Author Archives: glabwrites

Hot Air: Women Own “Me Too”

It’s The Women’s Thing

I cannot say, “Me too,” as some other males are doing right now, because it’d be presumptuous.

I’ve never had to worry about a single thing being denied me because of my genitals or skin color, and — as my old pal John Spencer Bergman has pointed out — because I have identified as straight throughout my life.

I’ve never had to fight off the advances of some carbuncular old prick. I’ve never had a job or any other asset dangled in front of me if only I’d “lay back and enjoy it.” For that matter, I’ve never had anybody dangle a carbuncular old prick in front of me either.

You want to know why?

Dumb freaking luck.

I didn’t choose to be white, male, and mostly straight. It just happened.

Just the way some black lesbian didn’t choose her characteristics. Nor did she choose to have carbuncular old pricks dangle their carbuncular old pricks in front of her.

So, no, not “Me too.”

But people who happen to possess vaginas or identify as such can count on me to stand behind them as they fight this real fight.

Miner Key

Image: Bryan Hayes/Reader

I happened upon a statement by one of the more influential editors of my life, a fellow named Mike Miner, who was able to find some readable thread in my scribblings whenever I turned in a manuscript to the venerable Chicago Reader back in my Windy City days. The Reader, BTW, fostered an extremely sober, no-nonsense style of writing among its stable of freelancers, most called-for in a wild bull like me who, given free rein, would have giddily run on like a college sophomore under the first-time influence of mescaline.

Anyway, Mike Miner was also the Reader‘s media observer, bylining the weekly Hot Type column, so he’s always had something worthwhile to say about our American culture. And even though he’s now retired, he occasionally pitches some pith when he feels the urge.

For instance, this “Me too” thing has moved him, as well. Here’s what he has to say about it:

After a day reading Facebook posts that began “Me too,” I spent the evening more aware than I usually am of the TV ads that invest women with all sorts of agency, depicting them all as handsome, decisive, smart as a whip, and in command of every social situation. Men not so much, and perhaps even a little goofy and intimidated — just like in most sitcoms. I’m afraid these ads send a message that frightens men without comforting women, as there seems to be so little correlation with the world women actually live in.

More evidence — as if we needed it — that this holy land is indeed, in the words of Chris Hedges, an empire of illusion.

Absolutely Anton

Do yourself a favor and click on over to WFHB’s website and check out Doug Storm’s interview with one of the lead actors and the dramaturg of the IU Wells-Metz Theatre production of “Three Sisters,” running through October 21st.

The little piece opens with the dramaturg attempting to answer the Q: Who was Anton Chekhov?

BTW: I had no idea what a dramaturg was (or is) before hearing this piece last night. I tried to figure it out and then looked it up to see if I was right. I wasn’t.

That’s one thing I’ve learned living in a college town — a hell of a lot of people around here speak in an intentionally opaque, priestly language. I prefer plain talk. In other words, I certainly eschew circumlocution and I essay never to be prolix.

Dig?

Boo

More than half of Americans believe a house can be haunted, acc’d’g to a Chapman University survey.

The survey also finds the most likely believer in paranormal things would be a religious, conservative, female living in the sparsely populated West — Wyoming, say, or Nevada.

 

Hot Air: Eeny Meany, Chilli Beany

Figment

I happen to be re-reading Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges‘ insightful, moral, indignant, even prescient 2009 bestseller, Empire of Illusion. Subtitled The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, the book is a clairvoyant peek into the events that would ensue some seven years after its publication.

Hedges frames the first chapter with scenes from Vince MacMahon’s TV wrestling extravaganzas and then veers into several Reality TV shows like The Swan and Survivor to posit that, well, we are majorly fucked up.

Ahem, you know, as do I, which current President of the United States became known to the widest swath of the populace through his appearances on televised wrestling spectaculars and his own “reality”-based TV emetic.

Hedges is, largely, a scourge, one that our contemporary culture (and I use that term awfully damned loosely)  is in desperate need of. Of course we’ll blissfully ignore him. A shame, that, because rather than paying heed to an intellectual grounded in deep historical references and a principled outlook, we’ll have to have our asses handed to us by outside forces — perhaps even vile outside forces — because an empire that’s as majorly fucked up as we are cannot stand long.

Ignore One, Get The Other

From the book:

Celebrities…. are held up as proof that anyone, even we, can be adored by the world. These celebrities, like saints, are living proof that the impossible is always possible. Our fantasies of belonging, of fame, of success, and of fulfillment, are projected onto celebrities. These fantasies are stoked by the legions of those who amplify our culture of illusion, who persuade us that the shadows are real. The juxtaposition of the impossible illusions inspired by celebrity culture and our “insignificant” individual achievements, however, eventually leads to frustration, anger, insecurity, and invalidation. It results, ironically, in a self-perpetuating cycle that drives the frustrated, alienated individual with even greater desperation and hunger away from reality, back toward the empty promises of those who seduce us, who tell us what we want to hear. We beg for more. We ingest those lies until our money runs out. And when we fall into despair, we medicate ourselves, as if the happiness we failed to find in the hollow game is our deficiency. And, of course, we are told it is.

Checklist: celebrity worship, frustration and anger, the overthrow of reality, our own complicity in the scam, self-medication (see The Opioid Epidemic). The man nailed today’s holy land.

