Hot Air: The Only Woman At The Table

Okay, so I’m sitting in the B-town Diner, breaking the fast. Across the aisle from me is a table full of Boy Scout leaders, four men and a woman. From what I gather, there’s a national gathering of Boy Scout types at Indiana University this week. Flocks of them are flittering about the campus, carrying compasses and charts, engaging in some sort of exercise that those of the Scout ilk like to while away the hours in. You may have seen some of them, sporting their bright orange ID tag lanyards, walking around on Kirkwood or Walnut, trying their damnedest not to look lost.

If you care to know more about this gathering, go here.

Anyway, the group at the table across the aisle. One guy dominated the conversation. No exaggeration. No lie. This guy was the Type A of the chat world. He expounded at length…, nay, ad nauseum, about every single topic up for discussion. He was the world’s expert on everything. Not only did he pontificate at great length on every subject he raised, the microsecond another person would bring something up, he’d break in and deliver a speech thereon.

I wanted to scream Shut up! at him within 14 seconds of sitting down.

As I say, there were occasional peeps from the others at the table — that is, except for the woman. I ordered my two over med. w/ hash browns, rye toast and sausage patties (the traditional Big Mike AM repast) and downed it all, in addition to doing two New York Times crosswords and several Herald Times sudokus, and only after that half-hour span, did the group across the aisle begin to stand up. Even then, Mr. Conversation Dominator continued to blab.

Yet not once had I heard a single syllable emanate from the woman’s mouth. I kept glancing at her throughout, wondering if her face’d betray a sense of frustration or resentment. But no, she wore the map of passivity, the look that women throughout the ages have perfected as they’ve withstood the blustery gales of men who know all things.

But, lo and behold, as the group was just about to make its move toward the exit, the woman at last spoke. I hadn’t followed the particulars of the exchange leading up to that point but when I heard her voice, I was drawn in. She said, “Oh yeah, I found that in my….” And — whaddya know? — the Type A talker immediately cut in and drowned her out. All she was doing was reinforcing what the previous speaker had said yet that dominant guy, that obsessive opiner, had to — had to — step all over her and make his voice heard.

Now, this was an egregious example of men keeping women quiet — and women not saying Hey buddy, whyntcha STFU for a half second. Of course, for a woman to say that, she’d damned well better be prepared to suffer the consequences. It’d take a woman with the combined guts of Sheryl Sandberg, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Xena, Warrior Princess, to do that but, hell, you can’t win a war without heroes. The thing is, this kind of thing goes on every day, all day long, in offices, gyms, restaurants, homes, and diners. Men talk; women listen.

I look forward to the day when we’ll be able to look back and say, Can you believe people used to act like that?

Latte, Lager & Lectures

I hear whispers that the next Science Cafe will be held, later this month, at the original Hopscotch at Dodds and the B-Line Trail. Bloomington’s Science Cafe has migrated through the years from the late, lamented Rachael’s Cafe to Finch’s on Kirkwood and, lately, to Bear’s Place.

This latest move is a natural — Hopscotch recently expanded its hours, closing now at 10pm. The java emporium is also serving beer now.

My only quibble with this development is now there’s no reason on Earth for me ever to leave Hopscotch. In fact, my coffeehouse pal, Dr. Alex, the cannabinoid researcher as well as the mover and shaker behind Science Cafe, told me this AM it looks like he and I will soon be roommates, inasmuch as we’ll both be living at the place anon.

Body Talk

Here’s the link to the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk with my guest, artist, feminist, and academician Filiz Çiçek. A native of Turkey, Çiçek is curating the Every Body Art exhibit opening tonight at the Thomas Gallery on North College Avenue. The exhibit ties in with this month’s Bloomington Pridefest, our town’s celebration of all things LGBTQ.

Every Body Art features works in various media reflecting the artists’ conceptions of their own body images and genders, as well as commenting on our society’s imposed definitions and restrictions on same.

The opening begins at 5:30pm. The show runs through August 31st.

Bigger, Better?

Speaking of the NYT, did you catch the front-pager about Apple becoming the first company to be valued at over a trillion dollars?

Now, that’s a landmark in economic history. Hell, it’s a landmark in our holy land’s history, considering big business and these United States are, essentially, two different ways of saying the same thing. And, believe me, it ain’t a landmark worth celebrating.

I’m of the crowd that detests enormity. Bigger is not better. You know what’s big? Hydrogen bombs. Monopolies. Transnational corporations. Tyrannies. Colonial powers. Empires. None of which are particularly admirable or constructive.

In fact, the NYT article cites economists who are jittery over the emergence of a 21st Century brand of uber-corp. Those experts say:

…[T]he rise of so-called superstar firms is contributing to the lackluster wage growth, shrinking middle class and rising income inequality in the United States.

Companies like Apple, some of whom also are approaching a trillion-dollar valuation exert undue social, cultural, and political influence over the rest of us. And, believe me, the things these mega-outfits want aren’t things that will do you or me one goddamned bit of good.

