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Light projection project planned for Merchandise Mart
Merchandise Mart

Elyssa CherneyContact Reporter
Chicago Tribune
One of the most iconic buildings along the Chicago River will soon become the city’s largest art canvas.

Starting in 2018, images will be projected on the Merchandise Mart’s nearly 3-acre river-facing wall, Merchandise Mart and city officials announced Sunday. The art installation is being designed to illuminate the Chicago River.

Publicizing the privately funded plan, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the project reflects the city’s commitments to investing more in public art and increasing access to the recently extended 1.25-mile Riverwalk.

“The redevelopment of Chicago’s riverfront is vital to our ongoing efforts to attract 55 million visitors annually to the City of Chicago by 2020, creating new jobs and injecting millions of dollars into our local economy,” Emanuel said in a news release.

The Merchandise Mart is 25 stories tall and stretches across two blocks, according to Myron Maurer, chief operating officer of Vornado Realty Trust, which owns the building. In addition to the river, the building is bounded by Kinzie, North Orleans and North Wells streets.

A company drafted to take up the project has done similar work for the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Empire State Building in New York City and other landmarks across the world.

A+I architects and creative studio Obscura Digital, the firms working on the project, are studying the feasibility of accomplishing the feat. City officials say the project also aligns with their mission of increasing public art, which in 2017 will draw $1.5 million in city funding.

echerney@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @ElyssaCherney

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune

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LOGOHave a meeting of the Chicago Literary Club to chair tonight in town, so snow storm or not, taking the train in from Harvard to the Ogilvie Transportation Center for the night’s festivities. Wish me luck!

To all my friends on Facebook: I am tired of the political bickering here largely based upon divisive left vs right party issues. As of right know, if you post such, I will read less of it and respond even less, unless I think I must, which perhaps might be too often, until I get used to ignoring you.I am not blocking anyone now for these reasons because I believe in open communications, but at my age, I don’t have to put up with any junk I don’t like. But I am tired of this BS, and it is making me increasingly tired of Facebook. One thing I swear to do is look vastly less at supposed news posted, real or fake, on Facebook, and I will turn again to direct news sources, which is easy enough to do with a few spare seconds. Thanks for the sparring, but no more, please!

I just saw an announcement that the Army has called for proposals from agencies for its recruiting account because the number of qualified young adults enlisting has been dropping. The fees available for such a new account, currently held by McCann Worldwide is shown to be up to $4 BILLION over a ten year period! That’s a lot of dough for recruiting.

Wouldn’t this be a good time to create a universal draft, which could not only save most of that $4 BILLION tagged for recruitment, but much more importantly, provide a training and service opportunity for all qualified young Americans in both the military and other federal service (such as rebuilding infrastructure throughout the nation)? It would expand employment and training opportunities for young people after high school, and perhaps before college or other technical career training.

One other by-product of a universal draft is that the citizenry, not only those doing federal service but their families, would be more engaged with the federal government, and develop a keener sense of what it takes to be a true American citizen. And, there would also be closer citizen oversight and participation in our federal government, because families across the land would be engaged in serving their nation, as well as benefit from the work of these engaged young Americans.

Once again, it appears, subject to final reports, that the dangerously antiquated Electoral College has “trumpted” the will of the people by delivering the Presidency to the person who came in 2nd place in the popular vote — the real American vote, just as happened in 2000. When will we learn? When will we fix this travesty and blow against democracy?

Here’s the link to my essay on the Electoral College and what to do about it.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/ClubExpressClubFiles/11539/documents/Ebeling_-Collage.htm?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIB6I23VLJX7E4J7Q&Expires=1478725159&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DEbeling_-Collage.htm&Signature=IbLBksbCNV0NHjZj9wV42DMpM9Y%3D

 

And here is what NPR is reporting this morning :

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton finds herself on the wrong end of an electoral split, moving ahead in the popular vote but losing to President-elect Donald Trump in the Electoral College, according to the latest numbers emerging Wednesday.

As of 10 a.m. ET, Clinton had amassed 59,299,381 votes nationally, to Trump’s 59,135,740 — a margin of 163,641 that puts Clinton on track to become the fifth U.S. presidential candidate to win the popular vote but lose the election.

Neither candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote — as of 10 a.m. ET, Clinton stood at 47.7 percent and Trump at 47.5 percent.

