Category Archives: Commentary

2nd Edition Now Available


I released Painted Black, edition 2 in early March. The content is the same, so don’t feel you have to run out to buy a new copy to compare text, but it has a new cover. Let me know what you think!

Painted Black Rehash: Student Homelessness

To anyone who has thought “Why don’t they just get a job,” I’d like to direct you to this article and CBS news video about kids who are struggling to do just that.

It is unwise to assume that homeless person you see on the sidewalk is simply scrounging off everyone else.  Many of the homeless are actively involved in furthering their education, searching for or participating in transitional programs, and yes, some even actually have jobs.  You try working a part time job for minimum wage and see how much money you have left over for rent after feeding yourself.

Despite the odds, and how it may seem to someone who doesn’t look closely enough, they are working hard to improve their lives.

As the school year begins in a down economy, Illinois educators are bracing for another rise in the number of homeless students.Last year, 35,619 Illinois students were homeless — up more than 1,800 students from the previous year and continuing a disturbing three-year trend.

via Student Homelessness On The Rise « CBS Chicago.

Painted Black Rehash: Remembering a Chicago Street Artist

This street artist is not someone I knew, or ever will know.  Because he was murdered in 2008.  I found out about his death when a blog I follow on posted a note that his murderer had recently been found guilty.

But he’s someone I could have known.  He graduated from the Illinois Institute of Art, where I used to work.  I could easily have walked past his art on my way from the Blue Line to Union station on one of my visits home to see family.

So even though I didn’t know him, I wanted to mention his art and his passing here.  Because really, he’s not that much different from a lot of the kids I did know on the Chicago streets.  Not a lot different from any of us.

Graffiti artists work over model CTA trains in exhibit

Street artists get to show their stuff legally tonight at the A.Okay Loves CTA (Chicago Train Art) show. About 50 urban artists use O-scale model trains for their tagging pleasure in the show at A Okay Official from 6 to 10 pm Friday (tonight) at 3270 N. Clark St.

One of the featured artists is Solve, who caused a stir this week on the Blue Line when he did an installation piece on seat near the Hobo Corner.

He stenciled the words “We are experiencing legal difficulties” on a TV, plugged it into the secret outlet, and sent it on its merry way into the morning CTA rush hour.

via CTA Tattler: Graffiti artists work over model CTA trains in exhibit.

Numbers Don’t Lie

But like words, numbers can be interpreted to serve a person’s agenda.  When confronted with the news that New York families are staying in homeless shelters 30% longer than they used to, the city mayor took a rather large leap of illogic.  Living in a shelter is “much more pleasurable” these days he’s quoted as saying in the article linked below.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg isn’t the only powerful, rich person who is out of touch with reality when it comes to homelessness.  That misconception is shared by way too many.

Read the article below to hear more about Bloomberg’s example of politicians putting a spin on facts to further an agenda outside of reality.

“The Mayor’s assertion that homeless New Yorkers are staying in shelters longer because they are ‘much more pleasurable’ is shocking and offensive,” said Mary Brosnahan, executive director of the Coalition for the Homelessness, in an emailed statement to the Wall Street Journal.

“Mayor Bloomberg systematically closed every single path to affordable housing once available to homeless families with vulnerable children,” she said. “His failed policies are the major factor leading to the record shelter population this summer. Blaming homeless families and suggesting they are luxuriating in ‘pleasurable’ accommodations shows just how badly the mayor is out of touch.”

via Mike Bloomberg And His 11 Homes Think New York Homeless Shelters Are Too Damn Nice. Homeless Disagree – New York – News – Runnin’ Scared.

How’s The Book Doing?

Now that I work from home so much, I have a lot of catching up to do when I finally get a chance to talk to a friend.  One of the first comments I get from people these days seem to be, “How’s the book doing?”

They’re not asking about the new book I’m working on, they’re asking about Painted Black which was published last December.  That much I can usually count on.  What I don’t know is how to answer them.

How do you judge how a book is doing?  If I answer based on the reviews and feedback I’ve gotten from people, I’d say the book is doing great.  The ratings that I’ve gotten have all been four or five stars and almost everyone has mentioned how reading the book has made them think seriously about homelessness.  Some have even said they now see homeless people through new eyes.

This, above all, is the measure of success I hope people are asking me about.  But if they really just want to know how many copies are sold, that’s where my confusion comes in.  In the first place, since I didn’t self publish, I don’t have immediate access to sales numbers.  Even my publisher only gets print sales information once a quarter.  In the second place, if sales are minimal, wouldn’t telling people that make it sound like Painted Black is not a very good book?  How do I even know how many copies sold equals a book’s success or failure?

I can say that Painted Black has not made any best seller lists.  It has not made me or the publisher rich.  It hasn’t even made me any money yet.  Do I wish more people would buy the book?  Hell yes!  But not so that I can say my book sold xxx,000 copies.  I want people to buy the book for the same reason I love to read books: to learn, to enjoy, to be touched by the world within its pages and maybe have their own lives influenced as well.