Hot Air: Will You Still Need Me?

Next month I turn 64. As far as I’m concerned that, officially, makes me an old man.

A child of the 1960s and ’70s, I grew up with the Beatles and, in 1967, they released the landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. One of the tracks on the album was the tune “When I’m 64.” It’s a bittersweet, plaintive ballad, the singer (Paul McCartney) asking his youthful love if she’ll still be with him when he becomes a rickety old goat. Believe it or not, McCartney wrote the song when he was 16 years old! It was one of the first full songs he’d ever written.

Impossible!

I recall seeing — in some magazine, I think — an artist’s conception of the four then-young Beatles when they would be 64. They were thicker, gray-haired, balding, and paunchy. They had bags under their eyes and sagging cheeks and jowls. The illustration was, in fact, a surprisingly accurate (it turns out) representation of what the years would do to them. The picture gave me the shivers. The Beatles, I gasped, were going to be old men!

Anyway, from the time I first heard the tune it became cemented in my consciousness that the age of 64 was incontrovertibly and inarguably…, well, old.

Having at last attained said age, I can truthfully say, Yep, that’s old, baby. My body’s falling apart, sometimes at a frightful pace, sometimes in small increments. I’m no longer the randy, hyper, toned, muscled, lithe, eager, agile, quick buck I once was. My body makes alarming noises when I stand up or sit down. At least a half dozen joints are as sore and achy as if I were recovering from being hit by a truck. I struggle with a congenitally malformed heart and am entering the fourth year of cancer remission, the aftereffects of chemoradiation still making themselves painfully evident every day. I need a new hip (at least), a couple of hernia repairs, another surgical procedure I’m loath to disclose, and, too often, I walk into a room and forget why In the hell I’ve done so. As for the randiness I once enjoyed, well, I remember those days fondly, like a lost love.

You might think this all depresses me. To a tiny extent it does. I wish I could go out and play centerfield again. I wish I could drink and chase women all night long and be able to get up the next morning without so much as a complaint. I wish I had the strength to ride my motorcycle again. I wish I could do a million things I did easily and without a care when I was 25 or 35 or even 45. But I can’t.

What I can do is draw upon six-plus decades of experience and wisdom. I can relax. I can concentrate on my writing for long hours at a time, something I was utterly unable to do when I was filled with vim. I can recognize the differences between emotion, knee-jerk reaction, and a rational consideration of whatever options I face. I have countless memories of things good and bad, all of which went into the making of me, like so many bricks in a wall.

Am I afraid of dying? You bet. But I don’t think about it all the time. My denial mechanism is finely tuned (otherwise I wouldn’t be able to survive with my sanity, such as it is, intact). When I do think about those last frightful moments, I quickly shake my head and resolve to live every remaining day — hell, every remaining second — to the fullest.

Truth is, I like growing older. I like growing old.

Our American consumer culture constantly hammers the message into us that aging is a disease, something to be avoided, an ugly condition for which there are any number of balms, lotions, pills, injections, gym memberships, diets, psychotherapies, and countless other panaceas we can invest in and with which — hooray! — we can hope and pray to stay young and beautiful indefinitely.

Aging, in reality, is as much a definitive part of life as being born. Death is in the future of every single person alive. That consumer culture I refer to above? Too many of us have bought into its fictitious premise. I know people in their late 70s who say, “I’m not old!” To which I want to respond, “The hell you aren’t!”

I embrace oldness even as I occasionally daydream about chasing down a flyball or shifting my weight on my old Suzuki GS1100 as I negotiate a curve at 65 mph on a summer’s day in Wisconsin.

I called her Suzie Q.

As R. Buckminster Fuller once sagely advised, Don’t fight forces; use them. The irresistible force of time hurtling me closer to the moment I’ll no longer be here isn’t something I’ll tilt against. Bring it on! And, it is to be dearly hoped, when I get to be, say, 77 or 78 years old, I’ll be smarter, wiser, more content, and 13 or 14 years more complete.

Do They Walk Among Us?

Here’s the link to the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk featuring UFO experience researcher Susan Lepselter. The Loved One and I hold differing views on the topic of aliens visiting this hunk of mud and rock. We listened to the podcast together yesterday as we nibbled on our dinner. It was TLO who hipped me to Lepselter in the first place.

Consider this a reminder: I welcome and thoroughly enjoy getting suggestions about possible guests on Big Talk. The Loved One has been responsible for turning me on to a good dozen guests over the years. Friends, acquaintances, and social media cronies have suggested another dozen or two. Email me at glabagogo@gmail.com with your ideas. There is a Big Talk email account floating around somewhere but, truth be told, I rarely check it.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3FM.

Hot Air: Look To The Skies!

UFOs were the topic in the Big Production Room at the WFHB studios yesterday AM.

Author and researcher Susan Lepselter joined me to record this week’s edition of Big Talk, set to air this afternoon at 5:30pm.

