unPHILtered – Phil Ponce's Blog

What the Heck is “Net Neutrality” and Why Should You Care?

If you are reading this, then you use the Internet.  If you use the Internet, then you should know something about so-called “net neutrality.”

We had an excellent segment last night explaining what it is and debating whether net neutrality is a good thing.

Should it continue to be a public highway where everyone is entitled to the same access and speed of delivery?  Or should the Internet’s 18-wheelers, the highway hogs who use the lion’s share of bandwidth, be charged more to get their content to consumers?

The ramifications one way or the other could have a profound impact not just on how fast you can download some content, but whether some content will even be available.

Check out the segment and give it some thought!

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What’s Your Favorite Nickname for the Lucas Museum?


Since the initial design for the proposed Lucas Museum was made public, wags have come up with a number of nicknames to describe it:  Jabba the Museum, Space Mountain, the Blob, the Melted Spire, the Mucus Museum, the Pile of Salt, the Big Bird Dropping and others too humorous to mention.  What do you think of the proposed design?  Thumbs up or thumbs down?

And if you had to pick a nickname for it, what would it be?

To be part of the dialogue about this important stretch of lakefront, go here and make your voice heard.

And if your entry wins, you will be dropped into Jabba’s Pit live on WTTW!  (Take that, Nik Wallenda.)

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A Viewer Keeps Me Humble

On a recent morning, I was strolling back to my car after walking one of my granddaughters to day care.

A guy in a rusty beater pulled up next to me and rolled down the window.  I could hear the car radio playing and there was also someone in the passenger seat.

“Do you know what time it is?” he shouted in a vintage Chicago accent.

I glanced at my watch and yelled, “It’s 8:03.”

“What?” he yelled back.

“8:03!” I repeated.

“8:00???” he yelled back.

“Yeah!” yells me.

Then he looked at me and said, “Hey, are you that guy on Channel 11?”

I answered, “Yeah, that’s me.”

“The one who makes those stupid paper things?” he asked and then let out a roaring laugh and gunned the car down the street.

I couldn’t help it.  I started laughing, too.  Made my day.  At least he watches sometimes.

Anyway, for those of you who missed it a few years ago, here’s the story about my stupid paper things.

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What Police Supt. Garry McCarthy Made Me Do

Last Wednesday an intense pain in my right shoulder woke me up very early in the morning.  When I finally got up, the pain was also in my abdomen and upper right chest; it was constant and I had shortness of breath–it was tough to take a deep breath.  I kept thinking it would get better.  It didn’t.

That evening I moderated a candidate forum between U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and his challenger, Jim Oberweis.  About 15 minutes before the forum I gave my colleague, Eddie Arruza, a copy of my questions and told him to be on standby in case I took a turn for the worse during the show.

I made it through the forum but called my doctor immediately afterwards.  He told me to go the ER right away.  I did.  Long story short: a very large benign liver cyst was the culprit.  Once the cyst was drained, I immediately felt better and now I am completely fine.

The big fear, of course, was that it was a heart attack.  And throughout the day I kept thinking of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy who had suffered a heart attack earlier this year and what he said afterwards:  not to delay seeing a doctor if you were feeling discomfort in your chest.

I know that’s advice we’ve heard before, but for some reason McCarthy’s experience kept coming back to me during the day and helped prompt my phone call to the doctor and the quick trip to the ER; gratefully, the problem turned out be far less serious than McCarthy’s.

One piece of advice I grew up with was to always do what a cop tells you; that advice still holds.


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What He Didn’t Say On Camera

Recently, we had a Chicago Tonight guest I particularly enjoyed.  Actor Alan Cumming is the host of Masterpiece Mystery and is having a stellar career in film, television and on Broadway.  He was on to talk about his new book, Not My Father’s Son, a riveting book about growing up with a brute of a dad who abused Cumming physically and emotionally.  Cumming is a charismatic and compelling guest and the interview went well.

But he said two things off-camera which I wish we’d had time for:  one had to do with his (surprising to me!) friendship with Monica Lewinsky.  They have been friends for years and she was even in Cumming’s wedding party.  He says her main fault was that she was a 22-year-old woman who fell in love with her boss, the most powerful man in the world, and that the country owes her an apology for how she was pilloried in public.

