be the guy who&rsquo;s always the black guy and not just the guy. You don&rsquo;t see a lot of black protagonists in movies. And that&rsquo;s something that can be really inspiring to people coming up. Because I know I don&rsquo;t personally see a lot of people who look like me in the media, telling a story similar to mine. And that&rsquo;s why I like especially playing with this group because when you walk into a scene you know you&rsquo;re not going to be just a black guy. You&rsquo;re just going to be another improviser on stage which is refreshing.&rdquo;</p><p>Thibodeaux and the other members of 3Peat agree that in order for more minorities to get involved, they have to pave the way.</p><p>Which is something I&rsquo;m also now aware of.</p><p>I wrote a blackout sketch for my conservatory graduation show at the Second City Training Center that satirized being a Muslim woman and a person&rsquo;s fear that I was going to blow them up.</p><p>I was playing off a stereotype and people laughed.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s not always funny.</p><p>I was once in a class where the instructor thought it would be amazing if I came out on stage with an American flag and Indian music playing in the background.</p><p>I was confused, because I&rsquo;m not Indian.</p><p>Stereotypes are often another challenge for diverse performers.</p><p>3Peat member Nnamdi Ngwe is all too familiar with this and said he experienced it during an improv class.</p><p>&ldquo;I was actually told, in one of my classes, can you blacken it up,&quot; Ngwe said. &quot;He didn&rsquo;t use exactly those words, but he did want me to essentially blacken it up. I was like no thank you. I wanna do me.&rdquo;</p><p>The process of diversification is complex. But there have been some gains.</p><p>The Second City&rsquo;s smaller stage is now made up of half white and half minority actors.</p><p>But true diversity on the bigger stages promises to be a long term project made more difficult by the fact that it&rsquo;s so competitive.</p><p>The Second City for example may have only one or&nbsp;two positions open in any given year.</p><p><em>Mariam Sobh is Midday Host and reporter at WBEZ. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/mariamsobh">@mariamsobh</a></em></p></p> Tue, 29 Apr 2014 11:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/second-city-chicago-pushes-diverse-voices-stage-110094 This American Life changing distributors http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/american-life-changing-distributors-109899 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Ira Glass - Stuart Mullenberg (2)_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Yesterday WBEZ&#39;s <em>This American Life</em> announced that Public Radio International will no longer be the distributor of the show after June 2014. That&#39;s led to some confusion with listeners about what this means for them and how they&#39;ll get access to the show in the future.</p><p>A distributor oversees the sales, marketing and transmission of the show to other radio stations. <em>This American Life</em> will be working with a new distributor, which will be announced soon. Listeners will conitnue to get the show through their local public radio station during and after this transition.</p><p>This morning <em>This American Life</em> Host and Executive Producer Ira Glass&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/blog/2014/03/leaving-pri">posted an update on the show&#39;s blog</a> explaining the change, which we&#39;ve posted below:</p><blockquote><p>We&rsquo;re leaving our distributor Public Radio International. What this means for listeners is ... nothing! We&rsquo;ll continue to make our radio show and podcast. The same public radio stations will continue to broadcast it. They just won&rsquo;t be getting it through PRI.</p><p>PRI has been a great partner. When we signed up with them in 1997, we were already on over a hundred public radio stations. It&rsquo;d taken us a year to get that many. In three months, PRI doubled the number. A miracle. Over the years since, they built that number to 587 stations.</p><p>But looking at where PRI is now pushing its business and where we&#39;re growing &ndash; especially on the digital side of things, which we&rsquo;ve always done without PRI &ndash; both we and our colleagues at PRI came to the same conclusion: to go our separate ways.</p><p>Most listeners I meet seem utterly unaware of who our distributor is, or they think &ndash; mistakenly &ndash; that we&rsquo;re part of NPR. NPR is the company that puts out Morning Edition and All Things Considered and many fine programs. But there are several other companies that distribute public radio shows around the country. Local public radio stations get shows from all of them.</p><p>We&rsquo;ll announce sometime soon what our new plan is to distribute the show to radio stations.</p></blockquote></p> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 09:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/american-life-changing-distributors-109899 How prominent Chicagoans handled their first tweet http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-prominent-chicagoans-handled-their-first-tweet-109900 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/firsttweet.