Hot Air: Got Guts?

I notice a brand new book atop this week’s New York Times nonfiction hardcover bestseller list, a piece of dreck penned by one of the Fox News stable of squealers and moaners named Jeanine Pirro. The thing is entitled Liars, Leakers and Liberals. It’s an alibi-laden, truth- and logic-twisting sojourn through the mazelike collective mind of Fox nation, a place I’d sever a limb to avoid.

It reminds me that some time around a quarter of a century ago, the deep thinkers within the Republican Party managed to transform what had been an innocuous descriptor for the left leaning side of the American political spectrum, the term liberal, into a canard. Hell, Newt Gingrich & Co, for chrissakes, remade the word into an accusation, practically a criminal one. A certain pct. of this holy land’s lily-livered pols by the end of the decade of the 1990s would no doubt have preferred to be hit with the charge that they were child molesters than liberals.

Within ten or fifteen years the sickness that’d caused Gingrich et al to turn people they disagreed with politically into lepers had spread to the people on my side of the fence. By the time I’d moved to the sunny climes of Bloomington, Indiana those who could be brushed with that Newtian stroke of poison paint were speaking about the relatively innocuous Republican governor of this state, a short fellow named Mitch Daniels, as if he were a cross between Heinrich Himmler and Jeffrey Dahmer. In fact, one of my first blog posts about Indiana politics addressed this very issue. Mitch Daniels, I wrote, was just a Republican, and not a very extreme one at that. Sure I disagreed with him about most things but, golly gee, he ain’t that bad a guy.

But the die had been cast, the mold set. People flat out couldn’t just quibble about what percentages of the world’s richest nation’s wealth should be divvied up between the military and social services. No, those of the other political party had to be portrayed as malignant tumors metastasizing within our societal body. Gingrich and his followers started us down this piteous path but the Dems, the left, and, yes, the liberals, didn’t need to have their arms twisted to join in on the bully-boy fun.

Nevertheless, the word conservative still is not fraught with the same fatally negative connotation as liberal. That’s probably because the conservatives are awfully damned proud of being conservative, as they should be. Hell, if you’re going to believe in something you may as well be happy about it. As opposed to the scared bunnies who’ve populated the Democratic Party since the latter portion of the 20th Cent.

For some ungodly reason, as soon as Newt Gingrich’s GOPAC memo became public back in 1996, the liberals of this holy land have stood on their soft heads trying not to be…, well, liberals.

My fondest wish is for the next Democratic presidential candidate to stand tall and shout as loud as necessary, Damned right I’m a liberal! My money right now is on Kirsten Gillibrand becoming the Dems’ standard bearer for 2020. That may change, pending whatever weird happenings take place between now and then. Oprah? Bruce Springsteen? Al Franken? Hell, Bernie Sanders? Any of them could be the Dem candidate in two years. The professional politicians among that gang would be loath to admit to being liberal. Perhaps only rank amateurs like Oprah or The Boss would have the guts to assume the mantle. Just like only the rank amateur Republican, Li’l Duce, had the steel shorts to freely admit to being scared of Mexicans and that men have a birthright to grab pussies.

It worked for him. Now where’s the Democrat who’ll take that lesson and turn it to his her advantage among us — yeah, go ahead, say it! — liberals?

Hop Hops

Hopscotch Coffee empire bosses Jane Kupersmith and Jeff Grant must have the golden touch. They threw a grand opening bash for their new beer menu Friday night at their original location at Dodds and the B-Line Trail.

Mob Scene

The place was packed with hipsters, poets, musicians, painters, politicians, moms and dads, a grandma or two, grad students, and countless others, mingling, sipping brew, and downing massive slices of King Dough pizza.

All I know is if the Kupersmith/Grant partnership ever decides to issue an IPO — in addition to serving up their local IPA’s — savvy investors ought to jump in on that opportunity headfirst.

Hot Air: Bobbie & Billie

She Came A Long Way, Baby

Bet you didn’t know this. I know I didn’t.

Fifty-one years ago this month a song was climbing the Billboard Hot 100 chart (as well as my hometown WLS Silver Dollar Survey chart). It’d hit No. 1 on Aug 26th and stay there for four weeks. As a chart topper, it was sandwiched between the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” and the Box Tops’ “The Letter.”

The song is “Ode to Bille Joe,” performed by a previously unknown singer-songwriter, Bobbie Gentry. It was a simple, spare, haunting tune with references and language redolent of the deep South. Gentry makes mention of plowing the lower 40; that nice young preacher, Brother Taylor; blackeyed peas and biscuits; choppin’ cotton; and balin’ hay. It was set in the farthest reaches of Mississippi, the corner of the state that’s part of bayou country.

I remember the song well, having listened to it some 73,000 times on the little Silvertone transistor radio that’d been surgically attached to my ear a few short years before. I was 11 years old at the time. I couldn’t make much sense out of the song; it was as foreign to me as if it had been written in Slovak and told the tale of a teenaged Carpathian Mountains girl.

It’s Bobbie Gentry’s birthday today. She’s 74. She has lived a private life since she dropped out of show business, suddenly and unexpectedly, in 1973. But in 1967, she was one of music’s biggest stars, based solely on the meteoric success of “Ode to Billie Joe.” Here a snapshot of her, next to Glen Campbell, clutching their Grammy awards the next year.

Gentry looks positively thrilled. Makes sense: She was abandoned by her parents as a baby and was raised on her grandparents’ Chickasaw County farm. Her grandparents, acc’d’g to legend, traded a cow for a piano on which little Bobbie taught herself to play. She also taught herself to play guitar, bass, banjo, and the vibes. She wrote her first song at the age of seven.

Now, here’s the bit I didn’t know: Bobbie Gentry was the first woman to write, produce, and perform a song that would go on to top the pop and country charts. Can you imagine that?

Think of all the female singers and songwriters of the early and mid-20th Century. None of them did what Gentry did. Of course, none of them had much of an opportunity to produce their own records. God forbid any record company would let a woman handle the controls.

With Gentry as the pioneer, female singer-songwriters became more and more common over the next few years. There’d be the likes of Carole King and Joni Mitchell and so many more. Today, a female can be just another singer-songwriter-producer, and that’s good.

A reminder that within my lifetime — and yours if you, like me, are of a certain age — women, blacks, gays, and any number of other such folk were, for many practical purposes, nonexistent.

The Billie Joe of the title, BTW, died after a fall from the Tallahatchie Bridge. All these years later, music history geeks still ask Did Billie Joe commit suicide or was she pushed? Gentry has never answered that question — nor has she ever cared to.

Tallahatchie Bridge (since demolished).

I’m Talkin’ Big

Here’s the link to yesterday’s Big Talk, featuring modern-day viking, Troy Maynard, author of the hilarious How to Raise Viking Children and Other Tales of Woe.

Next week: feminist artist Filiz Çiçek, curator of the upcoming LGBTQ exhibit, Every Body Art, opening August 3rd at the Thomas Gallery on North College Avenue.

 

Hot Air: Talk Is Cheap; Free Even

Big Guys

Troy Maynard was a guest on Big Talk back in December when the show was an eight-minute feature of the Daily Local News on WFHB. I’ve invited him back now that BT is its own stand-alone, half-hour program. You can hear him talk about his book, How to Raise Viking Children and Other Tales of Woe, this afternoon at 5:30pm on 91.3 FM.

Maynard is yoked to Catherine Stafford, Democratic candidate for Monroe County circuit court judge. Troy and I agreed not to mention his loved one’s candidacy on air, so I’m doing it here.

Maynard

That out of the way, Maynard is one of the world’s sine qua non characters. There’s room on this planet, apparently, for only one of him — and that’s not a pun on his mass, which rivals mine for enormity. He runs around calling himself a viking, much as I run around calling myself Big Mike. Each of us came to the conclusion years ago that, rather than curse our luck because we weren’t long, tall, slender swains who make people swoon, we’d play up that which we are — super-sized blocks of cartilage.

It has worked, I’d have to conclude, for both of us.

Back almost a decade ago, Maynard started posting Facebook anecdotes about being a big daddy-o to a now-trio of spawn whom he and the missus are raising as, in their words, free-range children. His posts became so popular on social media that he decided to turn the best of them in the aforementioned tome. It’s a hoot and so is he. His yarn about being congratulated on buying so much food from local charity booths at a county fair’ll make you titter. His recollection of nearly blowing up a square block as a college student in Terre Haute will make you gasp. (Spoiler alert: It was an accident — Maynard wasn’t, and isn’t, a wild-eyed, bomb-throwing revolutionary. Then again, there is a bit of a feral gleam in his eye.)

So tune in later this PM or wait until I post the link to the podcast here tomorrow.

Every Body

Next week’s Big Talk guest will be Filiz Çiçek, artist-sculptor-filmmaker-graphic designer-photographer-dancer-singer-performance artist, who’s curating the Every Body Art exhibit opening Friday, August 3rd, at the Thomas Gallery on North College Avenue.

Çiçek

Çiçek splits her time between this holy land and Turkey where she serves as the Istanbul coordinator for The Feminist Art Project. On these shores, she has taught art, feminism, and cinema at a variety of college and universities. She’s back in Bloomington teaching an Indiana University drawing class. She came here nearly a decade ago to work on her MFA in sculpture and then her PhD in Central Eurasian Studies. She’s a longtime contributor to The Ryder, a political activist, and (natch) tireless make of art.

