Category Archives: Chicago Cubs

Hot Air

Great Things To Come

Well now, another trip around our old pal Sol is just about complete.

That is, if our life-giving star still is out there. I dunno. I haven’t seen it in — what is it? — weeks? My sunglasses are around here somewhere, probably. I really don’t know since I haven’t had to use them since last goddamned July.

Anyway, I’m still alive, you’re still alive, and the world hasn’t blown itself up yet so I suppose we’re in as decent shape as can be expected.

Have a swell 2016. I know I will. My beloved Cubs will become World Series champions for the first time since 1908, woohoo!

If y’ain’t got optimism, y’ain’t got nothin’.

It’s Inevitable

Around this time of year, newspapers and TV news shows are filled with suggestions about how to live a healthier, happier life. Eat the right things, exercise, play with the dog, listen to music — these are all the secrets to longevity.

Of course, to borrow a line from Rodney Dangerfield, at this point in my life if I do all the right things I’ll end up getting sick and dying.

Happy New Year!

Are You Disgusted Yet?

Of late, academic researchers have attempted to understand and define the differences between liberals and conservatives in scientific terms. Papers and studies have been published purporting to explain the gap between me, for instance, and the likes of those who’d vote for Mike Huckabee or Ben Carson.

There are, apparently, identifiable distinctions between the brains of Ls and Cs. Many of these distinctions harken back to our collective history as tree-swinging simians millions of years ago. This even though many conservatives pooh-pooh the idea that our great-great-great… uncles and aunts really were tree-swinging simians.

In any case, one such peek into the scientific research into this brain gap caught my eye this AM. Alexander Hurst in the New Republic takes a gander at the disgust response as a catalyst behind the rise of one Donald M. Trump who, ironically, disgusts me so much I might even delay breakfast by 43 seconds and that is a remarkable reaction indeed.

Donald Trump

Disgusted

The disgust Hurst refers to, though, is far more visceral than mine regarding the most interesting political creature since Dick Nixon. I’m disgusted more in a theoretical sense. Hurst asserts that Trump’s appeal is based on the brand of disgust that served to protect our species from rotting food, poisonous fungi, and dangerous members of that foul pack of alien Homo Sapiens sapiens who live on the other side of the mountain.

Trump, Hurst points out, gets the willies from a wide range of everyday things. He washes his hands an extraordinary number of times in a day, he detests shaking others’ hands, he refuses to touch elevator buttons, and he even insisted his sex partners be tested for sexually transmitted disease before he’d treat them to the heavenly delight of his manly essence.

Hurst also reminds us how Trump expresses his own disgust at things like Hillary Clinton’s need to go to the bathroom and Megyn Kelly’s menstruation.

Plenty of things in Trumpland disgust him.

White-coated lab geeks at Virginia Tech University did a study in 2014 of MRI readings of people’s brains while they were being shown images and examples of disgusting things. The study revealed that the brains of Ls and Cs reacted so differently that the researchers were able to guess who was on which end of the political spectrum simply by looking at their MRIs.

Trump, Hurst asserts, positions issues such as Mexican immigration as that of a wave of filthy, dangerous contagion. Mexicans entering America illegally, Trump implies, are nothing so much as foul germs that’ll sicken and weaken our holy land. Disgusting, in short.

Hurst writes:

The response to disgust is recoil, which in many ways is the opposite of curiosity. Disgust doesn’t generate a desire to to better understand a complex issue, but rather a wish for a simple explanation and an impulse to shut out what is so disgusting. By presenting America’s problems as the spread of an infectious disease, Trump immediately generates the disgust response.

The disgust response feeds into an “in-group” response: What is disgusting is exterior, and the group must be protected from it, which in turn provides comfort and reinforces a shared sense of identity.

You can buy this explanation or not. It’ll have to do for me just now; there has to be some reason people dig this comb-over orangutan.

Hot Air

Up In Smoke

The other day I wrote a bit about teddy bears and other silly mementos to mark the passing of a human. The gist was if anyone tries to memorialize me through the use of a teddy bear or a crucifix, my dead soul will violate the physical laws of the Universe and haunt the crap out of the person or persons who committed that atrocity. [No link; I’m too lazy to dig it up this AM.]

A few days later, I came upon this:

Cubs Urn

It’s a Chicago Cubs-branded urn, sold by an outfit called The Eternal Image Group. Some perverse part of me wants to have my ashes sequestered eternally in something like this.

