WBEZ | Midwest http://www.wbez.org/tags/midwest Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: The strange and silly Midwest on the big screen http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-10-04/morning-shift-strange-and-silly-midwest-big-screen <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Weird Midwest Flickr Joana Roja - work and migraines - coming back.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We unearth some Midwestern weirdness with Found Footage Festival creators Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett. Housing reporter Dennis Rodkin shares a new strategy for home buyers with bad credit. And, John U. Bacon tackles the question: should college athletes be paid?</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-strange-and-silly-midwest/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-strange-and-silly-midwest.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-strange-and-silly-midwest" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The strange and silly Midwest on the big screen" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 04 Oct 2013 08:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-10-04/morning-shift-strange-and-silly-midwest-big-screen The great maple leaf mystery http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-12/great-maple-leaf-mystery-104161 <p><p>As WBEZ special investigations editor, Cate Cahan has doggedly pursued some of Illinois&#39; most <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/reporters-finally-get-look-inside-illinois-prisons-104129">intractable issues</a>. But earlier this week Cahan ran up against a real head-scratcher that hit close to home. Literally &ndash; the case in question began under a tree in her backyard.</p><p>And so Cahan arrived at the office on Monday with what she thought might be a telling piece of evidence: a seemingly once-beautiful maple leaf covered in pitch-black spots the size of quarters.</p><p>&ldquo;It looks like it got burned,&rdquo; said one WBEZ reporter. &ldquo;It looks sick,&rdquo; said another.</p><p>It was a disturbing sight, indeed.</p><p>Between <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/low-water-lake-michigan-could-cause-problems-shipping-industry-104121" target="_blank">low water levels</a>, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-08/what-does-drought-do-ranch-full-grass-fed-cattle-101629" target="_blank">extreme drought</a>, and the fact that it reached nearly 70 degrees on December 3, it wasn&rsquo;t a stretch to imagine that some environmental funny business might be behind the splotchy-leaf dragnet of 2012. Plus, Cahan recently experienced the loss of most of her garden to what she described as an oozing, yellow mold. So there was reason to be worried.</p><p>It turns out the coal-colored stain on our city&rsquo;s autumnal gem is a) harmless, and b) not all that unusual.</p><p>The black spots on maple leaves, aptly named tar spots, are evidence of the fungus known as&nbsp;<em>rhytisma.</em></p><p>&ldquo;It looks awful, and it makes people concerned,&rdquo; said Sharon Yiesla, plant clinic assistant at the <a href="http://www.mortonarb.org/" target="_blank">Morton Arboretum</a>. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s more of a cosmetic problem than a health problem. It makes the leaves look ugly.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6778_007-scr.JPG" style="height: 150px; width: 200px; float: right;" title="Maple leaf with tar spots (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>She did say tar spots have been showing up more frequently in the region in the last few years, but did not recommend any treatment for the fungus. The best thing to do is thoroughly rake up and dispose of the afflicted leaves, Yiesla said. Otherwise, the fungal spores that stick around all winter may float up onto the fresh leaves come spring.</p><p>The emerald ash borer, on the other hand, &ldquo;that&rsquo;s a more serious problem,&rdquo; Yiesla said. Ash borers have devastated the ash population in Michigan, and they&rsquo;ve been digging away at Illinois ashes since 2006. The larvae of the ash borer get under the bark of ash trees and gnaw away at it, slowly cutting off ash trees from their water supply at the roots. In just two or three years, your ash can be grass.</p><p>Yiesla said ash borers can be stopped if you catch them early &ndash; but catching them isn&rsquo;t easy. They make a small hole the shape of a capital D in the trees bark, but other than that, they&rsquo;re invisible. A weak-looking ash, loss of leaves, or a sudden influx of hungry woodpeckers (who dig under the bark to eat the borers) can all be telltale signs.</p><p>Salt damage from ice melters used on roads and sidewalks is another concern this season.</p><p>&ldquo;As cars are going by, you&rsquo;ll get it spraying up onto the needles of an evergreen, and it can do physical damage to the needles,&rdquo; Yiesla explained. &ldquo;But then it also gets into the soil, and can do some harm at the root level.&rdquo;</p><p>The salt in the ground makes it harder for trees to absorb water.</p><p>Water absorption is particularly pressing given this summer&rsquo;s drought, which will likely affect next year&rsquo;s plant growth.