Hot Air

Hey God, Look At Me!

The bi-annual trek of foreign students to the Book Corner for their copies of Flowers for Algernon and other semi-classics has begun again in earnest this week.

Indiana University, like many such institutions of higher educ., attracts scads of students from around the world. Most international students learned English in their elementary or equivalent schools. Think for a moment about how adept you are at whatever second language you learned in seventh grade and you’ll realize many of these students may need some brushing up before they can attend regular classes here. So IU makes foreign students take a proficiency test and those who come up lacking are assigned to the Intensive English Program, a sort of boot camp to get them up to speed in this holy land’s native tongue.

Book Cover

The IEP instructors assign books to the students and then direct them to come to our town’s downtown to buy their copies. The trip, it is hoped, forces the students to navigate unfamiliar territory and speak the language. One of the mainstay IEP reading assignments is the aforementioned 1958 scifi novel by Daniel Keyes. The book is relatively short and is written in a straightforward style, the better to immerse new-ish speakers in the language.

I always get a kick out of taking care of the IEP students. They generally step tentatively into the store and immediately whip out their smartphones to pull up an image of the book’s cover. Usually I spot them well before they can stumble their way through asking for the book. I preempt them by saying, “You’re here for Flowers for Algernon, right?” Occasionally, though, they’ll catch me unaware and start making halting requests, the words of which I recognize might be anything from floors to Algeria mixed in with so much unintelligible verbiage from their homelands.

Most speak English surprisingly well, though. We usually end up chatting about where they come from and what they hope to study here. I’ve met students from Colombia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Yemen, Portugal, and all points in between. I don’t know how I’d feel if I were, say, 20 years old and in a foreign country with a somewhat passable grasp of the language, but the students I talk with seem eager to burst out into grins when I engage them.  It’s as though they’re thankful I’m not going to call the authorities on them for having the thick accents of terrorists.

Monday a Middle East couple walked in. The young man led the way, his partner trailing behind. She wore a niqab, part of the fundamentalist Muslim uniform code that demands women be dressed “modestly.” As in Dress like you’re not there.

I’m no fan of demonstrative religious displays. People who plaster Jesus bumper stickers all over the rear ends of the cars give me the shivers. I saw a lot of  Hasidic Jews up on the Far North Side of Chicago when I lived there — you know, those fellows who dress like Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer eating Easter dinner at his shikse girlfriend’s family’s house in Annie Hall? I never could understand why people feel compelled to scream to the world how much they love, love, love their god. Maybe their god is hard of hearing.

From "Annie Hall"

Click Image For Full Scene

Anyway, the Middle Eastern couple. The book, it turns out, would be for her. He did the talking. Which I found extremely uncomfortable.

I figured, as long as the book would be for her, I should be talking to her. Yet the man stood nearer to me and the woman seemed to want to step back. I wanted to make eye contact with her but I thought, Isn’t it against the rules to look a woman in the eye? I dunno.

See, there’s tons of restrictions and proscriptions on interactions between the sexes in the Middle East Muslim world. Which ones, I wondered, are real and which are ignorant stereotypes I’ve bought into?

If I do insist on addressing the woman, will the man get mad? And whom will he be mad at? Will she pay some price when the two get home? Later, will he tell all his Muslim friends not to go to that Book Corner store because the stupid American there insulted his masculinity?

All these thoughts ran through my mind. Still, that troublemaking part of me insisted I speak with her. I did and — you know what? — she looked me right back in the eye and was engaging and charming.

Whaddya know?

Like the Jews and the Christians, the Muslims have different little sects that rank 1-10, say, in hard-assed-ness. Like the Hasidic Jew and the Reformed Jew or the holy roller Southern Baptist and the United Methodist.

When far too many Americans think Muslim, they think wild-eyed rock-throwing, suicide-bombing, woman-stoning, bearded lunatic. Near Eastern Studies scholar and Israeli Martin Kramer wrote in Middle East Quarterly some years ago, “To all intents and purposes, Islamic fundamentalism and Islamism have become synonyms in contemporary American usage.” I’ve never wanted to be one of those Americans.