A Real Cinephile

I dunno what this means. Maybe you can tell me. I’m going down the list of the highest grossing American movies of all time and realizing, Shoot, mang, I ain’t seen many of them.

Okay? Here goes:

  • Gone with the Wind — Saw the first half hour of it; had to get up  and turn it off. Couldn’t take any more.
  • Jaws — Nope.
  • Avatar — Uh-uh

    Meh.

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens — No.
  • Jurassic World — Ixnay.
  • Iron Man — N.
  • Frozen — I may have. The Loved One might have got it from Netflix. Can’t say.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — N.
  • Titanic — Yeah. Went with Delia Chandler. We both cried.
  • Star Wars — Uh-huh; only I remember next to nothing about it except there was a sort of funny scene in a bar.
  • The Sound of Music — No. Nazis and “My Favorite Things.” That’s a weird trip.

No. Just No.

  • E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial — N.
  • The Avengers — N.
  • Furious 7: Was this really a movie? What was it about?
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017) — I saw the Cocteau version made in 1946; why did it have to be made again?
  • The Fate and the Furious — I thought it was The Fast and the Furious. Was there a typo?
  • Iron Man 3 — Three of them?
  • Minions — Saw it. It passed the time.
  • Captain America: Civil War — I prefer actual comic books.
  • Seriously, Me?

    Lord of the Rings: Return of the King — This movie was made specifically to annoy me: It deals with some England-y kind of Middle Ages world with magic thrown in.

  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon — I like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” Does that count?
  • The Dark Knight Rises — I really liked the original Dark Knight, primarily because that guy who eventually died in real life did such a good acting job. Still, I ditched it about two-thirds of the way through because it was way too long.

That’s it. I can’t take anymore. I’m going to put on my collection of Warner Bros. cartoons. I like Bugs Bunny.

Out There Art

By the way, jump in your hot rod and motor over to Brown County before the 31st. You’ve got to catch the 16th annual Back Roads of Brown County Tour. It’s a delightful trip through the sticks and woods of perhaps the prettiest stretch of Indiana extant. Brown County’s artists and craftspeople open up their home studios and they’re eager to show you how they create their masterpieces or living room accoutrements, depending on their predilections.

The Loved One and I, along with our friend Les, visited four terrific artists’ lairs: Monique Cagle’s Sleepy Cat Studio, Dixie Ferrer‘s deep woods retreat, and the mom and daughter operations of Sarah Noggle (loom and weaving) and Sarabeth Noggle (letterpress and prints). Getting to the first two destinations, I have to admit, was an adventure. The Yellowwood Road construction project forced us to take washboard roads in a circuitous path to get there but the trip was worth it.

Cagle’s Silo-Turned-Studio

[Image: Jeremy Hogan/Herald Times]

That’s two fall Sundays in a row that TLO and I have enjoyed the wonders of this area. Hmm, maybe this stretch of S. Central IN ain’t half bad after all.

Hot Air: Friday the 13th

Mom Knows

Susan Sandberg

Right off the bat, let’s salute Bloomington City Council member Susan Sandberg for her dedication, her strength, and her poise. She showed up for Wednesday night’s council session despite some major heaviness going on in her home life. That’s the way, SS says, Jane Sandberg would have wanted her to do things at this tough time.

You’ve made your mom proud, Susan.

One Race

Once again, scientific researchers tell us “race” is nothing. This even though society tells us it’s everything.

Flippers

The Mark Felt movie has been in theaters for a couple of weeks now. Mark Felt: The Man Who Brougth Down the White House may well have been the biggest grossing movie of the ’70s had it been made and released, say, a couple of years after Watergate played out with the resignation and subsequent pardon of Richard Nixon. After all, All the President’s Men was the third-highest grossing film of 1976, exceeded only by Rocky and a remake of A Star Is Born.

All the President’s Men, in fact, depended hugely on the presence of the character ID’d only as “Deep Throat” for its dramatic thrill. Everybody alive in the US at the time, it seemed, was dying to know who DT was. Speculation ranged from a handful of CIA and FBI spooks to Nixon press sec’y Ron Ziegler to assistant White House counsel Fred Fielding to White House Domestic Affairs Advisor John Ehrlichman to even unindicted war criminal Henry Kissinger.

Trying to guess the identity of DT became a sort of national game with wits, wags, and opinion pushers tripping all over themselves trying to suss him out. It wasn’t until 2005 that former FBI No. 2 man Mark Felt, suffering from dementia and on his way out of this vale of tears, was tabbed by his family’s attorney. Investigative journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who cultivated Felt as their primary deep background source (ergo his moniker — a play on the eponymous, bizarre, 1972 porn film title) finally admitted he was the one after the revelation.

There was a sense of letdown when Felt was fingered. Drama kings and queens (like me) would have preferred DT to be Kissinger; that would have been in keeping with Henry’s sneaky, self-serving nature. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

In any case, director Peter Landesman has brought Felt’s story to the big screen and, as expected, it created a stir in the papers and news magazines but the ticket-buying public has been too busy yawning to turn it into a blockbuster. The flick hasn’t even made a million bucks thus far. Hell, it’s barely edged over the hundred-thousand dollar mark meaning, acc’d’g to one source, it’s the 385th biggest-grossing movie of the past calendar year.

That ain’t good. In fact, when I type “it’s been in theaters a couple of weeks now” I likely err. Go ahead, try to find a theater where it’s playing anywhere in this holy land.

