Author Archives: glabwrites

Hot Air: That’s A Ticket

Y’know what? I’d take a Warren/Sanders ticket any day of the week.

Sure, I’ve been skeptical of the Bernie rock stardom from the start, even though I did vote for him in the 2016 Indiana Democratic primary. I could think of a hundred reasons why a Sanders presidency would turn out to be a disaster — but not a one of them had anything to do with his ideas, his plans, his pledges. (Warren’s appeal for me needs no such caveat or explanation.)

The Republicans did everything in the world to stonewall the Obama presidency, and he was as centrist as a politician could possibly be. He was Dwight Eisenhower v. 2.0. Nevertheless, Obama accomplished a thing or two, closer to a thing than two.

The Republicans would fight Sanders and Warren — and I don’t care which of them is at the top of the ticket — with all the zeal and truckload of tricks they employed against Obama, up to and including portraying the two as commie rats.

So what?

Bring it on. With this holy land slipping into serious decline and our beloved democratic republic transforming itself before our very eyes into a fascist oligarchy, we need to call out our bravest, our strongest, our best and brightest. No, not the type of Ivy League-prepped, wingtip-wearing, Brooks Brothers suit-sporting, football tossing, bureaucratic/corporate ladder-climbers of the JFK presidency, the kind who led us straight into Vietnam. I mean people, perhaps, from less-adored temples of success who had to work their way through school, who know what common people know like how to stretch a package of rice to last a whole week, how to patch a pair of pants, where to find the cheapest gallon of milk, and — because we expect more from our leaders — are familiar with the workings of social services, can identify Ukraine on a map, can count votes on the Senate floor, and know a little something about Hitler, Stalin, the Kingfish, Eugene V. Debs, the fall of the Roman Empire, and Frances Perkins.

Yeah, if by some bizarre twist of fate the Dems winnow the field down to these two old birds, Warren and Sanders, I’ll be thrilled.

There are any number of combinations of Democrats I’d take over the current administration. Truth is, I’d prefer one or the other of Warren/Sanders to remain in the Senate where that person’d continue to raise holy hell from the outside looking in. But if they are the two the Dems settle on, I’m good. Real good.

Can’t Live Without ‘Em

Cool happening tonight at the IU Cinema. The movie, Year of the Woman, is on the sked. The light’s’ll dim at 7:00pm.

YotW stars scads of names from the era of Second Wave Feminism including Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, Germaine Greer, and Shirley MacLaine as well as hangers-on like Warren Beatty and troglodytes like Norman Mailer. Hell, every movie’s gotta have a villain, right? Even Art Buchwald makes an appearance.

Anyway, Wikipedia describes YotW as “the first feminist film ever made,” although no citation is provided. The movie was released in 1973, a year after the anthem, “I Am Woman,” charted. Roe v. Wade, BTW, was decided in ’73 as well, so women’s lib, as the movement was popularly dubbed at the time, was in full flower. Later that same year, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in a tennis match, a necessary cultural landmark for those who weren’t in the habit of reading Simone de Beauvoir or Betty Friedan.

Acc’d’g to Bustle magazine, YotW ran a mere five days, “before vanishing into obscurity.” Now, nearly half a century later, the documentary is making the rounds. A Huffington Post piece on the re-release of the doc during the 2016 presidential campaign, called it “belligerent, hilarious, and it reveals exactly what the Clinton campaign is missing.” The movies covers “one of the most pivotal moments in feminist history.” Read on:

The setting is the Democratic convention in Miami Beach. The time is July 1972. New York Rep. Shirley Chisholm has just completed a groundbreaking campaign for the presidency (“I ran ran because someone had to do it first,” she would later write), and the National Women’s Political Caucus, founded by icons Betty Friedan, Dorothy Height and Gloria Steinem, is trying to leverage women’s power atat a political convention for the first timed. The feminist activists want Democratic candidate George McGovern to make the legalization of abortion a part of his platform. And it all goes terribly wrong. McGovern’s campaign instructs his delegates not to support the abortion plank and allows an anti-abortion activist to speak from the floor. The betrayal feels so deep that Steinem eventually tells Nora Ephron, through tears, “They won’t take us seriously…. I’m just tired of being screwed, and being screwed by my friends.”

It’s an appropriate time watch this thing, mainly because this holy land has proven itself incapable of turning to a woman as our national leader. Oh, sure, there are female senators, congresspeople, mayors, governors, and chief executive officers but overall, when the choice was put to the American public, tens of millions of people eschewed the eminently qualified 2016 woman candidate in favor of a grifting, bankruptcy-declaring reality TV star.

Would we still run likes scared bunnies from a female contender? All I know is the women in the Democratic 2020 field so far are getting a hell of a lot less ink than the male political rock stars of their party.

Hot Air: Godly

The most baffling question of the day is How can so many self-professed Christians embrace Donald Trump? He is, after all, the antithesis of a kind, caring, merciful, loving deity.

All those MAGA-hat wearing Christians have to be mistaken, right?

No. We’re the ones who are mistaken. We’re the ones who don’t get god. They, the Christians who scream wild-eyed at Trump rallies, know the true god of the Bible. And they know Trump is just like him.

Proof? Here:

[ h/t to Chip Berlet ]

Politics

Here’s the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk with Bloomington city council District 2 candidate Daniel Bingham. He’s running in the Democratic primary against incumbent Dorothy Granger and fellow challenger Sue Sgambelluri. The winner will take on Andrew Guenther, running unopposed in the Republican primary, in the November general election.

Next week on Big Talk, Ryan Maloney, who’s challenging incumbent Isabel Piedmont-Smith in District 5.

Time flies, natch: after Maloney I’ll welcome Denise Valkyrie, one of two Democratic challengers facing District 1 incumbent Chris Sturbaum. Valkyrie’ll make for an appropriate bookend; my first guest in the ongoing series featuring council candidates was Kate Rosenbarger, who’s also facing Sturbaum.

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Coming up on Big Talk in May will be Phil Proctor and David Ossman, a couple of old vets from the Firesign Theater, as well as WKRP in CIncinnati star Gary Sandy. The gang of them will be in these parts later next month for a show at the Brown County Playhouse.

Hot Air: Free Bear

Just saw a social media post about a bear that’d been encaged as a cub and made to perform tricks at roadside zoos for years and years.

Back in the early ’90s when I was traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I noticed a caged bear exhibit on the side of the road outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee. He was obese and scruffily unhealthy looking. He sat on the concrete inside his cage like a blob. People could drop quarters into a little machine that’d spray out some dried corn kernels and the bear’d eat each portion. That was the entirety of his life.

All I wanted to do was turn the cage upside down and set the poor guy free. And if he and I were lucky, maybe he’d rough up the people who ran the exhibit or the bastards who’d been taunting him with sticks when my party and I pulled up.

From the moment I became aware of such things, I’ve been disgusted by all the different enterprises that offer so-called animal entertainment. Not that I disliked zoos as a kid or even an adult. I loved to simply stand there and watch elephants and tapirs and wild asses do nothing but live their lives. Then, after I became enlightened about how critters don’t quite thrive in enclosed spaces, I stopped going to zoos.

As an adult, I’d often go to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium on the lakefront. It featured an enormous dolphin tank, the perimeter of which was surrounded by grandstands. People’d pay ten or fifteen dollars a ticket to watch the keepers make the dolphins jump through hoops and perform other stupid tricks. I never bought a ticket to that show.

I’d walk underground where there were broad windows affording wide views into the tank. I’d get to watch the dolphins just swim by. I was fascinated by them. Sometimes I’d even fancy that they were noticing me, too. Now and then, I’d imagine I’d caught one or another dolphin’s eye. I wished I could convey to her/him that s/he, the being, was of interest to me, not the trickery going on above the surface.

Funny thing was, kids’d run up to the windows, gape at the dolphins, and then dash off. I’d want to scream, Don’t you see these magnificent creatures? Look at them, you dumb little shits!

The adults shepherding all those hyper little kids might cast a perfunctory glance in the direction of these gorgeous mammals. These sleek, aerodynamic, supple, muscular paragons of evolutionary mutation were riveting. Somehow, though, the kids and adults were spectacularly unimpressed with them except when they were jumping through hoops.

I suppose I’m the oddball. And, I might add, proud of it.

