Hot Air

Abbie Hoffman: An Oldie But Goodie

I thought I’d run an old chestnut from my days as a keyboard clacker for The Third City this AM. I’m doing this because I feel lazy as hell and I’ve got about 2300 other things to do. I hope you enjoy this blast from the past.

[Originally published in The Third City, February 2nd, 2010.]

Big Mike: Fight The Power(less)

I knew I was a liberal after watching Bull Connor’s thugs knock the crap out of civil rights protesters in Selma, Alabama in 1963. I was seven years old at the time. I knew I was a rebel after reading Mad magazine a few years later when I was ten. I knew where my sympathies lay after Martin Luther King was bumped off and and West Siders tried to light their shitty ghetto on fire in response. I knew whose side I was on when Chicago cops were fracturing skulls in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel.

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The 1968 Democratic Convention In Chicago

So I’ve known from the earliest age that I’d never, ever want to be part of the bully crowd, the gang with badges and guns and respectability, pillars of the community, the backbone, the bedrock, the silent majority of this holy land. From all I could see, those people could turn into mean bastards in the snap of a finger when, in their fever dreams, they saw niggers, broads, queers, and pinkos plotting to sap and impurify all their precious bodily fluids.

From the age of nine on, I knew that those in power had to be defied, ridiculed and distrusted. For my money, it was better to piss all over their shoes than to shine them. When I was fourteen years old, I found a voice and a face for my nascent philosophy. His name was Abbot Howard Hoffman of Worcester, Massachusetts. The world knew him as Abbie.

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Abbie

He was the fun guy, the sex symbol some said, of the Chicago Eight. The Big Boys in in Washington and Chicago (appropriately enough, led by a couple of Dicks — Nixon and Daley) needed to string some people up for wrecking the Democrats’ bash in ’68 and for saying what pretty much everyone else with a cerebrum knew: that the Vietnam War was nuts. So US Attorneys threw darts at a list of radicals and came up with eight names to persecute and prosecute. Abbie was the star of that cast.

The war, segregation, corporate oligarchies and the rest might have pissed him off, but Abbie rarely lost his mischievous grin. Once, standing before a mass march of some 50,000 anti-war protesters outside the Pentagon, he directed them to marshal all their “psychic energy” to levitate the building. It didn’t work but he gave it a good try. Later, he and some cohorts stood in the visitors’ gallery above the New York Stock Exchange and tossed handfuls of cash on the trading floor, causing a mini riot as people scrambled to grab the fluttering dough.

During the Democratic convention protests, he and Jerry Rubin nominated a pig — whom they’d named Pigasus — for president. The pig lost. I think.

J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI file on Abbie ran to 13,262 pages.

Abbie mixed a joie with his rage. He was my hero. I even gave myself the nickname Abbey (yeah, I inadvertently misspelled it — sue me, I was 14.) I tried to grow my hair out like his — tough to do while trying to remain within the confines of a suburban, Catholic, college prep school appearance code. Had I been able to find an American flag shirt, I’d have worn it; of course, this was before wearing an American flag shirt became a statement for the entirely opposite reason.

When Abbie was found dead of a phenobarbitol overdose (he battled bipolar disorder) I mourned. The rabbi at his funeral said Abbie’s life’s work was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

That’s why some recent news has made my ears turn red. A quartet of little masturbation artists was busted down in New Orleans for impersonating telephone repairmen and sneaking into Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s office. They wanted to tap into her phone system illegally. They say their little prank was justified for moral and ethical reasons. Landrieu’s sin? She supports health care reform.

The four are part of a burgeoning movement of right wing college students who employ capers, hijinks, dirty tricks, entrapment, and guerrilla journalism to fight the forces who are destroying this holy nation. You know, those who push for universal health care, speak out against racism and sexism, and community organizers — terrorists of the worst sort.

You may recall one of the four as the guy who dressed up as a pimp and entered an ACORN office, phony street hooker in tow, looking for a small business grant. The ACORN representative, unwittingly (and suspiciously stupidly), went along with the scam. The right wing world, naturally, saw the isolated incident as a broad indictment of.., um…, I guess community organizations. You know, groups that try to help the little guy, the bastards.

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James O’Keefe And Accomplice

Anyway, the financier behind this homunculus’s campaigns, a wealthy right winger, has compared his work to that of Abbie Hoffman.

Those are fighting words. Look at the mugshots of the four and you’ll see the faces of privilege. They’re well-fed, smug, and awfully pale. They’ve gone to to best schools. They have bright futures in the corporate world — even if they now carry felony raps. They have as much to do with Abbie Hoffman as they do with Moe, Larry and Shemp (who, I recall, also impersonated telephone repairmen in one of their shorts.)