And yet here I was, always busting my fellow homelanders for their willful ignorance, but as ignorant about Muslims as anyone.

Rage

Islam?

Here’s a fascinating site for you to peruse: Islam’s Women: Jewels of Islam seems at times as progressive as any American feminist organization. In fact, an article entitled “Women’s Rights in Islam” opens, “The issue of women in Islam is topic of great misunderstanding and distortion due partly to a lack of understanding, but also partly due to misbehavior of some Muslims which has been taken to represent the teachings of Islam.” Later, the article explains, “According to the Quran, men and women have the same spirit, there is no superiority in the spiritual sense between men and women. [Noble Quran 4:1, 7:189, 42:11]“

Hmm. The site adds, “In the area of economic rights, we have to remember that in Europe until the 19th century, women did not have the right to own their own property. When they were married, either it would transfer to the husband or she would not be able to dispense of it without permission of her husband. In Britain, perhaps the first country to give women some property rights, laws were passed in the 1860’s known as ‘Married Women Property Act.’ More than 1300 years earlier, that right was clearly established in Islamic law.”

Then again, in a section explaining women’s appearance, the site states:

“Why do Muslim women have to cover their heads?” This question is one which is asked by Muslim and non-Muslim alike. For many women it is the truest test of being a Muslim.

The answer to the question is very simple — Muslim women observe HIJAB (covering the head and the body) because Allah has told them to do so.

Which brings us back to the seed of this sermon: The belief in god and the all-too-common compulsion to let the world know about it. The Amish wear their uniforms. The Muslims insist that faithful women cover themselves either from head to toe or in some slightly less demonstrative way. Christians dangle crucifixes around their necks. Jews nail mezuzah cases onto their door jambs.

All of them want you — and me — to know something about them: I dig god and he digs me.

Yet, there’s always a little bit more to the message: My god is not your god (unless you’re part of my club.)

It is, when all is said and done, an ID card. Considering the fact that, acc’d’g to adherents.com, a survey of the planet’s religious populations, there may be up to 4200 different religions right now in this crazy, mixed-up world, it begins to get a tad difficult keeping up with everybody’s mores, folkways, and taboos.

But by wearing what amounts to a religious ID card, the world’s faithful not only want the rest of us to know who they are but also to respect their faith’s traditions. Of course, such sensitivity can become onerous. For instance, the French have thrown up their hands and decided they don’t want to have to deal with the ID card that is the hijab. Covering the face and body in this way is now against the law in that nation, earning a faithful Muslim woman who wears a burqa in public — with or without the niqab — a stiff €150 fine.

Muslim Dress Code

(From Left) The Hijab, The Niqab, The Burqa

Being faceless, in other words, is too in your face in France.

Back to the Middle East couple at the Book Corner. We ended up having a pleasant conversation. They were Saudi Arabians who grew up in the same small town of fewer than a thousand people. They’re both studying business of one form or another. Their English, by the way, was superb even though they both apologized profusely for not speaking it well. I wished them great luck. As I do with all IEP students, I welcomed them to this country. They left happy, I hope, with me as I was with them.

All’s well that ends well, natch, but I’m left with a certain feeling of discomfort. Why, I wonder, did I have to put myself through all those mental gymnastics when I first laid eyes on the couple?

All they wanted to do was buy a book.

Hot Air

The Richard Thompson Hangover

So, if any of you out there has a trace of vim and vigor left after last night’s Richard Thompson show at the Buskirk Chumley Theater you just might be able to, y’know, do another thing or two in Bloomington over the next couple of weeks or so. It’s a long shot, but it may be possible.

To wit:

1) You may rouse yourself from your post-bliss stupor and take in An Evening with the Creator of Gasland: Josh Fox. He ain’t no R. Thompson but he’s creative, serious, an intellectual, and an activist for all the right causes. His documentary, Gasland, was nominated for an Academy Award® in 2011. It deals with the effects of natural gas drilling and fracking in this holy land. Fox’s film will be shown at 6pm Saturday, October 25th, at the Unitarian Universalist Church. At 8pm Fox himself will discuss all the issues involved with the audience. The cost? Free.

