Author Archives: glabwrites

Hot Air: Fortunetelling

Y’know, these horoscopes really hit the nail on the head sometimes.

[ h/t to Vanessa Shinmoto. ]

Double Talk

Here’s the link to the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk, an encore presentation of my January 2020 chat with university chancellor and diversity pioneer Charlie Nelms. It’s Part 1 of a two-parter with the wrap slated to air next Thursday, April 2.

Catch Big Talk every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

My Annual Spring Watch

Every year, baseball’s Opening Day stands as a landmark in my Spring Watch. That annual vigil begins soon after the New Year. I figure, we’ve gotten past football’s regular season and the holidays and even though it’s the dead of winter, we’re rapidly advancing to those delicious days when the weather is bearable for humans and there’s light in the sky.

Harry Belafonte

I start the Watch on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, January 15th, usually by watching the documentary, King: Montgomerey to Memphis, narrated by Harry Belafonte (as cool a guy as ever lived) and directed by Sidney Lumet. (It was the only documentary Lumet, who helmed Fail-Safe, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network, ever directed.)

Next comes the Super Bowl about two weeks later, followed by Valentine’s Day and the opening of baseball’s spring training camps in Arizona and Florida. I mark few of these days for the own sake but as progressive standards in the march toward sane weather.

And, speaking of March, my birthday falls in the first week of the month. That’s another landmark. Then St. Patricks’ Day and the beginning of the NCAA basketball tournament. April Fool’s Day and baseball’s Opening Day fall around the same time, appropriate for most of my life as a Chicago Cubs fan, considering from the age of 11 when I fell in thrall to the team (gee thanks, Ma!) until the year 2015, only a fool would honestly believe the Cubs could accomplish anything of note.

Finally, there’s Easter. By that Sunday, the clocks have already been turned forward and, even though there’s a good chance of snow and/or sub-freezing temps now and again, there are just as likely to be glorious days in the low 70s. My Spring Watch, by then, would be concluded.

Counting down all those big days during the Watch helps me survive the winter with hope and a modicum of sanity.

This year, of course, one of those landmarks has been robbed from me. Opening Day for my beloved Cubs had been slated for yesterday, March 26th, in Milwaukee. The game wasn’t played due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Nevertheless, my Spring Watch goes on. The forsythias out in front of the house are having an orgy…

… and the grass is becoming more and more green and lush and will continue to do so over the next few days with predicted rain showers.

This is a spring like no other. In a lot of ways, I feel as though I’m 10 years old again, being grounded for two weeks or more by my mother. Poor Ma, she never learned that grounding me didn’t work. There were long stretches when I’d be grounded after every single time I went out. Grounding was her knee-jerk response to me coming home late. And I came home late every time. I don’t know why; perhaps I was born w/o an internal clock. All I know is, I was busy playing ball in the alley or riding my bike all over the neighborhood and the next thing I knew it was 5:05 pm. Already five minutes late (Ma was a stickler), I’d figure, Dang, I’m in for it now anyway, so I’d decide to stay out another five, ten, or 45 minutes. I’d walk in as Ma was putting dinner on the table and, as I washed my hands, she announce I was grounded for two weeks.

I often concocted phony excuses to get out of the house during those groundings. There was basketball practice, I’d say, even though I hated playing basketball and rarely did so. A little older, I told Ma there was Drama Club at Amundsen Park. That was a real dodge — I loved being on stage. Once I told her I had to go to the park every day for Junior Citizens meetings during an ungodly long grounding. Somehow I would up being named Junior Citizen of the year, as bizarre and unexpected an award as I’ve ever received. At that time, any rational observer would conclude I was far more likely to win hoodlum of the year — and, I confess, I’d have been more proud of that.

Now, in my 60s, I feel as though I’m being grounded again. I hate it just as much as I hated it when I was 11 or 12. Only this time I’m not coming up with schemes to get around it.

The stakes are a tad higher this time around.

Peace In Our Time

Update: It’s been more than two weeks now that The Loved One and I have been self-quasi-quarantining. I’m happy — and shocked — to report we haven’t declared open war on each other yet. In fact, there haven’t even been border clashes to date.

There was one little harrumph the other day but nothing came of it. Even at this advanced age I surprise myself.

Hot Air: Scouting The Town

I went for a drive through the Indiana University campus and around Courthouse Square yesterday evening about 30 minutes before sunset.

I wanted to see what the city of Bloomington looked like under our quasi-lockdown. I haven’t wanted to do so up to this point because I was afraid it’d depress the hell out of me but for some odd reason I felt up to it yesterday.

So, nothing’s really open. Stores selling merchandise, by and large, are closed. Restaurants are closed to eat-in customers and a few have signs out front reading, “We’re open for to go,” which I consider an almost endearing way of putting it. Never, I would think, have those words been arranged just so until now. It may be the line for us to remember these days after we work our way out of this mess.

A lot of teenagers were out, riding skateboards or playing tennis or simply wandering aimlessly. By a lot, I mean perhaps nine or ten clots of two to four kids keeping each other company and, sadly, breaking all the social distancing rules.

On 7th Street between Indiana Avenue and Fee Lane, I saw one couple, apparently graduate school aged, walking and talking. The guy was on the sidewalk and the woman was walking along the curb, clearly maintaining a good eight or so feet of distance between them. I at first wondered if that’s really what they were doing so I went around the block and passed them again. Sure enough, he was keeping to the sidewalk and she the curb. They were grinning and gabbing to such an extent that I thought it might have been a date, an early one where the two are trying to get to know each other and trying to impress and amuse each other. In a way, I hope that’s what really was going on; they’re so drawn to each other that they had to get together even during this health crisis, but they’re both responsible enough to keep their distance.

Then, I turned south on Jordan Avenue. In front of the Musical Arts Center a couple stood very close to each other. She had a surgical face mask attached to her ears but it’d been pulled down, exposing her mouth. He wore no mask at all. They were so close, I figured one or the other was about to go in for the kiss. This time I didn’t go around the block to see what they’d do.

Perhaps the whole emptiness thing should have depressed me or would have depressed me otherwise, but the sunset was so glorious, vivid azure blues streaked with whites and oranges with a thin brushstroke of red here and there, that I couldn’t help but feel elated. Directly across Jordan from the almost-kissing couple was a bed of brilliant yellow daffodils. And every time I’d turn toward the east, the golden sun sinking in the west would be shining off windows and and metal surfaces turning the city into an amber kaleidoscope.

I wouldn’t have been able to take that drive on a rainy or merely overcast evening. It would have been too sad.

Nelms, Again

Charlie Nelms at Indiana University in 1988.

So, I’m starting my run of rebroadcasts on Big Talk this afternoon. This week and next I’ll feature my January, 2020 two-part interview with Charlie Nelms, a university chancellor, diversity pioneer, education consultant, and former child of the backwoods of Arkansas. One of eleven children, his parents were sharecroppers who instilled in the family a deep love of books and learning.

Tune in today and every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Then come back here tomorrow for the podcast link for the previous day’s show.

Blood From A Turnip

You might think it odd that I haven’t savaged President Gag much during this COVID-19 crisis.

Normally I’d be prone to blame him for anything and everything, up to and including the temperature being too low in the morning. I’ve been hard as hell on him since he became the Republican Party frontrunner in early 2016. (BTW: Let me repeat that and add to it — He was the goddamned Republican Party frontrunner — and then he won the presidency on a technicality! Jesus, it’s been four years already and I still have to type that stuff out to believe it.)

But I’m laying off him regarding the coronavirus. There’s a reason for that

Donald J. Trump, heir to a fortune, grifter, bully, kid (and adult) who never learned to play nice, serial bankruptcy claimer/philanderer/liar, and crypto-racist (except when his racist bleatings were all too overt) could never — and should never — have been expected to be the calm, steady, forceful, caring leader who’d guide us through the scariest hour this holy land has experienced in a generation.

Who among us would ever expect Li’l Duce to convey the message that he feels our pain, or it’s morning in America, or ask what you can do for your country? The man is utterly incapable of communicating empathy, sympathy, kindness, or concern. The reason for that is he’s very likely utterly incapable of feeling those things.

Look, I wouldn’t get mad at Sally the Dog because she couldn’t help me finish the morning crossword puzzle. I wouldn’t go online to rail that she’s let me down. And I certainly wouldn’t hold out any hope that she’ll suddenly see the light and help me with some clues tomorrow morning.

None of us should ever have expected or even hoped for the current president to be the rock upon which we rely in these dark days.

So no, you won’t see or hear me criticizing the president for his performance during this ordeal. Everything else he does remains fair game, though.

Hot Air: Woodpeckers & Grandparents

I ate breakfast in the car this morning at the Cutright marina on Lake Monroe. I watched a trio of red-headed woodpeckers forage for their meals. Two adults and one juvenile. At first I heard one or more of them as they…, well, pecked at trees, unseen nearby. Their (or its) pecking was slow, sort of lento, musically. Whereas other woodpeckers have a more rápido (again, musically) peck.

Adult Image: Jeff Stacey; Juvenile Image: Jeremiah Trimble

After a few moments, one of the adults flew past my hot rod and perched upon a wooden barrier. She (males and females are similarly plumaged) watched a gang of drab brown birds pick at the grass around her, then she decided to hop down where they were and partake of the feast. The other birds scattered, leaving the buffet table for her. She seemed to be eating a lot down there, which surprised me because I’d thought woodpeckers only ate bugs out of trees.

Eventually, she was joined by another adult and then the juvenile. I don’t know if all three of them were related but the juvenile sure seemed to be acting snotty with the other two.

I Was A Cartoon Kid

Pileated.

Speaking of red-headed woodpeckers, one of my favorite cartoon characters when I was a kid was Woody Woodpecker. Only he wasn’t a red-headed w., as I’d thought all along back then. He had that tuft of feathers on top of his head, making him a pileated woodpecker. Now those guys are big, up to a foot and a half in length. R-h. woodpeckers are small like wrens and have smooth, albeit also carmine, pates.

I loved many of those half-hour cartoon shows of my youth. The Woody Woodpecker Show (1957-1966) and the others always had secondary characters that starred in their own segments. WW’s were Wally Walrus, Andy Panda, Chilly Willy, Buzz Buzzard, and one or two others. Usually the half hour would be divided into four segments with the main character’s bits sandwiching one or two of the secondaries’.

It was the same with George of the Jungle (1967-1970). His cartoons were always packaged with Tom Slick’s and Super Chicken’s. BTW: If you want to really understand a young boy’s burgeoning sexuality, consider this: George of the Jungle, apparently, had two girlfriends, Fella and Ursula. In the opening sequence of his segments, the girlfriends would be introduced, dancing to a jungle tom-tom beat. They were extraordinarily curvy and wore revealing, leafy, camiknickers. Swear to god, they aroused the bejesus out of me! Of course, I didn’t realize exactly what that arousal was at the time; I only knew I couldn’t take my eyes of them and my breathing got faster. Also, I’d think about them at various times throughout the rest of the day. It got to the point that I anticipated Saturday mornings just so I could catch a peek of Fella and Ursula. So, if you have nine or 10-year-old kids at home and can’t figure out some of their behaviors and habits, take this story into consideration.

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle & Friends — AKA Rocky & His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show — (1959-1963) also had a stable of associated characters: Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Dudley Do-Right, and the repertory companies of Fractured Fairy Tales and Aesop & Son. Some storied voiceover artists of the ’60s, including Paul Frees, Hans Conried, and even William Conrad, appeared in the Rocky and Bullwinkle stable.

Faces Behind The Voices: (L-R) Frees, Conried, Conrad.

BTW, Pt. II: Rocky was voiced by a woman named June Foray, who died in 2017 at the age of 99. She also voiced Dudley Do-Right’s girlfriend Nell as well as any number of Granny characters in classic Warner Bros. cartoons. Her great disappointment in life was auditioning for and not getting the role of Betty Rubble in The Flintstones. She lost out to a woman named Bea Benederet, who went on to play Kate in the evening sitcom, Petticoat Junction. And, speaking of a young boy’s burgeoning sexuality, when Kate’s three daughters — Billie Joe, Bobbie Joe, and Betty Joe — peeked over the rim of the water tower that they were swimming in (apparently unclothed, I desperately hoped) in the show’s opening, this then-10-y-o nearly passed out trying to conceal his heavy breathing from his parents who also were in the living room.

Breathless.

Why am I thinking about all this? I dunno; perhaps a pandemic lockdown brings out the best in me.

Grandparents: Two For A Dollar

Speaking of the pandemic, late-stage capitalists are now floating the idea that it’d be okay for this holy land to risk the lives of millions of old fogies and bats just so we can get everybody back in the streets and spending our hard-earned pennies on useless crap from Best Buy and Walmart. President Gag, for one, says we ought to quit hunkering down and get back to work (and, far more importantly, shopping) by Easter, which comes Sunday, April 12th this year, a scant 18 days from today. Medical experts say hell no, but the Randians and their philosophical brethren and sisteren imply What’s a few hundred thousand grandmas and grandpas in exchange for a robust economy (read: system that keeps the rich rich and the rest of us not)?

Remember Her?

Lots of folks are aghast at this proposed trade-off. Some are even crying hypocrisy, harkening back to the early days of the Obamacare debate, back when that deep-thinker Sarah Palin and cronies scared the hell out of senescent America by claiming there’d be “death panels” for Mawmaw and Peepaw. Now, acc’d’ng to the same bunch, Mawmaw and Peepaw should be happy to stop breathing so that their kids and grandkids can enjoy a healthy dollar. Or, more accurately, so that shareholders of United Worthless Shit Technologies Worldwide can get their customary dividend checks.

The righteous among us gasp that trading lives for economic good is a damned step too far, that we’ve all gone mad trying to protect our nation’s precious wealth gap. To which I reply: chill, people.

Truth is, we’ve been sacrificing people — women, men, children and, for that matter, anything that moves — time and again for economic reasons. What in heaven’s name do you think most wars are fought for? Our endless wars in the Middle East since the first Gulf War began in 1991 have claimed the lives of — at absolute minimum — a half a million human beings on all sides.

And — for chrissakes — this nuclear armed superpower that we live in and love/hate was perfectly willing to incinerate hundreds of millions of people on both sides of the Cold War if the godless commies dared to impose their economic system on too many more populations back in the late 1950s through the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

It can be argued that most wars through the history of humankind have been fought for the sole purpose of ensuring the dominance of one nation’s economy over another’s.

Li’l Duce may be the biggest J.O. ever to occupy the Oval Office (with stiff competition from the likes of Andrew Jackson) but he’s not the first willing to off people — countless numbers of them — in the interest of strengthening the American economic system.

Hot Air: I’ve Got Plenty Of Time For Thinking

I visited Lake Monroe twice yesterday. I went there in the morning when it was still sunny and bright and ate my brown-bag, homemade breakfast. Then I went back this evening, in the rain, and did crossword puzzles until it got dark.

Image: Jeff Danielson

The geese and the squirrels at the lake must think they’ve died and gone to heaven. No huge diesel pickups towing quasi-ocean liners with engines attached that could propel them to the moon and back. No dickheads tossing beer cans off their boats after they pull out of the water. The critters are able to tend to their mates and eat to their hearts’ content w/o human interference for the most part.

There was a line of geese crossing the road near the Paynetown beach this AM. I just stopped for them, about 50 yards away, and let them waddle away. A woman jogging toward me saw me just sitting there in my car and I worried for a minute she’d think I was some kind of stranger-danger guy. But as she passed she waved and gave a knowing smile.

[MG NOTE: Really, go right now and view some of Jeff Danielson’s photography. He and his wife Marcy D. used to run the Runcible Spoon. He’s older than I am and he still plays soccer. I hate him for that but I love him for his camera work.]

The water level at the lake definitely is at flood stage. The water’s just about ready to spill over the approach to the Cutright ramp. One good rain ought to do it.

The lockdown is a shame for the people who operate businesses at the lake, like the general store and the marina. They took a giant hit last year when flooding cut the ramps off from February until July. In fact, you can still see the high water marks on the trees and picnic shelters in both Cutright and Paynetown. Now this.

Hey, we’re all taking a giant hit.

On the plus side, scads of folks are really getting into cooking their own meals these days. I wonder what the fallout from that will be. Will people swarm the restaurants when we’re given the all-clear, or will they say, You know what, I like my own cooking; I’m gonna keep doing this?

Yesterday I made a delicious lentil soup with ham and broccoli. here’s my recipe:

Lentil, Ham & Broccoli Soup

INGREDIENTS

    • 32 oz. container, chicken broth
    • 3 T Olive oil
    • Chopped onion
    • Chopped broccoli
    • Chopped celery
    • Chopped carrot
    • 1 T minced garlic
    • 1 pkg (16 oz) lentils
    • * 14 oz can diced tomatoes (in juice)
    • 1 cup diced ham
    • Salt & pepper, to taste
    • Balsamic vinegar, to taste

* You can substitute a small can of tomato sauce and several tomatoes you’ve chopped yourself

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots, coating well. Sauté two minutes.

Add broth, lentils, garlic, and diced tomatoes. (Add water if you wish but be careful not to make it too liquid-y.) Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 10 minutes until carrots are softish. Stir in ham, broccoli, and S&P. Continue simmering for at least 1/2 hour, until lentils are tender.

Serve with vinegar.

Eat.

All my recipes end in that one word, Eat.

A friend visited today. He pulled up in our driveway and we leaned against our respective cars, about ten feet away from each other, and simply chatted. We talked of books and state parks and his wife’s new preoccupation with making masks and when Anthony Fauci will be fired. Then we promised each other we’d do a bunch of things when the lockdown is lifted. We were like little kids, repeatedly and excitedly saying, “And then we’re gonna….”

People are getting into hobbies, if my social media feed is any indication. Some — like my friend’s wife — are even making masks for free distribution to essential workers. I’ve hauled out the old telescope and have cleaned and oiled it. I’m even drawing up a ring binder on celestial mechanics. We’re getting back to being nerds in this Era of Coronavirus. Again, I wonder how that’ll play out after this is all over.

Speaking of hobbies, I read that the CEO of Hobby Lobby, David Green, reportedly ordered his stores to remain open during this crisis because his holy roller wife got a message from god saying that’s what they should do. Natch, the internet went bonkers over that one — as it should have — and, next thing anybody knew, Green reversed himself. Apparently, god is more of a Randian capitalist than he is.

A guy I know who’s a notorious soc. med. presence (and delights in infuriating one half or the other of the populace) has come up with this idea:

Ok, how about this:

No more billionaires. None

After you reach $999 million, every red cent goes to schools and health care.

You get a trophy that says “I won capitalism” and we name a dog park after you.

Frankly, I think this is brilliant. My only quibble is we should cut things off at $100 million.

Which brings up this poser: How are our feelings about late-stage capitalism and the hoarding of wealth going to change during and after this crisis? As weeks go by and we’re stilled locked down and more and more people are going to be running out of dough, when will the tipping point arrive? When will the unemployed and the broke take to the streets? What demands will they make? And how much pressure will the moneyed classes and their legislators be able to bear?

Time — now more than ever — will tell. And we’ve got plenty of time on our hands right now.

Hot Air: Nobody Knows Nothin’

The Loved One and I are going on our tenth day of semi-quarantine. I qualify it with that prefix because we have gone out to the grocery store a couple of times (and purchased half of Kroger’s corporate inventory each visit) and we have gone for long rides out in the country twice.

Even Gov. Holcomb’s declaration that the state of Indiana is being quarantined starting tonight isn’t really a quarantine. He calls it, rightly, a “stay-at-home” order. Plenty of businesses will still be open — including the Kroger liquor department, thank the lord in heaven. And state parks will remain open, which means TLO and I can still enjoy our Sunday afternoon drives. Yesterday we spent the afternoon at Newton-Stewart State Recreation Area on the south end of Lake Patoka. Honestly, if you haven’t gotten down there, go. It’s pretty as all get out, especially now with the green grass coming in and flowers and tree blossoms bursting out all over the place.

Anyway, for the first few days of our self-imposed home imprisonment, I kept looking out the window as if I’d actually see the novel coronavirus creeping toward our house. I don’t know what I expected — a cloud of microorganisms, maybe. I checked the sky. I studied the clouds. I watched the wind rustle the barely-budding  branches of the trees around our house. I was on the alert for any sign or omen that this horrifying thing had at last overtaken Bloomington.

It actually took until just a couple of days ago for me to fully realize that I won’t be able to see the danger. That the outdoors are not perilous. People are the danger. Other people.

Or maybe even me. That is, me being a danger to other people. Am I carrying this thing? Who knows? Am I one of the lucky ones who catches it and experiences no symptoms. Or even if I do come down with COVID-19, will it be virus-lite, like the kind Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had down in Australia?

And, for chrissakes, Australia? This damned thing is on the other side of the planet as well as around Courthouse Square. It’s all over the world. This pandemic is something nobody has ever experienced before. Oh sure, there’ve been plagues but did people even know about them until after they’d been mowing down populations for years or even decades? We have 24-hour instant news now, much to our benefit (and detriment). COVID-19 was ID’d as a fast-spreading malady in December 2019, a scant three months ago. It was declared a pandemic by the World Health Org. just 13 days ago. Billions of people on this Earth know about it and are terrified of it. The Black Plague killed anywhere from 75 – 200 million people in Europe and Asia from 1347 to 1351. Four short years. How quickly did the average resident of Pisa or Jerusalem learn about the disease? It sure as hell wasn’t a mere few weeks after it had begun wreaking its vengeance in Mongolia. Countless numbers of humans were dropping like flies all along the Silk Road long before any Genoese realized the bug had reached that trade terminus.

The Silk Road: the Path of the Black Plague.

Our fear right now is a dreadful anticipation, something the Asians and Europeans of the 14th century didn’t have to experience. People began to realize things were screwy only when scads of them had already turned up dead. In the 21st Century, we’re petrified now and likely will be horrified when the virus’s real human toll begins to peak.

No, there aren’t any visual cues that the world suddenly is a dangerous place. The sun shone brilliantly today. Sprouts and blooms are emerging everywhere you look. The forsythias are spectacular. Chives are popping up every five feet or so on every lawn. There are daffodils galore. And down near Lake Patoka, the blossoms of tulip poplars and flowering dogwoods are bursting open.

This is my absolute favorite time of the year. There are colors. There is warmth. The sun is higher in sky, seemingly, every day. Yet maybe a million Americans will die of this creeping, encroaching disease. Acc’d’g to the Centers for Disease Control, some 2,813,503 people in this country died in 2017 (the most recent year for which the CDC offers mortality figures on its website). So millions of our neighbors keeling over is not unusual. In fact, it’s the norm.

Still, we shudder to think of what this novel coronavirus will do to us and we hide in our houses. My social media feed shows a wide range of reactions to the threat. They range from some people fretting about the end times. Truly, I know some who are warning that we’ll all be wiped out — or, at least, so many of us will die that civilization itself will be rendered unrecognizable. On the other end of the spectrum, a few folks are asking what the big deal is. One guy I know wrote on his timeline, “We’re all going to die but for almost all of us it won’t be from COVID-19. Keep calm and carry on.”

Me? I’m willing to bet we’re all going to lose at least one person we know, a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker. How do I know this? I don’t. I don’t know nothin’.

Nobody does. And maybe that’s the scariest part of this whole tale.

Hot Air: Branding & Brandishing

We’ll have good public relations positioning if we have to get it at the point of a gun.

Eeee-yep. The IU Health corporate behemoth last June hired a brand-spanking new chief of its quasi-military arm. Betcha didn’t know IU Health — the entity you heretofore thought was a place of healing and tender loving care — has its own police force. That’s right. A uniformed, badged, armed cohort authorized to clunk you on the head or slap the bracelets on you.

Not that a hospital doesn’t have the right or duty to employ bouncers to protect its patient from random hooligans who may be substance-addled or psychologically damaged. Nor, for that matter, should we forget that there are plenty of drugs in a hospital that just might provide an all-too irresistible temptation for those with an unslakable thirst for same.

But add that police force to the many already prowling our streets, all packing heat, all authorized to visit mayhem upon you at their discretion, and — again — brandishing the power to throw you in the slammer. How many such forces do we need?

Well, IU Health believes the answer is one more. Theirs.

What’s weird about this is the way IU Health’s flack department portrayed the hiring of the above-pictured commandant. Note the headline doesn’t say We’ve Hired a New Guy to Keep You Safe or Chief Promises to Keep a Lid on Medical-Grade Dope. Nuh-uh. The new guy basically is in his seat of power as simply another facet of the medical center/school’s positive image campaign. Why, he’s an advertisement for us!

“Protecting IU Health’s Brand.” I’ll try to move past my gut-level revulsion for that now-ubiquitous term, brand. Everybody and everything has a brand now, from nations to corps. to pop stars to just plain folks looking for a job on LinkedIn. You are your brand and brands can be massaged, tweaked, and outright manipulated to provide the best possible face for whatever you do. Truth? What’s that? Image, my friends, is the thing.

You can create your own image no matter what sins you’ve committed or lies you’ve uttered in the past. Hell, there  are services that can wash the internet and social media clean of any negative references to a company poisoning the watershed or employing Third World slave labor. For pity’s sake, restaurants that have been responsible for a spate of food-borne illnesses can make references to them disappear in the click of a key.

It’s always puzzled me why a hospital needs to advertise in the first place. When you shatter your femur falling off your bicycle do you tell the ambulance driver to hold on for a moment while you re-check the ads for all the nearby emergency rooms? Same with ads for prescription medications with unpronounceable names for maladies that really aren’t even specified in the ads themselves. Everything and anything is a brand to be touted.

Hell, the author of the above-linked piece calls himself a journalist even though he’s working for the PR department of IU Health. That journalism brand imparts authority and even-handedness to him despite the fact that his raison d’être is to paint the prettiest picture possible of his employer. Let’s go a step further: Indiana University a few years ago folded its journalism school into something now dubbed The Media School, a family of educational disciplines that today trains students to become reporters, TV anchors, advertising creative directors, interactive designers, social media managers and, yes, public relations specialists. Journalists in a day not terribly long ago would stand on their heads not to be lumped in with advertising and public relations people. Sure, often journalists, sick of the daily grind and the modest (I mean really modest) pay, might chuck it all and go into the more lucrative advertising or PR rackets. But they wouldn’t try to snow you that they were still journalists.

This little screed was inspired by the unceremonious ejection from IU Health Bloomington Hospital yesterday of a man who’d been treated for the COVID-19 virus. What’s known thus far is he was discharged and told to isolate himself. Apparently he has no place to go to follow that order and refused to leave the place. One thing led to another and a slew of IU Health’s private cops muscled him out of the place. There may be much more to the story than is known thus far but, golly, I would have figured the IU Health brand is When You’re Sick, We’re the Place for You. And even if it’s the wisest practice to get COVID-19 patients away from the rest of the hospital staff and patients, it seems incumbent upon the institution to help someone who has no home find a safe place.

In any case, IU Health PR suffered a mighty hit yesterday, regardless of whether or not they have their cops to enforce their brand.

Hot Air: Strange People

Here’s something we’re all going to be missing for the next few weeks: Meeting strangers.

We’re all going to keep in touch with friends, family, and acquaintances via phone, Skype, social media, texting, sexting, and whatever other tricks you have up your sleeve. But in the course of a normal day you and I might happen to meet several or even several dozen people for the first time. There’s a huge value in that. And for the foreseeable future, we won’t be having it.

I’ve Never Met A Person From Burkina Faso.

Meeting strangers broadens us, makes us more aware that the world is bigger than our little circle. Whether those strangers are of a different color or religion or sexual orientation or gender, they remind us that the current living gang of humanity is a rich tapestry, indeed.

Now, we know many (many, many, many) people stand on their heads to avoid mixing with people even a hair’s breadth different from themselves. I pity them; their lives must be an ordeal of sameness. Imagine going through life not contemplating why that woman wears a big plastic ring in her earlobe or that person is neither identifiable as male or female or that other one wears his hair up in a turban. Those of us with a true love for humanity relish being challenged in those ways. It helps us learn about them — and ourselves.

Why, if you were listening to the radio, would you want to hear the same song over and over again rather than an unending stream of different songs of different genres from different eras?

So, for now, our circle will be tightened — far too much so — and that’s another casualty of this novel virus.

Bus Boys

Addison (L) & Lewis Rogers

The last original Big Talk aired last night — at least for the next few weeks. If I’m being forced to stop producing new shows, at least the last such one was a blast. The past two weeks I’ve aired a two-parter with Addison and Lewis Rogers, the Busman’s Holiday Boys.

They are…, well, let’s see, alive! I mean it. They’re filled to their respective brims with music, joy, laughter, and brotherhood (both familial and in the metaphoric sense).

Here are the podcast links for Part 1 (aired Thursday, March 12, 2020) and Part 2 (aired yesterday). Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM

Next week, old stuff. But considering the entire world’s pop. does not listen to any given Big Talk, there’s a great chance you might have missed that show the first time it aired. And, BTW, why doesn’t the entire world’s pop. listen to Big Talk?

Big People, Small House

Another thing having to do with this coronavirus semi-quarantine: A lot of couples who live together are either going to be strengthened in their intimate bond after this thing is over or divorce lawyers and moving van companies are going to be doing fabulous business. My guess? The answer’ll be both.

Okay, More On The Bug

Here’s a good, simple explanation of how vaccines work. Researchers may be on the cusp of developing a COVID-19 vaccine, although making sure the world’s people get it will be the big hurdle.

Hot Air: Imagine A World With No One In It

Despite all the bazillions of words thus far written and uttered about this whole new world we’re experiencing for at least the next few weeks, I’ve heard little or nothing said about how our voluntary (and potentially imposed) lockdown is going to depress the living hell out of a lot of people.

I don’t mean depressed in the casual usage of the word — I’m talking about those of us who experience real, clinical depression. Some folks I know are saying they love being shut-ins right now. Many of them are people who’ve seen themselves described quite accurately and vividly in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. These people cherish their alone time and need lots and lots of solitude every day.

I cherish my alone time as well but only in short bursts — late at night or after I’ve spent eight to ten hours grinning and charming, listening to and attempting to assist people. People who work in retail or the food service industry understand this. You can only be lively and connected for a certain amount of time each day. Once you’ve passed your limit in that regard (and everybody’s is different) you have to shut yourself away and ignore everybody and everything. You have to decompress or chill out or do whatever you want to call the process of essentially reconnecting with yourself.

Nevertheless, I love being around people most of the time. When I lived in a studio at Dearborn and Erie streets in Chi. back in the early 1980s, I found it comforting that there was a 24-hour gas station right across the street. The sounds of humans and taxicabs coming and going throughout the night made me feel less isolated, more part of humanity. A lot of people wouldn’t feel that way at all but some of us do. I can go on and on, using this forum as a therapist’s couch and talk about my deep fear of abandonment but I won’t. Suffice it to say, I thrive on the sounds and sights of people going about their business. That may be why I was so loath to leave the big city until I was 51 years old. The loneliness of the country frankly terrified me.

Every day of my life I have to shower, dress up, and get the hell out of the house. Even when I’m sick as a dog, I have to go out. The Loved One to this day shakes her head in wonder when I get ready to split even though I’m in great pain or whacked-out fatigued from some malady or another. “I’ve just gotta get out,” I tell her. She has always described herself as a homebody which, ironically, makes us a good match. I push her to get out more and she pushes me to stick around the hearth more. We’ve reached an acceptable medium.

Holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving also have been problematic for me. The streets on those days are almost empty. The stores are closed. Nobody’s milling around. Few have to work. The world seems an empty, frightening place to me on those days. Where’d everybody go? Have I at last been truly and irrevocably abandoned?

Today, Monday, March 16, 2020, seems to be the mother of all Christmas and Thanksgiving days. Here in Bloomington, 3rd St/State Road 46 was flat-out empty when I got to the intersection. The libraries are closed. the coffeehouses are closed (or, if they’re not, they ought to be). It’s like a Twilight Zone episode. It’s terribly lonely and downright scary out there.

[Image: Rutger Blom Photography]

How many more days of this will I be able to take? Hell, days? We’re thinking weeks and maybe even months of this stuff. I don’t like this one bit and I know there’ll be both psychological and emotional tolls to be paid as this lockdown goes on.

Apartment dwellers in Florence, Italy are singing from their windows in an effort to buck each other up. My next door neighbor, Tom, is a good guy and a friend but should he decide to start singing out his window I might be tempted to sic Sally the Dog on him.

Who am I going to tell jokes to? Who am I going to argue with about Biden and Sanders? My pal Pat and I regularly meet to discus pressing world issues like who’s going to be the fifth starter for the Cubs this year. My friend Susan, like clockwork, plops a pile of clipped newspaper crossword puzzles in my lap every time we meet. I exchange morning mots with baristas Miles and Alyssa and others, a daily ritual I now recognize as essential. And what of the librarians in Nashville (IN), Salem, and Indianapolis whom I’ve come to value as everyday fixtures in my life even if I don’t know their names?

Are they all gone? Have they abandoned me? Or I, them?

To be sure, it’s all too depressing. Oh, I have plans. I need to rewrite a chapter of the Charlotte Zietlow book. I’m working on putting together a reference binder on telescopes. I play chess against my computer. I just got my hands on this year’s edition of Baseball Prospectus. The Loved One and Sally and I will be making daily trips down to Lake Monroe. I’ll keep myself occupied.

But everybody’s gone and that scares the hell out of me.

Hot Air: Only He Could Fix It

I’m guessing there’ll be fewer than 1.7 million deaths in America as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, unless something unexpected happens *. At this early date, the CDC estimates 160-240 million Americans will catch the bug and 200,000 to 1.7 mill will die from it.

[ * “Unless something unexpected happens”: That’s the most dangerous thing to say regarding such a fluid and unprecedented state of affairs. Hell, COVID-19 itself was something unexpected as recently as last Fall. Anyway, as I was saying…. ]

A good bettor’s policy is always to choose the most prudent option. Wagering on either of the tapering ends of a bell curve of probabilities is a sucker’s game, usually resorted to by someone on a long losing streak hoping to recoup his losses in a single strike.

So, yeah, I’m going (right now) with fewer than a million fatalities in the United States, prob. somewhere around 750,000. That’s horrifying enough but it’ll be a welcome outcome after these days and weeks of scary headlines.

And if things should play out that way, Pres. Trump, who’s getting battered by critics right now, will declare himself responsible for saving nearly a million lives. Oh, you bet he will! He’ll trot out the CDC charts and point to that 1.7 million figure and say, “That didn’t happen and it’s all because of me!” Of course, everything is because of him or can only be fixed by him. His bizarrely loyal base, natch, will eat his words up, something they’ve been doing since he descended that golden escalator in 2015 to declare his candidacy for President of the United States of America. For chrissakes, if Li’l Duce‘s words had calories, his base’d be 100 percent morbidly obese by now.

Who knows if more people than just President Gag’s base will buy it? People act and think funny when they’ve been scared to death. It may appear to some that this public health crisis will be the downfall of the Trump presidency. OTOH, it just may get him reelected.

And wouldn’t that be a horrifying outcome.

Trump On A Shrink’s Couch

BTW: Via a comment thread started by my pal, Jeff Isaac, professor of political science at Indiana University, I caught wind of a very compelling, recently published book entitled The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump: A Psychological Reckoning. Authored by Northwestern University professor Dan P. MacAdams, the book is a series of his essays written over the last four years peering into the psychological makeup of (my words) the most whacked-out M-Fer ever to sit behind an Oval Office desk.

From an NU PR article written by Hillary Hurd Anyaso:

Trump, McAdams asserts, may be the rare person who lacks any inner story, something most people develop to givetheir lives unity, meaning and purpose.

A life story provides a moral frame of reference because it grounds your experiences in basic values and beliefs, according to McAdams, a narrative psychologist who pioneered the study of lives. 

Trump, McAdams argues, can’t form a meaningful life story because he is the “episodic man” who sees life as a series of battles to be won. There is no connection between the moments, no reflection and no potential for growth when one is compulsively in the present. 

Donald Trump is a “truly authentic fake,” writes McAdams, professor of human development and social policy at the School of Education and Social Policy. “Trump is always acting, always on stage — but that is who he really is, and that is all he really is. He is not introspective, retrospective or prospective. He does not go deep into his mind; he does not travel back to the past; he does not project far into the future. He is always on the surface, always right now.  

“In his own mind, he is more like a persona than a person, more like a primal force or superhero, rather than a fully realized human being,” McAdams adds.

Sure enough, right now Trump sees the COVID-19 situation as an assault on him, as evidenced by his continually referring to himself in newsers on the outbreak as well as his blatant statement, “I don’t take responsibility at all,” when he was pressed by reporters on why there are so few available tests in this country. Any other effective leader would at least give lip service to taking responsibility for everything that happens on his watch, but not the poor, aggrieved Victim-in-Chief.

I don’t blame Trump for the COVID-19 crisis. I only blame him for being himself.

Hot Air: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Lockdown

Anthony Fauci, a guy who actually knows something, as opposed to the president, the vice president, and several of their handpicked point people blathering about the COVID-19 pandemic — oh, and all your Facebook friends who suddenly are PhDs in virology — is recommending this morning that we start dramatically reducing doing things outside the house and in the presence of other human beings who don’t live with us. Fauci, of course, is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Those of us of a certain age recall him as a reasonable, expert voice during the AIDS crisis/panic of the 1980s.

And the we I mention above, it must be said, are Americans. That’s important because Fauci also said he’s leaning toward a national lockdown that would affect restaurants and bars in this holy land. That’d be a sort of lockdown-lite in comparison to the total lockdowns being imposed in other countries trying to get ahead of this rapidly spreading infection.

Lots of folks are calling for just that here, a general lockdown wherein no one would be allowed to leave the house and everybody resorts to leaning out their windows and singing to each other…, no, wait, that’s Italy. Let’s see, now, what would we do in such a confined state? Oh, I know! We’d probably fire guns in the air from our windows or we’d stand on our balconies and shriek about what the hell ever conspiracy theories had popped into our heads within the last 15 seconds or so.

I highly recommend not betting on a general lockdown here. This is, after all, a country wherein it is impossible to stop people from carrying weapons of war into Sam’s Club or even a public library! Yeah, that’s right. We are so in thrall to an extremely narrow interpretation of the meaning of freedom that we consider strapping one or more AK-47s or Beretta AR-70s on our back and, as an added display of our devotion to sweet liberty, carrying in waist holsters Glock G43s and/or Springfield XD-Ss — with an ankle holster containing a SIG Sauer P-365, because you just never know — as patriotic statements.

That Woman Sure Looks Suspicious.

If you can’t convince loons — and the legislators who pander to them — that such an array of armament is a tad overkill for dashing down to the store to stock up on lemonade that’s on sale for two for five dollars, you sure as hell aren’t going to force them to stay inside so as not to help spread a microorganism that might kill the elderly and the sick. After all, what kind of a trade off is my precious freedom against the lives of people who, quite frankly, aren’t representative of the best, strongest, and fittest in Great-Again-America?

My gut tells me we won’t have a general lockdown here. Maybe in a college town or some other blue bastion here and there, if that’s even legally permissible, but not for this mighty nation as a whole.

Let freedom ring!

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