Hot Air: …They Are A’Changin’

I fell victim to a kind of midwinter malaise the last couple of days. It wasn’t really flu although there were symptoms of that. It wasn’t a bad cold, yet it was as close as could be. I had the old reliable headache/nausea thing I used to complain of to my mother when I wanted to ditch a school day. Ma used to work at Frank’s dimestore over on North Avenue, just west of Oak Park Avenue so she’d have to trundle off to work and I’d have the whole day to myself to draw pictures, watch the Three Stooges and, when I had hit puberty, sneak peeks at my brother Joey’s Playboys, a fine collection of which he’d not hidden well enough from me.

Anyway, I wasn’t crying wolf yesterday — and heaven knows where Joey’s old Playboys are now. Besides, I can’t think of anything more boring than Playboy magazine at this advanced age although, truth be told, I actually did read the articles back in those feverish days of my early adolescence. Problem is, there’s nobody around today like Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro, Madalyn Murray, Timothy Leary, Helen Gurley Brown, or any of the hundreds of subjects of the fabled Playboy interview. So, stuck in that netherworld between sick delirium and hazy wakefulness, I surfed YouTube on and off.

Lo and behold, I found the entire hour-plus video of the first JFK assassination bulletins on CBS TV. Dang mang, TV was so quaint in those days. The initial network interruption came in the tenth minute of the November 22, 1963 episode of As the World Turns. The soap itself was a prime example of vintage TV production values. Hell, it opens with a simple title card with soap-y organ music behind it. And, as for the show, your nine-year-old niece or nephew can put out a better looking shot, more subtly lighted with higher quality audio, these days.

And then the screen turns black for a few endless moments and a simple black CBS Bulletin card pops up, as if some unseen hand has dropped a piece of cardboard in front of the camera. You can actually hear papers being shuffled somewhere. The card remains onscreen as Walter Cronkite announces, “In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade…. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded….” He concludes the minute-long bulletin with, “Stay tuned to CBS News for further details.” And then — swear to god! — the network cuts to a freaking Nescafé commercial. Even more amazing, after the ad, CBS cuts back to As the World Turns.

Think about that for a minute: The President of the United States has been shot — maybe to death; no one knew for sure at that early juncture — and the “Tiffany Network,” so-called because it was the cream of the TV nets and was, for all intents and purposes, television’s network of record, gives the viewing public all of 59 seconds’-worth of coverage.

CBS News cut into ATWT another time moments later, cut back to the soap again, and then ran uninterrupted coverage, but only nearly eight minutes after its original bulletin.

Imagine the same thing happening today. For pity’s sake, Anderson Cooper would leap bodily from your screen and shake you by the shoulders, nearly shouting, “Holy Jesus Christ in heaven, a loud noise has reportedly been heard near the president! We’re now going to interview every single, solitary citizen of the United States — as well as a select few Russians, Chinese, and Brits — for their reactions to this monumental event! Don’t move! Don’t eat! Don’t even pass gas! The world has changed forever!”

And so on.

The coverage would continue nonstop for weeks. The NFL might even delay the Super Bowl for a few moments.

Wow. Well, you know what Bob Dylan sang about the times….

Man Of Lamantia

My guest on Big Talk Thursday was collaborative/community artist Joe Lamantia. He and his wife, Merridee, herself an artist, are key members of this town’s creative royalty.

Joe, who was born and raised on Chicago’s southwest side, and Merridee met in Boston and moved to Bloomington years ago because they’d had their fill of big city living. Joe actually designed the big brain sculptures that were part of Jill Bolte Taylor‘s Brain Extravaganza exhibit of a few years back. Some of those brains, measuring 5’x5’x4′, are still on display here and there around town. Joe’s “Flying V” guitar, more than 30′ tall, adorns the south wall of the 7th St. Garage.

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Go here for the podcast of the Lamantia interview and tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM, for Monday’s 5pm Daily Local News feature for further chat with the artist on Big Talk Extra.

Hot Air: Dozing & Nosing


The Trumps’ little theatrical prop kid whom they invited to the State of the Union address for the sole reason he shares their surname and has been “bullied” at school for it fell asleep during the Dear Leader’s blathering last night.

