Hot Air: We Have Met The Enemy…

… And He Is Us

We can cry about Russia and Fox News and Republican gerrymandering all we want. Go ahead, if it makes you feel better.

And believe me, that’s all we have left — making ourselves feel better. This, while our holy land becomes something ugly. We’re fiddling and diddling as the homeland burns.

We blame all the electoral and cultural shocks that’ve rocked us the last few years on media manipulation and foreign agents and dumb luck. Oh no, it’s not us, we tell ourselves. The Will of the People has been subverted. When we get everybody up off the couch and out to their polling places — next time, always next time — we’ll show ’em!

Stop. Just stop.

With the election victory yesterday of Greg Gianforte after he’d pounded some annoying reporter to the floor the day before, it has become crystal clear. We have nobody to blame but ourselves.

We, the whole of us, have tipped the scale toward assholery. The majority of Americans, it can now be stated with complete confidence, are self-involved, brutish, thuggish, greedy, small-minded twits, stuck in a sub-adolescence where tough cowboys and virtually illiterate plutocrats are heroes. Role models even.

Make no mistake, we’re going to pay a price for this de-evolution. Oh sure, many of us have paid through the nose for it already but the nation still stands.

Our comeuppance will come from without.

Stoned Talk

Here are the links to yesterday’s Big Talk with Limestone Post editor and publisher, Ron Eid.

Because our audio processing software decided to go on a bad acid trip when Ron and I sat down for our tête à tête Monday afternoon, much of the original interview was lost or unusable. I wasn’t able to salavge, for instance, Ron’s hosanna-singing for the likes of Lynae Sowinski, his editorial director, Emily Winters, his spanking new marketing director, and editorial assistant Dason Anderson.

Next week I’ll welcome a guest interviewer, the inimitable Hondo Thompson, who’ll grill one or two big shots from the upcoming annual John Hartford Fest.

Talk to you.

 

Hot Air: The Unbroken Circle

Here I am, again being coarse and luridly descriptive in my own, highly imitable way: Today’s post can serve as the very dictionary definition of circle jerk.

Or, at least, a picture of the post would accompany that dict. def. — that is, if any dict. carries a def. of same (besides Strong Language: A Sweary Blog about Swearing).

Anyway, my guest on Big Talk later this afternoon will be Limestone Post editor Ron Eid. He jumped with both feet into the frying pan that is journalism a few years after he’d graduated from Indiana University back in the early ’80s. It was an airline mag piece about a guy’s bike trip through New Zealand that put the bug in his ear. He figured, Hey, if some sonuvabitch can make a paycheck writing about traveling to cool places, why the hell can’t I. Eid promptly enrolled in a master’s program in journalism and saddled himself with so much debt that it was almost impossible for him to chase around the globe trying to write articles about cool places.

Life does get in the way when you’re making plans, doesn’t it?

Eid — A Long, Long Time Ago

The Limestone Post, as loyal Pencillistas know, is a partner in Big Talk, along with this global communications colossus and WFHB radio.

Hmm. Next thing you know, I’ll be interviewing myself. Which, BTW, someone suggested to me with a straight face the other day. The only concern I’d have? That I might lie to myself. Something I’ve become adept at, lo these last 60-plus years.

So, tune in at 5:00pm to WFHB, 91.3FM for the Daily Local News and the regular Thursday feature, Big Talk. And don’t forget, I’ll post the link to the podcast here tomorrow AM.

Talk to you then.

Cool Jerk

So, yeah, like, you thought I was gonna post a Circle Jerks vid here, right? C’mon, man, that was too obvious. Rather, I selected this 1966 gem from The Capitols.

