American Statesmen –

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Before introducing this month’s articles, it is worthwhile for every American to reflect on some of the unsung heroes populating the halls of our government. Theirs is an unwavering path of significance.


In January of this year. I enrolled in an honors course examining International Relations. The class, through the City Colleges of Chicago, was uniquely chosen to participate in a State Department program called The Diplomacy Lab. Launched in 2013, this is a Public-Private Partnership that enables the State Department to “course-source” research and innovation related to foreign policy challenges by harnessing the efforts of students and faculty experts at colleges and universities across the United States.

Within the structure of Public/Private Partnerships, we examined social entrepreneurship, the State Department’s Global Partnership Initiative, USAID , and a variety of programs addressing issues around the globe: children’s rights and public works in India, land rights in Thailand, citizen sector and renewable energy in Brazil, public health in Nigeria, environmental concerns in Iceland, microfinance in Bangladesh, and nascent entrepreneurship throughout Central and South America.

My class interacted, one on one, with representatives from the State Department and other universities in the evaluation of selected social programs. It was the experience of a lifetime. Thank you, Professor Mayer.

A potent example of unified effort can be found in this TED Talk:

Myriam Sidibe – The simple power of handwashing

I find myself in awe of the career diplomats we met. If they had a partisan dogma, it was never evident. Theirs is a world of global perspective and a deep sense of responsibility for utilizing the vast resources of our country in an effort to address real-world problems. These are dedicated people that see possibilities through countless improbabilities, venerating the art of statesmanship. They function with little fanfare, remaining the quiet steady force of an America we seldom acknowledge. It was a humbling example of true patriotism.

I learned the community of nations operates most productively at the conference table. Civility, language, accountability, and the nature of practical debate are more formidable than any force of arms. The future belongs to this conviction.

Within the tsunami of reading required to survive this course, Professor Mayer included two exceptional books. For those interested in world affairs, I highly recommend:

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It – Collier, Paul. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)

The Wilsonian Moment: Self-determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism – Manela, Erez. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)


I can’t overstate the superlatives when speaking about the exceptional, talented people contributing to this blog. Yet, once again, they exceed every expectation. Please welcome a new page to this humble effort, KIOSK. Quips, commentary, music, poetry, marginalia, all will find a path to the village square of Central Standard Time.

Brule Eagan reports from Los Fresnos, where everything is Texas-sized…including the future, in Land of the Giants.”

Steve Buschbacher never shies from the most difficult questions and his essay Liberal Media? gets to the point. Let’s talk reality.

John Zielinski proves unequivocally “All that we can control is the now” in his insightful essay It’s About Time.”

Tom DeMichael has few peers when it comes to the topic of baseball. Tom breaks down the current highs and lows of our Cubs and White Sox in Crosstown.”

Marc Piane is back with brain food. When Marc’s research includes Monty Python, his philosophical perspective Thinking Critically vs Being Critical is likely to include an Argument Clinic.

Our new page, KIOSK, will begin the urban affectation for violating “Post No Bills.” This month we are treated to some verse from Rebecca Francescatti and Linda Solotaire. So much more is coming for this part of our monthly presentation.

My 50th high school reunion is on the immediate horizon. It’s been months of reflection and wonderful memories. I hope my former class-mates will join me in The Reunion.”

Thank you for being here. Let’s take a break from the common and keep company with the uncommon. As always, fill your favorite mug with designer coffee and have a seat. Let us know your thoughts and wishes…this publication belongs to you.

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January –

GettyImages-855728_2640652aWelcome to the January edition of Central Standard Time.

As a child of the Sixties, socio-political awareness was a part of the era’s cultural framework. The best motives of those times are experiencing a re-birth. Through the rigors of daily life, economic survival, the ladder of success, or the “old ennui” Sinatra sang of, we start the new year with an air of activism. It fills the heart. The new generation of advocacy is broad, crossing lines of gender, age, race, faith, income…we are all in this together and it’s time to speak up.

The limit of my “front-page politics” concerns an apolitical epiphany. For decades, my disappointment with our government’s cavalier handling of money always crossed party lines. “Vote the bastards out” has been my rally cry. In general, the whole situation would be better served by some common business sense and capitalist principles. I now feel this is in error, deeply so.

The responsibility of good governance is providing for the least of our countrymen, while cultivating the best we have to offer the world. Tomorrow will surely arrive, and the enemy of that progress is poverty and illiteracy. Those poisons are as diverse as the population. Of all the resolutions made in vain at this time of year, stepping away from the computer and contributing to the betterment of our world is the greatest calling to which we can aspire. Coming editions will shine a light on new avenues of attack. The mindset remains apolitical.

