Speaking with grace and ease, a pensive network anchor compared the America of today with the one of a year ago. His script had the ring of media truth at the start of a new season. "How different the summer is going to be for all of us," CNN's Aaron Brown told viewers.

Crain's Chicago Business has reported that during the summer of 2000, just about everyone at Illinois House Republican Leader Lee Daniels' Chicago office was paid with state money to work on political campaigns.

Ninja-style nuns, two sets of twins separated at birth, woeful lovers, men vaguely resembling Elvis, and a society divided by religious differences. These and more are part of the annual Shakespeare festival at Riverside outdoor theatre in Iowa City, with The Comedy of Errors and Romeo & Juliet on stage in repertory through July 7.

Richmond Hill Barn Theatre in Geneseo is like something from an actor's dream. With "theatre-in-the-round" seating, high ceilings for easy lighting capability, entryways from four sides, and an intimate acting space, one would think any play could succeed with these standards. Even a weak performance can be positively impacted by quality set pieces and a connection with audience members.

If you saw John Music, the lead singer of Provoke, you would probably be able to guess he was part of the hardcore music scene, with the tattoos that peak out from his chest and run down his left calf. But looking at Terry Johnson from another local hardcore/progressive band named Transmission 13, you could never guess that they had any affiliation at all.

A lot has changed about the annual Miss America Pageant, starting at the bottom rung of a tiered process that used to elevate women for their beauty and performing talents, but now rewards them more for their community service, grasp of current issues, and career goals.

It's easy to blame the legislative leaders at the Illinois statehouse for accumulating so much power. I've done it a lot, myself.

Dozens of reforms have been proposed to curtail their influence.

The leaders raise the vast majority of all legislative campaign cash, so some reformers want to cap the amount of money they can contribute to candidates.

• This Tuesday the Fuel 2000 label issues Ride Pony Ride, a terrific new anthology documenting The Golden Palominos and the band's 1980s underground avant-funk clique. Built on the rhythm of drummer and bandleader Anton Fier, the group's ever-changing coil featured ace players such as saxophonist John Zorn, guitarists Nicky Skopelitis and Arto Lindsay, and bassists Bill Laswell and Jamaaladeen Tacuma.

I think we might have missed the trees for the forest last week.

Many major media outlets just barely skimmed the charges last week when federal prosecutors indicted three of Illinois Governor George Ryan's friends.

Ten years ago, Bill Holland was one of the most hated people in the Illinois Statehouse.

As Democratic Senate President Phil Rock's chief of staff, Holland had a difficult assignment. Rock was a nice man.