</p><p>&ldquo;We might see reduced growth, reduced flowering, and weaker plants,&rdquo; Yiesla said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not getting much additional rain this fall, and who knows what snow will come this winter.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, maple leaves with black spots are the least of her worries.</p></p> Mon, 03 Dec 2012 12:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-12/great-maple-leaf-mystery-104161 A folklorist eats her way through the Midwest, one café at a time http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/folklorist-eats-her-way-through-midwest-one-caf%C3%A9-time-99306 <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/oasis%20cafe%20flickr%20chuck%20p.jpg" style="height: 402px; width: 620px;" title="The Oasis Café in Arena, Wis. circa 1981. Folklorist Joanne Stuttgen catalogued hundreds of small restaurants like this one in her trek across the state. (Flickr/Chuck Patch)" /></div><p>Joanne Stuttgen&rsquo;s culinary adventures started with a simple pie ride. That&rsquo;s what the Wisconsin-based folklorist, her husband and their friends called their weekly bicycling treks in search of the best homemade desserts. They&rsquo;d ride to a café 45 miles or so from home, enjoy a slice of pie and ride back.</p><p>One Sunday Stuttgen and company rode their bikes from their homes in Eau Claire to a spot called Angela&rsquo;s Truck Stop in Cadott, only to discover the restaurant had closed. Instead of the tasty pie they&rsquo;d come for, they were forced to snack on pre-packaged doughnuts from a nearby gas station.</p><p>&ldquo;My friend Mark groaned and moaned,&rdquo; Stuttgen recalls. &ldquo;He said someone should write a book about where the good places are so we don&rsquo;t waste our time &mdash; and our miles.&rdquo;</p><p>Stuttgen decided that someone should be her. She&rsquo;s spent the nearly two decades since visiting, cataloguing and writing about hundreds of tiny mom-and-pop establishments all across the Midwest. She documented the fruits of her labor in a pair of books, <em>Café Wisconsin</em> and <em>Café Indiana, </em>plus a follow-up pair of cookbooks. For her Wisconsin book, she stopped counting after she hit 500 cafes. &ldquo;I really didn&rsquo;t want to know after that,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It was getting frightening how many I was visiting.&rdquo;</p><p>Her visits were sometimes awkward. She&rsquo;d take one step into a place and know immediately it would make neither her list of recommendations nor her list of &ldquo;next best bet alternatives.&rdquo; When that happened, sometimes she&rsquo;d pretend she was merely looking for the post office when asked if she needed help. But other times she struck gold. To tell if a place is worth it, she says, &ldquo;Really you only need one good bite. You don&rsquo;t need that whole slice of pie or plate of hot beef.&rdquo;</p><p>The surprises were the best part of her mission, the places that weren&rsquo;t initially on her radar, but would then jump into view. That&rsquo;s what happened when she first noticed a luncheonette in LaCrosse, Ind. &ldquo;You never know what&rsquo;s inside until you walk in the door,&rdquo; Stuttgen says. Take a listen to what she found in the audio above.</p><p><a href="../../series/dynamic-range"><em>Dynamic Range</em></a><em> showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Joanne Stuttgen spoke at an event presented by Culinary Historians of Chicago in April. Click </em><a href="../../amplified/ethnographic-food-writing-or-how-i-ate-my-way-across-wisconsin-and-indiana-and-lived-write"><em>here </em></a><em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 19 May 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/folklorist-eats-her-way-through-midwest-one-caf%C3%A9-time-99306 4 things the Japanese earthquake taught the Midwest http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-03-12/4-things-japanese-earthquake-taught-midwest-97210 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-12/Mt Fuji_Micki Maynard.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-12/Mt Fuji_Micki Maynard.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 473px;" title="Japan's Mt. Fuji, as seen from the bullet train. (Changing Gears/Micki Maynard)"></p><p>A year ago, people in the Midwest were taking stock of the damage that the <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/japan/index.html?scp=1&amp;sq=japanese%20earthquake&amp;st=cse">massive earthquake and tsunami </a>had done to Japan. And, while the region affected by the earthquake is starting its long recovery, everyone here has learned some permanent lessons.</p><p><strong>1) We are all connected.</strong> To borrow a phrase from the<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ6ficvJODQ"> Symphony of Science</a>, the earthquake on the coast of Japan reminded us of how closely linked everyone is on earth. The earthquake disrupted parts and vehicle production for automakers overseas and in the United States for months — and had a significant impact on the Midwest.