Hot Air: GOT-cha

So this Game of Thrones rigmarole is finished, right?

Two observations:

  1. The simplest and most penetrating answer I can give to why I had/have no interest in this thing is: I don’t care about dragons. I know, I know, GOT aficionados are gonna argue that there’s so much more to it. To that I respond there are literally millions of works of fiction that investigate and illuminate human relations, political chicanery, familial and regional ententes and detentes, power dynamics, etc. But hundreds of millions of people around the world have chosen this work of fiction to become addicted to. That’s many, many, many more people than have screamed their fealty to Gordimer or Rushdie or Walker or Wollstonecraft Shelley or any of the countless imagineers who’ve mused over those same human concerns. It’s the dragons.
  2. I’ve been reading that scads of people are mad about this last season, how the plot and relationships turned out, and how the scriptwriters cheated viewers. In fact, there’s even a petition demanding the producers have the last season re-written! Okay, if you’re among those aggrieved fans, listen closely: You aren’t the artist behind this work of art. Someone else is. You don’t get to demand artists redo their art because you don’t like it. That’s why it’s art: it’s the vision of a single creator or group of them. They are sharing with you their insights and capabilities as expressed in this painting, this song, this TV show, or this novel. Art is not a democracy.

There. These are the only public comments I’ve made on this most sweeping cultural phenomenon since the Beatles. And they are the last.

What’s your art?

Metal-working? Do you juggle the burl? Bake cookies? Are gemstones your thing? How about comedy?

The Muses would dig Bloomington. This sprawling megalopolis is home to Artisan Alley, a support and education resource, social center and tool repository, and all-around one-stop shop (as in work– ) for the creative among us. This town is chock full of folks who noodle, manipulate, gesticulate, bark, howl, jeté, smear and daub and the center of the universe for many of them is Artisan Alley.

Originally a glorified clubhouse for a bunch of Indiana University grads who majored in the arts or at least had major interest in same, AA has evolved into a school/day camp/industrial park/advocacy center/marketplace for the more ethereal among us.

A tall fireplug of a fellow named Adam Nahas is the founder and executive director of the newly-certified nonprofit. Himself a practitioner of scads of different creative pursuits, he was last week’s guest on Big Talk.

Here the podcast to the May 16th program. And tune in today during the WFHB Daily Local News at 5pm for an eight-minute spot featuring extended conversation between him and me.

News Boss In Town

Hearty congratulations to both Kyrie Greenberg and WFHB. She for getting the News Director gig soon to be vacated by the heroic and mightily talented Wes Martin and it for making an impeccable choice.


Hot Air: Alley Cat

This week’s Big Talk features Adam Nahas, founder and executive director of Artisan Alley. The interview airs later this afternoon at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

If you miss today’s program, you can catch the podcast on the ‘FHB website. I’ll provide the link to the podcast after it posts at 6pm, just as soon as I can get around to it.

Hot Air: An Anniversary, Remembered

[ Scroll down to Gloden, Glab, Gabbing entry for info on this podcast. ]

Mississippi Firing

Today is the 49th anniversary of a campus incident just as tragic as that of Kent State just ten days prior.

Unlike the trouble at the Ohio campus that’d been roiling for days and days, a small riot broke out, suddenly and unexpectedly, at Jackson State University, one of the largest historically black colleges in the nation. Keep in mind this was the year 1970, a mere five years after the “eve of destruction” annum when the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles blew up, ushering in a series of “long, hot summers” as well as inspiring tens of millions of panicky white working class voters to dedicate their entire political philosophy to the draconian containment and institutionalized discipline of urban blacks.

The cause of the mini-riot was a rumor that Fayette, Mississippi mayor Charles Evers and his wife, Nannie, had been assassinated. This just seven years after civil rights activist Medgar Evers, Charles’ brother, had been killed by a rifle-toting troglodytic member of one of Mississippi’s many White Citizens’ Councils.

Several dozen college and high school students gathered on the campus in the Mississippi capital city Thursday evening, the 14th, and reportedly threw stones at passing cars driven by whites. Jackson city police and Mississippi Highway Patrol officers responded to the disturbance and formed skirmish lines. Shortly after midnight numerous state troopers, armed with shotguns, opened fire on the crowd as well as the nearby five-story tall Alexander Hall, a women’s dormitory. Some 150 shotgun blasts were fired within 30 seconds resulting in every facing window of Alexander Hall being blown out. When the smoke cleared, two students were dead: Phillip Gibbs, a junior at Jackson State and James Green, a senior at Jim Hill High School.

