By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

I love great books. I love great movies. But, isn’t it strange that great books rarely get made into great movies?  Take a look at The Guardian’s list of the 100 greatest novels of all time. Forget for one second the ridiculous  pro-British slant of the list. Just look at some of these titles: Don Quixote, Brothers Karamazov, Song of Solomon. Many of the books on the list have never been made into movies.  For those on the list that have been made into a movie, the film version is often highly forgettable. I mean, come on….William Shatner playing Alyosha Karamazov?  Sacrilege!

Perhaps just as strange is the fact that books that make great movies often aren’t considered to be very good books. Have a glance at AFI’s list of the 100 greatest American movies. These films are often not based upon any great book.  Yeah, I know The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird fit the bill as great movie/great book. But, such works are overshadowed by the vast number of forgettable books that have been made into classic films. Think Peter Bletchley’s Jaws or Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump. Call me crazy, but I just don’t see Groom being mentioned in the same breath as Tolstoy. And, if that is not enough, glance through the list of Oscar winner/nominees for  ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’.  Most of the books adapted for films are not just ordinary, they are paradoxically mediocre.

Why is so? The most straightforward answer seems to be that great novels can rarely be captured in a 2 hour film. Add another hour, and you still can’t make a viable retelling of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Add 5 extra hours, and you still won’t capture Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  This point brings us to problem number 2. You obviously need more time to retell a great story, and there is a limit to how long an audience will willfully sit in a darkened theater.

But, I believe this paradox may be now be solved. Movie lovers, and book lovers lament no more!

TV has taken over where movies dare not, or cannot, tread.  The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, etc. In the last decade or two, all of these shows are as good as, if not better than, what has appeared on the big screenWith bigger budgets, better actors, original writers, groundbreaking directors, and more artistic freedom, television (and online streaming services) now can weave a complex, multilayer story over 10, 20, 30, or 100 hours.  Make each episode about 45 minutes, allow people to binge watch, and voila: The next big commercial, critical and artistic success!

les-miserables

Oh Please.

The format would be perfect for adapting great books. An example: Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. This novel is 1232 pages. It is exciting, romantic, historical, epic.  Now, I know many will say that this has already been made into a movie with the musical adaptation from a couple years ago.  But I am sorry; a two hour musical canNOT capture this story.  Andrew Lloyd Webber, via Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe does not do justice to Jean Valjean, Cosette or Marius.  Perhaps even more disappointing was Hollywood’s attempt 15 years ago to make a dramatic depiction of Hugo’s masterpiece. The film starring Liam Neeson, Claire Danes and Geoffrey Rush wasn’t horrible, but again, it wasn’t really Les Miserables. This winding tale will not be crammed into the parameters of a 180 minute movie.

But….

What about a Netflix season series? 10 episodes each season, 3 seasons, and 30 hours in total?  Computer graphics, violence, sex, depth of character, history? These are all things that could be put on the small screen, if some visionary would be so inclined. Can you imagine?

I can, and I love the idea.  Please, someone get on it.

While I wait, I guess I will just need to pick up Hugo’s novel again.

Go Forth, And?

Posted: May 15, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

My niece and goddaughter, Mary is graduating from Notre Dame this Sunday with a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry. Sadly, I can’t attend the ceremony because Notre Dame takes commencement as seriously as football. There are no extra tickets; there are no extra hotel rooms. It will be a spectacle, as it should be.

I was in college when my niece was born. I remember being delighted that my sister, Margo, and her husband, Mark, chose me to be Mary’s godmother.

I think I’ve done what I can to shape Mary’s life in a positive way, and I know she has done the same for me. In the twenty years since my college graduation (yup), I have experienced many, many things. I won’t bother to categorize them. Life experiences do not line up in neat rows, though advice can.

marys

Christmas gifts 2015, books (tradition) on life after college!