Several reactions:

  1. Of course their trophy invitee shared their name — everything they think and care about has to do with, well…, them.
  2. Guaranteed, as soon as President Gag saw the footage of the kid sawing wood he blurted out something like, “That little bastard!”
  3. Now the kid can go back to school and get bullied by both Democrats and Republicans.

Remember, when there’s a problem, only Trump can fix it.

A Professional Digger

Mike Leonard has been plying the journalism trade since the late 1970s. He spent a month shy of 35 years at the Herald-Times (it was called the Herald-Telephone when he first started working there). He went on to edit and write for Bloom mag for a couple of years and has been teaching various journalism classes at Indiana University since 1987.

His is a dying breed. He was the HT‘s general columnist for a couple of decades. When he started that gig, following in the footsteps of Greg Dawson, newspaper columnists were the rock stars of their field. Titans like Jimmy Breslin and Mike Royko were at the top of their game back then, known far and wide and read in hundreds of papers each via syndication deals.

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A general columnist’s job was to pick out anything happening in the world, anything that struck her/his fancy, and riff on it. It was the plum job in any newsroom. Now, with nine tenths of the population of the planet either blogging or pontificating on social media, the newspaper general columnist has become something quaint, something as immediate and contemporary today as an etiquette columnist.

Everybody’s got an opinion and everybody needs to share it. It might seem like a fine thing that the internet gives everybody an opportunity to be heard. It ain’t.

See, the vast majority of people can’t spell, can’t put together cogent sentences (much less whole paragraphs or essay-length arguments), and can’t tell the diff. between facts and phonus balonus. When Breslin or Royko or Leonard made a point in print, whether you agreed with it or not, you knew it was well-reasoned and based on verifiable sources. There were standards, even for opinionating. On rare occasions, even straight news reporters and anchors would proffer a tentative opinion, such as the time Walter Cronkite, America’s paterfamilias, told us Vietnam was a bust:

When Lyndon Johnson, up for reelection that year, saw that broadcast back in February, 1968 he knew his chances were nil. Cronkite wasn’t some blowhard like Sean Hannity or even some quasi-stand-up comic like Bill Maher. He was a reporter, a journalist, someone who could be counted on to get the facts and interpret them for us.

Leonard was our town’s Cronkite, our Royko. He joins me on this week’s edition of Big Talk, tomorrow, Thursday, February 7, 5:30pm, on WFHB, 91.3FM.


Hot Air: Getting You Hooked On Getting Off

So some beer advertiser is going to run a spot during Sunday’s Super Bowl featuring ASMR.

Know what that is? Autonomous sensory meridian response. It’s a sound that causes a frisson, even a sort of aural climax. Some researchers are calling it a “brain orgasm.”  Sez (the website of the National Sleep Foundation):

[I]t is still a relatively new creation. It describes a feeling of euphoric tingling and relaxation that can come over someone when he or she watches certain videos or hears certain sounds. What kind of visual or audio clips can create such a lovely feeling? It might surprise you, but the videos are of people doing incredibly simple, quiet, calming tasks, such as folding towels, brushing their hair, or flipping magazine pages. You might hear someone’s voice speaking in the background of the video, but not always. The audio clips often consist of voices whispering nice things (like “You are appreciated”), or contain the sound of tapping, scratching, or rain.

Kiddies, this is right out of Brave New World.

Funny thing is, I know just what this is all about — or at least something reasonably close to it. For instance, when I’m in a public place, a store, say, and someone nearby is humming, usually at the very edge of my hearing perception, my insides turn into mush. I feel as though I’ve been dipped in warm chocolate pudding. It’s almost embarrassing, for chrissakes!

Same thing when I use my big Hitachi Wand-like vibrator on my jaws near my ear holes. Yep. I dunno if it’s the sound or the actual mechanical vibration of all the structures in my coconut, but I turn to jelly. I want to OD on the experience.

So if advertisers can figure out a way to tickle your insides using AMSR, golly gee, it’s all over for us. I mean, we’re slaves to consumerism already. We’ll be zombies by this time next Super Bowl Sunday.


