Mark Guarino's Word Preserve

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Conviction of ex-mayor Ray Nagin: Does it signal new era for New Orleans?

Ray Nagin was convicted Wednesday of 20 federal corruption charges, many connected to recovery efforts after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He could face more than 20 years in prison.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer, The Christian Science Monitor

February 12, 2014

Ray Nagin, the two-term mayor of New Orleans who became the face of indignation following the failed federal response after hurricane Katrina, was convicted Wednesday of 20 federal corruption charges.

According to the federal government, Mr. Nagin, who left office in 2010, accepted thousands of dollars in bribery money, among other gifts, from contractors and vendors that swarmed New Orleans after Katrina, hoping to take part in the huge recovery effort. Some of the corruption charges, however, deal with issues predating the 2005 catastrophe.


Kanye West climbs a mountain of solitude at electrifying United Center show Tuesday

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times

December 18, 2013 2:35 am

They say it’s lonely at the top. Can we add paranoid?

At Kanye West’s hometown show at the United Center Tuesday, a mountain peak represented both. There, the artist climbed to the top, stood alone to sing, and eventually, at the show’s cathartic moment, the mountain broke open amid explosions and a simulated volcano eruption. He looked simultaneously mighty, but alone; fearless, but extremely paranoid. In other words, when you reach such heights, with no more rungs to climb, the horror is stasis — probably a close simulation of what fame feels like.


Can this Chicago community be saved? Hope rises in Englewood

In Englewood, a troubled neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, community engagement programs hint at a budding transformation. But some residents say it might take years for tangible changes to come to this 'cultural desert.'

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer The Christian Science Monitor

September 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm EDT

Chicago — In Ogden Park on a recent Saturday afternoon, children were playing, parents were chatting, food was cooking, and the music was pumping.

This might be a typical scene in summertime America. But it was no small matter in Greater Englewood – a poor neighborhood on Chicago's South Side that has been front and center in the city's struggles with a soaring homicide rate.


R. Kelly believes he can fly ... to new audiences

BY MARK GUARINO Music Writer Chicago Sun-Times

July 16, 2013 7:58PM

The Pitchfork Music Festival enters its eighth run this weekend with many of the most respected artists in the indie rock world: Belle & Sebastian, Bjork, Low, Wire, Joanna Newsom and the Breeders.

And then there’s R. Kelly. The Chicago-born R&B superstar holds the festival’s Sunday night headline spot, an appearance that comes only a month after a headlining performance at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival outside Nashville, another annual destination event largely consisting of white, up-and-coming rock bands and hallowed veterans. There, Kelly not only delivered a greatest-hits set backed by a robed gospel choir, he later joined Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes, among others, for an early morning live jam session onstage. In April, he appeared at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California, where he once again collaborated with an unusual suspect: French dance-pop band Phoenix.


Mother's Day shooting in New Orleans spoils parade tradition


NEW ORLEANS | Tue May 14, 2013 5:44pm EDT

(Reuters) - A Mother's Day shooting in New Orleans marred a century-old tradition: The second line, a community parade designed to strengthen pride in hardscrabble neighborhoods, residents said.

Police are seeking 19-year-old suspect Akein Scott in the Sunday shooting in which 19 people, including two children, were wounded. A gunman shooting into a crowd of people is a tragic event in any city, but in New Orleans, having it take place at a second line is perceived as a cultural affront.

"It happened during a sacred event — a second line," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told a crowd that gathered Monday night at the intersection in the city where the shooting took place.


Keith Richards calls Chicago a musical heaven

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times

April 7, 2013 11:30PM

On July 12, 1962, a band called the Rolling Stones took the stage at the Marquee Jazz Club in central London to play its inaugural show. The five decades between that date and May 28, when the Stones return to the United Center, has been filled with more than two dozen studio albums, several world tours, legendary debauchery, upheaval, and of course, that iconic songbook. Tickets go on sale Monday for the Stones’ three dates here: May 28, May 31 and June 3.

Guitarist Keith Richards talked last week about why he “can’t wait” to return to this city, which provided his band the blueprint to its sound, style and swagger via its rich R&B history.

 “Chicago’s a hometown for me,” he says. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.


Can Victoria Jackson return from the fringe?

After blasting gays, Muslims and Obama, can SNL vet Victoria Jackson really return to Hollywood? She hopes so


Sunday, Mar 10, 2013 06:00 AM CDT

Victoria Jackson’s career was nonexistent. So when the daffy blonde comedian who sang and strummed her ukulele through six silly seasons on “Saturday Night Live” decided to embrace her religious roots and become one of the zaniest and most incendiary Tea Party celebrities, well, she didn’t have a lot of other opportunities.

“I didn’t have anything to lose,” she says, from her home in the Miami area.

On “SNL” from 1986-92, Jackson starred with Jon Lovitz, Al Franken, Chris Rock, Nora Dunn, Phil Hartman and Julia Sweeney, and was a quirky yet beloved member of one of the 38-year-old show’s most enduring casts. But recently she’s had more in common with Dennis Miller:


'The Inventor and the Tycoon' tells a story of greed and innovation

February 23, 2013

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Tribune

The oligarchs of modern-day Wall Street have nothing on the rascally magnates of the late 19th century during the period of western expansion that brought passenger rail through the Sierra Madre and into the gold-plated hills of Northern California. After the gold rush of the mid-century came opportunities for small men to become big men who amassed a fortune in their lifetime and modernized the industrial age in the process.

That tidal shift is the backdrop of Edward Ball's fascinating "The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures," a beefy and rambunctious history that is both a Victorian-age saga and true crime mystery, complete with a court trial that suggests the current-day obsession with celebrities gone bad. This is also a tale of early cinema, the roots of which have nothing to do with storytelling, artistic vision or star power.


