Hot Air: Shaq Is Flat

Honestly, I have no idea if former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal was joking or not when he told the world the Earth is flat.

O’Neal was gabbing on his podcast, “The Big Podcast with Shaq,” when the talk turned to current NBA star Kyrie Irving’s pronouncement last month that the globe is…, well, isn’t. It’s a plane.

Listen Up, Pupils

Irving’s geography lesson made a medium-sized splash when he said it and Shaq’s iteration of same is making an even bigger one. I’m trying to figure out which is stupider:

  1. The fact that two grown, college-educated men who are idolized by scads of kids around this holy land are talking — and thinking — like ham actors playing illiterate rejects from some cut-rate renaissance fair, or
  2. The fact that we give a good goddamn what they have to say about anything other than putting a large orange ball through a 10-foot high rim

O’Neal says it’s all a big joke now. When he uttered his flat-earth-ness, though, he sounded serious. I guess. Who knows?

Really, who knows anything these days?

Say It Ain’t So

BTW: The comments underneath Shaq’s podcast are priceless. In fact, a guy with the screen name dwayne insisted — as Shaq did — that book-learning and science are examples of brainwashing. (“There’s three ways to manipulate the mind: What you read, what you see, and what you hear,” O’Neal said.) Another commenter argued with dwayne over Newton’s inverse-square formula in his universal law of gravitation, during which spat dwayne argued that E=MC2 is actually the law governing the gravitational force.

“Stop being taught,” dwayne insisted, “and do your own research! Teaching is synonymous with brainwashing! You’ve been lied to!”

The truth is, the flat-Earth idea has been gaining traction around (oops!) the world the last few years.

So, now, we’ve got scientists raising a hullaballoo and people on all sides throwing the “fake news” canard around. And, dang mang, there are bound to be racial slurs thrown in sooner rather than later. This whole thing has become a controversy — even though it’s no such thing.

Let me ask you something: Do you even like our country any more?

Me? I barely tolerate it at this point.

Jess Fest

My guests on Big Talk this afternoon: Middle Coast Film Festival honchos Jess Levandoski and Jess Reed. Jess L. is one of the co-founders of the now-four-year-old celluloid orgy and Jess R. is the gala’s biz manager.

Jess Reed (L) & Jess Levandoski

Next week — hot-as-a-pistol local novelist Annette Oppenlander, whose latest, Surviving the Fatherland, is a coming-of-age love story set against World War II Germany and its aftermath.

Big Talk is a regular Thursday feature of the WFHB Daily Local News. Tune in to 91.3 for the news at 5pm and here for the podcast anytime. Big Talk’ll blast on at about 5:15pm.

Talk soon.

Hot Air: Growing Pains

Just a reminder: You only have five chances left to scream to high heaven about Mayor John Hamilton’s annexation plan, intended to go into effect in 2020. The mayor proposes adding some 10,000 acres and 15,000 new residents to the city.

Here are the remaining dates for the series of six public meetings scheduled at City Hall:

  • Tonight, 6-8pm
  • Tomorrow, 11am-1pm
  • Thursday, March 23, 11am-1pm
  • Friday, March 24, 6-8pm
  • Saturday, March 25, 11am-1pm

Hamilton sprung the news in an announcement early last month that shocked not only residents of the areas under consideration but Bloomington’s own city council members. The legislative process — the council must approve the plan — as well as the public comment window and remonstrance period conceivably all could run their courses in a mere six months. The mayor clearly employed a shock and awe strategy, hoping to stem any organized resistance to the expansion. He’s eager to get the city’s hands on unincorporated areas along the State Road 37/I-69 corridor, plus the fast growing east side residential areas outside the city limits. The payoff? Business and real estate taxes and the county option income tax revenues.

Treasure Hunter

The council may begin voting on the various annexation ordinances as early as June. The remonstrance period would then follow for the next 90 days.

Lemon Heads

I’m betting you’re gonna dig Thursday’s edition of Big Talk. I hosted a real Jess-Fest in the studio yesterday afternoon as my guests were Jess Lavandoski, co-founder of the Middle Coast Film Festival, and the event’s business manager, Jess Reed. They gabbed w/ me about movies and stage plays (Reed also handles biz affairs for the Bloomington Playwrights Project) and the burgeoning relationship between the film and theater scenes in Bloomington and Glens Falls, New York. Oh, and Levandoski explains how her life so closely resembles that of one of the sitcom world’s most iconic female characters.

Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) of “30 Rock” Fortifies Herself

Tune in Thursday on WFHB, 91.3 FM, for the Daily Local News at 5pm. Big Talk usually comes on around 5:15. Go here for links to previous Big Talks.

Spring Song

First full day of spring, 2017, woo-hoo!

Here’s a tune that I listened to constantly in the spring of 1979. It’s from Patti Smith’s “Wave” album, produced by Todd Rundgren. The song is a love poem dedicated to her future husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith (yeah, she married a guy with the same last name) of the seminal Detroit punk band, MC5. “Sonic” died of heart failure in 1994 at the age of 45 after he and Patti’d had a couple kids. The Smiths got married the year after this track was released.

BTW: Lemme sneak in a rec for Patti Smith’s National Book Award-winning memoir Just Kids in case you haven’t read it yet. Fabulous stuff. Anyway, “Frederick”:

Hot Air: Baby Steps

Happy Spring, tra-la!

Lincoln’s Lifestyle

It was the perfect tonic for these troubling days.

The Loved One and I took a long Sunday road trip down to the far end of the state where we visited the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial just outside of, natch, Lincoln City.

The sky was brilliant blue and perfectly clear. The temps…, um, let’s say tolerable. We walked around the grounds that include some cast replica stones that made up the Lincoln hearth and a working farm that’s a reasonably faithful repro of the L spread. The Lincoln family moved to Indiana after being ousted from their Kentucky homesteads (yeah, two of them) in ownership disputes. They remained in IN for some fourteen years before once again pulling up stakes and moving to Illinois. BTW: The Lincolns were members of a church that opposed alcohol, dancing, and slavery, proving for the umpteen zillionth time that nobody’s perfect.

Down On The Lincoln Farm

Anyway, I imagined myself actually existing in the 1820s in the heavily forested rolling terrain that was the far south of the Hoosier state. Acc’d’g to one of the info signs posted here and there, the area was populated largely by panthers, black bears, wolves, raccoons, white tail deer, woodland buffalo, wild turkeys and passenger pigeons. No mention is made of aboriginal peoples, although I have to guess at least a few native folks hung around the area.

I stood at the doorway to the farm cabin. It was made of heavily-weathered wood boards coated with pitch. I tried to tune out the faint sound of distant traffic speeding by on SR 231, about a mile and a half away. Instead, I concentrated on the chirps of titmice, carolina chickadees, and eastern phoebes, any of whom might have sung their songs in Lincoln’s day. I imagined knocking at the door and, perhaps, hearing the shuffling of shoes on the wooden floorboards inside as the occupants therein glanced at each other in surprise.

Then again, another of the info signs pointed out that the Lincolns, like most midwestern farmers of the time, spent pretty much every waking moment outside, doing stuff, important stuff, actually life-preserving stuff. They went inside, as a rule, only to eat and sleep. So, it’d be rare, if not unheard of, for anyone to have to knock on the door.

What struck me is that we have very little to do these days. The Lincolns, for instance, when they arrived at the new Indiana digs, had to saw down trees, construct a cabin as well as a much larger shelter for their cow, sheep and horses, build a plow and a yoke, sow their seeds, irrigate their crops, harvest them, sell them and eat them, sew up their own gashes, sole their shoes, keep the panthers away from their toddlers — hell, countless tasks and chores the likes of which we still wouldn’t be able to do today even after a six-month crash course in basic survival skills.

I mentioned this to TLO. She responded: “That’s true, but ironically we still don’t have all that much time for leisure.”

In any case, Lincoln, the lad, loved physical labor — apparently, he constantly wielded his axe and was quite proficient at swinging it — and was an insatiable reader. He longed to be educated. He felt, though, his bucolic roots provided little or no impetus or opportunity for book-learning. Still, he found a way to get him some.

All of which stands in stark contrast to the individual who won by technicality the presidential election last November.

Talk, Talk, Talk

Tune in Thursday for this week’s edition of Big Talk. My guest will be Jess Levandoski, one of the founders of the Middle Coast Film Festival. Jess now lives in Chicago but is dropping in on B-town this week so I snagged her for a recording session.