In any case, this bear I mentioned in the lead graf, was named Fifi and she is white-ish. She was captured some 30 years ago. Some people affiliated with PETA freed her — extralegally, perhaps — and now Fifi lives in the The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado. This happened in 2015. Apparently, Fifi is now healthier and happier than ever. Her fur has grown rich and full and she bounces and flounces around the Sanctuary like a big kid.

One more thing: Fifi? Really? A mighty, impressive being like a bear ought to be named after, say, Eleanor Roosevelt or Rosalind Franklin or any great female, not some French poodle.

Oh, alright, one more thing: I’m not at all infatuated with the PETA people but that doesn’t mean everything they do is objectionable or uncalled for. Rescuing this bear was an act of grace.

Hot Air: Aid & Comfort

My old pal Kenneth Morrison, proprietor of The Whale and ringleader of the Ever-So-Secret Order of the Lamprey, found this revealing, compelling anecdote:

In 1992, Sinead O’Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope on live television, in protest of the rampant child sexual abuse the Catholic Church was actively covering up. In the weeks that followed, Joe Pesci said he wanted to give her “such a smack”, Frank Sinatra said he wanted to “kick her ass”, and millionaire producer Jonathan King said she “needed a spanking”.

She was 26.

Ten days later, she was scheduled to perform at Madison Square Gardens, as part of a celebration of Bob Dylan. As soon as she got to the microphone, the audience began loudly booing her, seemingly in unison. She talked later about how awful the sound was, and how she thought she was going to be sick.

The organizers tasked Kris Kristofferson with removing O’Connor from the stage. He instead went out and put his arm around her and checked in on her and stayed until she’d steadied herself and was ready to perform. Sinead replaced the Bob Dylan song she was supposed to sing with Bob Marley’s ‘War’, changing some of the lyrics to be about child abuse.

As she came off stage, Kristofferson grabbed her in a bear hug and kissed her cheek. In the video — posted below in the comments — you can see that she pulls away at one point and throws up. He just wraps her back in his arms and holds her tight.

About the incident, he says:

“Sinead had just recently on Saturday Night Live torn up a picture of the Pope, in a gesture that I thought was very misunderstood. And she came out and got booed. They told me to go get her off the stage and I said ‘I’m not about to do that’. I went out and I said ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down’. She said ‘I’m not down’ and she sang. It was very courageous. It just seemed wrong to me, booing that little girl out there. But she’s always had courage.”

The recent Gillette ad has started/furthered a lot of conversations about what alternatives to toxic masculinity look like. This is it.

I find this fascinating even if Kristofferson calls a grown woman “that little girl.” Or maybe because he calls her that.

Hot Air: Hipness, Highness, & His Husband

Shades

The Swedish actress Bibi Andersson died yesterday. She was a big favorite of director Ingmar Bergman, appearing in eleven of his films, including Persona and The Seventh Seal. She also worked with American directors Robert Altman and John Huston. Clearly, she had some chops, considering three of the greatest directors of all time were eager to work with her.

Here’s a photo of her from the mid-’60s:

Anybody who wants to discuss Andersson’s career or the deeper meanings of Bergman’s movies is entirely welcome to. All I want to know is why those very basic, clunky, horn-rimmed dark glasses make virtually anybody who wears them look like the coolest person ever to walk the Earth.

This Time, Inhale

This month’s Science Cafe comes to the daytime headquarters of this global communications colossus, Hopscotch, day after tomorrow. Cannabinoid researcher (and personal pal) Alex Straiker will talk about The Science of Cannabis.

The Cafe’s April session will be at the coffeehouse at Dodds and Morton (or, if you will, the B-line Trail) rather than its previous homes. Finch’s/The Roost is no more after 13 years slinging it on Kirkwood near the Sample Gates. As for Mother Bear’s, Science Cafe organizers are interested in drawing a few young’uns this time around; MB’s is a 21-and-over venue.

With medicinal pot becoming a big business and recreational weed becoming legal in more and more states, understanding what’s going on when the plant’s lipids interact with your neurons becomes more essential by the day.

Anyway, Hopscotch is at 235 W. Dodds and the April Science Cafe will begin Wednesday, April 17th, at 7:00pm.

Staying Power?