Rap’s killer new rhymes

Four days after Sandy Hook, Interscope drops the debut album of Chief Keef, who police say may be linked to murder


Chief Keef, the biggest new star in Chicago hip-hop, releases his major-label debut,“Finally Rich,” from Interscope on Tuesday, and the attention he’s received since early last year — over 20 millions views of his music on YouTube, major features on tastemaker sites like Pitchfork, an appearance this past summer at Lollapalooza and the endorsement of heavy hitters like Rick Ross and 50 Cent — suggests a positioning for household name status by this time next year.

Jettisoning to the national stage on a reported $3 million contract would be a dream come true for any other 17-year-old from Englewood, Chicago’s most impoverished neighborhood on the South Side, but for Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, the path to fame is complicated:


Is Taylor Swift being taken too seriously?

The last decade produced enough pop trash to fill a landfill. Which may be why we're so eager for Swift to be great


Pop stars tasked to deliver adolescent angst have rarely been so subdued as Taylor Swift. She is 22 and last month sold 1.2 million copies of her new album in its first seven days of release, an occurrence as rare in the faltering music business as a comet in the night sky.

That Swift defies the current economic model of selling music is not a surprise since she is a star made for this post-recession era of staycations, “Downton Abbey” and Prius sports wagons. Like any pop singer, she mirrors her time, and lucky for her, she didn’t emerge during the economic prosperity of the post-9/11 era when McMansions lined Heartland cornfields, weapons of terror were to be found in the desert and Arnold Schwarzenegger stumped for Hummer.


“Glengarry Glen Ross” revival shows us how low we’ve sunk

Written during Ronald Reagan’s first presidential bid, Mamet's greedy men almost seem quaint in our impenitent era


Maybe it’s the carpet-bombing cursing or maybe it’s the blunt poetry of the Chicago streets, but David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer winner “Glengarry Glen Ross” is always reliable for striking the doctrinaire dramaturges and other gatekeepers of the Broadway stage as a noble beast of a play for how it swings the double-edged sword between a game of grotesque verbal handball and a finely hewn critique of human greed.

You know the drill: A storefront real-estate office in Chicago gets jacked of it prime leads, setting in motion a buzzard’s den of penny-ante salesmen who argue, whine and eventually knife each other in the back to survive, just like they do in the cubicle farms that grow the worst in human relations.


'The Hobbit' is a tale that begs to be read aloud

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Tribune

3:18 p.m. CST, December 21, 2012

Bilbo Baggins, the head hobbit in J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 novel, may be diminutive in stature, but the marketing blitz associated with this month's film treatment of his adventures is as tall as the starting lineup of the Chicago Bulls: a Middle-earthsmartphone from Microsoft, "Hobbit"-related block sets from Legos, video games for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and even a "Hobbit"-inspired menu at your neighborhood Denny's.

"Gandalf's Gobble Melt" anyone?

Of course, when Tolkien first published "The Hobbit," all of this was hard to conceive. Marketers had faint reach into living rooms, and besides the radio console and phonograph, the greatest mass entertainment families turned to for enjoyment in the home was reading.


New Orleans sees revival of historic streetcars


NEW ORLEANS | Sat Oct 27, 2012 12:58pm EDT

(Reuters) - New Orleans, once crisscrossed by sprawling streetcar lines, is embracing anew the rumbling reminder of the city's storied and elegant past by restoring old lines and seeking to build new ones.

In January, a mile-long streetcar line connecting the tourist area of the French Quarter to the city's Amtrak terminal is scheduled to open, becoming the fourth streetcar corridor in the city. Two more are proposed, the first of those anticipated to break ground in early 2014.

For a city where daily life was changed by the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, the new streetcars are a way to connect to history. Read more...

In Chicago, heat and homicide stoke fear and frustration

Chicago's surging murder rate is now four times that of New York. With drug cartels battling for turf and gang warfare turning chaotic, how can the Windy City get a handle on its homicides?

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer The Christian Science Monitor

posted July 18, 2012 at 9:07 am EDT

Chicago - It's the weekend, but the streets are mostly empty in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's impoverished far West Side.

"It's summertime! You don't see any kids out here," says Darrell Turner, grilling spits of meat as soul music blares from a radio. "They're too scared to come out." A squeeze of lighter fluid stokes the flames higher. He shakes his head: "different times."


The new celluloid heroes

Preservationists springboard off audience enthusiasm for 'Hugo' and 'The Artist' to revive old-school films.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor
posted March 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm EDT

Amid the fanciful 3-D technology and the story of two children navigating the contrarian world of adults, Martin Scorsese's film "Hugo" pauses midway through and shows audiences why preserving early cinema is a cultural necessity.

The film's real subject, of course, is the French film auteur Georges Méliès, whose body of work - 531 films - largely perished in his lifetime, creating personal agony and professional irrelevance until a retrospective nine years before his death allowed him the wider recognition his work deserved.

His is an allegory familiar to many involved in film preservation today. "Hugo" and the recent Oscar topper "The Artist" both pay homage to the artistic beauty of early cinema, but they arrive at a precarious time for film as a medium. Read more...

The right to bear arms — in a US assembly

By MARK GUARINO (AFP) - Apr 3, 2012

CHICAGO - When Wisconsin lawmakers gather to discuss the business of the day at least one of them is legally packing a concealed weapon, amid the ever-present and heated gun law debate in the United States.

Wisconsin is one of just nine US states -- out of 50 -- which have expanded conceal-carry laws to allow gun owners to enter state capitols with their weapons, including on the assembly floor.

After the law was passed in November, state representative Bill Kramer applied for a permit for a Glock 9mm handgun, in a politically charged national atmosphere which saw Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot and badly wounded at a rally in January 2011.

Kramer says he began to be fearful for his own safety after a raucous standoff over a collective bargaining bill last year which saw over 100,000 people protesting outside the Wisconsin assembly building for over two months.


Super Tuesday: Mitt Romney woos blue-collar voters in Ohio

Mitt Romney is locked in a tight GOP primary battle with Rick Santorum for Ohio, perhaps the biggest prize on Super Tuesday. On Monday he campaigned in blue-collar Youngstown.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer The Christian Science Monitor

posted March 5, 2012 at 7:24 pm EST

Youngstown, Ohio - The day before Super Tuesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney brought his message of job-creation and increased prosperity to a part of the state that doesn't see many Republicans.