Upcoming Big Talks will feature, as mentioned previously, a couple of research scientists working on, respectively, olive oil and caffeine, two of my favorite substances. And then I’ll welcome Annette Oppenlander, whose latest book, Surviving the Fatherland, another in her series of historical novels, has been generating rave reviews of late.

So lend me your ears Thursdays at 5:00pm on WFHB‘s Daily Local News. My Big Talk features usually air around 5:15 and you can hear them anytime online here. One more thing: The Limestone Post will run a print bio of Annette sometime next month of in May, as part of the online mag’s “Big Mike’s B-town” series. Check out last week’s BM’s B-T on Nancy Hiller here and keep an eye out for an upcoming installment on war correspondent Doug Wissing.

Hey, I’m busy and that’s a good thing. At least it keeps me from stealing hubcaps.

The Doorbell Revolution

I’ve been twisting my imagination into a pretzel trying to figure out what I can do to stop the madness of President Gag and his mob.

Many of us on the sane side of the political spectrum, it has been reported, are suffering a malaise, sometimes even depression, and in a few cases something akin to PTSD in reaction to the ascension of L’il Duce. We feel besieged and — worse — helpless. That’s the most destructive of the effects of the perfect storm that resulted in a narcissistic lout now representing me and mine at home and throughout the world. To feel helpless too often leads only to violence against the self, be it psychological, emotional, or physical.

Here’s our clear choice:

  1. Do nothing and go on to hurt ourselves, up to and including numbing ourselves with substances against all the bizarrely bad news, or
  2. Take positive, constructive action.

Now then, regarding that substance reference  — let me give you an example. My pal Charlotte Zietlow, with whom I’m working on her memoir, remembers life among the common citizenry of Czechoslovakia in the dark days after the Soviet crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968. That year, in response to  a movement toward a more free and open society in the communist satellite, the countries of the Warsaw Pact, at the behest of their bosses in Russia, invaded the Czechoslovakia and violently quashed the reformers. Charlotte reminds us that the Czechoslovak reform movement aspired to something they referred to as “socialism with a human face.” The movement excited and heartened most Czechoslovaks. And then the tanks rolled in. Leaders were arrested. Office-holders were “re-educated.” Street protesters beaten. Spies and rats lurked around every corner. The movement seemed strangled. How did the people react? They turned inward, discouraged and disgruntled. In Charlotte’s recollection (she was there in 1969 and ’70), many, many, many of them — maybe even most of them — concerned themselves only with their little vegetable gardens and their vodka.

The Prague Spring

In other words, all they wanted to do was make sure they ate a decent supper and get bombed.

Well, goddamn it, that’s precisely not what I’m gonna do.

But what can one dope like me do?

First, alter my goals:

  • I cannot change the nation in a day.
  • I will begin with baby steps.

Okay? Here’s the first baby step. I propose we all make a commitment to evangelize our tiniest corner of this holy land. That is, let’s pledge to ring doorbells in 2018, the year of the mid-terms elections. Yep. Let’s press the buzzers of all the homes of our allied neighbors on each of our blocks. Let’s exhort them to get out and vote. We’ve got to put some decent human beings in office, not only for our future, but as a rebuke to the self-centered greed monkeys who’ve hijacked our governments, from the most local all the way to the national.

Let’s call it the Doorbell Revolution.


And here’s the thing. Stay away from those who are in thrall to President Gag. Let ’em be. Why argue? Don’t kid yourself that you can proselytize your L’il Duce-loving neighbors into suddenly realizing that, yes, they want all our brothers and sisters of every hue and creed to get access to quality education, health care, and economic opportunity. They don’t — and they ain’t gonna start just because you dazzle them with logic and your deep heartfelt assurance.

What matters most is to get people on our side of the fence out to vote in ’18 — and again in 2020. Strength in numbers, babies.

Sure, some of your neighbors are going to see you as a pain in the ass. That’s the chance we have to take. This is a day and age that calls for pains in the ass.

Be that pain in the ass!

BTW: That strangled movement in the then-Czechoslovakia? Within 20 years, surviving underground and taking baby steps, the leaders of the reform movement took over that country in the Velvet Revolution, lead by brilliant, heroic figures like Václav Havel. If they can do it, so can we.

