Hot Air: Big Brains, Bigger B-town

How ’bout that punk kid Sean Buehler? The majordomo behind Bloomington’s Science on Tap, he’s now planning to expand his monthly geek bashes into Indy. Target date: August or September. The IUPUI med, dentistry, and nursing schools are up there, as are the depts. of biology, chemistry, IT, earth sciences, math, physics, psychology and neuroscience. So Buehler and Co. will have a huge new pool of brains-on-two-legs from which to draw their clientele.

As I type this, Buehler’s looking for some appropriate brewpubs in the big town 60 miles N of us.

You worry about the dumbing down of America? Don’t. Not so long as there are squirts like Buehler and his fellow females and males sprouting up in the STEM world.

BTW: In case you missed my Big Talk w/ Buehler on Feb. 2, go here or here.

Bigger & Better

A couple of arguments for Mayor John Hamilton’s annexation plan:

  1. If you’re a homeowner, your property is at least twice — and prob. more — valuable than a similar structure and land spread down in, say, Bedford. You’re already benefitting handsomely just by having plopped down in the collar precincts surrounding our town.
  2. The coming development around the under-construction I-69 interchange on the west side will dump scads of dough into city coffers, allowing the mayor and the city council to gussy up services and infrastructure all over town.

Inasmuch as a large swath of the area population lives outside the city limits yet still enjoys everything the town his to offer, Hamilton et al are operating under the moral assumption that we all ought to kick in to the kitty.

As far as I can tell, the primo argument against annexation is the inevitable tax increase. Yeah, it’s true, property taxes’ll go up in annexed areas but the counter question would be Do you feel good about coasting on all Bloomington’s benefits w/o ponying up your share to maintain them?


Saturday’s was the last info session at City Hall for citizens in the sections in question to chat with B-ton officials about the plan. Now the city council will go to work drawing up its ordinances with a possible June target for voting. And keep in mind any annex ordinances will be followed by the state-mandated 90-day remonstrance period, so if you still want to shriek to high heaven you’ll get your chance then.

More Science

Speaking of the Aristotelian/Einsteinian arts, the venerable Science Cafe is meeting again this week, Wednesday, at Bear’s Place. The top organizer of SC, Alex Straiker, is no longer part of the Bloomington scene. He scored a fab deal down at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Straiker studies cannabinoids (in civilian terms, pot) and their effect on the brain and the eyes. He’d been part of Ken Mackie‘s Gill Center lab in Indiana University’s Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences for the last decade.

Straiker now will run his own lab at the UTSW campus just outside of Dallas.

Bloomington’s Science Cafe, though, will carry on. This month’s session deals with the political divide that’s exploded in this holy land over the last couple of decades. Gerald Wright, chair of the IU Poli Sci Dept., has been studying the divide that turned into a chasm and now can be described as an abyss. He’ll lay out his findings beginning at 6:30pm the evening after tomorrow.

Like Science on Tap, the Science Cafe is free and open to the public. You only pay for what you eat and drink (and if you’re a cheapskate you can get away with not ordering anything). Both orgs. attempt to bring the arcana of science to the general public, presenting topics in clear, concise, accessible language. Questions are welcomed from the audience. Both SoT and SC are examples of why it’s so dyn-o-mite living in a college town.

Here, BTW, is SC’s emeritus Straiker giving a talk on the Science of Marijuana way back in early 2013.

Hot Air: Book It, They’ll Smear Him

I started this little series just after President Gag was inaugurated — every once in a while I’m posting info on potential candidates for the 2020 presidential election. Today it’s Cory Booker because he came to this sprawling megalopolis yesterday to flog for Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana).

Booker is Hillary Clinton Lite. He’s way progressive on almost all social issues but he’s a diehard capitalist. He digs hedge fund-ists and venture cap-sters. Plus, he’s in love with charter schools. For this vantage point, he doesn’t see as I do how “exuberant” capitalism is inherently violent and crushing to all but a lucky few. Still, would I vote for him over L’il Duce? You bet! Twenty times over.

If you — like I do — see our global economic system as the driver behind wealth inequality, environmental rape, the wage shortfall for women, persistent racism, and a hundred other cardinal sins, you — unlike me — may loathe each and every apologist for the moneyed class. So, why don’t I turn my nose up at candidates like H. Clinton and Booker? Simple: global capitalism is what we’ve got and it’s so ingrained in our species’ way of doing things today that only grass roots war — I’m talking guns and bombs and blood running in the streets — will displace it. If you’re willing to go that far, knock yourself out. But since I don’t want to see millions of people lose their lives, I can abide with candidates like H. Clinton and C. Booker as long as their hearts are otherwise oriented as mine is.


In other words, I can accept incremental change that may improve the lot of the millions. Will Booker emerge as an honest-to-gosh contender? We’ll see. At the very least they can’t taint him with phony-assed charges of socialism. Then again, knowing how Steve Bannon and his ilk work, they may picture him as the second coming of Fidel Castro.

Cory Booker

  • US Senator, New Jersey, 2013-Now
  • Mayor, Newark, 2006-2013
  • City Council, Newark, 1998-2002
  • Staff att’y, Urban Justice Center (NYC) 1996-7?
  • Program coordinator, Newark Youth Project 1996-7?
  • B: 1969, Washington DC
  • Stanford University BA
  • Queen’s College, Oxford (Rhodes Scholarship), 1994
  • Yale University JD
  • Ran & lost for Newark mayor 2002
  • Early political user of Twitter to communicate w/ electorate
  • Ran Bridge Peer Counseling Center (student crisis hotline) while at Stanford
  • Lived in tent and went on 10-day hunger strike to draw attention to street drug dealing & violence
  • Was smeared in 2002 mayoral campaign as tool of KKK, Taliban, & Jews
  • Plot to assassinate Booker by Bloods gang foiled by the New Jersey Bureau of Investigation
  • As mayor, cracked down on street crime, increased police, expanded summer youth programs
  • Member, Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition
  • Honored by Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 2009

Previous posts in this series:

Stand by for more in the coming months.

Hiller Holler

A smashing turnout yesterday for Nancy Hiller’s appearance at the Book Corner. Click on over to the BC’s new site for pix and gossip.

Hot Air: Road Trip

Just got back, late last night, from a brief swoop in to my beloved hometown.

The weather: Thursday, wintry; Friday, spring verging on summer. The Midwest.

Spent some time circumnavigating The Shrine Thursday afternoon. Did so w/ a full belly after gorging on arancini smothered in red sauce and prosciutto sandwiches at Nottoli‘s Italian deli.


Here’s a snapshot I’d been dreaming of taking since I was 11 years old:

My life is now complete.

Visited w/ family Thursday; my bro Joey and I took the salsiccia con baseball tour. Then headed out to the Fox River valley to visit my lifelong pals, the Wasiks, yesterday.

Friday’s gustatory adventures included a swing down to Chinatown‘s Fieda Bakery (this place is so old-school it doesn’t even have a website) for pork buns and the little moon cakes craved by The Loved One. After that, an attack on Ricobene’s on 26th St. for a week’s supply of pizza slices of just about every stripe the joint offers.


Even while I was away, the sprawling megalopolis of Bloomington, IN, got to swoon to the sounds of my baritone. Thursday, as (almost) always, was Big Talk day on WFHB‘s Daily Local News. My guests were Jess Levandoski and Jess Reed, a couple of the powerhouses who make the Middle Coast Film Festival go.

Catch the podcast of the feature here and the (mostly) unedited original interview here.

Stay tuned next week, Thursday, March 30, at 5:00pm for the Daily Local News and my next Big Talk, this time with novelist Annette Oppenlander.


Hands On Hiller

Whaddya doing this afternoon? Nothing? Something? No matter. Get on over to the Book Corner to meet and get a signed copy of Nancy Hiller’s latest book, Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life.

The details: 3:00pm, 100 N. Walnut St. 812.339.1522. See you there.

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.

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