Because I love my niece, and I am immensely proud of her accomplishment, and that of so many other young college students who worked hard to achieve their educational goals, I shall enter into the tradition of passing on wisdom as part of the rites of the commencement season.

I have a fair amount of experience in these matters. I attend two college graduations each year in my capacity as a professor here at good ol’ RMU. It is always an incredibly special day for the graduates, and I am eager to hear (and critique) the commencement address because I like the genre (see my post from last year), and I believe in education, and rituals, and getting dressed up only to have to wait patiently for something to begin.

So, as my smart, sweet, spectacular niece graduates, and begins, in earnest, her long voyage through adulthood, I’d like to offer her advice, as an honest attempt to impart something valuable.

Your Professional Life

Work is at the core of everything. Tying your shoes is work. Doing so requires preparation, learning, effort, repetition, mastery, and it is a skill that we will lose in the end, each of us reduced to Velcro shoes and meandering down lonely halls. Sunny, I know. Be grateful for what you know and use it while you can.

The work we all do enriches our lives. Do work you can be proud of, and create a positive, productive relationship with both the work you want to do and you must do.

Whatever your profession, cultivate teamwork. Collaborate, cooperate. Get and be inspired. If a colleague (or two) irritates you, consider why. Is this person’s unpleasant behavior something you can avoid? If he is petty, his choices should remind you to act with generosity. If she is unreliable, take the cue to be trustworthy. All flaws are opportunities for growth.

As far as salary: ask for more. Counter the initial offer. Establish a sense of your worth and negotiate for a higher starting pay, as all percentage increases arise from this original number.passion

Your Passionate Life

Bring passion to your daily life in any way possible. Engaging in activities you adore, and doing these things with love is a tremendous gift..

Do things that make you keenly aware of the unassailable life within and around you, dance, shout, paint, hike, play.

Develop passionate connections with others. Be glad of heartbreak, for those who repress or suppress their feelings live not nearly so well.

Love with abandon.

Your Daily Life

Life can become suffused with seemingly mindless routines. Certain things need to be done. I offer you what I consider to be among the best of the conclusions I have come to in life. Every time you find yourself thinking that you “have to” do something, pause and contemplate this: you “get to” as well.

Consider, we all “have to” wash the dishes.

We also “get to” wash the dishes.

We are granted the opportunity to wash dishes through a remarkable array of good fortune. In order to wash dishes, we must have food, access to water, a home in which we can cook and eat, and, often, people we love to cook for. Herein lies the great mystery of day to day contentment; embrace the magnificence of the mundane moments.

Your Inner Life

Expend considerable effort developing your spirit, which is the combination of your unique, authentic self and the inner resources necessary to survive when faced when difficulties and thrive when offered opportunities.

The surest way to build your spirit is to be as honest with yourself as possible. Address your demons; catalog your fears. They exist, so get acquainted.

The only other thing you can do is feed your inner well in the ways that make the most sense to you—often through interaction with something bigger, more extraordinary than you are. Connecting with the world, through the infinite and infinitesimal wonders of nature or the joys of other people, seems to be the only effective means of alleviating the pain that accompanies living.

Your Own Life

Do not waiver in your sacred duty to yourself. Do what you will, make mistakes. Attempting to avoid making a mistake is just another mistake to make. Life will not last. Years take wing. Do what you can each day to enjoy your one and only life: savor it.

Above all else, make life something you are proud to call your own.

By Daniel Rubio, RMU Student. 

This morning, as I was waking up to go to my personal training session, I realized how important it is to work out, especially for me. A few years ago, I got to my heaviest at 340 pounds and couldn’t believe it. I was never self-conscious about my weight, but after two knee surgeries I decided I needed to make a conscious effort to lose weight; not for physical appearance, but for health unnamedreasons. One thing I have to say is I could not have made a better choice. Not only do I workout because it makes my happy, but I workout because I can. Initially, it’s easy to view exercise as a chore. Consider this instead: Exercise is a blessing. Not only do you have the knowledge and the means to exercise, but you’ve been given a body that is strong.