They’re fighting for the bullies of this world, which in my book makes them uber-bullies. They afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable. I hope they enjoy their stay in state prison.

I’m still an Abbie guy, even if hyenas like the New Orleans four try to hijack his legacy.

At the ripe old age of 52, last year, as Barack Obama was being sworn in as 44th President of the United States, I realized I still walked the path with my old idol.

My feelings were mixed as I watched the inauguration. I was giddy that a brown human being had reached the White House. But I was also scared to death that some member of this nation’s racial majority, some lover of status quo, some idolator of guns and badges, certain that pillars of the community and its leaders should have pale skin, would aim a rifle at Obama. If anybody bumps this guy off, I swore to myself, I’m gonna go out with a baseball bat and make some fuckers pay.

It’s what Abbot Hoffman would have thought. Radical? Sure. Unreasonable? Hell no. Thanks Abbie.

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Hot Air

Manns’ Act

I know nothing about Alphonso Manns other than what I read about him in the Herald Times Saturday (paywall). Manns is the Dem candidate to supplant longtime Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Todd in the November election.

Manns, it was learned, once was whacked along with two others with a $1.3 billion judgement in a fraud case involving gold bullion. It seems Mann and his then-wife and law partner repped a kinky character named Otis Phillips who’d conjured a scheme to get investors to put earnest money down on the gold, pending approval of their qualifications to participate in the deal. The investors, in turn, would not be approved and Phillips would keep the earnest dough.

The gold never existed.

Back in 1997, the H-T‘s Mike Leonard described the set-up thusly:

[T]he investment scheme Dollie Manns represented hinged on the smuggling of gold and platinum that former Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek purportedly stashed in China and Indonesia when Communist forces led by Mao Zedong took control of the country 48 years ago.

Leonard went on to quote an Indiana Securities Division and Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission ruling in its investigation of Dollie Manns (Alphonso’s former wife):

She (Dollie Manns) exploited the investor by opportunistically initiating a conversation with her about the ‘investment’ knowing, by reason of her association with the investor’s lawyer (Al Manns) that the investor had just closed a lucrative real estate transaction. Her actions indicate a predilection to take advantage of unsuspecting clients of the firm and thus impart a strong negative implication to her fitness as a lawyer….

By converting the investor’s $20,000 to uses other than those agreed to by the investor and by failing to return the funds pursuant to the parties’ understanding and after the investor demanded return, the respondent violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(b). her conversion of the investor’s funds violated Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(c) in that it represents conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.

Manns

Alphonso Manns (IDS photo)

Phillips spent two years in the joint for the scam (not his first time as a guest of the state) and the Manns’s were named as co-respondents in the criminal case. The judgement against them was upheld by the a Texas appeals court, although the original penalty was reduced to $400 million.

The Manns’s, being neither billionaires nor hundred-millionaires, couldn’t come up with the scratch and so filed for bankruptcy. Even though the plaintiffs in the case could have pressed to collect the 400-extra-large, they didn’t, presumably because they were embarrassed nearly to death to have been taken in such a flimsy scheme.

For his part, Manns says he’s as pure as the driven snow.

Maybe. I only know I’m not voting for him. A judge, I’d hazard to opine, needs to possess better sense than to get involved in a business deal with, as the Texas appellate court described Phillips, “a shadowy figure…, (and) an ex-convict, (who) masterminded this scheme….”

Gay’s Best

In more savory news, Indiana University verse-ologist Ross Gay‘s poem, “To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian” has been named one of the best of the year. It’s been included in the compilation The Best American Poetry 2014.

BAP 2014

The Best… books are a neat series that gather together some of the finest writing of the year. The books come out annually and include titles such as The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Essays. [Shameless plug alert] A piece I wrote about women boxers in the Chicago Reader back in 1994 was named a notable work in The Best American Sports Writing 1995. Read the piece here.

Once you’re finished with that make sure you check out Gay’s poem. It appeared originally in the American Poetry Review.

Those Zany Zimmermans

GQ mag yesterday released a story online from its October, 2014, issue detailing the sheer lunacy of the Zimmerman family. You remember George Zimmerman don’t you? Got into a scrape with a kid he was stalking, found himself on the losing end, and so shot the kid in the heart, killing him.

The kid’s name, natch, was Trayvon Martin.

Honestly, you knew from the start — as did I — that George himself was as mentally stable as a 17-year-old on his 30th crystal meth booty bump. Bet you didn’t know, though, that he comes from a clan that makes the Bluths look like the Huxtables.

The apple, babies, fell directly under the tree.

Zimmerman

Yay! It’s Okay That I Killed A Kid!

