Category Archives: Aaron Freeman

Hot Air

Funny Freberg

If you love radio as much as I do, you’ve loved Stan Freberg.


Stan Freberg

An advertising consultant and radio humorist, Freberg was dubbed the “father of the funny commercial” by Advertising Age. His radio satires inspired the likes of the Beatles’ Paul McCartney and author Stephen King. I enjoyed his syndicated oldies radio programs through the 2000s.

Freberg died last week. The announcement came yesterday. Here’s an audio clip from Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, a 1961 comedy album that Time magazine declared at the time the funniest ever made.

The Smart Party?

Pew Research told us yesterday about Murricans’ party affiliations. Here’s a quick, handy guide to who likes which party in this holy land, as repro’d in Digby’s Blog, a must read here at Pencil HQ:

Republicans hold a 49%-40% lead over the Democrats in leaned party identification among whites. The GOP’s advantage widens to 21 points among white men who have not completed college (54%-33%) and white southerners (55%-34%). The Democrats hold an 80%-11% advantage among blacks, lead by close to three-to-one among Asian-Americans (65%-23%) and by more than two-to-one among Hispanics (56%-26%). Women lean Democratic by 52%-36%…. Democrats lead by 22 points (57-35% in leaned party identification among adults with post-graduate degrees.

And we wonder why Republicans vilify academia and seem so godawful eager to cut school funding. In this weird day and age, smarts and Republicanism don’t go well together.

Busman’s Holiday News

Look for a new Busman’s Holiday disc coming this fall. Addison Rogers stopped by Table Number 1 at Soma Coffee this AM to fill in The Pencil on his and his bro’s latest opus.

Busman's Holiday

Lewis (L) & Addison Rogers

The two spent a couple of weeks last month in Montreal where they’re working with producer Mark Lawson on the recording. “We got the rough mixes out of the way, the more complicated ones,” Rogers says. “Then we’re probably going to get up there in May to wrap it up.”

The new disc will still feature the Busman sound we’ve grown to know and love but with a pinch of difference. “We’re going in a couple of different places, not too far,” Rogers says. “We’re thinking about the low end a little bit more this time — we’re adding some bass.”

The Rogers boys are contemplating setting up a crowdfunding campaign, à la Krista Detor, to finance the project. Stayed tuned here for more news on that front.

Gun Crazy

Funnyman Aaron Freeman notes that the National Rifle Association will institute a special safety policy for its annual firearms orgy this weekend in Nashville, Tennessee. Attendees will be forbidden — you guessed it! — from carrying guns.


Aaron Freeman

Everybody from Ted Nugent to Sarah Palin as well as most of the putative GOP candidates for president in 2016 will speak at the bash, telling NRA members, natch, that gun-totin’ should be unimpeded everywhere on god’s green earth, save the hall in which they speak.

The NRA, of course, has been instrumental in getting states and communities to enact open-carry laws. Thanks to the NRA, a real Murrican can pack heat at his local Wal-Mart, saloon, or house of worship across much of this holy land.

Freeman offers some free advice for the NRA’s devoted gun-fondlers: “If you want to carry a working gun, you’ll have to go to church.”


Dig these two photo collections of the Japanese internment (read: concentration) camps that the US Gov’t set up during World War II:

Business Insider tells us about Ansel Adams’ photos of life inside the camps. Adams published a book of the pix in 1944 entitled Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans. Here’s one image:


Library of Congress/Ansel Adams

Adams’ images now are part of the collection at the Library of Congress.

London’s Daily Mail tells us about Bill Manbo’s color pix of life in the camps. Manbo was a young Japanese-American photographer who was made to live at one of the camps, the lot of which housed more than 100,000 people during the war. Manbo published the book, Colors of Confinement. Here’s a taste:


Takao Bill Manbo, © 2012

Funny thing is, the Germans had hundreds, even thousands, of moles in the US during the war. And prior to hostilities breaking out, German-American Bunds existed in every big city. German treachery was such a worry that the Naval intelligence agency worked hand-in-glove with the New York City Mafia — in the person of Charley (Lucky) Luciano — to safeguard our east coast ports from sabotage and labor unrest. No such precautions were needed on the west coast.