It’s A Beautiful Morning

Hot Air: Money For Nothin’

I don’t quite know why I’m bothering but I feel compelled to point this out:

Indiana University will pay Tom Crean $4 million to go away. That’s IU’s penalty [Article VI, clause 6.02, section F] for firing him without cause before his 12-year contract elapsed. Had the University waited until July 1st, they’d only have to pay him $1 million.

So, our sprawling megalopolis’s institution of higher learning thought it better to piss away 3-XL right now rather than wait 2½ months to kick Crean to the curb.

Three million freaking dollars.


And, yeah, I know, y’gotta get on with recruiting and preparing for next year, et cetera, et cetera.

Still. Three million bucks.

Get To Work

Meanwhile, those lazy old fuckers who don’t work (yeah, I know, retired — whatever) and are going all boo-hoo on us because the Republican gov’t is ditching the Affordable Care Act oughtta go out and get jobs so’s they can pay their health insurance premiums. That’s what they oughtta do. Losers.

See? She’s Got A Job — What About You Now?

The Best Of All Possible Worlds

Lucky it’s been so gorgeous the last few days otherwise just living in this bizarre holy land would be depressing the bejesus out of me.

Hot Air: Backstabber

Et tu, Spring?

You know what? I’ve never seen Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Julius Caesar (1953), pictured above. That’s Louis Calhern as Julius Caesar, about to catch a blade in the back from Casca, portrayed by Edmund O’Brien. Mark Antony, Brutus, and Cassius were played, respectively, by Marlon Brando, James Mason, and John Gielgud. Wow! And, as an added bonus, Alan Napier played Cicero. If you’re of a certain age, you might remember him as Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, in the 1960s Batman TV series.

Mankiewicz was the screenwriter for such gems as All About Eve, The Barefoot Contessa, Guys and Dolls, The Quiet American, and Cleopatra, all of which he also directed.  His older brother was Herman Mankiewicz who, together with Orson Welles, created Citizen Kane. And then, on top of that, Herman’s kid was Frank Mankiewicz, Bobby Kennedy’s press sec’y during the senator’s abbreviated run for president in 1968. It was Frank who broke the news of Bobby’s death to the world the day after the candidate was gunned down.

Sheesh, those Mankiewiczes could rival the Renoirs — Pierre Auguste, the Impressionist painter, his kids, Jean, the movie director, and Pierre, the actor, and Pierre’s kid, Claude, the director — for an all-star Sunday afternoon family dinner table, no?

Tom, We Have Some Bad News….

Hey, with it looking as though Tom Crean’ll be getting in line at the unemployment office within the next, say, fifteen minutes, some Chi-town sports radio opinionators are calling for him to be grabbed right out of that line and installed as the new University of Illinois basketball boss.

The Soon-to-be Former Coach

The reasoning? The Illini haven’t hired a big-name hoops coach in decades and now’s the time to do it in order to make the program relevant again, and Crean’s a top-flight recruiter, something the Champaign gang has been lacking for far too long.

Unseasonable? Unreasonable!

Awright! Enough of this 19ºF business, okay? If I see any more of this I’ll have something to say about it, believe you me.

The Ides Of March

Remember brass-heavy jazz-rock? The tops in that sub-genre were Chicago (originally Chicago Transit Authority until the actual Chicago Transit Authority threatened legal action) and Blood, Sweat and Tears, whom Abbie Hoffman swore to his dying day were CIA agents. Anyway, here’s the IofM’s big hit; it made the Billboard Top 40 chart in the spring of 1970.


Hot Air: Frank Speaking

Thomas Frank, the What’s the Matter with Kansas? dude, will hit town a week from Friday to tell us habitués of the People’s Republic of Bloomington how we screwed up last fall’s election.

And — oh yeah — we screwed it up in about a dozen and a half ways. Well, we and some 65 million others. Then again, that’s how many of us voted against L’il Duce so mebbe we 65M aren’t really culpable. How about the 5 million or so folks who’d voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and then declined to vote for the Democratic candidate in 2016?

Aw, why don’t we just drop the whole blame game and get on with the 2018 mid-term elections? Here’s hoping Frank, a fairly perceptive observer of this holy land’s body politic, gives us some tips and hope for that excruciatingly crucial beauty contest.