This afternoon, Vicki and I stumbled upon the 1998 film, “You’ve Got Mail,” which I’d remembered capturing the discovery of email as an intimate yet secretive new form of communication. But what the film really brought back is how much I miss the big box bookstores, which were then ascendant, as well as the more personal small stores they were replacing.

I recalled growing up with the likes of Kroch and Brentanos in Chicago, a high-quality small store where the best in books and bookish advice could be had, then the advent of Rizzoli’s in Water Tower Place, where they carried beautiful collectible photo and art books, and where I would spend hours soaking them up. When they closed, I recall stopping by Rizzoli’s original store whenever I got to NYC, to again wade among the wonderful books there.

And then there is Barnes and Noble, where I’ve enjoyed the coffee and croissants and magazines and book browsing ever since. When we run off to Naples in Florida in the winter, once we run out of beach and shops to visit, which is pretty fast, we always wind up at Barnes and Noble, wandering among the comfortable rows of books and magazines, and sipping coffee and rolls in the cafe.

Now, in 2016, it seems all the bookstores are increasingly disappearing — both the wonderful big stores and the charming small ones they replaced. I hear that millennials don’t care much for books — one has to find a place to keep them and everything is available online. I guess we are of another time. I have two small libraries of books, one at our Chicago apartment and another at our Wisconsin lodge, and another four rooms between the two places with bookshelves aplenty. As I wrote in a recent essay for the Chicago Literary Club, my books are like walls of old friends. Like old friends, they offer familiar retreats into good times and wisdom, plus new revelations, given a closer look.

Books I’ve read many times, and those as yet unread, all get my respect. Occasionally we sort out the wheat from the chaff among our collections, but, just like the now familiar internet and the ever-present Google-gate to knowledge, books continue to offer insight and intelligence unmatched except by the best of friends. And I miss those increasingly scarce bookstores, like those operated by Meg Ryan and Tom hanks in the movie, like so many homes away from home.

Watching the Chicago Cubs defeat the LA Dodgers last night, playing at Wrigley Field, was a delight, EXCEPT for one glaring, disgusting thing — the constant spitting by the players captured in slimy TV close-ups throughout the game. For modern people, the sight of curling up globs of spit is about tantamount to watching these young super-heroes urinate on the ground.

I’m occasionally reminded of the days of cuspidors (do you even remember that word?) by a quirky brass antique that I inherited from my acquisitory aunt, that sits aside my oak desk at Applewood Lodge. I doubt that it’s been used in at least 100 years, and the only thing in it is a page from Country Living magazine of March 1991 titled “What is it? What is it worth?”

The back of the turtle cuspidor opens when you step on the head to reveal a removable brass container, probably not large enough to contain one innings-worth of spittle from the Cubs game. They say there is a prime example of such a cute spittoon on display at Thomas Edison’s home in Ft. Myers, Florida. I’ve been there but we must have somehow missed it among all the other cherished mementos of Edison’s life.

The story tucked inside our the cuspidor says it was probably manufactured in England in the early 20th century, a time when such grotesque dribbling behavior was perhaps more in vogue. The  article indicates that my aunt’s spittoon might have been worth up to $750, even 25 years ago!

If we took up a collection among the TV viewers of last night’s Cubs triumph, I bet we might have raised enough to either buy one of those cuspidor’s for each spitting player at Wrigley Field, or perhaps raised even more to pay them to keep their torrid excretions to themselves.

Tonight, Lester Holt of NBC-TV, launched a new network political anecdotal series on NBC Nightly News called “Red, White and You,” which immediately reminded me of my 2012 election-eve copyrighted essay for the Chicago Literary Club.”Red, White, Blue and You.” My essay was about the use of colors in political campaigns. Good title; odd coincidence.

Here is my essay:

RED, WHITE, BLUE AND YOU

Or, The Color of Politics

An Essay by Charles Ebeling

Presented at the Chicago Literary Club

Election Eve, November 5, 2012

 

Copyright 2012 Charles Ebeling

 

Dedicated to the memory of my good friend and neighbor Marshall J. Goldsmith

Who was my guest at the Literary Club, October 24, 2011

 

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Some us recall a great 1986 film called “The Color of Money,” and no, cynics, it wasn’t about politics. That film earned Paul Newman the Oscar for Best Actor as a pool hustler and stakehorse, who enjoyed a glass or two of J.T.S. Brown Kentucky bourbon, my favorite beverage from college days.