This month’s offering of articles is nothing short of spectacular.

Joan Tortorici Ruppert joins the crew with a conference reflecting on the loss of so many music giants in Broken Records.

Friday the 13th would not be complete without our resident sage, Brule Eagan, and the big question: Do You Feel Lucky?

Always insightful, John Zielinski writes an excellent political essay about the big post-partum, This is Not the Piece I Had Planned to Write. Good stuff.

We begin chapter 2 of Marc Piane‘s “Outside In.” Night Hike takes us to the perfect moon.

Roxane Assaf-Lynn graciously allows us to reprint her latest article as it appears in the Huffington Post. Expose’ or Hip-Hooray is an entertaining journey, from departure to arrival.

The Grand Pubah of the dugout, Tom DeMichael, talks Chicago baseball in But, What Have You Done For Us Lately?

Our favorite blues guy, Steve Buschbacher has some questions about song lyrics in the modern age with They Don’t Write ’em Like they Used To.

And finally from the Publisher’s Desk, a conversation about self-control.

I am so happy you are here. Let’s have a morning or two of respite from the daily grind. Did I say “grind?” That must mean coffee is involved.

December –

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Welcome to the December edition. The seasonal mix of emotions are a study in extremes as we settle in for a few days off.

The normal sense of renewal that accompanies the New Year is tempered by the inexorable march of time…which waits for no one. We are a year older and a year wiser, hopefully. At least for the next few days, I will attempt to avoid political confrontations (though I erred already this morning). There will be time enough for those discussions very soon. Let’s have our holiday and think of the family and friends we hold dear.

In the mean time, here are some articles for you to read in the quiet moments:

Our thoughts dwell on the life of Charley Krebs and his untimely passing. A helluva guy in every regard. A true Chicagoan and gifted artist. His work will continue to grace these pages as often as possible.

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Foreign correspondent (Texas), Brule Eagan, flashes back on Christmas In Niles, 1963. Times were more simple.

David Edward Sims brings his unique spin to some classics of the season.

From the Peoples Republic of Philadelphia, our good friend Steve Buschbacher wishes us a Happy Holidays! and much more.

Regular contributor, John Zielinski, takes a good, long look at the election and asks the salient question, “What Now?

Resident baseball guru, Tom DeMichael, has Nothing More To Say…sure, buddy. At least for now.

With great excitement, this edition of CST brings you Chapter One of Marc Piane‘s much anticipated existential prose, Outside In. It is a singular journey of Zen and atmosphere. Perfect reading for this time of year. In addition, Marc penned an essay that gives thought to how we assess information in “Consumer Beware.”

Have the best holiday ever, my friends. Embrace the peace of the season and hope for its endurance.

September –

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Welcome to the September pages. This month we offer a diverse set of reading material from a lively and talkative group of very clever people. We mark the Equinox with balance and prudence…nah, let’s party!

Marc Piane continues his trek through the forest of self-awareness in a new chapter of “Outside In.” Grab your backpack, turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.

We are treated to more of Steve Buschbacher and his discovery of Philadelphia. Every evidence proves the truism “you can’t take Chicago out of the boy”…or something like that. His question is “Are You Comfortable?”

The Zenpundit, Mark Safranski, offers a wonderful review of  Bob Woodward’s new book “The Last of the President’s Men.” For those of us that lived this crisis in leadership, it’s easy to see the reflection of those times in our daily life. A must-read. More coming from Mark later this month.

The “Sports Oracle”, Tom DeMichael, runs down the state of baseball in Chicago as we head into the post-season. What a year it is turning out to be. Will the Bride’s Maid finally catch the bouquet? Tom gives up the details in “Here They Come, Rounding Third Base…

Charley Krebs graces several pages this month. Look for his current work on the “Publisher’s Desk” and his own page.

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I had the extreme pleasure of visiting with Brule Eagan recently. We are truly fortunate to have his intellect in our midst. That said, his essay speaks to “Writer’s Block.” Don’t ask, just read.

In an adjustment of format, a new page is added in place of my normal blog. The “Publisher’s Desk leaves our front page free to summarize and tag the content for each writer, each month. Navigation will be a breeze and indexing will allow a larger readership. This month is an indulgence in casual conversation: Genius and the Jester, and Great Expectations.

Drop us a line on the CONTACT page and help us improve your reading experience.

Coffee Notes:

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Sports – The Chicago Bulls waited far too long to rid themselves of Derrick “Albatross” Rose. As a result, they squandered the prime of Joachim Noah. I have been a fan of Noah since his NCAA dominance. He came to the Bulls under-weight and a bit scrawny. In the space of two years, he became an intimidating muscular force under the basket. We’ll miss him. Good riddance to Rose. His “thrash-to-the-basket” style never lived up to the hype. The Bulls’ front office will now get their just deserts.

RNC – Let’s count the number of times we hear the name “Ronald Reagan” during the course of the upcoming Republican convention. His term marked the first time I heard the phrase “trickle-down.” A fine example of the Reaganomics came in the form of taxing the service industry. Tips and gratuities were the backbone of working as a bartender or waitperson. Hourly rates were minimal in consideration of making decent cash during peak shifts. Ronny (and Nancy) decided this was a “hidden economy” and should be held accountable to the fed’. It would be interesting to find out how much revenue this actually generated. My guess is the amount can’t compete with corporate tax breaks.

Music – It is encouraging to feel the rise of original music throughout the city. Pay attention to these names: Dave Gordon, William Kurk, Jennifer Hall, Stephen Lynerd, Luciano Antonio, Andy Baker, Bobby Irving, Makaya McCraven, and Chris Greene. There remains a void in the area of new music for jazz vocalists. We all appreciate the classics, but there must be room for not only interpretation, but innovation. The city needs a new confluence of instruments and voice. Speaking of classics, let’s talk rock. Cover bands make money therefore bookings are robust. However, club owners owe a debt of conscience to booking original rock bands. Without moving forward, the real progress of the music industry will stagnate and eventually the audience for geezer-rock will go away. What then?

Speaking of Coffee – A wonderful book, rich in history and anecdote is “Coffee – The Epic of a Commodity” by H. E. Jacob (1998 edition). Minutia fit for conversation at the neighborhood coffee stop. It has been my experience that your local “mom-and-pop” roaster is a gold mine of discovery. Future chapters of Central Standard Time will devote much love to the subject. The “wine of Arabia” is the fuel of creativity. Pity those that don’t indulge.

 

Look East, Look West…

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The intent of this site is to suggest more than a solitary blogger’s view of the world. Central Standard Time exists to be a catalyst for timely discussions and a showcase for contemporary arts. Impetus for this effort echoes the pivotal era of the Chicago Literary Renaissance.

Rising from the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago embraced the industrial revolution and the fundamental shift of American life from a rural to urban environment. In step with this cultural evolution came a wellspring of creativity spanning the intellectual and artistic spectrum that continued through the mid-twentieth century. It fostered the Literary Realism period in both fiction and non-fiction, and the ascendency of topical columnists writing for the myriad newspapers of the day. The Jazz Age was about to transform Chicago and the world. Art Nouveau gave way to Picasso and Duchamp; the Modern Age was born.

I stand in awe of the diversity during this period and how Chicago helped shape American literature. Henry Fuller and Theodore Dreiser wrote novels defining Midland Realism; prolific commentators and humorists George Ade and Eugene Field gave new stimulus to the daily read; Finley Dunne and his “Mr. Dooley” narrative spoke to social and political issues from a seat in his South Side Irish pub (of course); Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, and the immortal Ben Hecht influenced generations of writers; poets Carl Sandberg, Harriet Monroe, and Gwendolyn Brooks bridged the racial divide; Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” remains required reading in every American Literature course; in our time, Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, and Jack Mabley sustained the gritty narrative of urban life while Erma Bombeck made us smile.

Within this multiplicity were common threads. Each of these intellectual giants created his own world by authoring plays, poetry, political commentary, neighborhood novels, and an enduring slang narrative. The age of compartmentalized sterility was more than a century in the future. Newspapers and periodicals served as incubators for numerous literary careers; The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Daily News, Chicago Post, Monroe’s Poetry, Chicago Journal, Chicago Sun, the South Side Writer’s Group, Chicago Sun Times, and Floyd Dell’s Friday Literary Review. The new millennium offers a unique method for sharing information. We would be remiss to not use this broad avenue for illumination and entertainment.

In this spirit, Central Standard Time hopes to carry on the task of publishing compelling stories, thoughtful opinions, visual and aural beauty, laughter, and everything else that makes us human.

Look East…it is where the engine of our economy resides and our government refines the art of politics. It is the location of Boston and Philadelphia: cities every American should visit. It is a polyglot center of gravity and a destination for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Look West…the very essence of “pioneer” was born en route to the Pacific. A great Midwestern rite-of-passage is the iconic “road trip west” and one does not cross the Rockies, at any geographical point, and remain unchanged.

Look Within. All roads meet here. Join us.

…Joe Tortorici