Hot Air

What To Do? What To Do?

Lots going on around town these days, as always in the fall. Here are a few things you oughtta do:

Bloom Magazine Book Club — This issue’s selection is Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. The Book Corner has tons o’copies and they’re 20 percent off for book club folk. All ya gotta do is say, “I’m getting this for the book club.” How much simpler can we make it? Bloom honcho Malcolm Abrams has set up Indiana University English prof. emeritus Don Gray to talk about the controversial novel, Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 5:30pm, at Topo’s 403 Restaurant, 403 N. Walnut St.


Alabama’s Nelle Harper Lee

Just in case you were wondering, there’s no club member card and you don’t have to pass through any kind of initiation. Just read the book and come listen to Don Gray talk about it. He’ll take Qs from the crowd, too.

Send Shelli Yoder to Congress — Currently a member of the Monroe County Council, Yoder jumped late into the Democratic primary for Indiana’s 9th US Congress District in 2012. In a shocker, she clobbered Bob Winningham and Gen. Jonathan George, who’d been certain he was the anointed party candidate. (BTW, loyal Pencillista Col. John Tilford also ran in that primary. Yoder kicked the bejesus out of him as well.) Yoder went on that fall to get walloped herself by incumbent Todd Young, losing 55-45 percent. She was then selected by party caucus to fill the term of departing county council member Vic Kelson. She ran for reelection in 2014 and easily retained her seat. Now that Todd Young is gunning for the US Senate, Yoder’s jumping back into the congressional fray. The Friends of Shelli Yoder is throwing a fundraising bash at the Fountain Square Ballroom, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, from 5:30-7:30pm. All the local party big shots’ll be there. I’ll be there with on the spot coverage should any of our Dems trip over the carpeting.


Indiana’s Shelli Renee Yoder (L)

Monroe County Book Fair — This year’s annual tome orgy benefits the Hoosier Hills Food Bank. The Book Corner will be there Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, 10am-1pm, with New York Times bestselling author Michael Koryta, signing his latest, Last Words. Koryta mixes crime, suspense, mystery and throws in a dash of woo in his compelling volumes. A percentage of the Book Corner’s proceeds will go to the Food Bank. This is the first year the Book Fair benefits HHFB. The fair runs Oct. 8-13 at the Monroe County Fairgrounds. I’ll be there peddling Koryta’s books.


Florida & Indiana’s Michael Koryta

Do any or all of these things and you’ll surely earn your Pencillista stripes.

Hot Air

Call Out The Air Corps!

Drop The Atom Bomb!

Sometimes real life today resembles nothing so much as a cheap 1950s movie. Y’know, the kind where giants grasshoppers threaten the big city or beady-eyed commies are plotting to infiltrate our high schools.

From "The Beginning of the End"

Giant Bugs Crawl Up The Wrigley Building


No matter what the threat was, some square-jawed sonuvabitch always  knew how to handle it. If it was the grasshoppers, why, just drop The Bomb on the besieged big city. If commies, well then, we’ll send in some real he-men to reason with them utilizing rock-hard fists.

Bloomington faces neither giant grasshoppers nor commies these days, yet some squared-jawed “thinkers” in these parts figure we need the The Bomb-lite for some as yet unnamed peril.

One of those square-jawed “thinkers,” apparently, is Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff. Acc’d’g to documents obtained by Mother Jones mag via the Freedom of Information Act, the Bloomington PD was one of several hundred from around this holy land to request a nice little Armored Tactical Vehicle from the Pentagon’s surplus motor pool.

BPD MRAP Request

Diekhoff’s Request

The specific vehicle Diekhoff wanted was a mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) fortress on wheels. The feds, you see, had 625 such MRAPs in their used car lot, the vehicles having been driven only by grandmas on Sunday afternoons for spins around Mosul in Iraq or the Helmand Province in Afghanistan during our excellent adventures in those locales. The Pentagon has a program making these tanks and other weapons of war available to municipal, county, and state law enforcement agencies for use against marauding mobs, heavily-armed drug cartels, lone snipers on the roofs of tall buildings, bomb-throwing anarchists, and other bad guys lurking around every corner even in our most bucolic villages. Reports Mother Jones:

In 2012, the program began making MRAPs available. The vehicles weigh around 14 tons, and feature armored hulls and tiny, blast-proof windows. “Nothing short of a rocket-propelled grenade will trouble this powerhouse,” one manufacturer boasted.

Terrific. I know I’m getting a little sick and tired of dodging flung explosives and taking cover whenever I hear the tom-tom beat of an AK-47 on Walnut Street.