The Every Body show will feature LGBTQ artists. The show’s advance notice reads, in part: “The participating artists look at the human body and life experience from many different viewpoints: exploring identity, sexuality, movement, form and the transcendence of form.” It’ll run through August 31st. The opening coincides with next month’s First Friday fete.

Here, BTW, is the roster of artists exhibiting at the Every Body Art show:

  • Brick Daniel Kyle
  • Alexandria Hollett
  • Rob Stone
  • Jessica Hurt
  • Smove G
  • Margaret Belton
  • Kelvin Berzon
  • Javier Cordoan Otera (Puerto Rico)
  • Dimosthenis Prodromou (Greece)
  • Mia Be
  • Jasper Wirtshafter

Big Business

How about those Hopscotch kids? Jane Kupersmith and Jeff Grant couldn’t possibly have envisioned what they were getting themselves into when they opened their caffeine den at Dodds Street and the B-Line Trail almost exactly three years ago. Their empire now includes that original shop along with a smaller outlet connected to their roastery on Madison Street as well as the Rainbow Bakery at 4th St. and Rogers.

Now they’re hosting another grand opening of sorts tomorrow evening as they turn on their sparkling new taps and pour local beers at the Hop HQ on Dodds. The brew bash’ll run from 7-10pm Friday with suds from Function Brewing, Switchyard Brewing, Bloomington Brewing, The Tap, and Upland Brewing. The erstwhile coffee-only-house will still serve the life-giving morning drug every day and be open to all ages but also will sling beer daily until 10pm from now on.

Anyway, see you at the place tomorrow night.

 

Hot Air: Not Budging An Inch

President Gag basically told this holy land’s intelligence people, both the individuals and organizations — of which their are an astounding many — that he buys Vladimir Putin’s bullshit more than their’s. Not that everything the spooks and spies of America come up with is bullshit but, well, y’know, Saddam and WMDs, 9/11, Vietnam, the Shah, Allende, Pinochet, Arbenz, the communist witch hunts — need I go on? Nevertheless, it’d be nice for the President of the United States to sorta stand behind his intelligence community.

Especially when standing at a podium next to the world’s most renowned practitioner of the spy arts and sciences.

And especially when the aforementioned master Russian spy has directed his sundry apparatus to eff with American democracy, such as it is — or was in 2016. I mean, big money and nefarious oligarchs and ideologues in this country for years have been throwing their own wrenches into the gears of our voting processes. Did the lupine Putin really need to float all those rumors, innuendoes, faux news stories, and shifty memes when our body politic has been so thoroughly tainted in the favor of our own avaricious wolves already?

Anyway, we Americans feel violated, what with Putin’s slimy fingers poking around in our voting booths. And the entire world knows he did it — except for you know who.

We can tolerate our own bad guys despoiling democracy but, gosh dang it, we’ll be damned if we’re gonna let some foreigner do it. Only, the way P. Gag is treating Putin, the Russkie strongman won’t be considered foreign on these shores for too much longer, it seems.

Li’l Duce and those who love him would like nothing better than for the US and Russia to become a hand-in-hand single entity devoted to the holy purpose of unfettered capitalism run by amoral plutocrats, with the pops. of our respective great nations serving only as docile, malleable producers and consumers. For pity’s sake, it was, after all, the Russians who came through for the Trump Empire when P. Gag’s American and western European lenders cut him off from the money teat. He owes Putin et al, and gladly.

None of this, meanwhile, means a goddamned thing to the people who voted for the Republican candidate for president nearly two years ago now. Like the rest of America, they’ve dug in theirs heels and are now engaged with the other side — my side — in a bizarre form of trench warfare. We won’t give them an inch nor will they give us one.

President Gag and his adorers don’t need any inches from me.

Don’t Miss It

Here’s the link to the podcast of Thursday’s Big Talk featuring publisher Dave Torneo of Ledge Mule Press and the poet Chris Mattingly, whose newest compilation, The Catalyst, is due out any day now from Torneo’s factory.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on Bloomington’s WFHB, 91.3 FM. And make sure to catch Big Mike’s B-town, in which a selected Big Talk guest is profile by me in the Limestone Post every fourth Thursday.

Talk soon.

Hot Air: Tons Of Fun

Words & Music

Big Talk Thursday again. My guests this week are the poet and the publisher, respectively, Chris Mattingly and Dave Torneo. The two are releasing Mattingly’s new collection of poetry, The Catalyst, his fourth book, later this month, under Torneo’s imprint, Pickpocket Books.

Mattingly (L) & Torneo in 2015 [Image: Limestone Post]

Funny thing is, each can be described by the other’s label. Torneo, a founder of Ledge Mule Press, is also a poet and obsessive letter-writer and Louisville’s Mattingly has a long history of working in the handmade, old-school, letter press book binding world.

Mattingly, BTW, years ago earned an athletic scholarship to the baseball hotbed Olney Central College, some 30 miles west of Vincennes as the crow flies. The erstwhile shortstop has the diamond game genes in him — his uncle is the former all-star first baseman for the New York Yankees, Don Mattingly. Chris, though, heeded the call of the Muse Erato and eventually became professor of poetry and literature at L-ville’s Bellarmine College, one-time home of social activist/Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Mattingly’s poetry is inspired by — and often can become — music.

Torneo, for his part, has a 30-year history of working with people in need, spending a number of years as a counselor for runaway and at-risk kids. Now he works as a case manager for CASA, the court-appointed special advocates for kids whose parents have gotten tangled up in the county’s justice system.

Mattingly, Torneo, IU prof Ross Gay, and several others used to run around together in a writing group headquartered at the late, lamented 4th Street coffeehouse, the Green Bean. There, they founded Ledge Mule Press.

Give a listen later this afternoon at 5:30 on WFHB, 91.3 FM. And, as always, I’ll post the podcast link here tomorrow AM.

Drink! Drink! Drink!

You think we have problems here in Bloomington with underaged binge drinking? Dang, mang, y’oughtta visit the University of Wisconsin-Stout. And no, that’s not a pun.

George Washington University English professor Margaret Soltan writes a blog called University Diaries, in which she decries the Twilight Zone-ish state our holy land’s institutes of higher ed find themselves in these days. She recently pointed out that things got so bad in Stout a couple of years ago that UW-Stout staffers actually went door-to-door to plead with students living off-campus to try, please, pretty please, to control dumping alcohol down their gullets in volumes resembling rainwater in a culvert during a summer deluge.

In a scene reminiscent of recent events here in B-ton, university and town officials stood on their heads to try to curb the entrepreneurial impulses of a certain few bar owners. Those proprietors had come up with any number of gimmicks to get students — both those over and under 21 — to pour spirits and brews into themselves. The ensuing rape culture and sport-violence many students consider requisite parts of their educational programs seem not to ruffle the feathers of the aforementioned publicans.

Meanwhile, sez me, a burgeoning number of college grads find themselves saddled with lifelong student loan debt and lessening prospects for good jobs.

Ain’t America great?

[h/t to loyal Pencillista George Bull]

His Pizza Isn’t The Worst Thing About Him

Meanwhile — again, thanks to Pencillista Bull — we learn that Indiana’s own Ball State University is a grateful recipient of big dough from disgraced former Papa John’s Pizza racist-in-chief John Schnatter.

Even though Schnatter, whose long history of tone-deafness and utter insensitivity to racial issues cost him his job at the top of the pizza-like product empire, Ball State has yet to announce it’ll scratch his name off the new John H. Schnatter Institute for Entreprenship and Free Enterprise on the Muncie campus. See, Schnatter and his right wing, Rand-ian, aspiring overlords of the globe at ALEC gleefully footed the bill for the fascist-capitalist shrine to Darwinian economics.

So, for the foreseeable future, a big Ball State facility will continue to bear the name of a man who thinks race relations aren’t so bad nowadays as long as we refrain from chaining black men to the backs of pickup trucks and dragging them to their agonizing deaths.

Dang, all you belly-aching black folks out there, what more do you want from us white people?

Journal-Ism

Back when The Loved One and I first arrived in this town, I started working for WFHB’s then-news director Chad Carrothers as a reporter along side the affectionately-ncknamed “news hound” Shayne Laughter.

She’s since migrated over to WFIU where she now produces a spanking-new podcast called Reader’s Radar, in which she aggregates and recaps compelling pieces from the still-thriving world of literary journals.

Laughter reads selected pieces from the many Hoosier journals still in existence and will interview the producers thereof about why they continue to do what in the hell they do. It’s been said, ad nauseum, that people don’t read anymore. Yet literary journals continue to publish and aspiring writers continue to submit creative, often fascinating work to them.

Yet another reason why I dig living in this sprawling megalopolis the most.

Beaulé Ball

Those of you who know Cindy Beaulé are aware she’s one of the most beloved of Bloomingtonians. An inveterate activist, volunteer, patron of the arts, and cultural touchstone in her own right, Cindy has amassed a lengthy list of pals and admirers around these parts.

Beaulé and her boy, Steve Pollitt.

She’s turning 60 this year and — to her great credit — isn’t afraid to say so. In fact, she’s throwing herself a big 60th b-day bash Thursday, August 30th, at the Players Pub. The orgy of music and fun also will be a benefit for WFHB, which happens to be celebrating its 25 anniversary this year as well.

See you there.

Hot Air: Fly, Robin, Fly

Faceless

You can be excused for thinking workplace sexual harassment is an evil exclusive to big time board rooms, movie producers’ offices and living rooms, US Senate chambers, or television studios. Corporate media coverage of the metoo movement seems to have focused almost exclusively on those scenes of the crime. In fact, the vast, vast, vast majority of cases of bosses wielding their might over working women in an effort to get their junk fondled takes place in the most modest, unassuming and all too common job sites — restaurant kitchens, break rooms, real estate offices, factory cafeterias, and all the other locales where tens of millions of women earn a sliver more than minimum wage.

Of course, those women aren’t glamorous or wealthy enough for the rest of us to give a single fk about.

At least, that’s what the decision-makers at the likes of CNN and the USA Today must think.

And that’s why people like Alissa Quart and Barbara Ehrenreich are invaluable to a land that likes to pat itself on the back for having a vibrant, free press. The two penned a recent piece in the New York Review of Books about the faceless victims of all the criminal extortions covered by what we now so casually refer to as metoo.

You’ve read me extolling Ehrenreich to the skies time and again in these precincts. Her books, Nickel & Dimed and Bright-Sided, are dead-on indictments of the moral, political, and financial rot at the center of our timid new world. I don’t know much about Quart at this moment but you can bet I’ll be reading up on her, in depth, sooner rather than later.

Music Man

We had a neat Big Talk this past Thursday with Darran Mosley, DJ and KJ. In case you’re the biggest square on the planet who doesn’t know what a KJ is — as I was before I found out about it a couple of weeks ago — it’s a karaoke jockeyNote: If I have to explain what a DJ is, forget it — you’re beyond redemption.

Anyway, Mosley runs Misfit Toy Entertainment, an outfit he founded with the express purpose of making karaoke fun and dynamic, rather than the same old flotsam your dull-as-a-PBS-pledge-drive cousin thinks is wacky-creative because she sang “Afternoon Delight” at a karaoke bar Saturday night.

Darran’s various karaoke venues around town have given rise to a mad group of folks who call themselves the Misfits.

Go here for the podcast of our interview and here for my written profile of him in the Limestone Post.

The Things I Do For You

Speaking of heroes (weren’t we?), I am one.

Yeah. For the greater good of this global communications colossus, I googled “Afternoon Delight” videos in an effort to provide the inserted media, above. As you can see, I actually found a karaoke version of the song. As always, I reviewed the vid before posting just to make sure it didn’t suddenly cut to an ISIS call to bomb the Trojan Horse or some golden showers porn — hacker kids can be so whimsical, can’t they?

So, at this moment in time, I’m suffering PTSD effects from listening to the song, in toto. I can state categorically that “Afternoon Delight” has to be one of the two or three worst songs ever committed to a master tape (it was recorded in 1976, before digital). I feel as though my life has been somehow diminished by hearing the melody, the lyrics — hell, everything about the goddamned thing.

Our state’s immortal literary icon, Kurt Vonnegut, once commented on the Comedy Central show “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” That was the ’90s, meta-critical schlock movie spoof wherein a guy and two robot friends sat in silhouette before a movie theater screen and made jokes about the dreck being shown. The movies included abominations like The Giant Gila Monster and Kitten with a Whip. Vonnegut was mightily offended by the premise of the show. Any work of art and, by extension, any artist, the great fantasist/novelist said, deserved respect.

Sorry, Kurt baby, you’re wrong. Some “works of art” belong in the garbage. And some “artists” ought to consider another line of work. It must be assumed Vonnegut had never been to the Museum of Contemporary Art, say. There are horrible paintings, execrable movies, and toxic songs.

John McCracken, “Untitled,” 1967, fiberglass, polyester resin, and wood.

Somehow, some way, the writer and producer of the aforementioned audio abomination, someone named Bill Danoff of the Starland Vocal Band, convinced a record company to finance his song, commit it to vinyl, package it in a fancy sleeve festooned with drawings, ship millions of copies of it all around the world, and pay him honest money for his efforts. Worst of all, millions of human beings around the globe actually purchased the disc, earning it a gold record.

I put it to you, dear reader: Listen to the video and try to tell me Danoff, Windstar Records, and the people who professed to like “Afternoon Delight” don’t deserve to be ridiculed and pilloried.

You can’t do it.

Now This Is Art

Are you ready for the latest Ross Gay book? Hell, his last poetry compilation, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, still is a hot seller at the Book Corner.

Nevertheless, writer’s gotta write, so Ross is releasing yet another tome to add to his previous collections of funny, heartbreaking, lovable, likable, soaring poems. Only this one won’t be strictly poetry — although I’ll bet he’ll figure out a way to squeeze in some meter somewhere along the line. The book is due out in February, 2019, and will be entitled The Book of Delights: Essays, released under the Workman Publishing imprint of Algonquin Books.

Dig this quote about Ross, uttered by none other than Pulitzer Prize winner and United States poet laureate Tracy K. Smith:

Ross Gay’s eye lands upon wonder at every turn, bolstering my belief in the countless small miracles that surround us.

Dang, mang. As I implied in this entry’s headline, Ross Gay is the real deal.,

Hot Air: It’s a Glabfest

Fertile

Bette Nesmith Graham invented Liquid Paper™ and gave birth to the Monkees guitarist Michael Nesmith. Wow. Two very definitive pieces of Americana. Betsy Ross got nuffin’ on her.