I like Pete Buttigieg. He’s a straight-talking, straight shooter who did a marvelous job as mayor of South Bend. I met him a couple of years ago at a house party for Democratic women. He spoke eloquently but simply. He embodies those characteristics we like to pretend all Midwesterners have: a sense of justice, fairness, stick-to-it-iveness, a down home grasp of the issues, and so on. All Midwesterners, needless to say, do not embrace these traits. Fewer and fewer do as the years pass — this is something we’re discovering as we learn that President Gag’s core supporters come largely from our flyover country.

Check out this podcast of Big Talk featuring Pete chatting with the Dem Fems.

I do wonder how long Pete-mania will last. He’s a rock star right now, raising scads of dough and eliciting swooning testimonials from all corners of the Democratic universe.

One of the criticisms leveled at him is we don’t know precisely where he stands on certain global issues. Check this March 21st New York magazine article that elaborates on the public’s gaps in knowledge of his overall platform (you’ll have to scroll down to the 11th graf). A March 20th Esquire magazine online interview with Mayor Pete reveals a few of his key ideas. Elle magazine chimes in with a laundry list of important issues and where the candidate stands on them in its March 29th online effort. And, finally, Ebony magazine in its March 25th online posting offers a “Q&A with Mayor Pete Buttigieg about His Plans for Communities of Color.”

In any case, I tend to mistrust too-early splashes in any presidential beauty contest. Like love at first sight, they rarely last. Here’s hoping Buttigieg proves that observation wrong, at least this time.

And, to be honest, the devil is partly behind my wish: If the brown-skinned Barack Obama made Right Wing America hyperventilate, imagine how near asphyxiation they’ll be should we elect ourselves a husband-smooching male president!

Pete & Chasten Outside the Church.

Hot Air: Odin Odium

Myth Madness

The New White Power?

This Holden Matthews knucklehead — the alleged Louisiana arsonist — has been found to be associated with a whole new ilk of white supremacist lunatics. Revering the Germanic god Odin, this growing number of pitiable dopes range from the merely sad and innocuous to the potentially murderous. They embrace the ancient theology because its pantheon is populated by Scandinavian types. In other words, the whitest of the white.

At times like these I’m astonished our benighted species has lasted this long.

Anyway, here are a couple of pieces connecting Matthews to Odinism and here’s a description of the cult from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Checking Out

Kel McBride remains a Bloomington institution even though she skedaddled out of town years ago for love and Louisville. One of the driving forces behind the originally-monikered Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls, this town’s annual Krampus Night fete, and the late, lamented Eroticon, her business for the last few years has been death.

Kel styles herself The Lively Death Lady. Her outfit, Clearly Depart, helps people plan for their own and for loved ones’ final bon voyage. Employing the tag line, “A Death-Changing Experience,” McBride offers practical advice for the ultimate planting — it’s no secret the death industry in America is a huge, too often byzantine, biz — as well as psychological and emotional resourcing. If only it were as easy as The Dude and Walter lugging Donny’s ashes in a Folger’s coffee can to the San Pedro cliffs.

In any case, McBride’s throwing a Thanatic confab later this month. Labled the Before I Die Festival, this year’s second annual iteration “for the living about dying” will be held at various locations around our town from April 16th through the 30th.

Who says death has to be a drag? The festival will feature, among other things, the following events:

  • A Death Café
  • Death Over Dinner (yep, a big dinner for future mourners and die-ers
  • Drink to Your Death (a cocktail party for same)
  • New ideas including green burial mushroom suites
  • An “Obits and Bucket Lists” writing workshop
  • A Rose Hill Cemetery Picnic
  • A fundraising skee-ball tournament

Phew. Interested? Contact Kel McBride at kel.mcbride@clearlydepart.com or phone her at 812.322.3754.

In The Arena

My guest on yesterday’s Big Talk was independent mayoral candidate Nile Arena. Here’s the link to the podcast. Tune in Monday during the 5:00pm Daily Local News for Big Talk Extra, when Arena will discuss his platform issues.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. All Big Talks are archived here.

Hot Air: Charlotte

Great news on the Charlotte Zietlow front!

