Bits & Pieces: Venal, Venial, and End Of The World Stuff

Back when I was an editor and reporter for Newcity, one of Chicago’s alternative weekly newspapers, we ran a regular feature called “Stray Bullets.” Our graphic designer drew up a logo for it: a loaded revolver pointed straight at the reader.

I can’t find the image online and my old copies of the paper are packed away in the shed under mountains of other Big Mike Life Stuff so I can’t reproduce it here. But you get the idea.

Stray Bullets was a compendium of the dopey, too often immoral, quite often illegal things the aldermen, the department heads, and even the mayor of the city of Chicago did the previous seven days. If you know Chicago, you know we could have run the feature every day of the week and had enough material to fill it and then some.

Thing is: we’d never be able to get away with either the feature’s title or the image today. Back then, people understood hyperbole and visual exaggeration. Now, no.

I’m not saying we ought to go back to those good old days. There was nothing more “good’ about them in relation to today.


The deep thinkers who run this city, Bloomington, Indiana, while nowhere near as venal or venial as those in my beloved hometown, can keep up with the Windy City in a race for first place in the overall dopiness category. An example: the Bloomington Police Department for years has been woefully understaffed. The city has thrown a few incentives out there to attract candidates from all over the state. But, it seems, any number of BPD rookies take their training and flee to other cities, where they’ll get paid better.

Not only that, the other day I spoke with someone who has intimate knowledge of the state of Bloomington’s fire department. This person told me the BFD is down a good two dozen firefighters. Some of our firefighters are working 72-hour shifts to cover for the gaps in staffing. That can’t be good.

Neither our cops nor our firefighters are getting paid enough. This town sorely needs to invest in both departments.

Yet, City Hall is gung ho on throwing many millions of dollars at pazzo traffic schemes. Schemes dreamed up, mostly, by highly-paid consultants who live on some peak in the Himalayas and muse on how cities should redesign themselves to make this an Earthly heaven. Among the brilliant plans we’ve seen so far are the already completed bicycle pathway on 7th Street and a proposed transformation of the Walnut/College corridor from adjacent one-way avenues to a couple of two-way drives. Add to them the Hawthorne-Weatherstone Greenway plan.

One might think this town is a snarled mass of cars gridlocked for blocks around downtown, with outlying arteries scenes of massive slaughter of pedestrians and bicyclists.

Maybe that’s the way they see things up atop K-2.

K-2, also known as Chogori in the Kashmir Himalayas.

Now, it’s folly to suggest stopping spending in one area will automatically mean the money’ll go straight into other, more deserving areas. Just that our priorities, as my Grandma Anna would have said, is pazzo.

Anyway, so long as the predicted rain and thundershowers’ll probably keep you inside, you might as well log in to a Zoom meeting scheduled for Sunday, August 6, at 3:00pm, where concerned neighbors will discuss Hawthorne-Greenway.

From what I hear, nobody’s happy about the idea.


Can you imagine any more dichotomous movie theater pairing than “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer”? One is about humankind’s relentless drive to unlock the elemental forces of the universe that may yet destroy life on Earth and the other is about the guy who led the effort to develop the atomic bomb.

The Loved One and I motored up to Greenwood last weekend to catch “Oppenheimer,” where, natch, it was paired with Greta Gerwig’s opus. I hadn’t yet fully grasped all the Barbie-related social phenomena her movie has inspired. So I was shocked to see grown women dressed in spiky heels, brilliant pink gowns, and glittered faces at the theater. It was crazy, I tell you.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not slamming those women here. What they’re doing is no weirder than people of both genders spending hundreds of dollars on licensed caps, jerseys, and jackets to go to their home team’s games.

One more thing: I just discovered there are pop-up Malibu Barbie Cafes in NYC.


I reiterate: even if he’s found guilty of all crimes and misdemeanors, the 45th President of the United States will not spend a nano-second in jail. Again, he and whatever lawyers he hires (and likely stiffs) will appeal and the case will wind its way through the federal appellate court and then the Supreme Court. That’ll take years and years and years.

He’ll be dead by the time that’s all adjudicated. If I were a god-ist believing in some kind of afterlife, I’d be happy enough to know he’ll spend eternity roasting along with his forebears Roy Cohn, Lee Atwater, Andrew Breitbart, Roger Ailes and all the others who created the environment that enabled him to become Leader of the Free World.

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