Hot Air: Kids’ Stuff

You have to give it up for those clever Republicans. They’ve taken the child’s retort — I’m rubber; you’re glue — and turned it into their most effective campaign strategy. In fact, they’ve turned it into an art form.

Witness Rudy Giuliani’s latest broadside:

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Click On Image For Full Story

Here’s the deal: the Republicans have learned over the last 50 years to take every single charge and criticism leveled against them and turn it around to fling back at the Dems. It started a long time ago when the term “special interests” meant greedy, rapacious corporate lobbyists. The lawyers and lobbyists for auto manufacturers and the tobacco cartel were the original special interest villains. The GOP then turned it around to mean civil rights activists, antiwar marchers, environmentalists, etc. The argument from my side of the fence was “How can civil rights, peace, and the environment be special interest issues? They’re the issues of the people.”

See, the Left’s original intent in using the term implied that the special interests had only their own selfish desires at heart. GM and Ford didn’t want federal safety regulations — even though more people were getting killed in their woefully unsafe cars every year than during the entirety of Vietnam — because the changes they’d have to make would cut into their obscenely huge profits. Tobacco companies didn’t want states and municipalities to regulate smoking — despite the fact that lung cancer and emphysema were approaching national epidemic proportions — because, well, who cares about those dead and dying suckers? We’re making our big dough.

Civil rights, peace and the environment, by definition were not — are not — special interests.

It worked so well, marginalizing the burgeoning peace and environmental movements that GOP strategists have gone back to that well time and again in the ensuing decades.

Unions became “special interests” as the Age of St. Ronald fast approached. Before that, organized labor was the mouthpiece for the little guy (and gal) fighting for every precious dime against powerful corporate (read: special) interests. As the nation grew weary of Jimmy Carter and turned its lonely eyes to Reagan, the Republican narrative — spurred by the Saint himself — turned unions into monolithic, tyrannical, crushing forces oppressing the good people of the United States. Oh no, good ol’ Ronnie was going to protect us from “special interest” of labor.

Environmentalists became special interests, too, although they have to shoulder a lot of the blame for it. In fighting against every conceivable environmental threat, be it global or local, the mostly-white, mostly-well-off on the front lines of the eco movement never paid the slightest heed to the thousands, even tens and hundreds of thousands, of jobs that would be lost should they win their battles to save this niche species or protect us from that chemical pollutant. They were right — only to an extent. The environmentalists should have strategized re-training programs and incorporated new job ideas into their rhetoric for the likes of lumberjacks, oilers, chemical company workers, and many others who stood to lose their livelihoods.

The reassignment of the term “special interest” even carried over to women who, census takers tell us, comprise some 51.5 percent of the pop. The nation’s majority demographic was trivialized by the “special interest” label, given them by Republicans who loathed the very idea of equal rights by gender.

As recently as 2008, Republicans screeched that criticisms of Sarah Palin were sexist and anti-woman, this despite her long-held opposition to reproductive rights, equal pay, and other sex-type inequities. They simply latched onto the critical label and turned it into something it was not and was never meant to be.

They continue to do it to this day. To wit: The narrative thus far has been that D. Trump is pretty off his rocker. Shrinks and skull jockeys all around this holy land are chiming in on his neuroses bordering on personality disorders.

So, what do they do? They turn it all around. No, no, no — it’s not D. Trump who is deranged. Why, it’s Hillary! She’s nuts! We got proof!

At least Rudy Giuliani has proof — albeit visible and evident only to him thus far.

Make no mistake, the rest of the party will be jumping on his shit cart. From now until Nov. 8th, Hillary will be known, among many other things, as the mentally unbalanced candidate.

See, D. Trump’s rubber; she’s glue.

 

Hot Air: Our Little Secret

I dunno, maybe everybody around these parts knows all about the place. Then again, I’ve lived in this sprawling megalopolis for going on seven years now and I swear I’ve never heard anybody make the slightest reference to Spring Mill State Park.

The Loved One and I went on a day date there yesterday. We had a ball.