Lepselter

Lepselter wrote the book, The Resonance of Unseen Things: Poetics, Power, Captivity, and UFOs in the American Uncanny (University of Michigan Press, 2016). She’s been talking to individuals and groups who’ve had UFO sighting and abduction experiences for better than 20 years now. She’s not at all into proving or disproving the existence of extraterrestrial visitors to this rock. Her curiosity is piqued specifically by the stories and lore experiencers share. What, she asks, do their memories and stories tell us about…, well, us?

Times of anxiety usually see a spate of UFO abduction and contact stories. When The Bomb was the big scare in the 1950s and ’60s, UFO sightings proliferated. Then, in the ’70s with faith in the US government cratering, women becoming liberated, the relationship between the races being redefined, and other society-shaking phenomena, the abduction-cum-medical probing claims took off. We’re in yet another age of anxiety these days and — wouldn’t you know it? — the alien visitors narrative again is ascendant.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

Big-Assed Numbers

Some things to consider:

  • It takes light 4.3 years to reach Earth from our nearest neighbors, the three stars of the Alpha Centauri system. The velocity of light, natch, is the cosmic superhighway’s speed limit. Physicists generally agree that for any material object to be propelled at anything close to the speed of light, it would take a nearly-infinite expenditure of energy to get it moving that fast.
  • Our own, modest, Earthly technology has only achieved speeds of 430,000 mph (the Parker Solar Probe was aided by the enormous pull of the Sun’s gravity). That is a mere 0.064 percent of the speed of light. At that rate, a similar mission to Alpha Centauri would take some 58.8 million years to reach its destination.
  • Let’s assume an alien civilization has developed a supercharged hot rod engine capable of moving a space ship much faster. How much faster? A hundred percent? That means it’d take only 29 million years to get from Alpha Centauri to here. A thousand percent? Now we’re talking a mission that’d last some 58,000 years. A hell of a gamble — wouldn’t you think? — for a civilization to mount a trip to a destination that just might not exist in 580 centuries.
  • Most star systems are many, many, many times farther away than Alpha Centauri. My calculator is incapable of providing me with the proper mileage and duration figures needed for those journeys.
  • Whichever star system’s inhabitants hope to visit Earth — out of all the billions and billions of planets in our Solar System that they might think to drop in on — would have come up with a propulsion system that is far and away beyond our very wildest imaginations.
  • Could it happen? Certainly. Is it probable that it could happen and one of the billions of civilizations out there not only has visited us but is continuing to visit us — out of all the possible destinations they could have selected — and has only interfaced with a select number of random humans in remote locales? Now we’re talking about probability figures akin to the number of miles in a light year.
  • Despite the improbability of it all, I’m four-square in favor continuing to listen to people who tell stories of UFO experiences and trying to understand them, as well as committing resources to a rigorous search for extraterrestrial intelligence via monitoring any and all conceivable means of communication from the distant stars.
  • All of this, as Dr. Lepselter concurs, reminds us what a fragile, tiny, preposterously insignificant speck of dust our planet is in the cosmos. We self-important humans need constant, heavy doses of that kind of humility.

Hot Air: For Sale

I listened to an hour’s-worth of sports talk radio this AM as I drove up to Indy. In that time I heard no fewer than three ads for the Bloomberg presidential campaign.

Whoever said money isn’t everything knew nothing about America in the year 2020.

Bloomberg (L) & Trump: Buyers’ Market.

Prescient & Naive

Eric Zorn, columnist for the on-life-support Chicago Tribune, wrote a passionate essay in the wake of Donald Trump’s unlikely election victory in 2016. The first part of it is as perceptive and spot-on an assessment of the man as I’ve ever read. In the second part, Zorn plays Pollyanna, trusting the tens of millions of Americans who voted for Trump to come to their senses once they’d see the man for who he really is. I don’t necessarily fault Zorn for having such a childlike faith in the American people. Hell, you’ve got to believe in something, otherwise why go on living?

Anyway, here’s Zorn’s column assessing the Fall ’16 tragedy:

CAN AMERICA SURVIVE PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP?

November 10, 2016

In an electoral tantrum for the ages, angry U.S. voters have elected an impulsive, thin-skinned, ignorant con man to the presidency.

I have serious doubts that the American experiment will survive his reign.

The Founders were wary of demagogues and created a political system of checks and balances to weaken the chance that one would take power.

That system has survived centuries of domestic and foreign tumult and the occasional election of buffoons and rascals as commander in chief, despite Alexander Hamilton’s reassurance in Federalist No. 68 that all presidents would naturally be “preeminent for ability and virtue.”

But our republic has never been tested as it will be when Donald Trump is sworn into office. He lacks not only ability and virtue, but he also lacks a fundamental respect for the Constitution (aside from the Second Amendment), he lacks an understanding of the fine points of domestic and foreign policy and he lacks the cool temperament necessary to guide the most important nation on Earth through perilous times.

He fans the flames of tribalism and nationalism, inspiring and comforting those with deplorable views.