Here’s a great genesis story about the hit that reached No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 7 on the Hot 100 chart. Some members of the Motown house band, the Funk Brothers, used to see pimps dancing at Detroit clubs back in the mid ’60s. The pimps adopted a cooler-than-thou attitude, natch, and it carried over to their dance style. The hot dance at the time was the Jerk but the pimps, being too cool to Jerk with, shall we say, the requisite gusto, opted instead to perform their own version of the dance with icy restraint. Myself, I recall thinking about such cool dancers some years later when I was a club kid, Man, that dude’s dancing so cool he’s not even moving!

Anyway, one of the Funk Brothers wrote a song about those guys and named it the Pimp Jerk. When the Bros. brought the tune to their Motown bosses, the label guys said, Uh-uh, mang, we ain’t puttin’ a platter with that title out, dig? So the Bros. renamed it Cool Jerk and there you are.

Hot Air: Good Riddance

Not surprisingly, Matt Taibbi was all over the death of Roger Ailes in Rolling Stone. The headline of his malediction for the erstwhile lizard brain behind Fox News read:

Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever

Agreed.

I’ll restrict my list to the 20th and 21st centuries and lump him in with the likes of Andrew Breitbart, J. Edgar Hoover, George Wallace, Joe McCarthy, and Fr. Coughlin. And let’s not forget our current Leader of the Free World.

Dick Nixon and Henry Kissinger don’t even make the cut anymore. Just goes to show how prolific our holy land’s archfiend-producing machine has been the last few decades.

Sly

Here’s Taibbi’s money-quote:

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we’re that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

The key word therein is discovered. Ailes didn’t create the hate. He only stumbled on the dumb. This great nation since its inception has been home to a significant swath of the pop. that is giddy to remain uninformed, incurious, suspicious, and utterly self-involved.

Decades ago, though, the media gatekeepers heard the bleatings of the unwashed, sure, but when it came time to disseminate news and opinion they rightly declared, Sorry, Earl, we don’t have time or space for your griping and whining. Editors and producers, academicians and arbiters all could dip into a deep barrel of writings and pontifications, straight from the minds of people who actually read books and knew, for instance, who Hume or Faraday or Titian or even Moe Berg were.

Now, before we get carried away and award those gatekeepers the legion of merit medal, keep in mind they stood on their heads to silence those who had familiarity with the likes of Homer Plessy, Mother Jones, or the patrons of Stonewall.

Quiet

But they did do a bit of good in that they ignored the squawkings from the sticks. The proudly illiterate could grouse among themselves from cockcrow to bedtime and that steady 35 percent of American humanity would vote their arid consciences but have relatively little to do with the outcome of national elections. Yeah, they installed Bull Connor and Orval Faubus as leaders of their respective hinterlands but those two, as well as their constituencies, were viewed as outliers by the cognoscenti. They were embarrassments, obstacles to be overcome by the more enlightened among us. And as time elapsed, Connor, Faubus et al were ousted and humiliated. They were relegated to the garbage can of history.

Good for us.

The whole system worked — if glacially — until the invention of the internet. Suddenly, every dumb bastard who could pay his Comcast bill had a forum. A big forum. Conceivably, anywhere from two people to several hundred million, even a billion, could access the twisted calculations of one who, just a couple of years prior, only could bend the ear of the sot on the barstool next to him.

There were no more gatekeepers.

And if blacks, lesbians, Muslims, socialists, satanists, and any other previously sequestered gang at last could shout, Whee, me!, so too could friends of the KKK, bullies who repressed their homosexual curiosities to savage ends, and tinfoil hat wearers.

Where blacks, lesbians, Muslims, socialists, satanists, and other previously sequestered gangs too often found themselves at odds with each other over minutiae, the racists and the homophobes, the wife beaters and the true believers seemed somehow to coalesce far more easily.

Roger Ailes tapped into that. He gave the haters, the criminally stupid, and the willingly unschooled an imprimatur.

Somehow, now, with Roger Ailes’ blessing and help, that 35 percent owns much — maybe even most — of this holy land.