Eventually, I will most likely need a knee replacement, but I have found that strengthening my leg muscles makes my knee feel 100 times better. For me, it’s critical to get outside the house and engage in low impact activities such as walking, swimming, golfing, and kayaking. You might also bicycle on flat terrain, or use a stationary bike. Aside from the calorie-burning benefits of exercise, being outside and active helps elevate your mood.

Exercise is only part of an overall strategy to maintain a healthy weight. I consider it more of a part of a lifestyle change. For example, some people find posterdramatic results by skipping late night meals or eliminating refined sugars. Analyzing one’s eating habits can help understand how they contribute or undermine weight management goals. But, diets often fail. They do nothing to change long-term eating habits and they frequently contribute to a feeling of failure. Do not fall victim to this. Diets do not work, life changes do.

Weight loss can take some time, but with the right mindset of dedication, you can reach your goals. I have lost 100 lbs. I will continue to work, and by doing this, I will take pressure off my knee. I have found that setting small, realistic goals has proven to be a great success. Each week’s goals should lead into next week’s. One positive change leads to another.

By Cecilia Olvera, RMU Student.

Last year I had the opportunity to go to Puerto Rico. I have always heard great and exciting things about it, but to finally see it on my own was even more exciting. My family of five packed up and headed for our fun-filled week. We had our days occupied with excursions, driving around the island, and seeing the jungle.

1405552788030On the third day, we visited The Morro. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the enormous brick walls of this huge military structure on the other side of the island. The Morro is an old fort that was designed to guard the entrance to San Juan from 20140716_181905any enemies. We took a tour and the guides explained that it was built in 1539 as a tower, and in 1587 it was expanded into a military fort. I was astonished by the history and the battles that took place. I would have never imaged that a fort this size could be in the center of town.

As I walked around the outside, I knew instantly there was an attraction. I felt the walls and with that I could feel the history, the pain, and the worry that these walls held in them. The views from the top of the structure were breathtaking. They overlooked the ocean, where I could see small sail boats floating, and the beautiful city that lay on the other side. As I entered the dungeon, I could smell the dirt from the ground. I could hear the rain outside as it began and smell the scent of the rain on the brick and ground. We spent the whole morning and afternoon exploring the grounds and learning the history. I took in every moment of this maleficent place, not knowing if I would ever return.

After the trip, we returned to our everyday lives here in Justice, Illinois. I was able to have the day off before returning back to work and staring at a computer all day. My sister and I talked outside on our patio swing, feeling the cool breeze and hearing the shuffle of the leaves from the trees, which alerted us rain was coming. I reminisced about The Morro and the tourist that were there visiting, and with that I could image the cold bricks and the smell of the salt in the ocean air. I would get lost in my own mind thinking about how the days were back at that time, and as the summer rain began, the scent of the dew can always draw me back to The Morro.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

All in all, I loved my college years.  I wouldn’t say they were the best days of my life because I am pretty happy with where I am at right now. Still, they were pretty great.

For five years (yeah, that’s right, five years! So what?) during the mid to late 90’s, I attended Michigan State University.  Most non-Michiganders know MSU for their recent big-time sports success, but I wasn’t a student during the last two decades of our football and basketball highpoints.  I really didn’t care though. Just MSU Spartans defeat Boise State University 17-13 on Aug. 18, 2012.attending the games, no matter the weather, was great fun.  Tailgating with friends, and going crazy with 75,000 strangers with a common passion is always a rush.

