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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Seattle, Washington captivated me. From sea to lake, environmental consciousness to grunge, the Queen City offers jarring art amongst ecological splendor. Here’s a bridge To Seattle From Chicago I hope you enjoy.

Copyright 2010

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Flat screen TVs above the bar and small flat screens stationed at each table allowed everyone at The Pony Inn on Belmont St. in Chicago to watch as the hometown favorite ended the city’s 49-year Stanley Cup drought.

The room felt as electric as the mesmerizing, glowing televisions, and energy built up as the capacity crowd continuously rubbed against each other and smacked high-fives.

When the concluding goal to the Blackhawks’ stellar season finally made its way into the Philadelphia Flyers’ net, there was a pause of commotion in the bar and on the ice because we weren’t sure it was a score yet. People breathed in, or stopped breathing for part of a second – and then erupted.

Below is a short video I took of the celebration that followed the final goal of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory. I hope you enjoy it. Congratulations to the Blackhawks for a game well played and an honor well deserved.

Copyright 2010

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Hot Potato, the little stories that fill you up, turned two today. Happy birthday little buddy.

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Live music is better, and live blues is best. Levee Town, a Kansas City quartet, occasionally drops by Chicago. Their music has a poppy, upbeat sound that moves people to smile and dance. They played at The Smoke Daddy on Division Street Feb. 20. Below is a clip from Levee Town’s recent show. The harmonica player is my cousin, Jimmie Meade.

Copyright 2010

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

"Sidewalks II: Reflections on Chicago" author and photographer Rick Kogan and Charles Osgood pause for a smile. Kogan will speak in Kankakee Library about the work. Later this month the library will host a discussion about another one of his books, "America's Mom: The Life, Lessons, and Legacy of Ann Landers." Photo by Chris Walker.

The Kankakee Public Library will have an unusual patron in-house this evening. And some might only be able to recognize him by his distinct voice, which floats on an octave so low it generates gentle rumbles on eardrums.

Chicago Tribune senior staff writer and WGN radio host Rick Kogan will be on-hand Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. to talk about his latest collaborative effort with former Chicago Tribune photographer Charles Osgood, “Sidewalks II: Reflections on Chicago.” This is the second collection of their well-known Sunday paper columns about intriguing people and places around the Windy City, and Kogan agreed to the engagement, in part, because he loves libraries.

Copies of the book, which will be officially released Nov. 13, will be available to purchase for the first time at the event. They will be offered at a discounted price, $30 instead of $40, and Kogan will be signing books after speaking about the work.

The Sidewalks column stories are primarily about the little things, everyday characters and peculiar locations that form the cultural textures of Chicago.

“The thing about Sidewalks is the stories are not stories that deserve front-page news,” Kogan said. “I just think that they’re stories that deserve to be told because they do address the sort of fabric of this area.”

The event is the third of six in the Kankakee Public Library’s current author and artist series. The library’s assistant director Allison Beasley said people will turn out for the event because they know Kogan and Osgood’s work, but they will be pleasantly surprised to learn how interesting and relevant the Sidewalks books are to any city in America.

“It’s certainly about Chicago and Chicago’s people, but I think it’s about human nature,” Beasley said. “It’s about the interesting kind of quirky side to people.”

Osgood, former Chicago Tribune photographer, will not attend. He said one of his favorite stories in “Sidewalks II” was “Honor Flight,” which was about an event where World War II veterans were flown from Midway Airport to Washington, DC for the day to tour monuments and other significant spots as a way to show gratitude for their service. A crowd gave them a warm reception upon their return.

“It was one of the more interesting situations I’ve been in because I had never heard of this thing before, but a lot of people have,” Osgood said. “So you have people of all ages from all walks of life that are standing cheering the Marines or the former servicemen as they get off the plane.”

