WBEZ | Culture http://www.wbez.org/news/culture Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Uncle dying of cancer rescues niece from abusive relationship http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/uncle-dying-cancer-rescues-niece-abusive-relationship-111145 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/scuncle.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Don Perry and his wife, Lee Ann, don&rsquo;t have children.</p><p>But Don&rsquo;s niece, Beth McCarthy, has always been close to her uncle and aunt.</p><p>When Don found out recently that he has Stage 4 prostate cancer, Beth brought him to the StoryCorps booth to relive some significant moments from both of their lives.</p><p>&ldquo;I remember you and Lee Ann when I was a kid,&rdquo; Beth said. &ldquo;I thought you guys were just so cool.&rdquo;</p><p>Beth brought up her uncle&rsquo;s cancer diagnosis, it&rsquo;s metastasized to his lungs.</p><p>&ldquo;We know you don&rsquo;t have that much longer&hellip;&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Don believes that with hormone therapy, he might live four or five years.</p><p>Beth questions whether her uncle believes in the afterlife.</p><p>&ldquo;No. No. Absolutely not,&rdquo; Don answered.</p><p>A while back, Don had a next-door-neighbor who was dying of brain cancer. He lived sixteen months, which is more than they thought he would. They had been good friends for 20 years.</p><p>&ldquo;And it was very hard for me just to face him because of all the baggage I had,&rdquo; Don said, &ldquo;And I just felt so inadequate that I couldn&rsquo;t say anything, that I actually avoided him.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what to say to you,&rdquo; Beth said. &ldquo;It just makes me so sad to know that you&rsquo;re not going to be around. And you&rsquo;ve meant so much to me.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It just seems so unfair,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Well, I&rsquo;m actually pretty good with that,&rdquo; Don said.</p><p>Then, Beth said something she had wanted to say for a long time. &ldquo;I guess I&rsquo;m just so grateful for what you did for me,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I feel like you saved my life completely, literally.&rdquo;</p><p>Years ago, she was living in Boston with a boyfriend who was beating her up pretty regularly. Beth called Don and asked him to help her.</p><p>&ldquo;We just left. And I wouldn&rsquo;t have survived the next time,&rdquo; Beth said to her uncle, Don.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&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="888px"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/uncle-dying-cancer-rescues-niece-abusive-relationship-111145 Luxury brands court Chinese students http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/luxury-brands-court-chinese-students-111127 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CHINESE STUDENT1 (lavinia).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On a recent blustery night, stylish Chinese college students lined the aisles of the Bloomingdale&rsquo;s department store in downtown Chicago. They were sipping cucumber cocktails and checking out the latest fashions modeled by and for Chinese students.</p><p>They&rsquo;d been invited by the high-end retailer in an effort to connect with a new generation of U.S. college student from Mainland China.</p><p>&ldquo;The reason they want to reach us is very simple because we are going to buy their product,&rdquo; said party attendee Kim, a marketing major at DePaul University.</p><p>Kim is one of the 274,000 Chinese students attending college in the States. That number has tripled in the last six years, cementing China as the biggest source of international students to the U.S. for several years running.</p><p>But these are not the thrifty Chinese grad students of yesteryear. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Chinese students (who are now about half graduate students and half undergrads) spent $8 billion in the U.S. in 2013 alone.</p><p>&ldquo;These are the elites of the Chinese population,&rdquo; said Peggy Blumenthal, a senior counselor at the Institute for International Education. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re mostly from cities and used to spending for big brands and used to having a new car and a new watch.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The spending power of these students hasn&rsquo;t been lost on U.S. government officials.</p><p>Earlier this month, the state department relaxed rules on visas for Chinese students, expanding them to five years. As Secretary of State John Kerry was handing out the first batch, he told one Kansas University grad returning to the states to remember to &ldquo;spend a lot of money.&rdquo;</p><p>Wen Huang is a Chicago based writer and China watcher who came to Springfield Illinois as a Chinese grad student 24 years ago. And as he recalls it, things were very different then.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I came here with $76 in my pocket, which was the case with lots of Chinese students who came in the 1990s and 80s,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We would shop at Venture. That was like a Walmart place. We never had money to buy name brand stuff but we felt that everything that was made in America was name brand. On weekends we&rsquo;d treat ourselves to Old Country Buffet and then go shopping at Venture.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Most students at that time came on scholarships, but the Chinese undergrads flooding American colleges today are supported largely by family money.</p><p>&ldquo;They are the children of either government officials or the children of entrepreneurs who have amassed a huge fortune during China&rsquo;s economic boom over the last 7 or 8 years,&rdquo; Huang said.</p><p>Others come from middle class families who have channeled much of their resources into the future of their single child.</p><p>Chinese-American college student Solomon Wiener is majoring in East Asian Studies at Dennison University. Although he has traveled to China, he is still amazed by the spending power of this new wave of Chinese students.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;I drive a Lexus but my friend from China drives a Ferrari,&rdquo; he noted before hitting the runway in a sleek gray Hugo Boss suit. &ldquo;There is just a lot of cash coming from China and the kids are just able to afford these brands.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Chicago-based publisher John Robinson recently launched a new digital magazine Mandarin Campus in addition to his flagship magazine Mandarin Quarterly. He co-sponsored the Bloomingdale&rsquo;s event.</p><p>&ldquo;Mandarin Campus was born out of brands&rsquo; increasing interest in this lucrative demographic that&rsquo;s the Chinese university student,&rdquo; said Robinson who spent several years in China and speaks fluent Mandarin. &ldquo;The editorial focus is a little younger, a little more rock-and-roll than say Mandarin Quarterly, which is targeting sort of early-to-mid-career professionals.&rdquo;</p><p>The stories in these two magazines focus on business and career advice, fashion, and dining and lifestyle issues. Much of the content would be at home in Chicago magazine, if Chicago were written entirely in Chinese. The magazines are aimed at helping readers fashionably navigate mainstream Chicago (and San Francisco and New York where Quarterly is also published). But, they are also about marketing these high-end brands.</p><p>&ldquo;Brands like Omega, Burberry, Cartier, Tiffany, Bloomingdale&rsquo;s and Saks have all reached out to our business and asked for our support in their efforts to effectively engage Chinese,&rdquo; Robinson said.</p><p>Lavina, a Chinese marketing major at Loyola, served as one of the evening&rsquo;s models, sporting fashions from Theory and Burberry. Like a lot of the students at the party, she lives downtown and shops along the Magnificent Mile.&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of clothes I like to wear and the place I like to go shopping is at Bloomingdale&rsquo;s,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a very loyal customer because I live three blocks away, so it&rsquo;s very near and convenient.&rdquo;</p><p>The shifting financial dynamics of China have allowed the surge in enrollment at U.S. universities.&nbsp; But what&rsquo;s behind the new openness to parties and fashion that were never a part of student life for someone like Wen Huang?<br />&ldquo;The current education system is different in mainland China,&rdquo; said DePaul marketing major Caroline. &ldquo;We are more open to the foreign cultures like American and European cultures.&nbsp; We get more and more information about them and so when we came here we learned there are parties and different things we have to attend. We are starting to get used to that environment, and it is making us change.&rdquo;</p><p>Despite the continued double-digit growth in Chinese enrollment last year, Huang predicted it will start tapering off soon.</p><p>He cited the slowing Chinese economy and the recent anti-corruption campaign under Chinese president Xi Jinping that has put the country&rsquo;s rich and powerful under a microscope.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now they are under close scrutiny,&rdquo; Huang said. &ldquo;And sending your children abroad is becoming an easy target for investigation.&rdquo;</p><p>So does that mean Coach, Tiffany, Bloomingdale&rsquo;s and Burberry are wasting their time courting the young Chinese consumer? Huang said no<ldquo;i a="" as="" because="" buy="" buying="" cheaper="" china="" designer="" have="" he="" higher="" in="" lot="" much="" of="" only="" p="" pay="" s="" said.="" see="" still="" students="" t="" than="" the="" they="" thing="" think="" to="" will="" you=""></ldquo;i></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/luxury-brands-court-chinese-students-111127 Cupich becomes Chicago archbishop, decries abuse http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cupich-becomes-chicago-archbishop-decries-abuse-111123 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP604006552951.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Blase Cupich became the Archbishop of Chicago on Tuesday after his predecessor handed him a bishop&#39;s staff and relinquished the chair that symbolizes the leadership of the nation&#39;s third-largest diocese.</p><p dir="ltr">During a Mass at Holy Name Cathedral, the transfer of power was completed as Cardinal Francis George, who is battling cancer, stepped aside to retire. He&rsquo;s been the spiritual leader of more than 2 million Catholics in Lake and Cook Counties since 1997.</p><p dir="ltr">The installation of Cupich &mdash; who was bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., when he was selected by Pope Francis to succeed George &mdash; marks the first time in the history of the Chicago archdiocese that a new archbishop assumes leadership while his predecessor is still alive.</p><p dir="ltr">It also represents the pope&#39;s first major American appointment. By replacing a leading conservative cardinal with the more moderate Cupich, Vatican watchers say the decision shows the pope wants more focus on mercy and compassion instead of divisive social issues.</p><p dir="ltr">The cathedral was packed with more than 90 bishops, a half dozen cardinals and hundreds of guests, including Cupich&rsquo;s large extended family and friends from every stage of his career as a priest.</p><p dir="ltr">During his homily Tuesday, Cupich, 65, spoke forcefully on the sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the church, including Chicago&#39;s archdiocese. In one of his last official acts, George released files on three dozen priests who had been accused of sexual abuse in the last 60 years and whose alleged crimes were in many cases concealed by the archdiocese.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Working together to protect children, to bring healing to victim survivors and to rebuild the trust that has been shattered in our communities by our failures is our sacred duty, and so is holding each other accountable, for that is what we pledge to do,&rdquo; Cupich said.</p><p dir="ltr">As he comes to an archdiocese that has shrunk in recent years and been forced to close schools amid declining enrollment, Cupich also spoke of the &quot;formidable task&quot; of passing on the faith to the next generation in a skeptical world. He said the church needs to work to become relevant to young people, who require authenticity in words and deeds.</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich repeatedly called on everyone, including church leaders, to act with mercy, and to be daring in their faith.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Pope Francis tells us that the temptation is to think and say, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m religious enough, I&rsquo;m Catholic enough.&rsquo; Or for the church leaders to resist needed reform by claiming, &lsquo;We haven&rsquo;t done that before&rsquo; or &lsquo;You can&rsquo;t say that&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich voiced his support for Pope Francis&#39; call for leaders in the church to be pastoral in nature. He also emphasized mercy and and reiterated a call to reach out to people rather than lecture them, and to openly communicate with those with whom the church might disagree.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;Jesus invites us, not only to take the risk of leaving our comfort zone, but also to deal with the tension involved in change, not dismissively but in a creative way,&quot; he said. &quot;Pope Francis is giving voice to this invitation in our day ... to leave behind the comfort of going the familiar way.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">There&rsquo;s been some confusion and discord among bishops following the Synod on Family, and several conservative bishops have been openly critical of the pope&rsquo;s leadership.</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich firmly aligned himself with Pope Francis in his closing remarks: &ldquo;He can count on the Archdiocese of Chicago to be fully behind him and with him.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Several spectators had high hopes, saying they had &ldquo;new hope&rdquo; and calling him a &ldquo;breath of fresh air.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;He&rsquo;s very devoted to the youth and to poor people,&rdquo; said long-time friend Jim Kineen. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s particularly keen on immigration since his family immigrated from Croatia. He&rsquo;s a very down-to-earth common fellow, and he&rsquo;s got a great attitude. If you notice, he smiles all the time.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Terry Berner, who lives on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side, said he hopes Cupich reaches out to gays, women and victims of priest sex abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I hope that he&rsquo;ll open up dialogues with some people that have been kind of turned off lately. I hope he opens a lot of channels, I hope there&rsquo;s a lot of &nbsp;back and forth between not only the Catholics but other denominations &nbsp;and religions in the city because we certainly need it,&rdquo; Berner said.</p><p dir="ltr">The new archbishop has asked for patience as he adjusts to his new role, and emphasized he hopes to keep a sense of normalcy. Cupich tried to dampen down expectations a bit with humor. He joked that he had a &ldquo;bit of a panic attack&rdquo; when he realized his first homily as archbishop followed the gospel about Jesus walking on water.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This new responsibility is going to be demanding, but seriously folks, I don&rsquo;t do walking on water,&rdquo; Cupich said to laughter from the crowd. &ldquo;I can barely swim. So I hope this image in today&rsquo;s gospel is not reflective of anyone&rsquo;s expectations.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Cupich set the transition in motion Monday night in a ceremony steeped in tradition and symbolism. He arrived at the cathedral &mdash; which was filled with hundreds of priests, civic officials and leaders from several faiths &mdash; and knocked on the door three times. Those knocks symbolized his request to be admitted into the cathedral and started a three-day installation process.</p><p dir="ltr">In his Monday homily, Cupich vowed to take an active role in the community, pushing for immigration reform and taking part in the battle against gangs and gun violence, among other issues.</p><p dir="ltr">He is finishing up the three-day celebration Wednesday, leading morning and evening prayers for religious sisters and brothers and lay leaders.</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Claudia Morell contributed to this story.</em></p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177673495&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177568268&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe></p> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 10:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cupich-becomes-chicago-archbishop-decries-abuse-111123 Aaliyah deserves better than her Lifetime biopic http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/aaliyah-deserves-better-her-lifetime-biopic-111082 <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/mgid_uma_video_mtv.com_1097146.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Alexandra Shipp as Aaliyah with Clé Bennett as R. Kelly (Lifetime)." /></div><p>We might expect a considerable number of flaws from an unauthorized biopic crafted on the cheap for Lifetime, the Hearst- and Disney-owned cable TV channel that once branded itself as &ldquo;Television for Women.&rdquo;</p><p>But Aaliyah Dana Haughton, one of the most distinctive voices in R&amp;B in the last two decades, deserves much better than bargain-basement production values, wooden acting, a dismal soundtrack faking tunes that are no substitute for her own music, and a script that ignores many of the key facts in her story.</p><p>Most importantly, the many fans for whom she was and is a role model for self-empowerment deserve better than the sanitized, soft-pedaled version of her disturbing sexual relationship with Chicago producer R. Kelly when she was 14 and he was 27&mdash;a coupling that court documents annulling their brief and illegal marriage and interviews with people close to the ingénue portray as one of abuse and victimization, far from the &ldquo;puppy love&rdquo; seen in <em>Aaliyah: The Princess of R&amp;B</em>.</p><p>The Lifetime film, which debuts on Saturday, has been controversial from the beginning. Aaliyah&rsquo;s family never gave the project its blessing (they&rsquo;re planning an alternate big-screen take), and the first actress cast for the starring role, the Disney Channel star Zendaya, dropped out of what <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2014/07/zendaya-coleman-explains-exit-from-aalyiah-biopic/">she called a shoddy production</a>. The movie&rsquo;s future was in question until Alexandra Shipp (<em>House of Anubis</em>) signed on as Aaliyah and gossipy talk-show host Wendy Williams joined as executive producer, shepherding the movie to completion.</p><p>Williams spent a lot of time jawing about the Aaliyah/Kelly controversy in her days on talk radio, and <a>she has said she pushed for the &ldquo;true&rdquo; story to be told in the film</a>: &ldquo;The Aaliyah movie was already being produced and&hellip; they were doing things wrong. I was like, &lsquo;Look, if you&rsquo;re going to make this Aaliyah movie, you gotta get it right, Lifetime. I love you, you&rsquo;re good at wives who stab their husbands movies, but you gotta get this Aaliyah movie right.&rsquo; I was very popular on the radio for Aaliyah&rsquo;s rise and untimely death. I want to hear about R. Kelly&hellip; Don&rsquo;t skate over it. This needs to be a big plot line.&rdquo;</p><p>The film doesn&rsquo;t &ldquo;skate over&rdquo; relations between the &ldquo;street but sweet&rdquo; young singer and the self-proclaimed &ldquo;Pied Pier of R&amp;B&rdquo;; it spends half its length taking Aaliyah from Catholic grammar school girl, to ambitious student at Detroit&rsquo;s High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, to stardom and platinum success following her 1994 Kelly-produced debut<em>.</em> (That ascension is overseen by her uncle and Kelly&rsquo;s manager Barry Hankerson, played by Lyriq Bent, a veteran of several <em>Saw </em>films.) But the well-established truth of what happened between Kelly and Aaliyah is almost entirely missing on screen.</p><p>Working from the flimsy 2002 book <em>Aaliyah: More Than a Woman </em>by Christopher John Farley, Williams, screenwriter Michael Elliot (<em>Brown Sugar</em>), and director Bradley Walsh (whose credits include episodes of<em> Beauty and the Beast </em>and <em>The Listener</em>) give us a guileless ingénue in Shipp as Aaliyah, and she promptly develops a schoolgirl crush on her producer. For his part, Clé Bennett (<em>Rookie Blue</em>) plays Kelly as an innocent charmer from humble beginnings who falls deeply in love with his earnest young protégé, perhaps because he sees something of his beloved mother in her when they share a Chicago-style pizza after recording.</p><p>The fictionalized couple secretly marries, but when they travel to Detroit to break the news to Aaliyah&rsquo;s parents in her childhood home, her father&mdash;Sterling Jarvis playing the kind of dad who takes a sugary soft drink out of his kid&rsquo;s hand and proffers an apple instead&mdash;says they must annul the union immediately, lest he ask the police to charge Kelly with statutory rape. (At the time of the marriage, she was still 15, nearly half Kelly&rsquo;s age). With heavy hearts, the couple separates, never to speak again, while Aaliyah pouts for more than five years about the loss of her first &ldquo;true love.&rdquo;</p><p>The artistic triumph of Aaliyah&rsquo;s second, Timbaland and Missy Elliott-produced album and the promising start of an acting career that would have seen her appear in the two sequels to <em>The</em> <em>Matrix </em>barely lift her spirits. She&rsquo;s finally buoyed a bit when she begins dating hip-hop entrepreneur Damon Dash. Then, tragically, she dies at age 22 in a plane crash in the Bahamas, on Aug. 25, 2001.</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/Aaliyah-r-kelly.jpg" title="The real Aaliyah with R. Kelly (WBEZ file)." /></div><p>This version of events with Kelly at the center of the film is deeply offensive not only as a hoary &ldquo;frustrated lovers&rdquo;/Romeo and Juliet cliché, but as a flagrant whitewashing of criminal sexual abuse. As Abdon M. Pallasch and I laid out in a series of unchallenged investigative reports for <em>The Chicago Sun-Times </em>spanning several years, and as I recounted in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-07/timeline-life-and-career-r-kelly-107973">a much-cited timeline of Kelly&rsquo;s crimes for WBEZ.org in July 2013</a>, these are the facts:</p><ul><li>When Kelly first met Aaliyah, she was 12, and he already was widely rumored in the music industry to &ldquo;like them young,&rdquo; abusing his position of wealth and fame to pursue illegal sexual relationships with underage girls.</li><li>According to a civil lawsuit filed in 1996, which he eventually settled with a cash payment, Kelly had already had at least two sexual relationships with underage girls, one 15 and the other 16, in the years before he met Aaliyah. One of those girls slit her wrists when Kelly ended the relationship and began sleeping with the then-14-year-old Aaliyah, as well as writing and producing her debut album, which he titled <em>Age Ain&rsquo;t Nothing But A Number</em>.</li><li>Shortly after the album&rsquo;s completion, on Aug. 31, 1994, Kelly married the now-15-year-old Aaliyah at the Sheraton Gateway Suites in suburban Rosemont, having procured a falsified Cook County marriage certificate listing her age as 18. Some sources have said Aaliyah was pregnant. The singer&rsquo;s family, including a furious Hankerson, separated the couple as soon as they stepped off a plane in Florida for their honeymoon, and Kelly and Aaliyah never spoke again. (Aaliyah did not have a child.)</li><li>In October 1994, the marriage was annulled in Detroit and lawyers for both sides reached a settlement that was sealed in Wayne County Circuit Court, though a copy was obtained by the<em> Sun-Times</em>. The court documents provided a nominal payment of $100 from Kelly to Aaliyah, with Aaliyah promising not to pursue further legal action because of <strong>&ldquo;emotional distress caused by any aspect of her business or personal relationship with Robert&rdquo;</strong> or <strong>&ldquo;physical injury or emotional pain and suffering arising from any assault or battery perpetrated by Robert against her person.&rdquo;</strong></li></ul><p>That language alone indicates that the relationship was far from innocent, but years later, Aaliyah&rsquo;s mother told the <em>Sun-Times</em>: &ldquo;Everything that went wrong in her life began then [with the relationship with Kelly].&rdquo; And while Hankerson did not split with Kelly until more than five years after the marriage, and he&rsquo;s never spoken about what happened between his niece and Kelly on the record, his attorney did share with the <em>Sun-Times </em>a letter that he sent to Kelly&rsquo;s attorney. In it, Hankerson stated that he believed Kelly needed psychiatric help for a compulsion to pursue underage girls, and that Hankerson was in denial about that even after Kelly seduced Aaliyah because he didn&rsquo;t want to believe the worst and Kelly was a master manipulator.</p><p>None of the facts above appear in <em>Aaliyah: The Princess of R&amp;B, </em>nor is there any hint that Kelly became the subject of dozens of legal claims from underage girls just like Aaliyah charging that they had been hurt by illegal sexual relationships with him. Also missing: The fact that Kelly was tried and acquitted in 2008 on charges of making child pornography in a notorious video that allegedly depicts him having sex with and urinating on a girl who was 14 or 15 at the time.</p><p>To be certain, many of the specifics of the Kelly/Aaliyah relationship remain a mystery, and neither side is eager to address them. But the facts that <em>have</em> been well-reported make the story even more dramatic: Aaliyah had the strength and the support system to recover from her relationship with Kelly and record two more brilliant albums (<em>One in a Million </em>in 1996 and the self-titled <em>Aaliyah </em>in 2001), as well as making significant inroads as a leading woman on screen even in the face of Hollywood&rsquo;s aversion to African-American leads.</p><p>More significantly, with the false and phony version of the relationship presented in <em>Aaliyah: The Princess of R&amp;B</em>, Lifetime, Williams, and everyone involved with the film missed the opportunity to provide a stark example and a cautionary tale of how even smart, strong, and self-assured young girls can be victimized by older sexual predators, especially if those men are rich and famous.</p><p>In this way, the cycle of sexual predation is perpetuated, and it&rsquo;s hard to imagine a greater insult to Aaliyah&rsquo;s legacy than that.