It’ll probably do some biz as a stream offering over the next few years but no one will ever confuse it with Gone with the Wind.

In any case, the fact that this movie now exists got me to thinking about people who squeal. Was Felt a rat? In a sense, yeah. He only started telling the tale of Nixon White House evil-doings after he’d been passed over for the job as J. Edgar Hoover’s replacement following the original FBI director’s transition from this earthly plane to hell. Felt blabbed, it’s been said, because he wanted to get back at Nixon for selecting a cipher named L. Patrick Gray over him to lead the Bureau.

Whether that’s true or not it points out something about rats. Their only loyalty is to themselves. We may think rats are rare but, the truth is, in a rat-race economy, with the me-generation now fully in charge of government, business, and societal apparatus, rats are everywhere, even in organized crime.

If you’ve watched too many movies that mythologize the Mob, you’ll come away thinking its members hew to a perverse ethic, the Omerta. Hoodlums tell nobody outside the family — especially coppers — anything about its machinations or its members.

Felt

Which, flat out, is not true.

Almost every hood sings when the G or the local heat put the squeeze on him. Their entire lives have been given over to amassing personal wealth and standing, even if in doing so they have to break Commandments 6 through 10, inclusive. Their lives, in other words, are all about — only about — what’s good for them. The microsecond the Omerta comes in conflict with that goal, they violate it.

The vast majority of uber-ambitious, high-reaching figures in the corporate world or gov’t or any other playing field are as moral in that sense as all those big Outfit and Syndicate goons who’ve testified before Grand Juries and congressional committees in order to avoid going to prison for the rest of their lives.

America’s One Commandment long has been Thou shalt obey a code of ethics as long as it’s no skin off thy nose.

Mark Felt, if the most cynical interpretation of his motivations are to be believed, did what every hyper-achiever does: he served himself.

High ambition, stratospheric success, and the accumulation of scads and scads of wealth are utterly incompatible with being a decent human being.

The Drug Store

The Loved One dug this up:

Meanwhile, that very Congress has spent the last seven and a half years doing its level best to do away with a law that attempts to ensure health care coverage for virtually every American.

Jar Of Information

Ever wonder what distinguishes community radio WFHB from, say, a public radio station like WFIU?

Wonder no more. My guest yesterday on Big Talk was WFHB general manager Jar Turner who joined me to push along this week’s fall fundraiser.

Go here for the podcast of my chat with Jar.

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Hot Air: Speaking Of…

More, Ma’am?

I’ll admit it: I’m uncomfortable putting the bite on people for money so this’ll be a lot harder than it looks.

It’s fall fund drive time at WFHB. Sure, there are gazillions of people, organizations, and causes hoping you’ll unbelt for them. There are relief efforts for Puerto Rico and Houston and Northern California (which is burning up before our very eyes) and political candidates who beg you daily for your hard-earned cash.

Honestly, I ignore 99.9 percent of the touches I get. I’ll bet you do too. But if I can persuade just one or two of you to throw a little coin at this town’s community radio station, then you and I will have accomplished something.

Here are just a few thing your hard-earned dough will pay for should you decide to reach for your wallet:

And then there are all our fabulous DJs like Dancing Don, Carolyn VandeWeile, Charlotte Wager Miller, Cindy Beaulé, Mark Richardson, Roscoe Medlock, Scott Weddle, Jason Fickel and too many more for me to list here.

Here’s how you can pitch a few coins at one of Bloomington’s cultural treasures — simply click on the image below and then click on the big red Donate Now button on WFHB’s home page. Simple.

Big Talk This Week

Jar Turner

Speaking of fund drive time, my guest on Big Talk this week will be WFHB General Manager Jar Turner.

Tune in to 91.3 FM Thursday afternoon for the 5:00pm Daily Local News when Jar and I gab about what makes the little-radio-station-that-can go.

Sam’s Book Club

Bloomington émigré Sam Stephenson, himself a Big Talk alumnus, learned a little something about the book distribution racket this week.

His latest, Gene Smith’s Sink, is a follow-up to his terrific The Jazz Loft Project. Both tomes deal with the second half of the renowned photojournalist Gene Smith‘s career, during which Smith chucked his family and all his worldly goods and moved into a dingy New York City loft. Fortunately for him, a brilliant gang of mid-century jazz musicians hung out in an adjoining loft and Smith audio recorded and photographed the likes of Thelonius Monk, Zoot Sims, Chick Corea, Roland Kirk, and many others, creating a precious and invaluable archive of sights and sounds.

Stephenson

Stephenson’s Sink has only been on the shelf for a couple of months when, the other day, he — like any author — checked Amazon for his sales numbers. Lo and behold, he found that Amazon was hawking the book for a mere six bucks. Those of us in the know would interpret that as Amazon saying This damned thing ain’t movin’ so we’re “remaindering” it. Sam was crushed. The word Fuck! sprang from his lips once, twice, maybe a few dozen times.

After a little digging, Sam found that Amazon’s got a scheme wherein it slashes the prices of selected books for a few hours at a time so as to cut off at the knees other third-party dealers like Abe Books and Barnes & Noble.

The word Phew! then issued from Sam’s pan two, maybe three dozen times.

The lesson for all you readers and jazz aficionados? Keep monitoring Amazon for the next time the online peddler cuts the price on your fave book.

Homer

Speaking of Big Talk alumni, check out South Bend mayor Pete Buttigeig‘s spanking new Hitting Home PAC.

