Category Archives: Bloomington Indiana

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men — kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling — are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest — sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest — are the traits or success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.” — John Steinbeck

MY KIND OF TOWN

The Loved One and I rolled into town in the fall of 2009.

I didn’t know what to think about Bloomington, Indiana. I’d never even visited the place. If you’d have pushed me, I might have recalled hearing its name during the glory days of Bobby Knight.

Other than that, all I knew when we moved here was Bloomington’s just a place in Indiana.

Uh, This Guy Did His Hollering In Bloomtown Or Someplace

To be honest, I was a little wary of relocating here. Maybe even depressed. Heck, the place is a half hour away from the nearest Interstate. I’d spent much of my life in places like Wrigley Field, which can seat nearly 60 percent of the entire population of Bloomington.

Most Of Bloomington Could Fit In Here

I recall telling myself not to slip into thinking this was nowheresville.

And then, like a lightning bolt, came the news that Elinor Ostrom had won the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Bloomington‘s Elinor Ostrom.

Elinor Ostrom

I read all about Ostrom the day that news broke. The little girl with a stutter who came from a poor family. Went to Beverly Hills High. Got the bug to go to college there. Followed her husband to IU where he’d landed a teaching gig. Worked with him to develop innovative theories on resource management and green economics.

The first woman in history to win a Nobel in economics.

How cool, I thought, she’s from my new town.

Elinor Ostrom provided me with my first taste of civic pride here.

I never got a chance to meet her which is too bad. I’ll bet she was a hoot. According to the papers, she spent the last days of her life battling pancreatic cancer. I’m glad she at least had the chance to enjoy being a Nobel laureate for two and a half years, until she died yesterday morning.

She didn’t know it, but she welcomed a guy here in the fall of 2009.

Bloomington’s no longer my new town. Just my town.

WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO

Click.

THE SLOW WHEELS OF JUSTICE

My town turns out to be a little bit like my old town. Public officials get sloppy with their morals and ethics and the next thing you know, prosecutors are sniffing around.

Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal filed a request Monday for a special prosecutor in the Amy Gerstman case. Gaal can’t handle the case himself since both he and Gertsman are Democrats. The county auditor is in hot water for using credit cards issued to her office for her personal use.

It’s about time.

Chris Gaal

The only thing I can’t figure out is why it took so long for anybody to threaten action against Gerstman.

I thought sure she would resign her post after news of her using county credit cards to buy groceries and even pay her kid’s tuition at a private school broke in January.

Gerstman’s breech of ethics was at the very least plain dumb. It’s also quite possibly criminal.

I get the feeling Gerstman might have avoided the spectacle of a criminal investigation had she quit six months ago. After all, she was trying to pay the dough back.

Happier Days For Amy Gerstman

There has been no public outcry for her ouster which can be attributed to one of two possible causes:

  • Bloomington is an unusually forgiving town
  • Bloomington doesn’t give a damn

I’m not putting my money on reason number one. That is, my money which Amy Gerstman is supposed to be monitoring with great care as the county’s fiscal watchdog.

Don’t get me started on the rest of Bloomington’s and Monroe County’s elected officials who have remained mum during this whole affair. Two or three of them have whispered to me that, well, this is really a small town and nobody wants to badmouth anybody else.

Oh.

Two or three of them also have said Amy Gerstman really needs the job. She’s got a family to support, after all.

Hmm.

Perhaps the main difference between my new town and my old town is my old town’s excuses were better.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Read The Electron Pencil everyday, especially now that we have daily event listings. Scroll down to our Go section. What are you waiting for?” — Big Mike Glab

WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK….

So, Bloomington has been blessed by Parade Magazine as the fourth-hardest working town in these Great United States, Inc.

I don’t know if Bloomingtonians are dancing in the streets just yet (I’m still sitting in my underwear in my garage office typing out this bilge, after all) but I’m going to have to dump some cold water on all the glee.

Typical Monday Morning In Bloomington

What in the world does this arbitrary list mean? Do the people of, say, Santa Clause, Indiana, which is not on the list, just sit around dreaming of Christmas? Does the populace of Hoboken, New Jersey refuse to work because they’re busy listening to hometown boy Frank Sinatra’s records?

“I Just Don’t Have The Time To Work.”

Here’s the most troubling thing about Parade’s survey and findings: Bloomington ranked so high mainly because our citizens are, as a group, the most willing in the United States to work weekends (“an astounding 15 points above the national average”).

Ever since unions started becoming unfashionable and workers rights turned into a pie-in-the-sky ideal in this Land of Reagan, Americans have been compelled to work longer hours and sacrifice more of their personal and family lives for employers who have been laying them off as never before. The weekend as well as the lunch hour and, for that matter, even an uninterrupted dinner have come to be viewed as luxuries.

I wouldn’t throw a party for the Parade ranking.

READ TO LIVE — LIVE TO READ

Happy World Book and Copyright Day!

Bet you didn’t know this holiday existed. Unless I missed the news, I don’t think there’ll be a parade down Kirkwood Avenue today in honor of it.

Why Not?

Here’s what I suggest you do — take your favorite book to work or school today and just give it to somebody. It could be a stranger or your best friend. No matter, just give her or him a book.

And if the loss of the book makes you feel deprived, I have a simple remedy for that, as well. Go to your local independent bookseller (he he) and buy a new one.

Simple, no?

WELL, I NEVER!

So, John Edwards goes on trial today for the heinous crime of conspiring to conceal his extramarital affair during his aborted presidential run in 2008. Additionally, the Secret Service/prostitutes scandal continues to race along.

This weekend whiny Joe Lieberman, Independent (read: incapable of commitment) senator from Connecticut, wagged his finger and revealed that one of the offending Secret Service agents actually stayed at the hotel where President Obama was scheduled to occupy when he arrived in Colombia. The horror!

Lieberman: They Had Sex, Those Fiends!

Other than obvious atrocities like shooting an unarmed black teenager on a dark street in a white neighborhood or Mel Gibson offering his opinion on anything, the worst thing you can do in this holy land is have anything other than missionary position sex outside the sacred bonds of marriage.

Ergo, Secret Service agents have been fired and may yet be prosecuted and a presidential candidate whose top talking point was the poor eventually may be sentenced to time in the joint.

Meanwhile, these fine citizens continue to roam the streets freely:

The Unindicted

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Monday, April 23, 2012

◗ Bloomington, Citywide — IU’s Arts Week Everywhere 2012; Ongoing, various times

The Kinsey Institute Gallery“Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze,” exhibit, art by women examining men; Ongoing

From the “Man as Object” Exhibition

IU Memorial Union, State Room East — Lecture, Dr. Joseph Collentine, chair of Modern Languages at Northern Arizona University, “On the Compatibility between SLA Corpus and Variationist Research”; 2:30pm

IU Asian Culture CenterHenna 101 with introduction and hands-on application; 5:30pm

IU Auditorium“Spirit of Indiana Showcase,” annual student-athlete awards gala; 6:30pm

Bell Trace Health and Living Center“Life in a British Period Drama,” 4-session class on British class life; 6:30pm

Madame Walker Theatre CenterAuditions for “Queen Esther — A Fearless Shero”; 6-8pm

IU Hutton Honors College, Great Room — Indiana Review Editors Showcase; 7-8:30pm

The Player’s PubSongwriter Showcase; 8pm

The BishopNo Requests with DJ Burke; 8pm

The BluebirdDave Walters Karaoke; 8pm

The BishopSpirit of ’68 Presents: WOODS with Mmoss & Apache Dropout; 9pm

The BluebirdLaidback Luke; 9pm

Laidback Luke

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” — Rogers Hornsby

STOCK UP ON BOTTLED WATER, MILK, AND BREAD!

As a native Chicagoan, I love the fact that a number of school systems around the area are operating on a two-hour delay due to yesterday’s snowfall. The WFIU newscaster this morning breathlessly advised listeners to stay tuned for any further announcements of delays or even school closings.

Anywhere from half to three quarters of an inch of snow buried locales around Bloomington on Thursday. The National Weather Service warns that snow may drift through this morning and into the early afternoon.

Half an inch of snow drifting! Hehe! How big will those mighty snow drifts be? Will I be buried up to my ankles?

Hell, when I walked Steve the Dog this AM, I could still see the grass poking through the white blanket.

These photos illustrate why I laugh. The first is from the infamous Blizzard of 1967; the second from last year’s equally infamous snowfall. Each dumped two feet of powder on Chicago.

Honestly, folks, I prefer what we in Bloomington have to what I once had to endure in Chicago. Still, I have to chuckle.

HOOSIER HYSTERIA

Tough Guy Pat moped into Soma Coffee this morning. He’d spent last night at Assembly Hall watching the men’s basketball team tank a home game against the godawful Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Just like that, Bloomington has tumbled from giddy to glum.

