Hot Air: Resurrection

For the last ten days, for the most part, I’ve been an internet hermit. A confluence of factors has caused me to withdraw. Or maybe it was only one factor — a revisiting of the depression that has pestered me since I was a kid. That’s more like it.

The wish to stay in bed all day long. The crankiness. The inability to find pleasure in anything. The overwhelming desire to carbo-load. The dearth of any reason to do anything. I’ve been through all this before. It’s nothing new. I knocked off Zoloft in the summer of 2016, a few months after I’d completed my chemoradiation therapy. The Zoloft for years had warded off these semi-regular dips into the cold dark cellar. This time I had to fight the fight w/o the drug.

Usually the descent takes months and it certainly did this time. The fall continues until I hit some kind of psychological concrete surface. I consider this month of April to have been the splat.

Certainly this ludicrous weather hasn’t helped. The trees usually are sprouting leaves or at least budding by now. The blossoms usually brilliant and fragrant at this time. But the trees are still bare and what blossoms that have managed to poke out are dull. Or is it just me?

In any case, my self-prescribed therapy regimen has included long stints on the stationary bicycle, daily drives to different So. Indiana towns’ libraries to work, a monk-like focus on a particular writing project, and a series of long monologues delivered internally, acknowledging the nothingness and exhorting self to wait the storm out.

It’s working, to be sure. I’m even listening to music again, something I find almost impossible to do when I take my dives. In the throes of depression, music is nothing more than clangs and scratches.

When the mind and the heart are not sick, music is itself drug-like. I could swear, when all is well, I can feel those pleasurable substances like endorphins coursing through my blood vessels when I catch sound of a particularly moving piece of music, “An American in Paris,” say, or “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

Last night I listened to a compilation of the incidental music from the TV show, “Arrested Development.” Most of it was composed by David Schwartz who’s a veteran TV scorer. Fans of “Northern Exposure” might recognize his early stuff. In any case, Schwartz’ AD tunes moved me — and that’s one way I know I’m coming out of the hole.

Which reminds me of a bit Richard Lewis used to do. He couldn’t understand why neither his parents nor his grandparents ever evinced any signs or signals that they loved each other. There were no casual caresses, no hand-holdings, no lingering glances. No evidence whatsoever that the mates found each other alluring.

He concluded that both his parents and grandparents had somehow found a secret place in which they could be tender toward one another or even — gasp! — to make love. They’d put on several layers of heavy winter coats, wrap themselves in scarves, smash furred hats on their heads, hunch over, and leave the house for an undisclosed location where they’d board an elevator to take them down hundreds of feet below the surface of the Earth and there, out of earshot and eyeshot of the rest of humanity, they’d consummate their respective marriages. And at the huzzah moment, they wouldn’t holler or moan but would simply splutter, Uunnghh.

Now that’s funny. And now I can laugh about things like that again after a several-month hiatus from silliness.

Double Big

Did you catch yesterday’s Big Talk? It was one of those two-fer days with an airing of the show on WFHB and the concurrent publication in the Limestone Post of Big Mike’s B-town. The subject? Bloomington’s very first female firefighter, Jean Magrane.

Jean hooked on with the BFD in 1987 and eventually worked her way up to captain before she retired in 2013. The hose-lugging lads of the BFD acted toward her as any previously segregated group of males might toward a Double-X chromosome colleague. A tidbit from the interview (and profile): Jean did not meet another female firefighter for some seven years after she’d been hired by the BFD.

Magrane and her first captain, Bill Headley, at her retirement party.

Go here for the WFHB podcast and here for the Limestone Post piece.

And tune in every Thursday for Big Talk on 91.3 FM. Big Mike’s B-town runs every four weeks on the LP so the next one will be Thursday, May 17th.

I’ll keep on talking and writing as long as you keep on listening and reading.

The Unforgiven

Just caught sight of a cool T-shirt — it’s a football jersey knock-off with the number 7 and the name Kaepernick emblazoned above it. And the other side reads, “If he ain’t playing, I’m not watching!”

Colin Kaepernick

Some grad student was wearing the shirt this AM in the HQ of this global communications colossus, Hopscotch Coffee. I never would have figured this particular person to be a football fan but the Colin Kaepernick tale made plenty of non-sports folks aware of the NFL and its patronizing, barely tolerant attitude toward its players of color.

If your skin is brown or black, the NFL’s billionaire owners dig you only if you behave. And to those plutocrats in charge of America’s biggest sports business good behavior means only that you never acknowledge that you have brown or black skin. If you beat your wife or girlfriend, if you run a dog fighting operation, if you run with murderers and gangsters — all that can be forgiven.

Colin Kaepernick to this day remains unforgiven.

Tragedy

A tip: Scan this fascinating story in today’s New York Times about a deadly fire that killed nine graduate students in a Cornell University residence center in 1967. The fire was one of a series of suspicious blazes around that time, leading investigators and observers to conclude it was arson. No one’s ever been charged.

The story, though, focuses on some guy who was a Cornel student at the time, an ROTC cadet who later became a Marine. It seems this fellow has become obsessed — no exaggeration — with the fire in the years hence. So much so that my knee-jerk reaction was to blurt, “He did it!”

Of course there’s no real evidence this fellow has committed any crime. It’s a compelling read nevertheless.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if you blurted out the same thing.

All About Us

Another tip: Keep your eyes peeled for the Limestone Post‘s special print edition, “Sense of Place.” It’ll be all about — what else? — Bloomington. What is it, publisher Ron Eid and his conscientious crew are hoping to answer, that makes this place so…, well, Bloomington?