Fox

Josh Fox Is Sorta Sexy, Too

2) If you can bear to reenter the Buskirk Chumley Theater so soon after last evening’s rapture, you can catch a mixed-media presentation by Bloomington’s own Tim Bagwell entitled Stop War! An Anti-war Observance of Veterans’ Day. It’s another free dealio that begins at 8pm, Monday, November 10th. Bagwell served as a Marine in the Vietnam War and is now a poet. He has rented out the Buskirk on his own dime to put on this presentation.

Of course, it’s understood that our town’s population of women of a certain age need some time to recuperate from their collective experience last night. That Richard Thompson fellow — I dunno what it is, but he’s got it. I’d pay a few tens of thousands of dollars for a small vial of the stuff.

Marti Crouch On Interchange

Whatever you do, don’t miss tonight’s installment of Doug Storm’s Interchange on WFHB radio. His guest will be former Indiana University instructor and researcher Marti Crouch. They’ll talk about GMOs, natch, among other biotechnology hot topics.

Interchange

Nobody Ever Learns Nuthin’

Hot shot bassist Gordon Patriarca of Chicago shares a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt. The line is shocking in that it perfectly describes what this holy land has become even though the President said his piece some three quarters of a century ago!

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

Roosevelts

Eleanor & Franklin

They had begun to consider the United States as a a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.

“We know now….” Do we?

 

Hot Air

Music & Chemicals

I’m feeling fairly lazy this AM so I’m only going to point out a couple of things:

● 1) Acc’d’g to the music/snark website Death and Taxes as well as Forbes online, 2014 will be the first year since the designation was first announced that no album will be named a platinum record. The Recording Industry Association of America first designated gold records in 1958, signifying one million dollars in sales. By 1976, the RIAA had come up with the platinum record, meaning an artist had sold one million units of a particular recording. Eventually (1999), the RIAA started passing out diamond records for recording sales of 10 million. And you may not believe this but the RIAA now gives out separate gold and platinum records for ringtones based on hit songs.

Gold Record

The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” Gold Record

Anyway, pop music geeks are split over the reasons for this phenomenon. One group says, See? Music today is so horrible that business is falling off. The other group says, You’re nuts. It’s just that people are buying their music as singles online now so naturally album sales have fallen off.

I’m not being a curmudgeonly old bastard when I say pop music in 2014 is desperately, depressingly sucky. I mean, sure, we had the likes of the Starland Vocal Band (don’t click unless you want to kill yourself) and Tony Orlando and Dawn (if you click this, you should kill yourself) back when I was a teenager with a transistor radio surgically attached to my ear. Even so, we could still also listen to the likes of Stevie Wonder, the Isley Brothers, Paul Simon, and even a youngish David Bowie just to take our minds off the horrible sounds the former acts spit out. Today, though, teens listen to Justin Beiber and Nicki Minaj with no hope at all of hearing anything to counterbalance those screechings.

Minaj

Minaj Got A Platinum Record, Then Ebola Happened — Coincidence?

It’s no wonder, therefore, that many young kids now more than ever hark back to their Daddy-os’ and Mammas’ heyday and listen to Bob Dylan or Neil Young.

So, yeah, I’m a curmudgeonly old bastard, but simply telling it like it is about the abominably bad music of 2014 isn’t why.

[BTW: Michael Jackson's 1982 release, Thriller, is the top-selling album of all time. Acc'd'g to the RIAA it has sold 42.5 million units. In other words, it's now platinum 42 times over.]

● 2) Live better through chemistry. When I was a propagandist for Whole Foods Market back in the ‘Aughts, we liked to tell our customers, casually, that our foods and body products were chemical-free. We lied.

[And it wasn't the only time we lied: we sold scads of homeopathic "remedies," too.]

A Universe that’s chemical-free would be…, well, nothing. It wouldn’t exist. Similarly, a soup that’s chemical-free would be a bowl-ful of emptiness.

Empty Bowl

Chemical-free Soup

Chemicals was the dirtiest word in the food fetishist industry as recently as 10 years ago. Now it’s GMOs. BTW: Martha Crouch has sent me some new material on GMOs to study up on. I’ll let you know what I’ve learned here in this space sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, IFLS provides a nice primer on “Five Myths About Chemicals You Breathe, Eat and Drink.”