Nevertheless, Americans of Japanese ancestry were rounded up while German-Americans enjoyed all the comforts of home for the duration.

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Saturday


“We build a fire in a powder magazine, then double the fire department to put it out. We inflame wild beasts with the smell of blood, and then innocently wonder at the wave of brutal appetite that sweeps the land as a consequence.” — Mark Twain



I was as enraged as anyone after learning of yesterday’s madness in Connecticut.

I took to Facebook and ranted:

From Facebook

— and —

From Facebook

America, with its psycho-sexual fixation on guns, is indeed deranged.

That said, a sociologist and criminologist from Northeastern University named Jack Levin appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday afternoon to put yesterday’s horror in perspective.

“The truth is,” Levin said, “there’s still about 20 mass killings every year in this country, and that has been true for decades.”

In other words, things aren’t getting worse.

Which is scant consolation to the parents who lost kids in Sandy Hook.

Wait, there’s more. Funnyman Aaron Freeman points out this fascinating set of statistics:

◗ US population, 1990: 248,709.873 — 23,440 homicides.

◗ US population, 2011: 311,591,917 — 14,612 homicides

Chicago Police Homicide

“We are,” Freeman writes, “moving in the right direction.”


Politico Ray Hanania points out this example of how mightily weird our species is:

One guy tries to use a shoe bomb on an airplane — Now every air travel passenger must remove her or his shoes before reaching the gate.

◗ Some 31 lunatics have committed school shootings since Columbine — No changes have been instituted.

Airport Security

Whew! I Feel Safer Now.


Yesterday morning, Kevin Sears, the Toastmaster General of Bloomington, and I mused on the inevitable movie about Jerry Sanduski, Joe Paterno, and the Penn State scandal. Here’s what we agreed upon:

Gary Busey will play Sanduski

Al Pacino will play Paterno


That’s all you need to know.


Precisely 40 years ago today, Gene Cernan, Harrison “Jack” Schmidt, and Ron Evans departed lunar orbit and began their quarter-million mile trip back to Earth.

Cernan and Schmidt were the last human beings to walk on the moon.

NASA Photo

Jack Schmidt On The Moon

Their mission, Apollo 17, originally was planned to be the third-to-last lunar trip but budget cutbacks forced NASA to cancel Apollos 18 and 19.

The two astronauts in the Lunar Module that descended to the moon’s surface from the Command Module spent a little more than three days on the Earth’s natural satellite. Their craft landed in the Taurus-Littrow lunar valley. The two walked on the moon for a total of 23 hours.

Schmidt was a geologist who’d go on to serve as United States Senator from New Mexico. Cernan was a Navy jet pilot before joining NASA. Both men are still alive and are approaching the age of 80.

NASA Photo

Cernan & Schmidt On The Trip Back To Earth

Before he left the moon, Cernan carved the initials of his daughter on a lunar boulder.


One of the prettiest songs I’ve ever heard.

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Monday


“Who would have ever thought blacks would get out and support the first black president? Who would have ever thought women would shy away from the party of transvaginal probes? Who would have ever thought gays would work against a party that treated them as immoral and subhuman? Who would have ever thought young people would desert a party that ignored science and hectored on social issues? Who would have ever thought Latinos would scorn a party that expected them to finish up their chores and self-deport?” — Maureen Dowd



Comic and politico Aaron Freeman has put out a call for anyone who can honestly say she or he was not taken in by the Bush Administration’s rationalizations for the Iraq War in late 2002 and early 2003.


Aaron Freeman

You remember, don’t you? Georgey-boy, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, and even Colin Powell stood on their heads to implant the images of bloodthirsty brown people, mushroom clouds, and general panic in our imaginations in order to snow us into attacking the Saddam Hussein regime.

Perhaps the saddest moment of the buildup to war was Secretary of State Powell half-heartedly trying to sell the United Nations General Assembly on “evidence” that Hussein and his wild-eyed pals were thisclose to launching a big one against this holy land.

