Chicago – January 8, 2020

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As I write, our country finds itself on the precipice of another war. How did it come to this? I once believed I had an inkling of how these events unfold, but I was wrong. My voice is just another drunk at the end of the bar, pontificating and moralizing with whoever will listen about subjects well outside my intellectual grasp.

We can only speculate as to the psychology involved in commanding the greatest military in history. The only issue I’m certain of is the core responsibilities must be overwhelming. The current occupant of the presidency is simply one more character in the continuing saga of conflict that dogs our species…it never seems to end.

I demonstrated against war in my youth. I will do so again. War is not the answer.

What better occasion to reflect on the timeless words of Carl Sagan:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Amen.


Welcome to the new year edition of Central Standard Time. These extraordinary writers in our midst offer a new set of essays sure to stimulate conversation. Let’s sit together and talk. The coffee is on.


A Last Backward Glance – Brule Eagan

Wasting Time


Bits and Pieces – John Zielinski

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Be It So Resolved – Michelle Jackson Jewell

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Making Theater History – Rainee Denham

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Missing And Black – Steve Buschbacher

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Thank you for joining us. We love to hear from you.

  • Joe

Chicago – November 1, 2019

This edition opens with a family favorite, Injun Summer. A copy-friendly version is included as a separate PAGE.

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Welcome to a special time of year. Let’s celebrate for the next six weeks without hesitation. We deserve every moment. Reach out to those you love; leave time for solitude and reflection.

Five Long Years, or so the blues classic says. In the Fall of 2014, a blog named The Chicago Progressive debuted on the ether. It grew in to Central Standard Time. This fall, five years ago, we started a journey with no particular destination in mind…and why not?

Thank you all for the words of encouragement during this long hiatus. We are going to continue Central Standard Time every two months or so. It is relaxed and adds to the quality of what is presented. You may hear from us when topical news arises in any case. We are, after all, a part of the Fifth Estate.

You are invited to comment on the many fine articles found here. We want to interact and exchange views, join us in conversation. Browse the Archives and be amazed at the diversity of thought. Let’s continue to pull at threads of information and ask questions. Be in touch.

In addition to the enlightened prose offered by this month’s contributors, we pay homage to the social foundation of the dinner table. I promise you will find something to satisfy every appetite.


Food for the Holidays! 

Michelle – Browned Butter Pecan Pie, Snickerdoodle Pie

Janet – Stuffed Shells

John, Steve –  French Pastry Cake with Butter Cream Frosting, the “German Turnip”

Brule, Mike – The Christmas Lasagna, Together-Time-Snack

Rainee – Cream of Mushroom Soup, Green Bean Casseraole, Vegan Layonnaise Potatoes

Tom, Joe – Torcinelli, In Praise of Licorice


And now, please join us for some reading matter. As always, your favorite beverage will stimulate the experience.


Oh, There’s No Place Like Home Plate For The Holidays – Tom DeMichael

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Chosen Family – Michelle Jackson Jewell

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The Warmth of Other Suns – Mike Kerr

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Scene Of The Crime – Brule Eagan

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A Giant – Steve Buschbacher

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What’s the Hurry? – John Zielinski

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Injun Summer 

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Chicago – June 1, 2019

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Sunrise on Luna Lake – Nicolet National Forest

Welcome to summer…I think! My sibling asks the rhetorical question “Is it safe to take the ice-scraper out of the car?” Perhaps.

It will be my first summer viewing the world from the 10th floor. This elevation is unique to the area and the vista looking west is that of a lush green carpet thrown across the land, extending to the horizon. Big thunderheads move in with their requisite light-show and sound effects. The sunsets are typically spectacular.

I propose we use all the vacation time we have struggled to “bank.” Isn’t it interesting to find what the word “vacation” means to each of us? The cover photo this month is a favorite. My ideal get-away is an isolated lake and a campsite only accessible by canoe. Did I mention my fishing rod and a flask of scotch?

Celebrate the season, my friends. Join the cast of writers here for your entertainment. Let’s have our morning cup of coffee and read away an hour or so. “Celebrate” is the word.


Quest For Smoke – Brule Eagan

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I Know What I Like – John Zielinski

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The Stroll – Mike Kerr

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A Royal Pain – Steve Buschbacher

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A Tip of the Cap to Billy Buck – Tom DeMichael

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The Publisher’s Desk – Virginia Beach

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Chicago – May 1, 2019

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Bring the rain, indeed.  “Urbs in horto.” I have an elevated view to the west and see a haze of green begin to appear across the landscape. The uniform gray-tan of winter failed to reveal the amount of forest hiding in plain sight. We live in a place of seasons and humidity. Green things fill every space with soil and light. The geography supports rivers and flood plains. Good things begin with the rains of spring.

We see the results of balance and imbalance, don’t we? Yes, it snowed in April; no, the third ice-age did not begin.