Frank‘s visit is being sponsored by Democracy for Monroe County, which itself writhed and pretzeled during last year’s internecine party snit-fest. Drop by the IU School of Educ. auditorium, 201 N. Rose Ave., 6:00pm, Friday, March 24th. (But get to bed early so’s you’ll be fresh for the next day’s Nancy Hiller appearance at the Book Corner.)

Frank’s 2008 book, The Wrecking Crew, astutely presages the “deconstruction” of the fed gov’t being implemented at the behest of demolition experts like Steve Bannon et al in the President Gag administration. He followed that up with Pity the Billionaire, yet another incisive peek into the bizarre minds of the new Right-ists. Then his Listen, Liberal, released last year, indicted…, well, us. That is, the Left, the Dems, the folks who could have saved the planet from the specter of, in the words of Charles Blow, “the vile, dishonest, incurious creature who got elected.”

Extra Virgin Joe

I’ve got a couple of funtime scientists lined up for the next two Big Talks. Pending verifications  — the two brainiacs have busy, ever-changing skeds — they’ll gab about:

  1. My second favorite drug, and
  2. Olive oil

Pour Away, Please

Stayed tuned for more formal announcements. Big Talk is a regular Thursday feature of WFHB‘s Daily Local News. The DLN kicks off at 5:00pm and Big Talk usually comes on around 5:15. And, as a last resort, you can always go here to catch the latest chat-bash.

Olive Oil: A Rough Business

Hot Air: Wonder Women

Nancy’s Day

I can’t wait for Saturday, March 25th. That’s when Nancy Hiller will be at the Book Corner, signing copies of her new book and telling a tale or two from it. Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life is available for purchase right now on Nancy’s website. We’ll have scads of copies at the Book Corner as well.

A Nancy Hiller Kitchen

[Image: Kendall Reeves]

See you there at 3:00pm.

BTW: Nancy was on Big Talk last month, February 9th. And keep an eye out for my profile of her in Limestone Post, in this month’s edition of Big Mike’s B-town.

Back Door Woman

Speaking of Big Talk, man, I coulda taken last week off while Nicci B of the Back Door was in the studio. The co-owner and arts & entertainment director of Bloomington’s premier LGBTQ gathering place bent my ear like a champ. My interview w/ her aired Thursday. Here’s the link to the WFHB feature and here’s the link to the original, pretty-nearly-unedited original interview with her.

Nicci B

[Image: Andrew Grodner/Limestone Post]

Big Talk will indeed be taking this week off but we’ll return next week, Thursday, March 23rd. I’ll let you know who my guest will be just as soon as I nail someone down.


Perhaps the scariest thing about these Days of President Gag is what I’m going to start referring to as the Big Finale. That is, there seems to be an epidemic of thought — suffusing people of seemingly every political and philosophical stripe — that…, well, we’re all about to die.

Here It Comes!

  • Environmentalists warn us that we’re poisoning the Earth to the point that humanity can’t survive.
  • The scared bunnies on the Right tell us that Islamic terrorists are ten minutes away from acquiring a mega-nuke that’ll blow us all to smithereens.
  • Those on the Left howl that L’il Duce himself is ten minutes away from pressing the nuke button, destroying all life on this mad, mad, mad, mad world.
  • Gun nuts think hordes of black-skinned people are amassing right now on the edge of town, preparing for some kind of Great Siege.
  • Nativists believe undocumented brown-skinned people are pouring over the border by the tens of millions.
  • Fans of organics worry that GMOs’ll result in food as dangerous as a cookie made of arsenic.
  • A year and a half ago, celebrity “consumer advocate” Erin Brockovich hollered that drinking Bloomington’s water was equal to having tumors surgically implanted in our various and sundry organs.

I can go on and on, but you get the picture. Take all these disparate folk and add to the mix a certain segment of the pop. that believes we’re hurtling headlong toward a day when some defining battle between civilizations, between”winners” and “losers,” an Apocalyptic War, will rid the planet of evil and you’ve got our species’ current zeitgeist in a nutshell.

More than anything else, this Big Finale thing is terrifying. Too many people — the Right and the Left, the pious and the atheists, rich and poor, nice and not — are beginning to act as if they have nothing left to lose.

The Man Comes Around

Johnny Cash’s homage to the Book of Revelations — specifically the Apocalypse — from the Rick Rubin-produced “American IV.”

%d bloggers like this: