Friday, December 31, 2021

"Plague? We don't need no stinkin' plague!" The State of the Blog, 2021

Clown with Drum, by Walter Kuhn
Art Institute of Chicago

     Credit where due: 2021 wasn't worse than 2020. We could be almost a year into Donald Trump's second term. Think about that.
     An infamy that might still be coming. Which is the tone that pretty much continued through the year. Bad, but not worse, unless that's on deck. Yes, the plague, surging with omicron yet not quite as lethal (unless that's coming). The orange traitor separated from his Twitter bullhorn. For now. Still, hundreds of thousands more dying of COVID. And the former Liar in Chief's followers baying for his return, while inveighing our current president, Joe Biden, who at times seems maddeningly inert.
     Honestly, I won't blame Republicans if they corrupt and subvert our electoral system and place Trump on the throne, I mean in the White House, in 2024. Because they certainly telegraphed their intentions. Clear. As. Day. And the Democrats are doing that Three Stooges thing they do, dragging their hands over their faces and hee-bee-bee-beeing and bumping into each other in a roiling ball of confusion.
      In some ways 2021 was worse, beginning as it did with the Jan. 6 insurrection, a rock nadir in American history (unless it's just the warm-up). One I came close to predicting in my column that day, "The South shall fall again. And again. And again." At least I set the stage:
The Lost Cause marches on, as we will see Wednesday, when Congress faces another ego-stoked rebellion: Donald Trump’s insistence that his clearly losing the 2020 presidential election in the chill world of fact can be set aside, since he won the race in the steamy delta swampland between his ears.
     Of course, you didn't have to be Nostradamus to see that coming. Then and now. January also saw my most well-read post, "In Defense of John Kass," which got nearly 10,000 hits. Again, not setting the internet on fire. But not bad, though I think it's more a reflection of just how many people fuckin' hate John Kass. The blog overall got almost a million hits in 2020, though I estimate that between a quarter and a third of that are robots. Bad? Good? Who knows? As the poet said, work is its own reward.
     In February, we bade farewell to Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis. March began by joining the Night Ministry as they treated homeless 'L' riders. In April, we glimpsed one of the earliest movies in existence, police on parade in 1896, and saw how a newsreel caught them attacking protesters then lying about it in 1937.
     In May, EGD chowed down with a hockey billet family. June we said goodbye to our cat, Gizmo. July saw three columns, out of four, about picking up after dogs, including one on how blind people do it, which might be the archetypical Steinberg theme. I was proud of that.
     In August, we visited the S. Rosen hot dog bun factory. In September, it was two visits with top sound engineer Steve Albini. October marked the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire.  In November, we marked autumn by pedaling around Elmwood Park, looking at trees. And December, heck, I don't know, the continuing time-suck that is the Jussie Smollett case stole a few more minutes from my life, and yours.
     What does it add up to? Hell if I know. 
     Thanks as always to our Saturday star, Caren Jeskey, who stuck 52 landings, every single week, without fail, without ever being late or making me sweat, even while moving to Chicago and enduring all sorts of adventures here. Deep gratitude to Marc Schulman, of Eli's cheesecake, who blessed me with cheesecake, with advertising, and the pleasure of his insights. Thank you for everyone who read, and who wrote in, particularly those with corrections. 
     On Wednesday, I turned in the final edited manuscript of the book I was asked to write, based on this blog, by the University of Chicago Press. It was enormously fun to write, and I can't wait for he book to come out in the fall. So something to look forward to. Which is about all anybody can ask nowadays. Stay safe. Thanks for reading. See you all every goddamn day in 2022. 


  1. I don't thing Biden is inert, but Merrick Garland, what a useless lump of worthlessness he is!

  2. Thanks for writing this everyday. Always enjoy it and enjoy your highly intelligent and witty commenters. I believe this is the only blog that has that. I never see any trolls or morons commenting here, although that doesn't mean some have been edited out. Thanks as always and hopefully next year is a great year for everyone.

    1. That's exactly what it means. I just cut a comment from Sanford extolling a right wing kook. Not here. Though most jerks never even get their comments read: they're deleted automatically. Which doesn't stop them from weighing in. Maybe they get something out of it themselves. But the purpose of this blog is not to give a platform to assholes, at least none other than myself.

  3. I believe what you write. SO glad you were wrong but just barely. You went to a Trump rally and witnessed the adulation of the crowd in the early days. You wrote he will win reelection. I believed you, so glad you were wrong, just barely.

  4. Um, I think you were "pedaling" around Elmwood Park, not peddling, unless perhaps you have a burgeoning side hustle in door-to-door encyclopedia sales or something.

    Seriously, though, I have to agree with the others that it's so satisfying to be here interacting with smart people. I felt the same way during my long career at one IT company, enjoying the concentrated intelligence of everyone there (and my son is working there now, hired straight out of college!), as opposed to the cross-section of humanity you encounter in any job that requires dealing with the general public. I doubt I could read a sampling of Neil's In box without goggles and rubber gloves.

    I know the concept of the echo chamber, where it's tempting to confine yourself to only social groups who share your same views, but I think that's what makes them social groups in the first place, and I can't see myself enjoying life as much if I had to fulfill some minimum daily requirement to, say, watch Fox News. So carry on, Neil and everyone else, and Happy New Year to you all.

    1. Right you are, regarding "pedaling." Fixed now. Thanks. Happy New Year.

  5. "What does it add up to?"

    Among many other things, simply a place to reliably find something interesting to read each day. Whether new or not-so-new, freshly crafted or recycled, timely or timeless, provocative or charming, important or serendipitous, the astute and eloquently expressed viewpoints of the city's best columnist are a gift to be appreciated in this benighted country, year in and year out. Happy New Year to you, Neil, and to the usual suspects in the EGD Commentariat!

    Looking forward to the new book, too, though I can never quite grasp what takes so long to get it out there once you've handed it in...

    1. Thanks Jakash. In regard to your last comment, a lot of fact checking. I turned the edited MS in, it gets picked over again, then it has to be laid out—a font picked, pages designed, artwork incorporated. It's a lot of work, and the thing has to be done right and look good. I get the galleys back in late February. Maybe a bound galley by summer. It's a university press, so it all has to be rigorous. The results are worth it, in my estimation. Honestly, I enjoyed this one so much, they don't even have to actually print it as far as I'm concerned. Nobody's going to like reading it as much as I liked writing it, alas.

    2. Worth waiting for, I'm sure. Does it have a title yet, or is that a trade secret?

    3. It does: Originally the title was: "Every goddamn day: Neil Steinberg's Chicago." Which I thought had a certain austere beauty, particularly the "Neil Steinberg" part. But the marketing folks got ahold of it, and—I guess long titles are in, for search purposes perhaps—and it ended up, "Every Goddamn Day: A Highly Selective, Definitely Opinionated, and Alternatingly Heartbreaking and Humorous Historical Tour of Chicago." Which is fine. The title is "Every Goddamn Day." I'm going to dry to nudge the G and D into lower case. But I've had worse titles.

    4. Thanks. Interesting. Though "Neil Steinberg's" pretty much connotes "A Highly Selective, Definitely Opinionated, and Alternatingly Heartbreaking and Humorous" in 8 fewer words. As you suggested, brevity must not be in vogue when it comes to titles -- odd in this Twitterized era. I'm surprised that you'd have to talk them into the lowercase g and d, as that would seem the less needlessly provocative option.

  6. Q. How does he do it every single day?
    A. Very well.


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