Then again, wouldn’t that be the equivalent of hell? (Which, BTW, I don’t believe in but if my Earthly remains are shut away in a Cubs urn, I would indeed be in hell.)

[h/t to Bleed Cubbie Blue.]

I Wanna Die

Zeke Emanuel, brother of my beloved hometown Chicago’s mayor Rahm, has written quite the controversial  piece for The Atlantic magazine.

Emanuels

Zeke (L) & Rahm Emanuel

[Photo by Annie Leibovitz]

Zeke, a noted bioethicist and medical school professor, says he wants to die at 75. This flies in the face of everything we’ve stood for in this holy land. The search for eternal youth and pushing back our mortality have been driving forces in America as much as eating sawdust-y fast food, screeching about taxes, and trying to catch glimpses of sideboob.

The mayor’s bro isn’t up for living to the ripe old age of 100. Now this is something I’ve been saying for years. Why would anyone want to live past, say, 85 even? Sure, sure, sure, you may point out that one oddball, that outlier who’s 89 and still swimming laps and going for long hikes. I hate that guy anyway, no matter who he is.

Runners

Jerks

He’s a scourge, an indictment, a reminder of what an achy, flatulent, overweight, in need of a nap curmudgeon with a scalpful of precancerous growths, a prostate the size of a cantaloupe, arthritis in every joint, achilles tendonitis, a bum hip, balky knees, hair over every inch of my body, wreck I am. Man, I hate that guy.

That slim, trim, maniacally grinning, running, swimming, salad-eating 89 y.o. loon is proof of nothing. There’s one of him for every million other 89-ers who can barely get out of bed in the morning and/or can’t even remember where the floor is.

Aging is something that can’t be beaten. Breakdown is built into our very cells. Hell, stories have been written since the time of the ancient Greeks about the folly of humans who find a way to live forever. Fraudsters like Deepak Chopra to this day makes scads of dough trying to convince the criminally gullible that they, too, can live indefinitely.

Why?

Albright

Ivan Albright’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

Zeke Emanuel writes that yes, dying is a loss, both to the dead person and her/his survivors. But, he points out:

[H]ere is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

I have a pal whose parents lived in the Netherlands. They were diagnosed with cancer within months of each other. It wasn’t that they were told they were going to die within the next three months but, in that country, there is no mania for life, no compulsion to live even if living is only a technical distinction. They elected to check out, together, at a time of their choosing. They threw a party for themselves and then, with the help of the Netherlands’ health care system, they went to a place and were ushered out, peacefully, with dignity, and well before the cancer that was growing within them could turn their lives into hell.

That makes a lot more sense than tilting against the windmill of death.

My mother, almost precisely a year ago, was found an inch from death on her bedroom floor by my brother. She’d been laying there for three days. Poor Joey had been overwhelmed with other responsibilities and problems and, for the only time since she’d turned frail and elderly, hadn’t checked in with Ma for those days. Wouldn’t you know it — that’s just when she fell and shattered her hips next to her bed.

When Joey saw Ma laying there, he was certain she was gone. She wasn’t, though. I wrote at the time that I wished she had died then and there. I knew that, alive, she’d be sentenced to a “life” of misery. And so she was.

Ma lost her home. She spent her remaining five months in hospitals and nursing homes, something she’d told me countless times she couldn’t even bear to think about. She was in great pain and she gradually lost touch with reality.

Oddly, some members of the fam. shook their fingers at me. How could you wish our sweet mother/grandmother/great-grandmother to be dead? they said.

I answered, Because she wasn’t really living.

Nursing Home

Living?

Emanuel writes of those who’ve bought into pushing death back as far as it can go:

So American immortals may live longer than their parents, but they are likely to be more incapacitated. Does that sound very desirable? Not to me.

The situation becomes of even greater concern when we confront the most dreadful of all possibilities: living with dementia and other acquired mental disabilities. Right now approximately 5 million Americans over 65 have Alzheimer’s; one in three Americans 85 and older has Alzheimer’s. And the prospect of that changing in the next few decades is not good. Numerous recent trials of drugs that were supposed to stall Alzheimer’s—much less reverse or prevent it—have failed so miserably that researchers are rethinking the whole disease paradigm that informed much of the research over the past few decades. Instead of predicting a cure in the foreseeable future, many are warning of a tsunami of dementia—a nearly 300 percent increase in the number of older Americans with dementia by 2050.

