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.

Hot Air

Madness Men

Boss Sandberg yesterday asked me if I plan to watch that debate featuring Republican candidates for president — in an election that is still some 15 months off.

I responded forcibly; “Fk no!”

The genteel clout-meistress recoiled as if from a big furry bumblebee. I don’t blame her. For her part — after she regained her equilibrium — City Council maven Susan Sandberg sez she will watch the gabfest, mostly for the laughs.

Padded Room

The Green Room For Tonight’s Debate

Me? I don’t see any hee-haws coming out of tonight’s projectile word vomit fracas. Not when the participants, as a rule, look unkindly upon undocumented immigrants, women who abort their fetuses or who use birth control, folks who are poor, anybody will an al- preceding their surname, unarmed dark-skinned men who get shot up by cops, school teachers, environmentalists, climatologists, liberals, and other grave threats to our holy land.

I don’t care to spend the lion’s share of my evening watching my proxies being insulted, degraded, and vilified.

Mainly I don’t want to be made mad. I’m using the term in a dual sense here. The ludicrous hoo-ha emanating from the face holes of the likes of Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee will not only spike my choler level, it will drive me to some brink of mental delirium. I can just see myself pounding across the kitchen tile, the libels and defamations of white men who possess near-negligible levels of intellectual acuity and even less empathy for their species brethren and sisteren echoing in my memory.

Poor old Sally the Dog just might hoist herself up and plop her front paws on my fragile nethers — a habit The Loved One and I have found impossible to break in her so far — and she’ll be rewarded with a thunderous outburst of foul verbiage and barking that’ll cause her to afford me a wide berth for the next few days.

Sally’s a good mutt otherwise and I’d feel awful for treating her in a manner more appropriate for Scott Walker.

So, no, I ain’t watching. Sure, you go ahead and watch. Like S. Sandberg, I’m sure you’re blithely anticipating it being as innocuously comical as one of those old-time Dean Martin roasts. I’m willing, though, to put good money down on this proposition: the debate tonight will boil your very blood — as well as your lymphatic fluids, the perspiration on your forehead, and whatever other fluids and sauces you have circulating through and around your bod.

Again, it’s a year and a quarter until the 2016 general election. If you’re made jowl-flappingly mad this early in the game, think how many holes will form in the lining of your stomach by a year from Nov.

For your own health and and your house pets’ safety and comfort, take my advice: do anything other than switch your flat screen on to Fox News this eve. Not that you should ever do that, but tonight especially. Your stomach will thank me.

Still At It

Charlotte Zietlow and I are covering the first year of her term as Bloomington City Council president in our memoir project these days. That is, her memoir with me as her pro scribe. This is by explanation why my posts here have become so infrequent of late. Just in case you’ve forgotten.

Get Together

Here, chill out on these gentle tones from the Youngbloods, summer of 1969 vintage:

Hot Air


So, I used Apple Dictation yesterday during an interview with Charlotte Zietlow. It works, sort of the way a Roomba works if you’re trying to clean house.


…And It’s Perfect For Windows, Range Tops And Sinks!

I start a recorded interview session with an identifying header, stating who’s present, day and time, and location. As I was doing this yesterday, I could see that the Pages document was automatically adding text on the screen. Cool. Looked like the thing was working. This morning, I started reading through the dictation text to see how well it did. Here’s what it gave me:

Wednesday July 29, 2015 at about 1:30 PM at Sharland it blows house Michael glad and Charlotte zip blow.

Hey, great. Works perfectly.


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