Category Archives: Amy Winehouse

The Pencil Today:


“If you mean to keep as well as possible, the less you think about your health the better.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes


We’re back.

Now I can tell you: The Loved One and I had to make a quick trip down to Florida to take care of some family business. Swear to god, I’d decided to not to mention that we were going out of town before we did because I was afraid some reprobate who’d happened to wander onto this site might ransack Chez Big Mike while we were away.

And, caring human that I am, I didn’t want him to be torn to shreds by Steve the Dog, who was guarding the estate.


Anyway, Florida. We got stuck under the canopy of Tropical Storm Debby, which had parked itself in the Gulf of Mexico just below the panhandle and so drenched us all five days we were in the Sunshine State.

I actually took pictures of the rain so as to prove to the citizenry of the Great State of Indiana that such a thing exists.

This is rain. It falls from the sky.

We drove all day Saturday and did the same thing all day Wednesday. 16½ hours each way. Yup. Sixteen and one half freaking hours.

I can report that neither The Loved One nor I attacked the other with the intent to cause bodily harm or death. Although the thought crossed my mind once or twice. Her’s too, I’d suppose.

Also, you won’t read this in Wikipedia or any of the usual travel guides but we found it to be all too true: the State of Georgia is the single largest landmass on the face of the Earth. Racing up I-75 from just south of Valdosta to the southern reaches of the Chattanooga metropolitan area took up a significant fraction of our lives.

Asia is but a mere islet compared to the Peach State. In which, BTW, we saw not one single peach. Lots of peanut fields, though.

Peanuts As Far As The Eye Can See

Perhaps the single thing which stood out during our trip was the absolute glut of billboards in Florida addressing the abortion issue. Well, one side of it, anyway. One read, “If you know you’re pregnant, your baby’s heart is already beating.”

We’d see a half dozen or more such billboards in any given mile stretch. Somebody’s obsessed, I tell you.


Our hotel was on the ocean in Cocoa Beach (the town where Major Nelson and Jeannie lived, by the way.) Sadly we never once went out on the beach, for fear that we’d be swept away by the storm.

Cocoa Beach Couple

As an aside, I never shared my generation’s fascination with Barbara Eden as Jeannie. I’m certain I’d say that even if she’d been permitted to expose her navel (really, how weird is TV?) No, my fantasy TV chicks were Marlo Thomas, Barbara Feldon, and Elizabeth Montgomery.

Agent 99, “That Girl,” And Samantha

So, we spent much of our free time in the hotel room which is as close to a prison cell as I’d care to experience at this time of my life. The Loved One, a notorious storm-phobe, clicked the television on in an effort to keep tabs on Debby. (Another aside — why is it Debby and not Debbie?)

I caught a commercial from a cable outfit in central Florida called Bright House Network. The company was offering a spectacular new service for the most up-to-date, wired technophile: the home phone.

Truth. The announcer talked as if no one on Earth had ever thought of such a thing. Now, the line went, you don’t have to dash around looking for your cell phone when someone’s calling. Just pick up your home phone, which is plugged into the wall — right where it always is!

The Cutting Edge

How revolutionary.

How much more bizarre can the American people get?


Ever wonder why USA Today has the second-biggest circulation of any daily newspaper in this holy land? Every hotel, motel, and, I’d imagine, opium den in America offers free USA Todays.

So, I thumbed through the rag. Have I mentioned that America is bizarre? Just reading one single USA Today front page would verify that.

I can picture a future USA Today front page featuring the headlines, “Pakistan, India Nuke Exchange — Tens Of Millions Dead,” “Ohio Teacher Wins Golden Apple Award,” and “Bieber-Gomez Marriage On The Rocks.”

“In Other News, Nuclear War Broke Out Today In….”

Anyway, here are a couple of things I discovered about life on this Earth while reading USA Today:

◗ The late Amy Winehouse’s old man has written a book about her called “Amy, My Daughter.” Quite a wordsmith that Mitch Winehouse is, if his choice of title is any indication.

He tells of being unable to listen to any of Amy’s music since her death. He also confesses he’d like to wring Blake Fielder-Civil’s neck. The boyfriend, according to Mitch, turned his princess on to heroin and crack. Blake is “the biggest low-life scumbag that God ever put breath into,” he writes.

It’s not even a year since Amy W. died of alcohol poisoning. Already, though, the old boy has churned out his book. The show, I suppose, must go on.

◗ The Women’s Tennis Association is all aflutter over the amount of grunting and shrieking emanating from its member stars when they smash the ball. Big time players like Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are notorious for their cacophony during matches.


The WTA will set acceptable noise level rules and will develop hand-held devices the umpires can use to measure players’ noise levels. The association will sponsor education programs throughout all levels of professional play, presumably to impart the crucial information that women tennis players should shut the eff up.

Opponents and fans have complained about the noise for years now, the WTA says.

Which I find enormously weird. The only time in my life I had an iota of interest in professional tennis was when the lovely Argentine star Gabriela Sabatini was just coming up. I’d see clips of her winning one match or another on ESPN and was struck by her moaning, groaning, huffing, and puffing.

And She Grunts!

I found all the din coming from her end of the court to be strangely arousing. Honest. Sabatini’s symphony was the sexiest thing I’d ever seen (or, more accurately, heard) in sports.

And now they want to get rid of all that?


Don’t bother clicking the logo today. I’m still too lazy to do The Pencil’s daily events listings. Come back tomorrow.


Did you ever get a chance to catch that Bobby Darin biopic called “Beyond the Sea” a few years ago?

It was a labor of love for Kevin Spacey, who sang and danced his way through a thoroughly Hollywood-ized version of the singer’s life. Spacey even donned a cheap toupee and phony nose for the part.

Spacey As Darin; Darin As Darin

In real life, Darin had something like a nervous breakdown in reaction to his career going south as well as the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Darin was working for the Kennedy campaign and was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night Bobby was shot in 1968.

He’d begun transforming himself from a slick Copacabana balladeer to a protest singer in the late 60s. His commitment to social relevance was a long time coming; he’d demanded black comic Nipsey Russell open for him at the Copa at a time when the mobsters who ran the joint weren’t overly thrilled about hiring relatively unknown negroes. Later, Darin would start his own record company so he could put out music dealing with issues of the day. His first album for the label was filled with “compositions designed to reflect my thoughts on the turbulent aspects of modern society.”

This from a man who became one of America’s biggest song idols with hits like “Splish Splash” and “Dream Lover.”

The Pencil Today:


“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.” — Julius Marx


Believe it or not, the hairy men who inhabit Soma Coffee occasionally can form full and complete sentences before they’ve even finished their first cups of the life-giving substance.

Videographer Steve Llewellyn told us he lucked into a ducat for the Bourdain/Ripert gabfest last night at the IU Auditorium.


“I never really knew that much about him but he was hilarious. I had no idea — ‘Some guy’s talking about food, wow’,” Llewellyn says. “He had a lot to say about vegetarians. He said what you ought to do is cook bacon in front of a vegetarian. ‘Bacon is the gateway protein’.”

Tyler Ferguson (a member of the Boys of Soma Women’s Auxiliary) was at the “Good Versus Evil: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert” show as well. “Didja hear when he mentioned Monsanto and people booed? The first person down in front who started the booing? That was me,” she said.


After delivering his report, Llewellyn flipped open the IDS. Computer genius and web developer Boise Tomlin couldn’t help but comment.

Noticing that the news section of the paper carried quite a few column inches of sports-related gibberish, Tomlin opined, “Look at this. This daily newspaper has an entire section dedicated to sports. Half the paper is sports. And yet they still have sports stuff in what should be the news section. That’s ridiculous.”


Speaking of non-news news, when I clicked onto the CNN website this AM, I noticed yet another three separate stories about the death of Whitney Houston.

I’ve been holding my tongue for nearly a week now.

In fact, I bit my tongue so hard on Facebook Sunday that I’m still tasting blood.

No more.

I was dying to say Sunday that the whole Whitney Houston mourning thing is way over the top, no?

I mean, really, when was the last time any of these people who are so all broken up over her demise actually listened to her music? And if they did listen to her music, didn’t they hear one of the most annoying hit songs ever? That is “I Will Always Love You“?

Honestly, did she not have any other way of conveying emotion in a song other than to up her voice volume to eleven?

All I knew of Whitney Houston was that she sang a lot of boring stuff white people liked and that she had a lot of trouble with substances. Ergo, her untimely death was no surprise to me. How could it have been a surprise to anyone else?

Perhaps it was the timing of her death, coming on the heels of the check-outs of Amy Winehouse and Etta James. People love the idea that things happen in threes (although they don’t — it’s really only our human need to see patterns even when there aren’t any). The Winehouse and James deaths were met with real outpourings of emotion, considering they were, well, true creative artists.

Have you seen this image floating around the interwebs these days?

So, it’s not that I have anything against Whitney Houston. She was a terrific singer, albeit one I never cared to listen to. But my preferences aren’t the sacred arbiter of what’s art and what’s not.

No, my quibble is with the folks who are trying to elevate her to some kind of weird martyrdom.

That’s all.


We’re trying a little something new down at the Book Corner these days. We’re dedicating a shelf for a week or so to each of our august literary sales drones so they can display their fave tomes.

Well, whaddya know, I’m the first vict…, er, choice. Here are my books for the week (or until somebody feels ambitious enough to put up a new shelf):

Made In America, by Bill Bryson

A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich

J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography, by Rick Geary

The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe, by Theodore Gray

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson

Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character, by Richard Feynman

Read. That’s an order.


Now then. Speaking of the one-of-a-kind Tyler Ferguson, she’s making big plans for the spring.

She’s got this crazy idea that she wants to produce a Bloomington-oriented TV talk show. The host, natch, would be none other than one Tyler Ferguson.


It will be modeled after the legendary late-night talk show, “Playboy After Dark,” hosted by Hugh Hefner back in the 1960s.

Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis Jr., Anthony Newley, and your host, Hugh Hefner

Tyler wants to call her show “Nightcap.”

She plans to tape the pilot in her living room with a live audience comprised of invited friends. The idea, according to the aspiring TV mogul, is the thing’ll be a party and throughout the evening, a lineup of guests will appear. Bloomington, Tyler reasons, is chock full of musicians, authors, poets, singers, comedians, and others. They’ll be interviewed by Tyler in the usual desk-and-couch set-up.

Ferguson already has her video director set up as well as her very own sidekick. And guess who that sidekick will be. Yep, this guy, Big Mike, president and chief executive officer of the international communications colossus, The Electron Pencil.

My Dream Job: Second Banana

Tyler banged away on her laptop this morning, taking notes on the show idea. The idea’s been floating around in her fertile cranium for a few weeks now. She expects it to run on You Tube and hopes to be able to secure a timeslot on CATS.

This thing just might be for real. Tyler already has set up one sponsor for the show, a start-up brewery  that’ll supply the booze for the party.

Look for a late May/early June release of the pilot.


Apparently the ideas of women are pretty much irrelevant to the blowhard who’s running Congressional hearings on contraception, religious myth organizations, and the Obama administration’s new rules on health care coverage.

You know, it wasn’t too long ago that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was considered just another loon in the GOP’s (POG’s?) stable of putative primates in Congress. Now, he’s chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“No Girls Allowed!”

And whaddya expect from the Party O’god? Have you caught the video of that human-impersonator on MSNBC last night who said things were so much simpler back in his day: women simply squeezed an aspirin between their knees to avoid getting pregnant.

This unindicted moral felon, a fellow named Foster Friess, doesn’t like the idea of women having sex. He’s a billionaire, so his “thoughts” carry weight in this holy land.

“Y’see, I’m Obscenely Rich And You’re Not.”

It occurs to me that these god-groupies who are so freaked over contraception really don’t need women. Females are so troublesome, after all. So I have a solution to all their problems. Here’s a partner that won’t file a paternity suit against you or demand birth control pills or even talk back when you just want to roll over and fall asleep the way the creator intended a man to act.

(I’d have posted a picture of the product here but — here’s a shocker — I thought it might be more prudent not to. You’ll just have to click on the link.)

I propose nominating the above-mentioned product as Mrs. Republican USA for the year 2012 — and for all the years thereafter!

Today: Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Poor Linda Robbins. She’s in hot water.

Check that: Boiling water.

You can brew your morning java in it.

Linda Robbins In A Happier Moment

Robbins, the Monroe County Clerk, suspended ballot counts (login required) early this morning after yesterday’s local elections

Mix-ups at certain polling places and legal questions about the counting process have resulted in…, um, actually, there are very few results to speak of at this hour.

(See WFIU’s website for the latest albeit incomplete tallies.)

Here’s what happened. Robbins ordered paper ballots to be used in yesterday’s election. She trained poll workers to do a quick count after the polls closed and then send the ballots off to a County facility where the pencil-marked ballots would be counted by an electronic scanner.

Sounds good, right? Poll workers envisioned doing their thing, shipping their ballots off, and going home early to sit before the fire and contemplate the infinite.

Oops. The lone Republican member of the County election board had dropped a bomb on Robbins Sunday. That board member reminded Robbins that a new state law requires county election boards to do their official counts at the precinct level, with the process overseen by a single poll worker from each of the two major parties.

The law, apparently, calls for felony charges to be brought against any county clerk who veers from its mandate.

Suddenly Sunday, Robbins envisioned herself wearing a Monroe County Correctional Center jumpsuit.

So she brought her poll workers in for an emergency re-training session Monday. Only some folks just might have snoozed through the session.

Tuesday night, workers in a number of polling places stubbornly did their counts in the old way, the way they purportedly were trained out of Monday.

By midnight, the scene at the County was one of chaos. By two o’clock this morning, Robbins threw her hands in the air and ordered her people to call it a night. Counting was scheduled to resume at 9:00am.

Meanwhile, Robbins is making panicky phone calls to the Indiana Secretary of State’s office for guidance.

She may have to call a criminal defense attorney for some advice as well.


Speaking of this solemn system of governance we call democracy, Herman Cain is going on the offensive against accusers who claim he’s been…, well, a jerk. Possibly a criminal jerk.

A Chicago woman this week accused the Republican presidential candidate of trying to force her face into his junk as they drove around after having dinner some years ago. This incident allegedly occurred when Cain was the big boss at the National Restaurant Association.

She’s one of four woman thus far to make such icky charges against the former pizza joint CEO.

Cain held a news conference yesterday to tell the world how unfair it’s being to him.

Why’s Everbody Always Pickin’ On Me?

I mean, here’s a man who has worked his way up from dire poverty to become a wealthy man. So wealthy, in fact, that he had to become a Republican.

Cain, though, seems not to have much patience for folks who today are walking in the kind of holey shoes he once wore. He lashed out against Occupy Wall Streeters last month, saying they should only blame themselves if they aren’t as rich as he is. Later, at a Republican candidates debate, he iterated his scold against anyone who couldn’t afford a solid gold toilet.

Now, he’s under attack. And guess who’s responsible.

Yep, those who ought to be blaming themselves.

I Shoulda Worked Harder — Like Herman Cain!

Cain returned fire at his Arizona presser Tuesday as well as on that paragon program of political thought, Jimmie Kimmel Live.

He referred to the Chicago woman as “troubled” and alluded to her financial difficulties throughout the years. The idea being that she’s broke and desperate and so was ripe to make her accusations for the big bucks that surely will ensue.

Keep in mind that when guys like Cain sneer at people for their financial difficulties, they’re not talking about, say, Donald Trump failing to make payments on his hundred-million-dollar loans. Hell no, that’s big business. Cain et al reserve their disgust for people, like the Chicago woman, who have a hard time paying the electric bill.

She has nobody to blame but herself.


I glanced at the New York Times front pager about the verdict in Michael Jackson’s doctor’s homicide case yesterday.

One thing struck me. The writer, for the 50-millionth time since the King of Pop went to heaven or hell, referred to his death as a “surprise.”

Honestly, who was surprised that Michael Jackson died? His dalliances with prescription meds were well-known. He’d been reported to be slurring and stumbling and appearing to be visiting another planet while working on his last video/CD.

And, for pity’s sake, he was Michael Jackson!

Who Could Have Expected Anything Bad To Happen To Him?

When I heard the early reports that he’d died, my intial response was, “Naturally!”

Same with Amy Winehouse. Her alcoholism and drug problems were about as common knowledge in the gossip tabs and interwebs as the fact that Barack Obama was a secret radical Muslim from Nazi Germany.

And what about someone who today is holding on to life and sanity by her fingertips, one Lindsay Lohan? Should she cash in her chips tomorrow, will reporters write that her demise is a shock?

The way I figure it, if celeb journalists want to be really accurate they should handle such sad folks thusly: Every day there should be a headline in the Entertainment or Lifestyle section blaring the news, “Jacko/Winehouse/Lohan Still Alive! Medical Experts Baffled.” Then when they do die, nothing.

The daily news, after all, is mainly about the unusual or unexpected, isn’t it?

I Hope She Surprises Us

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