Buttigieg

Buttigieg, who appeared on Big Talk this past summer, is a rising star in the Democratic firmament. He ran a spirited campaign last winter for national party chair and has earned notices as a potential candidate for the 2020 presidential nomination.

“Hitting Home,” Buttigieg says, “will mobilize resources to elect progressive candidates, at every level and in communities both red and blue. We will support candidates who focus on showing voters what we are for — not just what we are against — and understand how to do so in terms of our everyday lives.”

BTW, Buttigieg, a member of the US Naval Reserve and veteran of the Afghanistan War, has characterized our sitting president as a “draft-dodging chickenhawk.”

You’ve gotta love a plain-speaker like that.

Hot Air: The Riff Goes On

Slow-Going

Picking up where I left off yesterday, re: the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

It took days and days and days for President Gag to even hint that the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who’d gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia in August were sorta despicable. Nevertheless, we on the Left dog-piled on him, justifiably, for his languidness.

Clinton & Weinstein

Now, the truth about Harvey Weinstein is out there, and has been for days and days and days, yet only this afternoon did Hillary Clinton finally allow that Weinstein’s “behavior cannot be tolerated” and that she was “shocked and appalled” by his asshole-ishness.

What’s good for the goose.

Sure, Clinton and the rest of the national Democratic Party are largely dependent on Hollywood big shots like Weinstein for their allowances. But for pity’s sake, Hillary Rodham Clinton is a woman! At the very least I’d have wanted her to immediately jump on this scandal with both feet (in lieu of her jumping on Weinstein’s ample tummy, again and again and again while wearing spiked heels, which’d be preferable).

Because Weinstein’s dough is such a big part of the Democrats’ support system, you’d think Clinton would want to wash his stink out without dealy.

At one point does a sugar daddy become intolerable?

In the matter of Weinstein, apparently, that point was passed years and years ago. But then again, apparently not for beggars like Clinton.

This is why a lot of people on my side of the fence despise her.

She may well privately justify moving slowly on Weinstein’s bullying because he fattens the Democratic piggy bank and the party needs all the dough it can amass to counter the Republicans’ national gerrymandering and voter access roadblocking. Y’know, you’ve gotta level the playing field, right?

Well, Weinstein’s the wrong bulldozer for that job.

And Hillary Clinton has to be in the forefront of calling him out and disassociating herself and her party from his evil ways.

Because, dammit, she’s a woman.

Yet Quick On The Defense

Another woman who’s forgotten she’s a woman is Donna Karan. The queen of American fashion peddlers, Karan, in an off-the-cuff interview Sunday, said women in Hollywood who are now stepping forward with charges of workplace harassment against the picture mogul may be “asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality.” Weinstein and his glad-handers, backslappers, and coat-holders, she added, are “wonderful people.”

Wonderful Weinstein & Karan

Karan must have checked her bread to see which side was buttered before uttering these risible comments.

The Weinstein that’s becoming known to the general public has been a topic of discussion among young women as well as those of a certain age for years, nay, decades. Perhaps Karan was too busy becoming a hundred-millionaire to take note of the grumblings of Hollywood’s little people.

Or, if my long and dearly-held hypothesis is correct, simply becoming a hundred-millionaire requires a person to harbor within her or him the seeds of asshole-ishness.

The uber-rich, as Fitzgerald has famously suggested, are different from you and me. It becomes far more important for them to stick together than to cavil about trivial things like fairness and decency, respect and dignity.

A Rat Tale

A friend of mine, a researcher at Indiana University, is at the mercy of a rat these days.

Let’s call him Vern. Not the rat; the friend.

Vern discovered the creature in his garage. He says he has an allergy to mice so he assumes the odds are really good he’s allergic to rats as well. So, he has decided to de-rat his garage.

A Snap Trap

First he tried the old-school snap trap, you know, the kind we all always saw loaded with cheese in cartoons. Vern baited his snap trap with peanut butter. The next morning he went into his garage and found the peanut butter gone and the snap not tripped. So he tried it again with the same result. In all, Vern baited his snap trap four times and four times the rat got a meal and dashed away w/o paying, as it were, his tab.

Next Vern tied a glue trap. Now, the glue trap is a really savage little thing as you may or may not know. The snap trap, at least, is designed to kill the critter immediately, the little spring-loaded steel bar snapping down on the poor sucker’s spine and killing him, it is presumed, with a minimum of suffering. The glue trap is simply a tray of sticky goo into which the rodent treads and, naturally, finds him or herself stuck thereon. Problem is, the mouse or rat lives on quite a while in agony. Sometimes the little beasts even chew their limbs off to escape it. A real horror.

But Vern is freaked by his unwanted guest and so had to resort to such a sadism. Only the rat, it seems, got stuck in the glue and proceeded to drag the whole tray along the floor of the garage to a ladder lying on the floor. The rat then used one of the rungs as leverage to pry his stuck little feet off the glue. Ingenious, no?

Vern then sealed up the hole at the base of the garage wall that he’d determined was the wily rat’s ingress and egress from the place. Vern used gravel and rocks, snugly packed, to block up the hole. No dice. The rat, a conscientious laborer, simply excavated a new portal through the stony barrier.

So Vern tried the glue deal a second time. He figured the second glue trap wouldn’t work but the things come in pairs from the store so he figured, what the hell? Vern placed the trap near the rat-hole. The next morning, Vern observed that this second trap has been covered over with dust and dirt and some debris like little bits of styrofoam. The rat had neutralized the trap and simply walked over it, unstuck!