Anyway, read the piece and try to understand the sheer weirdness of the family that has inspired love, devotion, and loyalty from the likes of Sean Hannity and his Fox News audience.

Hot Air

[MG Note: Pardon the weird paragraph leading today; WordPress is eff-ing up.]

Scandal!

Just when you think the Far Right-wingnut mob can’t get any farther or nuttier (and how many times have I had to type a version of that lead over the last few years?) they up and shock the bejesus out of me.
And any other sane person, for that matter.
Are you sitting? Okay. That latest deranged rumor about Barack Obama is that he and Michelle are not the biological parents of Malia and Sasha.
Obama

The Mother Of All Frauds

Yep. A gang of Obama-obsessed jingoists on a website called The US Patriot (“home to the best Conservative news on the net”) has uncovered this earth-shattering news that’s sure to make Watergate and Iran-Contra and the October Surprise look like childish indiscretions.
“[S]ome Americans,” the site intones, gravely, “feel that the two girls have very little resemblance to their parents.” Later, the post’s author reveals, “[N]o one has ever claimed to see a picture of the First Lady pregnant or with a newborn.”
Hmm. What could be up here? No doubt something horribly devious, considering this Prez is the worst America-hating non-citizen who’s ever lied, cheated, and defrauded his way to the leadership of the Free World — which won’t be free very much longer after he and his pals enslave us all.
Whoever wrote this scoop — there is no byline — says unimpeachable sources (“others claim…”) have unearthed evidence the two kids might have been born in Morocco and then adopted.
Thank god for people like those who staff The US Patriot! Why, without them, we’d all be speaking Morroccan now.
[h/t to Ray Hanania.]

False Flag

Not to be outdone, the loons on the Left have their own brand spanking new mad, mad conspiracy delusion.
ISIS, acc’d’g to one or two as-yet-uncommitted mental patients on the Wingnut Left, flat out doesn’t exist.
Meme
All of which makes me wonder why scads of folks are so bored by the vagaries and complexities of real life that they must create spectacular fictions to get themselves through the day.

Fogey Fun

The Loved One and I had a lot of fun out with the Fergusons and Joneses last night at the Bloomington Playwrights Project production of Kalamazoo and then, post-show, at Ferg. world HQ.
Kalamazoo

“Kalamazoo” At The BPP

Kalamazoo was a rare bit of entertainment dealing with the lives, loves, hopes, and dreams of, well, old people. As in, Ick, old people.
The play was written by Michelle Kholos Brooks and Kelly Younger. Brooks is the daughter-in-law of legendary funny man Mel Brooks and his influence shows in the play. The gags and one-liners — lots of them Borscht Belt mots buffed up to a contemporary sheen — come rapid fire as two old fossils, widowers both, hook up on an old-person dating site and fall, by fits and starts, in love.B-town luminaries in attendance for the opening night performance included Bloom mag publisher Malcolm Abrams and political doyenne Charlotte Zietlow.
And Tyler Ferguson’s late evening jambalaya feed was fab.

Hot Air

Chase-ing Foreigners Away

I ran a blind item here a couple of weeks ago about “[o]ne of Bloomington’s most respected and beloved citizens” who claims she was given the bum’s rush by her bank because she is “closely related to someone who works for a foreign government.” Reps of this person’s bank (she spoke with a number of people on the phone regarding the matter) said they were sorry for giving her the thumb but that’s the way their bank interpreted the Patriot Act.

I elected to withhold the names of the person and the bank until I could speak with someone from that institution (although I did slip in a huge clue by mentioning the bank in question in another context.)

Anyway, I’ve finally contacted the bank and now have its side. So, here’s a fuller version of the story:

The ex-customer whose account was disco’d is Zaineb Istrabadi, a senior lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University. Her ex-bank is Chase, the US consumer and commercial banking arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Zaineb was told that because her brother Feisal Istrabadi once worked for the government of Iraq, Chase would terminate her account. Born in the US in 1962, Feisal attended IU as an undergrad and graduated from the Maurer School of Law in 1988. He was in private practice until 2004, during which time he worked closely with members of the opposition to Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

Istrabadis

Zaineb Istrabadi (L) & Feisal Istrabadi

[Zaineb photo — Herald Times]

After Hussein’s overthrow by US-led forces in 2003, Feisal was rewarded by the new Iraq government with an ambassadorship to the United Nations. He returned to Bloomington in 2007 to take a job with his alma mater law school, where he is a professor of practice. He specializes in “research on the processes of building legal and political institutions in countries in transition from dictatorship to democracy.”

Feisal’s own Chase account, acc’d’g to Zaineb, was terminated “years ago,” ostensibly because he’d worked for the government of Iraq.