After courting a wealthier constituency in the Republican stronghold of Cincinnati over the weekend, Mr. Romney campaigned Monday in Youngstown, an embattled blue-collar city in dire economic straits that is trying to crawl back after decades of population loss and other forms of decline associated with the fading steel industry. Read more...

Tornado's aftermath: Illinois city is stunned ... and roused to action

The swath of destruction from the powerful tornado that hit Harrisburg in southern Illinois was quiet Thursday as homeowners looked through debris and mourned. But elsewhere the city buzzed with activity.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer The Christian Science Monitor

posted March 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm EST

Harrisburg, Ill. - When Michelle Gunning got a call on her radio before dawn Wednesday that a pregnant woman had been injured by broken glass, she didn't even know it involved a tornado.

Then Ms. Gunning, a paramedic, pulled her emergency vehicle up to the site of what is being described as an unprecedented natural disaster for this small city in southernmost Illinois: an EF-4 tornado, one notch below the strongest, that destroyed as many as 300 homes and 25 businesses, killed six people, and injured and displaced hundreds more. Read more...

Woody Guthrie in an age of 'Occupy'

On his centennial, tributes pour in for a man who made complex social issues deceptively simple through song and championed the downtrodden.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer The Christian Science Monitor

posted February 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm EST

Woody Guthrie did not know it, but his 100th birthday lands on a presidential election year, amid intensifying partisan bickering in Washington, a succession of state legislation to weaken labor unions, and growing discontent about the inequity of Wall Street wealth compared with Main Street distress.

In other words, Woody would be in his prime.

The songwriter, visual artist, and radical thinker died in 1967 and never saw the impact he made, not just on American song, but on generations of activists and artists who used his words and images as touchstones for making complex social and political issues relatable through deceptively simple images and poetry. Read more...

Chicago celebrates music history in revived zone


CHICAGO | Sun Jan 22, 2012 1:25pm EST

(Reuters) - Music that went silent nearly 40 years ago on an historic stretch of Chicago's celebrated Michigan Avenue is poised to return, thanks to an unlikely mix of rock stars, politicians and real estate developers.

Chicago has rezoned Motor Row -- near Chess Studios, the famed "home of the electric blues" -- as a live entertainment district, set to open in early 2013.

The building stock is "quite remarkable," says developer Pam Gleichman, CEO of Landmark America, Illinois, the company spearheading the project.

"This historic location gave birth to all this wonderful music that we listen to today. Chicago is astounding for playing a role in all that history." Read more...

Get Your Freak On: Shel Silverstein Tribute

I was asked to participate in Freakers Ball: A TRIBUTE TO SHEL SILVERSTEIN 8 p.m. Sunday, January 15 at the Hideout in Chicago. I'll be reading probably two fairly unknown Shel pieces while backed up by an all-star band: Jon Langford, Robbie Fulks, Sally Times and others.

Also reading that night are Nora O'Connor, Azita, Allison Cuddy of WBEZ Radio, Mia Park of Chic A Go-Go, Ken Nordine of Word Jazz, Mark Bazer from The Interview Show and infamous rock star groupie/sculptess Cynthia Plaster Caster.

Shel was a Chicago native although many don't know it. He went to Roosevelt University and started his career contributing sketches to Playboy. He and David Mamet were pals and early collaborators too. I also just learned that Shel was a hot dog vendor at Comiskey Park — you don't get more Chicago than that.

Visit for more details or click here. See you then!

Wilco: America's Greatest Band? Yep.

The Whole Wilco: After 17 years and 8 albums, the Chicago band knows how to take care of business. As founder and bandleader Jeff Tweedy put it, "young artists wait for inspiration. Other artists get to work."


Growing old together is something you aim for with your spouse and, if you are a musician and get very lucky, your band.

Jeff Tweedy is doing both. Wilco is now in its 17th year, is releasing its eighth studio album, which for those of you designing the spreadsheets, happens to be the third with its current line-up. The seven-year marriage among all six members is the longest lasting in Wilco and it suits Tweedy just fine, thanks. If the preceding three albums document the band's early courtship and shared musical attraction, the new chapter is the resulting brotherhood.

Which is to say they're not the Kinks. A lifelong fan, Tweedy is nonetheless relieved Wilco didn't become his heroes, known as much for their beloved literate rock canon as their legendary fisticuffs - "I love the Kinks but the dysfunction in that band would kill much lessor mortals," he says.


Muppet make-over: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy reintroduced this fall

It may not be easy being green like Muppet favorite Kermit the Frog, but sometimes it's even harder to be hip.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted October 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm EDT

While Kermit the Frog still may not find it easy being green, his movie company is anxious about more pressing matters: being relevant.

That's why Jim Henson's star amphibian is being reintroduced this fall in a new film that aims to please not just children but parents who still cherish the frog's folksy, banjo-strumming ways and frequent body slams by his longtime paramour, Miss Piggy.

The Muppets, those felt-padded anarchists known for vaudevillian high jinks, ruled 1970s television and launched a short-lived Hollywood franchise.


Retooling the Motor City: Can Detroit save itself?

A retooling plan for Detroit - involving controversial razing, shrinking, and repurposing - is under way as the Motor City tries to save itself.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted July 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm EDT

Detroit - For Dewayne Hurling, the American dream can only happen in Detroit.

Three years ago, the tow-truck driver purchased a vacant six-bedroom, 1928 mansion in the city's historical Boston-Edison neighborhood, where Henry Ford once lived. He bought it for less than $200,000, and for Mr. Hurling, life is good: Each of his six children has their own spacious bedroom, the grand staircase features custom-made woodwork illumined by a handcrafted chandelier, the third floor is an elaborate home theater, and the carriage house is now his immaculately detailed "man cave" that allows him to spend down time with his dog.