Anyway, she’s the subject of today’s historical obituary in the New York Times‘ cool series, “Overlooked No More.”

Big Talk

It’s double-header Thursday once again (and, kiddies, these four-week intervals flying by so quickly are scaring the bejesus out of me — I mean, how the hell many of them do I have left?) My guest on Big Talk is DJ/KJ Darran Mosley. (Betcha didn’t know KJ stands for karaoke jockey.) He’s also lead singer for the Prince tribute band, Royalty, and self-decribed “old-school funkmasters,” the Dynamics.

Mosley (R) and KJ Coley D. [Image: Andrew Grodner/Limestone Post]

Tune in this afternoon to WFHB, 91.3 FM, for the interview. And any minute, my profile of him will appear in the Limestone Post.

As always, c’mon back here tomorrow AM for links to both the podcast and the written piece.

More Women

For years, I’d wondered whatever happened to the standup comedian Elayne Boosler. She was big back in the ’80s when standup was exploding. Everybody and her brother were trying to become the next Jerry Seinfeld, Bobcat Goldthwait, Richard Lewis, or Bill Hicks. Hell, a couple of entire cable channels devoted exclusively to comedy arose, thanks the the mania for standup.

At the time, I was studying improv under Del Close and Charna Halpern at Chicago’s then-named ImprovOlympic (now IO, thanks the the International Olympic Committee’s snarling trademark attorneys). The likes of Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Lili Taylor, Jeff Garlin, Tim Meadows, the brothers Bill and Joel Murray, Betty Thomas, Jon Favreau, and many others swirled around the Close/Halpern scene at the time. All my fellow students were agog and dreaming of making it big.

For my money, one of the funniest of the ’80s standups was Elayne Boosler. But, sadly for her, it was about 20 years too soon for the rest of America to embrace a female comic who simply told jokes. Women comedians had to have some other shtick. Boosler was neither overtly sexy or over-the-top anti-glamor. She simply told jokes But being funny, alone, wasn’t enough for America to embrace a woman comic. It’d take pioneers like Roseanne Barr and, later, Tine Fey, among others, to break down that barrier.

Boosler (R) with the immortal Don (Popeye) Zimmer.

My favorite Boosler line was when she opened her act by saying, “I don’t have any kids — that I know of.” That was funny, but a little scary for Mom & Pop America. She was implying that, well, she just liked sport sex. We got over that hump, at last, by the late ’90s when it was learned that even wholesome-looking White House interns could want to give a blow job to the President of the United States.

It turns out Boosler’s still alive and still doing comedy in various forms. She squeezes in her stage and creative work with tons political activism these days, as she advocates for various liberal causes, reproductive rights, and animal rescue.

In a CNN op-ed the other day, Boosler took on a lot of people’s Get Out of Jail Free card these days — that is, the tired excuse that jerks employ after they’ve blurted out a racial epithet, smeared women, ridiculed the lame and the halt, or advocated the gunning down of whatever population group that annoys them on any particular day. “It was a joke,” they like to say. And we’re supposed to forgive them for their assholiness.

Uh-uh, says Boosler. Check it out.

More More Women

For years, too, back when I lived in Chi. and had to negotiate the Dante’s Circle of Hell madness that is O’Hare Airport, I’d always pass by Bessie Coleman Drive. It was the re-circulator route for cabbies or for people who’d missed their drop-off gate the first time around and had to go back to find the right one.

I always wondered, Who in the hell was Bessie Coleman?

Last night, thanks to a bout of insomnia, I binge-watched episodes of Last Week with John Oliver. Lo and behold, he mentions Bessie Coleman. Click on over to the specific episode to find out how he cites her (at the 21:38 mark).

Anyway, Bessie Coleman, it turns out, was the first African-American and Native American woman to hold a pilot’s license in this holy land. The Land-of-the-Free in the 1920s didn’t allow either African-American or Native American women to hold pilot’s licenses. Suffering that double-whammy, she was forced to learn to speak French and travel to Paris where she could earn an international pilot’s license. By such a hook and crook she was able to return to this country as a recognized aviator. Coleman went on to become a celebrated barnstorming stunt pilot.

Coleman

I just thought you might like to know.

Hot Air: Unreal Reality

Several times in the last few days I’ve seen news reports referring to President Gag’s “big reveal” — that is, the announcement of his second US Supreme Court nomination.

The reports did indeed use that term “big reveal” or, simply, “reveal.”

The Supreme Court, one of the three so-called pillars of our our democracy, along with the Executive and the Legislative branches, is charged with keeping those two in check as well as interpreting our Constitution and setting moral and legal guidelines for our society. It was the Supreme Court, after all that outlawed separate but (in)equal, that declared abortion to be a private matter between a woman and her physician, that elevated corporations to the level of personhood, that banned state laws outlawing interracial and same-sex marriage, that threw the 2000 election to George W. Bush, and that ruled Dred Scott was not a United States citizen.

