Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Donations surge following Obama's marriage equality announcement

Donations to Barack Obama from Chicago’s most prominent LGBTQ neighborhoods increased dramatically after he announced support for marriage equality on May 9, an analysis of Federal Election Commission data shows.

From May 9 through June 30, the most recent date for which FEC statistics are available, average daily donations from the zip code encompassing Andersonville increased 370 percent when compared with the same time period preceding May 9. The zip code that covers Boystown registered a 250 percent increase.

Donations to the president’s re-election effort are up throughout Chicago when compared with 2011, common for an election year. But other neighborhood increases are less pronounced than the upticks from those tied to the city’s LGBTQ communities.

Donations are up 230 percent from the zip code covering Lincoln Park, an average of 200 percent from the codes covering Hyde Park, 180 percent, on average, from those covering Rogers Park, and 150 percent from the code covering the Gold Coast.

“It makes total sense,” said Lisa Martinez, a writer for “The L Stop,” a blog focused on Chicago’s lesbian community. Martinez said that early in his presidency, perceived equivocations concerning marriage equality hurt Obama’s support among LGBTQ voters.

“But now that he says that he does support it,” she added, “that’s definitely getting everyone hopeful again.”
John Frendreis, the chairman of Loyola University’s Department of Political Science, also thought the increases were predictable. “The degree to which you would expect this sort of response really depends upon the salience of the issue to the members of the community,” he said. Frendreis saw Obama’s support for marriage equality as more significant for LGBTQ voters than his repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“It’s the difference between Truman integrating the military and ‘Brown vs. Board of Education,’” he said. “One thing affects everybody in a very important and potentially vital way. The other one affects some members of the community. [It] has great symbolic importance for everybody, but less personal involvement.”

Also at issue is the sustainability of the supporter surge. John Brehm, a political science professor at the University of Chicago who studies voter behavior, wondered if voters concerned with LGBTQ issues would remain enthusiastic in the months ahead. He said that sustained support would mean voters were using their personal networks to encourage others to back the president. By contrast, a drop in donations would signal the initial surge was caused by increased media attention. “Is it an effect that is a mass media effect, or is it a community mobilization effect?” Brehm said. “That seems to be an unsettled and kind of interesting question generally in political science.”

From Lisa Martinez's perspective, the latter is the case. “Everyone’s aware that if [Obama] doesn’t win this election, then, I mean, all these conversations that we’re trying to have are just going to go away,” she said, “because the Republican Party is so opposed to everything that we’re trying to do.”

Available donation data seems to support that assessment. In the first six months of 2012, the zip codes covering Andersonville and Boystown donated $203,557 to Obama. Romney received $45,011.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A description of the Emporium Arcade Bar in Chicago

To the left, an unremarkable restaurant. To the right, the empty waiting room of a darkened walk-in medical clinic. What’s in the middle is diverting people passing on the sidewalk. They’re coming closer and peering through the windows in amazement.

Inside the Emporium Arcade Bar, everything is new - the blonde wood of the tables, the pressed silver metalwork on the ceiling, the clean slate of chalkboards listing drinks, the shining steel beer taps - except the video games lining the walls. The arcade my father took me to on Saturdays was clearly partitioned from the outside world by the cacophonous crush of sound that met you when you entered, its hundreds of machines all blasting simultaneously at maximum volume. But here the sound is a comfortable mix of current party music and friends talking happily. The air is cool and fresh and circulating. The light is soft and low.

Except the light from Tetris and Asteroids and Space Invaders, and every other game being met with a mix of motives and moods. A grown man grows visibly frustrated by DigDub, his space-suited protagonist struggling to excavate the lo-fi strata of a subterranean maze, its blocks of color forming a digitized, deconstructed Rothko. I don’t remember girls at the arcade of my youth, but there are women here. A group of three laugh and shout as they spin steering wheels that control little trucks bouncing ludicrously over an off-road course. A man on a date plays Duck Hunt, but not too sincerely (for his date’s sake). He’s holding a plastic orange gun and bending awkwardly at the knees to peer at a screen designed to rest at a child’s eye level. Close by, a face is illuminated by Galaga, fingers blurring on a fire button offering the only defense against a relentless and oddly geometric alien onslaught that hasn’t broken formation in decades, forever dropping in the same synchronized unison and predictable increments.

We all remember so many of these games. The token machine turns a creased dollar bill into golden coins that clink as they’re dispensed. A boxing game - Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out - is my choice. The smooth plastic joystick is yielding. I dispense easily enough with Glass Joe and Pistol Hurricane, doubling their cartoonish forms over, but I struggle against the massive Bald Bull. He’s moving too fast. I’m taking virtual damage while desperately hoping to recall his weakness - body shots? uppercuts? - when I’m knocked unconscious. Bull’s pixelated face mocks me from the screen.

A smiling, long-haired guy spots my notebook. “If you’re writing an article,” he says, “mention they need a Frogger machine.”

Monday, July 9, 2012

Papermaking at Spunik Press

The following is an audio slideshow I put together after visiting a papermaking workshop at Spudnik Press in Chicago. Thanks to William Mason and Spunik for their participation.