Wash & Listen

Okay, so you missed yesterday’s Big Talk with Mohammed A. Mahdi and Anthony Duncan, two of the three minds behind the Soapy Soap Company. Never fear. Here’s the link to Thursday’s Daily Local News feature on WFHB, 91.3FM, and here’s one to the full-length original interview with them.

As for next week’s guests, being that it’s Friday already, I’m just starting to panic. No one’s on the hook just yet. Never fear, though. I always come through (I hope).

The Black Angel’s Death Song

Hot Air: Just Do It

Perhaps my favorite active newspaper columnist is Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times. He’s got a point of view and it’s consistent. Reading him, you’ll learn that he’s concerned with the plight of the poor, that he’s four-square for women’s rights, that he can sniff out racism wherever it hides, and that, while he’s as much in favor of business as the next guy, he doesn’t think much at all about those who place profits and corporate interests above all other considerations.

Yeah, I agree with him on pretty much everything he writes. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have to find his writing style compelling. But I do like his style. He can turn a phrase with the best.

Steinberg

Is he as good as Mike Royko? No. Nobody ever was or will be. Like Jimmy Breslin or, going way back in the mists of time, Ben Hecht, Royko was a sine qua non. It’s like saying Kris Bryant is no Babe Ruth, a pointless analogy. Steinberg, though, is as good a wordsmith as the independent Joe Queenan, say, or Charles M. Blow and Frank Bruni of the New York Times, or Ta-Nehisi Coates of the The Atlantic.

Two weeks ago, Steinberg wrote about Northwestern University’s Medill school of journalism losing some sort of accreditation or another. He used the situation as a jumping off point to rail about the essential silliness of thinking that journalists need an entire four-year college curriculum in order to know how to report on things when they hit the real world. Here are a few gems from that column. He quotes Hunter S. Thompson:

“Journalism is not a profession or a trade.”

.. and launches into his own screed:

Dentistry is a profession. Plumbing is a trade. Journalism is performance art, like doing magic tricks in the street — conjuring up wonders out of the ordinary for the benefit of the uninterested, and doing it with consistency.

… and…

For the past decade it has called itself “Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.” Besides being in desperate need of an ampersand, that name is like your granddad showing up at a frat kegger with rouged cheeks and a polyester toupee. Fooling no one but himself. No graduate in the world ever said he had a degree in “media.”

… and…

Why does a journalism school — excuse me, a journalism, integrated marketing, storytelling and whatever else they fancy themselves this week school — need official sanction? A merit badge, a Good Housekeeping seal, a kiss on the forehead from some pooh bah?

Search me.

Yet colleges and universities all around this holy land today are folding their journalism schools, as NU has, into other schools that specialize in sneaky psychology, trickery, image-making, and overall fuckery. Indiana University, for instance, recently squished its journalism school into what it now calls The Media School. The school’s website lumps reporters in with filmmakers and game designers, although I find it difficult to see the connection between Woodward & Bernstein and Walt Disney. Nor is there any commonality shared by the editors of the Indianapolis Star and the makers of Stellaris: Utopia other than, I suppose, they all want to pay their bills and save up enough money for a comfortable retirement.

Woodward (R) & Bernstein

All the online and brochure pleadings of these various institutions of higher learning promise that the aspiring journalist will guarantee her or himself a fabulous living should s/he enroll today. Although, when it comes to newspapering, that seems a promise more on the order of those proffered by the three-card monte players who pass through big city el trains.

Kids go into what used to be referred to, quaintly, as J-schools because they dream of becoming Erin Burnett or Sean Hannity. They want to look good on camera. If that’s true, wouldn’t it be better for them to enroll in what used to be referred to, quaintly, as charm schools?

You don’t need four years of college to become a reporter. You need to be born with an insatiable curiosity and an overwhelming desire to be the first kid on the block to tell everybody all the latest gossip and news. Take me. In 1964 — February, to be exact — Sister Caelin, one Monday morning after the most talked-about Ed Sullivan Show ever the night before, asked the class what all this talk about something called “beetles” meant. I nearly leapt out of my seat, waving my hands, and panting, “Ooh, ooh, ooh!”

