FOCUS/midwest

Founded in 1962 by Charles L. Klotzer

Archive for November 2008

The road to Kyoto runs through Illinois

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new-springfield-coal-plantIf President-elect Barack Obama is serious about curtailing U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, he may find that his biggest hurdle is his home state of Illinois. For Illinois is one of the top greenhouse gas engines in the country, if not the top one, and the development plans backed by the Democratic Party establishment will increase the production of climate changing gases.

Illinois’ claim to the greenhouse gas title rests on its dependence on two of the dirtiest sources of fossil fuel energy: coal and tar sands.

According to the U.S. government’s Energy Information Agency, coal-fired power plants produce approximately 34 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere in the United States, and Illinois is fifth in the nation in coal power generation. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, has pushed coal power as the key to the state’s economic future.

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November 28, 2008 at 2:58 pm

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Final “Reprieve”: Time runs out for celebrated poet

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finkeldonReprieve

The siren whoops at twelve oclock;
after the initial shock,
you know you’ve made it up the day
and now it’s downhill all the way.
Two times twelve around the face
one hand has gone, and one hand twice,
for nothing wound by worried men
has not come unwound again.
You lift a thoughtless hand to twist
the ticking insect on your wrist,
and think before you turn your back
that time will creep through every crack
and men instead of watches run
the day the siren whoops at one.

— Donald Finkel, from the September 1963 edition of FOCUS/Midwest. Finkel, poet-in-residence at Washington University in St. Louis, served as poetry editor of FOCUS/Midwest from 1968-73. Finkel died Nov. 15, 2008, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 79.

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November 20, 2008 at 7:38 am

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Paul Simon on southern Illinois in ’62

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paul-simon“In my home town of Troy, when I first came here in 1948, there were many people who really believed that there was a regulation that no Negroes could be in the city after dark. There are still no Negroes living this community of 1,800 people, but they have been in the city to sing in a church, or present a high school program, or simply attend a Sunday morning service. We are not so startled when we walk down the street and see a dark face. When my wife and I have had overnight guests who were Negroes, no one has said a thing. They simply assume that whom we want to have for guests at our house is our own business. The ‘issue’ is gradually dying.

“There still are struggles, but the direction is clear. Even the defeats indicate this.

“At Mound City there were two ‘attendance centers’ for one high school district. One, by coincidence (as far as the law is concerned), was all white. One was all Negro. Both were very small and there was no economic excuse for the two high schools existing. In the fall of 1961 they integrated — and fired all of the Negro teachers. The latter action is now being questioned in federal court. Read the rest of this entry »

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November 13, 2008 at 10:50 am

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“This beautiful thing”: World will end, just not yet

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pierceartSPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Nov. 11) — Frank Pierce is a local drywall contractor whose fascination with life’s mysteries led him to seek an explanation for everything.

One of the things Pierce says he’s discovered on his quest should be good news for people born before the ’60s: The world is going to end, but not until 2048.

Whew.

The basis for that prediction is frankly beyond my comprehension.

When Pierce met with me, at the end of June, the newspaper I was editing had just published a feature about crystal skulls, spurred by the release of an Indiana Jones film. That story drilled holes into notions that these skulls were of ancient derivation — something that subsequent scientific analysis has demonstrated — but the article’s subtle tone may have left some readers, including Pierce, with the impression that the paper was receptive to more tales of the supernatural and outlandish. Read the rest of this entry »

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November 10, 2008 at 5:24 pm

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Being Lincoln: Fritz Klein talks about life as an impersonator

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fritz-klein1SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Nov. 9) — Abraham Lincoln strolls into the McDonald’s on South Grand Avenue, buys a cup of coffee, and takes a seat. He’s dressed casually; his beard is gray.

He’s been back in his hometown for only a few days, and must depart soon for an extended tour of the East Coast.

Being Honest Abe is hard but rewarding work, says Richard F. “Fritz” Klein, who has been portraying the 16th president for more than 30 years and is considered one of the nation’s top Lincoln interpreters.

With the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birthday only months away, and a full line-up of events scheduled to honor the Great Emancipator, impersonators across the country are seeing a jump in bookings.

Not Klein, who says he’s been “maxed out” for years.

“I haven’t gotten more business,” he says, “but the people who call tend to call for bicentennial reasons.” Read the rest of this entry »

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November 9, 2008 at 5:59 pm