</p><p>In the Midwest, our Niala Boodhoo found that<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/03/21/japans-economic-ripples-and-the-midwest/"> 160,000 people</a> in the Great Lakes states worked directly for Japanese based companies. She reported on the impact for <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/03/21/134716680/midwest-firms-brace-for-japans-economic-ripples"><em>Morning Edition</em>. </a></p><p>All across the region, companies, charities and even <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/04/19/chicago-chefs-gather-for-japan/">chefs </a>stepped forward to help people affected by the disasters in Japan, sending everything from portable toilets to gas tanks and of course, cash. At <a href="http://www.takashichicago.com/">Takashi</a> in Chicago, an all-star team of restaurant owners from around the city stepped up to cook a meal whose proceeds benefited the American Red Cross.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>2) Recovery is not instantaneous. </strong>We live in a world of the 24-hour news cycle, where word of events happening in one place can be beamed around the world within seconds via Twitter and Facebook. But the comeback for Japanese companies has been a step-by-step process.</p><p>One example is the automobile industry, which is vitally important to our region. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru all have factories and employees in our states.</p><p>In March 2011, the same month as the earthquake, Japanese automakers held 40 percent of American sales, according to statistics from Autodata, Inc. By June, with parts and vehicle deliveries disrupted, that fell to 30 percent of the market.</p><p>Last month, Japanese automakers held 37.8 percent, their highest share since the earthquake, but they are not yet back to where they were.</p><p><strong>3) Diversify your production base. </strong>Over the past year, Japan’s currency has been at an all time high against the U.S. dollar. That, plus the disruptions caused by the earthquake, is causing a number of auto companies to hasten the<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/www.forbes.com/sites/michelinemaynard/2012/02/20/while-detroit-gets-the-spotlight-foreign-carmakers-quietly-rev-production-plans/"> shift of production</a> from Japan to the United States.</p><p>Toyota <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2012/02/20/after-laying-low-toyota-is-back-on-a-production-march/">told journalists</a>&nbsp;in Toronto last month that it is looking at shifting Lexus and Prius production east from Japan, due to the super-strong yen.</p><p>That’s on top of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2012/02/08/indiana-gets-a-400-million-infusion-from-toyota/">$400 million expansion</a>&nbsp;that’s taking place at Toyota’s Princeton, Ind., plant, which will become its only global location for the Highlander, a sport utility vehicle. And, Toyota’s new plant in Blue Springs, Miss., which opened&nbsp;<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/11/17/will-a-midwestern-town-ever-get-another-foreign-car-plant/">in November</a>, is already up to its full component of 2,000 workers.</p><p>Honda is expanding in Ohio, where it’s building a new engine and transmission family. It also will build the NSX sports car, which returns in 2015 for the first time in a decade, at a new facility in Marysville.</p><p><strong>4) Know your nukes. </strong>The weeks-long crisis at Japan’s nuclear power plants caused many Midwesterners to realize that our region also relies in part&nbsp;<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/03/14/our-region-nuclear-power-and-japan/">on nuclear energy.&nbsp;</a>There are 24 nuclear power plants around the Great Lakes, including 11 reactors in Illinois.</p><p>Michigan has four, Wisconsin has three and Ohio has two. There are none in Indiana.&nbsp;Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration offers an in-depth look at each state’s nuclear power status. Here are their entries for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/state_profiles/michigan/mi.html">Michigan</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/state_profiles/illinois/il.html">Illinois</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/state_profiles/ohio/oh.html">Ohio</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/state_profiles/wisconsin/wi.html">Wisconsin</a>.</p></p> Mon, 12 Mar 2012 14:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-03-12/4-things-japanese-earthquake-taught-midwest-97210 Dyan Flores breaks down the myth behind a meat-filled Midwest http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-20/dyan-flores-breaks-down-myth-behind-meat-filled-midwest-95678 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-20/dyan-flores-sox.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-20/dyan-flores-sox.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 300px; height: 152px;" title="">Gaper's Block writer Dyan Flores takes issue with the&nbsp;<em>New York Times'</em> look into&nbsp;vegetarianism in the Midwest;&nbsp;"<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/dining/a-vegetarians-struggle-for-sustenance-in-the-midwest.html?pagewanted=all">Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival</a>" was&nbsp;written and published last week by heir to the throne A.G. Sulzberger.