The funnyman — Freeman, not Bush — wonders why anyone would have doubted the word of the Bushies, considering the fact that most highly intelligent people he knew at the time bought the casus belli hook, line, and sinker.

9/11 Panic

So, take yourself back some ten years to those glory days of yore. Try to remember what you were thinking at the time. And don’t forget we were only a little more than a year past the 9/11 attacks. Be honest and tell us, in the poll below, if you bought the Bush line or you thought, even as we were gassing up our B-2 Stealth Bombers, that he and his gang were full of shit.

Oh, and leave a comment in the box labeled “Other” explaining why you thought one way or the other.

Thanks in advance.




That’s all for today, kiddies. I been working my fingertips to the bone, trying to get the new Ryder magazine and film series website off the ground, along with publisher Peter LoPilato and developer Boice Tomlin. As a result, I feel lazy today.

Remember to stop in at The Book Corner. A few words of advice, though. Do not buy either of Bill O’Reilly’s bestsellers, “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Kennedy.” Do not buy “50 Shades of Chicken.” And do not buy any of those I-died-and-went-to-heaven books.

Book Cover

Don’t You Dare!

Reading should improve your mind, not shrink it.

Otherwise, buy anything you want.


The Pencil Today:


“Virginity is the ideal of those who want to deflower.” — Karl Kraus


Humanity has accomplished many great things. We’ve built spaceships and traveled to the moon. We’ve mapped the human genome. We’ve cured diseases. We’ve painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We’ve written “An American in Paris” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

We’ve even almost forgotten who Paris Hilton is, although that supreme triumph will take much more agonizing labor. Still, I have no doubt we can do it.

We’re Trying

That all said, we’re really a bunch of idiots.

Here’s proof (and h/t to funnyman Aaron Freeman for pointing this out): there exists a website selling a product called the Artificial Hymen.

That’s right, for all you gals who wish to position yourselves as virgins — even long after your first bonk has taken place — there is now a simple, inexpensive device designed to snow any proud man who values such things, as long as he doesn’t peer too closely at your nether geography (which, by the way, virtually no such man would be wont to do, if you get what I mean).

The Hymen Shop (No, This Is Not A Joke)

We forget that even in this modern day many of our brethren and sisteren still live in a fantasy world, circa the year 1437. You know, where men bashed each other over the head with maces and a young woman’s virginity was her most cherished possession.

One might suspect that even though certain men might demand their future wives be pristine, the females among us might simply laugh those benighted souls off.

Uh uh.

Many a woman, apparently, is buying the Artificial Hymen, inserting it into her previously visited special place, and neglecting to disabuse her current man of his smug assurance that he is the first guest to enter the vestibule in question.

I mean, honestly.

Along with Colm Tóibín‘s new book, “The Testament of Mary,” the Artificial Hymen just might signal a new fascination with virginity.

Weirder things have happened.


Speaking of sexual displays, both surreptitious and flamboyant, our cousins the bonobos, who reside in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are masters of the art. At least the males are.

Sex is a big part of bonobo socializing. Apparently, they dig sex the most, rather like the characters in a late-70s Woody Allen movie. Their social groups are among the most bonhomous in nature, with sex being a primary mechanism by which they convey to each other their neighborliness.

Bonobos, Happy As Usual

Bonobos are among the rare primates (residents of Monroe County and most of the rest of humanity being the others) who engage in face to face kissing and coupling, oral sex, male and female homosexuality, tribadism, and — hold on to your hats, Hoosiers — “penis fencing,” performed by two males, each of whom is hanging by his arm from a tree branch. (I’m confident I don’t have to draw a picture of this little pastime for you.)

Anyway, bonobo dudes often walk around their social groups waving their bright red erections hither and yon. As in any animal’s social group, showing off the real Man’s Best Friend not only signals a willingness — nay, imperative — to begin humping but it is an advertisement of their rank, vigor, and power.

We’re told by geneticists that human DNA differs only minutely from that of the two Pan species (bonobos, Pan Paniscus, and chimps, Pan Troglodytes). This must be true considering the fact that certain members of a subspecies of Homo Sapiens sapiens — GOP Reaganensis or “Republicans” — are currently strutting around Washington DC waving their own bright red erections.

