Author Archives: glabwrites

1000 Words: Olio

Notice that word in the headline? Proof positive I’m a crossword junkie. Olio shows up approximately every half dozen crosswords I do. Clue: A four-letter word for Medley. Or Miscellany, Assortment, Melange, etc. It’s one of those words that turn up only in crosswords.

I don’t use it myself (until this very minute) because it just doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t fit its definition. Plus, it sounds and looks too much like Oleo, another crossword word. Short for Oleomargarine. Which itself is a funny word like Omnibus, the grandparent of our commonly-used term, Bus. Or maybe it’s the parent thereof. If, in that case, it’s related on its mother’s side, it would be described as Enate. Yet another crossword word.

See how my vocabulary has been expanded by spending so many hours, months, years — decades, for chrissakes — filling out all those crossword puzzles? Not that I use any of the aforementioned in everyday conversation. Nevertheless they continue to reside in my personal word bank. Or Jargon, Glossary, or Lexicon.

Okay, I’ll stop.

Anyway, Olio. It’s in the hed (an old newspaper contraction for Headline) today because this post will be, natch, a collection of things, as opposed to an essay on a single topic.

Topic No. 1 (obviously): Olio and crosswords.

Topic No. 2: The 45th President of the United States may or may not be indicted today in New York City. He may or may not be arrested or turn himself in. Nobody knows nothin’ just yet. We do know he made a hush money payment to a porn star with whom he dabbled some years ago. We don’t know, just yet, if the funds he used to shut her up came, illegally, from his campaign chest.

But here’s something we do know. Donald Trump is a man who’s never let an opportunity to be in the public eye slip — even if it’s for being involved in a potentially criminal, tawdry bribe. The other day he shrieked out to the world on his Truth Social page that he was going to be busted today, thereby spurring countless idolators to unbelt and send scads of scratch to his campaign and other accounts because…, well, that’s what he does best. Raking in suckers’ dough and portraying himself as ever-aggrieved, the target of vicious, spiteful persecutors, and the Victim-in-Chief, are his primary — and likely only — talents.

In any case, when announcing he was going to be perp-walked, he called for his supporters to come out and protest as the bracelets are being slapped on him. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why there hasn’t been a screaming outrage over this call-out. I mean, the last time he called for protests, a mob stormed the United States Capitol, occupied Representatives’ offices, smeared human shit on marble walls, floors, and statues, broke stuff up, and cost the lives of five people. It was, perhaps, the ugliest scene in Washington, DC since segregationists felt comfortable enough to display their true colors (pun intended) back in the days of Strom Thurmond and Dick Russell.

It’d be like Bernie Madoff announcing from his prison cell he was about to start a new business venture. Or the loon who killed nine Black people in a South Carolina church back in 2015 authoring a book on the history of race relations in the United States.

Donald Trump begging for people to take the streets is a clarion call for violence and mayhem. Yet it seems nobody was terribly disturbed by his call. Except me.

In delving into this, I learned that Trumpists, by and large, are being uncharacteristically circumspect regarding these protests. USA Today reports Trump’s message “seems to be falling on deaf — or at least unwilling — ears.” The Hill quotes House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a notorious Trump coat-holder, as saying, “I don’t think people should protest this stuff.” The Associated Press reports, “Former President Donald Trump’s calls for protests before his anticipated indictment in New York have generated mostly muted reactions from supporters, with even some of his most ardent loyalists dismissing the idea as a waste of time or a law enforcement trap.”

What does this all tell us? Is Trump’s svengali-hold on that 30-or-so percent of the American electorate petering out? Or are the Trumpists playing a strategic hand?

Either way, what Trump did is spectacularly rash, even for him.

Of course, it could be that America, at long last, is beginning to ignore him the way frazzled parents strategically ignore the tantrums of a brat.

Topic No. 3: I’ve lived in Bloomington, Indiana for a good 14 years now. I’ve loved much of it. I told one of my Bloomington pals early on that it was like a dream for me to live in a college town and rub shoulders with professors, lecturers, researchers, and other such cerebralists.

Yet the habitués of academia are not without their quirks. Take a look at this description for an American Comparative Literature Association seminar that took place this past weekend in Chicago:

What key concepts or fundamental principles might best equip theory as an engaged practice for the 21st century? What sorts of norms and ideals should organize criticism and theory: how and why? This seminar asks participants to identify a specific value — i.e. “sustainability” or “freedom” or “impersonality” or “disclosure” or “affirmation” etc. — and to argue vigorously for it. It seeks papers that situate these values both within and against guiding edicts in the tradition of literary criticism and comparative literature.  What principles might better operationalize and animate critical theory? What habits and dictates have precluded value assertion from within literary criticism? How might a specific value for the present and future either extend and explicate or counter and revise the governing conventions of the past?

What in god’s holy name does any of that mean?

My first impulse was to ridicule, mercilessly, whomever wrote the description as well as anybody who signed up for the seminar.

But perhaps I’m just ignorant. If any Pencillistas can decode this paragraph, please help me understand it.

Although any statement containing the word Operationalize seems, de facto, inscrutable.

Operationalize:  Yet another entry in my word bank. And one I don’t suspect I’ll ever actually use.

1000 Words: Our Very Own

As we all sit around and cluck our tongues about what a bastard Russian boss Vladimir Putin is, a lot of us will hardly notice that Monday is the 20th anniversary of our own foray into overthrowing a sovereign government, slaughtering countless civilians, and destroying precious infrastructure.

That’s right: March 20th marks two decades since the United States of America invaded Iraq. The undeclared war lasted eight years, eight months, and 29 days and cost the lives of more than 4600 US soldiers, a couple of hundred others from participating coalition nations, more than 17,600 Iraqi fighters, and — at very least — more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Some estimates of civilian deaths range as high as 300,000. If you want to split the difference, go ahead. They’re only numbers. A hundred thousand or three hundred thousand matters only to accountants and statisticians. Whether it’s the low end or the high that’s accurate, countless mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, spouses, lovers, friends, neighbors, and many others mourned the loss of someone close to them.

So, yeah sure, Putin’s a bastard. But what was — is — George W. Bush?

To this day, the question remains: Why did the US invade Iraq?