Half of people 80 and older with functional limitations. A third of people 85 and older with Alzheimer’s. That still leaves many, many elderly people who have escaped physical and mental disability. If we are among the lucky ones, then why stop at 75? Why not live as long as possible?

Even if we aren’t demented, our mental functioning deteriorates as we grow older. Age-associated declines in mental-processing speed, working and long-term memory, and problem-solving are well established. Conversely, distractibility increases. We cannot focus and stay with a project as well as we could when we were young. As we move slower with age, we also think slower.

I’m with Zeke. I’ll be more than happy to check out at the age of 75. Just stuff my ashes into a Cubs urn. They still probably won’t have won the World Series by that late date.

Hot Air

More On GMOs

So, I know an evolutionary biologist who is working tirelessly on her PhD. This morning at The Pencil back office (AKA Soma Coffee) I leaned close to her and cooed the words, “What’s your take on GMOs? And can you say it in one sentence?”

Her response: “People are afraid of the wrong thing.”

[Just to clarify, she doesn’t mean the gen. pub. should be afraid of a nuclear exchange rather than GMOs, for instance, or the bogeyman. She means people’s knee-jerk GMO repulsion is based on a basic misunderstanding of the process.]

From "The Creature from the Black Lagoon"

Scarier Than GMOs?

Which is what I’ve been saying all along!

Bullets Vs. Kid Gloves

Just wondering: Why do cops kill unarmed black kids for everything up to and including jay-walking but when an armed, white gun nut goes on a deranged quest to ambush police and fire fighters (employing live fire and bombs) in order to overturn our purported tyrannical gov’t, the greatest care is taken to insure his safety before he’s apprehended?

Leguin

Douglas Lee Leguin: Still Alive Despite Firing At Cops And Detonating Bombs

Kid Stuff

Personal to police depts. all over this holy land: Stop playing GI Joe; you’re adults now (links here, here, and here).

Ferguson, MO

Law Enforcement?

Negotiable Justice

Justin Wykoff’s att’y sez his client’s case will go to a jury.

Wykoff, of course, was the well-liked, well-respected Bloomington Department of Public Works project manager who got cracked for allegedly scamming a quarter of a mill USD* in a kickback scheme with a Bedford contractor (*of a total of $800,00 bilked). Folks in and out of local gov’t were shocked when news of Wykoff’s bust emerged. Nevertheless, the feds seem to have a strong case against him.

Wykoff

Likable

Usually, guys accused of fraud and embezzlement in federal district courts don’t go to trial because they strike plea agreements with prosecutors. Wykoff’s lawyer, John Boren of Martinsville, acc’d’g to today’s Herald Times, is ready to go all the way to fight the charges. Boren told the H-T he’ll call for a jury trial.

Kinky public employees rarely want to go before a jury because if there’s one thing a panel of peers doesn’t cotton to, it’s stealing their tax dollars. Still, Wykoff and Boren want to take their chances before a dozen registered voters.

My guess is they’re betting Wykoff’s likability will be a big asset in their case. In fact, Borden just may be negotiating a plea agreement even as we speak with Wykoff singing about his co-conspirators in exchange for a slap on the wrist. By threatening to go to a jury, Boren may effectively be saying, Hey, you willing to risk your whole case? Gimme the best you’ve got and I’ll sign my guy up for voice lessons.

Kyle Killing Minors Moundsmen

Kyle Schwarber, late of the Indiana University Hoosiers baseball nine, still is battering minor league pitchers as he enters his third month of professional baseballing.

Schwarber pounded college hurlers on his way to becoming the Chicago Cubs’ top choice in June amateur draft (No. 4 overall). He’s kept up the onslaught even against superior competition in the for-pay game.

Schwarber

Schwarber, The Night He Was Drafted By The Cubs

The kid known as The Hulk has settled in as a left fielder for the Daytona Cubs, a High A minors outfit. Schwarber played catcher for the Hoosiers but isn’t considered an adequate potential major league backstop. By playing the outfield, his path to the bigs just may be shorter. Again, expect to see him swinging the bat in Wrigley Field either in September 2015 or right out of the gate after spring training 2016.

And, again, stay tuned here for all the Kyle Schwarber news you can ask for.