Did I say ‘go crazy’? Well, not really. I wasn’t a huge partier. Don’t get me wrong, I did have fun when I wanted to have fun. But I was more conservative than many of my classmates. The parties were okay. But, what I really loved was the notion that I had the opportunity to party. And not just party. I had the opportunity to do what I wanted with my life.  It was this freedom that I loved. This crazy, wonderful, beautiful freedom. From my first day at MSU, to my last, I cherished it. One of my fondest memories of my college years actually took place during my first week at MSU. Why? Nothing shocking.  A couple good friends of mine from my hometown stayed out all-night.  There was no reason to do this. We weren’t drinking. I think we ordered a pizza at 2 college-photo_15926.AM, simply because we could order a pizza at 2 AM! Most vividly and warmly, I remember sitting out in an open field near my dorm at 4 in the morning discussing….well….all the quasi-philosophic stuff 18 year old college freshmen discuss during their first week away from home. It was great.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one who had this freedom, and many of my co-Spartans took advantage in much more, shall we say, boisterous ways.  As I got older, I became more serious. I decided I really wanted to dedicate myself to my studies. I wanted to go to graduate school, and I realized grades would be important. So, I truly began to love school; not just the freedom and the fun. I found I preferred the library over parties. I enjoyed the classroom more than the dorm-room.  I wanted to read books, not just beer labels. Yeah, I was a pretentious little ass, but I really don’t feel much embarrassment about it.  Being 21 is the time to be a pretentious little ass.

Over those five years of my life, I look back with satisfaction and fulfillment….but, there is one thing….just one thing I wish I had done. No, I don’t wish I had pledged to a frat; or had tried more drugs; or had taken part in more riots (don’t ask; I will save this for another blog). My one regret is I wish I had studied abroad. I wish I had taken classes in Europe, seminars in Asia, colloquiums in the Middle East.

Study abroad would have been wonderful.  Everyone I have ever known who took part in study-abroad have raved about their experiences.  After working at a University for 13 years, I have seen students go overseas and come StudyAbroad-things-to-considerback new, more intriguing people.  Why did I not do this? It is the same old story of all regrets. I thought I would have all the time in the world, and now I realize I was a foolish, pretentious 21 year old for thinking so.  Now, I have two kids, lots of bills to pay, and seemingly little free time.  Alas, I missed my chance….

But wait! I’m not going to feel sorry for myself.  As the lads from Monty Python said, ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.  I’m not going to let this regret eat away at me. I need to recapture some of that college freedom! I need to step up and do this! If I regret not going 20 years ago, imagine how I will feel in another 20 years?

The big 4-0 is right around the corner.  Time to make that decade the best years of my life!  The era of Stelzer Jocks/Jocks Stelzer travels are about to begin! Let’s do this!

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Recently, a new “100 Days” project emerged; this one labeled The Great Discontent and a product of an inquiry begun by artist Ella Luna. A few of my friends joined the plan to make something for 100 days in a row and post the results to a selected social media platform. Always eager to be more creative in my daily life, I elected to begin a “100 Days” project, too.

The “100 Days” project runs from Monday, April 6 through Tuesday, July 14, 2015. Beginning a project on April 6th seemed particularly fascinating, as it was the day after Easter, the traditional conclusion of Lent. No matter what our beliefs (or lack thereof), human beings crave ritual.

finish-each-day-and-be-done-with-itMany of my artistic friends selected drawing for 100 days, but I turn to words when inclined to create. Words are my touchstone. When sad, or lonely, or confused, or feeling powerless, I read and write. While casting about, trying to imagine what I’d like to work on for 100 days, I considered a variety of writerly exercises, including 100 days of metaphors, but that plan transformed.

Ultimately, I decided to curate a collection of good advice; thus, my project is on Instagram with the label #100DaysofGoodAdvice.

My selection of “Good Advice” highlights two fundamental questions: what does advice entail, and how and when might it be considered good?

Defining words requires traversing a complex landscape of meaning while maintaining a keen awareness of implication. Advice suggests a useful approach to life. In order for it to be good, it must be purposeful. All advice remains dependent on situational factors, an eloquent answer may be wrong as often as it is right. At this point I am reminded of Heraclitus’ proclamation, “workoutYou cannot step into the same river twice.” Despite these challenges of connotation and relevance, after a full fifteen days, I’m thrilled with the results.

