Hot Air

A Wink & A Nod

[Just a reminder: The Pencil is on hiatus right now as Big Mike — me — devotes time and energy to a fabulous book project, the details of which will be forthcoming as publishers are sufficiently fawned over and contracts are signed. Stay tuned for news on that front.

Meanwhile, I’ll be putting up little tidbits on occasion, just to keep the circuitry of this communications colossus in working order. I expect to be back telling the world what it ought to do full time within weeks or a couple of months at the most. Try your best to survive without my inerrant pontifications until then, okay? Okay.]

The Time Of The Season

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

– Mario Savio at the University of California-Berkeley, December 2, 1964



Hot Air

I Gotta Go Write One’a D’em Books

So, what’s the what with the Pencil?

This: Bloomington’s most renowned communications colossus will be on hiatus while its answer to Charles Foster Kane, Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, and Chris Hughes — Me! — devotes himself…, sorry, myself to working full-time and without distraction on the memoir of one of our town’s most notable citizens.

I can’t reveal this person’s name just yet because we don’t have a publishing deal at the moment. We’ve been working together since August and the compilation of material has been demanding. It occurs to me that my time would be better spent transcribing tapes and sourcing information right now, rather than spouting off about how the world should be run according to my specifications.

See, I work three to four hours a day on the Pencil. Yeah, believe it or not. Some of you might suspect I farm out a lot of the Pencil’s writing to a roomful of chimpanzees sitting before typewriters but, no, I really do labor over these screeds, searching for the right word or euphemistic insult, and cutting and slashing until my heart bleeds.


For those who’ve never tried it, writing can be an exhausting endeavor. Especially when the writer — me, again — often approaches English as though it’s his second language. (We learned a whole different tongue where I grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago. For instance, we called our our municipal leader Maredaylee or simply Da Mare back in the ’60s and ’70s. For us, the expletive d’fuck was as versatile and necessary to our speech as the word the is to civilized humans. And, of course, the phoneme -th- simply didn’t exist in our little world.)

Anyway, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to devote more daily time to this memoir project so I can push it further along. Alas, the only thing that makes any sense is for me to work on it during those hours I normally devote to the Pencil.

So there it is. I’m not quitting — hell, what would this holy land’s intellectuals, academics, statesmen, and heavy drinkers do without the Electron Pencil? Can you imagine how screwed up we’d become?

Okay, call me selfish, but this project has to be done. Give me a few months and I’ll be back on the stump setting the world straight. In the meantime, you’ll survive.

Hot Air

Sympathy For The Devil

How scared do you want to be this AM? Plenty scared? Okay, Click on over to the weblog, Second City Cop. It’s an anonymous clearinghouse for the opinions, beliefs, and rants of some Chicago police officers.

Natch, since no one’s name is attached, the true and unadulterated feelings of the blog’s author as well as commenters come through loud and clear.

CPD 1968

Not Much Has Changed In 45 Years

What do we learn by reading Second City Cop? A significant number of sworn officers of the law in the nation’s third largest city:

  • Are chronically aggrieved
  • Exist in a state of permanent rage
  • Consider themselves persecuted
  • Are contemptuous and insulting of those they disagree with
  • Despise protesters
  • Deny or minimize the existence of police misbehavior
  • Are homophobic
  • Are misogynist
  • Are adept at concealing their racism with weasel words and code
  • Are xenophobic
  • Disdain everything from simple altruism to government programs designed to help the less fortunate among us
  • Are four-square against minimum wage
  • Hate the NFL as a result of five St. Louis Rams players protesting the decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson
  • Believe that FEMA concentration camps will be established soon

I can go on and on but I won’t. Read for yourself and weep. Chicago has a total of some 13,000 police officers. They carry deadly weapons. They are authorized to take your freedom away for probable cause or on a true bill of indictment. They work hand in hand with prosecutors and the courts against the accused in our adversarial system of justice. Under these simple, basic criteria they can be described as the most powerful members of our society.

If a mere eight percent or so of those 13,000 hold any fraction of the above-mentioned feelings, then a thousand of them are F-U’d and dangerous bastards whom you’d be loath to want to sit next to at Thanksgiving dinner. But they have guns and badges.