Right around that time, Vern tried poison, bromethalin. When Vern returned to the hole area, he found that some of the poison had been nibbled on, the rest untouched. His conclusion: The rat had sampled some of the toxin, decided that further indulgence would be ill-advised and left the rest alone. The little pot of poison, by the way, is still there. The rat to this point has resisted all temptation to finish it off.

Oh, and Vern also has purchased more glue traps which, he says, he’s been scattering around the garage “just for kicks.”

Next, Vern says, he’s going to pop for a live trap. His reasoning? This particular rat is so smart that he’d hate to terminate its genetic lineage. Hell, what with humanity hinting it wants to do away with itself, there ought to be some smart creatures left after the coming holocaust. Vern’s rat may be the Eve or Adam of the next civilization to rule the Earth.

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Hot Air: Women And Men

Can we drop the pretense that it’s only Republican or conservative men who treat women like shit?

Harvey Weinstein, one of Hollywood’s biggest and most powerful figures, has been a huge donor to the Democratic Party over the years. He’s been cozy with our last two Democratic presidents. He espouses all the issues near and dear to progressives. Even women’s issues.

And he has, acc’d’g to too many women who’ve worked under him, been a workplace sexual predator.

Preying upon women trying to make a living in what is still a man’s world and even hoping to advance therein is a crime that knows no party.

Mad For Madison

The Loved One and I yesterday took one of the best Sunday drives we’ve had in along time. This despite a downpour that, in reality, made the afternoon all the more memorable.

The trip we took was perfect for a gray, drenching, October Sunday. We started out heading east on Indiana State Road 50. Driving toward Cincinnati, SR 50 isn’t a half bad route for the scenery, especially with our region’s trees beginning to turn red and gold, yellow and ocher.

We were so busy gabbing with each other that, before we knew it, we found ourselves on the outskirts of the Queen City, in a exurb called Lawrenceburg, just this side of the Ohio state line. TLO expressed an aversion to penetrating further into greater Cincy so we simply took a sharp right onto SR 56. That road is spectacular as it follows the broad Ohio River from the quaint, arty town of Aurora through to Madison. In fact, 56 passes through a number of such fetching little burgs like Rising Sun and Vevay and, yes, Madison itself. It cuts through the southern end of Switzerland County which is as aptly named as any in the state. Switzerland features dramatic river palisades along its path, with tobacco farms, riverbank campgrounds, and steeply inclined steer pastures interspersed.

Madison is a tiny wonder with its wide boulevard called Main Street, of course, and its quiet, neat, new riverwalk on either side of the recently built Milton-Madison Bridge. The old span, which was demolished in 2014, was spectacularly narrow so that if two semi-trailer trucks going in opposite directions were forced to pass each other, their drivers’d have to pull in their side mirrors. The new bridge has wider traffic lanes and even pedestrian sidewalks.

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Anyway, as long as we were in Madison, we took the opportunity to drop in on Nathan Montoya and Anne Vestuto’s Village Lights Bookstore, right in the middle of Madison’s delightful downtown. Nathan and Ann occasionally drop in to the Book Corner here in Bloomington. He and she did their undergrad work at Indiana University many moons ago, before they had the bright idea of turning a 150-year-old building into their shop, their home, and a real local cultural center.

Village Lights is a treasure. Nathan and Anne have put gazillions of hours of sweat equity into the place, it being fairly run down when they bought it. Now it’s gorgeous with rich, dark wood appointments and a fabulous tin ceiling. There are comfortable couches and sofas placed strategically throughout the two-floor shop as well as a stunning ebony grand piano with actual ivory keys on the first floor.

TLO and I copped a few titles including de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Bellow’s Herzog, and a lovely first edition of Capote’s In Cold Blood.

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Do yourself a favor and take the ride out east to Madison one of these weekend days while the fall colors are still hot. And by all means do the Switzerland County stretch of SR 56. You’ll thank me for the tip.

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Hot Air: Not Good Enough

All Or Nothing

Think of a few passionate, grass-roots type groups. Here are some examples:

  • Those who call for more intra-neighborhood commerce; they usually employ the line Buy Local.
  • Animal rights advocates.
  • Those who push for minority-owned businesses to serve minority communities.
  • Foodies who espouse farm-to-table eating.

First thing that comes to my mind? They’re all progressive, or liberal, or anti-establishment, or of the Left, or what in the hell ever more acceptable sobriquet we can use these days to describe such people without being pelting with eggs by the language mob.

If we’re being casual about the whole thing, we’d suppose members of each of these groups raise their fists in solidarity every chance they get. The lot of them prob. would crinkle their noses at the very mention of President Gag’s name. They likely see the NRA, Big Pharma, Citizens United, Goldman Sachs, and the Tea Party as cancers ravaging the body of our holy land.

Hell, pick any citizen of Bloomington and the odds are overwhelming s/he’d happily describe her or himself a proud member of all four of those clubs.

But the United States is bigger than Bloomington, natch. The nation is crawling with Free Marketeers, gun rightists, the Christian Taliban, nativists, anti-immigrationists, prosperity gospel-ists, white supremacists, Wall Street Republicans, Main Street Republicans, militarists, moralists, those who are nauseated by the mere sound of the letters LGBTQ, traditionalists, slam ’em in prison and throw away the key types, anti-intellectuals, and other such deep thinkers.