“Sidewalks II” is the first offering by Sidewalks Book Company, which Kogan and Osgood formed this year. Kogan said if “Sidewalks II” is successful, their next release might be a collection of images from newspaper photographers, which he called “the most anonymous artists in contemporary America.”

The vibrant front cover of "Sidewalks II: Reflections of Chicago" by Rick Kogan and Charles Osgood is the first offering by the publishing company they began this year for the purpose, Sidewalks Book Company. Graphic courtesy of Sidewalks Book Company.

An exhibition including more than 60 large reproductions of Osgood’s Sidewalks photographs and Kogan’s stories opens Nov. 19 at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery downtown.

The next featured author or artist at the Kankakee Public Library will be Chicago filmmaker Andrew Surprenant in January, known for his work producing the documentary “The Atom Smashers,” which aired on PBS in 2008.

Copyright 2009

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Wanna know what’s up with healthcare reform? Me too. A recent trip to the northeastern quadrant of Iowa led me to the town of Waverly, population about 10,000.

This seemed like an ideal place to take the temperature of our country’s healthcare opinions because: One, about two years ago President Barack Obama got his start with a Primary victory in Iowa on the way to the top office in the nation, and two, since his inauguration Obama’s approval rating in polls has dipped from 80-plus percent to below 50 percent.

Arguably one of the contributing factors to this change in public opinion was the introduction of healthcare reform proposals. Business owners in this small Midwest town provided a revealing look into what folks think about healthcare reform, and why President Obama’s proposals have not always been met with open arms.

One Waverly business owner was concerned about the implications of expanding public healthcare. Bertil Anderberg, owner of two salons, Tren D Hair And More and Cost Cutters Family Hair Care, said America has the best healthcare system in the world. Why else would the Mayo Clinic be filled with international patients? he said.

The Tren D Hair owner, who grew up in Sweden, provides a healthcare option for his employees.

“I know all about socialistic healthcare,” Anderberg said. “That’s the worst possible thing they can do here. You are going to stay in line like a bunch of heifers to get some help from the doctor, and then he’ll give you a pill and say ‘come back next week.’ Then go in this line. He’ll give you a pill again and say ‘come back in two weeks,’ and then you’ll go back over here again.”

The business owners I spoke with related to the healthcare reform question with different, yet interesting and revealing, viewpoints.

American Family Insurance agent Kristi Demuth said she was conflicted by the healthcare conundrum. The 20-plus year insurance veteran said she sees healthcare reform from two different perspectives: the consumer and the insurance agent.

From the consumer point-of-view, Demuth said there are situations when people are denied insurance options based on non-recurring or dormant conditions. While she acknowledged the needs of insurance companies to impose these pre-existing conditions clauses, there are times when these rules impose undue financial duress on otherwise healthy individuals.

From the consumer’s perspective, loosening the pre-existing conditions clause would be an improvement, according to Demuth.

Demuth said she would also welcome reduced premiums. But that scenario becomes less likely if insurance companies make it easier for people with pre-existing conditions to purchase plans without as many strings attached. In fact, premiums would likely go up, not down, according to Demuth.

Waverly, Iowa American Family Insurance agent Kristi Demuth says she sees the healthcare reform question from two views: the provider and the receiver. Neither gives a clear answer. In fact, the opposite is true. It is complicated. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Waverly, Iowa American Family Insurance agent Kristi Demuth says she sees the healthcare reform question from two views: the provider and the receiver. Neither gives a clear answer. In fact, the opposite is true. It is complicated. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Demuth said more communication between doctors and insurance companies could reduce costs.

If you see a doctor who has followed your health history over a long period of time, and you have the same health concern, such as allergies, every year, an office visit might not be necessary in order to write a prescription.

“It’s different if you’re a brand new client to a doctor,” Demuth said. “I don’t have a problem with that. But what I struggle with is that continually having to go to the doctor when you know that’s what you have just because you’ve had it so many times.”

One business owner was disturbed by the concept of politically administered healthcare.