First off, I’m a space geek so Mitchell, Indiana — the town nearest the state park and the boyhood home of original Mercury Seven astronaut Gus Grissom — is like a mecca for me. The house where Grissom was raised still stands on Grissom Street (formerly, Baker Street). And there’s a neat little Gus Grissom museum at the entrance of the state park.

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TLO was particularly interested in seeing the Spring Mill Inn, a Civilian Conservation Corps project with quaint rooms and a countrified buffet restaurant that I’m eager to try out soon.

I whipped out my still-new smart phone (yeah, I finally surrendered and tossed my old flip phone — don’t get the idea that you can text me, though, because I’ll just ignore it) and started clicking pix like…, well, like a tourist. Here are some of the images:

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Mitchell and Spring Mill State Park are only a tad more than 30 miles south of Bloomington, a 45-minute drive down SR 37. Guaranteed, we’re going back as soon as we can.

Big Listen (And Big Read)

Just finishing uploading all the original, full-length, unedited (pretty much) audio tracks of the interviews I’ve done thus far on Big Talk.

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Big Talk — Here, There, And Everywhere

You’ve no doubt caught Big Talk, a regular Thursday feature on WFHB’s Daily Local News as well as its companion print and other online incarnations. The DLN features are only nine minutes long, as a rule, but I do an hour to an hour-and-a-half of recording with each of my guests. Several of them have asked me to put the entire interview up, so, that’s what I’ve done, wahoo!

Go to my Big Talk page on this site for links to the WFHB features and the print interviews. You’ll also find the full audio tracks of the original interviews, so listen up, people!

Today’s Birthdays

Man (and Woman), I’m itching to get back to putting up my birthday notices for notable people, living and dead. I love doing that kind of stuff and it serves as a simple — often simplistic, I must admit — lesson in our species’ glorious (and not-so-) history.

Problem is, I’m way too busy these days to spare the hour or two it often takes each day. I may get back to it — or I may not. Here’s hoping. Of course, if I could figure out a way to squeeze money out of all you freeloading Pencillistas, it’d be that much easier for me.

We’ll see what happens.

Hot Air

The Stradivarius Of  Stores

Some of us d’un certain âge remember these brands:

  • Kenmore
  • Craftsman
  • DieHard
  • Silvertone
  • Toughskins

Need a memory jog? They all were sold exclusively at Sears. My first transistor radio was a Silvertone. The blue jeans my mother bought me were Toughskins — although, for some odd reason, she insisted on calling all jeans “overalls.” And, speaking of outmoded appellations, how many of us recall that jeans once were called “dungarees”?

Anyway, the Bloomington Sears store has been closed since spring. The old structure is coming down as we speak, to be replaced by a Whole Foods Market.

At one time, Sears catalogs were in just about every home in America. I, personally, could not wait for it to arrive in the mail when I was an adolescent. I’d spend endless hours in the basement conducting a disciplined study of the lingerie and bathing suits sections. At that time, the catalog was known as “The Wish Book.” Indeed, inspired by its pages, I wished for a lot back then.

Acc’d’g to Sears’ own historians, the catalog served “as a mirror of our times, recording for future historians today’s desires, habits, customs, and mode of living.” The catalogue was so comprehensive that, at one time, it contained actual wall paper samples, swatches of men’s suit materials, and paint samples.

One year, very early in the 20th Century, the catalog offered a “Stradivarius model violin” for $6.10.

Sears Craftsman tools became exceedingly popular not only because they were well-made but because they carried a lifetime guarantee. More than a few customers returned 30-, 40- and fifty-year-old tools for exchange at their local Sears.

In 1924, Sears switched on the transmitter of its own radio station, first briefly known as WES (for World’s Economy Store) then WLS (World’s Largest Store). WLS by the 1960s would become one of the nation’s premier rock ‘n roll and pop music stations. A significant portion of my life was spent with my transistor radio glued to my right ear, tuned to WLS. And every week I’d hike down to Frank’s dimestore to pick up my copy of Dex Card’s Silver Dollar Survey, a listing of the latest Top 40 songs.

Sears’ first store to be opened outside the US was in Havana, Cuba (1942).