Hot Air

Camp Is Fun!

Susie the Self-styled Clown of Chapel Hill, NC, is a pal of The Loved One and me. On any given day she’s as likely as not to uncover fascinating historical arcana such as this:

Camp Sign

Have An Exhausting Day, Girls!

One Q.: To whom is the “Drive Carefully” admonishment directed? Teenaged camp girls who happen to be driving while in those eponymous throes or visitors and parents who might encounter flopping, writhing camp girls at any moment?

In either case, safety first!

Clickers

How can you not love living in Bloomington? The place is chock full of creative souls. For instance, I just came from the Richardson Studio on 6th St. for a photo shoot. Jeff Richardson is a merlin behind the shutter, cajoling, wheedling and otherwise squeezing the poses out of his subjects. From what I hear, B-town’s high school seniors are big on getting their mugs shot by JR and his lovely bride Michelle (who, BTW, is also the biz brains behind the operation.)

And then yesterday I had Shannon Zahnle over to Pencil World HQ for yet another photo shoot. Her modus operandi is different — she’s quiet, watching and waiting for the subject to come alive. Her way takes a tad longer but produces results as fine as anyone’s in town.

Richardsons & Zahnle

(l to r) Jeff Richardson, Michelle Richardson & Shannon Zahnle

The work of all three photogs can be seen in any given issue of Bloom mag, and therein lies the reason I had appointments with the two. Keep reading Bloom to see the results thereof, and, in any case, just because you ought to.

Kyle Watch

The Pencil is now your headquarters for monitoring the inexorable march of Kyle Schwarber to major league baseball glory.

Schwarber, of course, was one of the stars of Indiana University’s successful baseball team the last two years. He was drafted in the first round earlier this month by my beloved Chicago Cubs (number 4 overall).

Schwarber/Effross

Harbinger? Schwarber Being Comforted By Scott Effross Earlier This Month

I have no religion but I have faith. Faith, natch, is an irrational thing. One of the tenets of my faith, for instance, holds that the historically unsuccessful Cubs will play in and — deep breath — win a World Series some time in my lifetime. My great hope is that I won’t have to live until the ripe old age of 248 before my faith is rewarded.

Anyway, I’m fantasizing that players like Schwarber will lead the Cubs (and me) to the mountain top.

Schwarber has only played five games as a professional and he’s already earned a promotion from the Boise Hawks to the Kane County Cougars. That’s quick, babies. Next up, possibly even later this summer, the Daytona Cubs. Should his rise through the organization continue apace, he might swing the ash for the Iowa Cubs beginning next year and then sometime around June, 2015, hit the big show at Wrigley Field.

That, of course, is a dream scenario. He’ll hit some rough patches along the way; we’ll see how he handles them. Keep your dial tuned here for further developments.

Professional Discourtesy

Flannery O’Connor, an author who actually knew how to write, once took on a more famous author who, well, didn’t.

O’Connor, penner of such classics as Wise Blood and A Good Man Is Hard to Find, once wrote a letter to a playwright friend about contemporary scribe Ayn Rand. O’Connor, who knew of such literary injunctions as brevity, subtlety, show-don’t-tell, avoid speechifying, and try, try, try to be at least somewhat interesting, was moved to advise stage scripter Maryat Lee in her 1960 letter:

I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.

 

O'Commor/Spillane/Dostoevsky

(l to r) Flannery O’Connor, Mickey Spillane & Fyodor Dostoevsky

Generally, authors and other creatives, as well as card-carrying members of other less imagination-based vocations, tend not to slam each other no matter how slam-able one or the other is. For instance, you’ll rarely hear of a writer stating that James Patterson is a formulaic plot-pushing hack. It should be noted, though, that horror meister Stephen King last year savaged three spectacularly successful female authors, Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games), Stephenie Meyer (Twilight), and E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey). It is to be hoped that King wasn’t simply dissing dame authors and their predominantly female readership. Let’s assume he was criticizing for only the most pure of professional reasons.

Nevertheless, pros tend not to bash other pros. It’s bad juju, I suppose. You know, I could tear, say, Rhonda Byrne apart not only for being a bad writer but a sloppy, undisciplined, infantile thinker but I won’t — and not because I buy into her The Secret karma-payback bullshit — but because, well, oh hell, screw it all, she just blows.