&nbsp;Read an excerpt of Flores' thoughts, or listen below.</p><p><em>"After living in New York City for four years, I will concede that New York has superior bagels, taxi drivers and baseball teams. That's as far as I'll go. New York City is great, but as a born and bred Midwesterner, I refuse to buy into the Manhattan-is-center-of-the-universe hype. East coast snobbery runs rampant in the Big Apple, and as far as many New Yorkers are concerned, the Midwest is just a land of republicans, who are fueled by a diet of steaks and bacon grease."</em></p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483860-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/dyan flores.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>This Saturday at the Horseshoe, you'll see Steve Waltien of the Second City main stage, Kate James of Schadenfraude, puppeteer Noah Ginex, and a tribute to the late Chicago comic Mike Enriquez by Ryan Patrick Dolan.</p><p><a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/" target="_blank">The Paper Machete</a>&nbsp;<em>is a weekly live magazine at the Horseshoe in North Center. It's always at 3 p.m., it's always on Saturday, and it's always free. Get all your</em>&nbsp;The Paper Machete Radio Magazine&nbsp;<em>needs filled&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.org/thepapermachete" target="_blank">here</a>, or download the podcast from iTunes&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-paper-machete-radio-magazine/id450280345" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 20 Jan 2012 15:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-20/dyan-flores-breaks-down-myth-behind-meat-filled-midwest-95678 Some Hanukah traditions better left in the past http://www.wbez.org/content/some-hanukah-traditions-better-left-past <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-15/yuck face_flickr_kristen lewis.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>I grew up in Washington, D.C. eating Ashkenazi classics like noodle kugel and brisket, but my grandparents’ traditional food always had a distinctly Southern flare: dried gumbo, okra, yams, fried chicken and biscuits.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/okra gumbo_flickr_phil king.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 224px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Okra gumbo: Dinner with my grandparents often looked something like this. (Flickr/Phil King)">That’s because my mother’s family is from Natchez, Miss., a town of 16,000, which, like other small towns across the South, once had hundreds of Jewish families living there.&nbsp;</p><p>Here’s a prime example of my grandparents' culinary assimilation: When Natchez staged a “homecoming” for Jews with roots in the town in 1994, my grandmother insisted on serving ham biscuits at the reception. This decision was relayed to me by family friend Marci Ferris, who helped organize the event and who later interviewed my grandmother for her book <em>Matzo Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South</em>. Many, including Ferris, were horrified. But in my grandmother’s eyes, this was how you showed you were a proper southern hostess. Never mind that ham is the ultimate example of <em>treif</em> (non-kosher food). My grandmother saw no conflict between being Southern and being Jewish. And besides, they didn’t keep kosher anyway.</p><p>My grandparents’ story is a good reminder that in America, Jewish foodways – their food culture – is like that of any other immigrant group. We kept some traditions alive, left some traditions behind, adopted some new ones as we assimilated, and along the way invented some hybrids. &nbsp;</p><p>Just as Ferris did for the South, Chicago’s Ellen Steinberg and Jack Prost did for the Midwest with their book <em>From the</em> <em>Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways</em>. It explores dishes and food culture unique to Midwestern Jews, like gefilte fish from Minnesota made with local pike, instead of the cod or carp preferred by Jewish cooks on the east coast.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/latkes 2_Flickr_Melissa Trachtenberg.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 300px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Latkes, or potato pancakes, are traditional Hanukah fare. (Flickr/Melissa Trachtenberg)">When I encountered Steinberg and Prost’s book I couldn’t help but reflect on my family’s own traditions. And as Hanukah approached I couldn’t help but wonder: Did Midwestern Jews develop any Hanukah foods that are regionally unique?</p><p>I reached out to Steinberg, hoping I would hear about some delicious or dignified Midwestern traditions that had disappeared from view. Paw paw or persimmon jelly donuts, maybe, from some Jewish community in Indiana? Or a corn bread kugel from Iowa? Maybe a regional variety of latke using some good old fashioned Idaho potatoes? With luck, I’d even end up with a couple of recipes to try myself.</p><p>But no.</p><p>When I talked to Steinberg last week she instead introduced me to a few lost food traditions that frankly, deserve to stay lost.