But, unless I’ve missed a documentary or foreign film along these lines, I haven’t yet seen a dramatization called “The Color of Politics.” Yes, there is such a thing as “The Politics of Color,” but as social commentary, not as a film title.

“The Color of Politics” is equally real though, and has a long history. I first dabbled in the palette of politics on election eve, 2008, when I presented before the club on that occasion an essay I’d titled “One Collage Too Many,” painting a picture of the many problems inherent in the Electoral College system for electing American Presidents, an issue which still haunts us today.

I began that essay by reflecting these thoughts, and I quote myself: “Light begets color. And colors fan emotions. Facts and emotions churn together, and the resulting political party leanings are reflected in a patchwork painting – a colored collage of states on the map of America.” I discussed how that collage of strongly Republican red and equally reliable Democratic blue states left a relative handful of so-called purple battleground states where the election would really be fought out. As we all know from following the news, in this regard at least, over four years, nothing but the candidates has changed.

So now, amidst the final flames of another Presidential battle, I’m inspired to turn on a different political light – and I did say light, not right – and guide us into taking a closer and hopefully non-partisan look at the history and power of color in politics, not the ethnographic “Politics of Color,” but the just plain graphics of the “Color of Politics.”

We learned in school that the primary colors are normally thought of as red, green and blue. And what is color, you may be thinking? Victoria Finlay, author of a recent book called “Color: A Natural History of the Palette,” says this: “Color – like sound and scent – is just an invention of the human mind responding to waves and particles that are moving in particular patterns through the universe –

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and poets should not thank nature, but themselves, for the beauty and the rainbows they see about them.” She goes on, “Just as a prism shows us a multitude of different wavelengths — which our brains call colors – so each color has produced a spectrum of personalities.”

Color psychology is about how color influences human behavior. How people respond to color stimuli varies from person to person. Each of us can think about how we respond to various colors. How about you? One study on the emotional reactions to colors by Americans shows that 35 percent prefer blue, followed by 16 percent green, 10 percent purple and just 9 percent red. The study’s author believes that the dominance of blue and green may be due to a preference for certain beneficial environments in the ancestral world. Other evidence shows that color preference may depend on ambient temperatures. If that is the case, preferences for cool colors like blue and green should have been on the upswing this year of record heat waves across our land, while warm colors like red and yellow could be on the wane. Some research also indicates that women respond more positively to warm colors and men to cool. I wonder if a woman did that study.

Color psychology is based on several key principles. The first is that color can carry a specific meaning, and that is either based on learned meaning, as in use of red for stop signs, or biologically innate meaning, such as studies that show that facial redness is associated with testosterone levels in humans and that male skin tends to be redder than female.

The next principle is that perception of color causes instant evaluation by the person who sees it. Hence the placebo effect in pills. “Hot-colored” pills work better as stimulus and “cool-colored” pills seem to work better as depressants. The evaluation process forces color motivated behavior. Red is believed to increase appetite, and is thus commonly used in fast food restaurants, hence McDonald’s long use of hungry red in its rooftops together with the richness of gold in its architecture. Color usually exerts its influence automatically. Red seems to make time pass more quickly and blue more slowly. Lastly, color meaning and effect has to do with context as well. Red lighting in casinos is part of a strategic

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found to win more often than those in blue, even in the Olympics.

The power of color in politics might have begun with the Roman cult of purple, the hue associated with the ruling elite of ancient Rome. But it didn’t begin there, because the history of color and its association with power politics goes back much, much further.

Color and power go all the way back. Ochre – iron oxide – has been used for its symbolic purposes on every inhabited continent. Forty thousand years ago, natives in Swaziland mined red and yellow pigments for body painting. The word “ochre” comes from the Greek, meaning pale yellow, but somewhere along the way, the meaning shifted to suggest something more robust – earthier, browner and redder. Red became the first colored paint, and the most secret. Royal Aztec mummies were not only painted in ochre, but buried with pounds of it, for its magical power. The first white settlers in North America called the indigenous people “red Indians,” because of the way they painted themselves with ochre as a shield against evil. Red had for many centuries heralded the divine. Red still appears across Europe as a favorite color among the pageantry of the royals.