I have to make the conscious effort to find and select a new piece of good advice each day, attempting, when I can, to connect the events of my day with some larger perception, as when I spent a weekend visiting a longtime friend, and I was reminded of the eminently useful bit of wisdom I learned in a song from Girl Scouts, “make new friends, but keep the old (one is silver and the other gold).”

Collecting good advice also requires acknowledging the meaningful encounter, as when I happened upon this empowering idea outside a health club on North Avenue. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better way to perceive my work out routine.

Another wonderful thing about the words and phrases embodying good advice is that the thoughts contained are largely positive, hopeful, which may simply be a reflection of my optimistic sensibility. Knowing that is good, too.

Awareness and intention are essential, and responding to the call to be inspired may be the best any of us can do to remain vibrantly alive.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Jen and I got married 13 years ago.  After a small ceremony, small reception and small honeymoon, we had to take care of the paperwork.  Trips to the DMV and Secretary of State were necessary to gain new ID’s and Social Security cards. Unlike most married couples however, both Jen and I needed new documentation.  We both had new names, and hence, new identities. On an October day in 2002, she became Jenny Jocks Stelzer (nee Stelzer), and I became Michael Stelzer Jocks (nee Jocks).

13 years on and the fact that I changed my name when I got married still catches people off-guard. So not surprisingly, a recent Atlantic article titled ‘Men Should Consider Changing Their Last Names When They Get Married‘  caught my eye. Not only did I ‘consider it'; I actually did it. Of course, I have been asked many times why I made the unconventional choice, and I believe I provide such queries with a very good answer.

A couple years before we got married, Jen and I talked about the topic of spouses changing names after marriage. As a progressive, idealistic 21 year old who enjoyed going against social norms, I stated with a good deal of bravado that if we ever got married I would gladly take her last name, and cast off the surname Jocks.  A bit incredulous, she asked, ‘Really’?  ‘Sure, why not’, I responded…..Buuuutttt, the more I thought about it, the more troubling I found the possibility.  I think it was later the same day that I stated I, in fact, would not become Michael Stelzer if, and/or when we got married.  After all, for my whole existence I had been Michael Jocks.  Who would I be if I changed that?  It was a surprisingly disturbing question.

On the other hand, if I found it so troubling to give up my name, and some portion of my identity, how could I expect, much less demand, that Jenny change her name simply based upon tradition?  If she wanted to take my name, that would be fine.  But, it was completely her choice and I would have no say in the matter.  Sometime after this discussion, when marriage was actually on the horizon, we came up with our compromise.  I would take her name, and keep my name, and she would take my name and keep her name.  That was that. All’s fair.

And so, this brings me back to that Atlantic article. Most of the article deals with the troubling history behind the marriage_dictionarytradition of women changing their names. I won’t go into that here as you can read the linked article yourself. But, one part does need to be dealt with in this post (and future posts as well).  The first line of the article is an absolutely dumbfounding statistic. According to a recent study, ‘More than 50% of Americans think the woman should be legally required to take her husband’s name in heterosexual marriages.’  Read that again.  It does not say over 50% of Americans feel women ‘should’ change their name (that is closer to 70% of Americans). No, no, no. Over 50% of Americans feel there should be a law that forces women to change their names at marriage.

Mind blown…

This is shocking for numerous reasons. In my next post, I want to delve into what this statistic says about how Americans’ view womens’ rights in a historical context. Here, however, I just want to point out how out of place this is in our national political environment.

Americans today are seemingly obsessed with libertarianism. Now, this does not mean a huge portion of people identify themselves as such politically. It is only about 10% of the voting public who call themselves libertarian.  But, on many topics, libertarianism has a foothold. The cause of this obviously has much to do with how Americans feel about the government.  Congress is notoriously despised by the American people, and for the last ten years, Americans simply do not trust lawmakers, law enforcers, or law interpreters. With such professed distrust of government, the American people are reaching new heights in calls for individual freedom. Gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, deregulation of gun laws, defunding of government services,  liberalization of internet control, etc, etc. On all sides of the political divide, libertarianism is front and center. It seems unlikely that this will end anytime soon.

