Hot Air: Local, Global, Psychopathological


Saturday, March 30th is going to be jammed packed w/ stuff to do.

There’ll be a meet & greet for all the city council candidates at the Upland Brewing Company from 3-5pm, sponsored by Democracy for Monroe County, Indivisible Bloomington & the 9th District, and The Indiana Latino 9th District Democratic Caucus.

Then, dash over to the I Fell Gallery for readings from the works of Indiana’s biggest-ever socialist and labor organizer, Eugene V. Debs The Debs thing runs from 5-7pm and is sponsored by the Writers Guild at Bloomington, the Burroughs Century, WFHB, and the Ryder Film Series.

I’ll be reading from Debs’ 1902 piece for the Chicago Socialist magazine entitled, “What’s the Matter with Chicago?” Debs spent years in prison for labor organizing and then for opposing US participation in the Great War. He even ran for president from his jail cell.

His family home still stands, surrounded by a parking lot, on the campus of Indiana State University in Terre Haute. The Loved One and I once spent a delightful, sunny fall Sunday afternoon sitting in its back yard, surrounded by plaques commemorating some of this holy land’s most famed labor agitators.


The Loved One seems to be losing here ardor for recycling these days. I hadn’t thought about it much but she’s been digging into some of the realities of the practice. We “progressives,” or what in the hell ever you want to call us, like to recycle because it makes us feel a touch better about a world that seems to be getting snowed under by single-use plastics, paperboard packaging, and heavy metal detritus.

It’s not that TLO doesn’t care about the shithouse we’re turning our planet into. It’s just that recycling of late has become as effective a habit as spitting in the wind.

New York Times business reporter Michael Corkey suggests recycling is a dying proposition these days due to any number of factors in a March 16th piece.

Me? I’d be happy if we went back to packaging consumer liquids in glass and then bringing the empties back to the store for pennies. The grocery stores, in my youth, were essentially recycling centers before anybody even knew what the word recycling meant.

Viagra Voters

Make no mistake at all: The swatch of ignorant old white men who largely comprise President Gag’s base really are itching for a civil war. They’re depressed about seeing their exalted place in this holy land’s hierarchy slipping away. They’re depressed because they’re getting older, crankier, achier, more hard of hearing, less able to get a boner, and all the rest of the maladies and misfortunes that beset aging males.

They’re pissed because younger guys are…, well, younger, less cranky, less achy, can hear perfectly, can sustain an erection for hours on end, and seemingly aren’t aging a second.

The old bastards feel they have nothing to lose. So what if the globe’s climate is going to hell? I ain’t gonna be around to see it! So what if the demographics of this nation are inexorably changing. I want to ensure a privileged place for my grandchildren, dammit! So, as long as the clock’s running out on them, why not foment a civil war? A good rain, as Travis Bickle so presciently observed, will clean up the streets good.

I’d stake the mortgage on both Li’l Duce and Iowa’s Steve King feeling that way. As long as it has to be done, they’re thinking, let’s do it! The president recently bragged about all the tough guys who support him and King of late has been posting new civil war memes on social media.

Plus, President Gag’s sociopathology coupled with his messianic delusions seem a perfect formula for him to foment a civil war here or a nuclear war elsewhere.

We’re in a race to see what happens first: the president leaves office or he sets off a series of events leading up to a traumatic comeuppance for America and the world.

Hot Air: Singing, Swiping & Scheduling

Writing Right

People who aren’t writers don’t realize that writers are writing even when they’re not sitting in front of their keyboards. Perhaps the term even is inapt; I might have substituted the word especially.

My best writing is done when I stand at the sink, say, in the morning, washing dishes. Or while I’m driving. Or vacuuming. In other words, whenever I’m engaged in any sort of repetitive activity. Now and again, I wake up in the middle of the night with a melodic, trenchant line or graf running through my head and I have to jot it down so I won’t forget it when I rise.

For me — and, I’d imagine, for most writers — the words we string together, when strung properly and with inspiration, are music. I love to run through them repeatedly, listening to their tone and melody, grooving on them, quite possibly the way George Gershwin or Jimmy Webb played their songs, perhaps continuously, in their heads as each tune came into fruition.

Not only that, I love to “play” lines and grafs written by others in my head, just to hear another writer’s music. For instance, here’s a graf from Truman Capote’s novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, describing the moment the narrator first sees Holly Golightly:

Perfect Casting.