</p><div style="background-color:#000000;width:520px;"><div style="padding: 4px; text-align: justify;"><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="288" scrolling="no" src="http://media.mtvnservices.com/embed/mgid:uma:video:vh1.com:1097146/cp~id%3D1732368%26vid%3D1097146%26uri%3Dmgid%3Auma%3Avideo%3Avh1.com%3A1097146" width="512"></iframe></div></div><p>&nbsp;</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>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 07:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/aaliyah-deserves-better-her-lifetime-biopic-111082 Photographer Richard Stromberg taught his craft to thousands http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/photographer-richard-stromberg-taught-his-craft-thousands-111081 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/stromberg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>He could be grouchy but Richard Stromberg&rsquo;s photography knowledge was unmatched and, during a teaching career that stretched more than 45 years, his tough love with students helped build a large following.</p><p>Stromberg, a lifelong Chicagoan, died Friday morning at age 66 in Presence St. Francis Hospital in Evanston after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife Heidi Levin confirmed.</p><p>His achievements include the 1969 founding of a Jane Addams Center/Hull House photography program that spanned more than three decades. In 2002, he helped launch the Chicago Photography Center and, seven years later, he founded his own photography school.</p><p>Stromberg estimated having taught and mentored 25,000 students over the years. His courses covered everything from aperture settings to ethics, from color printing to the photographer&rsquo;s psychological relationship with the subject. During introductory sessions, he liked to say: &ldquo;I won&#39;t teach you to take fuzzy pictures here. For that, you need to spend thousands of dollars at the School of the Art Institute.&rdquo;</p><p>When not teaching, Stromberg squeezed in time for his own photography, which ranged from fashion assignments to investigative journalism in publications such as the Chicago Reporter. He took special pride in turning his camera against &ldquo;institutional racism,&rdquo; as he put it, including photos that helped expose ill-equipped Chicago Fire Department ambulances on the city&rsquo;s South Side.</p><p>Stromberg was also a big fan of WBEZ. A few years ago, he started training journalists from the station, at no charge, to help improve the photography on its website. &ldquo;He never let me leave his studio without catching up with me on how the station was doing and things he loved and hated about us,&rdquo; North Side Bureau Reporter Odette Yousef said. &ldquo;He knew every reporter&rsquo;s name.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;He created a committed community of lifelong photography learners and teachers,&rdquo; Yousef said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the best testament to his passion for photography and to his belief that anyone could learn it.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 19:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/photographer-richard-stromberg-taught-his-craft-thousands-111081 A 'palace for Jabba the Hutt' in Chicago? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/palace-jabba-hutt-chicago-111068 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LMNA_view-from-south_final.jpg" style="height: 310px; width: 620px;" title="Renderings for George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art. (MAD Architects)" /></div><p>The sketches of &quot;Star Wars&quot; creator George Lucas&#39; Chicago museum show a flowing white building topped with a hovering ring. The newly unveiled architectural designs for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art were drawing a range of reaction on Wednesday, from snide comments to forthright admiration.</p><p>&quot;It looks like a palace for Jabba the Hutt. I was wondering what planet we are on,&quot; Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, who&#39;s challenging Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the mayor&#39;s race next year, told the Chicago Sun-Times. Online design site Co.Design was more generous, comparing the architectural concept to &quot;an Egyptian pyramid reimagined for the year 2020.&quot;</p><p>The Beijing-based principal designer, Ma Yansong of MAD Architects, released the first sketches Tuesday. The seven-story museum will be located between Soldier Field and McCormick Place on Lake Michigan. It&#39;s expected to cost about $400 million. Ma has said it&#39;s the most important project of his career to date.</p><p>&quot;Inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe, the design integrates the natural beauty of the park and Lake Michigan with the powerful man-made architecture of Chicago,&quot; MAD Architects said in a statement on the firm&#39;s website.</p><p>When Lucas announced the design team in July, he called them &quot;some of the top architects in the world.&quot;</p><p>&quot;I am thrilled with the architectural team&#39;s vision for the building and the surrounding green space. I look forward to presenting our design to the Chicago community,&quot; Lucas said in the July 28 statement.</p><p>Chicago-based Studio Gang is doing the landscape design, including a bridge to connect the museum with Northerly Island. Chicago-based VOA Associates is leading the implementation of the design.</p><p>Ma&#39;s previous work includes Absolute Towers in Ontario, Canada; the Ordos Museum in Ordos, China; and Chaoyang Park Plaza in Beijing, China.</p></p> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/palace-jabba-hutt-chicago-111068 What's the key to better school food? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whats-key-better-school-food-111051 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BETTER SCHOOL FOOD.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the last decade, school districts around the nation have tried different formulas to reform student lunches. Some think the answer lies in salad bars. Others have tried all organic programs. Still others have put their bets on school gardens.</p><p>But one little known program out of Minnesota starts by simply removing seven unwanted ingredients.</p><p>&ldquo;We have no artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners, no artificial preservatives, no trans fats or hydrogenated oils, no antibiotics or hormones in meats and no bleached flour,&rdquo; Jason Thunstrom said as he stood in the Jeans Elementary School lunchroom in West Suburban Willowbrook.