In Their Natural Habitat

See, Republicans earlier this month suffered a humiliating embarrassment. For the better part of more than three decades, Republicans have owned DC. But after the 2012 election, their philosophies, pronouncements, and shrill alarm calls don’t seem to impress much of the pack anymore. Heck, even one of the Republicans’ own dominant figures, Pat Robertson, recently has announced that the Earth is much, much older than that portrayed in the Bible.

His flock, it is presumed, sat slack-jawed in front of their TV screens as Robertson uttered this radical idea. The non-fundamentalist Christians among us are staring at this tableau in a state of shock.

It’s the equivalent of researchers peering through foliage at the sight of a bonobo teaching juveniles the basics of differential calculus.

In any case, many other members of GOP Reaganensis must adapt to this new environment as well. But first they must reinforce their standing within the social group. And, as I’ve indicated, they’re waving their bright red erections around.

How else can we explain the flap over Susan Rice?

Ayotte, McCain, & Graham (Not Pictured: Their Bright Red Erections)


Do you realize Madonna Louise Ciccone is now 54 freaking years old?

The Pencil Today:


“I think that wealthy white people would like to have a country that resembles the Fifties, when all the minorities were tucked away in ghettos and paid very low wages but on the surface it was very bright and shiny and free and the rest of the world would look on it longingly.” — Alice Walker


Where will the Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls skate for their 2013 season?

The Rollergirls, who clawed their way up to 11th place in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s North Central Region rankings this season, have called the Twin Lakes Recreation Center home for the last few years.

TLRC is run by the city’s Parks & Recreation Department. It’s an enormous facility that can accommodate big roller derby crowds. There isn’t a better arena in town for the Rollergirls.

Parks & Rec, though, wants BHRG to purchase a skating surface for the hardwood floor they’ve skated on to this point. That would cost the Rollergirls some $30,000.

Funny thing is, even after the Rollergirls researched skating surfaces and reported their findings back to the city, Parks & Rec still seemed iffy about signing another commitment for 2013.

Is the city jittery about the BHRG selling beer at their bouts? Stay tuned.


This story plays way too easily into stereotype.

A Houston cop shot and killed a man who was threatening his partner in a group home for the mentally ill Saturday.


The threat bears examination here.

A 40-something double-amputee sitting in a wheelchair cornered a cop and appeared to be menacing the officer with, well, a pen. When the man refused to drop his pen, the cornered cop’s partner shot him once in the head, producing a sort of cinematic ending to the riveting drama.

Judge Roy Bean would have been proud.

I mean, honestly, can you imagine this incident taking place in, say, Rhode Island?

No, Texas is perfect.

A novelist couldn’t have come up with a better plot twist.

Apparently, the shooter cop took the old adage to heart: The pen is mightier than the sword.

I wonder what he would have done had the man in a wheelchair been brandishing a knife or an actual firearm. Would he have called for Air Combat Command to drop a thermonuclear weapon on him?

Dammit, We Told You To Drop That Steak Knife!


We mentioned anal bleaching here a while back. Now, funnyman Aaron Freeman points out the latest craze, via Boing Boing: Thai vulva bleaching.

We are a weird, weird species, folks.

The Pencil Today:


“How did it get late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness, how the time has flewn. How did it get late so soon?” — Dr. Seuss


Yep, I’m late with my post today. Sue me.


Happy Winter Solstice!

The Shortest Day At Stonehenge


Conventional wisdom has it that Congress isn’t working. It’s broke.

Pundits, wags, and the guy behind you in the grocery checkout line all agree — our men and women in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate can’t compromise, can’t work together, and flat out can’t effectively legislate anymore.

Only a fool would say otherwise.

Call me a fool.

Maybe — just maybe — Congress for the first time in generations is actually representing the people.

The Representative Of Our Dreams

I know this sounds crazy coming from a guy who firmly believes far too many of our politicians are in thrall to huge corporate interests and the bushels-full of cash wealthy campaign donors throw at them.