“Yes, Michael,” Sister Caelin said, the look on her face betraying her true feeling that the last thing in the world she wanted was to let me explain this new aspect of the world to her.

“Aw, man…,” I began.

“Mr. Glab,” she responded, “I am not a man.”

“Sorry, S’ter. But, m…, I mean, S’ter, the Beatles are these cool guys with long hair and they play guitars and they sing these great songs and the girls are all screaming and it’s the greatest thing ever and…, and..,”

“That’s quite enough, Mr. Glab,” Sister Caelin said. And then she launched into a scold about how we should avoid any shows featuring these beetles in the future and merely seeing them and all the screaming girls around them was as unholy as, well, disobeying one’s parents or taking the lord thy god’s name in vain.

“Aw, yer fulla shit,” I thought. No matter. I knew at that moment I’d been born to be a reporter.

All that I needed was some good guidance in the very basic rules of journalism: ask questions, write the story with the five W’s, lead with the most important idea, etc. Here, in fact, are some simple rules for reporters as put forth by the Columbia Journalism Review:

  • A journalist is only as good as her or his sources
  • Verification before dissemination
  • People forget who got it first but they remember who got it wrong
  • If it seems to be too good to be true it probably is
  • It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup

and, finally, that great old saw posted in huge letters on the wall in the reception area of the old City News Bureau in Chi.: If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.

Simple. If you follow these dicta, you’ll make a fine journalist — but only, as I say, if you were born with that obsessive nosiness and the need to tell the world the one thing you and only you know.

You know, none of Royko, Breslin, or Hecht ever went to school to become a journalist. In fact, they didn’t find journalism — journalism found them. Royko attended junior college for a spell and then, not knowing what to do with his life, joined the Air Force. Hoping to dodge being assigned as a cook, he weaseled his way into working for the base newspaper. The night before he started his new job, he grabbed a journalism textbook and crammed. That was the extent of his schooling in the art of reporting. A best-selling profile of Mayor Richard J. Daley, six best-selling compilations of his columns, a Pulitzer Prize, a Heywood Broun Award, the HL Mencken Award, a Headliner Award, and syndication in some 600 newspapers would ensue after he left the Air Force.

Royko

Breslin dropped out of college and took a job as a copy boy for the Long Island Press. Hecht ran away from home after graduating from high school, landing in Chicago and scoring a gig as a gopher at one of the city’s dailies.

Each of them would move up a notch when, through dumb luck, some beat reporter wouldn’t show up for work and the editor, panicky, would say, Here, kid, go cover this big fire — and don’t screw up!

But they would screw up. And each of their editors would correct them and explain how they went wrong and how they would avoid doing so in the future. They kept at it and became good…, no, great.

It takes repetition and years of practice to become a good violinist, power hitter, computer game designer, or reporter. The best way to learn how to do something is to do it.

That’s why the empty chairs in the WFHB newsroom puzzle me. There are four reporting stations in the cramped newsroom in the old firehouse. Each is set up for a reporter to sit down, make a phone call, record it, edit the interview, and write a story. News director Joe Crawford gives each newbie a copy of the station’s rules for reporting as well as some handouts containing helpful journalism hints. I’ve seen dozens of kids come in, looking petrified as they sat before their computer screens, their headphones and mics in place, trying to muster the courage to make that first call to a source.

I well remember the days when I was a punk kid trying to break into the business. Why, I’d wonder, would the alderman or someone from the city clerk’s office or the fire battalion chief give me a half second of her or his valuable time? Would they yell at me? Would they tell me to take a hike, son? Hell, would they call the cops and get a restraining order to insure I’d never harass them again?

Who knew?