</p><p>Thunstrom is President of the Life Time Fitness Foundation, which has provided 90 schools in four states with money to buy foods without the seven ingredients. The lunches end up looking a lot like what you&rsquo;d see in any other low income schools, just sourced from manufacturers who don&rsquo;t use artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives or trans fats and meat raised with antibiotics.&nbsp;</p><p>One of those food manufacturers is Bill Kurtis. Yes, the legendary anchorman. He has been selling grass-fed beef under his Tallgrass brand for years, but just recently got into the hot dog game. He was also at Jeans Elementary on a recent afternoon watching the debut of his hot dogs in a school cafeteria.</p><p>&ldquo;We put grassfed beef in and we took out nitrates ... and preservatives that you&rsquo;ll find in regular hot dogs,&quot; Kurtis said. &rdquo;And it&rsquo;s why your mother is a little afraid for you to have a regular diet of hot dogs.&quot;</p><p>Kurtis was speaking to a room of low-income third graders, who seemed unfamiliar with his work as a newscaster but highly appreciative of hot dog-making skills.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;They taste really good,&rdquo; third-grader Renaya said.</p><p>Some of her classmates even appreciated the meal on its nutritional merits.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really good because I put ketchup on the hot dog and a bun is [whole] grain,&rdquo; third-grader Malcolm said.</p><p>Thunstrom says one of the students eating this hot dog, corn, carrot, apple and milk lunch was eating the millionth meal served in the Life Time funded program.&nbsp;</p><p>The whole idea was spawned, he says, by concern the company&rsquo;s CEO had over his own child entering school. When he heard about what was served in most American lunchrooms, he initially considered buying up the lunch program.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;But then reality set in, and he realized it would be an expensive proposition,&rdquo; Thunstrom remembered.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>So instead of buying the whole program, Life Time decided to do an experiment&mdash;to see what it would take to get those seven ingredients out of school food.</p><p>&ldquo;We started with one school in Minnesota just as a test to see if we could go in and look at their lunch and remove those seven items what might that cost,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We were surprised to find it was about 35 cents [per student meal] on average.&rdquo;</p><p>This first phase of the program involves serving better versions of lunchrooms standards like hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and pizza. But Thunstrom says the longer term goal is to upgrade kitchens and support more cooking from scratch.&nbsp;</p><p>To this end, Life Time presented the school with a $10,000 check to upgrade its kitchen for more scratch cooking.</p><p>Still, the endgame isn&rsquo;t to keep writing unlimited checks. Thunstrom says that the ultimate goal is to get other funders, administrators, and eventually, the federal government to recognize the value of such a program and make it the norm.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;d like this model to become known to government officials and school administrators,&rdquo; Thunstrom said. &ldquo;You know, to say &lsquo;it&rsquo;s America, enough&rsquo;s enough.&rsquo; We think it&rsquo;s worth investing in our kids an incremental 35 cents to at least get them on a healthy way of life journey at school. Then can we also [create] lesson planning and take-home material to help that bleed over into the home.&rdquo;</p><p>And he doesn&rsquo;t just mean the homes of corporate CEOs.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the <a href="http://wbez.org/podcasts">Chewing The Fat</a>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng </a>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whats-key-better-school-food-111051 Longtime Rogers Park butcher hangs up his apron http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/longtime-rogers-park-butcher-hangs-his-apron-111043 <p><p dir="ltr">At first glance, Ed &amp; Erv&rsquo;s Centrella Food Mart on Touhy Avenue looks like any other small neighborhood grocer. Step inside and the first thing you notice is the smell of mothballs. On the shelves are the usual dry goods: cereal, canned beans and rice. Milk and dairy are in a refrigerator at the rear, and in a corner next to the cash register is a small area for fresh vegetables and fruits.</p><p dir="ltr">But all the way in the back is the store&rsquo;s real hidden gem: a butcher&rsquo;s counter. Denny Mondl, the owner, stands behind a case of his special ground chuck, homemade Italian sausage, bratwurst and skinless hot dogs.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Obviously my specialty is the butcher. Probably two-thirds of my sales are in the back,&rdquo; he said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Rogers%20Park%20grocer%202.JPG" style="float: right; height: 208px; width: 310px;" title="Mondl’s father, Erv Mondl, co-founded the neighborhood grocery 47 years ago on Touhy Ave. in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Mondl&rsquo;s father, the &lsquo;Erv&rsquo; in the store name, opened the store with his business partner in 1947. For nearly seven decades, the small shop served generations of Rogers Park residents who were in the know about the high-quality meats they stocked, and who came to regard the Mondl family as a part of an extended family.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Denny really exemplified what is so good about this neighborhood,&rdquo; said longtime Rogers Park resident Kathy Kirn.</p><p dir="ltr">Kirn&rsquo;s son, now 18 years old and attending college in Boston, once worked as a cashier in Mondl&rsquo;s store. Kirn said as soon as her son found out Mondl planned to close, he bought an airplane ticket to Chicago to visit his old boss.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Denny would make him sandwiches,&rdquo; Kirn said of her son, when he was in grade school. Like many regulars, Kirn&rsquo;s family kept a running tab, paid off regularly, at the store. Mondl never hassled them for payment on the spot.</p><p dir="ltr">Kirn recalled one time that Mondl saved a large family dinner from going awry. She had ordered brisket for a large Rosh Hashanah dinner, but her husband forgot to pick it up. &ldquo;We got home and the babysitter with our kid said someone came and delivered something,&rdquo; Kirn said.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;And Denny had it delivered to my house. He said &lsquo;I knew it was important, so I just had someone deliver it.&rsquo; Who does that? No one does that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But Mondl said business really slowed down in the last decade.