Raking leaves on his front lawn with his children, Hurling says his new neighborhood reminds him of the well-kept, close-knit Detroit neighborhood he grew up in, Read more...

Gulf oil spill aftermath: 'Drill, baby, drill' era may be gone forever

The Gulf oil spill was capped a year ago Friday, but offshore drilling is still far off its pre-spill pace. With a new regulatory agency putting a greater emphasis on safety, the industry might have to adjust to a new normal.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted July 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm EDT

Morgan City, La. - One year after the Gulf oil spill was first contained, the offshore oil industry is struggling to adjust to a new normal that could affect the Gulf Coast for years to come.

With federal government watchdogs policing offshore oil operations more diligently, the pace of oil exploration and drilling has dropped as the permit process slows. Read more...

Rod Blagojevich found guilty on 17 counts. Is it a turning point for Illinois?

In a retrial, Rod Blagojevich is convicted of corruption stemming from the sale of President Obama's seat in the US Senate. The former Illinois governor says he's 'stunned.'

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted June 27, 2011 at 8:42 pm EDT

Chicago -A federal jury convicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich of corruption stemming from the sale of President Obama's Senate seat, finding him guilty Monday of 17 of the 20 counts against him.

The verdict concluded a second federal trial that made the national spotlight for its moments of high drama and comic absurdity.

Outside the federal court building in downtown Chicago Monday afternoon, Mr. Blagojevich said he was "stunned" at the verdict. Read more...

Illinois abolishes death penalty, will other Midwest states follow?

Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill to make Illinois the 16th state to abolish the death penalty. Questions about the fairness of the death penalty led to a state moratorium in 2000.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted March 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm EST

Chicago - Illinois became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty Wednesday after more than a decade spent reexamining the state justice system, its record, and the cost of conducting executions.

A moratorium on executions had been in place here since 2000, after a string of death-row inmates were exonerated because of prosecutorial misconduct. Citing concerns about the justice system, then-Gov. George Ryan (R) halted all executions in the state pending a review and granted clemency to 164 death-row inmates before leaving office. Read more...

Chicago election results catapult Rahm Emanuel into mayor's office

No runoff needed: Rahm Emanuel, former US congressman and Obama chief of staff, wins a majority in Chicago election results to succeed longtime Mayor Richard M. Daley.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted February 23, 2011 at 9:26 am EST

Chicago - Rahm Emanuel launched his mayoral campaign here in October shaking hands at El stations, a rush-hour ritual that would become familiar not just to him, but also to most public-transit commuters in Chicago. One-hundred-ten stations and thousands of handshakes later, Mr. Emanuel is mayor-elect of this city.

The former White House chief of staff and Democratic strategist won a hard-fought battle to become Chicago's 55th mayor, succeeding incumbent Richard M. Daley, who announced in September he would step down at the end of his term. Read more...

On Gulf Coast, nail-biting over future of domestic oil drilling

Stricter deep-water drilling regulations mean Gulf Coast waters are likely to yield less oil this year. Energy firms may shift attention abroad.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer, Christian Science Monitor

posted January 11, 2011 at 5:24 pm EST

Amelia, La. — Three months have come and gone since the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deep-water drilling for oil and gas, but there hasn't exactly been a stampede back to the Gulf of Mexico to sink wells into the ocean depths.

It's harder now to meet the government's terms for offshore drilling in deep water, after last year's mammoth oil spill laid bare deficiencies in emergency planning and oversight. Only two permits for new wells have been issued since the moratorium ended on Oct. 12. Read more...

Gulf oil spill: Judge orders protections for people seeking damages

A US judge this week told claims czar Kenneth Feinberg, who oversees BP's escrow fund, to make clear to claimants that he is affiliated with BP. The system for recouping losses stemming from the Gulf oil spill is stacked against applicants, critics charge.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer, Christian Science Monitor

posted February 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm EST

A federal judge in New Orleans this week ordered claims czar Kenneth Feinberg to stop telling people seeking to recoup losses related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that he is operating independently of BP.

Mr. Feinberg administers a $20 billion escrow fund that oil giant BP established to pay out damages to fishermen, tour-boat operators, hotel owners, and others who lost their livelihoods stemming from last year’s Gulf oil spill. (He also oversaw the government compensation program for families of 9/11 victims.)


New Orleans makeover: economic boost or loss of a historical legacy?

Post-Katrina, New Orleans looks to diversify its economy beyond tourism. But plans for a mammoth biomedical facility mean historic homes will be relocated, or razed.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted December 6, 2010 at 4:40 pm EST

New Orleans — The parade crawling up Tulane Avenue in this city is unusually quiet. No one is dancing to marching bands. No one is cheering for beads to be thrown from atop a float.

That's because there are no floats. This parade features only modest, one-story homes more than 100 years old, jacked up on steel beams and dragged slowly by pickup trucks to their new location a few miles away. The procession is the result of one of the most controversial urban-planning projects in New Orleans since hurricane Katrina. On one side are those who fear that the city's historic character is being steamrolled by state and federal lawmakers. On the other side are those who say sacrifices are in order if the city wants to advance an economic comeback. Read more...

The Rahmfather Makes an Offer Chicagoans Can’t Refuse

By MARK GUARINO | New York Magazine


The name stops you as you rush to make your morning train. Rahm Emanuel has just slid his hand into your own and wants to know what's on your iPod. Or how you got that cast on your leg. Or when your baby is due. He wants to know and he won’t let go until he gets an answer.

"It’s an intimacy thing," Emanuel explains.

He is on the fast track to get intimate with Chicago. We are standing outside the Addison L stop on a Wednesday morning in late October, and Emanuel is reminding Chicagoans that he's back in town and wants to become their mayor.