She’ll be sprung from her Stonecroft digs, where she’s been cooling her heels since her February stroke, Friday. She’ll be heading to her Green Acres homestead with the requisite keepers who’ll help her navigate as necessary.

Charlotte’s a tough old bird, as if I needed to tell you that. You’d have had to read between the lines with the diligence of a CIA code breaker to sense any frustration or discouragement on her part post-stroke, but it was there. Oh yeah, it was there. And nobody ever could accuse her of being a shirker — she’s been toiling mightily to regain her strength and balance and she seems to have done just that, ergo the Stonecroft decision makers giving her a parole.

She’s been keeping up with Bloomington news as well as the national political soap operas throughout her ordeal. Most important, she’s fairly disgusted with what she considers the mob mentality following the March 25th blockbuster Amanda Barge IDS story. I ventured to suggest to her that I felt betrayed by Amanda. Charlotte countered she felt betrayed by public and Democratic Party officials who reacted to the IDS revelations with, as she characterized it, meanness and a lack of civility.

Nobody ever has to guess where Charlotte Zietlow stands on any issue. Nothing — not even a stroke — can alter that aspect of her character.

Hot Air: A Better Day?

It was an unusually warm early spring day, that Thursday, 51 years ago.

When the news hit that Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed, I ‘d already begun gaining awareness of the outside world. I’d just turned 12 precisely a month before. Politics, the nation, the world, Vietnam, civil rights, women’s lib, unrest here and around the globe, Mayor Daley, President Johnson — they all held me rapt. I’d even written an essay for my elementary school newspaper, the Lovett Lantern, earlier that school year, explicating how I, putatively named the next president’s Secretary of State, might strive to solve the world’s problems. Those solutions seemed so logical, so achievable to me, a bright, cocksure pre-teen. Perhaps my favorite preamble line in those days: All we have to do is….

The following likely illustrates the overarching atmosphere in this holy land at the time — upon hearing the news that King was dead, I wasn’t at all surprised. In fact, if there were any wonder at all it would have been in thinking How did he survive this long?

Somehow I knew someone would get to King. Growing up in the neighborhood I did, it was clear there’d been an almost palpable desire on the part of the citizenry that some hero would come along and put the nation’s preeminent freedom fighter out of white America’s misery.

My first instinct was to suspect the FBI had pulled the trigger. The truth is The Man, in the person of J. Edgar Hoover or George Wallace or Strom Thurmond or any of a million other powerful whites needn’t have squeezed that trigger or even held the rifle steady for the shooter. For after some punk-assed loser had fired a round into King’s jaw and neck on that motel balcony in Memphis, all The Men and all The Little Guys in my neighborhood rose as one as if to cheer their team winning the World Series.

There was no need for conspiracy. Out of a then-American population of 200 million, surely there’d be enough lone wolves, “hellhounds” (as aptly described by author Hampton Sides in his history of the assassination), to ensure that King would not trouble white America into the 1970s. Who knows how many moral runts like James Earl Ray trailed King through his final years, his final days? Only one’d be enough to get that clear shot, that killshot. And Ray got it.

Even more disturbing, who knows how many wealthy segregationists — oilmen, football team owners, industrial scions, et cetera — shelled out dough to Ray and countless other wretches, for whom a rich man’s pocket change was a veritable fortune, so as to keep them fed, roomed, gassed up, and pumped up as they followed King around the country, waiting, waiting, waiting for that perfect moment.

The next day, Friday, even more warm and oppressive, my city exploded. My family didn’t live terribly far from the West Side that had begun going up in flames in the morning. The sun was hazed over by the smoke from the fires wafting overhead. The sounds of sirens and helicopters cut through the miasma throughout the day, into the evening, and until a terrifying midnight storm, like the wrath of god, descended upon the city, cooling things down, if temporarily.

We don’t need to have freedom fighters gunned down anymore. We simply gaslight them into irrelevance.

Hot Air: Dragging It Out

[Update: As of 9:00am, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, Amanda’s post apparently has been removed.]

[Update 2: As of 10:12am, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, Amanda’s post had reappeared on Facebook.]

For Pencillistas who are not Facebook geeks or are not FB “friends” of Amanda Barge: She posted this comment on the social medium last night at approximately 10:18pm.

