Category Archives: Cats and Machines

The Pencil Today:


Dr. Timothy Leary said it: “Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”

Timothy Leary In 1992, Covered In Psychedelic Images, Natch


This time of year Hoosiers reach into their hall closets for those coats they haven’t worn for nine months or so. They dig into the pockets and, lo and behold, find folded up five dollar bills.

Happens all the time.

Gov. Mitch Daniels did the same thing yesterday and was so pumped that he called a press conference.

Only it wasn’t a fin he found. It was $320 million.

That is, 64,000,000 five dollar bills.

“I’m Gonna Go Check Under the Sofa Cushions Now!”

The Indy Star reports the swag was found in some hidden-away bank account by a State Department auditor. The dough was revenue from corporate income taxes. It was all a happy accident, Daniels said, beaming.

Yeah, what a thrill. Especially for Indiana school districts which — mirabile dictu! — have suffered some $300 million in funding cuts over the last three years.

The whole charade stinks, no?


Happy birthday, Larry Bird.


So, Bloomington’s unofficial poet laureate Ross Gay comes into the Book Corner yesterday afternoon. We chat about our work habits. He tells me he likes to get up at 5:30 in the morning and write for three hours or so. Then he says he isn’t disciplined enough. I tell him he’s nuts.

Poet Ross Gay

Then he browses for a few minutes, comes back, and puts a couple of small books on the counter. One of them is by Marcel Proust.

Anybody who hopes to be considered intelligent must read Proust. Me? All I know of Proust is from that movie, “Little Miss Sunshine.”

You know, where the Steve Carell character has spent his life studying Proust? And finds himself pretty much in nowheresville?

I confess to the lanky rhymer: “I’ve never read a word of Proust.”

He exhales as though he’s relieved. “Neither have I!” he says.

Cool. Ross Gay and me.


Let me get this straight. Investors the world over were thrilled that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy agreed on a plan to put wayward European Union nations back on the right track.

Money Can Buy Me Love

Markets went up in the US, China, Japan, and Europe itself. Even those stuffed shirts in the UK started investing again. The party lasted a single day.

Standard & Poors issued a warning Monday night saying the honchos took too long to come to an agreement. So, S&P just might downgrade the credit ratings of 15 eurozone nations. And now the markets are going all to hell again.

What is it about this shell game that I don’t get?

Besides everything.


Click the thumb below and see Episode 5 in Grover & Sloan’s tale of the cat and the air pump.


I’m still giddy over the election of my favorite baseball player of all time to the Hall of Fame Monday. Ron Santo had an Italian daddy-o, was as emotional as an opera singer, loved pizza, and hit home runs for the Chicago Cubs in the 1960s and early 70s. When I was a little kid, I imagined he was a member of my own family.

So shoot me if I have the diamond game on my mind. Luckily, baseball junkie Eric Van Gucht reviews the book, “Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert” on our Salon page. This kid is good and I hope he’ll do a lot more writing for us from here on out.


◗ Only one link today: Facers were particularly unimaginative last night and this morning. This one, though, is well worth standing alone.

Krista Detor, our town’s sweetest canary, is putting on her annual holiday show Thursday, December 15, 7:30PM, at the Bloomington Convention Center. Whip out that wallet and splurge. You’ll thank me — and Krista.

The Pencil Today:


A timeless observation from the Basque writer Miguel de Unamuno: “Sometimes to be silent is to lie.”

Miguel de Unamuno


Poor Pat Murphy, my drinking buddy at Soma Coffee. Seems as though he only gets his picture in the Herald Times is when his Bloomington Utilities department is looking for more money.

Pat R.H. Murphy

I may tease him and say his middle name should be Rate Hike. He may in turn freeze me with one of his patented dirty looks, though.


WFHB radio general manager Chad Carrothers released January Jones‘ resignation letter, addressed (tellingly?) not to him but to the “WFHB Community.”

January had been the News Director for almost a year. She took over for Chad after he, in turn, took over the general manager’s riding crop following the departure of Will Murphy to NPR’s Ft. Wayne station. She resigned last week.


Chad has whipped the station into a shape it’s never been in before. WFHB beat its fundraising goals in both the spring and fall pledge drives. He’s one of the hardest working human beings I’ve ever met.

January was extraordinarily hard-working as well. Maybe too much so. The key line in her letter reads: “… I’ve realized that the staffing models in the organization make the News Director job a difficult position for me to maintain.”

Without talking to either Chad or January at this time (they’ve not responded to my email messages yet) I can interpret the line two ways:

1) There’s too much work for me to do here without more paid staffers; or

2) There are things I’d like to to have done but couldn’t because I didn’t have the autonomy I need.

I’ll do my best to get more dope on this one.


Here’s a new feature. Since most sentient humans are being driven to psychotic reaction by the flood of spamily, brattle, and breathless revelations of what people had to eat last night on Facebook, we’ve decided to wade through the mess and bring you the most illuminating ideas, events, and developments found there.

Let’s go:

Frank Miller long has been a titan in the comix and graphic novel rackets. His books “300,” “Sin City,” and “The Dark Knight Returns” all have been made into blockbuster movies (TDKR as “The Dark Knight.”) Bloomington’s Michael Redman and Mike Cagle point out that he’s now part of a virulent Hollywood crypto-fascism movement.

Miller on his blog refers to Occupy people as “louts, thieves, and rapists” as well as “pond scum.”

◗ Bibliophile extraordinaire R.E. Paris links to a moving video featuring a kid who was a victim of schoolyard bullying. She tells her own story of catching hell from schoolmates (speaking of louts!) R.E. credits former Star Trek actor George Takei with originating the link.

◗ Chicago-area green economy expert John Wasik points out that the Windy City is home to a Nikola Tesla fan club. Who knew?

Are you sitting down? There are chapters all around the nation!

◗ Finally, San Jose’s Chris Madsen reminds us it’s officially holiday season now that the yearly TV torrent of “It’s A Wonderful Life” airings has begun.

There. Aren’t you a better person for not having to read about someone’s pet bird?

Stay tuned for more.


Go see Grover & Sloan’s fourth installment in their continuing series of the cat and the air pump, today in “Cats and Machines.”

The Pencil Today:


Some simple, straight-forward directives for you to obey this morning (in which an unfamiliar bright round object is illuminating the sky as well as the South Central Indiana Earth below — weird isn’t it?)

Go to our Salon and Gallery & Studio pages to support our so far small but growing stable of creative slaves. Pay close attention to the following:

☛ Bloomington’s own innovative concert previewer, Ryan Lee Dawes, writes about tomorrow night’s show at the 11th Street House. Step Dads will bring their inspired cacophony to that venue at 8:00PM. Now, lemme let Ryan hip you to them.

☛ Once you’re finished with that, we’ve got the latest “Cats and Machines” comic from Grover & Sloan.

☛ Then, eyeball four new photomicroscopy images from Dr. Alex Straiker, who earns his daily bread delving into the brain in search of answers as well as cool pix.

There. You’re welcome.

The Pencil Today:


Barney Frank wasn’t perfect but he was good enough for me.

He’s retiring from Congress and that body of lickspittlers, toadies, and mouthpieces for the plutocracy and the lunocracy will be the worse for it.

The highest ranking openly gay elected official in this holy land, Frank showed millions of Ma and Pa Kettles throughout the country that a homosexual man isn’t necessarily a swishing, mincing, cross-dressing, eye-rolling drama queen (although many of the gay pals I’ve had throughout my life were and I’d have been proud to support some of them if they decided to run for Congress.)

Any time we can smash a stereotype, we become a better people.

Frank was direct, powerful, at times courageous. If you hadn’t known in advance that he liked to have sex with men, you wouldn’t know it by looking at him or listening to him. He was a human being.

Forget his legislation and his rhetoric. You can agree with what he did and said or not. But you have to admit Barney Frank made much of America aware that a gay man is nothing more or less than a human being.

Revolutionary stuff, no?


Have you seen this sign yet?

It used to hang in the locker room at Owen Valley High School in Spencer.

The school district ordered this sign taken down in light of the recent school sports locker room child-sodomizing scandals.

The first time I ever heard of this type of sign was in Jim Bouton‘s groundbreaking book, “Ball Four.” Bouton explained that sports teams jealously guard their privacy. Never let the unwashed masses know what we do or say in this hallowed haven of sweaty jockstraps. Bouton, of course, gleefully thumbed his nose at the proscription, telling the world how the New York Yankees and Seattle Pilots drank, fought, cheated on their wives, and did other things that would have made a 14-year-old proud.

Memorably, he told of Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford leading a group of Yankees around the roof of Washington, DC’s Shoreham Hotel in the middle of the night, trying to peak into guest room windows and hoping to see women undressing.

Mantle & Ford — All-star Voyeurs

Much of what Bouton revealed was silly. Some of it was borderline criminal.

The only conclusion one could make was that sports teams didn’t want to be embarrassed if the general public learned what lunkheads they really were.

But when you create an atmosphere of secrecy, inevitably some member of your team is going to use that cloak of darkness to commit a truly ugly deed.

Kudos to the Spencer-Owen Community Schools.


We’ve got comix! See the latest installment of “Cats and Machines” by Grover & Sloan and a new strip, “XKCD” by Randall Munroe.

Laugh. That’s an order.

The Pencil Today:



Today’s post is not about what Big Mike thinks, feels, or has an itch for. Nope. It’s about other people.


Hi! It’s Me! Don’t Forget Me!

Yeah, the focus today is on The Electron Pencil’s contributors. See, I told you we would feature the best writing and visual art in Bloomington. We’re building our roster of contributors slowly but surely. And we’ll always be indebted to that fabulously fedora-ed author chick, Joy Shayne Laughter, for being the first contributor to take a chance on us. Read her short story, “Armistice Day.”

So, today we’re posting work from Ryan Lee Dawes who previews the Mary Okie show at The Bishop Saturday night. Here’s Ryan on his unorthodox preview style: “This is a strange style of concert preview that, to my knowledge, no one else is doing. It’s meant to be slightly comical and very expressive and descriptive.” Go see for yourself.

Ryan Lee Dawes

We also have the new comix series “Cats and Machines” from Grover & Sloan. You may know Laura Grover from the Bloomington Storytelling Project. You probably don’t know Sloan because he’s too busy working on his PhD.

Laura Grover

And for the final piece of our debut triptych today, we introduce Dr. Alex Straiker, research scientist at Indiana University’s Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. He’s an artist as well as a cerebrum on legs. We’re featuring some of his images of neuromicroscopy.

The Brain Of Alex Straiker (Body Attached)

If none of this interests you, well then, there’s no hope for you. Go watch TV.

Here’s how you check out new works by our contributors every day: Simply click on either the Salon button or the Gallery & Studio button (located at the top of this page).

Salon offers fiction, poetry, reviews, previews, essays, and any other sort of word output I can get my hands on (oh yeah, and is of the highest quality).

Gallery & Studio has pictures and videos and other two-dimensional (Duh! — WordPress doesn’t offer hologram capability yet) visual art.

Each of these pages will display a table of contents. Simply scroll down and pick what you want to see, click on the link and voila!

Go there now. Read. Stare. Like. Share.

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