You want an answer? Pick from this list:

  • Iraq participated in planning and executing the 9/11 attacks
  • Iraq’s leader was a no-good tyrant
  • Iraq was thisclose to making its own nuclear weapons
  • Iraq possessed chemical and/or biological weapons and was prepared to use them on its neighbors or even on us

How about this? Saddam Hussein was a mote in the eye of the global fossil fuel industry.

Or this? Pentagon wonks, relying on game theory models, foresaw a war between the US and Iraq somewhere down the road, so why not make it happen sooner rather than later, at a time and place of our choosing?

So, there’s six possible reasons why our holy land launched an attack that killed, at minimum, 150,000 human beings. Pick one or pick ’em all.

And, truth is, that’s likely precisely what President Bush and his trusted advisors did in the lead-up to March 20, 2003. They picked ’em all.

I haven’t even mentioned yet another casus belli, America’s ego. We got punked on 9/11 and beating the bejesus out of Afghanistan simply wasn’t enough for us to get our macho-man mojo back. The year 2003 was still only 30 years past our ignominious loss in the Vietnam (undeclared) War. Most decision makers and, hell, most Americans, still smarted over that disaster. We needed a big time win and Hussein’s Iraq was screaming out to be trounced.

Dang, Dutch, Rambo, and all the rest of the 80s genies whose lamps we rubbed in hopes our great nation could once again kick the living crap out another nation, just the way god intended, were itching like mad to sling semi-automatics over their shoulders again and march off to the shores of Tripoli. Our victory in the first Gulf War against Hussein was spectacularly unsatisfying inasmuch as Saddam remained in power, we never occupied Iraqi control centers, and that war’s end was less a moment of supreme triumph than the blowing out of a candle.

War against a real enemy, led by a man whom we could plausibly* compare to Adolf Hitler, and resulting in an inarguable W in the record books, became inevitable from 1979 on.

* Plausible, that is, to the vast majority of Americans whose idea of history was a six-month old rerun of “Cheers.”

Back in ’79, we got humiliated by that other I-country over there somewhere in the Middle East, or wherever, y’know…, they’re all the same, aren’t they? Islamic militants in Iran overthrew the Shah and took 52 American diplomats and office workers hostage, keeping them for 444 days, costing Jimmy Carter the presidency and us our swagger as The Country that Won World War II. The hostages were released a scant half hour after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States, a choreographed “coincidence” that became proof positive to the lunkhead set that Saint Ron had superpowers.

Even though we got the hostages back, thank god almighty, we hadn’t sliced the Ayatollah Khomeini and his wild-eyed revolutionaries into ribbons, giving the aforementioned lunkhead gang more time and reason to stew.

Thus began the slew of movies wherein the Vietnam War and other American humiliations were re-fought against fictional enemies. The were, of course, Rambo, Stripes,  Commando, Top Gun…, hell the list goes on and on. Americans — the good guys — triumphing in those flicks made us feel good for a moment or two as we left theaters but only the real thing, a blood-soaked ass-whuppin’ administered by us to them — whoever they were — would suffice.

And when our nation was spanked and shut down by the several dozen fundamentalist loons bankrolled by Osama bin Laden, our urge to fight — whomever, wherever, it didn’t matter one iota — became irresistible.

Max Fisher writes in Sunday’s New York Times that many in the Bush braintrust had a hankering to go shooting in Iraq years before 9/11 or anybody had started whispering the initials WMD. Whereas Iraq’s purported nuclear program was, in reality, as close to non-existent as it could be, its chemical and biological weapons programs ditto, and game theory models are the stuff of, well, games, Bush’s people cobbled together all the reasons to go gunning into Iraq and simply picked the ones that would resonate with the American people the most and the best.

Fisher writes: “A critical mass of senior officials all came to the table wanting to topple Mr. Hussein for their own reasons, and then talked one another into believing the most readily available justification.”

And so began the eight year, eight month, 29 day undeclared war that cost anywhere from 150,000 to more than 300,000 people their lives. Don’t get me wrong, the world without Saddam Hussein is a better place but Iraq today is a failed state riven by violent factions. I don’t suppose Iraqis feel any much better today about their country than they did in, say, 2002.

As for us, the answer to the question posed above — But what was — is — George W. Bush? — is simple. He’s our bastard.

But, nevertheless, a bastard.

1000 Words: Pro- or Anti-

I’ve passed the sign countless times on State Road 46 just this side of Ellettsville. And it wasn’t until the other day that the full meaning of it hit me: WOMB radio. I don’t have a pic of the actual LED sign but here’s the logo from WOMB’s webpage:

Filling the O, naturally, is the image of a fetus, probably about six or seven months along in its development, far past the time the average pregnant woman gets an abortion. The Pew Research Center reported on January 11, 2023: “In 2020, 93% of abortions occurred during the first trimester – that is, at or before 13 weeks of gestation, according to the CDC.”

Now, the Roman Catholic Church isn’t the first or only advocacy organization to exaggerate to makes its point. Hell, I recall seeing one environmental group try to scare the bejesus out of the world by claiming climate change just might wipe out life on the planet by the year 2050. You don’t get very far by saying, “Hey, folks, we’ve got a really serious problem on our hands but it ain’t gonna affect us for a few hundred or even a thousand years.”

No, if you want to motivate people, if you want them to dip into their wallets to contribute to your cause, you make them think disaster’s right around the corner. Or, like WOMB radio, you portray the statistically least likely potentially aborted fetus in order to shake up the largest number of drivers passing by its LED sign.

For pity’s sake, during The Loved One’s and my weekly Sunday drives through Southern Indiana, we see any number of anti-abortion billboards featuring a cuddly tot, grinning and half-tented in a crib blanket, accompanied by a message reading, essentially, Why Would You Kill This?

Well, you wouldn’t, because that kid’s already been born and abortion is a procedure done almost exclusively during the first trimester of pregnancy. The 45th President of the United States, when he was running for office sometime in 2016, even claimed many doctors were performing abortions after the child had been delivered which, like so much of what he’s ever said, is utterly dishonest. That would be called murder and if such a practice does hold in this holy land, the twice-impeached president would have been the very first to point it out, a terribly unlikely possibility considering he’d never before shown any concern for the life of any human being, whether recently delivered, ten years old, 25, 55, or 95.