And, so, we have a surprising paradox here.  Over 50% of Americans, meaning many who argue that the government should not decide who can or cannot get married, who believe the government should have no say whatsoever in curtailing deadly weapons, and who will march against laws limiting the size of sodas, believe, with the utmost cognitive dissonance, that women should be legally mandated to change their names when they get married. If over 50% of Americans today agree on any cultural topic, it is newsworthy. When it comes to women being forced to change their names, evidently liberals and conservatives (and men and women) agree. The majority of voters, at least in theory, support such an obviously paternalistic law.

How can we explain this?

In my next blog, I’m gonna try.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

What’s your favorite Michael Jackson song?

Think about it for a second.

Okay, what’s your answer?

Today, I tested a hypothesis of mine by texting and asking a number of people this same question. Everyone, without exception, responded within seconds:

“‘PYT.’ No question.”

“I like ‘Man in the Mirror.’”

“Probably ‘Billy Jean.’”

“I like ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.’”

“‘The Way You Make Me Feel.’”

“‘Thriller.’”

“Oh – ‘Man in the Mirror.’”

For me, my answer is “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”

Now, why am I asking?

About five years ago, I had an idea to have popular music playing in my classroom as students arrived for our 8:00am class. I thought it would be fun and inject a bit of energy into a group of very tired people (myself included) who had just woken up.

However, I balked.

Generally, people are very judgmental and combative about music. Not just students – all people. I started to envision people would arrive and, rather than enjoy the music, there would just be gripes like “I hate this song?” or “Who listens to this?” or “This singer is terrible!” So, I abandoned the idea.

Instead, I spun it into a class activity. I broke the class into groups and asked them to come up with songs that would appeal to 90% or more of the entire diverse Robert Morris University community, which includes students, staff, faculty, and administrators of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Each group presented their best option to the entire class, and then we voted on which song was the best fit to appeal to that diverse audience.

In the years since, I’ve done this same activity with around 15-20 classes, and the answer in all but one instance has led us to the same artist:

Michael Jackson.

Around 75% of the time, the specific answer is “Billie Jean” with an occasional “Thriller” sprinkled in.

Billie Jean

A few years ago, after years of getting Michael Jackson as the answer to this experiment, I tried out my original concept just to see what would happen. I got to my classroom early and setup a playlist of “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky” at the height of their popularity. I then left the room so the “teacher” wouldn’t be present. Just before class started, I peeked in. The music was playing and nearly everyone in the room was dead silent and motionless. Some of them even looked like they were reenacting A Clockwork Orange.

clockwork-horror

“This isn’t lucky at all!!!”

It confirmed my original fear, especially when I got into the class and some students started to gripe about those (at the time) extremely popular songs. This means that even the most popular contemporary songs and artists have no chance at appealing to 90% or more of an extremely diverse audience. But Michael Jackson always does.

Which leads me back to my experiment today.

When I talk about my favorite artists and bands, typically the discussion starts with, “Have you ever heard of this band?” or, “Do you like this song by this group?” Through years of this classroom activity, and through many discussions with friends and colleagues, I realized that Michael Jackson is the only artist for whom you can immediately assume that everyone will know, everyone will like, and everyone will have an immediate response to what their favorite MJ song is as if they have thought about it many times before (which they have).

So, I tested the hypothesis. As I asked a bunch of people today, “What’s your favorite Michael Jackson song?” no one said, “Eh, I don’t like him,” or “I don’t really know his music.” Everyone had an immediate response, literally within seconds.

It isn’t strange that people would love “The King of Pop,” but it is amazing that the love is so universal and unquestioned.