So far, Emanuel

Residencies and Robbie Fulks: Genres, eras, styling all intersect

October 31, 2010

BY MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times

Robbie Fulks is not a musician who is comfortable standing still. Spin the wheel to hit any year, month, day or time and his performance at that very moment might land on a Flatt & Scruggs country-gospel tune, a lost pop nugget from Big Star, a Merle Haggard ballad, a Michael Jackson hit, a tribute to Vic Chesnutt or songs from Fulks’ own catalog known for their clever wordplay, big choruses and pockets of instrumental virtuosity.

Fourteen years after his album debut, he has found a venue to suit his idiosyncratic pursuits: a permanent Monday night residency at the Hideout where — starting last February and scheduled to continue into next year and, he says, “probably indefinitely” — Fulks is intent on introducing audiences to not just his own music, but to illustrate the sweet spot where musical genres and eras intersect, whether in the narrative, chord structure or, as in a recent week that twined the Monkees with Thelonious Monk, an ethereal solidarity that the musicians were challenged to seek and bring to life. Read more...

Soul music survivors: Mavis Staples and Bettye LaVette

Soul music singers Mavis Staples and Bettye LaVette bring a rare maturity and authority to the age of 'American Idol.'

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer The Christian Science Monitor

posted October 21, 2010 at 11:54 am EDT

Chicago — Maybe the ultimate indictment of the contemporary pop music scene is that two of this year's most acclaimed albums come from two women who can qualify for senior discounts.

Two new albums by Bettye LaVette and Mavis Staples are casting the spotlight back on both singers, whose lives and careers are deeply rooted in Detroit and Chicago, the soul music centers of the industrial Midwest where music became not just the soundtrack for, but also a prime enabler of, civil rights.

Their comebacks, more than 40 years after they recorded their first singles as teenagers, are not just the result of what happens when music is reintroduced to a new generation. Both albums are exciting listens because of the timing, nuanced tones, and unvarnished fiery exclamations of both singers. Read more...

The Harlem Hamfats: Rediscovering the real McCoys of Chicago blues

Benefit concert aimed at honoring brothers, who formed one of the city's first and most influential blues bands, with belated gravestones at historic Restvale Cemetery.

By MARK GUARINO | Special to the Chicago Tribune

October 1, 2010

Self-taught virtuoso musicians Joe and Charlie McCoy formed what many consider to be Chicago's first blues band and were commercial hit-makers whose influence can be heard in the music of Louis Prima, Chuck Berry and Led Zeppelin.

But the brothers, who migrated from Memphis to Chicago's South Side in the early 1930s, were paupers when they died in 1950. They were buried next to each other in unmarked graves at Restvale Cemetery in Alsip.

A benefit Sunday night at the Old Town School of Folk Music is aimed at changing that. Read more...

Jack White waxes nostalgic in bid to reconnect fans to music

Rock star and entrepreneur Jack White hopes his back-to-the-future approach to producing music will generate more creative, inspired recordings.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor
posted August 27, 2010 at 3:19 pm EDT

Chicago — On a recent Saturday afternoon this summer, Jack White leans back in his tour bus parked in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood and strikes an analogy to help explain why digital music is killing the tangible experience of listening to music.

"[Kids] don't know they're missing out on something. If movie theaters didn't exist today how could you explain it to a teenager?... But thank God movie theaters still exist. Thank God vinyl still exists. Thank God arcades still exist.... All those things are so beautiful," he says. "So if I'm going to be part of a record label, it has to be something that provides a real experience and not just the nifty trick of the week."

Waxing poetic about antiquated recording formats is likely not something that takes up the time of most corporate CEOs, especially when they're facing Read more...

She recruited Facebook friends to save Gulf Coast's hermit crabs

When park ranger Leanne Sarco saw oil-covered hermit crabs on the Louisiana beaches, she started her own project to clean and save them.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer The Christian Science Monitor

posted October 4, 2010 at 10:36 am EDT

Grand Isle, LA. — Leanne Sarco remembers the day she discovered oil in her lagoons. On the first day, a sheen appeared on the ocean water. The sheen grew thicker and wider, until by the end of the week it became clear that this wildlife preserve at Grand Isle State Park, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the fragile barrier islands of Louisiana, was in peril.

In the weeks following the April 20 explosion of a BP oil rig that sent some 172 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf, federal, state, and local governments; wildlife organizations; university research labs; oil industry groups; and contractors drew up plans to solve the litany of complex problems created by the huge spill. Read more...

For New Orleans, Katrina anniversary is both solemn and festive

Dancing, singing, mourning, and crying mixed throughout New Orleans this weekend as the city showcased the progress made since Katrina and honored those who died.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor
posted August 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm EDT

New Orleans — At a ceremony in this city commemorating the five years since hurricane Katrina, a brass band played a final round of music Sunday, and out of nowhere, Mayor Mitch Landrieu sprang from his seat to join the musicians onstage. What he then did would be almost unthinkable for most buttoned-up leaders, but here, it’s as much a part of the job as fixing potholes and cutting ribbons.

He danced.

Dancing, singing, mourning, and crying mixed throughout New Orleans this weekend as the city worked overtime to balance showcasing the progress made since floodwater covered 80 percent of its streets with honoring the 1,836 people who died in its wake. Read more...

Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy Team up for "You Are Not Alone"

POWER CHORD: The soul music legend and the Wilco frontman record a new album together

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Magazine

Mavis Staples has worked with some of the finest names in music: Bob Dylan, The Band, Booker T. and the MGs, Prince. Topping the list are her father, the guitarist and singer Pops Staples, and her siblings in The Staple Singers, the gospel-pop group that produced some of the greatest anthems of the civil rights era. But when she was told Jeff Tweedy of Wilco wanted to produce her next album, the 71-year-old music veteran had one reaction: “Oh, shucks, that’s great!”

You Are Not Alone (Anti-), out September 14th, is a homegrown affair. The seed was planted two years ago at the Hideout, where Staples recorded a live album that would end up nominated for a Grammy. Only 100 or so people were lucky enough to squeeze into the room that night; Tweedy was one of them. Two weeks later, he and Staples met up at a Hyde Park restaurant and shared a meal that stretched over two hours. “He told me about his family,” Staples says. Read more...