Call them the Right, for lack of a better word. They snarl at each other on occasion, albeit usually in private. Sometimes their intramural rivalries burst out in the open, as they have within the last couple of years with the rise of Li’l Duce. Among the many barbs the candidate hurled at his competitors for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination were liar, child molester, pathological, liker of Mexican illegals, ugly, a profuse perspirer, stupid, a total disaster, a slob, and even the son of a presidential assassin.

Yet every single rival candidate so pilloried by Li’l Duce jumped on his bandwagon the instant he became the Republican nominee. There’s the old line: At election time, Republicans fall into line….

And if there’s one thing the Left disdains, it’s falling into line. Unless it’s a protest line. Such as one that popped up last month in one of my old neighborhoods in Chicago.

See, there’s a minority business owner who runs a butcher shop in the West Town neighborhood. He sells live chickens. You walk in, point at a particularly juicy looking clucker, and the butcher then relieves said fowl of its earthly cares, the first step in turning it into tonight’s dinner.

Image: Chicago Animal Save

Selling live chickens has long been a minority tradition in big city neighborhoods. My own mother told me about how her mom used to flip her a quarter and tell her to go down to the live butcher to fetch a couple of healthy birds for that day’s evening repast. Only back then, my mother recalled, she’d have to carry the live chickens home, hoping to hell one or the other wouldn’t flap away, otherwise her mother’d clunk her on the head. In those days, Sicilian mothers’d do the slaughtering themselves, just to gain the extra 20 or so minutes of freshness out of their hens.

The West Town butcher has been in business for years. It is owned by an Arab who employs other Arabs. The shop’s clientele includes Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Arabs, Chinese, young professionals, artists and other bohemians, really, the gamut of big city demographics. Customers say you’d better get to the shop early on a Sunday morning as the customer line is out the door and down the block before noon.

The butcher shop, Pollos Vivos, serves nicely as the ideal model for three of the four aforementioned Left-ish causes. It’s a local business, minority-owned, supplying farm-to-table comestibles. It’s the fourth cause, though, that brought protesters out in September.

Animal rights people marched in front of the place one morning demanding it be shut down. Killing chickens is an unforgivable sin, the members of Chicago Animal Save posit.

In baseball, .750 would be a spectacularly successful batting average. In progressive political circles these days, it’s as bad as batting .000.

Reason No. 7,628 why it’s getting harder and harder for the left to win elections in this holy land.

Barge Talk

Barge Campaigning Last Year

Speaking of progressive political circles, there still are reasonable folks carrying the banner, one of them being first-term Monroe County Commissioner Amanda Barge.

She visited with me yesterday in Big Talk. Well, really, she dropped by Tuesday — the interview aired yesterday on WFHB. I’m not shy to admit I love her to pieces, both as a public office holder and a person.

Did you miss yesterday’s Big Talk? Go here for the feature and here for the unedited, original interview.

Talk later.

Pastime

Oh, and speaking of baseball — I couldn’t be happier that both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees lost their division series openers last night.

Thursday Winners

Well, wait. Actually I could be happier — that is, if my beloved Cubs dispatch the Washington Nationals in quick order, beginning with tonight’s series opener in the nation’s capital.

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Hot Air: Wake Me When It’s Over

Worst Cases

You Guys Win, Okay?

Loads of “sovereign citizen” types say we have to arm ourselves against a tyrannical government. Of course, what they really mean is a government that shares their tax dollars with people they despise, like dark-skinned folks and Muslims and speakers of Spanish.

Similar types also say we must arm ourselves for the day when our holy land’s society breaks down, when the government collapses and the bad guys rule the streets and the fields.

Me? I’ll have no interest in hanging around should either of these potentialities come to be. The gun-toting militias and “sovereign citizens” would be doing me and my loved ones a favor by icing us with nice, clean kill shots to the brain. They can have the spoils, such as they may be.

Hit Me!

On that note, a friend revealed the other day that her brother-in-law is stockpiling canned and otherwise hermetically-sealed foodstuffs because he’s sure nuclear war is about to break out any minute.

Same deal. Should cartoon-character nemeses President Gag and Kim Jong-un press their respective launch buttons my fondest wish is an N. Korean ICBM’s payload would score a direct hit on my cranium. I don’t care to see the flash.

Is life so precious any sentient being would want to live it in a nuclear wasteland or a madhouse ruled by armed dick-wavers?

Diagnosis

If you stockpile guns, including semi-automatic and fully automatic firearms, you are, de facto, a crazy emm-effer and, effectively, a danger to society.

Priorities

Here are a few quick stats:

  1. The American Heart Association in 2015 said some 70 percent of the citizenry of this holy land either don’t know or have forgotten how to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.
  2. Last November the AHA said only 18 percent of American adults have received up-to-date training and certification in CPR.
  3. At the same time the AHA revealed factoid No. 2, the Pew Research Center found that nearly half of American white males (48%) own at least one gun.

The conclusion? I’ll let you draw your own.

A Hard Fall

I was digging through boxes in the garage the other day and came upon some old DVDs. One was a boxed set of the best of the Larry Sanders Show, one of my hands-down favorite television programs of all time, right up there with Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Better Call Saul, Mystery Science Theater 3000, the Addams Family, and any of those BBC nature productions with David Attenborough.

So, of course, I had to binge watch the Sanders episodes and one of them featured a guest appearance by Brett Butler.

Now, Butler was the top of the heap for all those 1990s stand-up comics who made it so big they were given their own TV sitcoms. She and Roseanne Barr fought it out for top dog status in the Neilsen ratings for several years. Butler’s Grace Under Fire ranked fifth and fourth in the Neilsens in its first two years on ABC. It was the story of a young, decidedly unglamorous woman who’d ditched her abusive husband and, with her three kids, struck out on her own. It was a cultural touchstone at the time, celebrating the independent woman as well as the working-class southerner. By the end of 1995, Butler was riding a wave that, it seemed, would last forever.

It didn’t. Flash forward to 2017, the living room of Chez Big Mike, she walked onto a scene in the Sanders Show, and I was jarred. Holy smoke, I said to The Loved One, what the hell ever happened to her?

Butler

Natch, I had to find out. It turns out poor Brett Butler carried a monkey on her back. She developed an addiction to painkillers and by the show’s third season, supporting actors started dropping from the cast. According to the mother of one child actor who’d appeared as the son in the show, Butler had flashed her breasts at him. He was 12 years old at the time. Other actors complained of abusive, irrational behavior on the star’s part. By 1998, ABC couldn’t rid itself of Butler quick enough, firing her and cancelling the show. Its rating for the 1997-98 season had fallen to No. 68.

A sad tale, sure, but scads of Hollywood types have hit the skids and somehow found a way to claw back to the top. Butler never did. Here’s where the real sadness comes in: exiled from H-wood, Butler retreated to her farm in Georgia, living there with her 15 pets until all her money ran out. She had to give up the farm and eventually wound up homeless, living for a while in a shelter.

Now Butler’s trying to make a comeback. She does some stand-up in LA — no word on the crowds she does or doesn’t draw — and at one point tried to peddle a sitcom idea based on a woman who has psychic abilities, a talent Butler herself claims to possess.

Butler’s life story would have been perfect for one of those old Lifetime cable channel tearjerkers, only, apparently, she hasn’t gotten back to the top yet. Who knows if she ever will?

I dunno about you, but I’ve never envied any TV and/or movie stars. Hollywood’s a racket that strips its participants of way too much humanity and decency, even if success in the business does allow one the purchase of a farm in Georgia and other trophies of wealth.

Hot Air: Falling

Deep

Gravity is a habit that is hard to shake off.

Terry Pratchett

The Nobel Prize in Physics has been announced and the winners this year are three guys who are black hole mavens, black holes being the universe’s ultimate expression of gravity.

(L-R) Thorne, Barish, Weiss

The truth of the matter is, despite all our advances in knowledge since the time of Newton’s Principia, in which he told us how gravity worked mathematically, we really don’t yet know exactly what gravity is. That is, how does it work? What is the mechanism by which the Earth keeps you from floating off into space? Which would be awfully inconvenient, especially if you have a date tonight.

To us, it’s still a sort of magic.

We do know about the inverse-square law, of course. If the moon were twice as far from the Earth, the pull of our planet’s gravity on it would be four times weaker. We also know that every single object in existence — a baseball, an oak tree, a proton, my homemade meatloaf — exerts a gravitational pull on every single other object in the universe. So, say you had nothing to do this afternoon and decided to place an electron at one end of the observable universe and another one at the very opposite end. The two electrons would begin yanking each other’s chain. That’s action at a distance of some 13 billion light years, quite a jog indeed. Put in terms equally incomprehensible, that’s 7.642 x 1022 or 76,420,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles. Yeesh.

[Update: The original version of this post stated that gravity acts instantaneously across all distances. Einstein’s Relativity showed that gravity moves at the speed of light. h/t to Marc Haggerty for pointing out my error.]

Marc’s right and I’m the one who missed something. I wrote the original post as if I were a Newtonian, pedanting before Relativity came on the scene.

Acc’d’g to that old mop-haired geek Einstein, gravity is actually a ripple in the fabric of the cosmos. So, imagine the universe being a big blanket you and three friends are holding, spread out, and a fourth friend then places a bowling ball in the center of it. The depression caused by the bowling ball replicates, as closely as we lay people can grasp, what an object in space does to…, well, space.

Like I said, it’s still magic to us.

And here we are, stuck on Earth by that very fundamental force, still trying to figure out how not to slaughter each other for the hell of it or foul our air, water, and soil for the sake of stockholder value.

 

Dope Tech

When all is said and done, in a  few decades we’ll be laughing our heads off at those old fogies who texted back in the ‘teens. Texting, to our progeny, will be as quaint as telegrams are to us now. Tech advances will make thumbing individual letters on a little electronic keyboard anachronistic within our very lifetimes.

But, we’re addicted to it now, just as, at one time, people couldn’t get through their days without watching the ten o’clock news on TV. I caught two instances of the weirdness of texting yesterday afternoon.

  1. I was behind a minivan on SR 46 at about 4:20pm. It had one of those annoying Baby on Board decals on its back window, you know, the ones that imply I don’t give a shit how many people you mow down on your own time, you’d better drive carefully around me because I have a vehicle full of trophy children here. The driver of this minivan seemed to be impaired, weaving in his own lane and coming to stops as if he’d just awakened from a nap. I pulled up next to him at a red and realized he’d been busy texting which, we all know now to be the definition of driving like a dick.
  2. I had to text an address to somebody earlier in the afternoon. The address I wanted to send was 108 W. 4th St. Only my phone’s spellchecker, of its own accord, changed to W. to E. Now there’s no good reason in the world for spellchecker to do that other than it simply wanted to fuck with me.