Zaineb, who lives with her ailing mother, says she received a call one morning from her Chase branch office. After some hemming and hawing, the rep said, “Your business is no longer welcome at Chase.”

Zaineb says she’s been a customer of the same bank for at least 10 years. JPM Chase was the third company to own the bank during her term as a customer there. The way Zaineb sees it, she should have been considered a Chase customer for all those ten-plus years.

When Zaineb asked why Chase was taking this action, she was told the Patriot Act was to blame. Or, at least, Chase’s interpretation of same. Zaineb adds that all the Chase reps she spoke with were “extremely apologetic.”

Nevertheless, Zaineb was left looking to park her cash in another bank, which she’s done. She’s also hurt and angry. She says she’s contacted some Arab-American advocacy groups to see what hell they might be able to raise about the situation.

For its part, Chase says it’s operating within the guidelines imposed on it by federal regulators. A Chase employee on the regional level told me, “It’s not the Patriot Act,” that led to Zaineb’s account termination.

Zaineb, acc’d’g to this Chase employee, “is a politically exposed person according to our regulators.” This person says Chase will not offer accounts to anybody with connections to “non-US people” working for foreign governments. This person says the practice is “due to the regulators.”

The person explains: “The regulations are so strenuous around these accounts that we never do business with these accounts anymore.”

Here’s Chase’s corporate line: “This decision is not a reflection on how these customers have handled their accounts, but rather a result of our focus on internal controls.”

Chase Bank is regulated by the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a bureau of the Department of the Treasury. Parent JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a multinational banking and financial services holding company with assets of more than $2.5 trillion. That’s trillion. With a T. It is regulated by the Federal Reserve. The regulations my Chase source is talking about come from the OCC.

Chase Architecture

Zaineb Istrabadi’s experience with her ex-bank is not unique. Arab-Americans around the country are receiving termination notices from their banks. The Arab-American Civil Rights League has filed a class-action lawsuit against Ohio-based Huntington Bank in the US District Court in Detroit. The Council on American-Islamic Relations–Michigan appealed to the OCC to investigate Chase Bank‘s mass account terminations this past spring. The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida has asked the US Justice Department to sniff around for racial or religious discrimination in the national rash of account closures. Sofian Zakout, who heads American Muslims for Emergency and Relief Inc., had both his business and personal accounts terminated. A Minneapolis dentist begged TCF Bank to allow him to reopen his joint account with his wife but was rebuffed.

Much of this purging of Arab-Americans from banks’ customer rolls is due to various institutions’ interpretations of the OCC’s regulations. Here’s how Chase Bank interprets them:

Chase is no longer offering personal and business banking accounts to current or former senior non-U.S. officials, their immediate families, or close associates, given the significant and ongoing regulatory requirements to maintain the accounts. 

Regulatory guidance requires that banks perform specialized oversight and monitoring of these types of clients – requiring a significant amount of resources to support a relatively small group of customers. 

The above paragraphs arose in response to a June, 2013, guidance document issued by the Financial Action Task Force. The FATF describes itself this way:

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an independent inter-governmental body that develops and promotes policies to protect the global financial system against money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The FATF Recommendations are recognised as the global anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) standard.

Some 34 nations as well as the European Commission and the Gulf Cooperation Council are members of the FATF. They are joined by dozens of associate members and observer organizations. It’s an all-star cast of players in the international monetary game.

In short, certain foreign gov’t officials and their kin are under suspicion. Their financial transactions must be strictly monitored. Such oversight costs time and money. The banks, ergo, figure it ain’t worth it.

Bye bye, Istrabadis — and countless other Arab-Americans. It’s not clear at this point if the same monitoring is required, say, of consuls and ambassadors from the United Kingdom or Monaco. In any case, Zaineb Istrabadi wonders how any foreign official working in the United States can pay her or his credit card bill. “How do they do their banking?” she says.

She only knows she and her brother are not doing their banking with Chase anymore.

Hot Air

Sweet Medicine

Whatever you do the next few days, make sure you get yourself down to Lake Monroe and catch the sunset. It’s been brilliant — jaw-droopingly so — since, oh, Sunday evening.

Sunset

A Priceless Show

Steve the Dog and I have been taking it in all this week. It’s an especially effective tonic if you’ve been feeling the world has gone mad of late. Hell, who hasn’t been wondering if ebola, ISIS, Putin and the Ukraine, and even the very existence of Sen. Ted Cruz are omens of humanity’s coming suicide. (Memo from Big Mike: They’re not; the world is no madder than it’s ever been.)