However, strangely, almost no one these days identifies Michael Jackson as their favorite artist. That age has passed, and perhaps just the generation of people who grew up during the time the Thriller album was released would be in play to identify MJ as their favorite artist, but the music remains unquestionably popular to everyone.

My next idea was to wonder if there are any other artists, in any other medium, that are on the “Michael Jackson Level” in this 90% appeal scenario. While sharing this whole topic with my colleagues today, we kicked around a few names. I thought perhaps Steven Spielberg; everyone has to love at least one movie from his catalog, be it Jurassic Park or Indiana Jones or Jaws or E.T. A colleague then proposed The Beatles. Both were good options, but unlike Michael Jackson, we were able to immediately identify ways in which those two would not have the 90% appeal.

Thus, the “King of Pop” really is the king of universal appeal.

By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty.
This year’s mayoral election must be one of Chicago’s strangest with but one more day left. What’s so strange? Well, we’re having our first run off in a long time, though most experts felt the incumbent would easily win in the first round. Obviously they were wrong.
Also strange is how very different the two run off candidates seem to be. The incumbent, Rahm Emanuel, is an extraordinarily experienced, nationally known, hard driving, brash, arrogant, steam roller type while his opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, is a largely unknown, mid level Chicago machine foot soldier with no special achievements to his name, nor any shining personal skills that would explain his sudden leap to prominence.
Strange too is that “Chuy,” though new to center stage, immediately came out swinging. Unfailingly aggressive, he got lots of media coverage, and initially polls showed he wasn’t far behind Rahm. In the television debates, he easily scored points criticizing Rahm on a host of issues such as ignoring the neighborhoods, relying on speed cameras to generate revenue, and arranging pay for play schemes. Now, the strange thing is less “Chuy’s” aggressiveness, but rather Rahm’s muted, laid back, almost boy scout responses, a complete about face from past behavior. High hat’s out, demure is in.
Though surprisingly successful at first, “Chuy’s” campaign started to flounder a bit as editorials began criticizing his stand on the City’s financial crisis, criticism richly deserved. For “Chuy’s” position sounded and continues to sound bizarre, even ridiculous, as if it was the brainchild of a comedy team writing political satire for a Second City skit.
“Chuy” has said many times his policy is that he has no policy. Why not? Because he can’t offer one until he or an “Official Commission” can objectively examine the City’s “books,” implying Rahm’s budget ain’t legit. Then, several weeks ago, “Chuy” stated flat out at a BGA presentation that the “books are cooked.”
But “Chuy” offers not a shred of proof, nor does he retract his charge. Why then make the claim? All this seems strange, does it not?
Nonetheless, “Chuy” continues arguing that an “Independent Commission” must be created to assess the “books.” Yet he never discloses who he thinks should be on the Commission, what its charge should be, or how the Commission will be chosen. He also fails to explain how the Commission’s recommendations will be implemented. What if, for instance, “Chuy” disagrees with the Commission’s ideas? Chuy’s not talking.
Emanuel’s approach to the budget issue, though definitely a cut well above “Chuy’s”, also leaves much to be desired. Rather than discussing his budget proposal, he prefers listing his first term achievements and blaming Springfield for failing to give the City more money.
So the strangest thing about the election is why neither candidate will say much about the budget crisis, far and away the most important issue confronting the City. An obvious answer is that it’s unpleasant for no easy solutions present themselves.
Certainly this makes sense. However, I believe another factor helps explain the mystery namely, public union influence on City politics. “Chuy” complains about the evils of “pay to play” but neglects mentioning that public unions are the most important group engaging in pay to play schemes. The enormous pension liability the City faces is the number one reason the City’s broke, a liability incurred through elaborate pay to play schemes between our pols and the unions. Are the unions willing to renegotiate these agreements? To date they’ve said no.
Despite his oft expressed call for greater transparency, “Chuy'” never mentions his candidacy is closely linked to the unions though they contribute significant monies to his campaign and promise to supply a large army of voters. Might this be why “Chuy” doesn’t like to discuss cutting services or reducing pension benefits? Could his union ties help explain why his comments about the schools often sound like a CTU handout?
Rahm faces the opposite problem–many unions oppose his re election bid–but union influence also explains Rahm’s reluctance to discuss the budget crisis. Why? Because he fears stirring up the unions, especially the Teachers Union which he infuriated during his first years in office. Karen Lewis, the President of the Teachers Union, screamed bloody murder and vowed she’d teach that high stepping blow hard a lesson he’d never forget. And he hasn’t. Unbrashed, he now minds his manners, eats his oatmeal every morning, and makes very sure he says nothing that might upset the unions, that 5,000 pound guerilla in our living room we’re never allowed to mention.
Thus a major reason we’ve witnessed such a strange even bizarre election season is that the candidates refused to discuss the City’s budget debacle. Only feel good, gee whiz, nice guy issues are allowed. Why? Largely because of union pressures, with “Chuy” running as the union’s candidate, while Rahm campaigns terrified of mentioning service or pension cuts, lest the unions go after him like fleas on a dog. Surely Rahm is by far the better candidate and deserves to win–“Chuy’s” budget views are literally laughable– but the strange and frustrating nature of the election casts a pall over the City’s future.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Work is an interesting thing. Many people do not take kindly to it, not even the term itself. I have never felt this way. I’ve always liked to work in the abstract and often truly delighted in work in the particular. Work yields meaningful productivity. To accomplish something, whatever that something is, feels fantastic.

