Wait a minute, teaching kids to fight helps combat street violence?


It seems counter-intuitive, but what I’ve discovered since I met the very good people at the Chicago Youth Boxing Club is that teaching kids the discipline of boxing changes their attitudes about fighting. The CYBC is a scrappy non-profit, in the basement of La Villita Community Church in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. And it’s about much more than boxing. They seek to build the whole person, and have a big focus on education. And what struck me most was the number of adults — particularly men — who volunteer their time at the gym, becoming coaches, mentors, confidants and friends.

CYBC head coach Gabriel Navarro

Once a year, the church clears out the pews/chairs and lets the club put a boxing ring in the middle of the sanctuary to hold their annual Power Gloves tournament. And the community — predominantly Mexican-Americans who lover their <<boxeo>> — comes out in force, cheering on the local youths.

I’ve been shooting video there off and on for a couple of  years and finally put something together for NationSwell (with gratitude to Jacob Templin, who is the site’s director of video). Let me introduce you to Raul, Sajel, their head coach Gabriel, Ana, who keeps the place going, and the many people who populate the CYBC.


My riverside home the past few nights



When my friend Carolyn suggested I join her and her family and a couple of other friends at Grand Tetons National Park to give her a proper sendoff as she takes a new job in Washington state, I started looking for a place to stay. The lodges at the park were filled up, and since Jackson Hole is a rather resortish place, the prices for rooms there were beyond my budget. So I went to my new friend airbnb.com and searched. One place looked great, but only allowed multi-week rentals. But another listing looked intriguing – a tepee right on the bank of the Snake River in Idaho. Continue reading “My riverside home the past few nights”

Youth Voices Against Violence in the Roseland neighorhood of Chicago

Youth Voices Against ViolenceLast week, I produced this segment for MSNBC.com about Ms. Gwendolyn Baxter and the young people she works with at the Greater Roseland Community Committee’s Youth Voices Against Violence program. I witnessed one of their circles, where they open up and share about the toughest issues facing them in their neighborhoods. The topic of the day was gun violence, and why saying what you witness when you see a crime is not snitching (a fear that keeps many murders in the city from being quickly solved).

A mirror above the room in the New Life Baptist Church in Roseland, Chicago, reflects a circle of youth discussing the effect of gun violence in their lives.
A mirror above the room in the New Life Baptist Church in Roseland, Chicago, reflects a circle of youth discussing the effect of gun violence on their lives.


I’ve seen 34 of his 37 plays: Shakespeare doesn’t suck.

Last week, Ira Glass, the host of This American Life on public radio, saw John Lithgow command the role of King Lear on the stage of the Delacorte Theater in New York’s Central Park. [Read portions of Lithgow’s blog on preparing for the role here.] Afterwards Glass  lauded the performance, but took a swipe at the playwright. In a tweet he has since removed from his twitter feed, he wrote:

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The tweet stirred up a tizzy on the interwebs, with responses from the New Republic, the Chicago Tribune and a brilliant parody by ProPublica reporter Lois Beckett.

Before anyone could followup on her tweeted request and draft a re-work, Beckett took it on. Over as series of several tweets, Beckett’s Glassian/AmericanLife-ish reimagining of the fateful story of Lear as a TAL episode is told with perfect cadence and spot-on mimicry of style.

Continue reading “I’ve seen 34 of his 37 plays: Shakespeare doesn’t suck.”