Not everything's about the election! Some interesting stuff we're reading on the Great Chicago Fire, Nickelodeon and two sides of the Catholic church:
Dispatch From the Great Chicago Fire: The recently published 150th anniversary edition of The Nation magazine includes a November 1871 piece on Chicago by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. That, of course, was only weeks after the Great Fire, and Olmstead describes the scene in a way that seems immediate today. Olmstead finds on arrival a city literally burned to the ground across a swatch of land one mile wide and four miles long. The fire burned so hot, he reports, it left "an extraordinary absence of smoke-stains, brands, and all debris, except stone, brick, and iron, bleached to an ashy pallor." The city reeks of "charred earth."
Yet he also describes a sober, determined Chicago marked already by a renewed sense of purpose and a resolve that "in some way it will recover, and that it will presently advance even with greater rapidity, but with far firmer steps, than ever before." The piece is edited down and the full text can be found here. But if you take The Nation up on its offer to download the entire issue online, you also get an 1865 review in which Henry James does his best to burn Walt Whitman to the ground.
The Envy of Every '90s Child: For anyone who grew up in a home with cable television in the '90s, Nickelodeon was a big focal point of their lives. That includes data reporter Tanveer Ali, who was most awed by the channel's Super Toy Run, in which some lucky youngsters lived out the dreams of every one of their peers and ran amok in a toy store only to go home with every single play thing they desired. Decades later, The A.V. Club interviewed two of the participants, including one who went home with four bikes. They turned out pretty normal.
Catholic report: Loyola University Chicago student Dominic Lynch bemoans that Catholic schools like his are undermining the Catholic faith, says senior editor Andrew Herrmann. In a piece in The Federalist, Lynch writes that Loyola "has by now almost completely trampled its Catholic identity," citing an annual drag show, hosting a pro-choice speaker and allowing a pagan club. In a profile by Catholic Education Daily, the political science major says, "I want to reform my institution because I love it and I see what it can be. I want it to be an authentically Catholic institution that is proud of its Catholic identity — not an institution hiding its Catholicism under a bushel."
On the flip side of the Catholic equation, the Tribune has an obituary on liberal Catholic writer Bob McClory, who left the priesthood to marry a nun and went on to author nine books. McClory was an associate pastor at St. Sabina from 1964 to 1971 and would later write a biography of the Rev. Michael Pfleger. McClory, who was also a journalism professor at Northwestern for many years, often wrote about race and the Catholic church, and could be particularly hard on bishops. The National Catholic Reporter notes McClory, who died on Good Friday, was given last rites and was "humorous to the end." He told the priest: "Hurry up, make it quick!" McClory was 82.
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