Hot Air: We’ve Got The Scoop

Jimmy Knew

From the late, legendary newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin:

Trump… senses better than anyone the insecurity of people, that nobody knows whether anything is good or bad until they are told, and he is quite willing to tell them immediately.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Breslin wrote this in the year 1988, long before the idea of Donald Trump as president of these United States was anything more than an hallucinogenic nightmare. Breslin detested Trump from the very first moment the two met in 1982, after which Breslin wrote, “His civic responsibility in the past consisted of getting tax abatements.”

I happen to be reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan right now. Taleb argues that much of human history is punctuated by outlier events, unpredictable and often inconceivable prior to their occurrence. Taleb wrote the book in 2007 so he didn’t know what was to occur in the 2016 election.

Anyway, here’s a game I like to play while I’m washing dishes or standing under a hot shower. Who, living or dead, would be as ludicrous to imagine becoming The Leader of the Free World as Trump once was.

My latest list (feel free to toss in your own ideas):

  • Tom Brady
  • Bill Belichick
  • Susan Boyle
  • L’il Bub
  • Ellen Degeneres
  • H. Ross Perot
  • Martin Shkreli
  • That smirking Covington High School kid
  • Yoko Ono
  • Kanye West
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • The Sneezing Panda Baby
  • The Gangnam Style guy
  • Vladimir Putin
  • Stormy Daniels
  • Monica Lewinski
  • James Comey
  • Robert Mueller
  • Jimmy Breslin (he’s dead)

What Do They Know?

Speaking of journalism, if you’re interested in the direction in which this particular pillar of a free society is heading, you might tune in to today’s Noon Edition on WFIU. Host Bob Zaltsberg, the outgoing editor of this town’s Herald-Times will host Stephen Key, exec. dir. and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Assoc.; Elaine Monaghan, professor of practice at Indiana University’s Media School; and Jon Schwantes, who describes himself on LinkedIn as an “Experienced media executive, policy analyst and strategic communicator exploiting multiple platforms to effect change.”

Bernstein (L) & Woodward

Or, you could save yourself an hour and perhaps do something more personally rewarding by skipping the broadcast altogether since, for pity’s sake, none of Zaltsberg’s three guests is a reporter or anything like that.

I mean what would actual, working journalists know about the future of journalism?

The again, I figure all our local newspaper journalists are too busy polishing up their resumes or feeling out the managers of their local convenience stores for job openings, considering they’re all worried about being laid off by the H-T‘s new bosses. And that alone should tell you all you need to know about the direction journalism is heading.

The Big Link

Here’s the link to the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk featuring Janae Cummings, board chair of Bloomington Pride. And, BTW, don’t forget the 2019 Bloomington Pride Film Festival main slate of short and full-length movies begins this evening at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.



Hot Air: Cabin Fever

Play Ball!

With the temperature rising to a balmy 20ºF today, we can start preparing for spring. Don’t laugh — the NOAA forecasts a high of 58 Sunday. Time for me to dig out that old Mizuno third baseman’s mitt.

A Tremendous Observation

Ken Tremendous*, pension fund monitor for Fremulon Insurance in Partridge, Kansas, is one of the brightest, most creative, funniest guys I’ve ever read on the internets. He is a baseball savant as well as an outspoken liberal/Lefty/progressive/whatever-the-fk-you-want-to-call-people-like-me.

With President Gag reacting to the apocalyptic deep freeze that’s strangled much of this holy land the last few days the way you’d figure some drunk, unread, bile-driven, wife-beater down at the lonely end of the bar would, I feel it’s a perfect time to dredge up one of Ken’s most trenchant tweets from some time last year. Here goes:

He’s not a genius. He’s not ‘crazy like a fox.’ He’s not a master strategist. He’s a 71 year-old below-average-intelligent, spoiled, trust fund-supported, born-on-3rd-thought-he-hit-a-triple, sexually harassing asshole in mental decline. Stop looking for what isn’t there.

Still, though, some 39.5 percent of this great nation’s populace actually approves of the job he’s doing.

538’s real time presidential approval monitor at 9:45am today.

Which, I suppose, makes perfect sense if what you want from a president is the dismantling of federal social services; the elimination of corporate regulations; the smashing of consumer protections, civil rights, and voting rights; scarcely literate direct messaging to his base via Twitter; a proud disdain for science and expertise; and pure, unadulterated greed at the expense of the public good. In that case, he’s our greatest president ever.

Of course, I’d rather have as my president Steve the Dog, who just got finished pissing on the kitchen floor because he has a bladder infection. At least Steve doesn’t disbelieve in the established fact that the planet is undergoing a radical climate change.

[ * A nom de plume — if you don’t know his real identity, go here. ]

Pride Cometh

The sixteenth annual Bloomington Pride Film Festival kicked off this past Monday with a documentary on the life of Montgomery Clift at the IU Cinema. The big slate of more than 100 films, both short and full-length, begins tomorrow, Friday, 7:00pm at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. It continues through Saturday and, in the words of Pride board chair Janae Cummings, is “the best we’ve ever had.”


Speaking of Cummings, she’s my guest today on Big Talk. The daughter of a couple of cops (her father went on to become a prosecutor in Anderson, Indiana), Cummings attended the Air Force Academy and then dabbled in law school before settling in as a professional writer. A gig, BTW, her daddy-o warned her against in the strongest of possible terms.

But Cummings makes a living as a writer/editor/marketer/PR specialist for the Hamilton Lugar School of Global & International Studies. That is, when she isn’t helping steer Bloomington Pride. Tune in this afternoon at 5:30 immediately following the Daily Local News on WFHB, 91.3 FM. The podcast will post at 6:00pm sharp.

Hot Air: Luck

Charlotte Zietlow’s back in town after her sad duty to attend her beloved grandson Henry’s memorial in St. Paul, Minnesota Sunday. Henry was killed in a head-on collision near Hayward, Wisconsin, last week.

Click Image For KARE-11 St. Paul TV News Report.

Charlotte adored Henry. I meet with her just about every Friday afternoon so we can work on her memoir. I scarcely exaggerate when I say she shared news about Henry every time we’d meet. He was a brilliant student, an accomplished violinist, a rower, and perhaps the nicest kid you’d ever want to meet. He was a freshman at Bowdoin College in Maine, his father Nathan Zietlow’s alma mater. Nathan had gone on to Harvard Law School and would become a highly successful corporate attorney. His mother Sarah Risser had studied forestry at Yale and attended several other top-notch colleges for her graduate work. No one had any doubt that Henry — no matter what field he’d choose to enter — would be equally as successful as his parents.

Charlotte’s kids, Nathan and her daughter Rebecca Zietlow, both were super-duper achievers. Each was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar; each earned college scholarships galore. Rebecca, who also attended Harvard Law, has become one of the country’s foremost experts on the 13th Amendment. She works now as a law professor at the University of Toledo and is a visiting professor at the University of Vermont law school. Both Nathan’s and Rebecca’s kids are following a similar path of success, earning scholarships and awards, creating art, playing music, and making their little corners of the world better.

I said to Charlotte one day, “You know, you’re awfully lucky. You were happily married to a talented, loving, decent man (Paul Zietlow was a respected literature professor at Indiana University from 1964 through his retirement). Your kids are great. Your grandkids are great. Do you ever sit back and realize how fortunate you’ve been?”

Charlotte immediately countered: “Well, Paul and I were raised right. And we raised our children right.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, “but I know a lot of parents who raised their kids right but some of those kids turned out to have profound problems or be jerks or even suffer terrible diseases.”

“Maybe,” Charlotte said, grudgingly. She’s a great believer in hard work and paving your own road. But sometimes irony can be ugly; sometimes a car can come down that road, traveling in the opposite direction….

She was lucky. She is lucky, if less so now.


With this holy land celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday this week (and with some pretending to mark the occasion, even if they have no business doing so) and with Black History Month beginning a week from tomorrow, I thought it’d be a neat gesture to bring out my interview with local cartoonist Nate Powell for this week’s Big Talk.