I am convinced the little things each of us do, or refrain from doing as a habit, will make a difference in the long run. I now have re-usable water bottles instead of sacks of empties. Durable shopping bags are far better than plastic. Habits to change…conveniences I thought were real for some reason. The waste was just there. It has been the easiest thing in the world to embrace a solution.

We celebrate the rain.


Welcome to Chicago, Baseball Fans… – Tom DeMichael

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The New Imperative – Joe Tortorici

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STUDIO RAT …a frame of reference

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Looking In – Rainee Denham

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Frank Kulak and Fred Hampton: The City Chooses Justice – Mike Kerr

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Radio’s New Wave – Brule Eagan

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Chicago – April 1, 2019

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“Soft Landing” – David Jewell

And so we turn the corner on a notable winter season. There were moments it seemed infinite…but we knew better, didn’t we? It was a time of change and new adaptations to the world.

One of the most significant subjects for thought is our environment as the condition of climate change is amplifying. I worry for my many friends up and down the west coast. Between uncontrollable wildfires and flooding, it’s hard to imagine the greater danger. These incidents happen with more regularity and intensity.

Here in the Midwest, our seasonal changes are commonly dramatic. Yet who ever heard of a “bomb cyclone?” Whatever you call the phenomenon, rural areas across the heartland are devastated, some will never see normality again in our lifetime.

My fantasy of retirement somewhere along the Gulf Coast is now tempered by the reality of a capricious hurricane season. The notion of a “season” has has morphed into “who knows when?” and their escalating power is frightening.

In spite of these concerns, spring is coming into view, literally and figuratively. We understand the issues and regardless of any political chicanery, the coming generation gives me hope for change. A part of the answer will be the accumulated small acts each of us make to improve our planet.

In the mean time, let’s get out for a walk! It will do us good.

Let’s also put the world’s nihilism aside and sit with a good book. The manifesto I repeat every month remains consistent: read! Read everything; read the good and bad news; read fiction and history; read the box scores! Encourage reading with your family and friends. Get away from the smart-phone and computer for a measured time every day and read. It is the greatest civilizing force humanity has ever known. It elevates us.

Many thanks to the talented eye of David Jewell for our banner image. May it be the first of many.

It’s a new month and the writers a Central Standard Time are here for you. We hope to start a conversation, listen to new ideas, and grow for the effort. We’re so glad you joined us.


I am proud to welcome Mike Kerr to the blog. Mike recently published his first novel, The Legman, and it riveted me to a chair from the opening chapter. Without spoilers, let me say it’s a story for every Chicagoan, and every reader that enjoys a mystery. You can find it at Amazon.

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40th Ward Run-off in Chicago – Roxane Assaf-Lynn

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Ruminations of a Reprobate Mind – Brule Eagan

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All Good Things – John Zielinski

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The Void – Michelle Jackson Jewell

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Mike! – Mike Kerr

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An Actor’s Everest – Rainee Denham

Mount Ama Dablam within clouds, way to Everest base camp


Gaze Into the Crystal Baseball… – Tom DeMichael

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Rationalism – Joe Tortorici

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Chicago – February 1, 2019

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Intuition – Jerry Siegan

Welcome to the big chill! Despite any conditioning we Chicagoans may have for such weather, it never fails to test our resolve. We have been fortunate for the past few years with relatively mild winters. This was overdue. We endure.

While the political world, local and national, continues to assault us with hubris and marginal ethics, the real world of human interaction reminds us of the dividends when we leave good things in our wake. The scope of support for federal workers throughout the “shutdown” was magnificent and exemplary of the true American spirit. Furloughed individuals manned the bread-lines and food banks to serve those in need. Chef José Andrés showed us all what faith and courage looks like. There is ample hope for mankind after all.

Grab your coffee, have a seat and join us for a few moments of escape. This month we talk sports, food, art, media, global affairs, and much more. Interact with the writers, ask questions and debate issues. I am so pleased you are here.

February’s featured image is the work of local artist Jerry Siegan. Jerry represents the best example of our quest to discover hidden gems in the visual arts. Visit his page for more work and be amazed.


Central Standard Time is proud to support Marc Piane’s fundraiser for MS. Join us and see an end to this malady in our lifetime.

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Bike MS: Tour de Farms 2019


When All Sundays Were Super – Brule Eagan

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An Artistic Intersection – Jerry Siegan

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Chef Janet – Stuffed Shells

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“Never” Is A Really Long Time – John Zielinski

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Cafe au Lait – Michelle Jackson Jewell

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When Do We Stop Listening – Steve Buschbacher

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Going to the Head of the Class – Tom DeMichael

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A Map of the Greater Antilles, Part 2 – Joe Tortorici

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The Publisher’s Desk – This Is Not Theater

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Chicago – January 7, 2019

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Welcome the New Year! Renewal is a worthy theme.

From a personal perspective, I recently celebrated a milestone birthday. Something about the Obsessive/Compulsive personality makes much ado about round numbers and my 70th year stimulates both joy and angst. I will never be the child prodigy my mother hoped for. Still, I’m here and able to have a few moments of fun with my friends. It all worked out rather well. My daughter counsels “Own it, Dad.”