Chemicals

Click Image For Full Story

Okay, kids, that’s it for today. I’m going to lie down and take a 12-hour or so nap, then make a huge pot of chili. Autumn, no?

Peace.

Hot Air

We’re all gonna die!

Like the headline sez, but it ain’t gonna be ebola that gets us.

This is not West Africa. We’re turning ourselves inside out over the fact that one guy has died (and he was recently arrived from West Africa.) Now two other people have it.

The populace of this holy land is having conniption fits over this non-epidemic, thanks mainly to a corporate media whose most precious talent is the ability to scare the poo out of us. They’re doing so.

Anyway, let’s turn to a little science. Have you caught this piece in the Washington Post?

From WaPo

Click Image For Full Story

Each of the grid charts illustrates how a specific disease spreads and kills (if at all). Ebola may be a killer but it ain’t a spreader. At least not a fast one. It simply does not jump from body to body easily.

An alert medical system and educated populace can stem the disease relatively quickly.

So, no, Centers for Disease Control head Dr. Thomas Frieden does not need to resign, despite the demands he do so by that noted epidemiologist Bill O’Reilly and the learned experts at breitbart.com. See, Frieden does not think ebola is gonna kill us all, nor does he want to seal our borders against the even more terrifying and dangerous natives of Africa.

Almost as perilous is what fear of ebola is turning us into. Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker states the case clearly and firmly (satire alert, natch):

From The New Yorker

You Know The Drill — Click For Full Story

And, of course, since we live in a nation awash in grievances, some among us consider themselves victims even though they haven’t got a fever. For instance, I know a nurse who is loudly proclaiming on the interwebs that nurses, as always, take the blame for everything. She’s referring to suggestions that the nurse who caught ebola from the Liberian man in Dallas may have employed faulty personal protection practices while caring for him.

The idea being, she might have touched her eyelid or mouth with a contaminated glove finger, a simple mistake that any human can make. But, naturally, chronically aggrieved parties interpret any criticism as the moral equivalent of slavery.

Post

Nah, Don’t Click The Image

This is the first time I’ve ever heard that nurses are being blamed for anything. They, like teachers, are the Virgin Marys of our society, above reproach, free of sin, spotless vessels. Now, suddenly, they’re the fall guys for everything?

We Americans are weird.

Big City Blues

The Herald Times reports this morning (paywall) that Monroe County is going full steam ahead with plans for a 220-spot parking garage next to the Zietlow Justice Center and jail. Only “The full cost of the project is not known.” and “A construction date has not been set.”

So scotch the full and the steam. The ahead while you’re at it, too.

All I know is the county and the city had better get cracking on throwing up some parking garages quickly, what with hotels springing up everywhere near the formerly quaint Courthouse Square. Hell, no fewer than three developments are in the planning stages for the intersection of Lincoln and Kirkwood avenues alone. And another is planned for the bank property at Washington and Kirkwood.

Hong Kong

Bloomington’s Future?

It’ll be easier to catch ebola in Bloomington than find a parking space once all these structures go up. To steal and mangle a line from Jerry Seinfeld, They’re gonna be building hotels inside of hotels soon.

Anyway, here’s my suggestion. Let’s build a nice round number of parking facilities spaced out to ring the downtown area. Say six of them. The existing parking facilities — on 4th Street, on Walnut and 7th, and behind the Buskirk Chumley Theater will give us a total of nine. (Let’s leave the Monroe County Municipal Library lot for library patrons, shall we?) Eliminate street parking for a two or three block radius around the Square, maybe more. Contract with a private company to run regular trolley service between all the lots, the Courthouse, the Zietlow facility, the hotels, the library, the Buskirk Chumley, the Sample Gates, City Hall, and whatever other attractions and municipal service centers there are in the vicinity.

Trolley

Catch The Trolley

How do we pay for it all? Slap a room tax on all the new hotels going up. Add a food and beverage tax to all appropriate places within the service area. Hell, a five-dollar surcharge on a hotel room isn’t going to kill anybody. And adding 50 cents to a dollar to everybody’s grub and booze tab isn’t going to stop people from stuffing their faces and getting sloshed.