I went out into the hall and leaned over the banister, just enough to see without being seen. She was still on the stairs, now she reached the landing, and the ragbag colors of her boy’s hair, tawny streaks, strands of albino-blond and yellow, caught the hall light. It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned. A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes. It was a face beyond childhood, yet this side of belonging to a woman. I thought her anywhere between sixteen and thirty; as it turned out, she was shy two months of her nineteenth birthday.

One of my favorite sports books of all time was a memoir written by Pat Jordan about his brief professional baseball career entitled A False Spring. He never made it past the lowest minors. He was a dumb kid, on his own, with a few bucks in his pocket and no idea what to do with his life when he wasn’t aiming fastballs and curveballs at his catcher’s mitt. At one stop in a small Georgia town, Jordan lived in a rooming house. He describes the dinner put out by the landlady each night, how his fellow lonely roomers dug into their meals silently, staring into their plates, raising their heads only to reach for seconds. The landlady, Jordan wrote, placed hot bowls of meats and vegetables and freshly baked rolls and mashed potatoes on the table, “the steam rising from them like charmed cobras.”

Beautiful. Jordan, like Capote, makes you imagine much more than the details his words convey.

I’d love to take that charmed cobras line and use it myself, rather like a songwriter borrowing a few bars from an old favorite tune. Lines like those rattle around in my cranium all day long, bouncing off my own lines, creating a jumble of white noise, out of which I pluck the lines I’ll use in whatever I’m working on today.

But I have to be careful not to swipe big swatches of verbiage from other writers. I might use the charmed cobras imagery one day but there is, of course, a limit to such scrounging. I wouldn’t limn a waif-like, chic, ethereal young woman with whom I’d become instantly infatuated using the precise 146 words Capote did to sketch Holly Golightly.

Adam & Eve, Garden of Eden [Image: Jane Adams]

The thing is, the lines I might create on my own could very well get mixed up with the beautiful lines I cherish from other writers. That’s a pitfall all writers must try to avoid. Only one wordsmith, acc’d’g to Mark Twain, never had to worry about plagiarism. Twain wrote:

It all began with Adam. He was the first man to tell a joke — or a lie. How lucky Adam was. He knew when he said a good thing, nobody had said it before. Adam was not alone in the Garden of Eden, however, and does not deserve all the credit; much is due to Eve, the first woman, and Satan, the first consultant.

Hey, that’s a graf that’ll be rattling around in my brain for the foreseeable future too. I’d better be on my guard not to inadvertently swipe it one day.

The Challengers

I get the feeling listeners are really digging my Big Talk series featuring candidates for Bloomington city council this election year.

The series began four weeks ago with Kate Rosenbarger, running for the District 1 seat currently held by Chris Sturbaum. Then came Miah Michaelson, challenging Dave Rollo in District 4; Andrew Guenther, the Republican, setting his sights on the District 2 seat occupied by Dorothy Granger; and, last week, Jean Capler, shooting for one of the three At-Large seats now held by Susan Sandberg, Jim Sims, and Andy Ruff.

Coming up Thursday: Ron Smith, punching it out with fellow first-timer Jim Blickensdorf for the District 3 prize (incumbent Allison Chopra’s not running this time around).

That leaves six more weeks of programs before the May 7th primary and — guess what — there are six remaining challengers for city council seats. Swear to god I didn’t plan it that way. The political oddsmakers in the sky just seemed to smile upon me, mathematically, when I came up with the idea for this series in January. And speaking of oddsmakers, I’m going to post an informal betting book here the Monday before Primary Day, setting the odds for each candidate. Not that I expect anybody around these parts to actually lay down any of their hard-earned cash on the results — sheesh, I’ve never lived in a town with such a dearth of bettors.

Looking To Lay A Bundle On Steve Volan.

BTW: I’m not inviting any incumbents on for this series because…, well, I don’t have enough free time slots for them. I figure they get covered by the Herald-Times; WFHB’s Sarah Vaughan does a fabulous job squeezing CATS Week down to digestible morsels for the Daily Local News; and every once in a great while one of them might be mentioned on a WFIU newsbreak during Morning Edition or All Things Considered.

In fact, one of this town’s political junkies challenged me the other day, suggesting I was short-changing the incumbents. I explained my reasoning to this person at which point s/he said, “Isn’t that unfair?”

In the interest of all honesty, I replied, “Sorta, I guess. So what?”

The Incumbents (L-R): Ruff, Piedmont-Smith, Chopra, Sturbaum, Granger, Rollo, Sandberg, Volan, Sims.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm, immediately following the Daily Local news, on WFHB, 91.3 FM. I post the link to the previous day’s podcast here every Friday morning.