“Sense of Place” will hit the streets in about a month and a half with a big release party scheduled for the evening of June 1st at the I Fell Gallery.

Hot Air: The Voting Season

I’ve been sort of incommunicado on the interwebs for a few days and that’s just fine by me. As I’ve mentioned previously in these precincts as well as on soc. med., I sometimes get tired of hearing my own voice.

In any case, today’s a big day — and not just because it’s the Chicago Cubs home opener (after yesterday’s scheduled HO was snow/colded out).

April?

Today, my fellow citizens, is the first day of early voting in the Indiana state primary. From now through noon, Monday, May 7th, you get to pretend you run this country by casting a ballot at any of the early voting centers hereabouts. Go here for locations in Monroe County. You also get to vote on the actual primary election day, Tuesday, May 8, at your local polling place. The general election is Tuesday, November 6th.

This election cycle is a biggie inasmuch as it’s President Gag’s mid-term gauntlet. Remember the last big mid-term beauty contest? That’d be the election of 2010, the year after Barack Obama took office and during which his party lost both the House and the Senate, bringing us right up to this day and age wherein the hijacked Republican Party controls everything in the known universe, up to and including the White House, the House, the Senate, the vast majority of statehouses and governors’ mansions, and even the US Supreme Court, for pity’s sake.

Funny that, since every big deal national election year, the total number of Democratic votes exceeds that of the Republicans, so either my math skills are fercockt or something else very fishy is going on around this holy land.

This week’s Big Talk will feature the respective chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties, William Ellis and Mark Fraley. Both came to the WFHB studios to record with me yesterday and, mirabile dictu, not a voice was raised in anger nor a drop of blood spilled. In fact, the two party sachems actually like each other. Well, they get along awfully civilly, let’s say that.

An interesting little tidbit: I pressed Ellis on whether his party sees Li’l Duce as an asset or a drawback and, in answering, he danced around the Q., implying that, well, if a Rep. wants to hitch her/his wagon to P. Gag’s, that’d be fine but it’d be just as well if a GOP candidate establishes a healthy distance from the party’s national standard bearer.

Brought to you by the Republican Party.

I find that most telling. In a street brawl, if you sense any weakness in your opponent, any little opening or letting down of the guard, you exploit it, fast and furiously. When a county Republican official hints that its current Big Boy isn’t necessarily the ticket to victory and, in fact, may be considered in some quarters the equivalent of a pair of cement overshoes, that’s a mighty big opening.

And why in the holy hell aren’t the Dems taking it? Why aren’t they screaming the name Trump! at the tops of their lungs every minute of the day? The key to victory is to go strong, simple, and direct. One word. Trump. That’s the stuff to give to the troops. That’s what the hell the Republicans did for eight freaking years, their passport to controlling every legislature and executive branch known to humankind in this year of somebody’s lord, 2018. They screamed Obama from morning till night and often hollered his name in their sleep.

If even the Republicans themselves sense the man-boy at the top might be a hindrance, then it’s the duty and responsibility of the Dems to make sure every single right-thinking citizen of these United States knows it, today, tomorrow, the day after, and every single goddamned day until Nov. 6.

Look, the last charismatic leader the Reps. had was Saint Ronald Reagan. And nobody — nary a sole — among the party faithful ever hinted at or even entertained the notion that he might be a lead weight. If St. R. told them they all ought to jump off a cliff, there’d have been a massing of leapers at every single ledge in this nation. Today, though, plenty o’Republicans are about as nauseated by the state of the current administration as Dems are.

Acknowledge that fact, Dems! Rub it in. Don’t let anybody forget the party that kowtowed to nativists, the gun lobby, the radical religionists, and even the white supremacists, reaped what they’d sown in their current Pres. Way too many Dems these days are afraid of alienating somebody or something by harping on the Trump connection too much. Nonsense!

Go simple: The Republicans = Trump. There’s your message. Now, start hitting people over the head with it.

Big Talk Links

I haven’t posted the podcasts of my last two Big Talks because 1) WFHB’s website was down; and 2) I forgot to do so when the website came back up. Anyway, herein I present the link* to the Thursday, March 29 edition featuring a couple of clips from former United Nations ambassador Samantha Power‘s speech at Indiana University last month, spliced in w/ me telling the story of former B-town mayor Frank McCloskey who, as a Congressbeing in the 1990’s, became a hero to many in the world when he pushed for the US to intervene to stop the genocides in the then-new republics of the former Yugoslavia. Phew! How’s that for a run-on sentence? Power, for her part, had won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on thaose and other genocides and ethnic cleansings. She immortalized McCloskey in her book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.

Last week, Thursday, April 5th, my Big Talk guest was James Clawson, a prof. at IU’s School of Informatics. He was a youthful computer geek who, while earning a master’s and PhD at Georgia Tech, worked passionately on bridging the gap between computer geekdom and the more traditional health care world. His post-doc project at GT entailed developing and studying the efficacy of a portable device designed for breast cancer patients. The little Android notebook connected those patients with other patients, with their own and other doctors, with research and the latest findings on the disease, and served as a data diary for them as they embarked on what Clawson calls their Cancer Journey.

Clawson: Bridging the gap.

Okay? Again, here’s the link* to the Power/McCloskey show and here’s where you click* to get the Clawson episode.

