The Pencil Today:


“I took up writing to escape the drudgery of that everyday cubicle kind of war.” — Walter Mosley



Maybe I was all wrong last week.

Maybe the Chicago teachers really did strike for the benefit of the children and to make the classroom a better place.

At least some of them.

Striking Chicago Teacher At A Rally Saturday

The Windy City was all abuzz yesterday evening after Chicago Teachers Union boss Karen Lewis announced that union reps had not agreed to ratify the contract she and her underbosses hammered out with the city’s big Dons early Friday morning.

Union leadership wanted to settle for a pay increase. Perhaps the rank and file want even more — and I’m not talking dough here.

Lewis et al met with the reps Sunday afternoon at which time it was expected the new deal would be approved. No such luck.

In fact, Lewis announced leadership and the reps would not meet again until Tuesday.

Karen Lewis Breaks The News

Talk radio callers since then have angrily wondered why the reps and leadership couldn’t simply stick it out and hash over the contract until they all agreed to sign it.

The fact that the union is taking a big time out tells me tempers flared Sunday. The rank and file seems to be racing ahead of union leadership now.

It can only mean real teachers want real reforms. Not only that, they’re concerned about the possibility that the city will close some 200 schools. That can’t be good for anybody but the accountants employed by the Chicago Public Schools. Union leaders seem only interested in making a nice money deal.

If I’m right here, I salute the teachers. I’m behind them more than ever now.


Joy Shayne Laughter points out this very compelling quote from the one and only R. Buckminster Fuller:

This is pure dynamite, folks.

When I was a kid, my Depression-era parents pounded it into me that any job was a good job. Loading TV’s into boxes eight hours a day, five days a week, at the local Zenith factory was admirable. I did that for three days when I was eighteen. I quit in the middle of the third day when I realized the vast majority of my new colleagues had to get sloshed at the local tavern in order to get through the rest of the day.

Fuller says “we keep inventing jobs” in order that everybody is yoked by “drudgery.”

Charlie Chaplin At Work In “Modern Times”


How has our world culture evolved to the point that people are shut away in hellish, tomb-like buildings, under the direction of petit tyrants, to make just enough dough to eat and sleep in a warm bed, and then die moments after retirement?

Is there another way?

Is local, self-sustainable culture a viable alternative?

Would the bosses of industry allow us to make a move in that direction?

Fuller offers no solutions. But merely raising the question is a start.


Sam Cooke was shot to death by a Los Angeles motel manager in 1964 after a long, successful career in pop and R&B music.

Sam Cooke

The motel manager on duty said Cooke, half naked, attacked her so she shot him in self defense after a struggle. Evidence exists that a woman Cook brought to the hotel robbed him of of a huge amount of cash while he was in the bathroom. It’s conceivable he thought the motel manager to be in cahoots with the woman. Additionally, the singer Etta James wrote in her autobiography that she saw Cooke’s body at the AR Leak Funeral Home in Chicago and it was badly beaten and mangled.

Sam Cooke also was one of the earliest big-time performers to become active in the civil rights movement.

All in all, a puzzling and sad end for one of the great American voices.

2 thoughts on “The Pencil Today:

  1. david paglis - the lake county republican says:

    mike: regarding buckminster fuller’s statement. this is the kind of thing that makes me a republican. in order for the one in ten thousand who makes the technological breakthrough to have his or her idea implemented “drudge” work must be done by thousands more. how would we get our tv to our house otherwise? i see he lived to 88. i hope this nonsense was written after he had begun to lose his marbles. about the teachers strike – methinks the chief beef is who controls the schools. i think the inmates want to run the asylum.

  2. re Bucky’s quote – an example: a friend of mine in Seattle was doing a job she loved at a grocery store: Food Demo. Off-site Management decided that Food Demo needed to be done by a busty blonde girl to push the microwavable products, rather than a feisty and talkative mature woman actually cooking veggies. So my friend was shifted to scrubbing floors and counters. Yes, she was. Finally she was moved to stocking, and a young woman with Down Syndrome got the scrubbing gig. The young woman LOVES this job! Absolutely loves it! She’s the happiest employee they’ve got!

    And that is what Bucky is talking about. If there is no love, no fun in what you’re doing, you’re a slave, and that can’t be hidden by a paycheck. “Fun” is a bigger attractor to activities, innovation and high performance than “paycheck.” And a big part of “fun” we are finding out, is “service to the greatest number of people and as much of the planet as possible.” Ie, why should kids be educated that the only destiny for them is a “job”? Why not encourage kids to find out what they LOVE to do, what gets them high on living, thinking, and doing, and guide entrepreneurs & businesses to support, tap into, that juice?

    I worked in too many temp jobs, including low-skilled gigs like the mail room, to disagree with Bucky. Yes, my insight on the first day in the mail room was, This is why everyone here has to go get drunk every single night. Because this kind of work is hell, if you have to do it for more than 2 hours.

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