Hot Air: Hate & Love

So, When You’re Dead….

Birch Bayh

Funny little tidbit I found in yesterday’s New York Times story about the death of former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh. The author of the piece was going down the list of historic accomplishments of the Hoosier Dem (and, yeah, there were such things as statewide Hoosier Dems in a long, long ago world) and got to Title IX, which changed the landscape of college sports among other things. More on that 1972 federal civil rights  law in a bit but eyeball this excerpt:

Title IX brought him his greatest satisfaction, Mr. Bayh said — even though many others were involved in its passage, as he acknowledged, notably Representatives Edith Green of Oregon and Patsy Mink of Hawaii.

“I’d say probably this had a more profound impact on more Americans than anything else I was able to do,” he said in a telephone interview for this obituary in 2010.

Did you catch that?  “… [H]e said a telephone interview for this obituary….” How did the writer, noted NYT obituarist (yep, the word does exist) Adam Clymer, preface his interview with Bayh? “Good morning, Senator, I’m writing your obituary and I was wondering….”

It’s common knowledge that obituaries for public figures are written well in advance of their deaths. But I honestly didn’t know the writers thereof actually called their assigned subjects and said, essentially, Tell me about your life so that we can run a story about you when you drop dead.

Unintended Consequences

Title IX, among many other things, ensured that women could get an equal crack at school sports. Since the federal law’s passage in ’72 female participation in school athletics had increased about 900 percent (high school) and 450 percent (college) acc’d’g to a 2006 research paper.

Thing is, colleges and universities had to figure out a way to pay for all the new female sports teams Title IX gave rise to. And since the only collegiate sports that generate revenue are football and men’s basketball, those particular sports have since become the corrupt cash cows we now know them to be. They have to bankroll all the other sports that, really, nobody goes to see.

Lots Of Seats Available.

I’ve gone to an Indiana University baseball night game a time or two and the crowds in those games couldn’t possibly have paid the bill to keep the lights on. The IU Women’s basketball team drew an average of 4,102 to its 21 home games in 2017-18, acc’d’g to official NCAA figures. At $5.00 a pop ($3 for kids aged 3-18) that’s a per game gate of, at best, $20,510. That does not pay the entire freight when you consider the tabs for uniforms, travel, food, coaches’ salaries, exercise equipment, the electric bill, balls and nets, and a hundred other invoices.

It’s up to the unpaid slaves who fill out collegiate football and men’s basketball rosters to generate enough scratch to cover every other sport’s chits. The more dough these sports earn, the more college athletics depts. get to spread among the likes of the men’s swimming and diving and women’s cross country teams.

Collegiate football and men’s basketball have become big business, of necessity, and with that come all the sins and crimes big business engenders. I’m not blaming women’s sports for this, just saying nobody in 1972 could have foreseen the fallout from this gender parity.

Council Contests

Here the link to yesterday’s Big Talk podcast with my guest Jean Capler, candidate for one of the three At-Large seats on the city council in this years’ Democratic primary.


Stay tuned for next week’s show with Ron Smith, who’s going toe-to-toe with another first-timer, Grazie Italiano founder Jim Blickensdorf, in the council’s District 3. Smith is a social worker who’s served on any number of national, state, and local social service agencies including the Area 10 Agency on Aging and the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group. As a side note, he and his long-time bride, Lynne Schwartzberg are huge Chicago Cubs fans, a detail that makes me want to vote for him three times, only I don’t live within the city limits.

Anyway, Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm, immediately following the Daily Local News, on WFHB, 91.3 FM. You can access the full archive of Big Talk podcasts online here.

A Delicious Odium

There’s a ton of stuff I’m proud of accomplishing, abstaining from, avoiding, or just detesting. I’ve never done heroin, for instance. Too chicken.

Another is I’ve always detested Friends. I seem to recall giving the sitcom a shot back in the ’90s. Within seconds I wanted all the characters to be wiped out by a disease or terrorists or something. I’m thinking of this because I watched an old HBO special featuring Janeane Garofalo the other day. She was riffing on the Dave Mathews Band and Hootie & the Blowfish. She said there was a certain type of person who bought their albums. The kind of person who liked Friends.

The Hathaways

I’ve always liked Janeane Garofalo. That is, except when she donned horn-rimmed glasses and started getting all political. I just wanted to scream, “You’re not a policy wonk, for chrissakes!”