Government intervention could only make matters worse, according to Osage resident Vernon Martin. Countries with socialized healthcare put elderly folks at a significant disadvantage in terms of receiving care, the construction company owner said.

“I know a girl in Canada for instance, and she’s a nurse up there,” Martin said. “And what happens up there? The old people get pushed back. People that should be getting care, and they aren’t getting care because they aren’t sick enough to be serious. You know, you take a number. They don’t care. Right now at least the healthcare system is providing for the old folks.”

Martin, whose wife is also a nurse, said government intervention would translate into problems.

“The government’s trying to come in here and set up a health program that’s going to take care of everybody and supply everybody with everything – yeah right,” Martin said. “When has the government ever gotten their fingers into anything that they haven’t screwed up?”

While no clear solutions emerged from conversations with business owners in northeast Iowa, one reality did come to light: Americans, as a group, are at the same time passionate and mixed about healthcare reform.

Copyright 2009

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Originally published Oct. 1, 2008.

by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Video by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Chicagoans swarm Madison Street every weekday morning and evening walking to and from their jobs. A number of them are speaking, but they’re not talking to each other.

The commuters are talking on their cell phones, and some are using headsets and wireless earpieces. Their phones are conveniently tucked away in their purses and pockets. Some research published this year suggested this may not be healthy for human reproduction.

The study, published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine,  said cell phone usage by men might affect sperm quality. The research was completed by the Cleveland Clinic and was called “Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) from cellular phones on human ejaculated semen: an in vitro pilot study.”

The study looked at the effects of electromagnetic waves on human semen by putting it into two small receptacles and exposing one of them to a common model cell phone two centimeters away.

In  the 36 samples they tested the results showed a decrease in the movement and viability of the sperm.

Though the study concedes it was limited in scope, in part, due to a small sample size and having to test in test tubes instead of on live people, another study they also conducted had results consistent with the theory that cell phones impair sperm viability.

In the other study the researchers looked at more than 300 men, and reported a correlation between daily cell phone usage and sperm quality. The research showed that men who used their cell phones more than four hours a day on average also had the least vital sperm on average.

The scientists’ “Effects of radiofrequency…” report said the most significant finding was the increase in  what are called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). ROS is normally created in semen, and antioxidants bond with ROS, thus neutralizing them. This is good because then there aren’t as many free radicals. Free radicals can be bad because they have been associated with cancer formation.

What they found out was that the ROS increased in a statistically significant amount, according to one doctor.

Dr. Paul B. Odland at Columbia College’s Student Health Center said the research seems to pick up on a statistically significant ROS increase.

“The P value is a statistical measurement in which a P value of .05 means that the finding is less due to chance,” Odland said. “This is less than .05 (.022). So that means that it’s unlikely this is a chance measure. It’s suggestive that it’s an actual difference. So that would mean statistically significant. Actually what significance this has for sperm measure and fertility, I don’t know that.”

With the explosion of cell phone usage over the last 20 years and the subsequent growth of cell phone manufactures and carriers, a lot of money has been spent by consumers on these products. One cell phone carrier we contacted has yet to weigh in on the health issue these studies raise.

Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Verizon Wireless store supervisor Dwayne Garner at the 1105 S. State Street store said he was not permitted to comment on the issue. Garner said any comments made must go through their legal department. Messages left for Verizon’s Midwest media relations manager were not returned.

Some college students are not concerned with this possible cell phone hazard.

Columbia freshman and illustration major Mathew Hamilton was working out at the Student Wellness Center at the 731 S. Plymouth building. Hamilton said he’s not worried about the implications of the research.

“Maybe I will be more concerned if it turns out to be true,” Hamilton said.

Columbia student and film major Kyle Norwood said he’s not concerned about the possible danger either. Norwood said perhaps his future self will be mad at his current self for not being more cautious, but he’s so addicted to the technology it doesn’t bother him now.

Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Copyright 2008

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