I can’t wait for texting to go the way of the car CB radio.

Amanda Clerkin Barge will join me in the studio today to record this week’s edition of Big Talk. She’s the first-term Monroe County Commissioner who, against all odds, copped her seat as the rest of the Democratic Party suffered ignominious defeat last November.

Tune in Thursday on WFHB, 91.3, at 5pm on your radio receiving device or come back here Friday for podcast links.

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Tanto Tempo

If you haven’t discovered Bebel Gilberto yet, where’ve you been?

Hot Air: Ready, Aim…

Broken Record

What is there to be said? Other than, of course, every day is Groundhog Day now.

Six Of One

Half of us believe this is a white supremacist nation, with dark-skinned people facing a daily Sisyphean battle. The other half flat-out doesn’t see it.

Take a wild guess which demographics align themselves with what side of that debate.

Both Sides Now

The Loved One and I watched a pretty decent historical movie the other night, All the Way. It’s the story of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s presidency set against the backdrop of the civil rights struggle. LBJ’s campaign slogan in 1964 was “All the way with LBJ!” Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston stars as LBJ and, as if I needed to tell you, he nails the very complicated, multi-layered Texan. One day Cranston’ll be cast as god and he’ll nail that role as well.

Anyway, the narrative shows LBJ cajoling, sweet-talking, bullying, pontificating, and outright lying his way to getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through a very unwilling Congress. Cast as the antagonist is Frank Langella as Georgia Sen. Richard Russell, whom LBJ calls, affectionately, Uncle Dick.

Langella’s Russell comes across as a stately old sage, hidebound, sure, but really not a bad guy. There’s a scene in the Senate lounge where a few other southern senators are grousing about how passage of the Act would annihilate the Democratic Party and ensure the election of Barry Goldwater that coming November. One of the senators drops the N-bomb and Langella/Russell reams him: Don’t ever use that language in public again or else “they” will use it as ammunition against us, calling us uneducated beasts.

Sure, the movie portrays Russell as a major hurdle before passage. Yet LBJ is able to bring him around and persuade him to bring along the other southern senators. As such, there’s almost a sense of pity for Russell in the movie, as if the poor old bird’s time is passing and even he can see the new world opening up in the United States.

In a lot of ways, it’s a mirror of the way a lot of southerners like to see their side of the Civil War. Aw, hell, we weren’t bad guys! All we wanted to do was preserve our genteel way of life, our culture, our pride. Y’all didn’t need to burn our cities — we’d’a come around eventually.

Langella as Russell is pictured in one poignant final scene, in his kitchen, wearing his bathrobe, hanging up after calling LBJ to congratulate him on his historic landslide election victory. Russell looks sad and old, a relic of the past. You almost want to hug him and tell him it’ll all be okay.

LBJ & Russell

Problem is, Russell was a force for hatred and fear throughout his career as a senator. Case in point: I’m reading a book called 1940, the story of that year’s presidential election and the tug of war between American isolationists and those who foresaw the coming apocalyptic battle against Fascism and Nazism. A younger Sen. Richard Russell makes an appearance in the book. It turns out he was mighty active in — and on the wrong side of — yet another minority issue.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews were desperate to escape Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Most of them wanted to come to America where they were certain safety and relief awaited. There’s an anecdote about a packed ocean liner full of German Jewish refugees at anchor in the Atlantic off the New York/New Jersey coast, waiting to be allowed into the US. The Coast Guard had been dispatched to surround the liner to make sure no one jumped off the ship and swam to these shores. Eventually, the liner was denied entry to any American port and so had to turn back for Europe. Many of the people on board resettled in Belgium and the Netherlands, where they were ultimately rounded up by German occupiers and sent to concentration camps.

And who do you think was one of this holy land’s leading figures in keeping the Jewish refugees out? Why, it was Georgia Senator Richard Russell, good old Uncle Dick, that stately sage. He railed almost daily against “aliens” and immigrants and asylum-seekers who were sure to weaken and taint this blessed nation.

I make a lot of excuses for American historical figures who fostered and nurtured our white supremacist society. I like to point out that the likes of Washington and Jefferson were children of their times, that we can’t really expect them to have been as enlightened as we are in 2017. They were, I like to argue, progressive for their day.

Yet there were those who happily went far beyond their peers in matters of hatred. Andrew Jackson, for example. And George Armstrong Custer. The entire Confederate States of America. George Wallace and Bull Connor.

Now add to that list the respected and venerable Richard Russell. Hell, half the country is named after him. There’s the main Senate office building in Washington, DC, the southern regional USDA headquarters, Atlanta’s federal office building, a dam and lake on the Savannah River, a Georgia airport, a now-decommissioned US Navy submarine, various parkways and byways, elementary, middle and high schools galore, piles of college campus halls and auditoria, and there are statues of him all around the Peach State.

Yes, he did some notable things that benefitted the citizens of this nation — provided they were white. I won’t present a laundry list of them because his honorers have done a bang-up job doing that. But until we recognize the evils he perpetrated, we’ll only ever have half a picture of him.

Funny thing is, that’s pretty much an epithet for almost every white man who ever held office in these United States.

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