My friends,

One week ago, the Indiana Daily Student printed a narrative with an unprecedented number of personal details and lies about me. I suspended my mayoral campaign for my family’s well-being. I have received two death threats (thank you BPD and Monroe Cty Sheriff) and couldn’t send my kids to school.

So we retreated to reflect. To reflect on the pain our community is feeling. To reflect on how to move forward. To take care of those around us.

Please don’t take my silence as giving up.

Please don’t take my silence as lack of accountability.

Please don’t take my silence as acceptance of what was said or done.

I haven’t even started fighting. Or telling people my experience about the article or the campaign.

I have been silent because I needed to take care of my loved ones and myself. And the seriousness of what has happened breaks my heart for local politics and is cheapened by social media posts. So I just took a break and spent time in real life.

I have a lot to say. You will be hearing from me over the coming days and you’ll be seeing texts, emails and other things to refute the narrative. I’m not on a social media timeline because I want to be careful with my words and make sure you see the absolute truth, not some version of it.

Thanks to the hundreds of people who have reached out. Thanks for believing me and loving our family. Thanks to those who I didn’t even know who have become friends. I hear you and I promise to keep fighting, and serving and to keep being big hearted and compassionate and offering second (and third) chances to everyone.

Peace,

Amanda

The sons of bitches who sent Amanda death threats or otherwise menaced or slandered her ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And after they’re convicted of their infantile offenses, they ought to be shunned by the rest of us.

You know how I feel about Amanda’s actions as revealed by the IDS story. I notice a number of people are trafficking in the rumor that Mayor John Hamilton is somehow behind this story. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that’s true. Let’s assume either Hamilton himself or somebody associated with his campaign put Brandon Drake up to wiring himself and recording Amanda’s words, then persuading Drake to share Amanda’s emails and texts to him with the IDS reporter.

So what? That still does not excuse Barge for her lapses in judgement both as a licensed social worker and an official overseeing a contractor for the county.

Try this exercise: Let’s say it’s revealed that someone from the Hillary Clinton campaign tipped off TMZ that candidate Donald Trump loves to brag about grabbing women’s pussies. TMZ then goes out and catches him bragging thusly on video. Would that in any way cause you to dismiss Trump’s words and actions?

The sooner this mess goes away, the better. And the best way for it to go away is for Barge to resign her seat as Monroe County Commissioner and regroup, both professionally and personally.

 

Hot Air: Decisions, Decisions

Fair & Balanced?

A sitting Bloomington city council member contacted my bosses, Jar Turner and Wes Martin (respectively, the GM and news director), over at WFHB last week. This person asked why s/he hadn’t been invited on Big Talk to chat about her/his campaign. There was a hint of Hey you guys, this isn’t fair in the missive. El jefe Jar forwarded the message to me and I thought about the council member’s plaint for a good long time Friday night. Finally, around midnight, I dashed off a response to this person. I’ll share it here:

Hi, ______:

Thanks for reaching out regarding Big Talk. In early February when I came up with the idea to have as many candidates on the show as possible until the primary, I knew there weren’t enough weeks left to accommodate every single person running for city council. Unfortunately, some people would be left out. So I gave the schedule some thought and eventually realized the number of challengers matched exactly the number of weeks until the primary (that is, until Jim Blickensdorf dropped out), so I decided not to include incumbents. This didn’t trouble me because the sitting city council members get continual media coverage thanks to our own Daily Local News, the Herald-Times, WFIU, and CATS. The voting public has been able to monitor their words, votes, and actions since they took office. The challengers may or may not have gotten brief media mentions when they filed or announced their candidacies. Inviting the challengers on my show gives listeners the opportunity to discover who they are.

Is my decision equitable in a strict, dictionary definition of the word? No. Is it fair? I feel it’s close enough.

Again, thanks, M

There you have it. I’ve alluded to this position at least one time previously in this space. The city council person wasn’t pissy about it, and I appreciate that. So, I’m hoping Susan Sandberg, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Steve Volan, Dave Rollo, Dorothy Granger, Jim Sims, Chris Sturbaum, and Andy Ruff (Allison Chopra is not running for reelection) also catch wind of this. Not that they think about me, tossing and turning in their beds at night, but just in case the thought crosses their minds that I’ve done them wrong.