Anyway, S the D and I usually make one pass over the lake going southbound on SR 446, turn around in Cutright, and then backtrack north, just to catch the sky show from the causeway. Then we turn into Paynetown and park in the lot on the point past the beaches and the Interpretive Center and just gawk from there. (Well, I gawk; Steve sniffs stuff.)

Honest, I almost wish I believed in god so I could thank somebody for the display.

Felon

One of the bestselling “authors” in this holy land today is a fellow by the name of Dinesh D’Souza, whose “writing” is comprised mostly of inventing canards against the worst president we’ve ever had. In fact, Barack Hussein Obama is the worst leader any civilization on this planet or any other world in the known Universe has had to endure.

Plus, a young Obama had the gall to grow up with an absentee father, acc’d’g to D’Souza’s documentary 2016: Obama’s America, and that’s why the worst prez in history hates our blessed and exceptional nation.

D’Souza’s book, America: Imagine a World without Her, has been loitering near the top of the New York Times hardcover non-fiction (teehee) best seller list since its release in June. Those on the Far Right have eaten it up like a pack of dung beetles consuming a steaming mound of elephant shit.

America

Some who prance about (joylessly, of course) in the ultra-conservative echo chamber have even openly wished that D’Souza could run for president in 2016, even though he’s never held public office, has never done an executive’s job, and is a loon. Not only that, he is Constitutionally barred from running for C-in-C because he was born in India. That part of our founding document is not spelled out in the Second Amendment so some Right-wingers may be unfamiliar with it.

Looks like they’ll have to stash those Dinesh for President buttons in their junk drawers now. The man who actually blamed liberals for 9/11 (swear to god) has been sentenced to an eight-month stay in a halfway house, a $30,000 fine, five years probation, and 2080 hours of community service time for violating federal campaign finance laws.

The specific laws, prohibiting wealthy donors from laundering campaign contributions through third parties, also is not part of the Second Amendment so it’s no wonder D’Souza might have been unaware he was committing a felony. He’d recruited two people, an employee and the woman he was cheating on his wife with, to donate $10,000 each to an opponent of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the 2008 election. He made the arrangements with the promise to pay both people back, thereby skirting individual campaign donation limits.

D'Souza

D’Souza: Convict

Apparently, D’Souza viewed Gillibrand as the worst future senator the state of New York has ever had to endure. It’s interesting to note both Obama and Gillibrand are Right-leaning Centrists so imagine how felonious and canard-ing he’d be had he ever set his sights on a real Liberal.

I doubt his felony conviction and sentencing will sway the Wingnut Right away from loving him up. He is not, after all, a black man.

High School Hijinks

Have you seen the excerpts from the Twitter account of one of the nice little former Catholic school kids who beat a gay couple in Philly bloody not long ago? Alright, alright — allegedly.

What a pig.

What a gang of pigs. Apparently, the lot of them who’d attended the same high school had gotten together at a local restaurant for a sort of alumni dinner on September 11th. Afterward a dozen of them, well fortified with alcohol, went for a walk at which time the beating occurred. Attorneys for the three people charged so far say the gay couple attacked the group.

Which seems credible; the problem of gay couples attacking large groups of drunken homophobes is becoming epidemic these days.

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Alumni Fun

Anyway, it seems this one accused gay-basher, a young woman who also happens to be the daughter of an area police chief, is obsessed with gays, dykes, and whiskey.

Let us hope and pray she eschews the use of contraceptives; otherwise her Catholic high school education would have been for naught.

The Real Sin

The whole Ray Rice kayo-ing his then-fiancé scandal produces more and more healthy piles of equine feces seemingly every day.

ESPN has suspended reporter/commentator Bill Simmons for his angry outburst condemning the NFL’s hypocritical stonewalling in the Rice case. Simmons now has three weeks to sit in a corner and ponder his no-no. That would be one week more than the suspension Ray Rice originally got from the NFL for clocking the love of his life.

Simmons — clearly a bad, bad man, worse, even, that a spousal abuser — is now, it is hoped, atoning from the bottom of his black heart.

Simmons

Bill Simmons: Reprobate

Here’s how the Washington Post describes Simmons’ mortal sin:

On Simmons’s podcast, “The B.S. Report,” which was posted on Monday, he launched into a profanity-laced tirade in which he repeatedly called Goodell a “liar.” That podcast appears to have been removed from ESPN’s Web site.

Goodell, of course, is NFL czar Roger Goodell, who for some six months really didn’t give a good goddamn about Rice’s criminal assault and battering upon his one and only and her subsequent involuntary snooze. It was only after security video of the incident was released this month that Goodell came to the realization that Rice’s wrist must be slapped harder.