And remember, Monroe County’s major party majordomos, William Ellis and Mark Fraley, will chat with me over the airwaves this coming Thursday, April 12th, on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

We’ll talk.

[ * MG NOTE: Well, I’ll be damned! Here I sit in the Jefferson County Public Library in Madison, Indiana, ready to click on the Publish button for this post and what do I realize but that I’ve forgotten to bring the audio files of the aforementioned Big Talk episodes to upload to WordPress. Hah — speaking of fercockt! So, cool your heels for just a little while longer until I get home and upload those episodes. I’m beginning to think I need either a long vacation or an enforced stay in a sanitarium.]

 

Hot Air: The Dead Tell Tales

The New York Times found itself in hot water not long ago. The reason? Its obits section historically has been weighted heavily — almost exclusively — toward men. The paper is now trying hard to undo that injustice with something called the “Overlooked” series. More on that in a bit.

I love reading the NYT obits. I have for years. I discovered the beauty, the treasure trove, the literature, for chrissakes, that well-written obits can be as far back as the summer of 1983. It was in July of that year that I happened to be thumbing through the NYT. I’d never before read the obits, thinking them the ghoulish pastime of old fogeys. Somehow, though, my eye was arrested by this headline:

Developer of the Quonset hut. Really? You mean some person, somewhere, actually had to come up with this idea? For pity’s sake, Quonset huts are so simple, so elementary, I’d thought they were more or less hard-wired into our brains from the time we as a species descended from the trees on the African plain. But no. A guy — of course, a guy, because, as I’d learn more than 30 years hence, the NYT almost never marked the deaths of brilliant women — had actually sat down before a drafting table and had drawn up the first of the giant-caterpillar-like structures. Well, here, let’s let the obit writer, anonymous to us at this remove, explain:

When the United States entered World War II, the Fuller company received a contract to develop a shelter that could be transported easily and assembled quickly. Mr. Dejongh led a group of Fuller engineers who were sent to Quonset Point, R.I., where they built a steel half-cylinder that was to fill a variety of purposes at military bases around the world.

US Army Quonset hut on Attu in the Aleutian Islands.

This DeJongh fellow was an engineer for the George A. Fuller Construction Co. in New York City. He was born and educated in the Netherlands and moved to the US in the 1920’s. He and his crew of engineers at Fuller designed the famed Seagram, Union Carbide, and other notable towers in NY as well as Denver’s Mile High Center and a bunch of high-rises in Washington, DC. He also designed the world’s first ski tramway, located in New Hampshire.

Then World War II started and he came up with that basic, essential structure, the Quonset hut.

And — who knew? — it was named after some podunk town in Rhode Island. Well, I’ll tell you who knew — anybody who’d read his New York Times obituary. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better history course than that found every day in the NYT obits.

Today, for instance, the deaths of the following poor souls were noted therein:

  • Drue Heinz
  • William Prochnau
  • Alfred Crosby
  • Herbert Kaiser

I honestly couldn’t have ID’d a single one of them until today. Now, though, after reading their obits, I know that Drue Heinz was a member of the pickle and ketchup empire who threw boatloads of dough at authors and editors, some of whom started the likes of The Paris Review, Antaeus, and Ecco Press. She even purchased a manor in Scotland and turned it into a writers’ retreat called Hawthornden Castle.

William Prochnau was a war correspondent and the author of Once Upon a Distant War, about the journalists who, early on, saw the Vietnam War for the fiasco it really was. His reporting and writings landed him on President Richard Nixon’s notorious enemies list.

Alfred Crosby parlayed his fascination with Columbus and his landings in the “new world” into a study of how the early European migration here changed this continent’s very environment. He combined the disciplines of biology, ecology and geography in an effort to understand what Columbus and those who followed had wrought, coining terms like “ecological imperialism.” Crosby eventually earned the nickname, “the father of environmental history.”

Herbert Kaiser was an American diplomat who’d developed skin cancer while stationed in South Africa in 1971. He was treated in that country and learned his excellent care came about solely because he was white. That nation’s blacks, he learned, were sorely underserved by doctors and medical facilities. He and his wife, Joy, would go on to fund the Medical Education for South African Blacks nonprofit foundation, providing grants, scholarships, and other assistance to non-whites in the country.

And, coolest of all, I learned about Bessie B. Stringfield, the “Motorcycle Queen of Miami.” Here’s a photo of her and her Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide:

Bessie died in 1993. Her obit ran today as part of the NYT’s “Overlooked” series, wherein the paper publishes newly-written obituaries about women who died years ago and were, at the times of their deaths, not considered worthy of inclusion in its pages. What a life she led! Here’s clip from her new obit:

Her legend was big enough to warrant a posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame of the American Motorcyclist Association in 2002, nearly a decade after her 1993 death. Hundreds of women motorcyclists make an annual cross-country trek in her honor. She has been memorialized in a comic book and mentioned in a documentary and a book about women motorcyclists by Ann Ferrar, a friend who is also working on a memoir of her friendship with Stringfield.

A masterful storyteller, Stringfield amazed people with her accounts of being chased off the road as she traveled through the Jim Crow South; performing stunts on the Wall of Death at carnivals; and serving as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider for the U.S. Army in the 1940s. Her childhood, in her telling, was Dickensian: born in Jamaica to an interracial couple; left motherless at a young age; abandoned by her father on a Boston street; and adopted by a benevolent Irish Catholic woman who treated her so well that she gave her a motorcycle when she was 16 years old.