Retirement from the music business is a curious change. It has been an adult lifetime in the studio working with some of the best in the business. I’m grateful. Perhaps it’s time to be a critic! If Neil Tesser and Howard Reich are reading, I promise you will be a part of the greater dialog!

Most of all, let’s resolve to be a kinder to one another and enjoy every day. Get a walk in. Leave good things where we pass. This month’s gallery of writers does so with their usual aplomb. We are so happy you are here.


List-O-Mania – Brule Eagan

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It’s the Top 10 Countdown! – John Zielinski

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Stage Fright – Michelle Jackson Jewell

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A 2019 Challenge To Myself – Marc Piane

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Calm In The Chaos – Rainee Denham

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Less Than Two Years To Go – Steve Buschbacher

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The Chill On The Infield – Tom DeMichael

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The Publisher’s Desk – Joe Tortorici

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Chicago – December 11, 2018

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The best of this holiday season to you all! The year was eventful and we each changed the course of history in our own way. There were goals reached and decisions made that will bear witness in the coming year. But enough of that…we are here to celebrate a time of love and friendship.

Personally, I revel in my new digs. The delay in this month’s post is testament to the degree of upheaval moving creates. Cardboard boxes and chaos will greet me for weeks to come. I tend not to move around and this location was worth the wait. The psychological impact is overwhelmingly positive. My sleep has returned.

Once again the esteemed writers in our orbit share their insights and remedies to the cold Midwestern winter…chili!! Enjoy these recipes from the crew. We are also touched with the spirit of family memories and the gift of giving.

To every one of you reading these pages, have the best holiday. Thank you for being here.

– Joe


Rainee Denham – Perfectly Imperfect

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John Zielinski – Home for the Holidays?

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Sam Freeman – Mainstream Media

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CHILI !!

Brule Eagan – Brule’s Shiner Bock Chili

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Steve Buschbacher – Championship Chili

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Glenn Estry – Glenn’s Two-Time Chili

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The January 2019 edition of Central Standard Time will mark our third year in this format. What a long strange trip it’s been…and more to come. The follow-up article to “A Map of the Greater Antilles” will offer potential solutions to the revival of our neighbor’s prosperity. The list of contributors continues to grow: Steve Buschbacher, Tom DeMichael, Rainee Denham, Brule Eagan, Joseph Gardewin, Michelle Jackson Jewell, Marc Piane, John Zielinski, Glenn Estry, and yours truly, Joe Tortorici, and many more.

See you then.

 

Chicago – November 1, 2018

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Photo by Ellen Harder

My thanks to Ellen Harder for her cityscape photo. “Great view from my rooftop, simultaneously beautiful and ominous…” A magnificent capture by any measure.

Something tweaks the air. The cold weather is coming. In the Midwest we give it names, “Alberta Clipper” is a thing. The ebb and flow of the seasons in these latitudes is a blessing to all humanity. The freeze culls out the old and weak so the species stays strong. Push me on to Lake Michigan in a rowboat with no oars. Abandon me on the ice for the polar bears to eat.

The truth is my complaints are small. Retirement affords me limited direct engagement with the elements. I can remember waiting on the El platform under the radiator lights, the top of my head burning and my feet numb with cold.

Our shorter days promote “seasonal affective disorder,” a term that produces the acronym SAD. Dare I say dark humor? I find the opposite emotions at play. The big city is a different kind of light and never really dark. Whether you love or hate the classic holiday season, it is an explosion of artificial illumination, a good deal of it joyous by intent. It’s time to plan an after-dark visit to the center of the city.

It’s also a perfect time of year to read. Get comfortable with a hot beverage and exercise the brain, open new vistas, envision other thoughts. Central Standard Time is pleased to bring you one of the finest writing guilds on the internet. Join Steve Buschbacher, Tom DeMichael, Rainee Denham, Brule Eagan, Joseph Gardewin, Michelle Jackson Jewell, Marc Piane, John Zielinski, and yours truly, Joe Tortorici, at the round-table for conversation. The floor is open.


Please like and share your favorite articles. Comment to the writers, we love that. Be sure to visit the Central Standard Time and Contact pages.


It cannot be said enough…VOTE. If you are able, reach out and help others vote. We, the proletariat, are given the opportunity to shape the government. Let’s do it well.


Steve Buschbacher – Functioning On Blind Faith

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Tom DeMichael – Where Did We Go Wrong?

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Rainee Denham – Get the Ball Rolling Or Not

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Brule Eagan – A Giant Dies

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Chef Joseph Gardewin – Food #7

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Michelle Jackson Jewell – Violation

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Chef Michelle Jackson Jewell – Food #8

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Marc Piane – Outside In – Connection

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John Zielinski – Fear Itself

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Joe Tortorici – A Map Of The Greater Antilles

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The Publisher’s Desk – By Definition

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