Would New Orleans levees hold for a second Katrina?

Five years after Katrina, New Orleans is rebuilding. The system designed to protect against future storms is better than before, but questions remain about whether it is fortified enough.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor
posted August 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm EDT

New Orleans — Normally, moving to a new house in a new neighborhood is a transition many can feel good about. But for Randy Pratt, an electrician, moving his family into a brick home in this city’s Lower Ninth Ward makes him shrug at the possibility of lightning striking twice.

He now lives a short walk from where a concrete barrier collapsed on Aug. 29, 2005, allowing rushing water to destroy the neighborhood that only recently started to rebuild. Does moving back to what many consider the scene of the crime make him hesitate?

“I’ve been around levees my entire life,” says Mr. Pratt. “I just hope it’s safe, that’s all.” Read more...

Hurricane Katrina anniversary: Can New Orleans' new mayor revive the city?

Mitch Landrieu wasn't mayor of New Orleans when hurricane Katrina hit. But he is now, and at the five-year Katrina anniversary, residents are looking to him to move the city forward.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor
posted August 27, 2010 at 12:03 pm EDT

New Orleans — Mitch Landrieu now owns the legacy of hurricane Katrina.

He was not mayor then. Moreover, he was defeated by incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin in an election only seven months after the hurricane left 80 percent of the city under water.

But he is mayor now, having taken office in early May, and it is now his challenge to bring to New Orleans the hoped-for post-Katrina renaissance that has never fully taken form in the five years since.

For much of the nation, this month – the fifth anniversary of the storm – marks a moment to chronicle how far New Orleans has come. Read more...

BP oil spill imperils Cajun culture

The Cajun culture has a rich tradition with deep ties to the Louisiana bayous. But the BP oil spill's impact on the economy and the environment is straining those ties.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor
posted August 6, 2010 at 12:54 pm EDT

Chauvin, La. — Darren Martin is a third-generation shrimp boat operator – and as far as he knows fishing may be in his blood even beyond that. His family has been rooted in the small winding bayous of southwest Louisiana since the 1700s, when the Cajuns of French descent were exiled by the British from their native Acadia, now eastern Canada.

With such a rich connection to the land and water here, it would only be natural for Mr. Martin to want his teenage son to continue the family trade – pulling up seafood from the Gulf of Mexico and selling it at his family's stand across from their ancestral home in this quiet town of just over 3,000 people.

Yet after years of hardships ranging from hurricanes to floods to shrinking prices and now an oil spill, Martin has determined that commercial fishing, a cornerstone of Cajun identity, is dying Read more...

The Big Easy bounces back with its own hip-hop beat

Dance-oriented bounce music, a hip-hop variant unique to New Orleans, is tapped by hitmakers.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor
posted July 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm EDT

New Orleans — New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz, a percolator of the blues, and where the early pioneers of rock 'n' roll recorded songs that have since crisscrossed continents, cultures, and generations.

All this music is still accessible on the streets where it was born – just stroll down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, visit its many festivals throughout the year, or tune into WWOZ, the city's cherished community radio station, to hear how much.

Yet as much as the city thrives by looking backward, the music that has served as the greatest economic engine of its residents of the past 20 years is hip-hop. Bounce, a hip-hop variant that evolved from the city's housing projects, has produced some artists who – unlike their better-celebrated elders such as Allen Toussaint and the Neville Brothers – sell millions of albums and whose music is sampled and recycled by mainstream hitmakers, including Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Lil Wayne. Read more...

Robbie Fulks Reinterprets Michael Jackson’s Music in New Album, “Happy”

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Magazine

When Michael Jackson died last year at age 50, the published, broadcast, blogged, and Tweeted tributes rehashed the sordid details of the King of Pop’s saga: Bubbles the chimp, the nasal surgery, his bleached skin, and so on. But all Robbie Fulks could think about was the music. “With Michael Jackson, the celebrity factor is such a distraction,” he says. “Removing that aspect and treating his music as just music is probably kind of a weird gesture, right?”

Answering that question is the newly released Happy: Robbie Fulks Plays the Music of Michael Jackson (Boondoggle). The 14-track album snatches the songs out from under the TMZ microscope to reveal the many dimensions of Jackson’s catalog, from playful to paranoid, and filters them through multiple styles, including country soul, bluegrass, power balladry, and art rock.

Fulks, one of Chicago’s most musically dexterous performers, planned to release the album in 2005 but got sidetracked Read more...

Dead Weather comes alive shopping new music around

May 24, 2010

BY MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times

The Dead Weather may be on tap to play some of the biggest music festivals in North America and Europe this summer, but on Saturday the band played for free to 500 people in a renovated carriage house in the West Loop.

The unusual setting was courtesy of Microsoft, which is staging several impromptu concerts this month to hype the KIN, a new mobile phone. Like five other concerts taking place in San Francisco, New York City and elsewhere, the Chicago concert used social networking to target fans and let them spread the word virally once the location and time was revealed late Saturday afternoon.

The hype delivered a line of fans that stretched outside the Marquardt Trucking Company, down Aberdeen and continuing west down Monroe. People showed up as early as 4 p.m., three hours before the doors opened and five hours before the band hit the stage.

Was it worth it? Ask the band. The Dead Weather just released Read more...

As BP oil spill fight continues, more areas closed to the public

As efforts continue to stop the flow from the BP oil spill, areas used for recreation and fishing are being closed to public access. It's a blow to recreational and commercial fishing businesses.

By MARK GUARINO Staff Writer | Christian Science Monitor
posted May 7, 2010 at 7:10 pm EDT

Robert, La. — With confirmed sightings of oil across a 50-mile chain of islands that line Louisiana’s Southwestern coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has ordered the affected area closed to public entry. The agency also expanded an earlier ban on fishing in the area east of the Mississippi River.

Last Sunday, NOAA announced a ten-day ban on all recreational and commercial fishing between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Florida’s Pensacola Bay. That set off alarms for the state’s fishing industry, which is the second largest in the US, producing up to 25 percent of the total domestic seafood in the lower 48 states. Commercial fishermen harvested more than 1 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish in 2008.

The Chandeleur Islands chain represents the first shorelines to receive oil from the April 20 BP oil spill and tanker collapse that NOAA says is releasing 210,000 gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico. Read more...

Gulf oil spill: Questions unanswered, residents try legal action

State attorneys general, commercial fishing organizations, and environmental groups are pressing BP to provide more information on the cause of the massive Gulf oil spill.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor
posted May 6, 2010 at 8:04 pm EDT

New Orleans — In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, rig operator BP has produced apologies, jobs for local fishermen to aid in the recovery efforts, and a promise to pay for all cleanup costs.

But what it hasn’t yet produced are answers to why the explosion happened and how exactly it plans to compensate local fishermen – unanswered questions that, three weeks after the explosion, are frustrating all those affected by the disaster, including leaders of gulf coast states and fishing operators.

“All these fishermen here are really uncertain of what the future holds,” says Lance Nacio, who operates a four-person shrimping operation in Dulac, La. “What I would like to hear is some kind of contingency plan for lost revenue compensated for damages now and into the future.” Read more...

Town where Katrina made landfall now braces for BP oil spill

Waveland, Miss., still bears the marks of Katrina in trailers, unfinished construction, and a closed waterpark. Now, the BP oil spill is threatening its coast. Residents wonder if the town can survive.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted May 3, 2010 at 7:36 pm EDT

Waveland, Miss. — The brand new fishing pier of this Gulf coast city is virtually deserted, and it is no wonder why. “All you hear on the radio is oil, oil, oil,” sighs Gabe Stockfleth, the pier’s manager.

Southeasterly winds are pushing acre upon acre of oil-darkened water from the BP oil spill toward Waveland, depriving the pier of its usual complement of fishers of red snapper, speckled trout, and wahoo. But the winds are also bringing something else: a sense of déjà vu.

This is the place where hurricane Katrina first touched land in August 2005. Now, it again stands as a literal beachhead for forecasts of catastrophe – a community whose needs are so dire that President Obama has given the mayor a special phone number to reach him directly. Read more...

Museum would sing praises of gospel

Facility would open this fall in birthplace of rhythmic religious music

April 9, 2010

By MARK GUARINO | Special to the Chicago Tribune

A South Side minister is hoping to create a museum to honor Chicago's gospel music heritage in Bronzeville, the neighborhood credited with the music's birth 80 years ago.

The museum is the dream of the Rev. Stanley Keeble, who is pulling from his personal financial reserves in hopes of opening it on Oct. 26. That would have been the 99th birthday of Mahalia Jackson, gospel's greatest star, who made Chicago her home at age 16.

A number of others in the music community support Keeble's efforts to call attention to such people as the man who put gospel on the map: Chicagoan Thomas Dorsey, a blues pianist, composer and later reverend. He took the fervency of the rhythm and blues he played Saturday night at the clubs to the church choirs he conducted Sunday morning. Read more...

Could rescue chambers have saved West Virginia miners?

Mine rescue chambers have been required since 2006, even though federal authorities could have required them as far back as 1969. But it's still unclear whether miners in this week's explosion in West Virginia could have reached the chambers.

By MARK GUARINO, Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted April 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm EDT

Chicago — Monday’s explosion at a West Virginia coal mine is becoming a possible test case for the benefit of rescue chambers, which federal legislators mandated all mine operators have installed four years ago to save lives underground in case disaster strikes.

“Mines in this country really haven’t been tested. This is the first test where chambers had been installed,” says Patrick McGinley, a professor of law at West Virginia University who enforced mine safety laws in Pennsylvania as a former special assistant attorney general.


West Virginia disaster: Will Congress take on coal mining companies?

Mining companies have been slow to adopt new safety requirements. Critics say the West Virginia disaster shows that Congress needs to step in. The industry says it needs clearer guidance.

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted April 7, 2010 at 6:10 pm EDT

Chicago — The deaths of 25 coal miners in West Virginia Monday in what is considered the worst mining accident in a quarter century is raising questions about whether a congressional overhaul of mine safety four years ago went far enough.

The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act, passed in 2006 in response to a disaster in Sago, W.V., that killed 13 miners, was intended to improve miner safety by mandating the installation of preventive and emergency technologies.


Casablancas' quickie concert doesn't quite satisfy

April 7, 2010

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times

He could be dabbing his morning oatmeal with a fork. He could be waiting at a bus stop by himself at 3 a.m. He could be asking a waitress which way to the men's room.

Or he could be headlining the Vic Tuesday on a solo headliner tour. Does it matter? Whatever motivates Julian Casablancas to walk onstage to perform, it never appears to be an interest in walking onstage to perform. The guy is simply b-o-r-e-d.

Yet, the singer, best known as the lead vocalist for the Strokes, is kind of the Peter Falk of rock: a disheveled, meandering, clumsy boho from Soho, who, when backed by the Strokes' machine-gunning rhythms and jackknife riffs, suddenly and unexpectedly comes alive. The tension created between their precision and his aloofness helped refresh the rock mainstream 10 years ago and has a grimy energy that holds up today. Read more...

Could the Hutaree militia have spawned a Timothy McVeigh?

One of the prosecutors who helped convict Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, says militias like the Hutaree are most dangerous when they create lone wolf terrorists.

By MARK GUARINO Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted March 31, 2010 at 8:52 pm EDT

Chicago —  A former federal prosecutor who helped convict Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh suggests that the great risk of America's growing militia movement is not necessarily in the militias themselves, but in their capacity to spark rogue actors like Mr. McVeigh, whose 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building killed 168 people.

Aitan Goelman was a member of the Department of Justice team that helped win convictions against McVeigh and Terry Nichols in the Oklahoma case. Speaking two days after nine members of the Hutaree milita in Michigan were indicted on charges of conspiring to attack police officers and "levy war" on the United States, he says that there are parallels between 1995 and now. Read more...