He purchased the support of a majority of American voters with a set of brazenly false, often contradictory promises.

He praised and made common cause with brutal Russian dictator Vladimir Putin while actively undermining domestic confidence in our electoral system.

His campaign and his personal manner were so repulsive that many top members of his own party couldn’t even bring themselves to mention his name or say if they were voting for him.

His unfiltered expressions of anger and contempt were so dismaying that his campaign reportedly had to yank his access to Twitter in the waning days of the campaign — yet voters decided to hand him the nuclear launch codes.

Sure, as a lefty I’m discouraged almost beyond words at the fact that Republicans will control the legislative and executive branches of government.

This means the end of the extension of health care contained in the Affordable Care Act and pretty much the obliteration of the rest of President Barack Obama’s legacy.

It means efforts to ameliorate global climate change are dead, that the wealthy will enjoy generous tax cuts and for at least four years we won’t see meaningful efforts to curb the easy availability of firearms.

Trump’s victory also means that Republicans will regain control of the U.S. Supreme Court — a reward for their outrageous stalling after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February — meaning that the Citizens United decision will stand and the erosion of abortion rights will continue on the state level.

But that’s politics and policy. The same would have been true had any of the other umpteen Republican hopefuls won the White House on Tuesday, and I would not be melodramatically forecasting comprehensive doom.

Trump is different. He’s an aspiring strongman with a divisive record of bigotry and misogyny. He has put a quiet stamp of approval on white nationalism, and he has mainstreamed hateful anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish and anti-black sentiments that, until the rise of his candidacy, had been pushed far into the social margins.

Much was made of the anger that fueled Trump supporters.

Anger at the loss of good-paying jobs for those without college education.

Anger at the idea that undocumented immigrants were taking jobs from American citizens.

Anger at multiculturalism and the attendant demands of “political correctness.”

Anger that the government system is rigged against them.

Anger that media elites and other establishment types look down on them.

That anger may subside for a time as they celebrate Trump’s victory, but it will surely return when they come to recognize — as many of us already have — that he is a grotesque fraud and a spectacular liar.

I’m not saying this to sway anyone’s vote. The campaign is over. But many of those who championed him and are now exultant will come to despise him as much as those who have opposed him.

He will not bring jobs back that technology has taken. And if he actually starts the trade wars he has promised, prices for everything in the Wal-Mart will rise, the market for exports will dry up and working people will suffer the most.

He will not build a wall. He will not give low-income people better, cheaper health insurance. He will not put a stop to crime “on Day One” as he promised. He will not lower the national debt or get rid of the tax advantages enjoyed by the wealthy. He will not improve the lives of inner-city African-Americans.

Extreme buyer’s remorse will set in.

Oh, he’ll blame his comprehensive failures on others — narcissists and hucksters always do. But sooner rather than later he will stand exposed even to his supporters as someone who never had a clue how to make America greater than it is, and who exploited for his own gain the fury and credulity of people who feel marginalized and disrespected.

His hair-trigger temper, poor self-control and failure to appreciate the nuances of foreign policy will make him a singularly dangerous man on the international stage.

His arrogance and his contempt for those who disagree with him will shatter what’s left of comity in Washington, because he’s not just a phony but a thug, an aspiring autocrat cut from the same cloth as Putin.

The limits that our Founders placed on the despotic impulses of demagogues who ascend to the highest office will be severely strained if not broken altogether.

Nearly all the things that Trump falsely claimed during the campaign were a disaster will, in fact, become disasters under his rule.

Could I be wrong?

Well, I’ve been wrong about Trump at nearly every turn for the last year and a half. I thought he had politically self-destructed at least half a dozen times, most recently with his absolutely bizarre performance in the third and final presidential debate.

And I was wrong about this race until the middle of the evening Tuesday, when I had to stop believing that Americans are too smart not to see through his flim-flam and realize how spectacularly unfit he is for the presidency.

With luck, I’ll be wrong again.

Hot Air: Both Sides against the Middle

By playing it safe, the City of Bloomington now finds itself in hot water — nay, boiling water — with both sides in the Farmers Market/Schooner Creek dustup.

The SC gang filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday claiming the city denied the vendor its constitutional rights over the summer while a mini-hell broke loose at the fresh grub outdoor mall outside City Hall. The city, the Schooner filing asserts, allowed protesters to raise cain gratis while denying SC the same comp so that they might tell the world how fabulous the white race is.

This after Mayor John Hamilton and the city decided to take no action to evict SC when the vendor was shown to be run by folks who belong to a supremacist organization, something called the American Identity Movement (no link because fuck them). AIM is the shiny new name conjured by the more public relations savvy among its membership; the groups’s orig. monicker was Identity Evropa. By any name, the org. has been ID’d by both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

Not to be confused.

Odd the AIM should have chosen its new acronym considering those three initials long have been associated with the American Indian Movement. I’d guess the Identity clique would feel the Indian advocates would be anathema inasmuch as Native Americans had the damnable temerity to occupy the future American continent that, after all, had been deeded by the Holy White Father himself to European caucasians.