Then, last night, The Loved One and I were talking about the first sitcom we ever remember seeing as kids. For her it was The Mothers-in-Law. For me: The Hathaways. Swear to god, The Hathaways was about this California couple who for some ungodly reason raises a trio of chimps as their children. It made My Mother the Car look like the finest work of George Bernard Shaw.

Pure Evil.

Back to wanting bad things to happen to the characters in Friends. I recall thinking the exact same thing when I saw The Big Chill. I just hated those people. I hated their little problems. I hated the relationships. I hated the fact that they danced while cooking some detestable communal dinner. I prayed for evil-doers with powerful firearms to burst in and put them all out of my misery.

Does any of this make me a bad person?

Hot Air: Signing, Singing, Soaring

Signs Of The Times

Had a brief pre-coffee chat w/ one of the folks running for Bloomington city council this AM. This person — let’s call her/him Tyler — says the incumbent s/he’s running against is playing dirty pool. The incumbent, sez this challenger, is getting a bunch of apartment building owners to put up yard signs (for the incumbent) on their properties.

The challenger doesn’t like this because, s/he asks, “What about all the people who live in the apartments? Do they all support the incumbent?”

Turns out the practice is not illegal nor is it much frowned upon in casual conversation among pols. Still, the challenger says, “When people put yard signs up in front of the homes, you know that’s the voice of the person who lives there.”

Fair enough. I pointed out, though, that businesses — restaurants, specialty shops, taverns, etc. — put up candidates’ signs all the time. That’s no guarantee that the business owners’ employees want those candidates to win.

You’re looking for every edge you can get, I guess, when you’re running for office.

Eyeless in Daytona Beach

I love this story. In 1915, some smart alecks came up with an idea for a prank. Send an airplane up and have someone therein drop a baseball from it. Then see if a catcher could actually, y’know, catch it, down on the ground, a few hundred feet below.

Interestingly, it doesn’t matter how high the airplane would be because, as all us post-Galileo humans know, objects reach a terminal velocity when falling. So it’s not as though if the plane were 15,000 feet high the ball would end up speeding down to Earth at thousands of MPH.

Anyway, the two smart alecks recruited an old catcher named Wilbert Robinson, who by then had become the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to don his catcher’s gear and try to catch the pelota while the team was in spring training at Daytona Beach, Florida. The plane went up, circled overhead, Robinson craned his neck, looking straight up in the air, pounded his mitt, and got ready to gather the spheroid in.

BTW: the people behind the prank were future Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel, one of the game’s most storied characters (he’s famous for aphorism and malapropisms like “The key to being a good manager is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the five guys who haven’t made up their minds yet,” and “They say some of my stars drink whiskey but I have found that those who drink milkshakes don’t win many games”) and noted aviatrix Ruth Law Oliver. She would go on to set a distance speed record by flying from Chicago to New York State, some 590 miles, the next year.

Wilbert Robinson, a fireplug of a man at 5’8″ and 215 pounds, watched the object drop into his mitt from an original altitude of 520 feet. It hit the leather with a sickening splat. Robinson screamed, “Help me lads! I’m covered in my own blood!”

The players and reporters who’d gathered around to watch the stunt roared with laughter. What Robinson hadn’t known was Oliver somehow had forgotten to bring a baseball up with her in the plane. Thinking quickly, she’d grabbed a grapefruit from her brown bag lunch and dropped it instead. Naturally, it exploded when it hit Robinson’s mitt and thereby splattered him not with his own blood but grapefruit juice. Some of the juice had got into his eye, resulting in stinging pain. Robinson thought the momentum of the “baseball” had put his eye out, the poor bastard.

Another version of the story has Stengel convincing Oliver to drop a grapefruit rather than a baseball even before she’d gone up. I prefer the other story.

Robinson took the prank in good stride. Hell, he was probably thrilled to realize he hadn’t lost an eye or several pints of blood. Acc’d’g to lore, from then on Robisnon referred to airplanes as “fruit flies.”

And people wonder why I still love baseball.

Artful Dodgers

I had a ball Tuesday night at Art Night. It’s a semi-regular gathering of hippies, young and old, at a rented loft space around the corner from the old hobby shop at College Ave. and 4th St.

Led by Travis Puntarelli, the gang sprawls out on the floor or sits at a mismatched collection of tables to draw pictures or write poetry while musicians of various ages regale them with song. Puntarelli, of course, is one of Bloomington’s premier songsters. He plays a variety of instruments including guitar and keyboards. One woman played a type of squeezebox that I’ve never seen before. It was fairly simple, producing mainly a continuous key tone.

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Among the performers, our town’s favorite gadfly, Marc Haggerty, strummed a few tunes on his acoustic guitar and a young woman named Daisy warbled some heavenly songs, including old folk chestnuts and some lilts that would have sounded right at home in the shtetl.

As far as I can gather, the thing takes place every other week. Puntarelli et al rent the space per night from the building’s owner and they doll the place up for each occurrence.

It’s another of the 1,625,380 reasons why Bloomington’s a special place.


Hot Air: Round, Round, We Get Around

Electric scooters, natch, are just the beginning. In fact, all the hand-wringing and fist-shaking going on these days over the rentable transit toys in this town will soon be for naught, I’m guessing, because the Birds and the Limes soon will be replaced by better technologies.

1995 Harley Fat Boy

For instance, Harley-Davidson, the venerable American motorcycle manufacturer, just may be entering the rent-a-thing game soon.

Harley’s coming down hard after its 1990s-through-early-‘Aughts heyday. Back a quarter of a century ago, during the Clinton Era prosperity years, every white guy with an income over 75 G a year and all the homebound knickknacks he could cram into his McMansion had to cop a Harley and pretend he was an outdoor toughie. Funny thing is, a huge percentage of all the Road Kings, Softails, and Fat Boys sold back in those days days sat in garages collecting dust because their owners found riding a motorcycle was, y’know, hard friggin’ work. Anyway, now that the only people with money are the uber-wealthy, nobody’s buying Harleys anymore and so the co. is desperately seeking ways to remain a going concern.

It may be making a foray into a potential untapped market with rentable electric scooters. Harley this year has introduced a couple of concept home-rechargable scooters. The two new bikes don’t require drivers to have motorcycle licenses. Harley also recently purchased the StaCyc company, maker of electric bicycles for kids.

It’s a good bet we won’t have to worry too much longer about where everybody’s leaving their electric scooters nor will we have to fret over the growing number of head injuries suffered by helmet-less users thereof.

After the lightning bolt rollout of the scooters hereabouts and in other locales, whoever intros the next rentable get-around device most likely will be sure to make arrangements for helmets and dumping-off spots for whatever the next generation of wheeled-dealios looks like. At least that’s the hope.

So Help Me, Molly!

The big buzz at SXSW is the new doc is being screened in Austin this year. Entitled Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, it’s about the life of the iconic plaster-saint-smashing columnist from the Lone Star State.


Molly Ivins long has occupied a place in my very exclusive personal journalistic pantheon that also includes Mike Royko and Studs Terkel. Plying her trade in one of the weirdest political places on Earth, Ivins was thoroughly unafraid to call bullshit on any and all lickspittlers, ass-kissers, hogs-at-the-trough, holier-than-thous, and any other leeching, grabbing, manipulating, prevaricating, propagandizing reprobates, no matter which political party they belonged to. Coming from Texas, she was well-acquainted with the likes of Lyndon Johnson, Ann Richards, the Bushes, Mary Kay Ash, H. Ross Perot, Karl Rove and other natives of the state, be they angels or Lucifers.

Her guiding dictum: “Raise hell, big time. I want y’all to get out there and raise hell about damned near everything. My word, there’s a world out there that needs fixing. Get out there and get after it!”

Even though she seemed often barely able to keep her head above the surface of slime and muck, Ivins maintained a refreshing sense of optimism, as embodied by this hopeful line:

It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.

I’ll be looking for this film to come here via Peter LoPilato’s Ryder Film Series or, at least, Netflix or some other streamer.

Pod(cast) People

I’ve been absent from this global communications colossus for a few days for 23 or 24 reasons so I haven’t yet posted the link to the podcast of last week’s Big Talk.


My guest was the sole Republican running in this year’s local election, Andrew Guenther, who’s hoping to unseat incumbent city council member Dorothy Granger in Bloomington’s District 2.

Guenther, 24, is the youngest candidate in this year’s beauty pageant but don’t let that fool you. As far as I’m concerned nobody running in 2019 has done as thorough a job as he has in preparing for public office. The dude has done his homework, appropriately enough, considering he graduated from college only last summer.

Here’s the link to the Guenther interview.

BTW: I was in the studio yesterday with At Large candidate Jean Capler. She’s angling for one of the three seats now occupied by Susan Sandberg, Jim Sims, and Andy Ruff.  Also running in that Dem primary are first-timers Vauhxx Booker and Matt Flaherty.


Hot Air: Miracle Drug?

“It’s exciting.”

So says one of my many pals who’s doing real, hard-core scientific research into CBD oil. I sought this scientist out because I’ve been swamped in recent weeks by social media and conventional advertising pokes and nudges and, hell, downright demands that I gulp the stuff down for whatever bedevils me.

As a rule, whenever I hear about some new panacea that’ll cure anything and everything from cancer to the blues, the skeptic’s corner of my brain immediately shuts my eyes and ears down so I won’t drown in the sea of hype.

Frankly, I was hoping my scientist pal would tell me CBD oil was a load of bullshit.

It ain’t.

This researcher pointed out that CBD oil, in fact, was approved this past summer by the FDA for treatment of a couple of types of childhood epilepsy. The oil, sez this person, also apparently has been shown to an almost proven degree that it’s an fairly good pain reliever. Indiana University researchers in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences are poking their noses into the stuff just about every day of the week now. They do, however proffer a few caveats.

  1. CBD oil is unregulated. The bottles you cop from a dispensary or the 21st Century version of the Avon Lady or Fuller Brush Man are less regulated than even vitamin supplements, which are notoriously free of oversight from reputable labs and approval authorities. This means the stuff you’re getting may not really even be CBD oil. In fact, this researcher tells me, another scientist colleague has tested hundreds of bottles of CBD oil from various sources and found the different samples to to contain a bewildering number of ingredients and an even more wide-ranging percentage of the actual thing that you thought you were buying.
  2. Nobody knows precisely what compounds or molecules are doing the things you want CBD oil to do. This is important because once scientists determine what’s doing what to what , the purity and dependability of CBD oil can be more confidently assured. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about charlatans and snake-oil peddlers trying to sell you a bottle of sewing machine oil with a CBD oil label.
  3. CBD oil increases ocular pressure, meaning people who suffer from glaucoma should avoid it.

I’m still skeptical of the claims that this thing will bring about world peace and the cessation of all human discomfort. But I’m eager to hear more results based on the research by people who don’t have skin in the game and whose methods are above reproach.

One Of A Kind

Speaking of science, researchers have discovered what they’re calling one of the rarest forms of life on this planet: A Bloomington Republican.


That rara avis will appear on this afternoon’s Big Talk. My guest at 5:00pm today on WFHB, 91.3 FM, will be Andrew Guenther, the only person running for office in this year’s local Republican primary. Guenther’s hoping to unseat incumbent District 2 city council member Dorothy Granger, who herself is looking to fend off a couple of challengers in the Democratic primary. The primaries are May 7th and the general election November 5th.

Guenther just graduated from college just last year. He grew up in farm country in the north part of the state and moved down this way to attend IU. He loved Bloomington so much he decided to stay here and already has made his mark in our little civics universe by serving on several boards and commissions.

I’m featuring selected, non-incumbent challengers for Bloomington’s elective offices from now through May 2nd, the week before the primaries. Thus far mayoral challenger Amanda Barge (twice) and city council aspirants Vauhxx Booker, Kate Rosenbarger, and Miah Michaelsen have graced the Big Talk mics.

As usual, I’ll post a link to the Guenther podcast here tomorrow AM.

Hot Air: Blockbuster

This is real, honest-to-gosh, groundbreaking news:

Everybody‘s covering this story but it still seems an underplayed scoop. The AIDS epidemic struck while I was in my late twenties. I’d already experienced the tail end of the free love ’60s and the nonstop orgy ’70s. Then, coincidentally slithering in with the Reagan Era, the Age of AIDS dumped a bucket of ice water on all the bacchanals we’d come to think would be the new norm forever and ever amen.

My pals and I hung out in the punk clubs and the warehouse-sized gay bars back in 1977 and ’78. The joints throbbed with heavy bass beats and thrusting pelvises. They reeked of sweat, leather, and poppers. Swear to god, some of the more hard core boy bars redid their interior decor in non-porous painted cinder block so as to allow the clean up guys to simply hose the walls and floors down after a night of dancing and thrusting and if I have to explain why…, well, you just had to be there.

Then AIDS came along and, of course, the party was over. The crowd I hung with walked around for the next couple of decades in stunned silence, mourning their dead friends, scared to death that some quick clutch and grab with a little pony in chaps that time in an unlit corner of the Manhole a few years back might have left them with a ticking time bomb inside in their bloodstream.

All sorts of rock stars, artists, actors, hell, even bank presidents were dropping dead. All because they’d ridden bareback one or thirty too many times. Sex, it was said, equalled death.