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Afterward, several police and troopers claimed one of them had seen a sniper on the roof of the residence hall  and several other officers swore they’d come under fire from all directions. A federal investigation turned up no evidence that any shots had been fired at the officers. The President’s Commission on Campus Unrest concluded the following September that the “fusillade from police officers was an unreasonable, unjustified overreaction.” The Commission even allowed for the possibility that one or more officers might have seen what they thought was a shooter on the roof (although no evidence that one existed was ever produced); even so, the report stated, a response like the one that early May 15th morning “was never warranted.”

Kent State became an historically iconic symbol of the strife afflicting this nation during the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggle. Jackson State was quickly forgotten. Today if people other than its students and their families think about Jackson State University they know only that the 142-year-old institution was the alma mater of pro football Hall of Famer Walter Payton.

Phillip Gibbs and James Green? Mere footnotes in a long-faded history.

Gibbs (L) & Green

None of the shotgun-shooting officers, nor their commanders, was indicted or otherwise disciplined. Like the Kent State killings less than two weeks before, scared young men carrying loaded long guns responded the only way they knew how to a threatening situation. They hadn’t been trained not to fire indiscriminately at shadows on roofs nor had their on-scene leadership imposed rules of engagement. The officers, of course, were all white; the protesters black.

Jackson State illustrates only that law enforcement personnel firing guns at black people for the flimsiest of reasons is nothing new.

Gloden, Glab, Gabbing

Did you catch Big Talk Extra on the WFHB Daily Local News this week?

BTE is an approximately eight-minute feature every Monday on the ‘FHB’s daily newscast at 5pm offering added conversation from the previous week’s Big Talk. My guest on Big Talk last week was Gabe Gloden, managing director of the Cardinal Stage Company. So, naturally, Monday’s Extra presented more chitchat between him and me.

If you did indeed miss the Monday Gloden/Glab jawfest, fret not, the podcast’s at the top of this post.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Big Talk Extra airs every Monday at about the 14-minute mark of the Daily Local News at 5pm on the same airwaves. Come here for podcast links to both the full Thursday program and the Monday feature each week.

BTW: My guest this coming Thursday on Big Talk will be Adam Nahas, founder and executive director of Artisan Alley.

Hot Air: Switching Stages

Phew! After ten weeks of candidates on Big Talk, I finally got to host a show with someone not looking for votes yesterday.

Make no mistake: I was highly impressed by everyone I had on since February 21st, all the city council aspirants as well as the single declared independent hoping to be elected mayor in November. Here, by the way, are links to the Big Talks with the still-standing candidates as well as the Big Talk Extra features in which they talk about the issues:

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Unless any independents, write-ins, or Libertarians declare, or should the Republican Party caucus in or appoint any candidates by June/July (go here for the official state 2019 election calendar), the above races will be the only ones contested this coming fall.

Once again, I didn’t feature any incumbents on Big Talk this election year because there weren’t enough weeks to cover them all.

Anyway, I wash my hands of politics for the nonce. To that end, I invited Gabe Gloden on the show. He’s the managing director of the Cardinal Stage Company. He and his wife, Emily Goodson, are a theater family; she’s an actor and a playwright and he concentrates on the business and practical end of things. Gloden & Goodson are two more examples of that phenomenon unique to this burgh, “Bloomerangs.” The couple left town for a couple of years to work in both Detroit and Boise, Idaho after Gabe graduated from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. But, like so many who’ve lived in Bloomington, they couldn’t wait to get back and so have re-established themselves here.

Here’s the link to yesterday’s program with Gabe Gloden and — an added bonus — here’s the link to my Big Talk with Emily Goodson from February, 2017.

Gloden & Goodson

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Big Talk Extra, eight minutes of added conversation with the Thursday guest, airs the following Monday during the Daily Local News at 5pm.

Hot Air: 34

Thirty four.

That’s how many voters the Republican Party was able to muster in this town yesterday.

Bloomington, natch, is a blue town. It’s a dot of an island in the middle of one of the reddest damned oceans on this planet. But some 80,000 people live here nine months of the year; 40,000 or so the rest of the time. You’d figure one of this holy land’s two major political parties’d be competent enough to attract voters in the hundreds or even thousands in a primary municipal election. Sure, professors and students and social workers and poets and community activists and non-profit workers and all the rest of the types that make up the population of a college town tend to be either Democrats or non-aligned progressives. But how astounding is it that this town’s local GOP can roust only 34 civic-minded souls out of bed on a gorgeous spring morning to exercise their suffrage?

Now, I’m not blaming William Ellis, hard-working chair of the Monroe County Republican Party. He can toil from sunup to sundown and put in overtime at night every day of the year but he’ll still be unable to goose that Republican turnout next time around. Allow me to iterate: I don’t like it one bit.

Not that I like the Republicans — I don’t and I’ve written about the reasons why herein many a time — but I like whatever party’s in charge to be pushed and shoved and cajoled and told off and competed with every time out of the box.

It’s better for us all when the ruling party doesn’t get to thinking its offices and seats are birthrights.

That said, yesterday’s primary results both shocked me and came as no surprise. Everybody who paid the slightest amount of attention could foresee that there was an anti-incumbent mood among the electorate leading up to May 7th. And a few incumbents indeed came a cropper. I mean big time.

First, here’s how I’d doped out the races prior to 7pm yesterday.

I was betting on two At-Large city council members losing their seats. As I saw it, both Susan Sandberg and Jim Sims were going to be looking for new second jobs after the primary. Naturally, Sandberg and Sims garnered the highest and second-highest vote totals among the six candidates for those three seats. Now you know why I don’t run a betting book.

I was dead certain Jean Capler was going to cop one of those At-Large seats with Matt Flaherty, perhaps, taking another. All the while, I had Andy Ruff down as a rock-solid winner. So, you see, even if I was running a book before yesterday, I’d be tapped out of the business today.

Capler looked good because she’s squeaky clean, has done her homework, and she worked her tail off ringing doorbells. Ringing doorbells and meeting voters face to face — and listening — are the most important things a local candidate can do. Still, she came in 4th, although she did reap a nice total. I figure her to be a force in the next municipal or county election.

Flaherty did his homework, too. I just figured people would prefer a more mature, well-established new face. My guess is Flaherty and his sister-in-law, Kate Rosenbarger, double-teamed on certain messages and fed off each other’s work.

Speaking of Kate Rosenbarger, now there’s the big story of the election. She not only defeated longtime incumbent Chris Sturbaum in District 1, she massacred him. She scooped up 66 percent of the district’s votes to Sturbaum’s 28 percent and fellow challenger Denise Valkyrie’s 6 percent. That, my friends, is a landslide. And make no mistake, the charge bandied about throughout the election — that Sturbaum, a home construction contractor, has a conflict of interest whenever he considers zoning, neighborhood development, and residential density — hurt him. Gored him, for pity’s sake.

I wasn’t knocked over by a feather when news that Sue Sgambelluri’d bested Dorothy Granger in District 2. Sgambelluri, a fundraiser for Indiana University, knows people around this town and has a list of relationships with key folks a mile long. And people familiar with her work on the Redevelopment Commission know she studies the matters before that body hard and asks pertinent, cutting questions. She takes her duties seriously. Now she’ll face an equally ambitious and well-prepared opponent in the general election. Republican Andrew Guenther, the individual who gained the aforementioned 34 votes, will be a good debate opponent for her but, if history’s any indication, he’ll be lucky to get within 25 percentage points of her come November.

Then again, you know how dependable my crystal ball has been the last few elections.

And — I’ll be damned — Steve Volan’s opponent in District 6 has yet to phone the victorious incumbent or give a traditional concession speech. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to type those words out and not be a smart-ass.

A nit-pick: Here’s first headline WFIU issued online after the polls closed:

Let’s ignore the tortured English in the hed and simply concentrate on the news value of the piece. Incumbent Mayor Hamilton was running against a ghost. Former Monroe County Commissioner had suspended her campaign weeks ago. Still, some 766 die-hards cast their votes for the scandal-tainted Barge, meaning the mayor walloped her by 84.1-15.9. The shock is Hamilton’s percentage wasn’t over 95 percent. I dunno, weren’t the Ruff and Sturbaum upsets the real headlines yesterday? If I’m the editor, I go with understatement: Hamilton Wins Nomination or some such thing. I’d prefer my news sources reserve dramatic  characterizations for surprise events.

And the biggest surprise this town will have seen in 50-plus years would be something on the order of Hamilton & Republican Opponent In Dead Heat or Sandberg Edges GOP Challenger.

Then again, considering who the national Republican standard-bearer is these days, I might hope we’re not thusly surprised any time soon.