If Bloomington wants to pretend it’s a big city, it’s going to have to act like one.

The Haircuts Of Kim Jong-Un

As a public service, I’m providing a photographic timeline of the North Korean Dear Leader’s coifs. Historians and researchers will benefit greatly from this.

KJU 1

A Very Young KJU With His Daddy-o, KJI

KJU 2

KJU Adopts The Adolph Look

KJU 3

KJU Opts For The Collegiate Crew Cut

KJU 4

KJU Shaves The Sides

KJU 5

KJU Ditches The Part

KJU 6

KGU Sprouts Speed Racer Villain Horns

KJU 7

KJU’s Pompadour/Fade Begins To Attain Towering Heights

You’re welcome

Hot Air

Another Reason To Go On Living

Happy National Red Wine Day! [h/t to Jan Takehara.]

Coppola Rosso

My Personal Fave

BTW: Here’s a list of 10 Red Wines for Life’s Biggest Problems. And you thought there was no hope left.

Dismal

Perhaps the biggest deal in book publishing this year was the release of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.

Being a study of economics, it normally wouldn’t have been read by any more than, oh, seven or eight people on the planet — that is, until Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman raved about it. Next thing you know, every liberal worth her or his Prius was dashing down to the bookstore to cop a copy.

Me? I haven’t read the thing. It’s economics, right? I’d rather sear the jelly in my eyeballs with a red hot ice pick than read an economics tome. Loyal Pencillista David Paglis once insisted I read a book by the conservative economist Friedrich Hayek. I tried — I swear — I tried. If I say I got through 50 pages I’ll burn in hell for crossing the 9th Commandment. Economics is not known as the Dismal Science for nothing. Besides, Hayek is a darling of Randists and free marketeers who worship elegant theory and formula and rarely, if ever, concern themselves with trivial things like the needs of human beings.

In any case, Piketty argues that the world’s dough is being hoarded by a tiny fraction of its population. Not only that, uber-rich folk are passing their cash down to their kids, thereby insuring that it won’t find its way into the hands of starving kids in west Africa and other unfortunates in the foreseeable future. Piketty also throws in piles of mathematical equations like r > g, which means…, um, hell, I have no goddamned idea what it means.

More important: I don’t care.

Anyway, we could hardly keep Capital… in stock at the Book Corner, so eager were customers to get their hands on it. My educated guess is not five percent of purchasers actually read the book. Like Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, it’s the bestseller that nobody read and now serves only as an interior design accoutrement.

Capital

Obviously A Staged Photo

Of course, that was then. We now are stuck with four big copies of Piketty’s 700-page epic. They are collecting dust some seven months after it was published.

Piketty’s ponderings, natch, generated about as much criticism as love. In fact, richer-than-god Bill Gates penned a review on his blog the other day. He says he agrees with much of P.’s argument. But, acc’d’g to Bill, wealth inequality is not necessarily the worst thing in the world. It’s a nuanced argument and worth a read, even if Gates does make mention of the dreaded r > g equation. Ugh.

Once you’re finished with that, scoot over to Al Jazeera America for a rebuttal. It’s all a rollicking good time.

Fitting brain candy, I might say, for such a gray day. Just hide the razor blades and don’t turn the oven gas on.

Logical Leaps

Speaking of wealth, Jimmy John Liautaud seems to be the poster boy for the evil rich these days on the interwebs. Folks probably are getting bored with hating on the Koch Bros. — even if they are among the most odious life forms in this solar system. Liautaud’s the boss over at Jimmy John’s Franchise LLC system of sandwich joints. His mug has been all over laptop screens of late for his co.’s ridiculous employee non-compete agreement as well as his propensity to blow the brains out of magnificent critters.

Jimmy John Safari

 

Jimmy John

Jimmy John

Jimmy John

 

Jimmy John And Some Formerly Living Creatures

Little known is the fact that Liautaud has been a big contributor to scary Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The Phoenix New Times a few years ago ran a story about a questionably-legal soft money organization that bankrolled a mean-spirited and disingenuous ad campaign against a challenger to the popular-but-lunatic sheriff. Liautaud gave $10,000 to the org.