ESPN and Grantland have removed the offending podcast because, god forbid, some little kid might hear it and conclude that Reichsmarschall Goodell is something less than a saint and a credit to his race. Also, Simmons drops the F-bomb twice which, as we all know, is ten jillion times worse than punching the woman you hope to spend the rest of your life with into unconsciousness.

It took a little digging but I did find audio of the podcast, via Business Insider. Here’s a taste in case you don’t feeling like listening to the whole thing:

I just think not enough is being made out of the fact that they knew about the tape and they knew what was on it. Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail. For all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such fucking bullshit. It really is — it’s such fucking bullshit. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted. I really was.

You see? What reasonable soul wouldn’t condone and forgive ten vicious beatings before that?

This whole thing is playing out like Watergate. You know, where the clueless bosses keep digging a deeper hole for themselves as each day passes. My guess is Goodell et al still don’t grasp how evil Rice’s act of knocking his fiancé into dreamland was.

Hot Air

Saying Goodbye to RE

Attendees at Saturday’s memorial service for Bloomington fixture RE Paris recounted tales of the book addict’s life.

The gazillions of books she’d amassed throughout her years on this planet have been donated by sons Eric and Nick to several orgs. I was allowed once to peek into her basement where she kept her literary trove. I thanked her to never force me down there again — the sheer number of stacks and piles and the certain nightmare of accounting for all her tomes made my head spin and I’m dizzy enough as it is.

RE eventually did inventory all her books and then she put them up for sale online. It was her dream to run her own book selling outfit and before she died in July she’d accomplished that, actually making a living at it. She also dreamed, acc’d’g to Steve Volan, who’d read her business plan, of taking over the old white house on College Ave. that now serves as HQ for the Monroe County Dem Party. She wanted to open a combo book shop, cut flower shop, cafe, and all-around third place there. She would live in the garret above the operation.

Her plan, sez Volan, was impeccable and, I learned Saturday, her brother-in-law (who is rolling in dough) was willing to finance the place. But the congestive heart failure that she didn’t even know she had cut both the plan and her life short.

The most touching — and apt — line came from RE’s sister, who lamented, “She was a wounded bird.” Nothing could top that for encapsulating the life of Miss Ruth Ellen Paris.

RE Paris

A Young RE

Anyway, the aforementioned Steve Volan served as emcee of the memorial. It must be said he did a fabulous job of mixing reverence, respect, and gentle humor throughout the proceedings. The memorial, ironically, turned out to be life affirming. Kudos, Steve.

And farewell, RE.

Mortality’s Mug

Speaking of mortality, this next story has to do with my own.

Let me preface it, though, by confessing my pockets are the worst place imaginable for my money for a couple of reasons:

  • No. 1 — From my own undisciplined, instant-gratification POV, the sound of scratch jingling in my pockets is a clarion call that demands I spend it. I’m a drunken sailor when it comes to the USD. It’s clear I don’t like the feel of money in my pocket — or, for that matter, in my wallet, cigar box, sock drawer or even under my mattress — since I work so assiduously and quickly to empty said receptacles of funds.

Empty Pocket

  • No. 2 — From a more mature, sober-sided perspective, if a profligate spender like me actually has a pocketful of currency,  she or he (me) will continue to engage in the self-sabotage of not putting aside money for a rainy day. I always respond to that charge by saying, Yeah, but what if it never rains and I’m stuck with all that money, huh? Anyway, money in my pocket ≄ money in my future. Money, by my gut take, is not for tomorrow; it’s for today.

Okay, got it?

The presence of The Loved One in my life is a welcome fix to that character shortcoming. She, to borrow a line from that noted philosopher Mike Ditka, throws around nickels like manhole covers. She labors mightily, setting up a budget for us and making sure we keep to it. She researches investments, shifts assets from here to there, and otherwise cracks the fiscal whip around Chez Glab/TLO.

In that role, she has discovered that buying our toiletries online in bulk actually saves us dough in the long run. For instance, every once in a while I’ll find on my desk a newly-delivered box of several dozen units of Tom’s of Maine underarm deodorant (either Woodspice or Lemongrass — they both pleasantly enhance my bouquet).

Now then, the other day a box arrived containing a few dozen packages of Williams mug shaving soap. (See, I loath grocery store shaving cream because it stings my handsomely sensitive face — remember, one of my goals in life is to avoid pain and unpleasantness at every turn).

Williams Mug Shaving Soap

The Harbinger

As I emptied the big box and stashed the soaps in my toiletries drawer, I realized that at my age several dozen shaving soaps will probably last me until the end of my life.

Imagine that! Think of any product you buy regularly and then imagine not having to buy it again because, well, you’ll die before you need to do so.

Arrghh!