That’s still all true. But, strangely, I believe a bothersome percentage of the citizenry also buys into the thought processes and philosophies of plutocrats, robber barons, hyper-capitalists and other frightening creatures.

I’m not happy about it. I wish all people would understand that the interests of transnational corporations and Midas-rich individuals are at best not their interests and at worst — and far too often — exactly opposite our needs.

Gold-Leaf Toilet Paper

But that would take education, calm discussion, and rational discourse — none of which is terribly thrilling to a huge swath of residents of this holy land.

So, they believe unfettered capitalism equals freedom and that the market is protected by some mystical, god-like invisible hand. And that the rich are just like us. It’s this nation’s semi-official religion.

And, as I do whenever I pontificate about religion, I call bullshit.

Nevertheless, the vicars of Adam Smith and Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan are still among us, muttering incantations and sprinkling holy water on us in the form of grudgingly dispensed tax holidays and insufficient incentives.

We’re a species that needs to believe even (or, especially?) when the belief is based on nothing.

A Lot Of Us Actually Do Want A Solid Gold Toilet

So, if half of us believe in economic ghosts and I think they’re as wrong as flat-earthers, that half is still out there and they vote. And their guys are in office.

Those guys used to be called, simply, Republicans. What depresses me is that a pile of Democrats are buying into that religion now, too.

Sure, there’s talk of the 1 percent and the 99 percent. Street protesters and my leftie friends say, How can anybody defend the 1 percent?

Easy, I say. The religion of these Great United States, Inc. holds that any of us can become part of the 1 percent, if only we work hard enough, are crafty enough, and ignore messy government regulations enough.

If only.

Now, back to Congress.Why does it seem to be stuck?

Can it be that at this moment in history half of us buy into the prevailing economic religion and half of us don’t?

That half of us want our fellow citizens to be self-sufficient and hard-working because that’s the magic formula for prosperity?

And that the other half think the deck is stacked against the little guy so we need to help people when they’re unemployed, when they’re sick, and even when they go to jail?

A Lazy Bum Or A Brother In Need?

That half of us are scared to death that we’re fouling our air, water, and land to such an extent that disaster is right around the corner? And the other half is just as scared that environmental protections will shatter the economy?

I can go on but you get the point. This is a weird era — call it the Era of the Two Halves. And Congress’s seeming inability to work is merely a reflection of the duality in our national consciousness.

A simple historical example. When Harold Washington was elected the first black mayor of Chicago, the city population was almost precisely divided into black and white.

Just about half of Chicagoans suffered the vapors when Washington was sworn in. The other half danced in the streets.

Dancing In The Streets

The city’s aldermen split similarly. Washington allies like Tim Evans and Bobby Rush bickered daily with the anti Washington bloc, led by Ed Vrdolyak and Ed Burke. I don’t think I need to identify any of these esteemed statesmen by color, do I?

Anyway, over the next four years, until Washington gorged himself into a fatal heart attack, the two sides of the City Council couldn’t get a thing done. The stalemate became a punchline. National politic wags snorted in derision.

My old pal, the comedian Aaron Freeman even created an entire act based on the city’s troubles. He called it Council Wars. He’d go on stage around the city and the country, telling the tale of Darth Vrdolyak battling Harold Skywalker.

Council Wars

The real funny thing was, it was the epitome of democracy. No matter that one side was at very least crypto-racist. That was a given.

Even if I completely disagree with the other guy’s side, if I’m a true democrat (small d) I have to accept his or her position. Believe me, I didn’t like it then as much as I don’t like it mow.

But it doesn’t really matter what I like or dislike in a democracy, does it?

In any case, as I said, Washington stuffed sandwiches into his mouth until his heart grew to the size of old Comiskey Park. On November 25, 1987, he dropped a pencil next to his desk during a meeting, bent over to pick it up, and his heart’s electrical system exploded. He was dead before the other people in the room started to wonder why he wasn’t sitting back up.

Only two years later, Richie Daley was elected mayor on the strength of a coalition of voters that was black and white. People forgot what Council Wars was all about. And now the city even has a Jewish mayor.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Stalemates never last. This one won’t either.

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