As I said, cool.

Throw those elementary school textbooks away. You’ll get a better, more comprehensive education studying the obits.

 

Hot Air: These Days, 50 Years Ago

Memory plays tricks on all of us. I’ve had it in my head for years — for decades — that my life changed, my consciousness was awakened, at about 6:00pm, Thursday, April 4, 1968. In my memory, I was sitting in my family’s living room at 1621 N. Natchez Ave. in Chi., the TV tuned to Channel 26, at the time a sort of weirdo off-brand station on the UHF dial that aired old slapstick movies, constant repeats of an Italian documentary on bizarre cultural practices and superstitions called Mondo Cane, and pro wrestling. Maybe I was channel surfing (although prob. not as we didn’t have a clicker in those days — I would have had to get up and walk over to the TV to change channels) or maybe I was hoping to see some old Buster Keaton nugget, but instead all I got was a photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. and somber music.

It was a picture like this.

The station kept that picture up, accompanied by a succession of dirges, all night long. I remember being alone. Who knows where my parents were. My bro. Joey was away at college in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I remember tears coming on, unexpectedly. Then I began sobbing. At first I felt like a fool — or, in the language of my peers and the times, a femme — for wanting to cry. But I couldn’t stop myself so I let go and wept deeply. From that moment on, I’d come to understand, I had become a citizen of the world rather than a dopey kid who worried about being thought a femme.

The death of the civil rights icon, the hero to much of Black America (and the Satan to all my white neighbors) touched my soul. I didn’t know him. He didn’t live on my block. I hadn’t trick or treated at his house nor had I shoveled his snow. His fight was never my fight — hell, I was white and on top of the world, a position due only to the color of my skin, a dynamic the man himself thought intrinsically evil. Yet I cared about him, his ideals, his battles. And at 6:00pm that April Thursday, an unusually warm one, it all came together for me — the world, the struggles of others, empathy, awareness, all of it crystallized in my pre-teen brain. I knew — 12-year-old me — at that very moment of Martin Luther King’s death that the world had changed.

Only it wasn’t 6:00pm on that Thursday. My memory — the neurons and axons, the dendrites and synapses, the connections they formed, the pictures and sounds and smells they etched into the storage areas of my developing mind, had squished a couple of days together to form a slightly false memory.

King was shot at 6:01pm that Thursday, acc’d’g to the best records I can find. He lay bleeding to death on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, his colleagues and aides holding towels against the gaping hole in his cheek, jaw, and neck to stanch the flow for some minutes until the ambulance arrived. Then he was whisked to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis where emergency room doctors struggled to keep him alive for the better part of an hour. He was pronounced dead at 7:05pm.

So I couldn’t have been watching Ch. 26’s homage to the fallen man at 6:00pm that Thursday. In those pre-smartphone, pre-social media days, news — even the world-shaking variety — travelled at a glacial pace. It took a full hour from the time James Earl Ray’s finger pulled the trigger on his Remington Model 760 rifle until the TV networks aired the first bulletins on the shooting, acc’d’g to the New York Times. In the documentary, King: Montgomery to Memphis, the producer of a show in New York takes to the stage, interrupting the proceedings, to announce that King had died. The audience gasps. New York plays and concerts begin at 8:00pm, Eastern Time. The show in question was just about to begin when the producer broke the news.

I couldn’t possibly have heard the news until it was dark in Chicago. I recall it still being light out when I saw the picture of King and heard the funereal music. So it must have been the next early evening, or even late afternoon, that I had my epiphany. Perhaps that’s why I was alone in the living room. My mother would have been cooking Friday night dinner. It was still Lent — Easter was nine days away — so she’d have been frying fish. My father probably wasn’t home from work yet. My brother, as noted above, was away at college.

I’d come home from school with a sky full of smoke overhead and the blare of sirens near and far, a continuous cacophony. The riots had begun already. Even though the West Side black neighborhoods that were blazing, on Madison St. and Roosevelt Rd. from Cicero to Western avenues, were miles away, the acrid stench of the fires pierced my nostrils. My mother wouldn’t have let me go outside to play after school that afternoon. Our neighborhood might be overrun by hordes of enraged black men. Some neighbors sat on their front stoops cradling pistols and shotguns, waiting for the assault to begin. It never came.

As I understand things, a lot of white people to this day are still waiting, their guns at the ready.

When my father did come home from work — he was the shipping and receiving manager for a box company deep in the South Side black ghetto — he told my mother he’d had to turn his lights on as he travelled northbound on the Dan Ryan Expressway and then westbound on the Ike. The blacks, he explained, were going to stop cars that didn’t have their lights on in remembrance of King and beat the offending drivers. Whether that fear was warranted or not, I can’t say. I can’t find any mentions of such actions in the newspaper accounts of the those days. But in my neighborhood, any crazy rumor about black men turning violent was taken as gospel.

As the years progressed, both my parents’ attitudes toward Black America hardened, this despite my family’s refusal to honor the school boycotts following the announcements of busing and integration plans. Our house was splattered with eggs after my mother had refused to sign a petition against busing. But when my sister’s family broke up and it was learned she’d taken up with a black man, the racial amity that my mother preached at the dinner table and my father seemed to endorse by his silence would never be spoken of again.

But, at the age of 12, finding myself keening over the death of Martin Luther King, my own attitude toward black human beings began to race in the opposite direction.

Years later — decades later — my mother’s feelings toward black people softened. I don’t believe she died with the stain of hatred on her heart. My father? To the day he died, he maintained that Martin Luther King, Jr. was “a troublemaker.”