Powell, a bestselling creator of graphic novels like Any Empire and The Silence of Our Friends, co-authored with Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Andrew Aydin the March trilogy. March tells the story of Lewis’s life as a civil rights warrior. Lewis suffered a fractured skull on Bloody Sunday, March 5, 1965, when state troopers and local posse members attacked hundreds of freedom marchers outside the town of Selma, Alabama.

I’ve celebrated King Day for years, annually watching the documentary “King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis.” I’ll watch it again this year — probably Saturday night — but it’s starting to seem…, well, unseemly for a white guy like me to claim the day.

Aw, to hell with it. I’m all in on King Day. And, like every year, I’ll cry when Nina Simone begins to sing “The King of Love Is Dead.”

You can celebrate, too, by tuning in to Big Talk this afternoon at 5:30 on WFHB, 91.3 FM. I’ll post the link to the podcast of the show either tonight or tomorrow morning, depending on my laziness quotient.


It was in late summer or early fall, 1983, when I struck out on my own and started working on what would turn out to be my first feature article for pay. It would be for the Chicago Reader, an alternative newsweekly I’d go on to write for until the early years of the new millennium.

One of my circles of friends had become hooked on what was then the relatively unknown phenomenon called professional wrestling. We were hip to the heroes and villains like the Iron Sheik, Hulk Hogan, Bobby “the Brain” Heenan, Sgt. Slaughter, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, and Big John Studd. We watched matches on UHF TV stations (the more established VHF channels turned their noses up at the spectacle).

So, I heard about a big event to be held one Saturday evening at the then-Rosemont Horizon, a second-tier indoor arena that sat, at best, some 14,000. It would be called the Battle Royal, the idea being there’d be some half-dozen undercard matches pitting individuals and one or two duos against each other. And then, in an orgasmic finale, a couple of dozen wrestlers would crowd into the ring and begin slamming, pile-driving, leaping, forearm shivering, and otherwise mayhemming their way toward being The Last Man Standing.

The night’s card was put together by Verne Gagne and Wally Karbo’s American Wrestling Association. The old-schoolers Gagne and Karbo pre-dated technology like pay-per-view and, to be sure, the internet. The pro wrestling racket made its dough almost strictly through ticket sales. The industry was run on a shoestring. The wrestlers were paid peanuts. All too often, wrestlers who sprained an ankle or broke a bone had to pay their medical expenses out of their own pockets. In fact, when wrestlers were injured, their bosses basically told them it was their fault, that somehow they’d missed a step or forgotten to protect themselves in the intricate choreography that made up the matches.

I wanted to learn about the people who paid good money to see these staged encounters. I’d sensed that the lot of them believed what they were watching on TV was real, dangerous, blood-drawing violence. Guys’d shatter boom boxes over each others’ heads. They’d smash each others faces with folding chairs. One guy was known to brandish a horsewhip. Another, brass knuckles. Somehow, none of the wrestlers seemed ever to miss the next match, even after they’d been pummeled and assaulted with deadly weapons. Like no one else before in my town, I’d get the real story from the mouths of the folks who bought these shows hook, line and sinker. I called for my first press pass, went out and bought a couple of fresh reporter’s notebooks, and slipped my shiny new microcassette recorder into my trench coat pocket. I was off to be a paid journalist.

I walked into the arena and gasped. It was filled to the rafters with baying, howling, shrieking wrestling fans. The attendance later would be announced at better than 15,000, a good thou more than capacity. I’d have bet the real number was closer to 20,000. There was no place to walk as every available inch of aisle space, hallway space, and even in the tunnels leading into the seating areas was taken up by spectators. I elbowed and bulled my way through the crowd, interviewing fans, getting beer spilled on me, and having a whale of a time.

I asked one guy if he believed what he was seeing on the mat was real. Of course it was, he nearly shouted. He turned out to be a touch more sophisticated than the average fan at the Horizon that night. He explained to me that when the suit-and-tie crowd went to go see a Shakespeare play, “Julius Caesar,” say, they might recoil in horror when the gang surrounds the emperor and stabs him to death. It’s the same thing here, he said.

I didn’t have the heart to counter-argue that when the suit-and-tie crowd went home, they didn’t hold malice in their hearts toward the poor slob who’d played Brutus.