In any case, it was clear Hamilton and his law dept. decided to take no action against SC for fear the vendor would sue the city to high heaven. Angry protesters howled and demonstrated and branded the mayor — as well as anybody who dared suggest SC had a right to sell its greens even if its owners did spout detestable racist nonsense — racists and Nazis.

No doubt the furor this past summer gave Hamilton and city attorney Philippa Guthrie night sweats. They surely crossed their fingers that SC would not apply to vend at the 2020 Farmers Market but the farm did do so the other day. And now — wouldn’t you know it? — SC has sicced its attorneys on Bloomington et al after all.

After playing it timidly, the mayor and the city have found themselves in a bigger heap of manure than ever before.

The Flavors of Baseball

With baseball’s spring training beginning this past week, I feel it is imperative to note that The Philadelphia Phillies have just acquired an outfielder named Kyle Garlick.

When he broke into the big leagues last year with the Dodgers, he joined an illustrious group of herb- and spice-named players throughout history. There were, acc’d’g to Baseball Reference, no fewer than four players with the surname Pepper (Don, Laurin, Ray, and Bob) as well as Pepper Martin, born Johnny Leonard Roosevelt Martin and known as the Wild Horse of the Osage. I won’t go so far as to count that colorful nickname among the herbal all-star roster although I was tempted by the -sage part of it.

There also have been Jarrod Saltalamacchia (AKA Salty), natch, and Salty Parker. Saltalamacchia, BTW, was noted mainly for possessing the longest last name in Major League Baseball history, at a hefty 14 letters.

There has been Frank Fennelly, even though his name is more an adjective than a noun.

Jason Bay played in the bigs in the early part of this century and Harry Bay in the early part of the last.

Pickles Dillhoefer

Pickles Dillhoefer was a catcher for several teams from 1917 through 1921.

Pitcher Arthur Chivers never made the majors but did earn a paycheck in the minor leagues for a couple of years around 1950.

Pitcher Steve Mintz had a couple of cups of coffee with the Giants and Angels in the 1990s.

The closest I could come to marjoram was catcher Mike Marjama who appeared a few times for the Seattle Mariners in 2017 and ’18.

Lemon, OTOH, has some MLB props. There have been Chet, Jim and Bob Lemon and even Mark Lemongello which is the only flavor palatable in my opinion.

There have been no fewer than five players named Curry (Steve, Tony, Jim, George, and Wes).

Ginger Beaumont, Ginger Shinault, and Ginger Clark all logged big league playing time.

No one named Chicory ever played big league baseball although nine players sported the now-non-PC nickname Chico and one was named Matt Chico. It should be noted Chico Salmon played for nine years in the 1960s and ’70s as did, while we’re at it, Tim Salmon, during the 1990s and ‘aughts. I’m not so sure chicory goes well with fish, though.

Stephen Yarrow was an infielder in the Giants’ minor league system not long ago. Yarrow, the herb, was used to flavor beer in the Middle Ages and today is used to add a bit of zing to certain spirits and bitters.

Julia Sawalha as Saffron in “Absolutely Fabulous”

The only Saffron I can think of is Edina’s priggish daughter in Absolutely Fabulous.

Billy and Vic Sorrell and Chick Sorrells have been professional ballplayers. Sorrel of course, is a salad vegetable.

Valeriano Fano played baseball in Cuba immediately after World War II. Valerian root is touted by herbal medicine enthusiasts as a natural remedy for sleeplessness and restless leg syndrome, although no scientific studies indicate it does anything of the sort.

Pat Caraway was a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in 1930, ’31, and ’32.

Brandon, Sam, and Pete Woodruff made their separate ways to the majors. The flowering herb, woodruff, is used in Germany to flavor may wine, punch, brandy, jelly, jam, a soft drink called Tarhun, ice cream, herbal tea, and sherbet powder.

Thinking of baseball and herbs makes me hungry. I’ll make myself a hot dog and sprinkle, in true Chicago style, some celery salt on it. Celerino Sanchez, to conclude this pointless exercise, was a third baseman for the New York Yankees in the early 1970s.

Oh, and seven players named Herb by their parents played Major League Baseball, the best of them being pitchers Herb Pennock and Herb Score. Bob Spicer pitched for the Kansas City Athletics in 1955 and ’56.

Hot Air: The Stacked Deck

A Simple Statement

If you can’t — or won’t — see the inherent evil in this…

…then you can’t possibly understand what’s wrong with this world.

I hope to enrage you further by offering these facts about Bezos’ new digs:

  • It’s a 13,600 square foot structure
  • It sits on a nine acre tract
  • It has a tennis court, swimming pool, and a nine-hole golf course
  • The multi-vehicle garage has a gas pump for each car

Bezos already owns a three-story condominium in a Fifth Avenue (New York) high rise — he purchased the building’s penthouse and the condos on the two floors below it to create a kingly residence there. He paid $80 million for the three units in 2019.

