An absolute necessity in politics is to have friends outside of the political game. Most political types understand this and routinely delineate between their political friends and their "real" friends.

A lobbyist, legislator, reporter, etc.

Secretary of State George Ryan sat on a couch in his Chicago office, reading a document in early September of 1998. It hadn't been a good day. The feds were closing in, the media was turning against him, and election day was just two months away.

What a season under the cult of celebrity! Moby takes a beating, Lisa Marie Presley is single again, David Lee Roth is suing Van Halen, and Kid Rock is firing guns with Carson Daly on TV. Any assorted boyhood home of Eminem sets off a multi-million-dollar bidding war on eBay's real-estate site! Future Slim Shady Gracelands are popping up all over gritty Michigan hamlets.

The Federal Election Commission's vote on November 25 to allow campaign committees to pay a salary to candidates for Congress and the presidency might on the surface seem like a terrible idea. Why should fat-cat politicians be allowed to skim cash off the tops of their campaign war chests? Don't they have enough perks as it is?

But the idea has merit - a lot of merit, actually - even though it doesn't go far enough.

Congressmen almost never have much influence in Illinois politics.

The political class sometimes even ships them off to Washington to get them out of the way - often to keep them from running for a truly important job, like alderman.

Every legislative session has its own feel, and its own rhythm. This fall's veto session feels like death - in more ways than one.

One should never predict anything about what could happen in a veto session, but nothing big seems to be moving or percolating this fall.

Technology allows virtually all musicians to cheaply record and duplicate their music. The difficult part is getting that music into the hands of listeners. And that need is being met by a handful of small labels that have cropped up in the Quad Cities in recent years.

With only one exception, the home of The Nutcracker in the Quad Cities has been the Capitol Theatre in downtown Davenport. "We love it there," said Joedy Cook, executive director of Ballet Quad Cities, the company that puts on the annual holiday production.

Raised in Illinois, the current show at the Quad City Arts Center in The District of Rock Island, is a great show, a must-see. The exhibit showcases works created by more than 25 graduate students, alumni, and faculty from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal.

It's often scary to realize how quickly time passes. It seems a lot less than two years ago that I was composing a commentary to commemorate the River Cities' Reader's 300th issue. And the really frightening thing is that when I went back to look at what I wrote then, I had to trash my plans for this piece; I would have been repeating myself, in some cases nearly word-for-word.

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