After the Protests

Today some Chicago about 150 citizens* took to the streets during rush hour to bring attention to the problems they face on the Southside. Shootings, school closings, poverty are all serious in Chicago neighborhoods and the mayor isn’t doing enough about it.

A few weeks ago there was another group took to the streets for some of the same reasons.

I think the mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, should hold a televised (local or cable TV) meeting to brainstorm a list of changes that can really make a difference. Representatives of the marchers, representatives of the schools, law enforcement, and other stakeholders should be invited. Show the city what you want and how it can be done.

*This number was reported on Chicago Tonight on August 2, 2018.

Interactive Television

Back in the 1990s, when I worked at DDB Needham, Kevin, my boss and friend, knew that I was interested in screenwriting and he suggested I create a show for Viacom, which had three networks: MTV, VH1 and at least one other channel at the time. This show would emulate an interactive book where at different stages a choice would be posed to the viewers and they’d have to decide what the character should do. Then they’d be directed to change the channel to see the consequences of that decision. I designed some stories. Kevin knew someone at MTV and soon we were in contact.

The executive was a bit curious, but didn’t understand what technology was needed. The answer was simple: their remote. People would just change the channel to see the consequences of their decision.

Well, fast forward to today. HBO and Steven Soderbergh have come up with Mosaic, an interactive story which uses people’s phones and an app to view this show. Soderbergh’s got a reputation for good story telling so it should be well written and more than just a gimmick. Computer games have been around long enough so people expect quality. However, I’m not a big fan of HBO’s cursing and dark view of life so I’m not sure I’ll watch. Well, maybe if friends say it’s worthwhile.

Magic of UX

I had to watch this video for my Introduction to Technology for Librarians course. I love UX, i.e. user experience, but wasn’t prepared to be as delighted and inspired by this talk.

Josh Clark shares current and possible technology that’s based on how regular people operate rather than on what insider-geeks can cobble together (which is what he asserts the failed Google glass was.)

The talk runs 45 minutes, but the time goes by quickly because it’s so amazing.

Solar Villages

CCTV America, the Chinese international news service, has some rather interesting programs. I like to watch Americas Now for stories that don’t get told in the U.S. (Cable subscribers probably get CCTV so check your guide.)

On Monday I saw two fascinating segments. One was on villages in Mexico where a man is teaching people permaculture and trades so that they can better their homes and villages using recycled items and their own craftsmanship.

The other was on Argentinian solar villages, desert villages which use solar power in innovative, inexpensive ways.

I input the link associated with the Mexican villages story, but it seems to go to a story on illegal mining. If you go to YouTube, search “Americas Now Earth Day 2016.” Subscribe to their channel as it’s got some interesting stories.

Marshall Fields: The Store that Helped Build Chicago

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I thought I knew most of what there was to know about Marshall Field’s the still beloved department store that started in Chicago, but I learned a lot more about how the business started, who Field’s partners were, how big their whole sale business was and how subsequent CEO’s like John G. Shedd, of aquarium fame, behaved at the helm. Seems every descendant of a Chicagoan knows that “the customer is always right” and “give the lady what she wants’ were first said by Marshall Field and we know the various explanations for the naming of Frango mints, but there’s still a lot we don’t know and  Gayle Soucek enlightens readers on all aspects of Fields in a pleasant breezy style. It’s a quick read and pleasant till we come to the end when evil Macy’s takes over the store and changes the name.

Field was a good man, and something of a straight arrow. He held true to his credit terms — even after the Chicago Fire in 1871 when creditors wrote him offering to change the terms. He came from Puritan roots and stayed true to them. (His son did not and I for one believe Junior was shot at the Everleigh Club, another interesting Chicago establishment.)  The man was a genius with incredible foresight and respect for people. I wish I could have been in the store when it had a library, offered information (to provide tourist information, ship times, railway routes, etc.)  and accommodation bureaus (which booked theater tickets,made sleeping car arrangements,  checked bags, offered stenographer services, and more). Services didn’t stop there. One anecdote tells how a man told a clerk he was “mourning the accidental estrangement of his brother, who had traveled to Europe and lost contact. The word went out to Field’s foreign buying offices, and in a short amount of time the wayward sibling was located.”

The book mentions Harry Selfridge, the brash man, who worked his way up to partner, a position Field’s was surprise Selfridge had the audacity to ask for (Field’s planned to offer it and was just a more reserved man). It mentions Selfridge as originating the bargain basement and later buying his own store, where he always kept a portrait of Marshall Field in his office. So much of Selfridge’s store is an homage to Field, which is why the book connects with the PBS program.

The book ends with an appendix of famous Field’s recipes.

I still can’t stomach that and haven’t made a purchase in Macy’s since they took over. Marshall Field’s, State Street, was a store you could love in a way current stores just aren’t. We’ve got smart phones so we can make our own travel arrangements or notes on the fly and we can shop online or in person in countless stores, but this personal touch is largely gone or on the way out.