I didn’t, nor would I for long weeks and months. The first time I was ever ushered into Richie Daley’s office (the old man’s son, then Cook County State’s Attorney, who’d go on to become the mayor himself), I’d been reporting and writing stories for a half year already yet I still feared someone might pop up, grab me by the elbow and tell me to get out, that I had no business passing myself off as a reporter. It wasn’t until three years later, one day when Mayor Harold Washington pulled me aside to whisper some tip in my ear that he’d hoped I’d run with, that I even began to feel as if I belonged.

And the truth is, I still don’t really feel as if I belong. I’m no insider. I don’t necessarily want to be overly chummy with the mayor or the Congressperson. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell married Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. The likes of Barbara Walters and Ben Bradlee made it their business to hobnob with the very people they should have been watching with a skeptical, distanced eye.

The reporter has to hold her or himself apart from the people s/he covers.

That takes practice. It takes Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to get good at the job.

Anybody with an ounce of drive can knock off at least a few of those 10,000 hours in the WFHB newsroom. Anybody hoping to become a reporter can easily sit down and do a story about Mayor Hamilton’s scuttled annexation plan, South Central Indiana’s opioid scourge, or Bloomington’s runaway rent rate.

I’d have figured IU journalism professors would be shipping their students by the bushelful to WFHB just so they can gain practical experience.

Yet, as far as I can tell, none of them makes that recommendation.

Why the hell not?

Hot Air: Advertisements For Myself

Yeah, that’s right, I ripped off the headline from Norman Mailer. That’s what he called his 1959 collection of essays and fiction. Not that I compare myself to Himself, after all, I’ve never had the urge to stab my wife in the belly with a penknife. As for The Loved One’s plans re: me, well…, you’ll have to ask her.

Anyway, Bloomington author Annette Oppenlander gets the Big Mike’s B-town treatment in the latest edition of Limestone Post. She’s excited, I’m excited, my editor Ron Eid is excited, and the electric company’s excited because, at last, I’ll be able to pay the bill.

Annette’s new book is called Surviving the Fatherland. It’s a love story set in Third Reich Germany and during the years immediately afterward.

Keep clicking on Limestone Post for more great stories by other fab keyboard clackers as well as me. And, speaking of me, my next BM’s B-ton will be on adventurer, explorer, and writer Michael Waterford next month.

Talk Clean To Me

Both Annette Oppenlander and Michael Waterford have been guests on my WFHB interview show, Big Talk, a regular Thursday feature of the Daily Local News. This week’s guests will be Mohammed A. Mahdi and Anthony Duncan of the Soapy Soap Company. They, along with Mohammed A.’s brother Mohammed M., started making their own soap in the kitchen of the apartment the three shared some five years ago. Now they run a thriving body care manufacturing outfit.

Click on over to the Soapy Soap website when you get a chance because the interview was video recorded by the company’s director of communication, Susan Brackney. She’ll post it thereon as well as on social media.

So, tune in Thursday for the 5:00pm Daily Local News on 91.3FM. The feature usually airs around 5:14pm. If you miss it, as always, I’ll post links to it as well as the entire, uncut original interview here.

Talk to you later.

Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta my Hair

Hot Air: Nobody Asked Me, But…

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar spoke with Scott Simon on NPR’s Weekend Edition this AM. He was asking her about President Gag’s firing of FBI director James Comey this week.

Mannerly

It’s the perfect time for the Democrats to make hay. P. Gag’s house of cards may be toppling before our eyes. As Muhammad Ali preached, you have to have the killer instinct in the ring. If you sense your opponent going down, you don’t simply trust faith or gravity, you pound him until he’s kissing the canvas.

Now’s the time to pound L’il Duce into the canvas. Amy Klobuchar is one of the Democratic Party’s possible presidential candidates in 2020. She should have laced up the gloves and hammered the dissembling, impulsive, compulsive, vacuous Leader of the Free World.

She didn’t.