Anyway, most writers don’t insult others. Then again, there’s that rare keyboard pounder who’s so bad, so worthy of pejorative that even the most sanguine of colleagues cannot resist bullying him or her in print. Such is Ayn Rand.

Yet Rand, her bizarre little cult, and her fiction are perhaps the prime philosophical touchstones for a generation of Republicans.

In that sense, O’Connor was not only a literary critic but a political one.

Suicide Sons

If you haven’t caught Doug Storm’s three-part Interchange interviews with the Lockridge boys yet, you’re in luck — links here, here, and here.

Ernest and Larry Lockridge are the sons of Indiana’s own Ross Lockridge, Jr., who penned the sensational bestseller, Raintree County, and then offed himself at the tender age of 33 in 1948. The book became a just-as-sensational blockbuster movie starring super heavyweights Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin, Rod Taylor, Agnes Moorehead, and even DeForest Kelley, later of Star Trek fame. Directed by Edward Dmytryk in 1957, the movie was the most expensive ever shot at the time. During the shooting Clift smashed up his car and nearly died. His life was saved by Elizabeth Taylor; she says she actually pulled his tongue out of his throat lest he die of asphyxiation. If you watch the movie closely, you’ll be able to see which scenes were shot before and after the crash as Clift suffered severe facial injuries.

Raintree County

Clift And Taylor In A Publicity Still From “Raintree County”

Lockridge pere suffered from debilitating depression and then took his own life via carbon monoxide poisoning. His fils have clashed publicly over the possible reasoning for their daddy-o’s suicide. Ernest has claimed his pop’s depression was caused by molestation at the hand of his father, Ross, Sr. Larry doesn’t buy it.

So it turns out the Lockridge family was almost as fraught with scandal and drama as the antebellum Shawnessey family of Indiana and Georgia in Ross, Jr.’s novel.

WFHB’s Doug Storm gives us good three-parter on the book and the Lockridges. Catch it.

[BTW: Doug Storm won WFHB’s coveted Rookie of the Year award at the station’s annual meeting earlier this month. I’m not too modest to say I copped that very plaque in 2010, my first year here in B-town and at the station, natch. Let’s see it’s here somewhere, maybe under this pile….]

 

Hot Air

Hoosier Hope

[Warning to loyal Pencillistas: This first entry is about sports. Read it at your own risk.]

My beloved Chicago Cubs last night selected Indiana University catcher Kyle Schwarber as their first pick in the 2014 Major Leaguie baseball entry draft.

Schwarber

Kyle Schwarber (Bleacher Nation Image)

Hey, maybe this’ll get me to start caring about Hoosiers baseball which, I understand, has been pretty good the last couple of years. My back-office (Soma Coffee) colleague Pat Murphy broke the news about Schwarber to me last night, seeing as how he knows about my Cubs “problem.” So, just to make small talk, I mentioned that IU lost a heartbreaker in the NCAA regional tournament the other day. That set Murphy off on a seemingly endless soliloquy about everything IU baseball. He spoke of the rain on Monday night, the Hoosiers’ injury problems, something about the coach’s son, Stanford’s triumphant performance after the rain delay, the unfairness of teams from California being able to play baseball all year while Indiana is pretty much limited to a week and a half in late May/early June, the IU leadoff hitter’s 0-for-5 collar in the ultimate game, Stanford’s mighty batting order, and a whole host of other minutiae.

I smiled nicely at him and nodded my head at what seemed appropriate times. Pat went on to tell me he’d gone home mid-game after Bart Kaufman Field officials cleared the place due to a threatening storm eight miles to the west. Murphy had to change his rain-soaked duds, which seems to me prima facie evidence that he, too, has a “problem.” He returned in time for the game to resume and for Stanford to overcome a three-run Hoosier lead.

Back to Kyle Schwarber. Man, the kid looks like a catcher, all squat and pug-faced. He won’t be a catcher as a pro because he’s not good defensively. He’ll be an outfielder and the Cubs brain trust hopes he’ll hit in the pros with the same jaw-dropping power he’s shown in the collegiate game.

Cubs director of scouting Jason McLeod says, “We felt Kyle was the best hitter, hands down, in this year’s draft.”

Should Schwarber turn out to be a star for the Cubs in a few years, I’ll consider my move here the turning point in his personal history. Don’t ask me to defend that statement; just keep in mind I have a “problem.”