A Navistar MRAP On Display

Young adult writer Julia Karr (she’s not a young adult herself — she writes novels for that bunch) pointed out recently that Bloomington’s request still is pending. This even though President Barack Obama, caving in to pressure from his Kenyan Muslim gay abortionist overlords, has curtailed the Pentagon program.

Obviously, he wants the commies, anarchists, marauding mobs, and giant grasshoppers to win.

Now, I understand this great nation currently is suffering from a collective nervous breakdown — witness the popularity of presidential candidate Donald Trump — but, golly gee, can’t we feign at least a bit of sanity here in Bloomington?

The very existence of an armored, camouflage-painted MRAP in the BPD parking lot suggests our cops view the rest of us as enemy soldiers to be blown to kingdom come should we cross a certain as-yet unwritten boundary.

Let’s put some pressure on Diekhoff to withdraw this request. It’d be a nice gesture on the part of the gang upon whom we bestow badges and guns to keep the peace to actually view our city as something other than a war zone.

Hot Air


Well, now they’re just flat-out lying to our faces, these Republicans who screech and squeal that Planned Parenthood does nothing more than perform abortions so they can get rich selling baby parts.

They’re not even making the pretense of trying to slip an obfuscation or two into an otherwise reasonably true paragraph. I mean, that’s what politicians are supposed to be expert at, no?

All politicians lie. My argument long has been we want our politicians to lie. Comfort us with falsehoods, we beg them, rather than tell us the straight story which just might be a tad too real to bear.

The art of the politician is to present his or her fudge with just enough truthiness on the side so that the whole plate will be palatable.

Now, that paradigm is being shoved down the garbage disposal.

Many of the top Republican contenders for president are foisting the new party line that Planned Parenthood is nothing more than a back-alley abortionist. Why, Jeb Bush just the other day said PP is “not actually doing women’s health issues. They’re involved in something way different than that.”

Here’s a graphic from PP’s 2013 annual report, showing how the different aspects of its medical services are delivered:

From PP Annual Report, 2013

Y’know, I’ll bet everyone who reads this knows someone who has used PP to get some form of birth control, a breast exam, or a pap smear. Your sister, maybe. Even your mother. Hell, some guys actually take advantage of PP’s medical services.

See the little sliver of light blue denoting what percentage of patients use PP’s abortion services?

In Jeb Bush’s world, as well as that of his rivals for the GOP nomination, 3 percent = everything. Nobody’s that dumb.


Hot Air

God’s Blue Devils

Imagine what an uptight little shit you have to be if you’re one of those Duke University freshmen who refuses to read Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home — even though you’ve been assigned it and, well, y’know, when the teach tells you to read a book, you read the book, no?

Fun Home Book Cover

No. Not if you’ve been brought up to believe your psyche, your emotions, your faith in god, perhaps even your very physical safety are threatened by the reading of a book. That the teacher has assigned, I might remind you.

Today’s screech follows seamlessly on the heels of yesterday’s, wherein I flogged the book, F*ck Feelings, a manifesto against the holy worship of people’s sensitivities these days. And nowhere are emotions more fragile than on college campuses in the year 2015. Many, many college and university instructors are feeling a chilling effect should they dare to bring up a topic in the classroom that may discomfit their snowflake students. Law school professors feel a pall in their classrooms when they tackle tough issues — for instance, teaching rape law may “traumatize” certain squeamish students. Hell, Northwestern University communications professor Laura Kipnis was brought up on Title IX discrimination charges because she wrote an opinion piece saying, essentially, college kids ought to stop seeing themselves as eternal victims.

The new campus rage is not drug- or sex- or fashion-related; it’s the notion of “trigger warnings.” One must alert anyone within earshot if one wishes to discuss a topic that just might cause the listener or eavesdropper a nightmare.

And the latest example of all this tsk-tsking is the Duke book controversy. Duke at the beginning of each school year assigns incoming freshmen a book to read before move-in day. The U. calls it one of the facets of its “Common Experience Program,” which is pedagoguese for Let’s make the kids do something uplifting in the summer before they come here for the twin purposes of drinking and fucking their brains out.

Duke selected Fun Home, Bechdel’s recollection of growing up lesbian with a closeted gay father and a distracted mother — which has won awards and been staged as a Broadway musical, fer chrissakes! — because it is:

[A] book like no other. The author uses the unique graphic medium to tell a story that sheds a lot of light on important and weighted issues like mental health, interpersonal relationships and human rights, all critical issues that students become acquainted with in college.