After the event, I hustled over to the nearby Air Host Motel, the cheapest of dives, on Mannheim Road, just south of O’Hare Int’l Airport. I’d gotten a tip that the wrestlers normally stayed at the place and that they’d likely gather in the motel lounge for hours into the night after the show. Sure enough, all the big names were there. Ric Flair. Jesse “the Body” Ventura (the future conspiracy theorist and governor of Minnesota). Nikolai Volkov (the despised Russian villain). Hillbilly Jim. Rick Martel. Ravishing Rick Rude. Mr. Fuji. Baron von Raschke, and more. The latter two wrestlers, BTW, were old birds, representing the aging World War II crowd’s enemies, Japan and Germany.

Standing in a corner, nursing a highball, was longtime ring announcer Gene Okerlund. “Mean Gene,” as he was dubbed — ironically, natch — by Jesse Ventura, was still wearing his tuxedo jacket but the ends of his bow tie lay undone on his lapels. I sidled over to Okerlund and chatted with him for a good fifteen minutes. Baron von Raschke passed by, carrying the early edition of the Sunday Chicago Tribune, and bade good night to Okerlund. “I’m tired,” he said in his faux German accent — he was born in Omaha, Nebraska. “I can not keep up wit’ you kids anymore.” Okerlund was a mere two years younger than von Raschke. von Raschke, Okerlund whispered to me after the wrestler had gone, worked as a substitute elementary school teacher when he wasn’t goose-stepping around the ring.

I’m thinking about all this because Gene Okerlund died on January 2nd.

Gene Okerlund at work.

I’m also thinking about this because the folks who made pro wrestling the mega-success it would become almost immediately after that Battle Royal seem to me the same types who cast their lots with Li’l Duce, our current president. They were people desperate to believe in something even in the face of all available evidence. Let’s go back to the Shakespeare reference. Play-goers engage in what’s known as “suspension of disbelief.” We can convince ourselves to believe the actor on the stage is trying to kill the other actor on the stage with a dagger — but just for the moment the action occurs. Wrestling fans — and Trump supporters — don’t suspend their disbelief, they wallow in a form of pure, unadulterated, childlike belief.

It’s no coincidence at all that Trump himself got involved with wrestling, in 2007, long after the American Wrestling Association was eclipsed by Vince McMahon’s gaudy and aggressively-marketed World Wrestling Entertainment syndicate.

I was in shock that first moment I walked into the Horizon, gaping at the thousands and thousands of folks who’d waited all week long for the show and had filled the place. I had no idea how many of them there were in this holy land.

Just about as shocked as I was watching the presidential race throughout the summer and fall of 2016.

Hot Air: Midwest Gal …

… Woman Of The World

Zaineb Istrabadi calls herself a “midwest gal.” She was born in England, raised in Baghdad, lived a large chunk of her adult life in New York City but, still, she considers our acreage of flyover country home.

Zaineb Istrabadi

She teaches Arabic at Indiana University and has been an active member of our community for nearly 20 years. In keeping with the Big Talk tradition of asking first questions, I posed this one to Zaineb: Who’s an Arab?

Everybody knows what an Arab is, right? Ixnay. The day I had her in the studio, I’d asked at least a dozen friends and acquaintances what — or, more properly, who — an Arab is. None could answer to any degree of certitude.

She’s my guest on this week’s Big Talk and my profile of her runs today in the Limestone Post.

Go here for the Big Talk podcast and here for the magazine piece.

Hot Air: A White Holiday

Today, of course is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, a holiday, BTW, thinned to gruel by several states (Alabama and Mississippi and, to an extent, Florida) that co-celebrate Robert E. Lee’s DOB on this date.

Let’s just ignore that virtually criminal insult for the nonce and concentrate instead on what MLK Day really means in the rest of America. Most white people, I’d guess, in the year 2019 respect and admire the cardboard cut-out that the nation’s most-heralded civil rights warrior has become. It’s safe, natch, for Dubuque moms & pops to embrace him because he’s dead.

How Many Of Us (Whites) See Ourselves.

America’s black population, I’ve gleaned, digs King well enough but sees him, rightly, as one of many, many heroic figures in the fight that, sadly, continues to this day. It’s a fight, in fact, that has flared anew in recent decades, thanks to the prominence of overtly racist media whores like Rush Limbaugh, Joe Arpaio, Megan Kelly, David Duke, Alex Jones, and our very own president of these United States. There’ve always been — and always will be — dark-skin-detesting reprobates crawling around underneath this or that rock but they’ve come out into the air because of the growth of the 24-hour news cycle and social media.

Funny thing is, Hubert Humphrey in 1948 set the tone for the diversity-embracing post WWII Democratic Party with his “bright sunshine” speech at the national Dem convention that year. Here’s the meat graf of his speech:

My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late. To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights. People — human beings — this is the issue of the 20th century. People of all kinds — all sorts of people — and these people are looking to America for leadership, and they’re looking to America for precept and example.

Bright sunshine, Humphrey implied, would cleanse the nation of its racist sepsis. Rather, we’ve learned the emergence of haters into said bright sunshine has not destroyed them, the noxious bacterial slime they are, but has elevated them to a previously unimagined platform.

Looking at the spectrum of race relations herein, the likes of Alex Jones, Stephen Miller, or Li’l Duce occupy a place to the far right, the infrared side as it were, near the extreme edge where, if they drift any further away from the center, they tumble directly into the fires of Hell. Most of us white people like to think we occupy a reasonable center, accepting of all god’s children, no matter if they’re black, white, or purple — although I’ve yet to meet a purple human being in this life.

Truth is, we whites give ourselves more credit than we deserve, especially when we congratulate ourselves for celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s b-day.

The far-too-prevalent sentiment hereabouts runs along these lines: Yeah, sure, we want to be the fair and equitable home to all races, creeds and colors and let’s hold hands while we sing Kumbayah…, but, damn it, why don’t these blacks and browns and Muslims and gays and whatevers quit their complaining and start realizing how great I have it here?

Because, in this Land of Me, only I matter. King, we like to forget, was most assuredly not an I guy.

So, today, a lot of white folks are not celebrating him but some fanciful image of themselves.

Hot Air: A Year Of Big Talk!

Okay, so I’m losing my mind.

I forgot to mention in today’s primary post that today marks a year since Big Talk premiered as a stand-alone, half-hour program on WFHB, 91.3 FM. (To be perfectly accurate, the actual anniversary would be tomorrow as the first long-form BT aired Thursday, January 4th, 2018.)

Big Talk ran sporadically and then regularly as an eight-minute feature on WFHB’s Daily Local News under the aegis of former news director Joe Crawford. The very first Big Talk feature aired January 9th, 2014 with my guest, cartoonist Nate Powell, co-author with Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Andrew Aydin of the graphic novel trilogy, March. After Joe left the station, I worked with his successor, current news chief Wes Martin, to turn this thing into an honest-to-gosh program. Boss Wes shepherded Big Talk through the station’s approval process until we were able to put the first episode out in the universe. He’s helped me refine this thing and has been as supportive as can be.

Adrian Matejka [Image: Michelle Litvin]

My guest for the first stand-alone show a year ago was the then-newly named Indiana poet laureate Adrian Matejka, author of The Big Smoke, finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. To celebrate a first-year’s-worth of weekly shows, I’m re-running the Matejka interview today at 5:30pm.

I hope you’ll join me today or at any time online as every Big Talk is available as a podcast on the ‘FHB website. Here’s the original Matejka interview podcast link. And, as always, I’m eager to hear your suggestions for future Big Talk guests.

Thanks for listening!

Hot Air: The Backbiting Begins

The political assassination of Elizabeth Warren has begun. I read the other day about a “concern” some Democrats have that she’s just Hillary Clinton II.

Dig this graf from a recent article in The Atlantic:

As always happens with front-runners, Warren has become a target. She’s considered less shiny than some of the newer firebrands, who have themselves become the anti-establishment. Operatives working for several other Democratic candidates about to make their own announcements have insisted she’s the Hillary Clinton of 2020—and not in a complimentary way. They describe her as overly cautious and cold, carefully curating her “authentic” moments and struggling to escape a relatively small issue—her claim of American Indian heritage—that’s threatened to overtake her entire candidacy. Her big speech just after Thanksgiving on “a foreign policy that works for all Americans” sounded a whole lot like Clinton’s focus-grouped emphasis on “everyday Americans,” several operatives argue. She even has Bernie Sanders threatening to run to her left.


Other articles and blog posts cite some kind of innate “dislikability” in Warren, similar to H. Clinton’s. The best retort I saw re: that charge went something like, She’s running for president, not prom queen.

Before everybody gets panicky, let’s recall that presidential candidates and their rivals have battered each other in the run-up to their respective nominations since…, well, the time of Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. In that sense, internecine warfare has been built in to the American political DNA. In fact, the practice was played to a perverse perfection in 2016 when candidate Donald Trump called intra-party opponents like Rick Perry and Ben Carson every name in the book. Next thing anybody knew, President Gag was naming them his Cabinet secretaries.

Anyway, should E. Warren end up the Dem nominee for president, I will vote for her. I will do that no matter what faux pas she has committed in the past, no matter what isolated policy position she has ever held in opposition to mine, no matter what slur or insult has ever slipped out of her mouth either inadvertently or on purpose, and no matter any minor financial venial sin she has ever committed.

I say that because no matter whether she runs against Donald Trump or Mike Pence or any other Republican, she will be the better choice considering my personal philosophies and desires. It’s that goddamned simple.

Donald Trump is not only a bad man, he’s a sick man. Mike Pence is an obsessive, woman-fearing god-ist. And the rest of the Republicans are part of a political party that has, since the rise of Barry Goldwater and the dawn of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, appealed to the fears and hatreds of white people. If you disagree with this assessment, the onus is on you to disprove it. And you can’t.

Don’t forget, also, that the Republicans since the time of Saint Ronald have stood in rock-solid opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. I repeat for the 9,623rd time, any party that wants to deny full rights to one half the citizenry will never get my vote even for dog catcher for pity’s sake.

Need another reason why I’ll vote for any Democrat over a Republican for president? Okay. The party espouses “trickle down” economics, the most insulting money philosophy ever conceived of by agents of Satan to fool the populace into thinking they’ll somehow get a fair shake. Just think of it — the aforementioned Holy Reagan conjured an economic policy, the name of which brings to mind fat pigs zealously guarding their pails of slop filled to the brim and squealing that you ought to be happy with the odd drips that may, just may, happen to spill over from time to time. Any voter who feels well-treated with that imagery should be pictured next to the dictionary definition of the word masochist.

I will toss my happy support behind any Democratic candidate who runs in the 2020 presidential election.

Credit The Council

A little late on this one but, nevertheless, warranted. Kudos to the Bloomington city council for nixing the idea of building a brand-spanking new 4th St. parking garage, complete w/ up to 200 more spaces. The council in December voted unanimously to repair the current structure.

The 4th Street Parking Garage.

The repair option will buy a few extra years of life for the garage. It’ll eventually have to be replaced. Built in 1986, it was expected to last 50 years. That should have meant the thing would be in service until the year 2036, by which time we’ll be zipping around the city with our own personal jetpacks (yeah, sure).

The garage, in any case, is falling apart and several million bucks’ll have to be spent to make sure the thing doesn’t collapse. This raises the question of why the garage has become virtually unusable sans major repairs in only 33 years. I realize these things don’t come with lifetime warrantees but I’d be damned sure I wouldn’t use whichever construction company built the garage for any other future projects around town. There’s been talk that no one expected the garage to be used so much by people who, ‘y’know, have wanted to park their cars there since the days of Mayor Tomi Allison. I find that kind of talk spurious. You build something, you’d better expect it to be utilized to its full capacity. If I buy a washing machine, I don’t expect Sears to tell me I should only have done the laundry once a month when it breaks down after couple of years. Then again, Sears is just about going out of business these days so who knows how dependable its washers are.

Bloomington, I trust, is not about to go out of business. And when the time comes for the city to put up another parking garage at, say, $50 mill, it had better last as long as the builder says it will.

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