Hot Air: Democracy, Sorta

At long last, primary election day is here. Tomorrow. Voting has been going on for a month now. I’m hearing turnout is light. I wouldn’t have bet on that when this election cycle started in January. The sitting mayor, John Hamilton looked to be in for a slugfest, with popular Monroe County Commissioner Amanda Barge punching and jabbing as for back as the fall when she announced her exploratory committee.

Monroe County women had flexed their muscles and walked away with several prizes in the 2018 election. With Hamilton semi-reeling from a few of his own misfires, it looked as though Barge just might capitalize on that trend and cop the big chair this year. Then a county contractor met her in a fast food parking lot with a voice recorder running and the next thing anybody knew, Barge had become a persona non grata. What looked to be a big-turnout primary now appears to be a snoozefest.

And that’s a shame because one of the biggest contingents of challengers in recent years is giving Bloomington’s sitting city council members a run for their money this time around. One race, for instance, for the District 2 seat, boasts no fewer than four aspirants.

Heck, seven of the nine council seats can, conceivably, be horseraces. Only challenger Ron Smith, running unopposed (his rival for the outgoing Allison Chopra’s District 3 seat, Jim Blickendorf, took a powder after his own brush with scandal) and perennially unopposed candidate Steve Volan in the 6th are sleeping soundly tonight. Everybody else’ll probably be tossing and turning.

Another sound sleeper will be Andrew Guenther, the lone Republican to file in any race this year. He’ll face the victor from among incumbent Dorothy Granger, Sue Sgambelluri, and Daniel Bingham in the District 2 Dem primary in the November general election.

Yet, this being the People’s Republic of Bloomington, no fewer than four candidates for municipal office can cat nap from now until November. In addition to the aforementioned Smith and Volan, city clerk Nicole Bolden is running unopposed in both the primary and, presumably the general election. The Republicans can, conceivably, caucus in entries for those races but don’t bet on that happening. And only the most rash bettor will risk a thin dime on independent Nile Arena upsetting powerhouse Hamilton in the mayoral race.

These cakewalks are a real optical problem for this Sovietsky city. It’s a one-party town, with far too many elected  officers watching the May Day parade pass from up high outside the Krem…, I mean, Showers Building.

Loyal Pencillistas know I have little patience for the Republican Party since that gang a half century ago began gathering this holy land’s misogynists, supremacists, gun fondlers, nativists, and — well, let’s be frank — racists under its self-proclaimed big tent. Nevertheless, I detest the idea that any governmental entity, be it a charming college town like ours or even the planet’s most powerful nation, be run by a single party. I can name more than a few municipalities, states, and nations that’ve devolved thusly, and the results never benefit anyone, save for those very, very few for whom the monoliths are designed to serve.

Anyway, your homework assignment tonight — in case you haven’t been doing this already since February — is to review the challengers for city council seats and one independent running for mayor who’ve guested on Big Talk this election season. Each Thursday, I’d chat with that week’s guest about her/his life and professional resume so as to give you, the listener, an idea of who in they hell that character was. Then, the following Monday during WFHB’s Daily Local News, I’d present that person talking about the issues.

Now, several incumbents have raised cain with me about not including them in the series. To those complainants I replied that there weren’t enough weeks remaining to include everybody when I came up with this idea and, besides, the incumbents have a public record of voting and speaking and they’ve been covered well or haphazardly, depending on the outlet, in the Herald Times, on WFHB, via CATS, in the IDS, and on WTIU/WFIU. You all should know who they are and what they stand for by now. If not, that’s on you.

The challengers? Well, some of them just might be total strangers to you.

To that end, here they are, with links to both their Thursday Big Talk appearances and their Monday Big Talk Extra platforms:


  • Nile Arena Library worker, film buff, street theater artist

District 1

  • Kate Rosenbarger Lawyer, executive director TEDx Bloomington
  • Denise Valkyrie — Administrative support coordinator WFIU/WTIU/IU Radio & Televison Services

District 2

District 3

District 4

  • Miah Michaelson deputy director Indiana Arts Commission

District 5

District 6

  • None


Now you can’t say you don’t know who’s who when you squeeze into the voting booth tomorrow.


Daniel Bingham: On The Issues

Software engineer, community activist. Running for Bloomington City Council, District 2.


Nile Arena: On The Issues

Library worker, film buff, street theater artist. Running as an independent for mayor.


Sue Sgambelluri: On The Issues

Indiana University fundraiser. Running for Bloomington City Council, District 2.


Andrew Guenther: On The Issues

Community activist. Running for Bloomington City Council, District 2.


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