The Amazon.com, Inc. founder also owns a $23 million mansion in Washington, DC. That home formerly was a museum.

As of February 13, Bezos was worth $131 billion dollars. That total is higher than the 2019 Gross Domestic Products of Morocco, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Croatia, Lebanon, Iceland, and Zimbabwe, among many others. President Donald Trump’s December 2017 tax code revisions afforded Bezos a healthy income tax cut.

Stone Again

In case you missed it, Big Talk yesterday was a rebroadcast of my chat with Dr. Rob Stone, founder and president of Bloomington’s Physicians for a National Health Program. Catch the original August 2019 podcast with Stone here.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3FM.

 

Hot Air: Decisions, Decisions

A couple of radio talkers today were discussing how high school students make their decisions regarding which colleges or universities they’ll go to. One of the talkers, a reasonable fellow who’s a stickler for good sourcing and is almost obsessively cautious about falling for misinformation or manufactured news, said, all other things being equal, the single most important factor in a student’s decision is the weather on the day they visit any particular campus.

For the life of me, I can’t find any corroborating source for this and I missed it when he cited his source, but I buy his assertion on a gut level.

Welcome to the Midwest.

First off, the two were on a sports talk station in Chi. The NBA all-star weekend is taking place in the Windy City with events all over town, including the game and the skills competitions at the United Center and meet-and-greets at Navy Pier, et cetera. The two talkers mentioned that the temps this weekend in my beloved hometown will be dipping into the very low single digits. They concluded, after hashing over the college choice factoid, that NBA stars who may one day become free agents likely will not look kindly upon Chicago as a destination after coming to town for the big shebang. There’s a lot to be said for this because, in the NBA, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Texas, and Florida are the preferred landing spots for an inordinately high percentage of free agents, the winter weather in those locales being less than horrifying. Places like Chicago and Milwaukee and Detroit are, to many basketball players’ minds, as inviting as the North Pole.

NBA stars, by and large, are just a few years older than college kids. A lot of their decision making processes probably aren’t much more advanced than those of typical 18-22 y.o.’s. And, as indicated above, those kids are swayed by what seem to be extraneous factors.

And, even by-er and larger, so are the rest of us.

I worked for a few years in the restaurant industry. And I’ve got a good half century of experience eating at restaurants. I know this: your mood and a whole bunch of factors other than the quality of the food and the service at any given eatery dictate your feelings about your dinner or lunch at that place. If you and your mate are battling, for instance, you’re not going to remember your meal with any fondness. If a table-full of drunks are causing a ruckus and bumping into you and the wait staff, the taste of the manicotti isn’t going to be uppermost in your mind.

Here’s an example. One evening The Loved One and I went over to Mr. Hibachi over on East 3rd St. for the Chinese buffet. As we neared the entrance, a college-aged kid burst out the door and immediately started horking. It was a jaw-dropping sight. The poor slob must have eaten half a ton of food because he couldn’t stop spewing. Needless to say, we spun on our heels and nearly burned rubber getting out of the parking lot. We did not go back to Mr. Hibachi for about half a year. And that decision had nothing at all to do with the grub and the treatment we’d have gotten there that night.

“Oh, I wanna go there!”

It’s all about the surroundings, savvy?

So, think of the packs of high school kids who’ll be visiting Bloomington over the next few months, wondering if they should enroll here. If the weekend is sunny and mild, this town’ll be awfully attractive. And if the weather is sleety and bone-chilling, well, those students might tend to think about, say, Georgia Tech or Tulane.

Relax, Have a Glass Of Milk Or Something, Okay?

Everybody’s wailing and gnashing their teeth about the seeming chaos surrounding the 2020 Democratic presidential primary process that is only a week and a half on thus far. There remain about 750 candidates and front-runners are losing and dark horses are gaining and, ohmygodinheaven, the entire Democratic Party is destroying itself before our very eyes!

Only it’s not.

History — not many Americans’ strong point — tells us that this year’s Dem competition is no different than any other presidential years, both parties inclusive.

Just for perspective’s sake, let me point out that the winner of the 2016 Republican Iowa caucuses was none other than a fellow named Ted Cruz. And, might I remind you, the clear front runner at the mid-term point a couple of years before that was the the sitting governor of New Jersey, the then-darling of the party, Chris Christie. During the Republican debates in the fall of 2015, the big star was Carly Fiorina, ex-CEO of Hewlett Packard.

Can You Name This Person?

Quick question: What are Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina doing these days? Nah, I didn’t think you knew. I certainly don’t, save for Cruz*.

[ * The answers: Christie last year published a book entitled Let Me Finish. I know nobody who’s read it and I’m quite certain we never sold a single copy of it at the Book Corner. He was, BTW, selected to the Sports Betting Hall of Fame (betcha didn’t know that existed!) for his efforts in legalizing the sports book in the Garden State. Fiorina is now the chair and CEO of Carly Fiorina Enterprises, a nonprofit whose raison d’être, acc’d’g to a spokesperson, is to help her “structure speaking engagements and appearances while providing the public with information about her activities.” In other words, she heads a PR firm whose sole client is herself. As for Cruz (about whose relationship with Donald Trump the website Business Insider had this to say)…

The political feud between President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas during the 2016 election was one of the dirtiest in recent memory.