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today is Twitter&#39;s 8th birthday, marked by the first tweet ever sent, a short introduction from Chairman Jack Dorsey at 3:50 p.m. on March 21, 2006.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>just setting up my twttr</p>&mdash; Jack Dorsey (@jack) <a href="https://twitter.com/jack/statuses/20">March 21, 2006</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Since that first tweet Twitter has amassed more than 600 million users, with 240 million active every month.</p><p>To celebrate its beginning, Twitter launched a tool Thursday that lets all its users do the same thing by <a href="https://discover.twitter.com/first-tweet">looking up their first tweets</a>. Since then the social network has been flooded with digital nostalgia as users reflect on their first interaction with what has become a major part of communication on the Internet.</p><p>We wanted to take a look at how prominent Chicagoans used their first tweet, so we put together a list of the biggest names and other interesting accounts. Let us know if there&#39;s anyone you think we should add</p><h3>Big Names</h3><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Thinking we&#39;re only one signature away from ending the war in Iraq. Learn more at http://www.barackobama.com</p>&mdash; Barack Obama (@BarackObama) <a href="https://twitter.com/BarackObama/statuses/44240662">April 29, 2007</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>HI TWITTERS . THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY .</p>&mdash; Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) <a href="https://twitter.com/Oprah/statuses/1542224596">April 17, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Attention sneaker fiends, future legends and fans of the game: the official Twitter for Jordan is now live.</p>&mdash; Jordan (@Jumpman23) <a href="https://twitter.com/Jumpman23/statuses/27874665743">October 19, 2010</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>One of the surprises you get when growing older is that the people you knew when you were young are young forever</p>&mdash; Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) <a href="https://twitter.com/ebertchicago/statuses/4608482314">October 4, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>NEW SONG AND VISUAL FROM MY NEW ALBUM BEING PROJECTED TONIGHT ACROSS THE GLOBE ON 66 BUILDINGS, LOCATIONS @ <a href="http://t.co/7BZwfPawwZ">http://t.co/7BZwfPawwZ</a></p>&mdash; KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) <a href="https://twitter.com/kanyewest/statuses/335569132214972416">May 18, 2013</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>GOD IS GREAT!</p>&mdash; Billy Corgan (@Billy) <a href="https://twitter.com/Billy/statuses/1529035061">April 15, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23aye&amp;src=hash">#aye</a> aye watchu say WATCHU Think I SAY !</p>&mdash; AlmightySo (@ChiefKeef) <a href="https://twitter.com/ChiefKeef/statuses/16339561136">June 16, 2010</a></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><h3>The Machine</h3><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>The new City of Chicago website launched today. Visit www.cityofchicago.org and let us know what you think.</p>&mdash; Richard M. Daley (@MayorDaley) <a href="https://twitter.com/MayorDaley/statuses/10384380367">March 12, 2010</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Ready to tell it like it is? Welcome to the official Chicago for Rahm twitterfeed!</p>&mdash; Rahm Emanuel (@RahmEmanuel) <a href="https://twitter.com/RahmEmanuel/statuses/26591737245">October 6, 2010</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Wait for it....getting the house in order...</p>&mdash; ChicagosMayor (@ChicagosMayor) <a href="https://twitter.com/ChicagosMayor/statuses/76670258823438336">June 3, 2011</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>An official announcement from the CTA: Hello.</p>&mdash; cta (@cta) <a href="https://twitter.com/cta/statuses/131399950058786816">November 1, 2011</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Traffic alert: On July 3-4, the City anticipates closing several downtown streets, as conditions warrant. Public transit is recommended.</p>&mdash; CDOT (@ChicagoDOT) <a href="https://twitter.com/ChicagoDOT/statuses/2443171909">July 2, 2009</a></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><h3>The Media</h3><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>This is the unofficial Twitter account for the Chicago Tribune newspaper. Follow me for your daily dose of news!