I was reviewing some audio recordings from many decades back for a piece I’m writing about history’s second Cabaret Voltaire, located, believe it or not, right here in this most cosmopolitan megalopolis, Bloomington. Okay, background. Cabaret Voltaire was the fabled locus of the radicals, artists, and other rascals who conjured up the Dada movement in art and culture, located in Zurich, Switzerland, in the late ‘teens and early ’20s. Icon smashers such as Hans Arp, Hannah Höch, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Hugo Ball (the proprietor) hung at the nightclub, sipping Pernod and Absinthe, and conjuring ways to shock the bejesus out of the world.
An Indiana University student whose family lived in Zurich visited the boîte one summer and came back to the Midwest all agog about it. He leaned on some very influential and historically notable folk here (I’m intentionally keeping you in the dark about certain details; hell, I’ve got a magazine article I want you to read about it) to start a Hoosier version of the continental phenomenon.
Pretty much all those who might have actually seen or been in B-ton’s CV are dead now. Ergo, I’m being aided by the fab folk at IU’s Center for Documentary Research and Practice as well as the U’s Bicentennial Oral History Project in digging up info about the joint. So, I listened to a nearly-50-y-o chat between a couple of professors and a newspaper reporter, reminiscing about the immediate post-WWI campus.
Anyway, here’s the meat of this ramble: all three speakers sounded like hillbillies straight out of an early Andy Griffith Show episode. I’ve heard other recordings of So. Cent. IN peeps from a half century and more ago, with the vast majority of their voices sounding like Briscoe Darling and his clan‘s.
So, what happened? B-tonians don’t talk like hayseeds today. Oh, sure, you’ll hear some nasal twangs here and there but those accents, by and large, are not terribly dramatic. Walk into any local convenience store or Target and eavesdrop on some conversations and you might not know by the sounds of the voices whether you’re in Bloomington, Columbus, Ohio, or Ames, Iowa.
A couple of theories: 1) a retired prof pal of mine sez the U has been marketing itself to out-of-state students for so long that the enrollment pool is nearly negligibly rustic anymore; and 2) TV has homogenized the country to the point where very few geographical enclaves sound distinguishable from any others now (this one’s my choice).
The Power Of Positive Pretension
Limestone Post publisher/editor Ron Eid almost outdid me in the hyperbole dept. in his intro to my new series, Big Mike’s B-town, in his online mag.
Dig what he wrote (in the caption):
Hah! “Media powerhouse.” What’s he doing, trying to get on my good side? (Between you and me, it worked.) Keep in mind hyperbole’s long been a tradition in American words and letters from the time of Mark Twain up through and beyond George Carlin. Not that I should be mentioned in the same paragraph as those two titans — then again, were they ever considered media powerhouses?
So, yeah, keep on eye on the LP from now on (if you haven’t been doing so already, slacker). Big Mike’s B-town will run, at the outset, every three weeks so we can get into a good rhythm and, if all falls into place, we’ll be doing more frequent installments in the fuzzy future.
[Huckster Alert: If you’re a biz owner in So. Cent. IN, you’d do well to advertise in the Limestone Post. And if I were a shameless shill for the mag, I’d tell you to click here.]
The planned street-theater delivery of an angry collective letter to the editor at the Herald Times world HQ on S. Walnut St. at high noon today seems…, well, pointless, no?
The paper ran an epic-length piece on some white-ists from down Paoli way in Sunday’s ed. Accompanying the piece online was a vid featuring the skin-color fetishists extolling the virtues of their misfit-magnet org. The vid has since been removed after many readers hollered it smacked of free advertising for the porcelain-power separatists.
The rage cloud has yet to blow over. A group of local activists wants the HT to balance out its coverage by running expo pieces on a panoply of hateful gangs throughout history. Read the group’s own words:
…the intention… is to collectively deliver a letter, which asks the paper to cover the history of fascism and Nazi [sic], and interview a wide variety of racial and religious groups and professors, thus placing the [white-ist group] in a historical context.
Loyal Pencillistas already know I don’t think the HT needs to balance its coverage since the story — and even the vid itself — in no way constituted slant. And — let’s be honest — the HT, as well as every reputable newspaper, news magazine, and online newsy site in this holy land forever have been running stories about Nazis, neo-Nazis, KKK-ers, and any number of other lunatic jerks.
It ain’t as though Bob Zaltsberg and Co. are unaware that heartland America reeks of racists. Nor are the HT’s readers.
The rage many of us are feeling in the wake of L’il Duce‘s technical election win is understandable and justifiable. The ways it’s being expressed right now too often aren’t. Everything we do at this moment must be geared toward thwarting the demagogic takeover of this holy land by the president-elect as well as electing one or two (or even several hundred) real democrats (small D) to office in 2018 and 2020.
This is war, folks (metaphorical, to be sure, for the nonce). We have to marshall our forces and plot our strategy and tactics accordingly. Let’s not waste time and energy blowing raspberries at the local paper.