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I used to do six deliveries a day, and I probably do about six a week now,&rdquo; Mondl said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Rogers%20Park%20grocer%203.JPG" style="float: left; height: 208px; width: 310px;" title="Customers have been signing a guestbook in recent weeks, filled with their memories of Mondl and how the store played a role in their lives. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Many of his older customers have passed away, and he thinks younger customers are too tired to go home and cook a meal after work.</p><p dir="ltr">Ironically, once people knew it was his last week, Mondl found himself just as busy as he was in the store&rsquo;s heyday.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been making a ton of stuffed chicken breast and stuffed pork chops for people,&rdquo; said Mondl. &ldquo;And when I say a ton, I usually get a 40-lb box of chicken breast. I&rsquo;ve already gotten 120 lbs of chicken breast this week alone to bone out the breast to put the stuffing in it. And pork loins, the same thing.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Hollye Kroger, a Rogers Park resident who only discovered Mondl&rsquo;s store last year, said she&rsquo;s very sad to see him retire. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m getting all kinds of food, tons of food to take home,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;and stuffed chicken to stick in my freezer so I can pretend that it&rsquo;s still open for another couple of months.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Mondl said that at 65 years old, he&rsquo;s the only one among his grade-school and high-school buddies who still works full-time, so he&rsquo;s ready to hang up his butcher apron.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to miss talking to people and the camaraderie with everybody,&rdquo; he said. But he&rsquo;s ready to take it easy. &ldquo;I have projects at home to finish that I&rsquo;ve only started,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;because I&rsquo;ve only been off one day a week.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Sat, 01 Nov 2014 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/longtime-rogers-park-butcher-hangs-his-apron-111043 Studs Terkel's assistant remembers him fondly http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/studs-terkels-assistant-remembers-him-fondly-111050 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/scorpsss.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&ldquo;The first time I met him (Studs Terkel) was right after I got to Chicago,&rdquo; Sydney Lewis says in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps. &ldquo;I was waitressing at a nightclub and Studs was in my section. And it was very busy. It was very crowded and I was trying to get a drink order. And he started asking me questions: Where was I from? How long had I been in Chicago? What did I think of Chicago? And finally I said to him, &lsquo;Mr. Terkel, I read <em>Working</em>. And I loved <em>Working</em>. But I AM WORKING! What do you want to drink?&rsquo; So that was our first interaction and that sort of defines our relationship over the years.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I had that first meeting with him and then I went applying for a job at WFMT and eventually I ended up becoming the program department administrative assistant,&rdquo; she says.&nbsp;</p><p>And over the next 25 years, Lewis got to know Studs and his wife Ida very well.</p><p>Lewis admits to feeling a little lost without him. She looked to Studs to explain the world to her, like a lot of people in Chicago, she says. She relied on him for that because he cut to the human issues involved each and every time.</p><p>&ldquo;When anything&rsquo;s happening on the news, I just long to know what he would say,&rdquo; Lewis says.</p><p>&ldquo;You could hear him coming down the hallway,&rdquo; she recalls of their days together at WFMT. &ldquo;He was always talking. He never shut up. I used to tease him and go, &lsquo;How do you get good interviews?&rsquo; Because I mean, logorrhea, he just would go on and on and on. Raving about some horrible political decision or some war somewhere or joblessness or poverty. Or very excited because he had a guest coming in and he was looking forward to talking to them.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;I always felt like he had kind of a three-tiered mind: One part of it was talking to you, one part of it was working on the program or a book or whatever he was working on. And another part of it was looking at the whole world.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;I jokingly describe myself as his nanny, but that was somewhat my role. I would know who he would want to hear from. And what kind of authors were not up his alley&hellip;So I was good at filtering for him. And grabbing the mail, coffee for the guests.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;But you know there&rsquo;s the immensity of what he brought and there&rsquo;s the human being&hellip;He needed to be reminded that he wasn&rsquo;t the only person on the planet sometimes.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We would fight, I would yell at him sometimes. The worst time was when I was quitting smoking and I was really irritable.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;He had this habit. He&rsquo;d come down the hallway. Everyday he&rsquo;d say,&lsquo;Whaddya hear? Whaddya say, kid?&rsquo; You know where that&rsquo;s from?&rsquo; I&rsquo;d say, &lsquo;Jimmy Cagney!&rsquo; &lsquo;Yeah!&rsquo; You know, 325 days a year this would happen. It was his little ritual. And I was really grumpy when I quit smoking. My colleague Lois could see him. He would approach. And I was in a little alcove. And he would peer around it to see what kind of mood I was in. And at one point he went to Lois and said, &lsquo;What happened to her?&rsquo; And Lois said, &lsquo;Oh she&rsquo;s just quitting smoking.&rsquo; And he went, &lsquo;Ohhh! OK!&rsquo; He was used to me playing with him. We were very playful together.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;After his heart surgery&hellip;.This was probably the first heart surgery, so Ida was still alive. The doctor comes out. Looking like hell. He&rsquo;s really tired and he&rsquo;s just, &lsquo;Man, they don&rsquo;t make &lsquo;em like that anymore.&rsquo; When Ida and I came down to see him, he was sitting up in a chair, having a little soup. He thought one of the monitors was a TV screen. So he&rsquo;s saying, &lsquo;Can we get the ball game on? Can we get the ball game on?&rsquo; He offers me soup, &lsquo;Would you like a little soup?&rsquo; I&rsquo;m like, &lsquo;No that&rsquo;s OK. You need the soup.&rsquo; And just to tease him I leaned forward and said, &lsquo;Who&rsquo;s the president?&rsquo; And he looked up and he went, &lsquo;Taft?