In 1974, construction workers topped off the 110-story Sears Tower at 1454 feet, at the time the tallest building in the world. Because Chicago is so flat, traffic reporters set up shop on the 103rd-floor Skydeck so they could keep an eye on rush hour gridlock through their telescopes.

The College Mall Sears had been a Bloomington fixture since it opened there in 1965, so it had a (mostly) good half-century run. It’s now being reduced to a pile of rubble:

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Sears “Ghost” Sign

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Who Are Jason & Ginger?

In case you missed it yesterday, here’s my Big Talk interview with Jason Fickel & Ginger Curry.

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And stay tuned next week Thursday to WFHB’s Daily Local News when I chat with entrepreneurs Jane Kupersmith (Hopscotch Coffee) and Joni McGary (Lucky Guy Bakery). We’ll delve into the world of female business-folk and find out if and how dames help each other succeed.

Near Nirvana

On this date in 1969, I experienced my greatest day as a Cubs fan.

I’d been staying with my sister for the two weeks between the end of Riis Park day camp and the beginning of school, mainly because my mother was afraid I’d burn the house down. Several years before, my pal Louie LeFemina and I reenacted a World War II air battle in my basement, complete with my brother’s airplane models, a big box of matches, and several forms of combustible material. We’d caused no damage to the house but did destroy several of bro Joey’s models, including a Japanese Zero, a P-51 Mustang, and a Douglas Dauntless dive bomber. (BTW: Because it was my house, I got the American planes and Louie had to settle for the Japs’.) That was the thing about Ma — she never could shake the memory of a sin, cardinal or venial, committed by any of her spawn. If she were alive today, she’d probably still be telling people that I play with matches in the basement.

Anyway, one bright Tuesday AM at sis Charlotte’s pad, she and her then-husband decided to take their kids and me to the Cubs game. He was a Chicago cop and had the day off. She, natch, was aching to get the hell out of the house for a change. It was a spur of the moment, late-ish decision so we piled into Charlotte’s husband’s vintage 1957 Chevy and sped down the Kennedy Expy toward the then-center of the universe, Wrigley Field.

Charlotte and her husband (I won’t mention his name for a variety of reasons but mainly because it’d make me nauseous) were still young enough to like to listen to WLS and WCFL on the radio, so as we cruised down the Kennedy and turned left onto Addison Street, I was able to groove on the likes of “Sweet Caroline,” “My Cherie Amour,” “The Marrakesh Express,” “Good Morning, Starshine,” and “Sugar, Sugar.”

I was in heaven.

The day was warm but not at all oppressive. Occasionally, between the trees, I’d catch a glimpse of the dark silhouette of the John Hancock Center, brand new that year and at the time the world’s second-tallest building. My heart swelled.

The Cubs were in first place, roaring through the National League, seemingly on the cusp of capturing their first pennant in — gasp! — 24 years and — maybe, just maybe — their first World Series title in 61 years. They were led by third baseman Ron Santo, an Italian, like us. Santo was feisty and emotionally demonstrative, just like us, too. I had a sense that in a fairer world, Santo’d be part of my family.

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Santo At His Park Ridge Pizza Joint

Charlotte’s husband dropped us off at the main gate at Clark and Addison, where we learned that all the grandstand tickets had been sold out. The ticket guy told us to hurry around to the bleachers gate where there might be a few tickets left, so off we dashed. We were able to cop seven ducats for what I recall being a grand total of five bucks — three adult tix plus four kids’ — yeah, it was a different day and age.

Just as soon as the ticket guy took our dough and passed the ducks to us, he slammed shut the window. Apparently, we were the last people to buy tickets that glorious day. We sat under the scoreboard, high in the centerfield bleachers.

And so the game. Kenny Holtzman, at the time Sandy Koufax’s successor as baseball’s most eligible left-handed Jewish bachelor, was on the hill. Fab. I loved Holtzman. If he and Fergie and Billy and Hickman, Kessinger and Beckert, Hands and the Vulture, Phil Regan, the lot of them, plus the fiery manager Leo Durocher and, of course, Ronnie, weren’t actually blood kin, well, by rights they ought to have been.

Santo hit a bomb with two runners on in the bottom of the first. The ball soared high over the left field bleachers, bouncing off the Waveland Avenue pavement and hitting the yellow-brick apartment building across the street. It was a mammoth shot, especially considering the wind, a gale, was blowing in.