Funny thing is, in retrospect, I agree with him. Only my definition of troublemaker isn’t the same as my father’s.

 

Hot Air: Heroes

Former United Nations Ambassador and current Harvard law professor Samantha Power spoke yesterday at Indiana University. I was there and, I kid you not, she was out of this world.

Samantha Power

Power was born in Ireland and came to the US with her mother when she was nine. She went to college at Yale and earned her law degree at Harvard. Then she went out into the world and became a war correspondent, covering atrocities in the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan wars there in the 1990s. She’d write a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, recounting what she’d seen in southeastern Europe.

In that book, she told the story of Frank McCloskey’s efforts to get the United States to do something — anything — to stem the bloodshed in Bosnia, Croatia, and other former Yugoslav  states. McCloskey at the time of the Balkan wars was a member of the US House from Indiana’s 8th District. He also was a former mayor of Bloomington.

His tireless efforts to stop genocide and ethnic cleansing in the Balkan countries eventually forced a reluctant America to act against the aggressors and war criminals in the former Yugoslavia. It’s a hell of a story and I told it yesterday on Big Talk.

Frank McCloskey

I’m posting the podcast of the show here because the WFHB site is down right now. Yesterday’s Big Talk sounds a bit different because I used musical bumpers — I’d expected to be able to question Power about the McCloskey story, but the School of Global and International Studies auditorium was packed to the rafters for her speech. I couldn’t elbow my way near her. I’d pre-recorded my narration earlier in the week and left spots open to paste in Power’s clips. Unfortunately for purposes of the show (and very fortunately for every other reason), Powers spoke exclusively about diplomacy and the ability of America to affect world events through, well, talk.

Speaking of talk, Power’s own talk was strong, straightforward, accessible, and down-to-Earth. Hell, if she hadn’t been foreign-born, she’d have made a bang-up president! If you’re looking to point out a female role model for today’s young girls, Samantha Power is as good as you’ll find.

I mentioned this last week and it bears repeating: Say what you will about the presidency of Barack Obama (under whom Power served) but the people he brought with him were brilliant and caring, and they possessed innate gravitas. As opposed to the hoodlums and clowns you-know-who has surrounded himself with in today’s White House.

That all said, here’s yesterday’s Big Talk:

 

Hot Air: Little Steps & A Big One Backward

Others

The cover of National Geographic‘s April issue is stunning in its beauty as well as the underlying message that, well, there ain’t much diff. between black people and white people. You and I might have known that already but, truth be told, it’s awfully easy to forget in this overheated corporate media environment where every mention of the races reinforces the notion they are species from two separate planets.

Twin Daughters Of Biracial Parents.

The race that we call “Asian,” BTW, is from the opposite side of the world so, yeah, those people are different, but only sorta. As for the Australian Aborigines, well, they simply don’t even exist — and that’s true even in the eyes of most of the population of Australia.

Apparently, NatGeo is doing a mea culpa for the decades and decades it’s spent turning dark-skinned folks into fascinating museum or art gallery exhibits. And that’s nice but, nevertheless, the mag and the foundation remain pretty much stuck in the 1950s with regard to POC. That’s a hell of an advancement from their previous stance, which allowed the mag to display the naked breasts of African black women because — let’s be frank — those people weren’t as worthy of the phony-baloney modesty that prohibited the publication from exposing good white women’s mammaries.

Aren’t those African black women interestingly weird?, seemed to be the message. Seemed to be — hell. The mag may as well have come right out and said we can look at an African black woman’s exposed upper body for the same reason we can watch a dog lick its privates. We (whites), the unwritten tenet held, are civilized human beings and, therefore, superior to both of them.

I’m glad NatGeo is finally trying to inch its way into the 21st Century. But don’t forget, the outfit has a long, long way to go. For further reading along this line, check out this take on the issue in Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

Women & Our Singular President

A little tidbit I discovered while reading a New York Times essay about Catharine MacKinnon, the legal scholar and radical feminist who penned the landmark 1979 book, Sexual Harassment of Working Women. That eye-opener actually positioned the term sexual harrassment front and center in the debate over the role of women in our holy land. MacKinnon and her sisteren called for a complete restructuring of society to eliminate male dominance and repression, and how can you argue with that? The NYT essay’s author, Ginia Bellafante, contrasted CM’s work with that of Helen Gurley Brown who, in the ’60s, was viewed as a feminist but by today’s lights is about as much of one as, say, our current president. Bellafante describes Gurley’s Cosmopolitan magazine operation and her books as “a feminism of patriarchal compliance.”

Which brings me to the tidbit. The essayist describes Brown and her 1968 book, Sex and the Office, thusly:

… Brown’s sequel to her loopy best-selling instructional Sex and the Single Girl, she delivered a playbook of the way young women should understand male bosses that included lessons in making them feel godlike. Colleagues were potential sexual partners and the cubicle was Tinder: “Though it may seem to the untrained eye that you are selflessly working on office projects together, what you are really doing is sinking into them like a cobalt treatment so that you may make off with them after work.”

Not, as it were, woke.

Now, here’s the kicker: Sex and the Office was re-issued in 2004. And guess who gave it an imprimatur with “an enthusiastic blurb.” Yep. Our very own future President Gag.

As if you needed more evidence, the fact is we elected president a reanimated corpse from the year 1952.