For the life of me, I can’t recall a thing she said about the firing and the ugly optics the incident presents. I sensed, I guess, that she was tut-tutting the whole thing but this isn’t a time for tut-tutting. It’s a time to save our holy land from the clutches of…, well, a confirmed asshole.

Here’s my unsolicited advice for the Dems:

Stop talking to us like seventh-grade history teachers.

Start using memorable, strong, emotionally-charged words.

Call P. Gag a liar.

Call him a tyrant.

Call him greedy.

Call him ignorant.

Call him a clown.

To borrow a phrase from an earlier generation, tell it like it is, for goodness sakes!

Drop the phony-baloney mask of civility. When you’re in an alley fight, civility will get you nowhere.

It’ll work, believe me.

Want an example? Sure. About an hour after the Klobuchar interview, there was a piece on a Georgia statehouse race where abortion is the hot topic. A clip of one voter was played. She said (I paraphrase because NPR hasn’t posted the audio yet on its website) “Planned Parenthood is an abortion mill.”

Got it? In reality, some three percent of PP’s medical services are abortion-related. It’s like calling Kroger a haberdashery because it sells Indiana University sweatshirts. To the quoted woman, Planned Parenthood does nothing more than rip fat, healthy babies out of unsuspecting mothers’ wombs — or, worse, sluts’ uteri. That’s it. Case closed. You wanna fund Planned Parenthood? That means you’re a baby killer.

She thinks this because the anti-abortionists for decades have shrieked, using strong, emotionally-charged rhetoric. Facts be damned. Nuance is for namby-pambies. Subtlety is a vice. When confronted with the truth about what Planned Parenthood does, the anti-abortionists simply screamed louder.

So, Dems, drop nuance. Eschew subtlety. It won’t be easy and there’ll be blowback, sure. But you’ve got to stay the course and double down when confronted. Come on, you can do it. Say these things with me:

Donald Trump is a liar.

Donald Trump hates women.

The rich want to make you poorer.

War is good for business.

There aren’t any jobs in coal mining anymore.

The Republican Party has been hijacked by bullies and Hitlers.

The old white men of Congress think they’re superior to black and brown-skinned people.

And the beauty is, all these things are true!

Start pounding these guys.

Honesty

Hot Air: Isaac Without The Bleeps

Listen up, political junkies! Here’s the link to yesterday’s Big Talk with Indiana University political science professor (and dynamite jazz pianist) Jeff Isaac. And here’s the link to the original, unedited interview I had with him in the WFHB studios Monday afternoon.

Isaac (Center) With The Postmodern Jazz Quartet

BTW: I didn’t use the bleep machine on the long track so you’ll finally find out exactly what Isaac thinks of one Donald John Trump.

Fritz

I neither liked nor disliked Walter Mondale. How’s that for a rousing endorsement?

The late senator from Minnesota challenged Ronald Reagan in 1984, an election year during which no one, including an omniscient, omnipotent creator of the universe, could have beaten the sainted incumbent.

Sure, I voted for Mondale that year but I knew even as I was pulling the lever for him that he wasn’t going to win. Man, the ’80s were a discouraging time for us Dems. Mondale was the longest of long shots — at the time. Four years down the road, Michael Dukakis made him look like a real powerhouse — the former Massachusetts governor lost to none other than George HW Bush, who was no John F. Kennedy.

Dig this photo:

May 15, 1984: Democratic presidential candidate Walter F. Mondale as he speaks at the Springfellow acid pits in Riverside County, with Secret Service men close by. [This photo was published in the May 16, 1984 Los Angeles Times]

Sheesh. Talk about lonely!

The truth is, the dude had all the charisma of a McDonald’s shift manager. Whereas Reagan was…, well, Reagan.

Beltway insider reporters Jack Germond and Jules Witcover wrote a book about the 1984 presidential election — they titled it Wake Us When It’s Over.

Like I said, sheesh.

Funny thing was, this holy land had suffered through a miserable recession during Dutch’s first term. Still, the American people loved their Ronnie. Well, most of the American people.