Hutaree: Why is the Midwest a hotbed of militia activity?

Michigan is second only to Texas in the number of 'patriot' groups, including militias like the Hutaree. It has a long tradition of spawning antigovernment groups.

By MARK GUARINO Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted March 30, 2010 at 8:22 pm EDT

Chicago — Michigan, the home base of the Hutaree militia, has one of the highest concentrations in the United States of militias and other extremist groups that see the federal government as the enemy.

Only Texas, with 57 so-called "patriot" groups, outstrips Michigan's 47, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit civil rights organization in Montgomery, Ala., that tracks hate group activity.

Nationwide, the patriot movement has grown dramatically since the election of President Obama. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of such groups increased from 149 to 512, SPLC numbers suggest. Read more...

Hutaree militia arrests point to tripling of militias since 2008

Federal authorities arrested nine members of the Hutaree militia, a fringe Christian group in Michigan, this weekend. The indictment alleges that the group was planning to kill law-enforcement officers as part of a plan to 'levy war' on the United States.

By MARK GUARINO Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted March 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm EDT

Chicago — The arrests of nine members of the Hutaree militia, a Midwestern Christian militia Hutargroup, are illustrating a rise in militia activity, which had been relatively quiet during the term of President George W. Bush but has shot up dramatically since the election of President Obama, experts that track militia groups say.

The FBI conducted raids Saturday and Sunday in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and suburban Chicago to round up senior members of the group, which a federal indictment released Monday calls an “anti-government extremist organization” intending to “levy war against the United States.”

The group is charged with five counts, including seditious conspiracy Read more...

Richer Norah Jones concert comes with strings attached

March 21, 2010

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times

When Norah Jones sat down to play piano, people whooped. No big surprise — after all, in 2003 the subdued mood she and it created on a debut album raked in multiple Grammy awards, sold millions of copies and ensured placement on Starbucks counters until the Columbian bean fields run dry. Like all mass successes, a franchise was born, which resulted in two follow-up albums over a subsequent three-year run.

Except this time, for this tour, for this album, Jones did not get to the piano right away. The whooping for the old reliables had to wait until eight songs into her sold-out show at the Chicago Theatre. Before that moment, a new, and evolved singer stepped onstage: She strapped on a guitar and before long, melted into a new band of stylists who presented songs that involved textures and grooves more layered and deeper than she had ever tried before.

For Jones, this is a fortuitous move.


Classy Jay-Z shows why he has staying power

March 19, 2010

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times

In the remaining half hour of his show at the United Center on Thursday, Jay-Z thanked and excused everyone in the audience who came to hear his most recent hits and then announced it was "overtime" — a chance for him to return to songs from "Reasonable Doubt," his debut album circa 1996.

Fourteen years is a generous sprint for a rock band, but for a hip-hop artist, it's an eternity. Shawn Carter, a 40-year-old rapper also known as a record executive, entrepreneur and Beyonce's husband, represents his own category — a hip-hop artist who not only is enjoying hit songs in his middle years, but who can still fill basketball stadiums when he wants to hit the road.

Yet on this tour, Jay-Z wasn't a wizened veteran or protective mentor -- two roles he could have played if he wanted. Read more...

Small Illinois town willing to be next Guantanamo

President Obama wants to ship Guantanamo Bay detainees to a rural Illinois state prison. Why are locals welcoming the detainees?

By MARK GUARINO | Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor

posted February 17, 2010 at 4:54 pm EST

Thomson, Ill. — As in many small towns, pride here comes in small doses: the single stoplight that hangs in nearby Savanna, the only one in the county; or the fact that Thomson is known as the "melon capital of the world" for its prodigious crop of summer's sweetest treat.

Quaint particulars like those are about to be upended in this Mississippi River town with a turn of events guaranteed to put it on the world map – and possibly save an area that is among those hit the hardest by the nation's economic decline.

President Obama wants to ship Guantánamo Bay detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center, a nine-year-old underutilized state prison in northwest Illinois, Read more...

Mariah shows why she remains the people’s diva

February 14, 2010

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times

Mariah Carey doesn’t have to be contemporary and she doesn’t have to be old school because she’s both.

At the Chicago Theatre on Saturday, the first of two sold-out nights, she showed the fruits of a 20-year career: a sampling of crossover pop hits spanning R&B balladry to hip-hop soul. Of course, the former suited her natural inclinations more than the latter — for a singer with such a titanic voice, a speed workout like “Obsessed” (a slick toss-off to Eminem, no less), sounded like calculated slumming.

Instead, her skills came to shine in her older material, which in her possession sounded as ferocious as ever. Yes, her voice occasionally scaled into chipmunk territory — a vocal talent as instinctual as her knowing when to turn it on. But what stood out in isolated moments of Saturday’s show was her ability to produce vocal riffs that overtook songs (“Fly Like a Bird,” “Emotions”) and pushed them higher into mighty pronouncements of pain, desire and inarticulate bliss. Read more...

Suburbs: The new face of America's poor?

Suburbs, not inner cities, are home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the US. Unfortunately, they don't often have the services to help.

By MARK GUARINO Staff Writer | Christian Science Monitor / February 9, 2010

Chicago — David Knox sits at a suburban Chicago food pantry, scanning local headlines that seem less dire than those that might sum up his own life at the moment: His home is in foreclosure. He lost his job in September. His wife is on disability after a car accident.

Mr. Knox lines up once a month at a food pantry in Hoffman Estates, a middle-class suburb just a short drive from the biggest mall in the area and the global headquarters of Fortune 500 companies like Motorola, McDonald's, and Kraft Foods. Knox, a computer programmer, used to be part of that prosperous world. But at 53 and with skills he says are rapidly becoming obsolete, he doubts his ability to climb back in.

"I'm older, and in a lot of cases they want to hire younger people," he says.

Knox, once a middle-class suburban homeowner, may be the new face of American poverty. The suburbs – not the inner cities – are now home Read more...

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