Funny, isn’t it, how you can make certain assumptions about folks based on just one of their actions? Like it makes tons o’sense that a guy who digs posing proudly with the corpses of elephants, elk, and tigers might be a financial backer of a law enforcement official who makes Charles Bronson in the Death Wish series look milquetoast-y.

Or that he’d try to screw over his own employees (not that non-compete agreements are worth the paper they’re printed on, but still….)

Or even that his products are to submarine sandwiches as Domino’s is to pizza.

 

Hot Air

Today

When I’m angry, I don’t post.

Hot Air

The Bloom Is Off The Foods Store?

Here’s some alleged inside dope about the air that Bloomingfoods workers breathe. I caution you to take it with a grain of salt. It’s one person’s observation. I’ll continue canvassing other insiders at the five-store co-op, some of whose employees are making union noises these days.

Bloomingfoods/Union

Acc’d’g to this B-foods employee — let’s call him Joe Doe — morale at the stores has been sinking for a good long time. There are several reasons for this:

  • Newer employees must obey the rules and do the dirty work while older, entrenched employees tend to take these things a bit less seriously
  • B-foods is bruised and bloodied, thanks to competition from the likes of Kroger which is now selling many of the same natural and certified organic products at better prices
  • Management seems slow to respond to the competition — B-foods’ merchandising, inventory, and retail strategies are the same ones the co-op has depended on since its inception 38 years ago
  • Those sweet employee benefits linked to here yesterday? They’re available to full-timers but — here’s the rub — try getting F-T hours

Again, this is one Bloomingfoods worker’s testimony. If there’s any truth to it, though, it would indicate the co-op just might be suffering through a mid-life crisis. Most companies go through it. Brilliant, ambitious, visionary entrepreneurs start businesses that take off like rockets. For years these operations are model wealth generators, their set-ups sleek and enviable. After a couple of decades of robust growth, the ideas that put these cos. ahead of the pack have been co-opted by everybody else in the industry. Those one-time visionaries eventually find themselves incapable or unwilling to adopt newer ideas in their fields. They’ve become hidebound and cocksure.

Hell, even Apple kicked Steve Jobs out the door at one point. Every company needs a shake-out at the top at some point in time.

Is this Bloomingfoods’ time?

Maybe, maybe not. Stayed tuned here for more testimony from insiders who may or may not buy into this theory.

Ebola Causes Insanity

And now a new flood of crazy has begun. This time the topic is ebola.

You had to figure that would happen, no? First, batshit paranoia emanated from the cakehole of that deep thinker, Phyllis Schlafly (who, unaccountably, is still alive and being interviewed). Schlafly sez Prez Obama, natch, not only is responsible for ebola coming into this holy land, he wants it here. The reason? So’s we can become just like the rest of the planet’s cool kids.

He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too.

Schlafly

Schlafly

So says the woman whose greatest accomplishment in life was to lead the battle against the passage of an amendment to the US Constitution that would guarantee civil rights for half its citizens. Thanks, Phyll.

Anyway, pop star, noted domestic abuser, and serial violent tantrum-thrower Chris Brown has now weighed in on the greatest threat to America since the last one. He tweeted yesterday:

I don’t know … But I think this Ebola epidemic is a form of population control. … getting crazy bruh.

Brown

Brown

Laugh if you want, but his tweet contains an unassailable truth: he doesn’t know.

Whee, Me!

Scads o’thanks to writer David Brent Johnson and publisher Malcolm Abrams for the neat profile of this scribe in the October/November edition of Bloom magazine.

Johnson/Abrams

Johnson (L) & Abrams

Somehow, Johnson succeeded in catching the gist of The Pencil and me in only 400 words. That’s writing, babies. And Abrams had the good sense to recognize that the founder of this communications colossus must be immortalized in his mag.

Honestly, boys, I appreciate it. Now, let’s see some good Bloom ink translate into a gazillion page views here!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 205 other followers

%d bloggers like this: