Category Archives: Big Talk

Hot Air: War Story

We often forget there’s still a huge number of people in this world whose lives have been affected and even largely formed by World War II.

You know, that black & white incident back in the days when pop music was driven by brass as opposed to guitars and then became the raison d’etre for the History Channel, right?

Bloomington author Annette Oppenlander is one of those people. As a little girl listening to snippets of her parents’ conversations, she’d hear oblique references to unimaginable things that’d happened when they were as young as she was. Annette’s family was from the German industrial town of Solingen in the Ruhr Valley. Much of Germany’s industrial might was located in the region bordered by the Ruhr, Rhine, and Lippe rivers. American and British bombers pounded the factory towns there for some four years before Allied land forces swept through the region in the second half of 1944. Citizens of towns like Solingen suffered as horribly as any soldiers on the front lines but it wasn’t until Annette reached middle age-plus that she finally heard her parents and grandparents’ full stories.

Oppenlander & Mocha

This was after she’d had a successful career in banking and finance and, later, in public relations. Then she realized she wanted to be a writer. One of the first things she did after trading in her corner office for keyboard and notebook was interview her parents about their lives in wartime. Oh, the things she learned!

She’s taken many of those stories and refashioned them into a coming of age love story set in Germany during the war and the years immediately after. The result was a novel, her fourth, entitled Surviving the Fatherland.

Annette joined me on this week’s Big Talk. Catch the interview here or here.

Big Talk is a regular Thursday feature on WFHB‘s Daily Local News. My next guest will be fats expert, Heather Bradshaw, researcher in Indiana University’s Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Yeah, it’s fats that help our cells communicate with each other, among other lipidomic functions. Heather concentrates on the fats in cannabinoids (pot) and olive oil. She’ll explain it all on the next Big Talk, Thursday, April 13, at 5:00pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

Quothe Prof. Bradshaw: “My passion is fats.” Hey, mine too, only for a different reason.

Hey Buddies, Can You Spare A Dime?

BTW: Notice there won’t be a Big Talk next week, April 6th? Starting tonight and running through Sunday, April 9th, WFHB will be holding its Spring Fund Drive. If you’re hot for Big Talk or for any of the great shows on Bloomington’s first community radio blowtorch, you might consider throwing a few bucks our way. Give a jingle at 812.323.1200 or go online and click the Donate Now button. Simple.

Radio, Radio

By a very young Elvis Costello along with his band, the Attractions.

From the chorus:

Radio is a sound salvation 
Radio is cleaning up the nation

Hot Air: Extra!

Hey, I almost forgot — today is Big Talk Thursday.

My guess today will be Jack Dopp, the big boss at Bloomington News. He’s been delivering newspapers since he was a grade school kid back in the 1950s. He and his crew have been bringing newspapers from all over the country — and at times from all over the world — to Bloomington and South Central Indiana for decades.

Jack’s seen plenty of changes in the newspaper biz over the years. He remembers when Jim Spannuth of the Book Nook had to wait for the daily Greyhound Bus to pull into the Bloomington station so he could get his shipment of the New York Times. And then there was the grim, gray weekend in November of 1963 when Bloomingtonians lined up around the block to get news about the JFK assassination.


Jack joins me this afternoon on Big Talk, a regular Thursday feature on the Daily Local News. Tune in at 5:00pm on WFHB, 91.3FM.

As always, if you miss the broadcast, I’ll post links to the podcasts here tomorrow morning. And stay tuned next week when my guest will be aerial silks and drag king performer Sue Rall.


Sue Rall

Talk to you then!

Hot Air: Talkin’ Thursday

Don’t forget, The Bishop Bar proprietor, Steve Westrich, will be my guest on Big Talk this evening on WFHB‘s Daily Local News.


The DLN begins at 5:30pm and Big Talk normally comes on around 5:45. And, of course, I’ll provide links to the feature podcast and the original, unedited interview with Steve after air time, here.

Keep listening and keep reading, babies!

Laugh-Track Life

Speaking of The Bishop, Bloomington’s own Sitcom Theatre is slated to give a benefit performance there for the food pantry, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, Thursday, December 8.

Founded two years ago by Bethy Squires and William McHenry, Sitcom Theater presents scripted-cum-improvised  takes on, you guessed it, sitcoms. The troupe started off doing its version of the 1990s cultural touchstone, Friends.

BTW: Good luck to SC co-founder and recent Big Talk guest Squires, who has scored a plum gig as a researcher for a current sitcom and is set to relo to LA the day after tomorrow.


Bethy Squires


Hot Air

Your Big Talk Links

Hey kiddies, did you miss last night’s Big Talk episode? Worry not — here are links to both the WFHB Daily Local News Feature and the unabridged version of my chitchat with Margaret Taylor, proprietor of the Book Corner.

‣ Thursday’s DLN feature — listen here.

‣ Monday’s taping session with Margaret — listen here.

Big Talk Logo Usable Screen Shot

And stay tuned next Thursday, November 17th, for my scheduled tête-á-tête with Steve Westrich, owner and founder of The Bishop, one of Bloomington’s top live music venues. As noted here earlier in the week, I’d been hoping to have award-winning poet and Indiana University creative writing professor Ross Gay on next week but we weren’t able to nail down a taping session date just yet. Again, stay tuned; Ross’ll be with us soonly.

Hot Air

Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me

Young Adult author Julia Karr sat and talked with me recently for the latest installment of Big Talk. An eight-minute snippet of that tête-à-tête ran on WFHB last week.


Julia Karr

You ought to listen to it, especially if you’re an aspiring writer, say, or a high school dropout. Julia Karr has pushed through a ton of barriers to achieve that most glorious status in life: published author. She has written the dystopian fantasies XVI and Truth, about young Nina, a rebel in the year 2150. In that world girls who reach the age of sixteen are expected to become sex playthings; there’s little more a young female can hope to do. Nina, though, has other ideas.

We’re putting the finishing touches on the long-form interview with Julia that will run in the July issue of The Ryder.

Meet Bloomington’s most fascinating folk via the Big Talk interview series, co-sponsored by this communications colossus, The Electron Pencil, as well as WFHB and The Ryder.

BTW: Go to Julia’s website. She has a blog that in my humble opin. is tied for second-best in B-town. Natch, you know who’s the boss of the bestest blog hereabouts.

Pay To Play

When the Indiana University Hoosiers cartilage kids challenge for the top spot in any Big 10 sport, folks around these parts go gaga. And, this being the great United States of Murrica, we tend to throw dough at the gamesters, buying tickets by the fistful, wearing T-shirts, and drinking watered down brew out of IU-logoed beer cozies.

Only those cartilage kids don’t share in the swag. College athletes, as you know, aren’t paid. This despite the fact that their field and court exploits are the sole reason we fling our dollars around. Loyal readers already know how I feel about this stinking state of affairs.

IU Hoops

Volunteers Of America

Click on over to Frank Deford’s essay on NPR’s Morning Edition. He expounds on the bullshit notion that is amateurism — that is, amateurism the way the NCAA defines it. I like the way Frankie thinks.

Don’t Tread On My Bread

I tilt against peeps who espouse this health craze, that diet, or the conspiracy theory over there all the time. F’rinstance, my oldest and dearest pal in the world and I are howling at each other these days over her recent conversion to the belief that wheat grain products are only slightly less dangerous to humans than an arsenic cookie in a radioactive tin attached to an improvised explosive device.

Our skirmish thus far has remained reasonably civil although my agents have uncovered intelligence that she is a mere two years away from possessing the capability to build the arsenic cookie in a radioactive tin attached to an improvised explosive device. This will not stand. I will not allow a chocolate chip mushroom cloud be the final piece of evidence against her.

Mushroom Cloud

This Means War

Anyway, I always caution people I’m arguing with over such things that they should be careful what Internet stories they believe. I say, borrowing (okay, stealing) from Carl Sagan: “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.”

My dear pal had one defender who said to me, Look, if it makes her feel better, why fight it? What’s the skin off your nose?

Other than the fact that my Sicilian/Polish beak looks just fine with the acreage of dermis presently attached to it, thank you, my argument is that any individual ideas based on rage, mania, trendiness, and pseudoscience might be only mildly harmful to the possessors thereof but they represent a credulousness that can be far more toxic when applied repeatedly or in certain other more pressing cases.

To wit: the anti-vax movement of recent years. A single family might have rationalized that it really harmed no one else other than, potentially, themselves when they refused to get their kids inoculated.

Here’s the argument that lays that rationalization to rest: it has been learned that a single kid who had not received the MMR vaccination was responsible for an outbreak of measles in Minnesota in 2011.

The parents of the kid were part of a community that bought into the hysteria over childhood vaccinations that arose in the first decade of this century. That hysteria, in too many cases, was fatal.

As important as saving the lives of innocent children may be, the even more dangerous aspect of the anti-wheat movement is the possibility that pizza and pasta may one day be outlawed. Now, that would be a human tragedy of monumental proportions!

Pasta & Sauce

Save Our Spaghetti!

Hot Air

Scientists: Come Out Of The Closet!

Hey, kids, I realize we live in the most informed, brilliant, and sensitive burgh this side of Berkeley, California, but still some of us might come up against a simian thinker who, say, doesn’t believe all this socialist, bike-riding propaganda about climate change.


What Do All Those Scientists Know?

You know, it’s all a plot to destroy America and so on.

So you might have a need to destroy his ignorance and put him in his proper place (A zoo cage? A mental institution?) should you run into him bleating his views in a bar or at your coffeehouse headquarters.

Many of us emerge from such a tête-à-tête ruing our inability to deliver just the right bon mot that would send him scurrying out of the place, humiliated to the point of wondering whether he should just end it all. (Imagine, too, using pretentious Gallicisms to finish him off — pure bliss, no?)

Anyway, Bill Moyers this morning offers us a good guide to winning these “arguments” via Penn State U. climatologist Michael Mann. He runs PSU’s Earth System Science Center. He thinks climatologists and other scientists ought to get out into the arena more and fight the good fight for knowledge and investigation.

Which I agree with. These days, we have what I’d call science’s designated hitters: Bill Nye and Neil de Grasse Tyson. Their Q-ratings nearly approach those of fictional brains such as Frank-n-Furter, Dr. Strangelove, and Professor X.

Movie Scientists


Don’t get me wrong, I dig NdGT and Nye the most. Still, to the gen. pub., they’re pretty much the alpha and omega of smart guys. OTOH, we get all sorts of un-scientists spewing their mouth refuse about things scientific. People like Sen. James Inhofe, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, and Rush Limbaugh — and there are dozens more where they come from. Corporate news purveyors find these chuckleheads by the score whenever there’s a climate debate or an evolution debate or even a flat-Earth debate.

Guys like Michael Mann toil in anonymity in their labs and classrooms, discovering things, learning things, and being, well, all scientific while the populace of this holy land learns about the physical world from Steve Doocy and Elizabeth Hasselbeck.

So, go, go. go, M. Mann et al. As for you, loyal Pencillista, read his piece on climate change and go into your next argument on that topic armed with the best info.

The Old Pro

My complete interview with Charlotte Zietlow is now up on The Ryder website. It’s a long one but it’s a good one. Take some time and read it — and feel better about politicians for a brief moment, armed with the knowledge that that vocation’s roster has included decent souls like CZ.


Charlotte Zietlow

If you’re pressed for time, catch my eight-minute mini-interview with the Dem doyenne that ran on WFHB’s Daily Local News a couple of weeks ago.

End of commercial.

All The News That’s Old

Now we learn that 40 percent of the Indiana University student pop. is from out of state. This thanks to the Daily Beast‘s ranking of the decade’s “hottest” schools (via the Herald Times).

IU, acc’d’g to the D. Beast‘s rankers, is the third most thermal institution of higher education in Murrica, after USC and Vanderbilt.

Good journalist that I am, I googled “hottest schools decade IU daily beast,” just to verify the story and, perhaps, to provide a link to the Beast’s piece (which the H-T hadn’t).

Lo and behold, I found that the DB‘s list of hot colleges was done in 2009. It ran December 13 that year, which makes sense, considering it was an “of the decade list.” Such things aren’t done in the middle of a ten-annum.


Didja Hear The News?!

So thanks, Herald Times, for the five-year-old news. If I’d paid the $8.95 the paper wants every month for an online subscription, I’d be steaming about now. Luckily, I’ve figured out a way to get it free, which is what it’s worth.

Hot Air

Those Who Can…

I’ll be making a lot of teachers mad today. That’s nothing new; some four and a half decades ago I was an unruly little shit terrorizing any number of trained experts in the art of controlling and forming the minds of feral beastlings like me.

The Indiana Board of Ed last week voted to allow non-professional teachers to teach in state schools. Professional teachers, naturally, are up in arms.

The Board sez it would like to okay something called Career Workplace Specialists, folks who’ve made their daily bread in specific fields and who then would be qualified to teach our kids that stuff. Well, your kids. I don’t have any. You’re welcome.

Anyway, the state teachers union thinks this is the worst thing since MERS. Union boss Teresa Meredith told WFIU reporter Brandon Smith that teachers need intensive “pedagogy training” before they can be allowed to face a classroom full of brats like I was.

Blackboard Jungle

From The Movie “Blackboard Jungle”

That quote alone is enough to convince me I’m going to side with the Board. The teaching profession has become a priestly caste with an obfuscating language all its own. The entrenched pro teaching people forget that we’re all teachers; the very nature of civilization forces each and every adult to be a life-certified pedagogista.

This is not to say that pro-teachers haven’t learned a thing or two about imparting knowledge, getting kids to think critically, and preventing impromptu riots from breaking out. Problem is, it seems the teaching profession has been, for all intents and purposes, restricted only to the third pillar of those qualifications. What with a rigid common core, teaching to the test, and the alarming popular distaste for science and empirical facts, teachers are hamstrung these days.

Let’s be clear: the teaching profession, by and large, has opposed the general trend away from getting kids to learn how to think and toward producing standardized, docile little graduate lambs. Sadly, the efforts of teachers unions and the pedagogical academia have had next to no effect on the educational paradigm of turning out kids who know how to spit back facts but have absolutely no acumen for analyzing and critiquing. So, it can be said the only thing teachers unions have left to fight for is their own jobs.

And now, they fear, they’re going to be losing them to people who aren’t professional teachers.

But, as I say, we’re all teachers. And I’d rather have, say, a professional chemist teaching me chemistry than a person who finds it necessary to use the term pedagogy.

Hear Charlotte Here

Here’s your link to hear the WFHB Daily Local News feature on my Big Talk interview with Charlotte Zietlow.


Charlotte Zietlow (Photo: David Snodgress/Herald-Times)

The latest issue of The Ryder magazine hits the streets today, carrying the entire hour-long chat I had with the doyenne of the Democratic Party here in Bloomington and Monroe County. The piece will go up on The Ryder website in about a week.

Tune in to WFHB and read The Ryder each month to catch the long and short versions of the monthly Big Talk series. And stay right here on The Electron Pencil for updates on who I’ll be interviewing next.


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