Had there been even a hint of a headline that some kind of cure for AIDS was on the horizon, it’d have been the biggest news since…, since forever. For pity’s sake, it seemed every single goddamned episode of Oprah featured some concerned looking suburban mom standing up and asking the guest — whoever s/he may have been and whatever they hell they were talking about — “What about AIDS?” As if merely stepping outside the house put one at risk for catching the virus.

It can be argued that today’s reality that kids simply do not go outside to play the way every single generation since the hominids came down out of the trees in central Africa had come about in large part because parents were petrified their trophy children would somehow, in some bizarre way, get infected.

“A Cure for AIDS” would have rivaled “Japs Bomb Pearl Harbor” and “President Shot In Dallas.”

Now, after Freddie Mercury, Keith Haring, Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins, Arthur Ashe, Liberace, Gia Carangi, Roy Cohn, Perry Ellis, Ryan White, Terry Dolan, Halston, Gil Scott-Heron, the dad on “The Brady Bunch,” John Holmes, Glenn Burke, Rudolf Nureyev, Steve Rubell, Easy-E, Max Robinson, and perhaps 40 million other, less celebrated, souls have died of the disease researchers offer a glimmer of hope that the thing can be eliminated the way smallpox, measles, and a few other scourges almost have been.

Really. This shit is big.

Ironically, it takes humankind’s most powerful tool that magnifies excruciatingly tiny things, the scanning electron microscope, to show us exactly what has caused all this death and panic the last 40 or 50 years.

Hot Air: The Milton Knight Story

Noted cartoonist Milton Knight was kind enough to fill me in on an ugly incident — one that’s become all too common in this Trumpian Era — that occurred a week ago today. I wrote about the incident Thursday and Friday after being tipped off by a loyal Pencillista.

Knight says he was involved in fistfight at the bus stop outside the Kroger at 2nd and College avenues. Knight, who’s lived in Bloomington since last July, wrote about the incident on a social media post dated February 25th, the day it happened:

I was beaten up today. To make a long story short, was waiting for the bus, and a guy was using a one-sided conversation with people to shout NIGGER every two seconds. Went on for 15 minutes. I gave him the finger. He kept screaming NIGGER this and that. I let him have the last SHUT UP NIGGER, but after that he kept going. Soon it was “COME OVER HERE, NIGGER I’LL KICK YOUR ASS” and things like that. I went, and he did. I got in the second punch, but it was endless punches to the head, even after I went down. I was hanging onto his jacket, and he said he couldn’t get up. The cops came. I went to the hospital. Cuts, a broken nose and more. He went to the same hospital; he had busted a fist!! I pressed charges; he went to jail for battery. The police were very nice. It’ll be a string of repairs for me. Soon I am going to die. I can’t take this any more.

Knight tells me the police report on the incident is No. B19-07914.

Milton Knight

Pasadena Weekly, an alternative newsweekly, ran a piece on Knight last April. Acc’d’g to writer Andre Coleman, Knight, described as disabled, was being evicted from his rundown Altadena apartment at the time. For his part, Coleman writes, Knight had recently been hospitalized with typhus, a bacterial infection that’s usually prevalent only in squalid slums in poverty-stricken, densely-populated areas of the world. Knight told the reporter he’d been bitten by fleas that live on rats that had infested his neighborhood. Knight told Coleman he almost died from the disease.

Some $5000 was raised by a GoFundMe campaign to benefit Knight, Coleman wrote. (Knight’s GoFundMe page has raised $16,896 as of this morning.) Three months later, Knight landed in Bloomington.

Knight was born in 1962 and began drawing pictures at the age of two. He has told numerous sources he suffered from severe physical abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, so much so that he now lives with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He went to school at the Nassau County Cultural Arts Center in Syosset, New York, and Hofstra University. In 1979, he started selling drawings and comics to nationally-distributed publications such as the Village Voice, the National Lampoon, High Times, Heavy Metal, and others. His drawings adorned T-shirts, greeting cards, theatrical posters, CD covers, and more. His style has been described as reminiscent of the Golden Age of Comics (1930s through the mid-1950s). In the ’90s, Knight worked as a TV cartoon animator for Disney, MGM, Warner Bros., HBO, and others. After moving to California in 1991, Knight also taught at the Colonnade Art Gallery & Studio.

Last month, Knight’s work was featured in a group show at the Dimensions Gallery at Artisan Alley here in Bloomington.