Trump and Cruz, who dropped out of the GOP primary in May 2016, attacked each other’s wives, citizenship, and integrity. They even threatened to sue, accusing each other of lying and cheating for various reasons.

After Trump won the party’s nomination, Cruz refused to endorse him at the Republican National Convention.

… he’s still the junior US Senator from Texas and he spends much of his time either defending the president’s worst misdeeds or strategically ignoring them. ]

That Republican Party, which in 2016 looked to be about ready to destroy itself, now holds the White House, the Senate, the US Supreme Court, most of the federal district courts, a majority of statehouses and governors’ mansions, and, through its leader, is completely remaking American government.

So stop fretting about what appears to be a party in shambles. Both parties’ primaries are knock-down, drag-out affairs every quadrennial. Or, to employ another comparison, they are the sausage-making room and you sure as hell don’t want to see what goes into the grinder.

Hot Air: Radio, Writing & Mortality

Catching Up

It’s been a while so here are a few links for you to click on:

  1. Big Talk with Fil Menczer — He’s a researcher and professor of Informatics and Computer Science over at Indiana University’s factory for geeks of that nature. Menczer and his crew study social media and their effects on people, especially the disinformation, manufactured news, and thought manipulations that arise therefrom. A lot of us talk about how Twitter, Facebook, and the like play with our heads as well as our collective understanding of reality but, in truth, we’re letting ourselves off easy for the damage done to us via soc. media. Here’s the podcast link for the program featuring Fil.
  2. Big Talk with Paul Bryan and Cynthia Wakley — the executive director and operations director, respectively, for PALS, Inc. The acronym for People and Animal Learning Services, PALS is a therapeutic equine setup that helps people with physical, psychological, and emotional challenges overcome barriers. Bryan and Wakley are working to rejuvenate the operation after a period of relative disarray and are making connections with social service agencies around the region. One things Brayn especially is focusing on is serving military veterans. Working with horses, sez he, is an invaluable tool in the treatment of PTSD. Here’s the podcast link for that edition of BT.
  3. We were due to speak with Susan Lepselter, assoc. prof. of Anthropology and American Studies at IU. Unfortunately for her, she came down with a nasty bug and had to cancel our recording session today. Fingers crossed she can heal up and come in to the studio for next week’s show. In any case, Susan has delved deeply into that peculiar American phenomenon of UFO sightings and capturings. She has, in fact, written a book entitled The Resonance of Unseen Things: Poetics, Power, Captivity, and UFOs in the American Uncanny (University of Michigan Press, 2016), exploring the culture and psychology of self-professed UFO survivors. “For me, the question ‘what is real?’ is a very animating question,” Lepselter says. Perhaps she’ll clue us in next week. (As for this week’s airing of Big Talk, we’ll go with a rebroadcast at 5:30pm tomorrow.)
  4. My piece on Emerson Houck’s rollicking book, Hoosiers All, a lovingly researched history of Indiana high school sports team nicknames and logos, ran in the Limestone Post. My takeaway was the story of those names and images can serve as an introductory course to the history of the state as a whole. Indiana’s native populations, the pioneers, the different ethnic groups, the professions, and even the critters who run around these parts have been documented on the jerseys and letter jackets of teenagers from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River through the years. Go here for that article.

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An Obituary

It’s been a few days but I still get weepy every few minutes. And, in the morning, when I’m washing dishes or folding up the comforters, I by habit still look over to where Steve the Dog would be sitting or lying, waiting for me — it was dearly hoped — to drop a biscuit on the floor for him. Those waiting posts remain unoccupied, never to be filled again by him.

Here’s my Facebook notification of his death:

Steve the Dog died today, Monday, February 10, 2020, at approximately 4:00pm. Also known as Stinky Steve and Mister Pister, he endured severe health issues the last year of his life. Finally, it became obvious life was too agonizing for him to endure any longer. Despite his abominable breath (even when healthy) and his occasional growls at me when I’d inadvertently bump him while we both lie on the couch, he was my dear friend. We watched out for each other. Even when I’d go to the bathroom, he’d nose the door open to check on me. We adopted him from the Bloomington Animal Shelter in May, 2010. We had ten good, close years together. He was my pal and I’ll miss him terribly. Bye, old buddy.

Steve the Dog (c. 2008-2020)

Hot Air: Get Up Off Your Couches

Lucy Schaich

One of Bloomington’s most delightful citizens joins me on Big Talk this afternoon. Lucy Schaich has been a key member of the City of Bloomington Volunteer Network since the year 2000. Her grandmother and her mother instilled in her a responsibility to help neighbors in need. As a young girl, Lucy’s mom Georgia Schaich, who died this past November, toted hot meals to an elderly, homebound couple who lived down the block in her hometown of Maumee, Ohio, before she could sit down to eat her own dinner. Georgia went on to head a vital component of the Area 10 Council on Aging here for 15 years. Lucy must have inherited the good human gene because she’s been helping this city’s volunteers and nonprofit service organizations get together for most of her adult life.