Now, try to breathe.

[h/t to Neil Steinberg.]

Art Sells

A huge slap on the back for the son of one of Bloomington’s most beloved citizens, Jack Dopp.

Jack’s been delivering newspapers in our town for decades now through his Bloomington News operation. He’s the guy who makes sure the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Indy Star get to your doorstep or your neighborhood merchant every single day, regardless of the weather. Pushing 70 but still wiry and quick on his feet, he continues to play for several local slow-pitch softball teams.

His son Michael is an artist based in the Los Angeles area. Michael teaches art at Chapman University in the town of Orange. He also produces scads of paintings and is represented by LA’s Roberts & Tilton Gallery.

Michael Dopp

Dopp Art

Jack tells The Pencil that Michael’s work was exhibited in the big-time Art/Basel show in Miami Beach last week. Art/Basel is an annual series of international contemporary and Modern Art exhibits held in south Florida, Hong Kong, and Basel, Switzerland. This year, the Miami Beach exhibit featured several hundred artists from our hemisphere.

The big news is Michael sold a painting on the first day of the show. Jack whispered a figure in my ear; suffice it to say loads of folks in this holy land would be able to live for a year on the check Michael pocketed.

Who sez all artists are starving?

Smart Kid

Have you been worrying about kids today not reading?


Working at the Book Corner, I know that countless imps are gobbling up books even in this age of smartphones and dumbing down. For instance, Indiana University Maurer School of Law  professor Christiana Ochoa tows her three sons into the Book Corner with some regularity. She tells me if it were up to the boys, they’d park themselves at the shop twice or three times as much as they do already.

The lads dig the BC so much that one of them, Jackson, the oldest at 12, created a video love letter the other day. Watch:

My fave line: “From the outside, it may look small. But inside, it opens up entirely new universes.”

And this kid is only 12?

The future, babies, is in good hands.

Hot Air


My best wishes to a sweet soul who is suffering mightily these days. Here’s hoping our mental health delivery system for the indigent helps this person in some way.

Real Medicine Vs. Phony-Baloney

We have a funny health care delivery system in this holy land. Countless numbers of people in dire need of help — be it physical or mental, acute or ongoing — are left to wallow in their pain and misery, frustrated and deteriorating. Too many pols and citizens alike wave them off, saying they’re lazy or opportunistic.

Meanwhile, some of the most capable among us — capable, as in possessing the ability to pay for health insurance or even visit medical specialists on their own dime — spend millions…, wait, billions of dollars on snake oil cures, quackery, fraudulent nutritional and medicinal regimes, and get-well/stay-well books written by scam-artists.

It’s as though the healthiest and most well-fed of our citizenry seem to be in a chronic pout about their great and good fortune. Perhaps they’re jealous of the occasional attention we as a society pay to the down-and-out. People are funny, indeed.

Food fanatics have been careening from one mystical, magical diet to another like pinball machine rollers since the days of John Henry Kellogg. The inventor of Corn Flakes was pathologically enamored of enemas and highly offended that the sane among the rest of his countrymen weren’t. Kellogg ran an spa for folks to eat meals according to his mixed-up philosophies and have their bowels scrubbed and scoured daily.

Kellogg was a joke but to this day scads of people don’t get it.

A great number of the world’s health- and food-fetishists for decades have been swallowing pills, powders, and liquids as well as having mini-fire hoses inserted up their anuses, all in an attempt to “detoxify.”

Folks who crave to see things in black and white believe certain foods are as poisonous as arsenic and other comestibles as curative as the waters of the Fountain of Youth. They also believe the things we put inside ourselves are leaving a patina of muck and mire on our innards that is as dangerous as a bullet to the head.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you gorge on Oscar Mayer bologna sandwiches morning, noon, and night your guts probably will be prone to functioning as well as a 12-year-old computer. But the gang who buys into detoxifying and pristine diets probably never did spend much dough on dirt-cheap lunch meats, Cool Whip, Bugles, Twinkies, and Spaghetti-Os in the first place.

Anyway, The Guardian this week ran a piece destroying the myth of “detoxification.”

It quotes Exeter University prof Edzard Ernst:

Let’s be clear, there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. [Drug abuse detox is “respectable,” acc’d’g to Ernst.] The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.

The article’s author, Dara Mohammadi, says any build-up of toxins in the human body’s organs, the likes of which described in terrifying detail by detox advocates, would result in a medical emergency. The body itself, she says, has a perfectly good trash and waste disposal system.

As for colonics, Mohammadi writes of the belief that a “plaque” of toxins accumulates in the bowels and must be washed out regularly, otherwise dire things can happen. Mohammadi asserts:

[N]o doctor has ever seen one of these mythical plaques, and many warn against having the procedure done, saying that it can perforate your bowel.

Mohammadi’s take away? This:

[T]he idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.

You know, the evil kind of practice that demonic corporations like Monsanto engage in.

Simple As Black And White

With yesterday’s runoff defeat of Senator Mary Landrieux in Louisiana, the Republicans’ advantage in the upper chamber will stand at 54-46 in January. The GOP will lead in the House 246-188.

No matter what Democratic pollyannas cry, the Republicans will hold those majorities for the foreseeable future. Some Dems might even be hoping that the recent spate of high-profile police killings of unarmed citizens and subsequent protests will stir the body politic out of its comfy sofa and even walk the half block to the polling place.

Maybe. But what’s far more likely is that Republican-leaning voters already have been stirred by the same thing and will continue to be so. And they will continue to vote for Republicans who talk tough, express racial hatreds in code, and promise to keep those unruly blacks in their goddamned place without actually saying so.

There are far more people frightened of a general black uprising than there are those who are outraged that police officers see young black men as monsters and Hulk Hogans and feel compelled to kill them.

Beginning with the Watts riots in August 1965 and down through the “long hot summer” two years later and even more civil disorders into the 1970s, Murrican voters have consistently cast their lot with white Republicans. The Republicans, Murricans believe, will protect the nation from the dark menace. Republican politicians even coined a catchphrase for this: law and order. That was Richard Nixon’s calling card in the chaotic summer of 1968 and it won him an unlikely presidency.

Republican presidents as well as innumerable lesser office holders since then have successfully run on the same platform even when their other positions were pooh-poohed by huge numbers of Americans.

The way the numbers worked nearly fifty years ago and still do to a large extent today, the more streets protests, the more enraged accusations against the police, the more civil disturbances, the more the real majority will vote for strongmen.

It’s a simple numbers game. And if you’re black, you still lose.

Hot Air

Who Needs Hallmark?

The Loved One was up almost all night earlier this week designing our 2014-15 holiday card. Her cards, in case you’ve never seen one, are whimsically creative. For my money, they’re the best.

Holiday Card 2014-15

A Little Taste

We don’t send holiday cards to many people largely because I’m a Grinch and won’t turn over to her any list of people I like. But those we do send them to uniformly are impressed by TLO’s eye and sensibility.

I dunno, maybe I’ll pitch some names and addresses over to her this year — not because I’m becoming less of a winter holiday curmudgeon but because more people should see her great stuff.

Teach Your Children Well

So, the Monroe County Community School Corporation just laid out forty G’s for a consultant to figure out if voters might pass a referendum to help the MCCSC get more money.

What else can the MCCSC buy for $40,000? Let’s see:

  • 166 iPad Minis
  • 3333 Social studies textbooks, Amazing Americans: The Rise of Industry: Jane Adams, McGraw-Hill
  • 4449 Copies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Grand Central Publishing
  • 7286 Boxes, Crayola Crayons, 64-count
  • 7421 Mead composition books, tape-bound

Mead Comp Book

  • 13,652 Free student lunches provided by the US Dept. of Agriculture, Food & Nutrition Service, under its National School Lunch Program
  • 363,636 Staples No. 2 yellow pencils with erasers, 4 doz. pack

The MCCSC, though, has elected to direct a precious wad of 40-extra large to the coffers of Springsted, Inc., “a public sector advisor with services spanning every stage of your community’s life cycle” (from its website), to gauge the odds of getting more money from you and me.

Money, I might add, I’d be happy to pay for things like, oh, pencils, books, or iPads. In fact, I’d be happy to pony up scads more dough for the kids and their teachers. It can be money well spent.

Not on slick consultants, though.

Who Needs Books?

Speaking of education, a recent poll commissioned by the BioLogos Foundation and conducted by Calvin College sociologist Jonathan Hill, have found that more than half the citizens of this holy land believe:

  • Adam and Eve were real people
  • Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools
  • The Bible is the actual or inspired word of God, without errors

From "The Ten Commandments"

Where’s Your Certainty Now, Moses?

A full one of five people believe Creationism alone should be taught in our schools.

Slate mag requested Hill’s numbers breakdown for this poll and lays out the details in a piece written by William Saletan. It turns out that when people are pressed on these beliefs they shy away from them a bit. When specific questions about creation and God’s role in it are included in the questions posed to poll respondents, people’s certainty in their beliefs begins to deteriorate.

This reminds me of all those polls that ask Americans if welfare is a good thing and most of them say hell no. Then, when pressed — for instance when asked if federal and state gov’ts should assist the hungry and the homeless — people suddenly become more altruistic.

The devil, you might pardon the pun, is in the details.

“Yes, we’re a creationist country,” Saletan concludes. “But apparently, we’re pretty creative about what that means.”

There might be hope for us yet.

Hot Air

Something’s Rotten

For a very long time I’ve resisted the terms fascism and police state to describe the happenings in this holy land.

I figured the folks who threw these words around were drama queens and kings, prone to hyperbole and panicky language. Hell, I’m prone to hyperbole, as Pencillistas well know — but I use it for comic effect. Too many others, though, have employed the rhetorical device to make whatever case they have for or against Barack Obama and other Murrican saints/sinners seem that much more urgent.

I’d hear or read the word fascist and roll my eyes.

Now, no more.

There is indeed a fascism here. This is truly a burgeoning police state. When cops start killing people willy-nilly, when prosecutors and Grand Juries and courts say, Hey, that’s cool to more and more homicides of citizens, be they petty criminals or innocent victims, when police departments large and small armor up like an occupying army, well, then, we’ve got a rotten problem.

Police Militarization

We hated the Nazis, the KGB, the East German Stasi, Lon Nol’s Cambodian thugs, even Bull Connor’s deputies and Alabama state troopers for their brutality. We called them fascists. We understood that they ran police states.

In the case of the Americans just mentioned, we comforted ourselves by saying, What bad guys! They weren’t real Americans. Those were isolated incidents. We’re better than that.

We weeded out our fascists — or so we hoped.

And then in the 21st Century, we started calling everybody and everything we disagreed with fascist.

A Congress and a President imposing a national health insurance program on the citizenry is not fascism. Nor is a passel of benighted fundamentalists claiming that dinosaurs strode the Earth with humans or that global warming is a hoax.

What defines fascism more than anything is the drawing of blood. Governments regularly draw blood — both of their own citizens and of those from far off lands — but most have the decency to try to hide it, to excuse it, or to apologize for it.

Today, though, American police officers are drawing blood and many of us — way, way, way too many of us — not only are excusing it, we’re cheering for it.

Fascism only works when the people demand it. Many Americans, babies, are demanding it today.

There’s your fascism. There’s your police state.

It’s here. Now.

Hot Air

Endless (Season Of) Love

Are you sick of Xmas yet? I am.

And guess what: it’s a full three weeks away. Yeesh.

Anyway, I’m reading The Eve of Destruction, a history of the year 1965 written by former Indiana University professor James T. Patterson. It’s a recount of the year historians now generally believe to be the watershed moment when this holy land began transforming itself from a somewhat benign, caring, liberal society to an aggressive, acquisitive, soulless one.

One line in the book’s intro caught my eye:

… President Lyndon B. Johnson turned on the lights of the National Christmas Tree on the evening of December 18, 1964….

Did you catch that? December 18th. A mere week before Christmas. If one is to assume the official starting date of the Christmas season is when the huge tree in front of the White House is turned on, then that season lasted a sane-sounding seven days 50 years ago.

LBJ 1964

LBJ Celebrates Christmas With Kids In 1964

Now, Christmas starts well before Thanksgiving, wrapped up with the late fall feast in something now referred to as The Holidays. And it ain’t the lighting of the National Christmas Tree that is our ritual cue to start shopping and baking. We used to wish for a White Christmas. Now we wrestle for an overnight place in line on Black Friday more than a month before the day itself.

So yeah, I’m sick of Xmas already.

This year’s National Tree Lighting ceremony? Tomorrow night.

Interstate Art

Carisa Whittall used to run the Jerseyana Gallery in Nashville and was a proud sponsor of community radio WFHB. Business was lousy in our next-door burgh, though, so Carisa moved lock, stock, and barrel to New Jersey where she now lives.


Whittall (L) At The May Re-Opening Of Jerseyana Gallery

Her operation still is called Jerseyana Gallery and, with her biz partner, she peddles  art, including local works, online. How about if we let her tell her own story:

Initially, I focused on showing Indiana artists, contemporary or non-traditional Nashville artists in an art salon environment who didn’t have space in local galleries. We sold art, and the furnishings, decor and books. But we didn’t sell much. Nashville is a tough market now unless you’re selling beer, food or inexpensive souvenirs — then it’s a great market!

We sell directly to designers, and stagers in the interior design/home remodeling business in the New Jersey and New York City area. We’ve opened our virtual store and our ebay store to sell directly to collectors and people who love beautiful, quality art, antiques and artisan goods.

We still source in Indiana — my business partner lives in Bloomington. We go back to B-town to visit family, and it’s a good excuse to get out to Brown County couple times a year too!

Internet sales are going well and we are looking forward to exhibiting art in a couple of locations in New Jersey and, hopefully, New York City in the new year.

Patricia Rhoden is our featured artist. Designers love her work and I am looking forward to a great show for her in Millburn, New Jersey.

I continue to sell a lot of Indiana artists — listed, up and coming and flat-out dead. My favorite is Joni T. Johnson. I just love her work. She is underrated and undervalued but people are buying it here; they were not in Nashville.

Too bad, huh? In any case, cop some of her goods online, just to show her we Hoosiers can appreciate a spot or two of art now and again.

Another Hero

I’ve long been a fan of a brilliant, strong, tough, determined, athletic young woman named Émilie du Châtelet. She’s been dead for 265 years now but were she alive today, she’d still be the role model girls and young women around the world would look up to. Compared to her Oprah’s a slacker, Sheryl Sandberg‘s unambitious, and Hillary Clinton’s just a backroom pol.

du Chatelet

A Real Woman

Born Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, she was one of the greatest figures of the Age of Enlightenment. A mathematician, physicist, translator, champion fencer, dancer, and harpsichordist, she was fluent in French, Latin, Greek, Italian, and German and was the first woman to have a scientific paper published by the French Académie Des Sciences.

Want more? Sure:

  • She researched the science of fire and proposed the existence of infrared radiation
  • She wrote one of the first basic, accessible physics, general science, and philosophy books
  • Through experiments and developing mathematical formulas, she helped develop the idea of kinetic energy
  • She publicly argued with philosopher John Locke in favor of the principle of universal truths as opposed to the Lockian subjective perceptions
  • She created what can be described as the first financial derivative, purchasing the future earnings of independent tax collectors
  • She argued vociferously for women’s education, especially calling for access to France’s colleges
  • She was a biblical scholar and she wrote on happiness, free will, optics, and rational linguistics
  • The crowning achievement of her life was her translation of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica into French

Nearly two centuries after she’d developed the classical mechanics formula, E ∝ mv2, indicating the proportionality between energy, mass, and velocity, Albert Einstein acknowledged her finding as a basis for his iconic E = mc2, the foundation of his special theory of relativity.

Three plays and one opera have been written about her life.

And just to show she wasn’t all work and no play, Émilie was  a well-known gambler and card-player.

She lived with and collaborated with Voltaire for much of her adult life.

She was, in short, one of the first feminists. With the likes of Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, why is feminism such a dirty word?.


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