I was hoping for some more romantic, even literary late-life symbolism of my mortality. Think of Michael Corleone sitting in his garden, reflecting on his life. Or any number of statespeople, famed artists, or saintly figures deciding to get to work on those memoirs.

From "The Godfather: Part III"

Michael, At The End

Not so with me. I have be forced to grapple with humanity’s saddest and most challenging realization via the delivery of a bunch of shaving soap.

Damn.

Critter Commemoration

Let’s stick with mortality. Yesterday, people took to the streets again in Ferguson Missouri, to express outrage over a fire that partially destroyed a makeshift memorial to slain black teenager Michael Brown.

Ferguson’s mayor wants the world to believe that the fire was accidental — perhaps the lit candles ignited a cardboard sign or a teddy bear. The people in the streets want the world to believe the fire was started intentionally — several have claimed they smelled gasoline as the fire burned.

In any case, the memorial was comprised largely of stuffed animals.

Brown Memorial

Before And After

Where did the practice of placing stuffed animals at spontaneous memorials come from? The first time I recall seeing it was in the photos of the memorial set up for Princess Diana back in 1997. I figured the whole teddy bear thing made sense in her case since she was, after all, a princess and it’s the infantile among us who are most prone to mourn the passing of princesses.

There also were scads of teddy bears and stuffed animals littering the sidewalk at the Michael Jackson memorial. Again, it makes sense — and you don’t need me to explain why.

Companies that sell teddy bears and other stuffed animals have even begun marketing their products specifically to the grief-stricken. And, in fact, one firm offers a “teddy bear cremation urn” that can be personalized with the name of the deceased. Pardon me while I shudder.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.57.20 AM

Many of these are products, mind you, are geared to customers who’ve lost adult loved ones. I suppose I can understand getting all teddy bearish if you’ve lost a kid, but sending a teddy bear to the funeral home where your 66-year-old uncle who died of coronary artery disease is laid out seems to rather trivialize his memory, no?

I know this: After I turn in my timecard if anybody attempts to memorialize me through the use of a teddy bear (or, almost as bad, a crucifix) I’d want to come back and haunt the holy bejesus out of them. Too damned bad I don’t believe in an afterlife.

Hot Air

Oh, Those Deer Again

As mentioned earlier in these precincts, the upcoming deer cull (or, if you prefer, kill) has raised a lot of hackles around town. A private wildlife management company (or, if you prefer, hired assassins) will mow down a few of the cuddly but troublesome ruminants this fall. Some B-town residents are in favor of calling out the Air Corps and having them drop the A-bomb on the Griffy Lake area where the deer loiter. Others say, Hey, wait a sec, those little cloven-hoofed Bambis were here first so we should learn to live with them. All of them.

The argument has reached sniffy and huffy proportions at times. The city’s Parks & Recreation Dept. approved the cull plan earlier this year. The City Council followed up by waiving the city’s no-shootin’-o’-them-there-firearms ban. Mayor Mark Kruzan then vetoed the Council’s waiver. The majority of the Council sniffed, stuck to their guns (pun intended), and overrode his veto.

Bloomington Council

Bloomington’s City Council

One of our fave Pencillistas is Bloomington City Councilperson Susan Sandberg. She voted yea on the cull and has been dodging missiles ever since. And, like pretty much all political discussion these days, the rhetoric turned ludicrous. Some anti-cullers have suggested that the kill plan is symptomatic of this holy land’s love affair with guns and one or two have even suggested that recent muggings on the B-Line Trail just may be a direct result of the Council’s (and Sandberg’s) mania to solve our problems with firearms and violence.

Well, our gal got pushed over the edge by that. Sandberg took to Facebook the other day and huffed:

I just have to get this off my chest based on a subtle but false remark made in the last Council meeting. To equate gun violence against human beings with my position on responsible deer population management in the Griffy Woods Preserve to protect the ecology of other species is simply not acceptable. For all who follow my posts here, there is no one, I repeat NO ONE who is more horrified by senseless gun violence in America than yours truly. To suggest that those of us who support managing the over abundance of deer in Griffy is in any way related to a reckless gun culture or a direct cause of violence in Bloomington is irresponsible and untrue. I will not let that propaganda stand without respectful rebuttal. I’ve heard that some folks are out there saying that the recent violence on the B-Line trail is directly related to the City Council supporting lethal and humane methods of deer management in Griffy. Those two issues have nothing to do with each other and to spread that false line of thinking is offensive and absurd. I’ll be much more outspoken about this in public meetings if these false comparisons continue.

I, of course, leapt to Sandberg’s defense. Hell, she may be a Congressbeing or even the Governor one day and wouldn’t it be swell to have a friend in either the state’s or nation’s capital?