I can’t explain why the WOMB sign eluded my close attention until now. Generally, I’m alert to all road signs, even reading them aloud, much to The Loved One’s mild annoyance. Certainly the bazillions of anti-abortion signs on SR 37, US 50, Interstate 69, and pretty much every paved byway in the state imprint themselves in my memory. Maybe it’s the high-tech aspect of WOMB’s sign. There’s this quasi-Luddite aspect of my nature that causes me to shy away from tech for tech’s sake, as evidenced by my refusal to carry a smartphone. But that’s just me.

But now WOMB is etched in my brain. Again, I’m moved by how obsessed half this nation is with abortion. All the churches of whatever faith TLO and I pass every Sunday seem compelled to post a sign or billboard. And the vast majority of said signs and billboards carry an anti-abortion message. Of all the ills in the world abortion, apparently, is the only one that counts with people who believe there’s such a thing as a god.

Back to WOMB’s website, the footer message on its main page reads (all sic):

From WOMB to the TOMB we are 100% pro-life. No contraception. No abortion. No euthanasia… NO EXCEPTIONS!!!

Given their exuberant use of capital letters and exclamation marks, the people who run WOMB really mean business.

Funny thing is, there’s no mention of capital punishment, which is odd considering so many religious types are spectacularly mistrustful of the government. I mean, governments from the township level to the superpower seem too often incapable of efficiently, quickly, and properly filling potholes, keeping banks from collapsing, preventing enemies from floating spy balloons over their territory, and even making sure trains carrying highly toxic chemicals are operated without fear of derailment and explosion. Yet, those same government officials are given a free hand to snuff out the lives of convicted criminals.

Criminals, of course, who’ve been convicted by a justice system demonstrably warped by money and racism. I’ve never yet seen an Indiana church sign or billboard saying No Capital Punishment Ever!

Church folks like to tell the world they are caring and loving, that helping their sisters and brothers is the highest form of dedication to godly principles. Yet their refusal to consider abortion even at risk of the mother’s life or her inability to care for and provide for her unborn child, coupled with their abhorrence of mercy killings and assisted suicides for people wracked by unbearable pain, untreatable cancer, inability to take a deep breath, or soul-crushing dementia appears to me to be flat out mean.

To be sure millions and millions of pious folks care deeply for humanity and might well perform supreme sacrifices for the benefit of others, but the obsessive anti-abortion gang doesn’t strike me as being part of that altruistic subset.

The anti-abortion movement seems a symptom of tribal supremacy. We don’t want our women to abort, it sounds as though they’re saying, because we have to have the most people. And it’s been the countries with the most people who traditionally have ruled, either over huge swathes of the planet or the entire globe.

I suppose this instinct was important when small, nomadic bands of people lived in fear of other small, nomadic bands of people on the other side of that big hill and across that wide river. They had to have more warriors than the other side did. Perhaps that still holds today. China boasts nearly five times as many people as the United States does. Should the two nations go toe to toe, China’s got a hell of a lot more cannon fodder to lose.

Perhaps being anti-abortion isn’t pro-life at all.

1000 Words: I Don’t Want To Know

Try as I might I can’t quite figure out all this transgender blowback that’s going on across this benighted countryt.

That Tennessee law banning most public displays of transgenderism would seem to be the last straw, the most egregious crackdown on people’s personal liberties imaginable. Then I remind myself that when radical, reactionary, neo- and crypt0-fascists get up a head of steam, the sky’s the limit. So Tennessee likely won’t have the last word in criminalizing gender expression.

While most of the nation seems okay with people deciding their genders assigned at birth don’t fit them anymore and, subsequently, acting upon that realization, antediluvian legislatures are falling all over themselves to enact laws designed to stop them. It’s as though a loud minority has taken over.

I suppose that explanation is as good as any.

Statehouse senators and representatives, as well as a passel of higher-ups — including Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Arkansas’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado’s Lauren Boebert — have positioned themselves as modern-day saviors, proclaiming themselves to be defenders of righteousness and good while cracking down viciously on rights and expressions.

Their chief crackdown right now is men dressing as women. Of course, it isn’t all as simple as that. Men dressing as women implies there are only two gender paths, both imposed on us all at birth and never to be trifled with. Reality and scientific explanation have demonstrated that gender is not binary but a fluid, too often societally warped spectrum. XXs and XYs are but one deciding factor in a person’s self-identification. People are born with a wide range of genital structures. Their minds and hearts, too, encompass an equally vast scale of sex and gender identifiers.

This has been true for all of human history. Men dressing as women, for lack of a better term, has been part of every human culture and society ever studied.

Women dressing as men, too. Yet, somehow, these modern day protectors of children and virtue don’t seem to care much about that aspect of things. Perhaps because women wearing men’s clothing signifies an aspiration to a higher state. To be sure, these anti-cross-gender display laws are written and championed by people who, no doubt, see men as superior beings and why in the hell wouldn’t any thinking woman want ascend to that holy state?

But men dressing as women? By god, that’s sick and evil. It’d be like blacks calling for a return to slavery or Jews loading themselves into the trains headed for Dachau. Crazy!

You see? I’m tying myself into knots trying to figure these people out. With a world entering a climate crisis stage, ongoing wars, the epidemic spread of automatic firearms and random shootings, men still physically abusing their domestic partners, the widening wealth gap, and countless other immediate and long-term threats to humanity, the DeSantis/Huckabee Sanders/Greene/Boebert gang see men on stage wearing spectacular gowns, multi-colored wigs, and dazzling makeup as something, by golly, we have to act on right now!

Of course, the drag-show-ban gang is using The Children as their most potent weapon. I’ve been to many a drag show and I’ve yet to see any crowd therein populated by tots. The Tennessee law specifically refers to The Children. It’s the same canard people used over the past few decades to fight against legal protections for gays and lesbians. What about The Children? they shriek.

It makes me wonder why The Children always pop into their minds when the issue of sex arises. I don’t want to make any unsupported claims here but…, well, use your imagination.

Problem is they’re using their imaginations and, for pity’s sake, thank heavens mine doesn’t go to those places.

Here’s another stab at trying to figure this all out. America — and much of the world — has become this tribal battlefield where each side sees everything the other thinks and says as The Worst Thing Imaginable. To be sure, my side does it too but, sheesh, the Trumpists, the Hard Right, the Fox News-consuming couch monsters have become expert practitioners at it. If the Liberals and the Democrats think drag shows are cool and lesbians can be teachers and gays cops, then these automatically become mortal sins. How many Fox folks even thought about drag shows before the echo chambers they live in brought them up? How many considered RuPaul — remember her? — a threat to children’s safety?

But as my side hollered for more tolerance and embracing of those Others, the other side reflexively dug in their heels. You’re okay with transgender people? In that case, they must be stopped!

As I say, I’m trying here. I’m casting about for answers.

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon played women in “Some Like It Hot.” Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari did the same in “Bosom Buddies.” Hell, let’s go back hundreds of years to Shakespeare’s original productions in the Globe Theatre where every single solitary female role was played by a man. You’ve heard of Shakespeare, right? The fellow that every high school English teacher in anybody’s memory has assigned their students to read, to study, to embrace. As far as I know, high school students are mostly children.

No wonder there are so many gays and lesbians and drag show performances — The Children have been mesmerized by a playwright who dressed men in women’s clothing! Shakespeare was a groomer!

Am I coming any closer to an understanding here?

I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever know. There are some things I don’t want to know. And I sure as hell don’t want to go delving into the minds and imaginations of the likes of Ron DeSantis, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and the Tennessee legislature.

1000 Words: Casting Call — Hero

Both my cities — Bloomington and Chicago — are staging mayoral races this year. Both of them, too, will have a new mayor next term, no matter what happens in their respective contests.

Chicago is my beloved hometown and Bloomington my adopted home. I like and, occasionally, love them both for wildly different reasons. I dislike and, occasionally, loathe them both, similarly for disparate reasons.

Chi-town was the home of my younger days when I had all the energy in the world, all the curiosity, daring, rashness, and adventurousness, too. One of the great cities of the world, Chicago offered the younger Big Mike all the art, frissons, sex, food, sports, music, booze, and mildly criminal pursuits I could have imagined. Then, as my body began breaking down and I started dodging a string of death bullets, I found myself more composed, more exhausted, more circumspect, and less in need of thrills and spills. I wanted a slower pace, a more bucolic environment, but one that still offered me intellectual and artistic stimulation. Bloomington fits the bill.

Both cities are staunchly liberal, a must for me. I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me to live in this godforsaken Republican state with its reactionary, lunkhead legislators and largely Trumpist countryside. But being that Bloomington is a deeply entrenched island of progressivism — or what passes for progressivism these days — it’s almost bearable to live in what is sometimes referred to as the Alabama of the north. Or is it the Mississippi of the north? No matter.

Make no mistake, though, Illinoisians outside of Chicago are no more prone to read Cornel West or Noam Chomsky than most habitués of the aforementioned Mississippi. Or Alabama. Whatever. It’s just that Chicagoland is so huge and sprawling that a majority of state senators and representatives in Springfield are far closer to me in terms of life and political philosophy than, say, Indiana’s Todd Rokita, now the state’s attorney general but previously a longtime statehouse fixture. Rokita, for instance, gained national headlines last year when he launched a slander campaign against a medical doctor for performing an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim. In Rokita’s world, the doctor is the villain in the case, not the rapist.

Not everybody in Indiana buys into Rokitaism but plenty do. Way too plenty.

So, Chicagoans and Bloomingtonians are trudging to the polls this year to select shiny new chief executives. Bloomington’s current mayor, John Hamilton, unexpectedly announced this past November he wouldn’t be seeking a third term. The announcement opened the door for three Democrats to declare their candidacy in the party’s primary, which in this town is a coronation. To the best of my recollection, there hasn’t been a Republican candidate for mayor in any general mayoral election since I arrived here in 2009. As usual, there are no declared Republican candidates for any citywide office this year. A single Republican is running for  one of the nine city council seats.

The last Republican mayor of Bloomington was a fellow named Jack Hooker who was ousted in the 1971 election, a revolution of sorts that transformed this college town from a Republican stronghold to a Democratic one. For more info on that election read my friend Charlotte Zietlow’s new book, 1971: How We Won. While you’re at it, pick up the book I wrote with her, MInister’s Daughter, her memoir.

Hooker, by the way, was indicted for some zoning and development malfeasance, the likes of which deserved a slap on the wrist. Hooker was found guilty in a criminal trial. His punishment? A $2 fine. Let me clarify that: two bucks.

Back in Chi., a ward heeler in those days would use two dollars to light the hundred dollar bill he’d use to light his cigar. Which he probably stole or extorted in the first place.

Anyway, the three Dems wrasslin’ with each other for the right to sit in Hamilton’s warmed-up chair are Kerry Thomson, former longtime CEO of the local Habitat for Humanity branch and current director of Indiana University’s Center for Rural Engagement; Susan Sandberg, longtime and outgoing city council member and retired career development advisor in IU’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and Don Griffin, real estate holding company founder and former deputy mayor under Hamilton.

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I’ve invited all three candidates to appear on my WFHB radio interview program, Big Talk. Thus far, Sandberg and Thomson have come on the show. I’m still waiting to schedule a recording date with Griffin. After the May 2nd primary, I’ll put out the call for any potential independents or Republicans (under state law, a major party may caucus in a candidate up until July, bypassing the primary process; I wouldn’t bet the mortgage this county’s GOP will do so this year, despite the heavy lifting performed by Taylor Bryant and William Ellis, current and former party chair, respectively).

Catch the Sandberg Big Talk here and the Thomson edition here. As soon as I get a Griffin edition on the air, I’ll post that podcast as well.

So, as I said, Bloomington’ll have a new mayor soon. So will Chicago. Current mayor Lori Lightfoot got the hell kicked out of her yesterday, finishing third to Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson. Perhaps it’d be more accurate to say the events of the past few years kicked the hell out of Lightfoot. The pandemic and resultant economic slowdown as well as an alarming violent crime rate and mob actions on the city’s showcase Magnificent Mile did her in. Vallas capitalized on those troubles, focusing his campaign on public safety. He emerged the top vote-getter yesterday. He’ll face Johnson in an April runoff. Chicago’s mayoral elections are non-partisan (well, technically, at least) and if a candidate doesn’t get a numerical majority in the first go-round, the top two meet in a runoff.

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The first question I asked of both Sandberg and Thomson was Why in god’s name would you want to be mayor? People vote for a mayor to solve the many intractable problems of a city, be it a part of a megalopolis or a modest mid-sized burgh. Invariably, those problems persist, voters get disenchanted and then seek another hero to come to the rescue.

Lori Lightfoot learned that lesson the hard way yesterday.

1000 Words: Fear & Loathing In A Hospital Gown

In what setting are you compelled to remove all your clothing and lie down while three, four, or even five people fuss around you, ministering to selected parts of your body?

I suppose one or two Pencillistas might flash, in their venereal imaginations, to that variety of intentionally inconspicuous business wherein money is exchanged for certain diversions.

Me? I’m thinking about the hospital. That’s been on my mind a lot of late because all the pre- and post-surgery appointments have been made for what I hope will be my final slicing and dicing in a long series of such excavations I’ve experienced, grudgingly, over the last 15 or so years. In that time, I’ve been carved open, re-jiggered, and sewn back up at least eight times that I can recall off the top of my head.

These operations included sawing bone ends off, the inducement of a therapeutic heart attack (honest: a surgeon actually caused a myocardial infarction in me, intentionally, to rectify a heart malformation), the insertion of a rubber feeding tube directly into my stomach, the implant of a defibrillator, the repair of gaping holes in my abdominal wall, and several other forms of knifeplay.

I’ve known about most of these things well in advance. I’ve planned the last three surgeries, including the one scheduled for Monday, April 10th, to take place at reasonable intervals over the last three years. The upcoming gashfest will entail my second total hip replacement.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m eternally grateful for the care and professionalism exhibited by the doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, attendants and all the other fine employees I’ll encounter on the day of surgery but, truth be told, I hate it, hate it all, hate it, hate it, hate it. I even hate them, much as I wish I wouldn’t.

Okay, I’ll Admit It: I Hate These People.

It ain’t easy to walk into a place and be told to strip and lie down on a cold bed in the pre-op room, while various people pepper me with questions about my medical history, my allergies, my living will, and my health insurance, while others poke and jam needles in me and record every measurable sign and symptom of the life remaining in me. Worse, at one point, someone’s going to come into the room and shave the hair off me in some ridiculously huge neighborhood surrounding the point where the surgeon plans to plunge his shiv.

I grit my teeth and try to be a good sport about it all but occasionally I get testy, pleading for only one person at a time do her or his thing. It’s the only remnant of bodily autonomy I have left at that moment. Sometimes the gang surrounding me even accedes to that wish.

One thing I dread is being pressured to characterize my pain using the numeric system hospitals have developed over the last few decades. Here it is:

Am I the only one who is baffled by this system? I find it almost impossible to answer when the nurse asks about my pain level.

I’m torn between being honest and being a he-man. Then — and don’t try to figure this out; several shrinks have tried and come up short — there’s my own doubt in my pain recognition. Am I imagining my pain to be worse than it actually is? Would a frail old lady bear similar pain better?

After one surgery, to remove a cataract from my right eyeball (into which a nurse had actually inserted a hypodermic needle beforehand — swear to god!) I experienced severe pain to the point of nausea. One attendant harrumphed and said little old ladies could take the pain better than I could. Turns out I was severely allergic to the anti-inflammatory drug they bathed my eyeball in. Again I kid you not, but the eyeball swelled, making me look like a monster from a cheap 1950s movie.

I was brought up in the 1960s when male boys were ordered to suck it up, don’t cry, don’t be a baby, you’ll get over it, only little girls cry, et cetera. Much as I’ve tried to move past those messages in the ensuing decades, they still reside in my psyche, sort of the way the chickenpox virus lurks in the system, just waiting to spring shingles on you when you’re 66 years old. Only there’s no vaccine to prevent the re-emergence of toxic male messaging.

So, if I think to characterize my pain as, say, a seven — very severe — am I being a baby? Would the 79-year-old woman down the hall be tolerating even worse pain?

I tell you, my very senses of valor and masculinity depend on my getting the answer right. Meaning the answer is never right.

For pity’s sake, why isn’t my assertion that the pain is severe — using those exact words — be sufficient? Oh no, we have to know whether that severe pain is 10 or 20 percent less than the Worst Pain Possible. Is this kind of thinking driven by computer programs or insurance risk managers? They’re very insistent on precise figures. If you get slugged in the nose, splattering the proboscis over much of your face, would the pain be a six or an eight or even a ten?

Who knows? More importantly, who cares? Why isn’t It hurts like hell enough?

We all understand pain levels exist on a spectrum. And that spectrum often is skewed by conditions. When you stub your toe in the middle of the night, the pain, for a scintillating moment at least, feels like a ten. But when your throat’s been burned by cancer radiation therapy for the last few weeks and you’re spitting out sloughed-off bits of the mucous membrane and skin lining your larynx, the pain begins to seem like a four or five.

It isn’t, but we get used to things, even severe pain.

I’ll survive April’s ordeal. Hell, I’ll probably be able to walk again, making all the discomfort, the loss of control, the ordeal, well worth it. But, please — please! — don’t ask me what number my pain is.

1000 Words: The Madness of the Crowd… and Me

Because I’m a troublemaking son of a bitch I put up a post on social media the other day wondering why there has long been such slavish love for Hunter S. Thompson. The thoroughly self-involved inventor of “gonzo journalism” is worshipped, mainly by males who fancy themselves rebels. Or wish they were rebels.

I wrote:

Me being intentionally contrarian, episode 1,907: Try as I might, I don’t get all the slavish love for Hunter S. Thompson. No matter what topic he purportedly was writing about, he ended up writing about himself +80 percent of the time. Plus, he jumped around from idea to idea like a drunken cat which, essentially, is what he was. Yes, he made some brilliant observations and he was fearless but, jeez, trying to keep him on topic was like trying to keep a baby from putting stuff in its mouth. My basic take on him is guys dig him because he got to do all this guy stuff while stoned or loaded and he got to tell the authorities to kiss his ass in national publications. He was the ultimate 15-year-old.

I did this knowing full well it’d bring HST idolators out of the woodwork. Reactions ranged from guys extolling the Rolling Stone reporter and author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, The Rum Diary, and others to one guy who took to psychoanalyzing me for questioning his divinity. “I’m detecting a Freudian envy here,” that fellow commented.

I’ve long been afraid of crowds, both the numerical masses of humanity that gather at riots and sporting events as well as the sort of psychological, cultural ethos kind of mass gatherings that give us fads, pop philosophies, and fascist tyrannies. I recall being very young, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, being brought to my first big league baseball game by my parents, and getting all panicky because the several thousand people populating Wrigley Field that particular day erupted in an ear-splitting roar after a Cub hit a home run. The sheer force of the sound and the fact that more people than I’d ever seen live and in one place at a single time were making it scared the living bejesus out of me.

Such a number of people, such a unity of emotion, such an irresistible force could only result in something dangerous and bad, I concluded, even at that young age.

As I got older and read about the millions of Germans and Japanese prior to World War II, the white segregationists of the US and South Africa, and many other masses of humanity that, operating as one, produced pure evil, I became convinced I’d never allow myself to fall under the sway of a bunch of people.

Not that reading and liking Hunter S. Thompson can result in any kind of pure evil. I’m not saying that at all. Just that the crowd can make any of us — especially me — do things, like things, idolize things, that otherwise we — I — wouldn’t. That, too, is awfully scary.

I was tempted to comment under my own post on Hunter S. Thompson, after all the dissenters had their say, that you oughtta see who else I don’t like. I didn’t because, well, I wasn’t in the mood for further excoriation. Sometimes I can take my punishment; sometimes not.

Anyway, I thought I’d run a list, here, of things — people, acts, artists, works of art, etc. — that I dislike or despise mainly or in large part because scads of people like or adore them. So here goes:

  • The Grateful Dead
  • “It’s a Wonderful Life”
  • “Friends”
  • Abba
  • Oprah
  • The New York Yankees
  • “Gone with the Wind”
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Phil Collins
  • Colleen Hoover
  • Robert James Waller
  • Bing Crosby
  • “M*A*S*H” (the TV show)
  • Any and all contemporary Hollywood superhero movies
  • Rhonda Byrne
  • Bob Hope
  • “I Love Lucy”
  • The Kardashians
  • The entire “Star Wars” catalogue
  • Mariah Carey
  • Any of the sitcoms produced by Garry Marshall
  • “Groundhog Day”
  • The entire Harry Potter book and movie franchise
  • Toto (the band)
  • James Patterson
  • Electric Light Orchestra
  • “The Brady Bunch”
  • Jimmy Fallon

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Some of these people and things have long-been forgotten, like Robert James Waller, author of the mega-selling book, The Bridges of Madison County. Some have earned any thinking person’s disdain, like Rhonda Byrne, author of the ludicrous self-help book, also a monumental bestseller, The Secret. Some are, in truth, worthy of adulation, like Bing Crosby. It doesn’t matter in my irrational paradigm; if the crowd is fawning over them, I’m out.

I suspect this is in the tradition of The Dude despising the Eagles in “The Big Lebowski.” His hatred for that extremely popular band goes unexplained but I’m guessing a lot of it has to do with the band’s very popularity.

Then again, there are scores of people and things that are loved by millions, even billions, yet I allow myself to cherish them. The Beatles, for instance. Frank Sinatra and Meryl Streep, Carol King and “The Dark Side of the Moon,” “Casablanca” and Michael Jackson, too. As I’ve indicated already, this whole idea of mine is irrational.

The funny thing is, if I had posted on social media that I detest Shakespeare, it wouldn’t have induced one-tenth the dissent my Hunter S. Thompson post did. People would have said, hell, anybody who’s down on the Bard is a loon and they’d have left me alone. But some iconic figures touch people in a visceral way. Their love for them helps them define themselves. When all is said and done. I think that’s what Hunter S. Thompson is to  many of his fans — a way of defining themselves.

And the above list defines me. Imperfectly, ridiculously, and absurdly. It does the job to a tee.

1000 Words: Role Models

Professional athletes — along with rock and pop stars, television and movie actors, and billionaires — are our nation’s gods. We worship them. We think they’re made of tougher, smarter, sterner stuff than us, we run of the mill mopes. They have achieved their heights because they are better humans than the rest of us.

We pay them millions of dollars a year, we devour every bit of information imaginable about them, we mourn with them when they lose loved ones, and we celebrate with them when they get married or have children.

Should one such celebrity walk into a store or restaurant we happen to be in at the time, there comes a hush, then a murmur, and finally, a glorious frisson rises in everybody in the place. Even after the celebrity leaves, the room remains alive, electric, buzzing. We have laid eyes upon a descendant from Mount Olympus.

I’m going to concentrate on athletes here today. The point I’ll make can apply equally to actors, pop stars and billionaires. But one of my sports idols died this morning and, as I processed the news, I thought more and more about hero worship.

When I was 14 years old, the Chicago Blackhawks were a powerhouse in the National Hockey League. They were led by left wing Bobby Hull, dubbed the Golden Jet for his shock of wavy blond hair, his dazzling smile, and the excitement he generated whenever he rushed up the ice and took aim with his legendary slapshot.

NHL goaltenders at the time often didn’t wear masks and were known to stand in strong against fusillades of shots. Here’s a photo of the great goaltender Terry Sawchuck, the more severe of his facial gashes and contusions accurately reproduced by a Hollywood makeup artist to illustrate the perils he faced on a nightly basis.

Boston’s Gerry Cheevers was among the first generation of goalies to wear a mask. He drew stitches on it to denote every hit it took from a speeding puck. Here’s a photo of Cheevers and his mask:

The NHL puck was made of hard rubber with semi-sharp edges. Goalies, clearly, were a hard breed. But when Bobby Hull fired a shot, it often travelled at 100-plus miles per hour. I recall seeing a photo of one opposing goaltender actually flinching when Hull let loose a cannon shot against him. NHL goalies normally wouldn’t flinch if someone fired a howitzer at them. I wish I could find the photo now, but I can’t.

In any case, Bobby Hull was the greatest goal scorer in the history of the game at the time. Chicago loved him. He didn’t have to pay for a drink or a meal anywhere in the city.

I loved him, too — as much as I loved Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins of the Cubs.

Then one day I read in the Sun-Times that Bobby Hull’s wife had filed for divorce. Details came out in dribs and drabs. It eventually became clear that Hull hit his wife as easily as he slugged opposing brawlers on the ice. It was the first time I ever heard about a player’s private life. I was stunned.

Bobby Hull can’t have beaten his wife, I thought. He’s a Blackhawk. And I’m a Blackhawk fan.

Remember, I was 14.

At about the same time, certain women close to me suffered spousal abuse. I saw black eyes, puffed out jaws, grotesquely distended lips, all visited upon them by their husbands. My eyes were opened. By and by, I came to accept that men — too many men — hit their loving wives with the same force they’d use to subdue a rampaging drunk. And I came to accept that Bobby Hull, my hero, the greatest goal scorer in the history of the National Hockey League, did so, too.

The Hulls must have reconciled because their divorce wasn’t finalized until 1980. Hull got married again in 1984 and his second wife also accused him of physical abuse. In 1986, the police were called to quell a disturbance between them. She told the cops he’d hit her. As the cops tried to separate Hull from her, he assaulted them as well.

Now that domestic abuse is no longer a secret and the men who pummel their wives have been studied and analyzed from top to bottom, we know that when a woman finally makes the charge of violence against her husband, it’s only after the latest in a long history of such beatings.

Long ago, it became undeniable that Bobby Hull, the Golden Jet, was a miserable human being.

I put up a post on social media earlier today remarking that Bobby Hull, one of my teenaged heroes, had died overnight. Then, throughout the day, the more I thought about him, the more I regretted celebrating his life.

He was a thug. In fact, he was a criminal, even if no court had ever found him guilty of his crimes. That’s another common facet of abusive relationships. Wives, either fearful or overly forgiving, letting their husbands skate.

Years ago, when baseball player Barry Bonds was found to have bulked up using banned and illegal performance enhancing drugs, a guy I knew wondered how he’d explain the situation to his then-young son, who idolized Bonds. “What do I tell my son?” the guy asked.

“If you’re looking to professional athletes to be role models for your kids, if you expect them to be paragons of behavior and character, you’re speeding down a dangerous street,” I said.

In fact, the examples of Bobby Hull and Barry Bonds are perfect teaching moments. Parents should jump at the chance to explain that just because a guy can hit 73 home runs in a year or score 58 goals in a season, that doesn’t mean he is a great human being. He is only a great home run hitter or goal scorer. Period.

They are lessons that drive home the point that athletic prowess and human kindness and decency have no correlation. Sure, a great athlete can be a model citizen. But a police officer can be a goon, a doctor can be a scam artist, a schoolteacher can be a sadist. And the greatest goal scorer in the history of the National Hockey League can be a lout.

1000 Words: Words About…, well, Words

Every once in a while one of my more classically-oriented social media friends lets loose with a screed about people’s sloppy usage of the English language.

One fellow, a lawyer, and normally a tolerant soul, revealed a more unforgiving side of himself the other day. He was fed up to the gills with people who mangle the language, using the term “referenced,” for instance, in place of “referred to.” Other prosaic cardinal sins that eat away at his soul include the use of “impacted” in place of “affected,” and “folx” for people.

Me? The more contemporary usage of “impacted” strikes a particularly personal off-key chord. Anybody who’s undergone old-style chemotherapy likely knows the medical definition of “Impacted.” If you don’t know it, trust me, you don’t wanna.

In any case, my poor friend took a beating in response to his screed, with at least one person expressing wonder that a lawyer, no less, should lecture the populace on language. Lawyers, after all, are notorious for playing fast and loose with definitions and usages when the need arises. Take, for example, one of Bill Clinton’s lawyers trying to stonewall an inquiry into his client’s randy nature by trying to argue that fellatio wasn’t necessarily sex. And, you may recall, the beleaguered prez himself tried to throw a monkey wrench into one line of reasoning by quibbling over the definition of the word “is.”

Talking His Way Out of Trouble.

I’ve seen the term “folx” now and again. It’s from the same family as “latinx.” Both imply inclusivity, a noble aim, but both sound and read inelegant, even clumsy. Along the same line is the word “they,” meaning any one person without making mention of any perceived or chosen gender. One friend I know always refers to her child as “they.” See, I’ve violated this person’s wishes in this preceding sentence. This person would not prefer to be referred to (referenced?) as “her.” This despite the fact that as recently as ten years ago a person possessing a womb and who gestated a child therein was, without question, a “her.”

Many younger folx (people?) these days themselves are impatient with and intolerant of those who insist on using terms such as “he” or “she.” They operate under the assumption that someone who learned the language as much as sixty or seventy years ago should immediately and without question transition to the latest definitions. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy.

I know a person who is an upstanding member of the community, who is a hard worker, creative, responsible, an asset to any organization with whom she’s affiliated. We’re on quite friendly terms. Yet it’s only within the last few months or even weeks that I’ve been able to refrain from calling this person “him.” This person is transitioning.

I only wish we could devise some useful yet elegant term to refer to a person that doesn’t pigeonhole them (her? him?) gender-wise.

Go up a few of paragraphs and you’ll see a couple of mentions of the word “transition.” For 95 percent of my speaking life, I’ve know transition to be a noun. Now, more and more, it’s a verb, thanks in large part to the more contemporary usage of it in reference to gender.

Keep in mind my soul isn’t being eaten away by these verbal and written challenges.  I’m not angry or intolerant of them. And, really, neither is my lawyer friend, referred to above. I was simply using a literary device called hyperbole in the grand tradition of Mark Twain. He (they?) trusted his readership to understand he was making a point. Here’s the explanation of an example from “Huckleberry Finn”:

In declaring that he felt “trembly and feverish to be so close to freedom,” Jim uses a hyperbole to explain the extreme excitement and joy that comes from leaving a life of slavery behind him. By using hyperbolic language here, Twain establishes how high the stakes were for runaway enslaved people.

Gabriel García Márquez does the same thing in his (their?) story, “Living to Tell the Tale”:

At the time Bogota was a remote, lugubrious city where an insomniac rain had been falling since the beginning of the 16th century.

Wow. That’s quite a downpour, considering Márquez’s piece was published in 2002.

I wonder what Márquez’s thoughts are about the term “latinx”? Acc’d’g to a recent Pew Research poll, the vast majority of people (folx?) of Latin American descent, don’t like the term and refuse to use it. Yet it’s the preferred term for them in many — even most — reputable publishing sources.


All this is preamble to my main point: language is fluid, constantly changing. If it weren’t, then we’d all be speaking the same proto-language that homo habilis started using some two million years ago. That fluidity, that state of eternal flux verbiage has been stuck in for thousands of millennia has led to the rich global tapestry that human utterances have become today. And, for pity’s sake, neither cave dwellers, hunter-gatherers, semitic tribes, Alexandria’s library card holders, cloistered monks of the Dark Ages, America’s Founding Fathers, Marie Curie, or even the first editors of Ms. magazine would be able to succinctly describe a smartphone had not the term entered the language whether we wanted it to or not.