Mondale, in an interview a few years after the election, admitted he knew as early as the convention that he was going to lose, and lose big. Of course, during his acceptance speech Mondale said he, like Reagan, would raise taxes in ’85. The idea being, I’m the honest guy and Reagan’s blowing smoke. America failed to catch the inference, noting only that the Democrat was admitting he wanted to dig deeper into their purse.

Here, BTW, is a TV ad for Mondale-Ferraro:

Geraldine Ferraro, congressbeing from Queens in New York City, was the first woman on a major national party presidential ticket. There wouldn’t be another until — you guessed it — Sarah Palin. In any case, the basic message of the ad is Life is shit, we’re all fucked, so elect the Democrat.

Reagan’s message? It’s morning in America!

Which message yells out winner to you?

In a lot of ways, it’s still the message the national Dems are trying to sell. It was certainly HRC’s main point last summer and fall: There aren’t any jobs, the rich are getting richer, and the other side’s offering you a greedy idiot so you may as well vote for us.

The other side’s message? Make America Great Again!

Guess who won.

Man, the Democrats are hard heads, aren’t they?

But, back to ’84. In July, Reagan’s advisors and strategists sat down and moaned that they didn’t have any real policies to sell to the American people. So, what’d they do? Well, hell, they simply decided to sell slogans, like the aforementioned Morning… line, penned by Peggy Noonan. And it all worked, natch.

As for the Ferraro selection, get this: A mere 22 percent of American women, according to a poll conducted  immediately after the convention, were excited about her addition to the ticket. Imagine that!

Mondale later went on to become ambassador to Japan under Bill Clinton. He was named incumbent Paul Wellstone’s replacement when the Minnesota senator was killed in a plane crash just 11 days before the 2002 election. Mondale was then trounced by Norm Coleman. With that defeat, he became the only person in American history to lose an election in all 50 states, as he’d lost 49 of them in the ’84 contest (save for Minnesota) but then lost his home state in ’02.

What a party.

Hot Air: Straight Talk

Here’s a funny little anecdote from the 1960 presidential election campaign.

John F. Kennedy travelled to West Virginia, coal mining country, that spring. Places like WV were crucial to his campaign. It was thought he’d get clobbered in states where Catholics, New Englanders, Harvard grads, and pampered quasi-liberals were viewed with only slightly less contempt than child molesters. Then again maybe child molesters were held in more esteem in those hinterlands. In fact, even visiting places like WV and South Carolina was seen as a crazy gambit on his part. Surely he’d be chewed up, torn up, eviscerated, and revealed for the wealthy playboy he really was.

JFK In West Virginia

Nevertheless, Kennedy went. He visited a coal mine. As the elevators came up from the bowels of the Earth, he shook hands with the ebony-smudged miners who emerged. One guy dutifully shook his hand and, staring the candidate straight in the eye, said, “Have you ever had a real job?”

Kennedy maintained his charming poise even as he almost imperceptibly recoiled from the question — which was more an indictment. Now, here’s the brilliance of Kennedy: He knew the guy was saying something, not asking something. And he knew no matter how he might have protested — Oh, I’ve toiled hard as a Senator, or I worked my fingers to the bone on my senior thesis — the coal miner would have none of it. Nor should he have.

So, Kennedy responded quickly and succinctly. “No I haven’t.”

Perfect, right?

Now it was the coal miner’s turn to recoil ever so slightly. And now it was his turn to maintain his poise. “That’s okay,” he said, “you aren’t missing anything.”

Imagine that exchange happening today.

Okay, as long as I’m on this roll, here’s another, again from Kennedy’s trip to West Virginia. One of the supposed negatives he had to deal with was the fact that his mega-rich old man was bankrolling his campaign. Wisely, JFK never tried to deny his wealth or pretend he was a simple man of the people. In fact, at a rally at the McDowell County courthouse, he jumped up on the sound truck platform outside the place and addressed the raucous crowd despite a threatening thunderstorm rolling in. The first thing he did was reach into his suit jacket pocket and pull out a slip of paper. It was, he said, a telegram from his father. He read it:

Don’t buy one more vote than necessary — damn if I’m going to pay for a landslide.