Hot Air: Men & Machines

Obedience

Okay, so President Gag’s lawyer, John Dowd has quit. Word on the street is he did it because his client didn’t follow his instructions to a T.

He Wouldn’t Listen!

Which brings up a Q that has puzzled me for years. Why is it acceptable for lawyers to quit representing a client when said client doesn’t follow her/his orders precisely?

Lawyers out there: Lemme hear from you.

Here’s my angle: I have about 23 and a half doctors. Hey, catch cancer yourself and you’ll find out why I need so many. Anyway, each and every one of those doctors issues orders and recommendations to and for me. Were I to follow all those instructions and directives without exception, I’d pretty much cease living a normal life. Even patients w/o a big-assed illness like C are told to do scads of things by their medical practitioners, many of which are ignored. My regular doctor tells me, among other things, not to sit in front of my keyboard for such long stretches, not to consume so many carbohydrates, to get a hose shoved up my butt regularly so somebody can inspect the interior of my intestines, and countless other annoyances and impossibilities. I eventually get around to doing some or even most of those things, but certainly not as frequently as my doctors would prefer.

Every time I see my primary physician, I feel like a school kid sitting in the principal’s office. Why didn’t you do your homework, young man?

Nevertheless, none of my doctors is quitting treating me. None says, if you don’t knock off thirty pounds ASAP I’ll have to resign from your case.

Lawyers, though, are a different matter. A man can be found to have dozens of bodies buried in his crawl space. The instruments of torture and death that he used to put them there can be arrayed neatly in his toolshed. The man could have the victims’ blood on his hands. Hell, he could even have videotapes showing him snuffing the life out of them. Still, a lawyer will take his case, saying — rightfully — everybody deserves a good and proper defense.

But let that man go before the TV cameras and say the cops are nitwits, the judge is a fool, and those guys whose bodies were found deserved to die anyway, and his lawyer will up and quit before the lights and cameras are turned off. Why? Because the lawyer told him not to speak to the media and, dammit, he didn’t listen!

Why isn’t it the lawyer’s responsibility to continue to represent the man even when he sabotages his own case? Doctors stick around even when I continue to gorge on rigatoni. Who knows how many years I’m shaving off my own life thanks to my unapproved habits.

Lawyers, what say you?

Stuck With It

Hamilton

Mayor John Hamilton will make an announcement by the end of the month regarding that armored vehicle his police chief Mike Diekhoff wants so badly. The mayor’s communication’s chief has stated the city’s contract with the Lenco Armored Vehicles company does not allow Bloomington to back out.

Don’t hold your breath hoping Hamilton will say, Aw forget it.

It Gets Worse

Bolton

You thought John Bolton was bad as United Nations ambassador under George W. Bush? Hoo boy, take another look — he’s now a decade older, has fewer future years on this planet to worry about, is that much more curmudgeonly, and is alarmingly emboldened by the rise of the militant, America-supremacist Right Wing.

Better say your prayers tonight, babies. If you’re an atheist like me, well, perhaps we’d both better start finding Jesus.

Hark, The East

Here’s your link to yesterday’s Big Talk podcast featuring tech entrepreneur and angel investor Pat East. And don’t forget to read my profile of him in the March edition of Big Mike’s B-town in Limestone Post magazine.

 

Hot Air: The Gamut

The Worst

I just learned about the horrifying death of Shanda Sharer. I’d imagine one or two longtime Hoosier Pencillistas might recognize her name.

Shanda Sharer

I came upon the incident while on the way to looking something else up.

Scads of movies, books, TV shows, documentaries, YouTube videos, and even poems and song lyrics have been written about the 12-year-old’s gruesome murder by four teen girls in 1992.

Frankly, I want to kick myself for reading about it. I feel somehow diminished or even tainted just by having it in my brain.

I’m not going to recount the lowlights of the murder here. The details surrounding it are as gasp-inducing as the life story of the father of the killers’ ringleader, a then 17-year-old named Melinda Loveless, who will remain in prison until 2019. Old man Loveless was so depraved and so traumatized his daughter as she was growing up (as well as pretty much everyone else in his family, his workplaces, and his neighborhood) that the fact that Melinda would eventually become the leader of a kidnapping/torture/murder posse seems a logical outcome.

Coincidentally, one of Shanda Sharer’s murderers, Laurie Tackett, was released from the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis this past January, after serving 26 years of a 60-year sentence.

Better

Pat East

Tune in this afternoon at 5:30 for this week’s edition of Big Talk. My guest will be angel investor and tech innovator Pat East, founder and CEO of Hanapin Marketing and executive director of the under-construction Dimension Mill tech company incubator.

Come back here tomorrow morning for a link to the podcast in case you miss today’s show. Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM, immediately following the Daily Local News.

Best

I’m reading Atul Gawande’s book Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance. Gawande is the Brooklyn-born son of Indian immigrants who has written four books on the world of medicine and the life of a doctor. His first book, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, was a National Book Award finalist. His third and fourth books, The Checklist Manifesto and Being Mortal, both were New York Times bestsellers.

In Better, Gawande recounts at one point the story of Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis who, in 1847, well before it was known that much disease is caused by microscopic bacteria, figured out that doctors and other health care workers ought to wash their hands. True.

Elementary?