He (They) Speaks.

I get my lawyer friend’s frustration. I’ve felt it myself many a time. But understandings and definitions must always change. Take gender. In the year 1956, there were only two genders. Period. The people who — biologically, psychologically, hormonally, anatomically — did not fit into either of the two were simply ignored or, worse, made to feel insane. Slowly but surely we’re learning gender is more a spectrum than a barbell. Much more.

The language I learned as a two and three year old was woefully inadequate to allow me to contemplate things like Artificial Intelligence, colonialism, systemic racism, misogyny, toxic masculinity, and so many other things we discuss regularly today. And, I’m not just talking about it from a tot’s perspective. The intellectuals of that day would have been baffled by the things we take for granted now.

I like our fluid language. We need a language in flux. Even if it is annoying and frustrating at times.

1000 Words: Phony Realism and a Funny Organ

Two for the price of one today.

First, actor and film producer Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, acc’d’g to Santa Fe, New Mexico’s First Judicial District Attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies. On October 21, 2021, while filming a scene for a cowboy movie on a ranch in Santa Fe, a prop gun Baldwin was holding discharged, resulting in the death of the film’s cinematographer and the serious injury of its director.

Baldwin on the set of “Rust.”

Considering that Baldwin is a Hollywood A-Lister and there’s big dough behind any picture he appears in, it stands to reason his and the movie’s well-paid defense attorneys and prosecutors’ll be thumb-wrestling for weeks — even months — over who’s really responsible for the tragic accident. The film’s armorer is also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

One thing we learned in the aftermath of the incident is movies that feature gunplay have to have an expert called an armorer on the set during shooting (you’ll pardon the pun). “Armorers are responsible for the transport, storage, and safe use of all weaponry and firearms on film sets,” says the official job description issued by the International Alliance of Stage Employees. That’s the labor union representing many of the behind the scenes workers on a film.

Any number of film actors who actually use prop guns have come out to say they insist on testing their weapons for safety with the armorer before actually pulling any triggers.

I’ll leave that arm wrestling match to the lawyers. That’s what they get paid huge scratch for. Some individual or set of individuals, at the end of the upcoming trial, will bear the blame for the tragedy.

Me? I blame Hollywood. Period.

There is absolutely no reason on this Earth why guns that actually fire projectiles should be used while shooting a film.

Let’s go back to one of my favorite movies of all time, 1947’s “Kiss of Death.” In the movie’s final, climactic scene, Nick Bianco (Victor Mature), an ex-con trying to go straight, gets shot up by the lunatic killer, Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark). Bianco takes three or four slugs to the belly and tumbles to the pavement outside Louie’s Italian restaurant, where he’d been goading Udo. Bianco is seriously injured but survives the shooting. Udo tries to run from the cops, who are just arriving on the scene. The cops shoot Udo but he, too, survives. Udo will go to prison for the rest of his life because he’s already a two-time loser using a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The Assistant DA with Tommy Udo (center) and Nick Bianco (right).

Now, the viewer is shocked and saddened, initially, by the shooting of Bianco. Then, when it’s revealed he has survived and Udo has been apprehended, we feel a sense of triumph. It’s a textbook Hollywood ending.

The filmmaker, director Henry Hathaway, has given us precisely what we wanted of a crime film.  We’re scared, we’re hopeful, we’re pulling for Bianco, we get thrills, we get satisfaction. We get catharsis.

It was only after I’d seen “Kiss of Death” a dozen times or so that I realized I never see a drop of blood on Nick Bianco. No gunshot wounds. No gore. No crimson spray. In fact, if I recall correctly, I never even saw flashes emanating from Udo’s handgun. I only heard pow! pow! pow! and then watched Bianco collapse.

And that’s all I needed. Hathaway, as every other director of his era did, forced us to use our imaginations. Do we really need to see gaping holes in the protagonist’s body? The splash of human blood and bits of flesh on the wall and sidewalk behind him?

The obsession with “realism,” as illustrated, for instance, in Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” in contemporary filmmaking has turned us into brain-dead viewers. When “Dexter” chops up another victim, does some forensic expert on the set really need to get spray and splatter patterns precisely right?

Richard Widmark clearly used a prop pistol that only looked like a gun. It didn’t fire anything. We get it; he’s shooting a gun and when Bianco gets shot, he may be killed, or at least seriously wounded. We’re not stupid.

But today’s obsession with “reality” demands film actors use guns that fire — if not real bullets — dangerous blanks that produce fire and smoke and shards of metal that can fly through the bodies of cinematographers and directors.

What’s the point?

We get this faux reality in our movies and television programs, yet we’re fast losing our capability to discern bullshit from reality when we watch the news.

One of Bloomington’s most notable scientists is neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, an adjunct lecturer at Indiana University’s medical school. At the age of 37, she suffered a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Within hours after the onset of the event, she lost the ability to walk, talk, read, write, and remember things.

Ironically, because of her academic training, she knew precisely what was going on in her head as it was happening. She was even able to foresee what motor or cognitive functions would go awry next as the minutes passed.

Happily, Bolte Taylor not only survived but has completely recovered from her stroke. She recounts the ordeal in her book, My Stroke of Insight. She’s also written the book, Whole Brain Living.

Jill Bolte Taylor Toys with a Human Brain.

In a review of My Stroke of Insight, Lorna Collier writes in Brain & Living magazine that Bolte Taylor “regards her stroke as a positive event that left her with a sense of peace, a less-driven personality, and a new insight into the meaning of life…. Perhaps most surprisingly, she recalls feeling an intense sense of inner harmony and deep connection during the stroke that has remained with her.”

Isn’t the brain a funny organ? It can be devastated by perhaps the worst thing to befall it and then, after a time, it can rewire itself in the most positive way imaginable.

Case in point: I know a guy who, when I first met him, was a miserable cur, eternally unhappy, mean, glum, radiating negativity.

Then, a couple of years ago, he suffered a debilitating stroke. Other people who know him told me I’d be amazed at the transformation in him since the event. I ran into him yesterday. He was sweet and joyful, chatty, a joy to be around.

Yep, the brain is a funny organ.

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