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;So here&rsquo;s a guy after like eight hours of open heart surgery and he&rsquo;s offering to share food with you, wanting to see the ball game and making jokes.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah, like the doctor said, &lsquo;They don&rsquo;t make &lsquo;em like that anymore.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&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="888px"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/studs-terkels-assistant-remembers-him-fondly-111050 YouTube mortician is a living, breathing FAQ on death http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2014-10-30/youtube-mortician-living-breathing-faq-death-111024 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/caitlin doughty.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Caitlin Doughty is the host of the popular YouTube series <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/OrderoftheGoodDeath" target="_blank"><em>Ask a Mortician</em></a> and author of a new memoir:&nbsp;<em>Smoke Gets in Your Eyes &amp; Other Lessons from the Crematory</em>. She&rsquo;s also founder of the group of funeral professionals called <a href="https://orderofthegooddeath.com" target="_blank">The Order of the Good Death</a>.<br />She joined Afternoon Shift host Niala Boodhoo for Tech Shift as part of our <a href="https://soundcloud.com/techshift/sets/death-in-the-digital-age" target="_blank">week of conversations</a> about the relationship between death and the digital realm.</p><p>Doughty will speak at at <a href="http://packergallery.com/press/oct31.html" target="_blank">Packer Schopf Gallery in the West Loop on Oct. 31</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Why did you start making the <em>Ask a Mortician</em> YouTube videos?</strong></p><p>I was working at a funeral home in Los Angeles and the vice president was making question and answer videos for the company. And they were so bad. Like you could see her get up at the end to turn the camera off. I was watching them and just thinking &#39;I know I could do better than this.&#39; I had already started this group called The Order of the Good Death trying to bring conversations about mortality back into culture and starting a web series was just one more shot in the dark to see if we could get the conversation started.</p><p><strong>Were you surprised at how popular<em> Ask a Mortician</em> has been?</strong></p><p>Yes and no. There&rsquo;s not really anything else like it. It&rsquo;s not like makeup videos or science videos where there&rsquo;s a precedent. But at the same time, I know what it&rsquo;s like at cocktail parties. I know what it&rsquo;s like at family reunions. People have thousands of questions.</p><p><strong>Sometimes online learning it gets criticized as being impersonal. But when it comes to something like death, does distance help because people are so uncomfortable asking about it?</strong></p><p>Actually what I&rsquo;ve found is I can make one video and it will have 30 times the impact as a single blog post because with death I think people want a friendly face. They want someone saying &lsquo;Hey! I know we&rsquo;re talking about decomposition, and that&rsquo;s super freaky, but I&rsquo;m a friendly person who can calmly handle it and give you a scientific but also kind of humorous answer.&#39; The people factor is I think what&rsquo;s made it successful.</p><p><strong>You mention in <em>Smoke Gets in Your Eyes</em> that people can now handle funeral arrangements from death to the arrival of an urn completely online. How do you feel about that?</strong></p><p>I&rsquo;m not pro that. I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s stoppable now that it&rsquo;s started. It&rsquo;s going to continue growing in popularity. Someone can call from a hospital, or type information in online, have it faxed to a funeral home, never speak to a funeral home employee at all, and then the ashes are delivered by the U.S. Postal Service two weeks later. So you never see the body. Never talk to a living person. And then it&rsquo;s just these intangible ashes that come at the end. I don&rsquo;t know if that&rsquo;s really how human beings have evolved to handle death. And just taking death entirely out of our culture doesn&rsquo;t seem like that healthy of an option to me.</p><p><strong>You studied medieval history at the University of Chicago. There is certainly less mystery now about how people die, but as you said there&rsquo;s also this more impersonal relationship with the dead. Do you think advancements in medical science have made us more or less afraid of death than societies were in the past?</strong></p><p>That&rsquo;s the interesting paradox. Because on one hand, in the Middle Ages, you had no idea what blood did. You thought that it was the four humors and flem and bile that were where sickness came from. They did dissections on dogs to study human anatomy. We had virtually no idea how the human body actually worked. Yet, we had dead bodies and death around us all the time. People died in their homes, and then you would bury them in the churchyard or in the church itself. So there would be bodies under the floorboards, in the walls, in the rafters. So you didn&rsquo;t have the opportunity not to be comfortable with death.&nbsp;</p><p>And now it&rsquo;s almost the exact reverse of that. We have all of these intimate understandings of how the body works and how it might stop and how we might fix it. But when it comes to death, we don&rsquo;t see the body. We don&rsquo;t interact with it. And really even dying has been taken out of the home as well. I think that&rsquo;s something we&rsquo;re struggling with now.</p><p><strong>How has technology changed the way the funeral business works?</strong></p><p>If it makes more sense to drive your Prius to the family&rsquo;s home with your iPad to do the death certificate like that instead of them coming to an old, traditional funeral home, that can make some families feel a lot better. But at the same time we don&rsquo;t want technology to overpower the interactive experience of mourning and grief and all the options a family has to be there for some kind of ritual and some kind of performative mourning.&nbsp;</p><p>Also, crematories and embalming facilities now are largely centralized. Bodies are taken to all one location as opposed to the idea of the mom and pop funeral home where the body is there the whole time. And then also there&rsquo;s the idea that people want to know more about death and have access to that through the Internet. Whereas before the funeral industry could get away with all manner of things and get away with being secretive, they can&rsquo;t really now because there are people online asking questions.</p><p><em>This conversation has been lightly edited.</em></p></p> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2014-10-30/youtube-mortician-living-breathing-faq-death-111024