The other thing he said that was of particular interest to this former wannabee actor had to do with why Brits do American accents so well (and not always the other way around.)  He said that much of what’s shown on British television comes from the states so that British kids grow up listening to American accents.  Actors, especially, use this to their benefit and–with a good ear–can emulate a fairly convincing American accent based on their countless hours watching American television shows as children.

Not so we Americans.  Most of us hear British accents in adult fare like Downton Abbey.  And it makes sense; I mean, how many of us watched Scottish Saturday morning cartoons growing up?

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Watch the Ponce Men Tonight on “My Chicago!”


In case you haven’t watched it yet, there’s a new show on WTTW called My Chicago.  It’s kind of a talk show on wheels.  The host does the driving and interviews the guest while they drive around parts of Chicago that have meaning for the guest.  It’s a little bit like HBO’s Taxicab Confessions except the guests know that they are on camera.

The show is now in its third week and tonight my sons and I are the passengers being interviewed.  (We taped it about a month ago when there was still snow on the ground.)

I haven’t been given a sneak preview, so I will be watching it fresh tonight along with everyone else.  I hope you can check it out tonight at 830pm on WTTW!



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When A Nurse Gets Breast Cancer


We had a remarkable guest on the show recently, Hollye Jacobs, the author of The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer.

Jacobs is an RN and also has an MS and MSW degrees.  Among other experiences in her medical career, she has been a hospice nurse treating adults and children who were dying from cancer.

She exercised, was a vegetarian and had no history of cancer in her family.  Thus, it came as a shock when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  The book engagingly tells the story of the emotional and medical journey she took toward recovery — all from the perspective of someone who was used to being “on the other side of the bed.”

Jacobs says her goal was to write a book that was a smart, sensitive and medically informed resource for other people facing breast cancer.  Each chapter includes spiritual and emotional insights and easy-to-understand, point-by-point, no-nonsense medical advice regarding questions to ask and what to expect at different stages of surgery and treatment.  The book is a compelling mixture of head and heart — two atttributes Jacobs is blessed with and which she generously shares with her readers.

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A Big Birthday for Chicago Tonight!


30 years ago tonight, on April 24, 1984, Chicago Tonight went on the air for the very first time.

The host was someone who later became my friend and mentor, the late John Callaway.  The first guest was none other than Mayor Harold Washington.

Those of you who were around will remember that this was the time of “Council Wars” and the “Vrdolyak 29” when Chicago’s internal political strife made the city “Beirut-on-the-lake.”  Chicago was hungry for context and analysis of what was unfolding in the city council.  That’s how the idea for Chicago Tonight germinated.

Since then Chicago Tonight has aired 7,800 shows.

We have many people to thank for this record, a diverse group of people whose support has been crucial.  But it’s you, the viewer, to whom we are most grateful.  If you didn’t watch, care about and support this program, too, we would have no reason for being.  And for that, all of us at Chicago Tonight extend to you our heartfelt thanks!

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The Sound of Music

If you are a viewer of a certain age, you probably remember when a major movie could be a national cultural event.  In my mind The Sound of Music was one of them.

Lyric Opera is currently mounting what appears to be a top-tier  production of The Sound of Music.  The other night the singer who plays the Mother Abess, Christine Brewer, performed the song Climb Every Mountain on our show.  I thought it was a stunning performance.  Check out the clip below.

And by the way, I was somewhat irritated when I saw an interview with Christopher Plummer, who played Captain Von Trapp in the movie, when he dismissively referred to the movie as The Sound of Mucous.  Really, Christopher?



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The Kennedys and J.Crew

The clothing company J.Crew was once known for its preppy Nantucket origins and it still has an upper crust nautical patina as part of its branding.

Interestingly, the Kennedy family was very aware of branding and what a nautical image could do for its political fortunes.  That’s according to James Graham, author of a new book, Victura: The Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea.  One of the points Graham makes is that the Kennedys knew that images of them sailing would accomplish several things:  make them look outdoorsy, full of “vigor,” and give them a touch of elegance and Madison Avenue appeal.  In other words, images of Kennedys sailing would enhance their brand.

But more important than the public relations value of pictures of the Kennedys in a sailboat, the author says sailing underscored the family’s unity and competitive spirit — traits that served them well; it was a metaphor for the challenges the family faced.  That little sailboat, Graham writes, accomplished a lot more than just memorable photos of a beautiful couple.

Even so, those pictures of JFK and Jackie on that sailboat are singular pieces of iconography that few ad agencies can possibly match.  Here’s a link to the interview with Graham, which includes many of those famous images.

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