See, Semmelweis had realized that a huge percentage of women who gave birth in hospitals were dying of puerperal fever. Women who gave birth at home almost never contracted the disease. Somehow, Semmelweis concluded that doctors dashing from patient to patient in his women’s hospital were somehow carrying the disease with them. He instituted mandatory handwashing after all patient contacts. In fact, he’d stand by the handwashing sink and bark at people who passed it by. Despite this obvious success rate, much of the rest of the medical profession wouldn’t accept Semmelweis’ conclusion. The prevailing wisdom at the time held that there was a “miasma” in the air of women’s hospitals that caused the illness.

We can blame arrogance or intransigence for other doctors’ refusal to follow Semmelweis’ lead and that would be true — to an extent. But Semmelweis’ own prickly nature was just as much or more to blame. He refused to do standardized experiments to prove his conclusion. His own arrogance revealed itself as he insisted doctors listen to him just because he was smarter than they were. When other doctors would seem skeptical of his finding, he’d publicly lambaste them, comparing them to the worst mass murderers in human history. His manner was so unbearable that even people at his own hospital resisted washing their hands just to spite him. Truth is, he became such a jerk that he was dismissed from the hospital as a result of his behavior after instituting the handwashing procedure.

It wasn’t until two decades later, when the germ theory of disease was just emerging, that Joseph Lister wrote his groundbreaking paper on handwashing and the practice became accepted.

Gawande employs the tale to illustrate the assertion that humans practice medicine. No matter the theoretical findings, no matter the logic or evidence, we depend on frail, imperfect, often ignorant, occasionally self-centered, all-too-humans to heal us. The best medical practitioners, Gawande posits, are those who recognize those weaknesses within themselves and strive to minimize them.

 

Hot Air: Good & Plenty

Time Passes

Precisely two years ago today I underwent my last chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments — on the same day, for chrissakes! By this date, two turns around the sun ago, I could no longer feel the olive pits on either side of my throat. I’d been running my fingers over my neck for weeks — months! — each day and, yep, each day of my treatment the little buggers shrank. Still, who knew what relics of the cancer — squamous cell carcinoma resulting in numerous malignant lymph nodes, occult primary — remained, un-sensed, under my skin. I wouldn’t know for months that I was in remission until the swelling and scarring abated and my oncologist could scan me and palpate me.

I looked so forward to the date, March 21st, the scheduled double finale of the horrible insults my body was receiving, daily and of my own volition. The day came and I rang the tradition “It’s over!” bells both at the radiation center and the infusion center. But my oncology nurse, Mike, told me, “It’s gonna get worse.” He’d said so for weeks already but still, I just knew that minutes after my final treatments I’d feel spry and hale again, ready to eat and drink again, back to goddamned normal again!

Mike was right; I was wrong. The ordeal I’d thought was unbearable in the final weeks of treatment only grew worse in the succeeding weeks.

But I pulled through and — I still can hardly believe it — appear to have survived cancer.

You’ll forgive me if I crow.

Power Talk

Remember Samantha Power? A name from the recent past (although this particular past seems more like ancient history).

She was the US Ambassador to the United Nations during the second Barack Obama term. I never paid all that much att’n to her. How many of us, really, even know who the various UN ambassadors are or have been? Quick, can you name the current person in that position? It took me a few seconds to remember. And — flat out — I have no idea w/o looking it up who preceded Power.

Anyway, Power was our global diplomat back when this holy land’s leadership was relatively sane and respectable. Check out some of her creds leading up to her nomination to the UN in June 2013:

  • BA, Yale University
  • JD, Harvard University
  • Journalist (war correspondent), covering the Yugoslavia theater in the 1990s
  • Author, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction
  • Founding executive director, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
  • Time magazine, 100 Most Influential People in the World
  • Foreign Policy magazine, Top 100 Global Thinker
  • Forbes magazine, World’s 100 Most Powerful Women
  • Subject of the documentary,
  • Member, US National Security Council

Power

I mean, honestly, has anyone involved with President Gag ever won the Pulitzer Prize? Or even knows what in the hell it is?

Power’s devoted her life to the study and pursuit of human rights and humanitarian aid to godforsaken lands. Again, does any Li’l Duce admin member know what humanitarian aid is? Or, for that matter, what a human is?

Power’s coming to Bloomington later this month, the 28th and 29th, to serve as keynote speaker for the third annual America’s Role in the World conference, sponsored by Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies. She’ll deliver her address at noon on Thursday the 29th.

I dunno about you, but I’ll be there.

Worse

With all the recent revelations about how geek corporations in the employ of the Russkies (and quite possibly probably at the behest of the Li’l Duce campaign as well) have mined our Facebook info and then trolled the huge swathe of willfully ignorant in this holy land in order to…

  1. Throw our election process into chaos, weakening our collective belief in democracy
  2. Character assassinate Hillary Clinton
  3. Help a buffoon get elected
  4. All of the above

… the whole sickening shebang makes me think of some of those stupid personality quizzes and “Do You Remember the 60s?” excruciatingly tedious “fun” interrogatories. I took a scant few of them. I found them unchallenging and often weirdly inaccurate. I also found them to have been written in a style that can only be described as faux-Eastern Bloc Kaos agent-ese straight out of a “Get Smart” episode.

I knew it was all Russian bullshit. I figured it was American corporations subcontracting out to Moscow boiler room operations stuffed with fresh-faced computer experts digging for info so they could target advertise to me. As long as that was the case, I figured, so what.

The case, we’re learning — with more proof tidal-waving in by the day — was is a hell of a lot more malicious than that.

Perverse Equality

It needs to be said. There are weird and venomous trains of thought circulating around the black American community these days. Proof positive that whites don’t have a monopoly on stupid.