</p>&mdash; Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) <a href="https://twitter.com/chicagotribune/statuses/138936822">July 7, 2007</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>A man is facing jail after admitting he stole 1,613 pairs of panties and bras from laundry rooms. http://tinyurl.com/yu38o9</p>&mdash; Chicago Sun-Times (@Suntimes) <a href="https://twitter.com/Suntimes/statuses/656068932">January 29, 2008</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Reform is in the air at City Hall. So is bullshit. http://tinyurl.com/cpy5v8</p>&mdash; Mick Dumke (@mickeyd1971) <a href="https://twitter.com/mickeyd1971/statuses/1309013571">March 11, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Do you know what Chicago neighborhood you&#39;re in? Don&#39;t believe the Realtors. Read Konkol&#39;s Korner in the Sun-Times. http://tiny.cc/qSoTt</p>&mdash; Mark Konkol (@Konkolskorner) <a href="https://twitter.com/Konkolskorner/statuses/6813694197">December 19, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Tweet #1. A new post on the WGNtv.com weather blog about some of the T-Storms headed our way &amp; 90 deg temps? http://tinyurl.com/weatherblog</p>&mdash; Skilling (@Skilling) <a href="https://twitter.com/Skilling/statuses/2552095891">July 9, 2009</a></blockquote><h3>&nbsp;</h3><h3>From WBEZ</h3><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>This twitter feed will deliver all stories produced by the WBEZ news team, as well as special programming announcements and breaking news.</p>&mdash; WBEZ (@WBEZ) <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZ/statuses/766752291">March 4, 2008</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>is finally here! Will this take up all of my time?</p>&mdash; Niala (@NialaBoodhoo) <a href="https://twitter.com/NialaBoodhoo/statuses/1131600348">January 19, 2009</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>listening to Andrew&#39;s shared i-tunes. No rap.</p>&mdash; JustinKaufmann (@JustinKaufmann) <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinKaufmann/statuses/868444247">July 25, 2008</a></blockquote><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Have joined Twitter, just because somebody told me to.</p>&mdash; Peter Sagal (@petersagal) <a href="https://twitter.com/petersagal/statuses/825474818">June 2, 2008</a></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 09:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-prominent-chicagoans-handled-their-first-tweet-109900 Bracket Madness http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/bracket-madness-109893 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kpcc bracket.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>March Madness is upon us.</p><p>Thursday 64 college basketball teams will begin their mad dash through the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, and the Final Four, to vy in the NCAA championship game on Sunday, April 6.</p><p>But bracket madness has been going on a lot longer. Many folks have sweated over their selections or watched office mates - or President Obama - mull, debate, and endlessly discuss their own bracket choices.</p><p>If you&rsquo;re like me though, the word brackets usually conjures something other than basketball. Like those handy crescent-moon shaped punctuation marks. Or supports for a shelf.</p><p>I know I&rsquo;m not alone here. But these days I do feel like an outlier. The President&rsquo;s annual interview with ESPN has helped turn brackets &ndash; or &ldquo;Barackatology&rdquo; -&nbsp; into the must-have spring accessory.</p><p>But used to be, if you weren&rsquo;t a sports fan, a college student or college grad, or someone subject to hard-core inter-office peer pressure, it was pretty easy to maintain your bracket blindness.</p><p>Not anymore.</p><p>Don&rsquo;t get me wrong. I haven&rsquo;t caved. I&rsquo;m not pondering shooting percentages or whether Coastal Carolina has the coolest name in the Big South conference. But these days everything seems to have a bracket. <a href="http://thisismadness.starwars.com/">Star War characters</a>, <a href="http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2014/03/bracket-day-best-fictional-president/359085/">fictional presidents from television or film</a>, <a href="http://jezebel.com/5510811/pie-vs-cake-pie-is-champion">baked goods</a> - all have been entered into those tidy little slots.</p><p>More recently, bracket-mania has hit even closer to home. Yes, public radio shows (and hosts) have a bracket.</p><p>&ldquo;We went through shows that we like from around the country, shows that are interesting and new and that people may not know as well,&rdquo; said Mike Roe, a web producer and blogger with KPCC in Southern California. &ldquo;You know, trying to have a mix of those while also having people&rsquo;s favorites like Wait Wait Don&rsquo;t Tell Me and Radio Lab.</p><p>KPCC started their <a href="http://projects.scpr.org/static/marchmadness/">Public Radio Bracket Madness!</a> last year. The bracket was such a big hit they did it again this year. Next year Roe hopes to expand it to a full 64 shows, just like the NCAA.</p><p>When I asked him why KPCC went the brackets route, Roe gave me a very public radio answer. It&rsquo;s about starting a conversation.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean that&rsquo;s part of what makes it interesting is that it&rsquo;s a thing that you can debate,&rdquo; said Roe. &ldquo;That makes it a blast to be a part of.&rdquo;</p><p>Conversation, debate, passion &ndash; sure. But it&rsquo;s also about money. Roe says his bracket drives traffic to KPCC&rsquo;s website.