Later, in the seventh inning, Henry Aaron led off with a similarly breathtaking blast. His shot, too, soared high over the left field bleachers but then, as if the hand of god intervened, hit the brunt of that incoming gale and appeared to be pushed back toward the field of play. Left fielder Billy Williams, his back pressed so tightly to the bleacher wall that he almost disappeared into the ivy, had kept with it and finally gloved Aaron’s smash for a harmless out.

Then it was only a waiting game to see if Holtzman would throw a no-hitter. He did. Fans jumped down on the warning track from the bleachers, an 11-foot drop that caused any number of sprained ankles. I made a move to go down on the field, too, but Charlotte grabbed ahold of my arm and wouldn’t let go.

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Santo Embraces Holtzman After The Final Out

A week or so later, the news spread through my sister’s Schiller Park neighborhood that Holtzman himself lived in the apartment complex just across East Park. Naturally, I made the trek across the baseball diamonds and into the complex’s parking lot. Other kids were gathered around a sporty white convertible Pontiac Firebird. And — wouldn’t you know it? — just at that moment Kenny Holtzamn walked out his front door and made his way to the Firebird. The other kids crowded around him, holding out pieces of paper and pens for his autograph. I had neither paper nor pen but I didn’t care; I was thrilled just to be in the presence of such a titan.

Soon, the Cubs would fall into one of the greatest collapses in baseball history. Their failure to go to the World Series in 1969 was one of the defining moments of my youth. I knew for certain at that tender age that life was not fair and things would not turn out the way I’d wish.

It’s lesson I’ve kept with me for 47 years now. Until this year. Things will turn out as I wish: I’ll be in Grant Park this October for the Cubs 2016 World Series championship victory parade.

Hot Air: Big Talk Thursday

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Good Morning. Y’gotta love Indiana sometimes, no? Note I wrote sometimes. Let’s not get carried away now.

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This billboard stands across State Road 50 just outside Bedford. Jesus’s arrow points toward a church that occupies what appears to be a former banquet hall or bowling alley out in the farmland just east of town. As soon as I uploaded this image, it occurred to me I hadn’t written down the name of the church so I went to Google and learned, on the way to not finding this particular church’s name, that the town of Bedford (population 13,347, US Census Bureau 2015 estimate) is home to some 70 houses of worship, at least acc’d’g to a list of them published by the town itself. If that ratio of people to churches held true in Indianapolis (pop. 820,445), for instance, the city would boast some 4300 churches. New York City (8,550,405), by the same light, would be home to more than 44,800 of them.

God must love Hoosiers.

Jason & Ginger

Tune in to WFHB radio, 91.3, this afternoon a 5:30 for the Daily Local News with its regular Thursday feature, Big Talk, my interview show that starts about hatlfway through the newscast.

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My guests tonight are singer Ginger Curry and guitarist Jason Fickel, who comprise the lively and lovely duo, Jason & Ginger. Their third CD, Some Kind of Love (buy it here, here, or here), was released two weeks ago and they play around town regularly. You may even have caught Ginger warbling with the Gospel Gurlz or Hoosier Darling around these parts.

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Jason & Ginger

They talk about their lives and music, natch, with me. They’re a lot of fun. Join us.

[Note: Pick up WFHB on alternative regional channels including Bloomington, 98.1; Ellettsville, 106.3; and Nashville, 100.7.]

Hot Air: Great America

Birds Of A Feather

I have no problem with human blowfish Roger Ailes going to work for the Orange-utan as an advisor.

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Ailes, 1971

He’ll be doing what he, by all rights, should have been doing for the last quarter century or more. That is, being a partisan, trying to persuade voters to jump on whatever bandwagon he’s affixed to at the moment.

The fact that he was a major news executive — more accurately, the major news executive — is the saddest thing we can say about the state of 21st Century “journalism” in this holy land.

BTW: Did you know Ailes started out in the business as a gofer for The Mike Douglas Show, then a local gabfest in Philadelphia? If you’re old enough to remember The Mike Douglas Show (it was syndicated nationally beginning in 1963) you are as old as I am, which is old indeed.

Also, Ailes got his start in politics when Richard Nixon appeared on The Mike Douglas Show in ’67. Ailes, by then executive producer of the show, told Nixon he should use TV more if he had any hopes of running for president again. Prior to that discussion, Nixon had dismissed TV as a campaign tool, considering it trivial, but Ailes was so convincing that Nixon would eventually hire him as his ’68 campaign’s TV boss.

So, there’s another thing we have Nixon to blame for.

The New Truth

The Orange-utan has shaken up his campaign reichsmarschall staff at this late date, hiring the heretofore exec. chairman of Breitbart News, Stephen K. Bannon. Fresh from the thankfully dead Breitbart‘s legacy to the Two-Minutes Hate, Bannon will become campaign chief executive. Trump also promoted pollster Kellyanne Conway to the post of campaign manager. Goebbels manqué Paul Manafort will continue to direct the Ministry of Propaganda.

America’s burst appendix (h/t to Samantha Bee) told a Wisconsin TV station the shake-up does not mean he’s going to change his ways:

I am who I am. It’s me. I don’t want to change. Everyone talks about ‘Oh, you’re gonna pivot….’ I don’t want to pivot. I mean, you have to be you. If you start pivoting, you’re not being honest with people.

This quote alone tells you all you need to know about D. Trump and the psychotic half of the Republican Party. He’s made a career of dishonesty, following in the footsteps of other recent Right Wing extremists who deny climate change and believed the Bush II admin.’s whoppers about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent nuclear bombs. The pathological wing of the GOP has been busy redefining the word truth since even before Newt Gingrich’s infamous GOPAC memo back in 1996.

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Facts mean so little to these people that Rudy Giuliani, whose entire raison d’être has been the 9/11 attacks, actually denied this week that 9/11 occurred under George W. Bush’s watch. Truth, in the form of facts, means nothing now. Truth is “feeling.” As in, These goddamned Muslims are gonna blow us all up and impose Sharia Law on whatever’s left so we’d better do something about them quick! Millions of Murricans think that. And because D. Trump had the temerity to say words to that effect out loud, they consider him the oracle of “truth.”

It’s the narcissist’s way of looking at the world. Objective knowledge, as accepted by other people, doesn’t count. Only my own anger/fear/hatred count. They’re the only truths in this mixed-up world.

Mixed-up indeed.

Music, Music, Music

You never asked but I’ll tell you anyway. Here are my five favorite discs of all time, in no particular order:

Here are a few highlights from that playlist:

  • “Cry Like a Baby,” The Box Tops
  • “Along Comes Mary,” The Association
  • “Oh, Happy Day,” The Edwin Hawkins Singers
  • “Fire,” The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

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The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

  • “It’s Wonderful,” The Rascals
  • “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love),” Jr. Walker & the All-Stars
  • “Daydream Believer,” The Monkees
  • “Abraham, Martin and John,” Dion
  • “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” Tommy James & the Shondells
  • “Classical Gas,” Mason Williams
  • “Soulful Strut,” Young-Holt Unlimited

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Isaac “Red” Holt [L] & Eldee Young

  • “My Cherie Amour,” Stevie Wonder

As you can see, I’m a huge sunshine pop fan. Listening to the preceding playlist is as good as a drug.

When America Was Great

Just in case you’ve been thinking meanness and rottenness are new things in this holy land, please reconsider.

Here’s a terribly unflattering story of America I learned from the 2006 book, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning, by Jonathan Mahler, which I’m just finishing up now. Bess Myerson was the first Jew to be named Miss America, back in 1945. She was a native New Yorker and the city was extraordinarily proud of her. Her parents were Russian immigrants who settled in the Bronx. Louis and Bella Myerson instilled in her a love for scholarship and music. To that end, she was among the first Misses America to boast of possessing a top-flight mind. She’d earned a degree in music from Hunter College, graduating with honors.

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Myerson In 1945

Prior to her, Misses America had been white-bread-y, Anglo, blonde or otherwise light-haired, bordering on Aryan. Her selection the year the unspeakable horror of the concentration camps was revealed was as earth-shaking as if a transgendered contestant would cop the tiara today. One religious news service described her winning the crown so soon after the concentration camps were entered in this way: “Bess Myerson represented the resurrection of the Jewish body — the journey from degradation to beauty.”

While slogging through the preliminary pageants leading up to the national contests, Myerson was advised to change her name to something less Jewish-sounding. She steadfastly refused. For the talent portion of the final pageant, she played the works of Edvard Grieg and George Gershwin on the piano. Immediately after winning the title, Myerson embarked on the obligatory national pageant tour. She endured indignities like being refused accommodations at Jewish-restricted hotels. Later, she’d remember seeing signs reading “no coloreds, no Jews, no dogs.” She quit the tour and became an outspoken public opponent of anti-semitism.

Myerson would go on to become a TV icon, appearing on gameshows and serving as regular substitute host for NBC’s Today Show. She also served as spokesperson for any number of consumer products. In 1969, Mayor John Lindsay would name her head of the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

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Myerson With Jackie Onassis, 1975

A pretty swell résumé for anyone, especially a woman and a Jew in post-war America. Still, America was largely populated by troglodytes even if we had just won the Good War.

One day while on her pageant tour, she attempted to visit a wounded World War II veteran but was prevented from doing so by his mother, who physically blocked her from approaching her son. Reporters asked the mother why she’d stopped Myerson from nearing her son. The mother replied, “Because of the damned Jews my boy was maimed.”

The good old days.

 

Hot Air: Wherein I Alienate Most Of The World

People fascinate me.

A friend on social media posted a comment the other day about having inadvertently bought a loaf of gluten-free bread. It tasted terrible, acc’d’g to him. His post was written as a farewell letter to the loaf as he threw it in the garbage. Among other bon mots, he typed:

… [Y]ou taste like sadness and fatigue.

and

I won’t give you to the birds because I don’t hate them.

I commented that this was fairly funny stuff. I called him a wordsmith. As for gluten-free things, I can take them or leave them — mostly leave them. I had nothing to add to his post re: the relative gustatory merits of g-f bread or any other related comestible. The main reason I remain non-committal is, frankly, I don’t care. You could ask me if I prefer Drake to Panda and I would have nothing to say, as they are irrelevant to me. Similarly, should someone query me about my feelings for, say, the Captain America, X-Men, or Suicide Squad movies this summer, I would be mum.

That’s how I feel about gluten-free stuff. It exists. I’ve tried it, lots of times. No corner of my cranium is occupied with strong emotions concerning it. My soc. med. friend, though, doesn’t like it.

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Ick, He Says

That seems an inarguable point. No one can justifiably say, Hey, buddy, you’re wrong. They can’t because, well, they’re his goddamned taste buds, see?

Reminds me of the time I was sitting around with a bunch of guys, drinking spirits, smoking cigars, and celebrating yet another Chicago Bulls NBA championship. The talk got around to the game of soccer.

“The most boring freakin’ sport in the solar system,” I pontificated.

Now, this puts me at odds with the vast majority of the world’s peoples. (And you wonder why I’m so often misanthropic?) But that’s okay because I figure if everybody likes something, it must somehow be either innocuous to the point of inanity or basically evil. Soccer, I held then — and hold now — is innocuous to the point of inanity, what with dozens of guys in shorts running around like chipmunks on a field bigger than the nation of Moldova, unable to use their hands, and scoring a goal once in a lifetime. (Their hands, people! The very things that make them human, for chrissakes! And when one of them commits some imperceptible violation of the rules, the referee punishes him my holding a gayly colored card over his head. Was this sport designed for the anencephalic?) Not only that, throughout its history it has flirted with evil. For instance, when it was a mere whippersnapper among competitive pursuits in the Eight Century, the proto-game that would become soccer (or, as our Euro friends call it, association football) took on an entirely grisly hue:

The first Football games played in Britain were between the locals of the east of England, beginning with a legendary game that involved kicking around the severed head of a Danish prince that they had defeated in a war. These games were violent, where injury and death were not uncommon.

What a delight. Talk about the “agony of defeat.”

So, yes, inane and evil. That’s soccer. Boring, too, which is its worst sin in my book.

Again, that’s an inarguable point. I watch soccer — I am bored. No one can state that I am not. But one of my pals that day, a man equally as pontifical as I am, got hot. “That’s stupid! You’re wrong!” he shouted. Even though this was the fellow who’d passed out the cigars, I felt compelled to lecture him on how he was violating all principals of logic and thought by telling me I was wrong when I said soccer is boring. (OTOH, had he been the fellow who supplied the spirits, why, I would have kept my mouth shut. I know which side my bread is buttered on.)

Let’s look at this from the reverse point of view. Longtime Pencillistas know I am the world’s greatest Cubs fan. I love baseball in general. I’ll watch any game, any time, between any teams, whether I have a rooting interest or not. I simply enjoy watching grown men play baseball.

Now someone might say, Baseball is deadly boring. The only thing I could say to that sad soul is, You’re right. If you say you are bored to the grave by it, it must be so.

Or how about this? If a gal is madly in love with a homely character and one day confides to me that this man is the most gorgeous creature on the planet, it’s not merely the threat of a busted nose that prevents me from saying, Whaddya, outta your mind?

I mean, hell, loads of people throughout the last six decades have sworn to high heaven that Mick Jagger is the sexiest thing alive. To me, he’s a cowfish — but I cannot tell them they’ve made a horrible mistake, even if I’d love to.

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Separated At Birth?

Anyway, several commenters on my friend’s post concerning gluten-free bread took him to task. Gluten-free bread was fabulous, marvelous, and caused in them spontaneous orgasms with the sinking of their choppers into the first slice of the stuff, they said. And, they added, my friend was a cad for wishing ill upon all those who suffer from the various forms of gluten intolerance, allergy, and toxicity.

Next thing I knew, my friend was apologizing and back-tracking like a political champ:

I appreciate the difficulties of anyone who needs to avoid gluten. I hope the food industries continue to produce tasty alternatives to gluten-rich foods.

Jeez! All because he stated something beyond debate, that gluten-free bread, to him, tastes like hell.

The other day I read an essay written by an obviously hypersensitive soul who demanded that people on social media, in newspapers and magazines, on TV and radio, and in all walks of life preface anything they have to say with the words, I think…, or I believe…. Should this become law, I pledge to leap off the Tulip Trestle viaduct in Greene County at its highest pointing above the rock hard ground.

This essayist claims to have felt oppressed by the bullies of the world who want to force their opinions upon her. These tyrants are crushing her, she implied, with their slants on everything from who they’re voting for in November to which is the better pet, the cat or the dog. (It’s the dog, naturally.)

She was as serious as a heart attack.

Problem is, one of the first rules of writing is to avoid like a boxful of wolf spiders typing the words I think… or I believe…. The reason is, well, of course I think. It’s obvious I believe. Any sentient being should know that. These are words pouring out of my keyboard, soundlessly spoken by me before I clack them out, the fruits of my brilliance. I’m doing it; I’m saying it. For pity’s sake, your high school freshman composition teacher told you not to use those moderators.

See, we’ve become so territorial in our beliefs and so thin-skinned in our reactions to others’ beliefs that we’re calling for grammar school constructions lest we hurt some fragile bunny. You can’t just be for Hillary while I’m for Trump. No! You must be trying to destroy me and my way of life.

Why, just hearing about your taste in bread oppresses me. How dare you opine without telling me you opine. For that matter, you should mail me a formal apology before even typing your opinion out on the computer screen next time.

Yeah. People fascinate me. And they annoy the living hell out of me.

Well, I believe they annoy the living hell out of me.

Hot Air: The Art World

First, let me apologize for the redundant headline. The “art world” is nothing so much as a vast balloon filled with hot air.

Now then. Seems as though NPR darling and sane member of his brood, Alec Baldwin, is engaged in a hissing match with a couple of NYC art world big shots these days. Acc’d’g to a story in today’s New York Times, he bought a painting done by a guy named Ross Bleckner from a revered gallery owner named Mary Boone for just a shade under $200,000. The names Bleckner and Boone may not mean much to you and me — not as much as Ben & Jerry or, more locally, Pizzo and Anspaugh — but in the rarified airs of the big dough painting and sculpting rackets, B&B are big. Big, big, big.

Baldwin considers himself a patron of the arts and proves it by unbelting huge amounts of cash for works of art and speaking everywhere he can about our holy land’s cultural heritage, yadda yadda.

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Baldwin

Fine. It turns out Baldwin had a woody for one of Bleckner’s pieces. He even carried a photo of it in his personal man-bag, next to pix of his daddy-o and his daughter. He set his then-pal, gallery-owner Mary Boone, on a mission to buy the painting from the collector who owned it. (Or, more accurately, owns it, as we shall see.) Boone contacted the collector but the guy was not eager to sell. She later told Baldwin she stood on her head and finally got the collector to sell for a cool $190,000, which, presumably, Baldwin had in his wallet at the time.

So Baldwin took possession of the painting, something called “Sea and Mirror,” and had it hung in his palatial Manhattan office. Baldwin, though, started sniffing something rotten. He says the paint smelled new. Also, the colors and composition were just askew enough to make him wonder if perhaps the painting was not “Sea and Mirror” at all but a fake.

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Sea And Mirror

Well, sort of a fake. Nobody denies that Bleckner dabbed his brushes on the canvass. Only that it was actually a different painting he’d been working on at the time he was producing S&M. Baldwin began to believe his old pal, Mary Boone, hadn’t stood on her head enough and, therefore, had never pried “Sea and Mirror” away from the collector. So, panicky, she instructed Bleckner, whom she represents, to jazz around with the second painting and make it look passably like the first. She then brokered the “sale” between Baldwin and the collector.

Baldwin makes a few convincing points that Boone tried to pass Painting #2 off as the real deal. He, of course, would never pay a couple hundred thou for that smudge and smear job. The very idea!

Boone, through her atty’s, says Baldwin should have known all along the painting he bought wasn’t “Sea and Mirror.”

The actor cried to the Manhattan prosecutor who told him there really wasn’t enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Boone. Nevertheless, Baldwin and Boone now are no-invite-ems to the toniest soirees in NYC. Heck, if confronted with one another, they may engage in the cat fight of the year. Reminds me of that old National Lampoon bit about a dust-up between Gore Vidal and Truman Capote. Vidal, apparently, suffered a torn hankie and Capote a bent hat brim.

jail

Not Yet, Mary

I bring all this up because I’ve spent a lot of time around artists in my day. I was even a member of the subversive Ever-So-Secret Order of the Lampreys, a Chicago artists gang, back in the late 1990s and early ’00s. Here’s what I know: Tons and tons of really talented painters, sculptors, woodworkers, documentarians, and other producers of “the useless object” (a term coined by a Logan Square artist I’d known back in the 1980s) make tons and tons of beautiful, ugly, compelling, worthwhile art every day all around the nation. All around the world, for that matter.

Most of these artists — hell, 99.9 percent of them — live under the most modest, hand-to-mouth conditions. A hundred and ninety thousand bucks to most of them would constitute some five to ten years of total income including bartending and waitron-ing tips and quasi- to illegal tricks on the side.

The “starving artist” stereotype is real. Too real.

But, here you have these scant few artists and the business parasites who attach selves to them, bandying about six- and seven-figure offers for this or that wall-hanging. And swells like Baldwin support them, fooling themselves that they’re advancing the nation’s cultural interests.

Bullshit.

Here’s how a well-paid harlequin like Baldwin could advance America’s artistic endeavors: Take the next two hundred thousand bucks you want to piss away on “great” art and spread it around to, say, ten or twenty starving artists. Baldwin could bounce from gallery to gallery on any given First Friday opening in the fall and ID countless deserving talents. I guarantee a windfall of $19,000 or even $9,500 would be a life highlight for any of the millions of hard-working painters, sculptors, etc. It would even spur her or him on to create many more compelling works, what with being freed, temporarily, from the crushing worry of where the next goddamned dollar is coming from.

Ah, but why should Alec Baldwin listen to me? He’s the one with the palatial Manhattan office and I’m just a subversive.

Then again, he owns a “fake.” I don’t.

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