smallwinsI had a small work victory this week, inspired by a conference I attended in March. Throughout two days of four-hour discussion sessions, the conference didn’t seem particularly valuable; however, in that time, I did formulate one fresh idea. One new, useful idea can affect remarkable change.

I am both an English professor and a reference librarian at good ol’ RMU, flexing into the library when I am needed, as I am this term. I have done three rotations into the library. When in the library, I crave a project, inventing them for myself.  I am happy to have the support of the head librarian, Sue Dutler, who readily accepts my offers to change, to rearrange, to contribute. Work encourages involvement and creates an impact in our community at every level. This is why doing “good” work feels good—no matter what it is.

My new idea was in response to a significant problem: paper waste in academic libraries. As an educator, I am perfectly fine with students printing any documents they need and will use. My complaint is with the terrifyingly tall stacks of print outs left behind, unused, completely and utterly wasted. It is this kind of behavior I am hoping to correct. In order to address the problem of paper waste, I proposed an awareness campaign.

Because the university’s image makers are not fond of excessive signage, I knew my message could not be printed or posted in a traditional sense. Moreover, it would be hypocritical to print flyers asking students to print less. I proposed an electronic message to students: a reminder to consider whether or not they should print a document before doing so. A request to reflect is central to all initiatives; little changes have a large impact. Recently, I started reading a book that addresses the power of small wins within the context of big changes The Power of Habit: Why we Do What We Do in Life and Business. Happily, the serendipitous intersection of ideas pervades higher education.

The head libr3rarian helped me put my plan into action, advising me to get approval from various entities, including asking the IT department to help us install the screensaver on all the computers in the library. Amazingly, this process only took a few days, and on Monday, March 30, 2015, my small vision sprang to life on the computers, as if by magic.

The message is good and clean. One of the IT professionals even went so far as to call it “elegant,” for which I take only the credit of selecting an image that is balanced and beautiful and instantly recognizable. I wrote the ‘copy’ with an intentionally gentle and positive message, “Think Before You Print; In Honor of Earth Day, April 22, 2015, Our Environment Thanks You.”

A “thank you” is always nice, and personifying the environment was an intentional strategy to help the students feel connected to our environment.

Each day, work offers the small win of doing something meaningful, and an occasion to celebrate a job well done.