To wit: Washington DC council member Trayon White has stated on Facebook that Jewish financiers control the climate for their own nefarious ends. Then it was learned he said similar things last month at a meeting of local gov’t officials. He said at that time that the Rothschilds, the favorite whipping family of the likes of, oh, Adolf Hitler, control the World Bank, the federal government, and are in the process of taking over the planet’s big cities.

In a separate example of dumbfounding idiocy, Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star Jordan Clarkson appeared on a popular podcast, “Road Trippin’: Richard vs Channing” carried on uninterrupted.com, and said giant humans used to roam the Earth and even kept dinosaurs as pets.

Here’s White on the Jews who, he’s sure, have a stranglehold on the rest of us:

There’s this whole concept with the Rothschilds — control the World Bank, as we all know — infusing dollars into major cities. They really pretty much control the federal government, and now they have this concept called resilient cities in which they are using their money and influence into local cities.

And here’s Clarkson, with podcast host DJ Montage:

Jordan Clarkson: Y’all know how we got dogs and stuff, right? So, I think it was bigger people in the world before us and the dinosaurs was they pets.

DJ Montage: How big were those people?

Clarkson: Oh, you look at a dinosaur. They got to be three times bigger than them.

What’s not generally acknowledged is this brand of non-thinking is bandied about in private enclaves — living rooms, barber shops, bars, and even dorm rooms to an extent that might surprise you. The flat-Earth theory has traction therein as well. These ideas don’t arise in a vacuum.

That famous liberal media we always hear about (and which exists only in the fever dreams of Right Wing ideologues) won’ touch this one. Nor will civilian wits and wags among the folks on my side of the fence. No one gains traction criticizing black Americans (unless their names are Hannity or Bannon, etc.). Hell, black Americans regularly take beatings from the likes of Fox News and other outlets of balderdash so it’s sort of a gentlepeople’s agreement: lay off black people’s stupidity. It would be too much like piling on.

Problems arise when that stupidity becomes dangerous. Anti-semitism and anti-intellectualism are dangerous. Period.

The American black community has been traumatized and defrauded by our schools’ refusal to present American history in a truthful way. In fact, we’ve all been traumatized by this institutionalized obsession with whitewashing this holy land’s past. The South cared nothing about “state’s rights.” They cared only about forcing dark-skinned humans to live in a perpetual condition of inferiority and subservience. Our schools haven’t stressed that reality enough through the years and decades. Martin Luther King, Jr. was despised by white America before he was murdered. Whites here only grudgingly accepted him as an icon after he was safely dead. History class doesn’t reveal what slurs white America called him and how thrilled they were when the first learned he’d been killed. The US Public Health Service’s “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” in which unsuspecting black men with the sexually transmitted disease were left untreated just to see what would happen to them wasn’t, as its very name blatantly proclaims, done on our precious white boys. The subjects of that test were reduced to the level of lab rats. The list of fictions and distortions goes on and on. So, too, does the concealment of the horrors and atrocities.

In school I only learned what a swell guy George Washington Carver was because he concocted a boatload of consumer products out of the peanut. We learned nothing of W.E.B. DuBois. And we certainly never heard the name Pauli Murray breathed even once in our classrooms.

But we’re talking human history here. The kind of embarrassing, crushingly humiliating history that nations and states everywhere try to quash, most effectively through their schools falsifying the past. That’s what we do.

It doesn’t mean every single thing we learned in school is a lie. Plenty is, sure. But plenty isn’t. The world is round. Dinosaurs went extinct millions of years ago. Those are facts. Facts are real. And the Rothschild canard is real only in the minds of sick people.

Hot Air: The Power & The Worry

Upper Hand

So, the new status symbol, the new badge of celebrity honor, is being able to make Snapchat’s stock tumble by criticizing the dying social media dragon.

Hmm. CEOs and boards of directors all across our holy land are on their knees praying to their false gods that 30-ish celebs aren’t fingering their outfits to become the new hip target.

Better Late Than Never

My guest on last week’s Big Talk was research scientist Heather Bradshaw, whose specialty is lipids — or what we laypeople like to call fats. Both pot and olive oil contain lipids that may be surprisingly (or not) beneficial to us, should those particular fats be precisely identified and synthesized. The news these days is filled with stories — some even accurate — about the wonder drugs that may  arise from weed. Bradshaw cautions us to at least delay throwing a victory party for medical marijuana, at least for a few hours until she and her global allies in the lab figure things out a tad more exactly. Olive oil, though, HB reveals, has been proven to ward off osteoporosis in aging women. Cool, huh?

Pharmacopeia

Here’s the link to the podcast of my interview with Bradshaw.

Next week on Big Talk, tech innovator, entrepreneur, and angel investor Pat East. Tune in every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

Killing Machine

Well, you knew it had to happen sooner or later:

This high-tech road fatality, the first of its kind in history, doesn’t mean we’ll be giving up on self-driving hot rods anytime soon. Hell, our human-driven crates kill some 40,000 of us a year in this holy land and we’re not anywhere near giving up our Corvettes or 30-year-old Yugos. BTW: the Vietnam War death toll for American soldiers, when all was said and done, reached just 58,000 and we consider that one of our great national tragedies. The 40-thou that we crush, decapitate, puncture, and otherwise rub out every single goddamned year are considered…, well, they’re not really considered at all anymore, are they?

We humans have an amazing capacity to blind ourselves to uncomfortable realities.

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