Category Archives: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Pencil Today:


“The environmental crisis arises from a fundamental fault: our systems of production — in industry, agriculture, energy, and transportation — essential as they are, make people sick and die.” — Barry Commoner


Barry Commoner is dead.

What a perfect name for a man whose life was dedicated not to captains of industry, titans of wealth, or snake oil salesmen of politics, but to plain folks.

His Wikipedia entry describes him, in part, as a politician, even though that’s the one thing he wasn’t. Commoner ran for president in 1980 as a member of something called the Citizens Party but, fortunately, he didn’t have a chance. He didn’t even get a third of a single percentage point of the vote. Had he won, he would have been chewed up and spit out by the people and institutions that run this world.

Commoner served humanity best from outside the halls of power, shaking his fist, yelling himself hoarse.

He was a biologist and an environmentalist. He came to caring for the Earth after studying up on the Manhattan Project and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He concluded the the Bomb was simply the most egregious example of humanity’s ignorance of its role in nature.

The “Gadget” And An Unworried Man

Commoner became the planet’s watchdog.

Here are his Four Laws of Ecology:

  • Everything is Connected to Everything Else: Ecosystems and individuals are are complex and interconnected
  • Everything Must Go Somewhere: In nature, there is no final waste; everything is gobbled up by something else
  • Nature Knows Best: He wrote, “The absence of a particular substance from nature is often a sign that it is incompatible with the chemistry of life”
  • Nothing Comes From Nothing: Everything we use comes from something and its end products become something else; in other words, there’s always a price to pay

Contrast Commoner’s laws with these laws of capitalism, as laid out by John Bellamy Foster in his book, “The Vulnerable Planet”:

  • The only real connection between things is cash
  • The end product of any process is irrelevant as long as it doesn’t cost money
  • The market knows best
  • Nature is property, which the owner can do with as he pleases

US presidents, as well as the leaders of virtually every nation on Earth, buy into the latter laws even when they swear up and down that they honor the former. Isn’t it a shame a guy like Commoner could never become president?


God hasn’t always been married to cash in this holy land.

According to the US Treasury, the first paper currency bearing the motto “In God We Trust,” a $1 silver certificate, came off the printing press in 1957. That’s a year after Congress declared IGWT to be the national motto.

So, this whole official god-and-country thing is a phenomenon that only came into being during my lifetime!

And, here, I thought this great nation was established by the hand of the creator himself. At least that’s the genesis story much of the Religious Right would have us believe.

Some American coins first bore the motto way back during the Civil War, but who counts coins anyway?

Here’s a list of dates when the various denominations of the nation’s paper dough were first issued with the motto on them:

  • $1 — March 11, 1964
  • $5 — September 16, 1964
  • $10 — April 24, 1964
  • $20 — October 7, 1964
  • $50 — September 28, 1966
  • $100 — September 27, 1966

You know how insecure god is: I’ll be he’s thrilled that we put his name on our most precious possessions.


Speaking of god, a couple of Christian TV operations are setting up cameras at Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives so they can cover Jesus’ return to Earth, which all red-blooded god-ists believe will happen sooner rather than later.

The two TV firms, Daystar Television Network and Trinity Broadcasting Network, each are angling to be the first to bring the messianic return direct to Mr. & Mrs. America’s living room when the end times begin.

I have to admit, even though I hold the whole Apocalypse myth to be…, well, a myth, it would be awfully cool to see the story played out on live TV — even though I’d be one of the poor suckers smitten down by the Four Horsemen, or whatever else the Christians have in store for non-believers.

Wait’ll I Get My Hands On Big Mike

It would be the ultimate Roland Emmerich movie, recorded live.


It’s Banned Books Week.

I can’t decide between “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” for my fave banned book.

Tough Choice

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Brought to you by The Electron Pencil: Bloomington Arts, Culture, Politics, and Hot Air. Daily.

FAIR ◗ Monroe County Fairgrounds, Commercial Building West29th Annual American Red Cross Book Fair, +100,000 used books, CDs, DVDs, games, maps, sheet music, etc.; 9am-7pm, through October 2nd

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Center, outside WFHB StudiosPublic participation in creating a ten-foot sculpture called “The Messenger,” Rain or shine; 9am-5pm

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Center, outside WFHB StudiosPublic participation in creating a ten-foot sculpture called “The Messenger,” Rain or shine; 9am-5pm

STUDIO TOUR ◗ Brown County, various locationsThe Backroads of Brown County Studio Tour, free, self-guided tour of 16 local artists’ & craftspersons’ studios; 10am-5pm, through October

FILM ◗ IU Neal-Marshall Black Culture CenterDocumentary, “Beyond Boundaries,” about LBGTQ immigrants in the US, Part of Sexploration Week, Director Betsy Jose will take questions after the showing; 4:30pm

LECTURE ◗ IU Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center — “Hunting, Territoriality and Violence in Chimpanzees, Presented by David Watts of Yale University; 6pm

FILM ◗ IU Swain Hall East — “No Habrá Paz Para Los Malvoados,” (Spain);  6pm

READINGS, ETC. ◗ Rachael’s CafePOC Zine Project’s Race Riot tour, featuring readings from zines, Sponsored by Boxcar Books; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleIndiana Boys All-Star Jam; 7-9pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “Grand Illusion“; 7pm

LECTURE ◗ Monroe County Public Library — “The Carbon Cycle: Indiana and the World Breathe Together,” Presented by Faiz Rahman on his NASA-funded research at Morgan-Monroe State Forest; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts CenterSymphonic Band & Concert Band, Jeffery Gershman & Eric Smedley, Conductors; 8pm

GAMES ◗ The Root Cellar at Farm Bloomington Team trivia; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s PubBlues Jam, Hosted by O2R Blues Band; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopChain and the Gang, The Tsunamis; 9pm


ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “New Acquisitions,” David Hockney; through October 21st
  • Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists; through October 14th
  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • Ab-Fab — Extreme Quilting,” by Sandy Hill; October 5th through October 27th
  • Street View — Bloomington Scenes,” by Tom Rhea; October 5th through October 27th
  • From the Heartwoods,” by James Alexander Thom; October 5th through October 27th
  • The Spaces in Between,” by Ellen Starr Lyon; October 5th through October 27th

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibit:

  • “Samenwerken,” Interdisciplinary collaborative multi-media works; through October 11th

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits opening September 28th:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners;” through December 20th
  • Gender Expressions;” through December 20th

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibit:

  • “CUBAmistad” photos

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit:

  • Outsiders and Others:Arkham House, Weird Fiction, and the Legacy of HP Lovecraft;” through November 1st
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections form the Slocum Puzzle Collection

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Soup’s OnExhibit:

  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Culture: “CUBAmistad photos; through October

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • Bloomington: Then and Now,” presented by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • “Doctors and Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical professions

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The Pencil Today:


“The flood of money that gushes into politics today is a pollution of democracy.” — Theodore H. White


Hooray for summer! Today’s the first Ozone Action Day of 2012 for the Bloomington area.

Ixnay Today

Do everybody’s lungs a favor: take the bus, ride your bike, or walk. And lay off the power mower for a few days.




I called it a year and a half ago when Hosni Mubarek was overthrown in Egypt.

Everybody was jumping for joy over the Arab Spring. I cautioned, Be careful what you wish for.

Egypt may tumble into civil war in the wake of some controversial supreme court rulings this week. It must be said, Egyptians have a choice in who crushes their dreams of freedom: the Muslim Brotherhood or the military.

An Egyptian Military Council Leader

I’m no jingoist but the situation in Egypt does remind me that the American revolution turned out not so bad after all. And many, many of the tyrannies that the Founding Daddy-os neglected to toss out have been addressed in the ensuing two and a half centuries.


Yesterday, Christopher Buckley in Salon argued that “Moby Dick” is the greatest American novel ever written.

He’s wrong.

Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is far superior. And if you prefer a less iconic choice, how about Thomas Berger’s “Little Big Man”?

In fact, I’ll take LBM over TAoHF. Berger’s epic recounting of late 19th Century American history through bullshitter-supreme Jack Crabb’s eyes is America. Crabb was “Zelig” before Woody Allen even thought of the man who was everywhere.

BAD lists “The All-Time Worst People in History” today.

Adolf Hitler, natch, tops the list, garnering a few more votes than his on-again, off-again ally Joe Stalin. Three of Hitler’s henchmen (Himmler, Goebbels, and Mengele as well as his idiot son Mussolini also make the list).

il Duce

George W. Bush ranks No. 20 which is ludicrous. His inclusion on the list shows that liberals verey, very often can be as knuckleheaded as conservatives. Well, not very, very often. Actually, not even often at all. Occasionally.

Anyway, here’s my own list of The Worst Americans in History, in no particular order:

How I Wish That Was An Exploding Cigar

Working On It: Charles (L) & David Koch

  • George Wallace –“Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever!”
  • Orval Faubus — Arkansas governor who called out the National Guard to stop black students from attending a predominantly white school in 1957.
  • Curtis LeMay — Even though he was instrumental in the US victory over Japan in World War II, LeMay was nuts. I suppose if you’re fighting a “good” war, you want generals who are more whacked-out than the enemy’s. LeMay was brilliant, daring, innovative — and whacked-the-fk-out. Ran with Wallace as a third party candidate in the ’68 presidential election.

Oh, and Paris Hilton. I know she’s yesterday’s news but, still, she represents everything bad about the celebrity culture, nonproductive wealth, women-as-objects, arrogance, and a host of other American ills.

We Mustn’t Forget Paris Hilton

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