</p><p>That&rsquo;s exactly what the NCAA figured out &ndash; that the people who fill out brackets far outnumber the sport&rsquo;s fan base. Dave Zirin, the sports editor at the Nation Magazine has done the math countless times.</p><p>&ldquo;Ninety percent of the NCAA&rsquo;s operating budget comes from the television contract for March Madness alone,&rdquo; said Zirin. &ldquo;So everything they do except for ten percent is tied to this tournament.&rdquo;</p><p>So I get why the NCAA loves brackets. But what about the rest of us?</p><p>Zirin chalks it up to our love for underdogs. A bracket &ndash; in sports or pop culture &ndash; is designed to produce lots of upsets. Even the lowliest team can pull a game out from under a top contender when all you have to do is play them once.</p><p>Plus anyone can participate and even win, whether they study records and stats or just pick teams based on their mascots or uniform colors. Take the same model, apply it to baked goods or TV characters, and you get all the pleasures of competition with none of the downsides - like reality.</p><p>Zirin says reality - or the lack thereof - is another big driver. Most of us won&rsquo;t ever be top athletes. But thanks to brackets, we can entertainment another fantasy - about playing basketball, like a boss.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was growing my dreams were about playing for the New York Mets or playing for the Knicks,&rdquo; said Zirin. &ldquo;Basically when they&rsquo;re playing fantasy sports people are dreaming about being owners, about being the executive who sits behind the desk and through their masterwork makes their own decision. It&rsquo;s like everyone is playing risk instead of playing sports.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alison Cuddy is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy">Twitter</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://instagram.com/cuddyreport">Instagram</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 08:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/bracket-madness-109893 The Handsome Family kills it on HBO http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/handsome-family-kills-it-hbo-109589 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HFTD.jpg" style="height: 333px; width: 500px;" title="Rennie and Brett (WBEZ file)." /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HFTD2.jpg" style="height: 333px; width: 500px;" title="Matthew and Woody (HBO)." /></div></div><p>Almost all of the well-deserved praise showered on producer T-Bone Burnett of late has come thanks to his role in crafting the music of the Coen Brothers&rsquo; moody homage to the pre-Dylan folk scene <em>Inside Llewyn Davis</em>. But as impressive as that accomplishment is, even more awesome are his choices as music supervisor for <em>True Detective, </em>the new HBO anthology series wowing TV critics with stellar performances from Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as cops chasing a serial killer through rural Louisiana in the show&rsquo;s first eight-episode season.</p><p>Rather than the predictable Cajun sounds some might have picked to power this tale, Burnett has instead matched the ominous Southern gothic mood with one exquisitely well-chosen song after another spanning a wide swath of different genres and eras, from &ldquo;Clear Spot&rdquo; by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band to &ldquo;Honey Bee (Let&rsquo;s Fly to Mars)&rdquo; by Nick Cave&rsquo;s Grinderman, and from &ldquo;Stand By Me&rdquo; by the Staple Singers to &ldquo;The Kingdom of Heaven&rdquo; by the 13<sup>th</sup> Floor Elevators. Best of all, however, was his choice for the show&rsquo;s theme song, kicking things off every Sunday night.</p><p>I recognized the dulcet tones of Brett and Rennie Sparks from the Handsome Family 10 seconds into the first episode, but I&rsquo;ll confess that as much as I love their now 10-albums-rich catalog&mdash;all of it released by the under-heralded Chicago indie Carrot Top Records&mdash;I had to do some digging in the stacks to place &ldquo;Far From Any Road&rdquo; as a rather deep album cut from <em>Singing Bones</em> in 2003.</p><p>That isn&rsquo;t to say it&rsquo;s not perfect for the job, or that it&rsquo;s not a great song&mdash;just that those twisted but lovable Sparks easily have a hundred tunes that would fit this tale of the undercurrents of evil and nihilism versus the forces of faith and humanism, and this one wouldn&rsquo;t have even been in my Top 20 picks, until T-Bone brought it to my attention once again.</p><p>&ldquo;The world needs bad men&mdash;we keep the other bad men from the door,&rdquo; McConaughey&rsquo;s philosophical sleuth said in this week&rsquo;s episode. I don&rsquo;t know about that, but even if they continue to prefer life in New Mexico over their old stomping grounds of Chicago (wonder why, with weather like this?), the world always has and always will need the Handsome Family.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/p4zluA60hjs" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong> or join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 14:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/handsome-family-kills-it-hbo-109589