Extra, Extra!

Speaking of Big Talk, in my series featuring candidates for Bloomington city council running in this year’s Democratic and Republican primaries the format has evolved thusly: the half-hour Big Talk on Thursday concentrates primarily on the candidate’s personal life and history; it’s a how-do-you-do intro to the human behind the campaign poster photo; then, Big Talk Extra, a feature on the following Monday’s Daily Local News, covers the candidate’s platform.

This afternoon’s Big Talk Extra, for instance, features the priorities and pet issues of Sue Sgambelluri, last week’s Big Talk guest and candidate for the Dist. 2 seat on the council, the single most contested race in town this year. She’s going up against incumbent Dorothy Granger and another challenger, Daniel Bingham. The lone Republican to enter any local race this year, Andrew Guenther, is running unopposed, natch, in that party’s primary.

Again, Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Big Talk Extra is the Monday Daily Local News feature each week. The DLN airs Monday through Thursday at 5:00pm

Old School & New

I’ve been a big, big fan of Matt Taibbi ever since I first heard of him. I don’t think he’s infallible nor do I think he’s without sin. Only that he’s dogged, skeptical, curious, unimpressed by stature, uncowed by position, unmoved by high-minded rhetoric, and unswayed by bullshit. That’s all I ask of the journalists I admire. Of which there are about three out of the seven billion or so humans who occupy this planet with me.

On his new online venue, Taibbi talks about his daddy-o, who was a reporter for ABC-TV affiliate WCBV in Massachusetts. He shares this memory in his initial post on the site:

He had a ritual he called the “phone attack.” When he came home at night, he would pour himself a drink, light up a Camel unfiltered, and start going through a giant Rolodex, pulling names out at random. Then he would dial his clunky rotary phone and call people to chat.

As a boy watching, I learned this lesson: sources are relationships that must be managed both when you’re doing a story, and also when you’re not. People need to feel like you’re interested in their lives for their own sake, not just when you need something from them. Also: ask people about whatever they want to talk about, not about one thing in particular.

Beautiful. Me? I recall an old, raspy-voiced, curmudgeonly sports reporter named Bill Gleason who covered baseball and penned a column for the Chicago Sun-Times for decades. In fact, it was Gleason who, essentially, invented the two-front-page idea for tabloid papers. I’m using the term tabloid according to its technical definition: in North America, a tabloid newspaper measures 11″x17″, enabling commuters to read it on the bus or train and not elbow the persons sitting next to them in the face. Anyway, for years the back end of tabloid papers was an afterthought, essentially the least important space in the publication. Gleason reasoned that if the papers put the sports section in the rear of the paper and used its back page as a second front page, it’d be service to sports fans who comprised a huge percentage of the paper’s readership.

Now & Then.

Okay, so Bill Gleason once had me on his WMVP-AM radio show. This is back in the mid-1980s when I was still trying to make a name for myself in this reporting racket. I sat next to Gleason in the studio as he chewed on his ever-present cigar. In front of him, on the desk, was an enormous pile of 3×5 cards on which he’d scribbled notes about the phone guests he’d be having on the show that day. I asked him about the cards and he explained.

Every time Gleason met someone, either at the ballpark, in the newsroom, at a restaurant or saloon, or even on the street, he’d make up a 3×5 card on that person as soon as he got home that night. As time’d go by and he gathered more info on the person, he’d add to the card. The data included any nicknames the person had, what neighborhood s/he lived in, the names of her/his spouse and/or children, where the person went to high school, the person’s drink, hair color, body type, glasses or not, et cetera. He had so much info on some folks he’d have to staple three and four cards together for them.

“That way,” Gleason said, “whenever I run into someone I’ve already met I have this ready store of information about them. They’re flattered that I remember these little details. It bonds us.”

Gleason went on to introduce me to an axiom that I’ve found to be absolutely true: The most successful people in this world are those who remember everybody’s names. Politicians, especially, who can say, “Hey, Maryanne, how’ve you been?” after meeting you a single time endear themselves to people and literally earn votes merely by dint of that.

I don’t know if they’re teaching that in college media schools. If not, they ought to.

Taibbi’s publishing a new ebook called Hate, Inc. It’s available here.

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