</p><p>Exhibit A: Smetina. Yes, according to Steinberg, this is a food. No, it does not sound appetizing. In fact, to my ears, it sounds like one or two Yiddish words whose translations are too filthy to publish here.</p><p>In reality it is a sour cream-like dressing developed by Raskas, a kosher dairy in St. Louis. A cookbook published by founder Herbert Raskas sometime in the 1940s or ‘50s describes the stuff this way:</p><p style="margin-left: 40px;"><em>SMETINA is a scientifically-ripened pure cultured cream Dressing; it is uniform in body and flavour. Behind its smooth texture there is much nutritive food value, and vitamin D…The tangy flavour of SMETINA adds a delightful taste to all foods; so that the most discriminating gourmets</em><em>will feel an added thrill thru the use of it. SMETINA may be used by itself; with Cottage Cheese; Fruit; Vegetables; as a Topping; in Baking, etc</em>.</p><p>No thanks.</p><p>But it gets better. (Worse?) Steinberg, who I found to be delightfully snarky, had me in stiches as she introduced me to a dish that I think can fairly be described as the wacky holiday dish to end all wacky holiday dishes. It also may just be the most phallic dish ever invented. Its name? Candle salad.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-14/candle salad_Wikipedia_Rachel.ehmke_.JPG" style="width: 300px; height: 400px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="(Flickr/Rachel Ehmke)">It is exactly what it looks like: a banana stuck end-up in a block of Jell-O, a ring of pineapple, or a bed of lettuce, topped with a maraschino cherry. And if you want it to look especially gross, a dollop of whipped cream or mayonnaise. It’s meant to look like a festive holiday candle, but it looks like…something else.</p><p>The dish first appeared in 1916 in an Iowa newspaper article that described ladies serving it at a society luncheon, and did not originally have roots in Jewish culture. But during the Jell-O-mold obsessed 1950s, Steinberg says Midwestern Jews began serving it for Hanukah. I guess because Hanukah is the Festival of Lights? I asked Steinberg if Midwestern Jews ever arranged eight of these bad boys in a row to resemble a menorah.</p><p>“I guess you could do eight if you wanted to waste bananas like that,” she said.</p><p>And was this really a uniquely Midwestern dish, or was it just evidence that 1950s chefs had bad taste? This was her response:</p><p>“I’ve heard of a lot of people in the Midwest making them. I’ve never heard anyone in New York ever making them. Let’s get real.”</p><p>Point taken.</p><p>I think this year I’ll stick to latkes.</p><p><a href="../../series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range </a><em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from </em>Chicago Amplified’s <em>vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Ellen Steinberg and Jack Prost spoke at an event presented by the <a href="http://www.culinaryhistorians.org/"><u>Culinary Historians of Chicago </u></a>in November. Click </em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/jewish-heartland-two-centuries-midwest-jewish-foodways-94001"><em>here</em></a><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/jewish-heartland-two-centuries-midwest-jewish-foodways-94001"><em> </em></a><em>to hear the event in its entirety. </em><em>Dynamic Range </em><em>is taking a short hiatus, but we’ll be back in 2012. </em></p></p> Sat, 17 Dec 2011 13:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/some-hanukah-traditions-better-left-past Author Patricia McNair mines Midwestern roots for inspiration http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-06/author-patricia-mcnair-mines-midwestern-roots-inspiration-94638 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-December/2011-12-06/book-launch-photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>New Hope is a fictional place but thanks to <a href="http://patriciaannmcnair.com/" target="_blank">Patricia Ann McNair</a>, it’s a place full of pain, heartbreak, faith and friendship. New Hope is the setting of <em>The Temple of Air</em> – the latest collection of stories from McNair. It’s no accident that McNair mines a Midwestern setting – the Columbia College professor has spent almost her entire life in the region. And while her experiences shape her stories, they aren’t entirely autobiographical. <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> recently spoke with McNair about her stories and characters—and to learn more about how she approaches writing.&nbsp;</p><p>Patricia Ann McNair reads Tuesday evening at the <a href="http://hopleaf.com/" target="_blank">Hop Leaf</a> in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. That’s part of the reading series <a href="http://tuesdayfunk.org/" target="_blank">Tuesday Funk</a>.</p><p><em>Music Button: Boards of Canada, "Hey Saturday Sun", from the album The Campfire Headphase, (Warp)</em></p></p> Tue, 06 Dec 2011 14:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-12-06/author-patricia-mcnair-mines-midwestern-roots-inspiration-94638 The economic and social cost of emptiness http://www.wbez.org/content/economic-and-social-cost-emptiness <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-02/abandoned house detroit_flickr_SJ Carey.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>This week</em>, Changing Gears <em>kicks off a look at empty places across our region. During November, we’ll be looking at empty buildings, empty property — and how we can fill things up again. In the first part of our series, reporter Dustin Dwyer explores the economic and social cost of emptiness. Things may be better in some neighborhoods, he says, but problems still abound.</em></p><p>GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There is no one number that tells the story of all the empty houses, storefronts, offices and factories in the Midwest. But there are many numbers that tell part of the story.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-02/abandoned house detroit_flickr_SJ Carey.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 421px;" title="An abandoned house in Detroit. (Flickr/ SJ Carey)"></p><p>Like this: one out of ten. One out of ten homes in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin was vacant in 2010. That’s according to the U.S. Census.</p><p>Or these numbers: &nbsp;Twenty-two percent of office space in the Cleveland area is empty. Chicago offices are 19 percent empty. Metro Detroit: almost 27 percent.</p><p>Those numbers are from the real estate firm Grubb &amp; Ellis. Fred Liesveld from the firm’s Detroit office says those numbers have actually been getting better for almost a year. He said of the 27 percent vacancy figure: “We haven’t seen that in a decade. That’s just great news.”</p><p>And really, there’s a lot of good news in the Midwest. In every city there’s at least one neighborhood that used to be a lot worse.</p><p>Where I live in Grand Rapids, that neighborhood is Heartside. Heather Ibrahim has worked in Heartside for more than a decade, at a non-profit called Dwelling Place. I met up with her during an art event on what used to be one of the neighborhood’s worst blocks.</p><p>“Just looking down the street and seeing how many buildings have been revitalized, it’s just amazing,” she said. “It amazes me the changes that have happened.”</p><p>Ibrahim says when she first started working in Heartside, maybe half the buildings were falling apart. Now, she estimates 80 percent of the neighborhood has been restored.</p><p>But even in Heartside, Ibrahim believes 20 percent of the buildings are still in bad shape. Windows are boarded up. Storefronts are empty.</p><p>Now let’s look at Detroit. Last year, a collection of groups called The Detroit Data Collective did a survey of the entire city. What they found is that more than a quarter of the city’s residential space is now completely vacant. We’re not talking about a row of empty houses. We’re talking about an urban prairie.</p><p>Jeff Horner, of the urban studies department at Wayne State University in Detroit, has lived in the area all his life. He says he’ll take the prairie over what used to be there.</p><p>“You never get used to seeing the same house you drive past that was lost in a fire and here’s still this burned out hulk that just sits there for years,” he said.</p><p>And for those who want to just think of this kind of a thing as a Detroit problem, it’s not.</p><p>In many ways, Chicago is the shining example of what can go right in the Midwest economy. But after the 2008 real estate crash, the emptiness has been creeping there as well. And, like everywhere, it has a devastating impact.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-02/abandoned building chicago_flickr_zol87.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 473px;" title="An abandoned building in Chicago's Garfield Park neighborhood. (Flickr/Zol 87)"></p><p>And now we’re talking about things that can’t be measured in numbers.</p><p>“The urban environment has a profound impact on psychological functioning,” said Lynn Todman, an urban planner who works at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Last year, she did a mental health study in the city’s Englewood neighborhood. The area has been devastated by foreclosures.</p><p>Todman says she spoke to one man who had to go into the abandoned houses for his job. The man told Todman about dogfights, squatters and runaway kids.</p><p>“I tried to get a little more information out of him about the kinds of things and activities that took place, perhaps things that weren’t widely reported in the news. And he said, ‘you don’t want to know,’” Todman recalls.</p><p>Todman says crime-ridden neighborhoods would have crime even if there wasn’t a bunch of vacant buildings. But when there is, the crime can spread. It can affect the people living in the homes that remain.</p><p>It can lead to stress, which leads to learning problems for young kids. Heart problems for adults. Drug use.</p><p>Add it all up, and Todman says this less-measurable impact of empty buildings – it will go on even after the economy improves and the buildings fill back up.</p></p> Wed, 02 Nov 2011 14:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/economic-and-social-cost-emptiness Presidential bus tour passes through Illinois http://www.wbez.org/story/presidential-bus-tour-passes-through-illinois-90695 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-17/Obama midwest bus tour_AP_Carolyn Kaster.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Barack Obama says it likely will be another year to 18 months before home prices start rising again and sales start to pick up.</p><p>But he says the federal government can't accomplish that alone, and will need support from the banking industry and others to make<br> sure the market pulls out of its slump.</p><p>Obama provided no support for his prediction. His comments Wednesday came in response to questioner at a town hall in Atkinson, Ill.</p><p>The president ventured from Iowa into politically familiar territory as he wrapped up a three-state tour through the cornfields, towns and cities of the Midwest. He was holding a second town hall meeing Wednesday afternoon in Alpha, Illinois and was scheduled to meet with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn later in the day.</p><p>Dozens of people lined up early Wednesday morning to see President Barack Obama at the first of two town hall-style meetings in rural Henry County.</p><p>Supporters Jean Causemaker and Mary Kay Franks were determined to see President Obama when they found out he'd be in town Wednesday. A handful of people without tickets gathered across the street, hoping to catch a glimpse of Obama's bus.</p><p>The three-day bus tour is part of an effort by Obama to command attention just after Republican presidential candidates dominated the news with a debate and straw poll in Iowa. He has used the trip to criticize his presidential and congressional opponents and to outline modest economic proposals in advance of Congress' return to Washington next month.</p><p>After his stop in Illinois, President Obama will return to Washington to begin a 10-day vacation.</p></p> Wed, 17 Aug 2011 15:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/presidential-bus-tour-passes-through-illinois-90695 A Chicago theatre lens on arts in the NY Times, with omissions galore http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-07/chicago-theatre-lens-arts-nytimes-omissions-galore-90234 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-August/2011-08-08/nytimesweather.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/pages/arts/index.html">Sunday's <em>New York Times</em> Arts section</a> has a note that the new show from the creators of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urinetown"><em>Urinetown</em></a>, called <a href="http://www.yeastnation.com/"><em>Yeast Nation (the triumph of life)</em></a>, will open at the <a href="http://www.fringenyc.org/">New York Fringe Festival</a>. Omitted information: The world premiere of the show took place nearly two years ago at the <a href="http://www.atcweb.org/">American Theatre Company in Chicago</a>--a reasonable choice of venue, given that authors Greg Kotis and Mark Hollman were both educated here (at the U of C) and that Kotis was a member of the <a href="http://www.neofuturists.org/">NeoFuturists</a>, where <em>Urinetown</em> was originally slated to debut. It might have been worthwhile for the <em>Times</em> to note <a href="http://www.theatreinchicago.com/review.php?playID=3302">that the musical's reception here in its hometown was decidedly mixed</a>.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-08/nytimesweather.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 228px; " title="">The same issue, same section, had a big article about <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/8460842/Bruce-Norris-profile.html">Bruce Norris's Pultizer prizewinning <em>Clybourne Park</em> </a>and its roots in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Raisin_in_the_Sun">Lorraine Hansberry's <em>Raisin in the Sun</em></a>. Omitted information: <em>Raisin in the Sun </em>is specifically about segregation in Chicago, based as it was on the Hansberry family's struggle (and lawsuit) to achieve legal protection for open housing here. More omitted information: Not one, not two, but<em> five</em> of Norris's earlier plays had their world premieres at <a href="http://steppenwolf.org">Steppenwolf</a>, where he's also performed as an actor, and that he, too, was educated here (at Northwestern). So it's probably safe to say that <a href="http://www.steppenwolf.org/boxoffice/productions/index.aspx?id=527">the new play's production at Steppenwolf this fall</a> isn't really a stepchild to <a href="http://woollymammoth.net/performances/show_clybourne_park_2011.php">its three-week out-of-town opening at Woolly Mammoth in Washington</a> (on which the article is focused). More like a godfather.</p><p>I really try not to let East Coast parochialism get me down; but the more Chicago theater fills New York stages, the more infuriating it is to have those Chicago roots ignored. On the other hand, it's not just theater: The same issue of the <em>Times</em> had <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/us/07outhere.html?_r=1&amp;ref=monicadavey">an article about the weather in Chicago</a> whose kicker headline was, "Out Here."</p><p>Yes, it's really a shame to be stuck all the way Out Here in the provinces--you know, where the plays come from, instead of where they just end up.</p></p> Mon, 08 Aug 2011 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-07/chicago-theatre-lens-arts-nytimes-omissions-galore-90234