So, you see, the Court’s decisions can range from enlightened to tyrannical to boneheaded, depending on your POV. Whether you agree with the sitting members or not in any particular case, you must concede that the work of the Court is vital and definitive of us as a people.

It’s important, in other words. So important that it should be treated with utmost respect.

Employing reality TV show terminology to describe the announcement of a potential new member may be appropriate, considering we are now ruled by a reality TV show president, but it still sucks.

It strikes me as tasteless and ignorant.

Then again, so is the man doing the “revealing.”

Last Week; This Week

My guest on this past Thursday’s Big Talk was Paula Chambers, founder of the Hudsucker Posse and the big boss of FlowMotion Events.

Paula Chambers [Image: Aaron Lingenfelter]

My guest this coming Thursday will be Darran Mosley, described as “the hardest-working man in Bloomington,” a DJ and karaoke host as well as the founder of Misfit Toy Entertainment. The Limestone Post will be running a profile of him (by me) that day as well.

Darran Mosley

Go here for the link to the Chambers interview podcast. Stand by for links to the Mosley podcast and the magazine article until they become available Thursday.

Hot Air: This Is The Moment

When Li’l Duce transmogrified into President Gag, I predicted he wouldn’t last long as Commander-in-Chief. It wasn’t because he’d be impeached, a prospect I find about as likely as me winning the Indiana State Lottery (I don’t play). I figured he’d quit the job when its enormity overwhelmed him. He never really wanted the job. He ran as lark, hoping to up his Q-rating and enhance his and his family’s brand. He had no interest in doing the dirty work of being president — you know, things like monitoring all the departments and agencies of the government of the world’s richest, most powerful and third most populous nation, maintaining good and efficient relations with all this nation’s allies, and keeping a watchful eye on its rivals and enemies. Oh, and setting a moral and cultural tone for the 330 million of us.

These are things a president must do. These responsibilities take up every waking moment of the typical president’s day. Prior to the P. Gag era, occupants of the Oval Office appeared to age some 20 years after their first six months in the hot seat.

We know Li’l Duce didn’t want the job because enough insiders have leaked his and his people’s chagrin that, for chrissakes, he did win the goddamned 2016 election. They all basically said, Shit, now we’re stuck!

I figured he’d luxuriate in all the pomp and circumstance, dig all the trappings, tumesce over all the generals saluting him, thrill over bands playing “Hail to the Chief” whenever he walked into a room, rub shoulders with real statespeople and world leaders, and, after six months or so, say All that’s great but, man, those Cabinet meetings, and that strategizing, and the worries, and…, and…, and…, I gotta get the hell outta here!

What I never really and truly foresaw was the fact that he had no intention of doing the honest work of the president. Oh sure, I was hip to his nefarious plan — to an extent. His first choice for running mate was Ohio Sen. John Kasich. Candidate Trump, sources said, offered Kasich the job and promised him, essentially, You’re going to be doing the dirty work; I’m going to gad about the country as making America great again. Kasich, to his credit, turned the offer down. But, silly me, I figured there’d be no way Trump could shirk the actual duties of the office.

Well, whaddya know? So far the Gag presidency has turned out just exactly as he envisioned it. Our dear C-in-C tweets and pontificates, revels in the folderol, and prances around, literally and figuratively, like a tin-pot dictator while the wet dreams of Vice President Pence and the rest of the Capitalist/Darwinist, Rand-ian true believers are encoded into law or put into practice. The only real toil the president does now is sign executive orders and have his picture taken. The rest of his day is taken up with the delicious task of reminding the country and the world that he’s the leader of, and the biggest man in, the aforementioned richest, most powerful nation on the planet.

Guess what. For Li’l Duce the job of president has turned out to be unexpectedly, surprisingly, hell, shockingly easy.

Guess what again. He’s not going to quit. In fact, he’s going to run again. Not only that, should polls and other tea leaf readings indicate his hold on the job may be less than absolutely assured, he’s going to really get to work.

Would you believe he might not leave the White House should the electorate choose to evict him?

I would.

You think that’s crazy? About as crazy as imagining him, some two or three years ago, actually becoming president in the first place.

As Michael Moore said on Bill Maher’s show Friday night:

In The Handmaid’s Tale, the best part of the show are the parts where she tries to figure out where was the point that it was too late? Where was the point where if we had all just risen up, we’d just done something? But because it happens in little increments — that’s how fascism works…. this is the moment.

With P. Gag about to name yet another Supreme Court Justice, with the Democratic Party being a pusillanimous collection of good little hall monitors and scared bunnies, and with white male America terrified that its position of power and privilege is slipping away as the country’s demographics change and motivated to do what it takes to stay on top, yeah, this is the moment.

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