Like The Dude, Sandberg drew a line in the sand and would not let this (verbal) aggression stand, man.

From "The Big Lebowski"

This Will Not Stand

Later on in the comment thread, SuSand hinted that some communiques from the anti-cull gang have been threatening and one or two have even characterized her as a Hitler. Susan Sandberg, I’ll say here and now, is no Adolph Hitler — she’s not even a vegetarian.

I spoke with another high-ranking official in these parts yesterday afternoon. Whadja think of SS’s smackdown of her critics the other day? I asked.

This high-ranking official eyed me for a moment and then responded, “When you take the job, you’ve got to accept the criticism that comes with it.”

I think my high-ranking official source is right. Therefore I advise S-squared to ignore the dumb bastards in the hereinafter. I’ll take up the sword in her stead. I’m no elected official so I don’t have to put up with anybody’s stupidity.

Bomb Newark

Here’s a Wow! quote from the front page of Sunday’s New York Times Book Review:

There are places in America where life is so cheap and fate so brutal that, if they belonged to another country, America might bomb that country to “liberate” them.

That’s as powerful a statement as I’ve read in a big-time media outlet in I don’t know how long. Honestly, I can’t imagine how the line got past the NYT editors.

It is incendiary, it is dramatic, it is shocking, it is bold and, above all, it is true.

It’s the opening sentence in a review of the book, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, the saddest of possible tales about living in the slums of Newark, New Jersey. The book traces the life of the title kid who somehow succeeds despite being raised among gangsters, poverty, miserable schools, and the constant threat of violence. He found his way to Yale University where he majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. But Rob also had a daddy-o who was a dope dealer and who warned him off reading books because they’d make him soft. Rob eventually inherited his daddy-o’s drug business. Then he was killed.

Book Cover

A NYT columnist named Anand Giridharadas wrote the review. Jeff Hobbs wrote the book. I suppose if you want to drive yourself into a deep depression, you’ll read it. On the other hand, there’s a lot about America that’s awfully depressing and it does us no good to ignore it.

Boom Times

Just for the record, I’m four-square in favor of the pounding the US and its temporary allies are giving those ISIS boys in Syria and parts nearby.

Tomahawk Missile

Stock Image Of A Tomahawk Missile Launch

People here and there are harrumphing that the whole ISIS scare is a false flag thing, that the US can’t be trusted to deliver us the truth since Iraq. It’s true Little Georgy Bush’s funtimes war against Saddam Hussein was based on pure, unadulterated bullshit. And that indeed should give us pause every time the leaders of this holy land try to sell us a bill of goods.

It doesn’t mean, though, that every utterance from every succeeding president is fraudulent.

The world needs to be wiped clean of ISIS.

Science (Non)Fiction

Lisa Winter writes in IFLS about the Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries of Science.

That is, the most perplexing questions we haven’t been able to answer about the world — hell, the Universe — around us. Those who scoff at science (can you believe I’m actually writing these words in the 21st Century?) say, See, Science doesn’t know everything!

Correct. Science doesn’t know everything. Actually, science knows nothing since it’s a descriptor of a process rather than a person or group of people who, like, know things.

Those anti-science-ites like to say things like that to infer that not only does science not know everything, it really knows nothing. Evolution? Bah. Global warming? Puh-leeze. Childhood vaccinations? Never. That’s a lazy over-reaction on a par with those (as mentioned in an entry above) who think that because of Iraq, all American presidents lie about everything.

Bumper Sticker

Well, presidents do lie and science — or , more accurately, scientists — are scratching their heads about any number of things. As Osgood Fielding III says in Some Like It Hot, “Nobody’s perfect.”

Here then, acc’d’g to Lisa Winter, are the most troublesome Q’s scientists face these days:

  • Why is there more matter than anti-matter?
  • Where is all the lithium?
  • Why do we sleep?
  • How does gravity work?
  • Where are all the extra-terrestrials?

From "The Day the Earth Stood Still"

Where Are These Guys?

  • What is dark matter?
  • How did life begin?
  • How do plate tectonics work?
  • How do animals know where to go when they migrate?
  • What is dark energy?

When I was a little kid, I’d watch cars zip by on North Avenue on Chicago’s Northwest Side and feel frustrated because I couldn’t figure out how they could move. Nothing was pushing those cars; nothing was pulling them. The fact that they were zipping by seemed, to my little mind, impossible. Somehow, though, I knew it wasn’t impossible, nor was it magic. There was a reason, an explanation, a confidence that I’d eventually know.

Scientists today are like little kids when it comes to the aforementioned ten bogglers. No, science doesn’t know everything; it’s got a million questions.

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