Whupped

I had to ask him, Is this the beginning of the end?

“No, not at all,” Tough Guy Pat said. “It’s just the beginning of reality.” He went on to explain: Road tilts against Ohio State (“They’re gonna cream us”) and Nebraska (“I’m tellin’ you, they’re no slouches”) are up next for the Hoosiers.

RICKY-GIRL SPEAKS

While typing these brilliant thoughts, I heard out of the corner of my ear a taped quote from Republican presidential wannabe Rick Santorum on NPR. “We always need a Jesus candidate,” the uber-heterosexual candidate said.

The most closeted of the GOP contenders, Santorum also told the radio interviewer (the interview was not originally on NPR) why he was so dead set against gay marriage. Kids, he pontificated, “have a right to be known and loved by their dad and their mom. That’s what marriage is about. It’s not about two people loving each other.”

Miss Ricky fascinates me more and more each day.

The Touchdown Jesus Candidate

DERBY GIRL IS REALLY A READER

Last month I wrote about my long-standing distrust of people in whose homes books are absent. I said most of my pals display their books the way much of the populace of this holy land shows off their wall-sized flat TV screens.

The upshot was, I shouldn’t be so snobbish — not when I also have friends like Tyler Ferguson, who’s smart as a whip but claims to have neither the time nor the patience to read books.

Well, Tyler can’t say that anymore. She was laid low for three weeks recently by bronchitis. All she had the energy to do was read. She knocked off a number of tomes.

Now that’s she has recovered, she can’t seem to shake the reading bug. Today she’s carrying around “Tomatoland” by Barry Estabrook. “It just opens your eyes to the perils of big ag,” she explains.

BTW, the Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls (Tyler skates as “Kaka Caliente”) begin 2012 competition Saturday, February 4, with the B-Cup Challenge here in Bloomington at the Twin Lakes Recreation Center.

If you’re not there, you’re nowhere.

Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls In Action

SOVIET SNOW

Hard to believe, isn’t it, that not too long ago we all were frightened to death that the leaders of the US and the Soviet Union might push their respective red buttons and blow all our respective cities to smithereens?

Jonathan Schell‘s book, “The Fate of the Earth” in 1982 jump-started the anti-nuke movement with his dramatic descriptions of a massive nuclear exchange by the two superpowers. He cited scientific estimates that such an event might well destroy civilization and even end all life on the planet.

Five years later, New Zealand singer Shona Laing scored a college radio hit with her Cold War deliberation, “Soviet Snow.” She sang, “Are we wide awake? Is the world aware?” She concludes, “We’ve all got one eye on the winter.”

The nuclear winter, of course.

Just a little reminder that even though the Americans and Russians no longer threaten to destroy each other, the newly enlarged nuclear club presents nightmarish scenarios almost as terrifying.

Sweet dreams, kiddies.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“The trouble with being a hypochondriac these days is that antibiotics have cured all the good diseases.” — Caskie Stinnett

Read On To Find Out Why I Put Up This Pic Of A Big Toe (And Its Buddies)

MY DOPEY DISEASE

Life is not fair. We should all know it. The only people who cry about this state of affairs are those who expect life to be fair.

That, of course, is what kindergarteners think. BTW: Remember the rage for that gooey book by Robert Fulghum — “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”?

The man should have been incarcerated (right after Robert James Waller, whose “The Bridges of Madison County” hit it big around the same time.)

And who’s heard of Fulghum (or Waller) in the last decade or so? They’ve been swallowed up by the anonymity they so richly deserve.

Criminal

Life has nothing to do with kindergarten.

Anyway, I didn’t post yesterday because I spent the morning in my doctor’s office. The diagnosis: gout.

Isn’t that the dumbest goddamn disease you’ve ever heard of? I mean, honestly.

It doesn’t kill you. It doesn’t maim you. It just hurts to high heaven, to the point where you can’t even sleep at night.

Ridiculous.

And its image really, really stinks. Unless you’re knowledgeable about it, the first thing you think of when you hear the word gout is some fat slob like Henry VIII, gorging himself on fatty, rich foods until his body rebels against him.

Slob

Nobody’s gonna hold a charity walk for that.

The truth, as my old pal and colleague Benny Jay found out a couple of years ago, is another story.

Benny’s my age but as trim as a 25-year-old. He eats like monk, rarely drinks, and runs every day. I really hate him. Yet he got gout. The docs told him he had a genetic predisposition for it.

When I first heard he had it, I immediately chided him: “So, you’ve been eating all the wrong crap, huh?”

If You Eat Pâté de Foie Gras, You Deserve Gout

I thought he was going to clobber me. He set me straight about what a straight-arrow he is (did I mention I hate him?) He really educated me about gout, too.

So when it felt as though a safe had fallen on my left big toe Monday night and I came to the conclusion I had gout, I didn’t put myself through the self-flaggelation that most sufferers do.

Still, gout is stupid. And life is not fair.

A WARNING FOR YOUR OWN GOOD

Don’t google pix of big toes, as I had to do to find the image above.

I didn’t know exactly what I expected to find. Figuring it’s the Internet and I was looking for images of a certain body part, I suppose I thought most of the results would be porn sites. The human capacity to fetishize things for masturbatorial gratification is positively amazing.

To my dismay, the vast majority of big toe images were 73 times more disgusting than any foot porn could be. (And BTW: did you know Goethe, Thomas Hardy, Elvis Presley, and Andy Warhol were foot fetishists? Man!)

For god’s sake people, take care of your toes!

And while we’re at it, men should never wear sandals. Yeah, I know, it feels comfortable, but the rest of us don’t want to see how you’ve ignored toe care for the last 20 years.

Women Can Get Away With It

TWO HEARTS BEATING AS ONE

In more pedestrian matters (hehe, a pun) the Herald Times yesterday ran an editorial calling for consolidation of the Monroe County and City of Bloomington governments.

That’s what Indy did with Marion County back in 1970. They call their set-up Unigov. Louisville, Kentucky and Jefferson County did it, too, in 2003, dubbing their marriage Metro Louisville. Former mayor Jerry Abramson used to brag that his town had become the 16th biggest city in the nation. Unfortunately, no one else bought into that conceit.

The editorial cites the county’s election day screw-up and the County Auditor’s credit card mini-scandal among the reasons the two entities should merge.

We’ll be listening for the reactions of the folks in Ellettsville, Stinesville, and Smithville.

FOUND MONEY

State Senator Vi Simpson wants to get her hands on some of that $300 million of state money auditors found laying around last month.

Vi Simpson

Apparently, she’s interested in directing some of that dough toward state school districts that have had to endure — mirabile dictu! — some $300 million in state cutbacks of late.

Doesn’t she know these are more prudent, conservative times we live in? And she wants to throw away money on kids’ educations? Sheesh.

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS

Just a little taste from what I consider one of the 10 greatest American movies ever made. Sheer pleasure for the ears and eyes.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“I never make the mistake of arguing with people whose opinions I don’t respect.” — historian Edward Gibbon

A WHITE CHRISTMAS (AND I DO MEAN WHITE)

Traipsing around beautiful downtown Bloomington Saturday afternoon, I came upon some puzzling flyers pasted up on lampposts and kiosks.

Now, lampposts and kiosks in a college town are, of course, the retro social media for student PR and agit-prop. But instead of the usual conspiracies, rebellions, astonishing revelations, and concert promotions for bands like Lesbian Dopeheads on Mopeds, the flyers that caught my eye offered up a different message.

Quaint: A Typical “Post” On A Post

They wished one and all a white Christmas. And never mind the absence of snow.

Yup. The KKK, apparently, wants to get into the swing of the season along with those of us who possess the ability to form thoughts.

Here’s what was printed on the flyers:

We wish the best for you and your family throughout the New Year, Merry Christmas

The Knight’s Party

www.KKK.com

(All sic, and — need I add? — all sick.)

Like Genital Herpes, The Klan Never Seems To Go Away

I was too lazy to do it Saturday but yesterday morning I grabbed my digital camera and went out to snap a shot or two of the flyers for this post. No luck; they’d all been ripped down.

Or should I say, a lot of luck?

INDIANA AND THE KLAN

Some people around here like to repeat the tidbit that our fair state was the birthpace of the Ku Klux Klan.

Others, who might consider themselves more knowledgeable on the subject, say, “Tut tut, that is wrong. But Indiana was once the headquarters of the Klan.”

Well, they’re just as wrong.

Indiana was not the birthplace of the Klan, nor has it ever been anything remotely like that herd’s HQ. It should be noted, however, that Indiana was, in the 1920s, the state where the Klan wielded its most political power.

Yeesh.

Indiana Governor Ed Jackson, Republican & Klansman

Pardon me while I dash off to scrub myself in a scalding shower.

CHRISTMAS COOKIES

There. I feel better now, cleansed of all traces of Gov. Ed Jackson and his Klan.

And ready to bake cookies!

The Honorable Regina Moore, Clerk of the great city o’Bloomington, stopped in at the Book Corner Saturday for some last minute shopping. Somehow the conversation got around to the batch of fab cookies I’d whipped up the day before. Moore asked me to post the recipe so, obedient citizen that I am, here it is:

Big Mike’s Sicilian Butter Cookies

Ingredients

  • 5 cups unbleached flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp. (heaping) baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ tsp. lemon extract (optional)

Preparation

Mix flour, powder and salt together in a bowl. Put aside. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar together. In a third bowl, fork whip eggs and add vanilla (and lemon extract, if desired). Pour the eggs into the creamed butter and sugar. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Add the flour/powder mixture gradually, mixing with your wooden spoon. Eventually you must knead the mixture by hand — it will be very dense. Once you’ve achieved proper consistency, place the dough aside and preheat oven to 350F.

Pull out two large, ungreased cookie sheets. Form balls of dough ¾-inch to 1″ in diameter. Place dough balls on sheet 1½ inches apart. When the sheet is filled, press down on each doughball with your thumb to form a little lens-like disc. Press a single chocolate chip in the middle of each disc, pointy side down. Bake one sheet-full at a time for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.

Let cookies cool on sheet for five minutes. Remove from sheet to large, flat plate. Be careful: even after the cookies seem cooled, the chocolate will still be soft and potentially messy for another few minutes.

Eat.

NOT A TOTAL LOSS

My foray onto Kirkwood Avenue to search for Klan flyers having proved fruitless, I pocketed my camera and headed toward campus. The Loved One and Steve the Dog were with me.

I’ve been a Bloomingtonian for two years and a couple of months now. In a lot of ways the place is still new to me.

People who’ve lived here all their lives might have forgotten this but the Indiana University campus is stunningly beautiful. And when the three of us took our stroll, the weather was perfect — 50 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The light was perfect, bathing the Bedford limestone walls in dazzling gold and creating crisp shadows.

Christmas Shadows And Light

I whipped out my camera and began clicking away. See for yourself.

BLUE-EYED SOUL SISTER

Dusty Springfield, dedicated to The Loved One — we had a great Christmas day together.

The Pencil Today:

WAR IS THEFT

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, five-star general of the US Army, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, planner of Operation Overlord, first Supreme Commander of NATO.

And a guy who considered war a catastrophe.

HELL IN A HANDBASKET

About a month ago, a spate of random shootings, assaults, and a couple of high profile murders got local folks to thinking that maybe this erstwhile happy little town is turning into a hellhole.

Things soon settled down. But there’s been raft of vandalism targeting Christmas decorations of late.

And guess who had to file a police report last night. Yup. Bloomington Police Chief Mike Diekhoff.

His outdoor Christmas decorations were stolen Monday.

Victim

The Herald Times reports there’ve been a dozen or so such complaints within the last week.

IF I FELL IN LOVE WITH YOU

This holy land is everlastingly in love with guns but thinks things like book larnin’ are nothing more than rotten socialist plots.

True Love

Need more proof?

NPR this morning ran a report on states enacting more and more stringent voter ID laws. One little tidbit caught my ear. The state that gave us George W. Bush, Rick Perry, and Chuck Norris considers artillery ownership a more trustworthy identifier than, ugh, intelligence.

In Texas, a citizen can gain access to the voting booth by flashing a gun permit. College photo IDs, on the other hand, just won’t do.

SHOTGUN!

I don’t know which act was cooler: Jr. Walker & The All-Stars or Booker T & The MGs. What say you?

The Pencil Today:

WE’D RATHER FEEL THAN THINK

The late physicist Alan Cromer suggested that scientific thinking is not a natural process for the seven billion of us who muddle through this life. “Human beings, after all, love to believe in spirits and gods,” he said. “Science, which asks them to see things as they are and not as they believe or feel them to be, undercuts a primary human passion.”

Cromer

BLOOMINGTON REDUCES ITS GAS PAIN

Environmental issues, both local and global, are in the news this Saturday morning.

The Herald Times reports that the City of Bloomington used five percent less gasoline in its fleet vehicles during the first half of this year, as compared to the same span in 2010.

Good news, no?

Less Of This Here

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that Bloomington, being the capital-in-exile of the former Soviet Union, is chock-full of liberals, Democrats, and other sinners who go in for that kind of Earth-y stuff.

The rest of this holy land? Well, you know.

WHAT DO THOSE DUMB SCIENTISTS KNOW ANYWAY?

So, the South Africa climate talks are petering out with no agreement in sight.

It’s the usual snag: the big countries (like you-know-which holy land) that pollute most are pushing for a tepid pact to curb greenhouse gases and other flotsam and jetsam. Developing nations, which have a lot less to lose economically, want strong environmental safeguards.

I understand the motivations of corporate robber barons and their coatholders in Congress who want to forestall any restrictions. It costs dough, after all, to sanitize smokestacks that belch toxins.

The Sweet Smell Of Success

Why, though, would that certain segment of the general populace that drools before any TV screen with Fox News on it not want stringent global environmental laws? Don’t they want to breathe fresh air or drink clean water?

Perhaps not. Perhaps they wish only to inhale Camels and slurp Diet Coke.

Anyway, that gang doesn’t believe the overwhelming majority of climatologists who are convinced humankind is mucking up the atmosphere so badly that Hurricane Katrina in a few decades will seem like a spring shower.

Many of them do believe in things like ghosts, UFO visitations, astrology, intelligent design, spontaneous human combustion, numerology, angels, homeopathy, feng shui, clairvoyance, Nostradamus, and other fairy tales.

In that sense, the Fox News audience is far more “natural” than I am.

MERCY MERCY ME

Heck, let’s stick with the ecology. Here’s the final track on side one of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” vinyl disc, released in May, 1971. For my money, it’s the best pop album ever made. Enjoy.

WE DO FACEBOOK SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO

◗ Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert can’t speak anymore but his voice rings out louder than ever these days. He’s become a writing machine. He reminds us that Kirk Douglas is now 95 years old.

By the way, you have to read Roger’s take on the Occupy Movement. He goes a little too soft on the Democratic Party, IMHO, but his righteous indignation is refreshing.

◗ And so we’ll stick with the Sun-Times. Columnist Neil Steinberg writes today about the Chicago Police. The boys in powder blue will be on world display next spring with the G-8 and NATO summits coming to town. The CPD has been tarnished through the years by the Summerdale Scandal, the ’68 Convention, the Jon Burge torture case, and too many others to name here. I personally took a beating in the back seat of a squad car once for the unforgivable sin of being a mouthy sixteen-year-old. Steinberg is no more popular with Chicago’s cops today than dopey kids like me were back then. His FB link illustrates why.

FYI: It was Steinberg who, as a pseudonymous critic of a well-known, pathologically flatulent Chicago newspaper columnist back in the ’90s, inspired the title for this feature. I wish I could tell you what Steinberg’s nom de plume was or who was the blowhard he skewered but, well, I just can’t.

The Pencil Today:

LOVE IS CRUEL

So, Anne Hathaway’s getting married. I guess The Loved One can rest easy from now on.

Big Mike Must Face Facts: She Loves Another

MAKE IT EASIER TO VOTE? I DUNNO, IS THAT WISE?

The Monroe County election board will vote Thursday on voting centers. The board’s only Republican, Judith Smith-Ille, has opposed a 2012 start-up for the centers. County Clerk Linda Robbins, a Democratic board member, wants them for next year’s election.

Butting Heads: Smith-Ille & Robbins (IDS photo)

The idea is the county will do away with its 90 precinct polling places and replace them with strategically located sites in which any registered voter from anywhere in the county can cast a ballot.

Everyone agrees the vote centers will make it easier for citizens to do their duty. So why are Smith-Ille and other Republicans fighting the 2012 roll-out?

Search me. But is it my imagination or do Republicans as a rule start to get itchy whenever talk turns to increased voter turnout?

IF YOU DO THE CRIME YOU MUST DO THE TIME

Jails in a few cities and towns of this holy land hosted hundreds of Occupy protesters last night. Los Angeles cops busted up the encampment in that city with a couple of hundred earning their plastic wrist-ties. Philadelphia police applied the strong-arm as well, taking 40 into custody.

LA Bust Last Night

And whaddya know? Even Bloomington, the Solar System’s center of liberalism, progressivism, and intellectualism, saw its cops wade into a mass of protesters. Officers nabbed five of them and shipped them off to…, let’s see now, Guantanamo? No. The Gulag Archipelago? Uh uh.

No. The kids were taken to the county lockup and were promptly bailed out.

Apparently, the protesters were not affiliated with the local Occupy gang although they claimed to be “in solidarity” with the campers at People’s Park.

And forgive me for judging this book by its cover, but yesterday’s protesters at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business didn’t appear to be used to such rude treatment. The protesters were blocking the door to a room in which capos from JP Morgan Chase were to recruit new soldiers for their mob.

Civil Disobedience

See, when you do civil disobedience, you should expect to be jailed. And when you’re jailed in those circumstances, you should take it with dignity. After all, in an unjust society, the only place for a just human being is in jail.

Am I nitpicking here? You tell me.

The Pencil Today:

WHICH TURKEY DO YOU WANT IN THE WHITE HOUSE?

My left-tilting friends and acquaintances seem to be divided into two camps these days.

Some of them are hanging on to the Democratic Party by their fingernails, holding out hope against hope that the electorate can keep enough Dem legislators in the halls of power so that, for instance, women aren’t forced to wear some Christian version of the burqa.

Others have given up completely on the jackass gang.

Bloomington Common Council member Susan Sandberg, for one, is firmly entrenched in the former group. Well, natch, she feeds at the public trough, living high on the hog, shouting “Let’em eat cake!” as her carriage careens around the corner at Kirkwood and Walnut. It’s shocking how the princely sum of $14,000 a year can corrupt a person.

She’s the Dems’ darling in this micro-lopolis.

Then there’s my old pal Jerry Boyle, the radical attorney from Chicago. He’s so down on the Democrats in general and their standard-bearer, one Barack Obama, aka POTUS, that he’s washed his hands of the lot of them. He’s gone so far as to call Obama a “traitor” to the left, which would make sense only if Obama had been a leftist at one time or another. I’ve yet to come across evidence he’s ever been.

Those as ancient as I am remember the term “Rockefeller Republican” from the sixties. There can be no better modifier of the man in the White House today.

Now, Susan Sandberg will be standing on her head during the next 49 weeks, trying to convince voters to put Dems in office. Jerry Boyle already has publicly advocated letting Obama et al flop next November. In fact, Jerry has hinted that maybe the smarter vote is Republican. His reasoning? Let the GOP be in charge when the whole house of cards tumbles so they can take the rap for it.

Which seems to me akin to cutting your nose to spite your face as well as the faces of some 308 million other poor souls.

I’m not thrilled with the Obama presidency. He’s proven himself much too comfortable cozying up to the unindicted corporate and banking felons who whipped the economy into its current grave state.

Obama: “Some Of My Best Friends Are Robber Barons!”

He’s less a leader than a consensus-seeker, which might be an asset if the other side had any inclination to consent. They don’t. It’s better, on Planet GOP, to demonize Mexicans who sneak into the country, to throw around terms like “socialist” without knowing what it means, to blame all our problems on NPR, and to wring hands obsessively over the very idea of two men tongue kissing.

That said, I’ll vote for Obama no matter whom the Republicans nominate. For one thing, I have to keep up my lifelong record of never having voted Republican. Go ahead, tell me I’m close-minded — you bet I’m close-minded. I long ago slammed shut my cranial door on the party that could fight tooth and nail against something so innocuous as the Equal Rights Amendment.

It’s one thing to have an open mind but you can’t have it so open that your brains fall out.

So, I’m thankful today that we have a (half) black president who is nominally a Democrat. He ain’t everything I’d want but, then again, neither is life.

The Pencil Today:

POT VERSUS KETTLE

I’d imagine the number of local residents paying the slightest bit of attention to last night’s debate between Republican candidates for president hovered somewhere around, oh, zero.

This is, after all, Bloomington, Indiana, the capital-in-exile of the former Soviet Union and geographical magnet for this holy land’s unscrubbed beatniks, bomb-throwers, abortionists, and other Democrats.

So, The Pencil will do y’all a favor and point out the most eye-opening statement made by one of the fine and decorated statesmen and women who gathered to verbally spar in that other locus of undesirables, Washington, DC.

Minnesota Congressbeing Michele Bachmann dug deep into her her pocket thesaurus and threw a sophisticated two-syllable pejorative at Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Bachmann: “Fingers crossed — Someone Has Less Of A Clue Than I Do.”

The issue was Pakistan and Perry had just pronounced all future financial aid to that nuclear armed Stone Age nation a no-go as long as its leaders wouldn’t keep “America’s best interests in mind.”

Y’know, the way every other nation on this spinning globe keeps the well-being of the land of Donald Trump, Lindsay Lohan, and Black Friday in the forefront of all its deliberations.

Well, our plucky gal Michele found Perry’s logic rather lacking. Bachmann is a member of the House Intelligence Committee which, if nothing else, proves our elected representatives possess a sense of humor. She reminded Perry and the world that this country gains a lot of inside dope on the doings of the wild-eyed gun-toters who populate much of Pakistan’s desolate countryside. Our dough, Bachmann insisted, also insures that the borderline lunatics who run the place aren’t overthrown by certified lunatics.

Bachmann characterized Perry’s statement thusly: “I think that’s highly naive.”

Kudos to Bachmann on grasping the fact that the syllables of a word needn’t be separated by consonants.

Now, imagine how discouraged the cowboy governor is this morning to realize that Michele Bachmann — Michele Bachmann — considers him naive.

The election, folks, is a mere 49 weeks away.

“KILL URSELF”

I have a Twitter account, I’ll admit it. On the other hand, I haven’t touched it in more than a year.

Twitter is the 140-character preserve of semi-literate pro athletes, pathologically self-involved Hollywood stars, and that portion of the populace that was born, sadly, with the condition known as anencephaly.

Take the recent Twit (screw “Tweet” — I’m going with Twit) from Washington Redskins pass catcher Jabar Gaffney.

Poor Jabar was in a funk after his team lost to the rival Dallas Cowboys Sunday. Some Cowboys fan sent him a Twit ridiculing him and his Redskins mates. (By the way, I was under the impression that this was the year 2011. And still there’s a pro team called the Redskins? The Redskins?!)

Anyway, Gaffney promptly advised the Twit-sender to, um, commit suicide.

Yup. Gaffney thumbed these proto-words into his connection to the civilized world: “… I’m just proud I ain’t you get a life or kill urself.” The line is close enough to the human language known as English that I needn’t translate it for you.

Naturally, the NFL and representatives of the sane population of America had apoplexy. Hell, if people can blame Judas Priest, whose song obliquely referred to the ultimate form of self-determination, for a couple of teens’ deaths in 1985, then Gaffney’s unmistakable advisement is fraught with peril.

Gaffney then quoted another Twit-person who agreed with his original broadside. Gaffney thumbed: “I do want that man to kill himself..one less cowboys fan…”

Existential Advice

Sheesh. Now we know there are at least two people in this nation who don’t know ellipsis is indicated by three dots, not two. America is indeed going to hell.

Cooler heads got to Gaffney and he apologized — the way many celebrities, politicians, and corporations apologize these days, which is not at all.

Gaffney Twitted a third time, “They say I can’t tell people to kill themselves didn’t know freedom of speech had limitations so I’ll just say #uknowwhattodo #HTTR better?”

In case this puzzling series of electronic grunts is indecipherable to you, I’ll help. Gaffney is saying: “My heavens, despite the landmark US Supreme Court decision wherein the noted jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. opined that shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater is a practical violation of common sense, civility, and the spirit of the original 1st Amendment, I was under the impression that the concept of Freedom of Speech is sacrosanct. I will therefore alter my original pronouncement by saying, ‘Sir, do you recall that action I advised you to take which, apparently, I am not at liberty to utter in a public setting? If so, please take it.'”

Big time sports and the reprobates who perform in it and operate it are becoming less and less attractive by the week.

DON’T CRY FOR ME HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

The Loved One was incensed that First Lady Michele Obama caught the raspberry Sunday at a NASCAR race in Miami.

Obama: “I Can’t Hear You Because I Have These Big Things On My Head.”

Many in the crowd of some 80,000 booed the president’s wife lustily when she was introduced prior to shouting “Start your engines” into a microphone.

Aside from the fact that the speedway was filled with people who find deafeningly loud cars continually turning left at life threatening speeds entertaining, the race, it must be said, was held in Florida. That double-whammy indicates the crowd probably was lacking in thinkers who grasp the subtleties and nuances of today’s domestic and geopolitical debate.

Who was the last Nobel Prize winner to hail from the Sunshine State?

No matter, I actually tried to defend the crowd, which caused my lovely bride to eye me through narrowed lids.

I said, “The fact that people feel free to boo the wife of the boss of the most powerful nation on Earth is a good thing.”

The Loved One shook her head almost imperceptibly. And, I have to admit, I’m not thrilled with my argument either.

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