Except a bunch of Christianist students have refused to read the book because, as one said:

[I]t would be dishonoring to God [sic] for me to read it and view it.

It’s not known at this time whether the student quoted above would refuse to read, say, Mein Kampf or In Cold Blood should those volumes be assigned in class. Then again, neither mentions lesbianism so they must be okay — brutal murders and genocidal philosophies notwithstanding

A lot of this has to do with the disturbing new business model colleges and universities are adopting: Students are really “customers” now — and, business school teachers tell us, the customer’s always right.

Even if they’re uptight little shits.

Me? I’ve got both of Bechdel’s family memoirs in my core library (Are You My Mother? is the sequel to Fun Home). They’re brilliant. As a visual artist, Bechdel is superb. She’s an even better storyteller. To borrow a phrase from Dr. Seuss, Oh, the places you’ll go! when you leaf through A.B.’s pages. And isn’t that the point of going to college?

Duke officials are wringing their hands trying to figure out how to solve this “controversy.” I’ve got a simple solution for them: Flunk the little bastards.


Hot Air

Stop Trying To Be Blissful

Bloomington ex-pat and current law school drone in Oregon, Mike Cagle, points out a new self-help book that sez, essentially, no self-help book is worth a shit.

It’s called F*ck Feelings, which is about as near perfect a title as I can imagine. The New York Post carried a piece on the tome day before yesterday and, generally, when the New York Post tells me the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning, I’ll assume the paper’s got it all wrong. This time, though, the rag is spot-on.

The book’s author, a big shot East Coast shrink named Michael Bennett, tells us to stop spending all our dough on books and DVDs and seminars and sessions that purport to tell us how we can achieve some impossible state of bliss. That nirvana state, he says, doesn’t exist, nor will it ever.

Book Cover

To borrow a paranoia from food fetishists and other nudges who are certain we’re all under the fascist control of one industrial-governmental-scientific cabal or another (and we are, but not to the imaginative extent the Anti-Bigs want us to believe), Doc Bennett had better watch his step before Big Self-Help puts a bullet in him.

Anyway, Bennett, who wrote the book with the help of his comedy-writer daughter, Sarah Bennett, tells us:

Fuck happy. Fuck self-improvement, self-esteem, fairness, helpfulness and everything in between.

Man, how’s Barnes & Noble gonna survive?

Here’s a line from the Kirkus Review blurb about F*ck Feelings:

The authors show us how to stop reaching for the moon, to read the situation, keep cool, and effect what you can. “Sometimes we are simply life’s bitch,” they write.

BTW, the Bennetts say they sprinkle F-bombs and other poesies promiscuously throughout the book because “profanity is a source of comfort, clarity, and strength.”

Well, duh.

Bennett, the MD, writes a simultaneously humorous and serious-as-a-panic-attack blog called — what else? — F*ck Feelings, in which he offers advice and caveats about all the snake-oil self-help authors who are getting rich/richer/richest on your insecurities. He bills himself “Dr. Lastn*me,” explaining “real doctors go by their last names, and you shouldn’t let the Phils, Lauras, Nicks, and Drews cause you more pain.”

The Bennetts, père et fille, posit that life offers us only fleeting moments of contentment and security; cherish those moments and understand the rest of existence is a puzzling load of shit.

Natch, I’d dig an iconoclast and bullshit-caller like Bennett.

His and his daughter’s book is a needed pendulum swing from the ’80s and 90s “inner child,” “Dr. Love,” and self-actualization psychobabble rages.

I can’t wait to read it.

Ergo, Here’s My Own Self-Help List Of Affirmations

The things I’m proud of:

  • I’ve never seen an episode of Friends
  • I still don’t really know what Gangnam style is.
  • I have no idea why the Kardashians first achieved fame
  • I was onto Donald Trump as far back as the ‘80s, thanks to Spy Magazine


  • I’ve never fired a gun
  • I haven’t voted for a Republican since the party came out against the ERA
  • I quit the Catholic church when I was 12
  • I’ve never tried heroin
  • I studied comedy improv at iO (formerly, ImprovOlympic), under Charna Halpern and Del Close
  • I have washed my own clothes since I was 18 years old
  • I scrub my own toilets
  • Mike Royko once wrote a message to me, telling me to “fuck off”



  • I do not own a smart phone
  • I’m not addicted to too many things
  • I have never reproduced
  • I emerged in 1999 from a fifteen year battle with panic disorder and agoraphobia
  • I’m still alive despite suffering from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Congestive Heart Failure
  • I work out at a gym four or five times a week
  • I once saved 28 people’s lives (and my own) while piloting a DUKW in Lake Michigan


A “Duck” Splashes In

  • My spaghetti sauce
  • I sell books
  • I once fell down a flight of concrete steps while drunk in pitch darkness and never left my feet
  • The Loved One has not brained me up until this point in time
  • I chased a burglar out of my home while stark naked one night
  • I marched against the Gulf War in 1991
  • I volunteered for the Obama campaign in Kentucky in 2008
  • I can type with two fingers as fast as many people using five

There. Now I’m blissful. For the moment.

Hot Air

Nice Folks For Trump

[Big Mike note: Yeah, I know, I posted this verbatim on Facebook, but I also wanted to post it here so I can keep this blog active while I work on the Charlotte Zietlow book.]

Met a nice older couple from the rural outskirts in the store yesterday.

They were looking for the latest edition of Time mag because it has Donald Trump on the cover. They were clearly excited about it and just as clearly not used to being in a bookstore and searching for a periodical. I helped them as much as I could, directing them to other stores, and explaining why some places might have it and others wouldn’t yet — the nature of periodical distribution.

Then it occurred to me that if we were to have a conversation about Trump, neither of us in a million years would convince the other about him. They see him as a man who has made many hundreds of millions of dollars through his imagination, his persistence, his charisma, and his ability to navigate the rough seas of deal-making. I see him as a fortunate son who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars, exploits bankruptcy laws, panders to our greedy natures, and patronizes us by saying Americans either are or should be superior to the rest of the world.


Our Moral Touchstone

In the end it wouldn’t be worth it to argue with them about Trump because a person’s stance on him actually defines who that person is as a moral being. They want a world where a man can excel, where he can triumph over the nitpickers and the jealous non-excellers. I want a world where “winning” (accumulating wealth, in this case) does not mean there have to be so many “losers.” I can’t make them want my thing, nor can they make me want theirs.

There are scads of people like this nice couple, probably more than there are like me. It’s ironic how they’re nice but obviously want something that, to me, is not nice at all. That’s why Trump scares me: He doesn’t only appeal to wild-eyed lunkheads. He’s attractive to nice elderly farm couples from Indiana.

Hot Air

Book It!

Taking a tiny break from my book-writin’ hiatus to get this on the record because I have a gut feeling not only is this prediction going to pan out, I’ll be the only one in this holy land making it.

Okay, here goes, with a little backgrounder first:

If you’re a betting dame or dude, you may already be putting some scratch on Donald Trump to stay strong in the Republican race into next year. Yep, the smart money has “the short-fingered vulgarian” playing to the crowd through the Iowa caucus and the early primaries.

And, quite possibly, the corporate media will be having the vapors over this candidate of the cerebrum-free masses threatening to take a major party’s nomination.

But — and here’s part one of the prediction — it ain’t gonna happen, babies.


Simple — part two. Donald Trump’s speeding train to the White House will be derailed by the revelation of his affair with Sarah Palin. Yup. This one’s as easy to call as forecasting a January snowstorm in Wasilla.


C’mon, You Know You Want Me!

Think of it:

  1. Donald Trump is a rapacious, acquisitive capitalist who views women as trophies.
  2. There aren’t many bigger trophies than a former candidate for Vice President of the United States.
  3. He also doesn’t like the idea of women holding power and the best way to defang them is to get them under his gross, panting, sweaty corpus.
  4. Sarah Palin’s nutty for strutting, cock-of-the-walk types like Vladimir Putin and Trump.
  5. She’s hot in that loathsome, suburban, Protestant mom sort of way.
  6. He’s hot in that ghastly, vain, narcissistic, rich old man sort of way
  7. Palin despises the idea of work — witness her quitting her day job in August 2009 and trying to earn a mint through the twin get-rich-quick schemes of a reality TV show and giving paid motivational speeches.
  8. Trump is rich enough — even taking into account all his bankruptcies and ledger book gibberish — to keep a mistress like Palin in jewels until the end of her life.
  9. The two are spiritual and intellectual cousins.
  10. Palin’s daughter Bristol is jumping on the Trump bandwagon as we speak and you know that if Sarah is thinking of banging Donald, she’s gonna confide in her equally morally rationalizing spawn. Bristol, clearly, will approve.

So, there you have it. Call your bookie now.

It won’t be Trump’s xenophobia, his con artistry, his worship of mammon, his boorishness, or any other obvious character flaw that brings him down. It’ll be sex. And, come to think of Trump humping and gasping, maybe the Republican anti-sex moralists are right: Sex is disgusting!

See you all here again, soon.


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