BTW: Nominations are still being accepted by the CBVN for this year’s Be More Awards, Bloomington’s 37th annual recognition of the individuals and organizations that reach out and touch those in need in our community. Anyone can nominate a person for a Be More Award. Go online to recognize those you know who are getting up off their couches to bring good things to their neighbors and fellow citizens. Nominations will be accepted until February 3rd.

Tune in today at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 for Big Talk or listen online. Even if you miss today’s airing of the show, you can still hear our chat via podcast. I’ll post that link here tomorrow.

What’s Going On

Gotta admit it. I’m paying next to no attention to the farce being played out in Washington these days.

The newspapers say this is the third impeachment trial of a president in US history. By my lights, it’s the second pointless exercise of one the United States Constitution’s most vital provisions. The House accusing a president of high crimes and misdemeanors and the Senate trying him (always him, right?) is perhaps the chief protection we have against any one person hoping to become a dictator. Donald Trump took it upon himself as no president before him to turn this holy land into his own personal playground and, while it may be true that the Democratic House had a responsibility to rein him in, impeaching him under the current set of charges would always be a losing prop as long as the Republican Party remains in hypnotic thrall to the Grifter-in-Chief. He’ll be acquitted by the Senate and when he is, Trump will crow that he’s been exonerated by the gods. And he’ll move more rapidly and completely to turn this nation into the United States of Trump, or at the very least the United States of Uber-Rich Guys and Corporate Overlords. Nothing good’s going to come of this process.

I’m shooting the moon on the November election and more than ever I see old Joe Biden emerging as the Democratic candidate, a proposition that doesn’t exactly give me a frisson but, hell, I’ll be more than happy to cast a vote for a car wash manager over the incumbent 45th President of this weird land.

As far as the skit being played out in the Senate these days, I have no concern for what the prosecutors allege or for what Trump’s defenders claim. I’ve heard it all already. Strong-arming the Ukraine gov’t to drop the hammer on Biden and his son is perhaps the least of Trump’s sins, a type of muscle-flexing I’d guess dozens of presidents have attempted to one degree or another. The shame is the House couldn’t impeach Trump simply for being an evil son of a bitch.

What the House couldn’t do and the Senate won’t do, we have to do. If we fail in removing this tumor from the White House next fall, we’ll be inviting a metastasis that’ll make the world’s last remaining superpower a nightmarish dystopia that would beg for George Orwell or Aldous Huxley to describe.

In a lot of ways, I’m glad I’m in the last third or even quarter of my life. (Hell, I may be whistling past the graveyard even allowing for those short fractions of my existence remaining.) I don’t like where we’re going and I don’t see a hell of a lot of evidence we’re apt to change course any time soon.

If you’re more optimistic than I am, I envy you.

Hot Air: Talking & Typing

Even as I’ve been sitting here for several weeks (or has it been months?) furrowing my brow and wondering what in the heck I’m going to do with this global communications colossus, my WFHB radio interview program, Big Talk, has aired every week, as dependably as snow in January. Er…, uh…, wait a sec, there hasn’t been any snow in these parts this month. But, y’know what I mean.

Anyway, my first two Big Talks of the 2020 calendar year have drawn a lot of comment. I started the annum off with a re-broadcast of my October 2019 interview with Jen Maher, straight-talking clinical associate professor in the Gender Studies Dept. at Indiana University. Maher gave us the latest scoop on gender, a social, cultural, and academic topic that’s undergoing a sea-change in definition these days. Talking about gender seems to ruffle plenty of people’s feathers right now, seeing as how their preconceived notions are being challenged by a younger generation’s determination to smash as many stereotypes and imposed roles as they can think of. College towns and the more avant ‘hoods of big cities have become home to countless kids who’re donning the raiment and bangles of the opposite sex. These groundbreakers aren’t what we used to refer to as drag queens or kings, dressing up for an everyday Halloween. They’re saying they feel more comfortable and themselves in much of the finery heretofore reserved for the binary other. Suffice it to start the conversation by stating the fact, accepted by more and more people in 2020, that gender does not mean the same thing as sex.

Me? I’m not put off by those who are indeed flaunting the old rules. On the other hand, I doubt if you’ll catch me in a skirt or wearing makeup any time soon. It is important to note, though, that I got my ear pierced (by a delightful Jamaican linguistics PhD student named Yvette using a half a potato, a needle and an ice cube) back in May, 1977. At that time, a man wearing an earring was a sin probably on a par with setting off a bomb in a nursery school. Being 21 y.o., I was more than happy to be seen as such a provocateur. A couple of years later, when my circle and I began hanging out in punk rock nightclubs and gay discos, I took to wearing a touch of eyeliner and occasionally enameling one or more fingernails. Those looks, too, branded me in the eyes of the sexless, soulless office hordes as a person to be kept away from the children, which was fine by me as I had no aspirations to becoming a kindergarten teacher.