The crowd roared.

Sigh.

Big Talk

Tune in this afternoon for Big Talk on WFHB‘s Daily Local News. My guest will be another straight talker, Jeff Isaac, professor of political science at Indiana University. We’ll cover his days hanging out on street corners as a teenager in Queens, New York. The punk kid who preferred playing basketball to practicing piano never would have dreamed he’d become a robed academician when he grew up.

Who’d’a Thunk It?

Plus, I get to use the bleep machine as Isaac describes his feelings for our holy land’s current president.

As always, if you miss today’s broadcast, come by here tomorrow for links to the podcast. As speaking of links, here’s one for the entire, unedited interview I had with Bloomington writer and explorer Michael Waterford last week.

Talk to you then.

High Hopes

JFK’s campaign ditty, sung by Frank Sinatra.

Hot Air: Me Talk Big

So, here’s the link to my Big Talk interview with Michael Waterford yesterday on WFHB, 91.3FM.

Next week, political junkie, jazz keyboard tickler, and IU poli-sci prof Jeff Isaac. Y’know, he’s from New York City and I’m from Chi., so if our conversation should take a turn toward the bellicose you’ll know either the Cubs or the Yankees embarrassed the other of our respective, beloved nines at Wrigley Field this weekend.

Go To Grass

Say what you will about the endless showers we’ve been experiencing here in the Southeast Asian rain forest…, er, I mean Bloomington but, man, it is unbelievably gorgeous and green out these days (as long as you can see past the soul-crushing gray.)

BTW: This reminds me. My mother used to have a pet retort for people who said things she considered preposterous, stupid, or that she simply disagreed with. She’d say, with a contemptuous wave of her hand, “Go to grass!”

I never could figure out what that meant so I asked her once long after I’d become an adult. She looked at me as if I’d asked her what the phrase “Good morning” meant. I pressed her and she simply shrugged.

Fortunately, she didn’t tell me to go to grass. That time.

Let It Rain

I mean, like, as if we have a choice.

Hot Air: Paddle Twaddle

Okay, a quick one before I have to get back to work on the book.

Tune in this afternoon at five for the WFHB Daily Local News. It’s Big Talk Thursday, and my guest this week is Michael Waterford, writer, explorer, and adventure entrepreneur. He’s a Bloomington native who’s temporarily cooling his heels in Portland, Oregon, these days prior to setting off sometime in June for a solo canoe trip down the length of the Mississippi River.

Waterford hopes to beat the standing record for the trek — 42 days. He’s paddled the Mississippi once before, back in 2013, an exploit he calls the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life. Me? I’d cop a ticket for a sleeper on the City of New Orleans. Waterford, though, is made of sturdier, stronger, and more ambitiously deranged stuff.

The feature will air at 5:15 and if you miss it, don’t worry ’cause I’ll post a link to the podcast tomorrow AM. And keep an eye out for my print profile of him coming up in the Limestone Post, part of my “Big Mike’s B-town” series, sometime in June, ‘kay?

Waterford

Peace out, babies, and wish me luck in finishing this book that I’ve been working on for going on three goddamned years now. Sheesh.

Nose Pollution

BTW: Speaking of canoes, remember this stuff?

When I was 14, my friends and I thought this was real manly, sexy stuff. This and English Leather, Old Spice, Brut, and Hai Karate. Thank the god I don’t believe in we haven’t turned the reins of this crazy, mixed up world over to fourteen-year-olds. Yet.

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One more thing: Hey, don’t make fun of me for thinking Canoe et al were hot stuff. Loads o’dames back then thought this look was alluring:

 

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