Mix energetic red with stable blue and there is the Roman or imperial purple, the symbolism of which is as associated with power and prestige as the color of royalty, and of the highest vestments of the clergy. Its presence at the center of both sexuality and power was played out at Cleopatra’s elaborate dinner feast for Caesar in 49BC, marking his victory in a key battle at Pompey. Her whole palace was lined with purple porphyry stone and satiny purple fabrics in what was described as “luxury made mad by empty ostentation.” On returning to Rome, Caesar had designed for himself a totally purple, sea-snail-dyed, full-length toga. Soon anyone else found wearing purple might be killed for their impertinence, and as time went by, at least considered militarily or politically important or perhaps just wealthy.

The Byzantine emperors continued the Roman tradition of the exclusivity of purple. Purple shared with gold the very connotation of triumph. The Greek words for the purple cult of Rome and Byzantium seems, according to author

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Victoria Finlay, to have a double connotation of the words “movement” and “change,” which to me seem to have some odd echoes in the political sloganeering of even today. “Movement,” “Change,” even “Forward?”

Then there is blue, derived from ultramarine, and the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli. The stone is found only in Chile, Zambia, a few small towns in Siberia, and most importantly, in what is known as The Land of Blue – Afghanistan. If ever there was to be a country singing the blues, its Afghanistan. Ultramarine paint was so expensive and rare that Renaissance painters, including Michelangelo, had to wait for their rich patrons to give them the paint.

Mohammedan blue replaced the rare celadon in the art of China’s Ming Dynasty. What was called Prussian blue by photographic pioneer John Herschel gave us the modern “blueprint.” By the 1950’s when American children could no longer relate to Prussian history, its namesake blue gave way to what the modern crayon companies called Midnight blue. I repainted my first car, a 1957 Triumph TR3 with three hand-rubbed coats of glimmering midnight blue.

Where does this all lead us? The red, white and blue of the American flag represent our nation. George Washington believed the stars were taken from the sky, the red from the British colors, and the white stripes signified secession from the home country. The Continental Congress passed the “Flag Act,” which ordained a national flag with thirteen stripes, representing the 13 states, in alternate red and blue, with 13 stars of white on a blue background. Our founding fathers recognized the potential of colors to communicate meaning. The white was symbolic of purity and innocence, the red, hardiness and valor, and the blue, vigilance, perseverance and justice. Americans may not know this lineage, but they respond viscerally as the power of these colors evokes patriotic spirit and unity as a country.

You may already be aware that in most other long-established democracies, unlike in contemporary America, the color red represents left-wing and social democratic parties, and blue represents right-wing and conservative parties.

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That use of red and blue emanated from the same institution that gave us the political terms left and right. At Westminster, England, the government, which is historically the conservative Tory party, sits to the right of the Speaker, and the opposition Whigs, which was first the Liberals and Socialists, later Labor, sits to the left.

Similarly, those who identified with tradition and the monarchy waved royal blue, while the rabble-rousing reformers waved the red flag. Green in most cultures is almost universally associated with environmentalist parties.

The practice of using colors to represent parties in the United States dates back at least to 1908. That year the New York Times and Washington Post printed color maps, using blue, yellow, red and green to represent state leanings.

While there were some bits of historical use of blue for Democrats and red for Republicans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the simple fact is that today’s Republican red and Democratic blue states, that we see, are an invention of the news media. It does not reflect any “official” color choices made by the parties. The advent of color television prompted political news reporters to turn to color- coded electoral maps.

One source says that from 1976 to 2004, the broadcast networks tried to avoid color favoritism by alternating every four years between blue and red for the incumbent party. Another source credits NBC’s John Chancellor for asking for a large illuminated map, and when Jimmy Carter won a state it would light up red and when Gerald Ford won one it would glow blue. All the networks followed, using different approaches. NBC’s David Brinkley made a telling point when he referred to Ronald Reagan’s 1980, 44-state landslide victory as being as blue as “a suburban swimming pool.” The accepted contemporary terms red and blue states, as a sort of shorthand for an entire sociopolitical worldview, were finalized in the 2000 election, not by some cosmic decorator, but by the long-term host of NBC’s “Meet The Press,” the late Tim Russert.

The day of imperial purple may be far from over. The so-called battleground states, lately known as purple states, are swing areas where both Democratic and

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Republican candidates receive strong support, without a traditional overwhelming majority for either. As we know so well, these are the states where the most political capital, in every sense of the word, has been spent.

