Category Archives: Bloomington Fading

Hot Air

Urban Renewal In Bloomington

How can you not love the work that Derek Richey and Jennifer Sommer-Richey do over at Bloomington Fading? Here’s the latest vid they’ve put out, chronicling the demise and renaissance of downtown Bloomington from 1950 through the ’70s. Check it out:

It’s important to note that the federal government programs collectively known as “Urban Renewal” were the result of politicians and bureaucrats together developing plans to ease the suffering of poor people in this holy land. But, as happens far too often, when politicians and bureaucrats begin working with money men, the best of intentions go awry.

Make sure to visit Derek and Jennifer on Facebook and at their website.

Rubbing Salt In Their Wounds

Here’s hoping the struggles with family health issues and America’s far-from-perfect health care system don’t take too much of a toll on the Sandberg clan. Bloomington city council member Susan Sandberg long has been an advocate for streamlined, equitable, efficient health care. Now she and her kin must leap the hurdles the for-profit health rackets have erected before them.


Sandberg & County Prosecutor Chris Gaal At The Monroe County Fair

Good luck, Sandbergs, and hang in there!

What’s Different About America?

My pal the Big Shot Lawyer (who shall remain nameless lest he sue the pants off me for some reason or another) joins me regularly at The Pencil’s back office, aka Soma Coffee. We talk mainly about The Law, which is something — we both agree — that exists more in theory then actual practice.

Honestly, the law students who hang at the java joint ought to close their textbooks and put an ear in on our conversations. They’d learn a thing or two that might help them as they go out into that great professional world to rid clients of any spare cash they might have laying around.

And, the truth is, it’s not technically the conversation that’d educate them — my contributions are drips in an ocean compared to what the Big Shot Lawyer adds.

Anyway, now and again BSL and I veer off into talk about Bloomington, the Hoosier State, this holy land, and even the world at large. Health care, for instance, came up on Wednesday. The question arose, Why is health care so easily and efficiently meted out in places like, say, Sweden?

Crack barrister that he is, BSL went right to the heart of the issue. “Everybody’s the same in Sweden,” he said. “They all look alike, sound alike. So when someone says they need help, everybody’s willing to pitch in because, you know, “Hey, he’s just like me!”



As opposed to here in Murrica, where people of countless colors, speaking scads of languages, listening to tons of weird music, eating all sorts of exotic poisons including garlic and cumin, and worshipping all the wrong gods hold out their hats and say, “Can you help me out?”

To which the majority of us respond, “What? Using my tax money? Help you out when you don’t even realize who the one and only true god is and, almost worse, you eat garlic? Hell no!”

It’s the classic case of The Other. Murrica is chock-full of Others. It’s what made us great but, ironically, it’s what keeps us all at arms’ length in these divisive times.

Mood Is Wrong, Mood Is Wrong!

Yeah, I’ve been a downer the last few days, what with the dramatic tumbling of this great nation into the 13th Century, thanks to the spanking the Democrats got from the Republicans Tuesday. So let’s go all light and breezy for a bit, shall we?

How about this ditty from the summer of 1969, the first big AM radio hit for Crosby, Stills & Nash? Groove, babies!

BTW: The hed for this entry is a reference to Jerry Lewis’s Buddy Love taking a seat at the Purple Pit piano in the original The Nutty Professor.

Hot Air

Modern Problem

The Richeys — Derek and Jennifer Sommer-R. — have been tantalizing us with their nostalgic images of Bloomington for years now. Their book, Bloomington: Then & Now and their Facebook page, Bloomington Fading, hammer home the dizzying changes this town has undergone through the years.

People here still like to call Bloomington a small town but it hasn’t been for a long, long while. As long as Indiana University, like pretty much every higher ed factory in this holy land, feels the need to attract upwards of 20 million students per semester, this burgh will seem, for much of the year, like every other moderately-sized city anywhere in the USA.


Anywhere, USA

Bloomington’s architecture has changed commensurate with the corporatization and marketing of our hometown U. The look and feel of the place is nothing so much as Lincoln Park-lite or faux-Clifton. Only those big city hot ‘hoods have vibrant, colorful commercial strips. B-town’s central district merchants and eateries have yet to catch up with the flood of residential units surrounding the Courthouse. They probably never will, considering the fact that downtown Bloomington’s new residents, albeit beneficiaries of Mom & Pop’s largesse in terms of luxe housing, are too cash- and time-poor to support a bustling business district.