If Knight’s recounting of the incident is accurate, the man who punched him up is likely mentally troubled. Still, it’s jarring news to those of us who believe we live in a safe bubble here in progressive Bloomington. I hope we get to enjoy Milton’s company and work for a long time to come.


Hot Air: Local News?

Pencillista George Bull tells us he’s heard the Milton Knight incident happened right here in Bloomington, although I’ve yet to be able to verify that. I mentioned Knight and the beating he took on a bus earlier this week in yesterday’s post. Knight revealed on a Monday, February 25th, social media post that a man shouting racial slurs busted his nose in a brawl on a bus. Bull linked me to TSSZ, a gamers’ website, for one account of the story and I’ve since found the incident mentioned on the Anime News Network site. Knight is a renowned cartoonist whose comic book drawings have appeared in the Village Voice, National Lampoon, High Times, Heavy Metal, and many others.

Knight‘s work has been on display locally through the month of February at the Dimensions Gallery by Artisan Alley in a group show entitled “Night Comes on Gently.” Knight lives on the west coast but it’s entirely possible he’s been in town, especially this week, one might assume, to take down his pieces.

I’ve got a call in to Dimensions and have sent an email to Knight asking for more details about the incident. As soon as I get more info, I’ll share it.

Here, BTW, is a good example of Knight’s work:

© Milton Knight, 2002

Council Contests

The second in my series of interviews with selected candidates for Bloomington city council aired yesterday on Big Talk. Miah Michaelsen, the self-described former “arts czarina” of this town, talked about her campaign to unseat long-time incumbent council member Dave Rollo in District 4.

Michaelsen currently serves as the deputy director of the Indiana Arts Commission and she was the driving force behind the establishment of Bloomington’s first-in-Indiana arts and cultural district. Indiana now boasts ten such designated districts and the state senate is considering a bill allowing municipalities to grab some local tax dollars to finance their districts and spur nonprofit and for-profit “creative economy” businesses.

Here’s the link to the Michaelsen podcast.

Next week, my guest will be the sole Republican in this year’s city council contests, Andrew Guenther. The 24-year-old is hoping to replace Dorothy Granger in District 2. For her part, Granger is trying to fend off challenges in the Democratic primary from newcomers Sue Sgambelluri and Daniel Bingham.

Tune in every Thursday at 5:00pm for Big Talk on WFHB, 91.3 FM.





Hot Air: The Real Thing, Again and Again and Ag…

Okay, so everybody’s had their say about the actor Jussie Smollet allegedly phonying up his story about a racial, gay-bashing attack he suffered in one of Chicago’s toniest neighborhoods the other week.

Nobody, natch, shook their fists more than those people who previously had never given any kind of shit about these types of ugly incidents that have gone on forever in this holy land and have increased dramatically since the Bigot-in-Chief won the presidency on a technicality in 2016.

Anyway, here’s a story* that’s, sadly, far more common. A black man got the hell beat out of him by a ranting racist on a bus earlier this week. Racially motivated attacks far outnumber bogus stories. The attack on Milton Knight didn’t make the national news because it’s so common. Jussie Smollet’s story did because it’s so rare.

[ * h/t to Pencillista George Bull ]

BTW: Adam Serwer, staff writer for The Atlantic, last week penned a superb piece on that Smollett case. The article’s subhead says it all: “Allegedly fraudulent reports support a narrative that many wish to believe.”

Big Talk


My guest later this afternoon on Big Talk will be Miah Michaelsen, currently the deputy director for the Indiana Arts Commission and former arts boss in this town. Specifically, she ran the arts arm of Bloomington’s Department of Economic and Sustainable Development. Under her watch, the city became the first in the state to declare its own arts and cultural district and she helped forge a deal between the city and Ivy Tech, wherein the latter took over the Waldron Center.

Miah’s running for the Democratic nomination for city council in Bloomington’s 4th District, now represented by long-time incumbent Dave Rollo.

Today’s show will be the second in my ongoing series of interviews with city council candidates. We started the series off with Kate Rosenbarger, challenging Chris Sturbaum in District 1, last week. Next week, we’ll have that rarest of species, a Republican in Bloomington, Andrew Guenther on the show. He’s running unopposed (of course) in the GOP primary for the District 2 seat. Three Dems are running in that party’s primary, including incumbent Dorothy Granger and newcomers Sue Sgambelluri and Daniel Bingham.

We’ll be airing these city council candidate interviews all the way up to the May 7th primary. Check back here tomorrow for a link to the podcast of the Michaelsen chat.


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