If it weren’t for the archaic Electoral College, the entire national electorate would be divided into purplish communities and districts that are much, much smaller than states. As Princeton University’s Robert Vanderbei wrote when he unveiled his political map of a Purple America, “The electorate is not so highly polarized by geography. The U.S. is not as divided as the political pundits believe.” The so- called red and blue state standards may well be challenged again in this year’s election.

Cleopatra may have started something good after all, when she introduced Caesar to purple. With any luck, for the breadth and depth of opinions represented in our sprawling American democracy, that sumptuous blend of red and blue called purple could potentially become the newest and dominant “color of Politics.”

Then a bright young Senate candidate, Barack Obama, perhaps put the editorial color chart of America into an appropriately complex context at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when he described it this way, “We coach Little League in blue states and we have gay friends in red states. We pray to an awesome God in blue states and we don’t like federal agents sniffing around our libraries in red states.”

So, as modern politics continues to swing through the color spectrum, I hope that tonight’s reflections have shed just a little more eye-opening light on the convoluted and still evolving cultural history of “Red, White, Blue and You,” while adding some much-needed purple into the mix.

Chuck Ebeling has written and spoken on the need to reform the Electoral College. He is retired public relations executive at leading corporations, PR consultancies and not-for-profits, and the founder of the Ebeling PR-ize for cause-related communications at Bradley University and Loyola University Chicago.

 

Lots of happy faces have turned their smiles upside down thanks to the cynical idiots who have portrayed clowns as evil or frightful characters, in film and out on the streets. Traditional clowns display outsized happy faces and act out the glee of innocent children. They came down to modern generations in circuses and on early children’s television shows as colorful, happy-go-lucky characters, who could juggle and do magic, jump around and entertain in a jolly manner, make characters out of balloons, and even teach kids simple lessons of life.

How very sad that the contortions of humorless cynics are busy taking away that delight from a new generation of kids, and even the adults who recall happier times, but fear those who now sometimes hide behind masks of terror.

Some of the brightest people I have known and worked with created the happy personality, engaging appearance and educational content practiced by one of the world’s best-known and loved clowns, Ronald McDonald.  They brought life to his jolly demeanor, and helped him entertain millions of kids at birthday parties, special events, on TV,in schools and hospitals and even, sometimes at McDonald’s itself.

Now, thanks to the rabble who have turned some clownish smiles into toothy glares, and even threatened people on the streets, even McDonald’s has been forced to keep Ronald at home more often. Spoilsports, nasty adolescents, small criminals and grossly-mistaken people have tried to take the clowns away from a generation that needs small jolts of simple joy and happiness more than ever.

I was lucky enough, some forty years ago, to have been part of a group that put special places of comfort and relief for parents of seriously ill children on the map of America and around the world. They are called Ronald McDonald Houses. How did they get that name? Not because McDonald’s, as a major financial supporter, had recommended the name. Because one of the volunteers thought that the happy environment conjured up by association with Ronald would give these houses an upbeat and hopeful image. The image was a happy one, and kids being treated for serious illnesses could get a smile when they heard their parents or siblings were staying at Ronald McDonald’s house, and even visit them there.

Two generations ago, my family owned part of a circus, and my Dad and Aunt had circus horses to ride, and clown culture was part of family life. My own professional life was filled  with creating events and materials full of upbeat clown content: Ronald McDonald Shows, including school safety and environmental lessons delivered by Ronald, working with the talented comedians and others who trained and motivated those who played Ronald McDonald, naming a major national and international children’s charity after that very clown — Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Today, the explorers of artificial intelligence are creating human-like exteriors for robots, so that people will find it easier to interact with them. A clown face is but an exaggeration of a smiling human, designed to elicit a big smile in return. Anything else is not a clown, but someone’s dark dream. I say, “Bring in the clowns, the real clowns, and let’s smile again!”

As much as I personally admire John McCormick, who heads the Trib editorial board, I have never been more disallusioned by a finding of that august group than by their endorsement of Gary Johnson for President. He seems a dimwit, even by the languishing standards of the 2016 campaigns. As does Donald Trump. Only Hilary Clinton strikes me as having the deep experience, sound judgement and overall character and competence to be worthy of election. SupportingJohnson is a cop out in my mind, and one that could deliver the Presidency to an ill-tempered fool, who might throw away the American dream in some midnight whim of fancy and retribution.

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