So we’re left with imposing walls of multi-story, soulless, faceless apartment structures along Walnut and College avenues. These anonymous buildings seem at times an unholy mix of the utilitarian and the totalitarian. Any pedestrian moseying along either of the town’s main north-south arteries will find little or nothing to catch her eye or cause him to drop into a little shop.

The Richeys have produced a video explaining what’s going on north of the Courthouse these days. Here it is:

It’s part of the overall Richey push to get people involved in Bloomington city planning discussions and decisions. And, BTW, the Richeys inform us those new ugly apt. bldgs. really weren’t built atop the rubble of quaint, historic homes or anything like that. That ship sailed, the Richeys tell us, decades ago. No, those new residential structures mostly replaced eyesore parking lots and empty lots.

Do You Read Me?

Yes, I sell books. Those quaint things made of paper and ink and certain plastic coatings and so forth. They can tear, fall, get soaked, burn or a dozen other things can happen to them that’ll make them, well, junk.

But people still love them.

I love them.

I also love reading online. And even though I read an old-school book every night before I go to sleep, most of my daily reading is done on an LED screen. That’s life today.

Online Reading

Even Old Birds Do It

Long, long ago, I swore I’d never give in to digital reading. Next thing I knew, I was reading New York Times and Chicago Tribune articles online. When some big news event happened somewhere in the world, I found myself immediately going to CNN online.

And then I wasn’t buying newspapers anymore. Paper newspapers. Before long, my bookmark list of online news sites had grown to what I’d have previously considered ludicrous proportions. Look:

MG News Bookmarks

When I was reading paper and ink, I’d never in a thousand years have enough time and money to amass such a reading list. Now, it’s nothing for me to skim through all of these in a day.

Ted Striphas is an assoc. prof. at Indian University. He’s written a book called The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control. In it, he takes a look at the written word throughout history. My friends at WFHB’s Interchange had Striphas on the show last week.

Host Doug Storm picks apart the prof.’s brain in an effort to find out where all this reading business is headed. Check it out.

Funny Business

Speaking of the business of reading — and I do mean business — I caught a fascinating piece on a minister and his wife who tried to game the bestseller list and got caught at it.

Now, I’m not focusing on these characters simply because they’re a man and woman of the cloth. Too many people take a perverse pleasure in pointing out the foibles of preachers. Me, I figure priests, lamas, rabbis, imams, and all the rest are no better or worse than the rest of us. They are, after all, human beings. Who happen to believe in something I don’t. I find no reason to persecute them — that is, unless they’re trying to impose their myths upon me.

Okay, that caveat out of the way, let’s look at what Mark and Grace Driscoll did to get their book, Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Wait, what’s that? You say the way to do it is write a really terrific and compelling book and then hope and pray for lightning to strike? Isn’t that the way books have hit it big since the beginning of time?

Well, sorta. Today, you can buy your way onto the bestseller list.

The Driscolls contracted with an outfit called ResultSource. In exchange for the couple’s $210,000, ResultSource promised them they’d move heaven and Earth to get their title listed among the chosen few. That is, the Driscolls’ congregation’s $210,000. But that’s a matter for those who fork their dough over to them to worry about. Let’s stick with Real Marriage and the New York Times Bestseller list.

A month and a half ago, Real Marriage suddenly appeared as the number one selling non-fiction, hardcover, advice or how-to book in this holy land. It was a miracle, considering that the Driscolls had never before published anything even remotely close to a bestseller.

NYT Bestsellers 20140122

Holy JK Rowling, right?

Wrong. Say what you will about the coffeeshop scribe who became the first billionaire author in history, the astronomical sales of her books were legit.

The Driscolls’ sales were not. See, Result Source used most of the $210,000 to purchase copies of the book in thousands of people’s names, in every state of the union, using upwards of a thousand different pay methods, to goose the sales of Real Marriage.

Now, folks had been gaming the NYT bestseller lists for years by making bulk purchases of books by preachers, moralists, business writers, hacks, self-help gurus, and other snake oil salespeople. Eventually, the NYT began marking such titles with a symbol meant to convey that the free market public wasn’t completely and innocently enthralled with said books.

But racketeers like ResultSource are a new game in town. Essentially, they’re hired killers. Rather than you, the author, or your pals and family doing the dirty work, ResultSource will take the sub-ethical, quasi-moral plunge for you.

So, how did people figure out the Driscoll scam? The week after Real Marriage had hit number one, it completely disappeared from the bestseller list. That’s unnatural. That means no one — or a scant few — had bought the book on the up and up.

Real Marriage? Real bullshit is more like it.

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