I never went any further in cross-dressing even though loads of people my crowd danced with, partied with, and occasionally ate breakfast with sported gold lame pants and feathery boas. Trust me, I never would have looked good in gold lame pants.

The Maher interview, in any case, has caused any number of people to approach me on the street and throw in their two-cents’ worth re: gender. A similar thing has happened in the wake of my second BT of the new decade, the first installment of a two-part chat with university administrator and diversity pioneer Charlie Nelms. Charlie’s one of those people who are not widely recognized yet have played a key role in campus life both here in Bloomington and at the numerous other schools where he’s worked over the last four-plus decades. When he began his working life, it was shockingly hard for a black or brown person to gain a doctorate except at an historic black college or university. He devoted much of his professional life to making that track easier for those whose skin was too dark for the comfort of a certain benighted segment of the American population. After the Nelms interview, Part 1, I again was stopped by passersby inspired to comment on the show. I like that; it makes me think producing and hosting Big Talk means something in this often all-too-meaningless world.

Hell, I could go back to the last Big Talk of 2019 when my guests were Michelle Martin Coleman and Elaine Guinn, the driving forces behind Project Stay, a suicide prevention and support group. Not many want to think about it, but suicide becomes a bigger problem than usual around the holidays. Again, listeners responded positively to that show.

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So, this week’s Big Talk will be Part 2 of my conversation with Charlie Nelms. I didn’t plan it this way but it worked out perfectly. Nelms, Part 2, will air Thursday, January 16, the day after Martin Luther King’s b-day and just two weeks prior to the beginning of Black History Month in February. Tune in at 5:30pm on 91.3 FM or listen to the podcast on the WFHB website.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep on noodling about The Pencil. I have no idea what the future holds for this blog but I’m paying good dough to keep the website alive so I’d better figure out something fast. Soon as I know, you’ll know.

 

 

Hot Air: Break The Silence

Talking About The Unspeakable

There’s a little bitty part of me that feels bad about doing this during the “season of joy” but, upon further reflection, nah, I’m really good with today’s edition of Big Talk. My guests this week-before-Christmas will be Michelle Martin Coleman and Elaine Guinn, the movers and shakers behind Project Stay. The two of them, via Project Stay, hope to provide support and comfort for people contemplating suicide as well as for those who’ve lost loved ones to that most unspoken act.

Martin Coleman (L) & Guinn

Heck, I lead off today’s show with the Q: How in the world do we talk about suicide?

Martin Coleman lost her father to suicide nearly 50 years ago. Guinn tried to take her own life several years ago. In the ensuing years, they’ve dedicated so much of their lives to studying the phenomenon. They know about this thing.

The holiday season is a particularly bad time for people suffering from depression and hopelessness.  If my listeners get anything out of today’s Big Talk, I’d hope it’s that they’ll be much more prone to talk to people who appear to be slipping down that slide. It’s not all that hard to see the signs in people who may be at risk of suicide. They may have experienced severe childhood traumas in their past. They may have lost a parent, a child, a friend. They may have lost a job or gone through a divorce or breakup. They may not be taking pleasure in the little things — eating, socializing, whatever — anymore.

All a concerned person has to do is ask. You’d be surprised how openly and quickly one who’s spiraling downward might communication those most frightening thoughts. As Guinn says, all the concerned person has to do is listen — perhaps even just for a few minutes — and then ask that person to stay. Ergo Project Stay.

In any case, tune in this afternoon at 5:30pm for Big Talk on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

And if you can’t catch the show as it airs, you can listen to the podcast on the WFHB Big Talk page.

Most important, if you’re grappling with the question, Should I end my life?, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1.800.273.8255. And if you’re worried someone near you might be contemplating that final solution, go to Project Stay’s Facebook page. Should the situation warrant it, says Martin Coleman, “you can always take the person to the hospital, or if it is a emergency where the person would be harmful to themselves or others, you can call the police.”

But first, both Martin Coleman and Guinn insist, “just intervene for those crucial moments.” That is, talk. Ask. And stay with that person through the crisis (they do pass). You staying with them just might insure they’ll stay in this world.

Lenny & Hef

The Loved One pointed this out:

Lenny Bruce just might be the single most important comedian of the electronic media era. He’s the guy whose trampling of norms, whose use of “four-letter words,” whose forays into heretofore forbidden subject matters, whose propensity to flip the bird to any and all authority no matter the personal cost to himself, blazed the trail for Richard Pryor and George Carlin and Bill Hicks and Sarah Silverman and all the other jokesters who enjoy whatever level of freedom exists today.

You know, Lenny killed himself, too. Of course, he didn’t know he was doing it at the time. Or maybe he did.

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