Book Fair

Speaking of Chi., the Printers Row Lit Fest runs tomorrow and Sunday on Dearborn Street between Congress Parkway and Polk Street. It’s the unofficial kick-off for the Windy City’s summer fair, fest, and carnival season. If June seems a little late to be starting outdoor activities, keep in mind that winter just ended six hours ago there.

Anyway, here are some of the notable authors appearing this weekend at the PRLF:

  • Chris Albani, The Secret History of Las Vegas
  • Hisham D. Aidi, Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture
  • Tashe Alexander, the “Lady Emily” series and Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  • Jim Aylesworth, children’s author, Old Black Fly
  • Eric Banks, senior editor of Artforum
  • Lidia Mattichio Bastianich, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking
  • Elizabeth Berg, Open House
  • Ira Berkow, Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter
  • Paul Buhle, graphic novelist, Studs Terkel’s Working and The Beats (with Harvey Pekar)
  • Bonnie Jo Campbell, Once Upon a River
  • Katie Crouch, Abroad, Girls in Trucks, and Men and Dogs
  • Stanley Crouch, MacArthur “Genius” Award-winner, writes about jazz and the Black experience
  • Monique Demery, Finding the Dragon Lady
  • Anton DiSclafani, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
  • Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed
  • Joseph Ellis, Founding Brothers
  • John Feinstein, On the Brink
  • Gene Ha, graphic novelist
  • Chuck Haddix, Bird

PRLF/Fitzpatrick

The Official PRLF Poster By Tony Fitzpatrick

  • Paula Haney, founder, Hoosier Mama Pie Company
  • Christina Henriquez, The World in Half
  • Blair Kamin, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic
  • Greg Kot, co-host, public radio program Sound Opinions
  • Malcolm London, TED speaker and poet
  • Gillian McCain & Legs McNeil, co-authors, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
  • M.E. May, the Circle City Mystery series
  • Walter Mosley, the “Easy Rawlins” mystery series
  • Dana Norris, founder, Story Club storytelling shows
  • Jenny Offill, Last Things
  • Sara Paretsky, the “V.I. Warshawski” detective series
  • Brigid Pasulka, A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True
  • James Patterson, the “Alex Cross” series
  • Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm and Nixonland
  • Chris Raschka, children’s book author
  • Kimberla Lawson Roby, The Prodigal Son
  • Amy Krause Rosenthal, Duck Rabbit
  • Amy Rowland, The Transcription
  • J. Courtney Sullivan, The Engagements
  • Marlo Thomas, actor and author, Free to Be… You and Me
  • Jacinda Townsend, Saint Monkey
  • Sam Weller, The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury
  • Colson Whitehead, The Noble Hustle
  • Beatriz Williams, Overseas and A Hundred Summers
  • Gabrielle Zevin, YA author, Elsewhere

This is the 30 anniversary of the book fair. Lots o’books, loads o’food, tons o’music and sunshine, the Loop to the north, the lakefront and museums to the east; you can’t go wrong at the Printers Row Lit Fest. If you’re feeling ambitious, take the road trip up to Chi. this weekend and enjoy.

Hot Air

Eamus Catuli

Spring, babies!

Never mind the thermometer, it is indeed that season of rebirth and all the rest of that rot. For instance, Bloomington’s Farmers Market opens outdoors today. Yay!

Our lawn is turning really, really green. The chives are running at least ten inches tall. And Steve the Dog and I ventured down to Lake Monroe late yesterday afternoon. We listened to the Cubs home opener on WGN as we drove. Well, I listened. Steve prob. heard some kind of shrill buzz coming from the dashboard. Either way, the sound was decidedly unpleasant: the Cubs were whomped 7-2. Sigh.

Anyway, the lake is brimming with runoff from this week’s biblically-proportioned rainfall. I’ve seen it more flooded — much more flooded — but still, I get a kick out of monitoring the pool level (as my pal, water boss Pat Murphy, would put it) from season to season and year to year. It reminds me that a dammed stream, a river, or any body of water more or less breathes — in slow motion, sure — like every other living, aerobic thing.

L.Monroe 20140404 I

The Cutright Ramp Almost Swallowed Up

L.Monroe 20140404 II

The Footbridge

L.Monroe 20140404 III

Water Laps At The Roadway

L.Monroe 20140404 IV

Steve: “Dude, Ixnay With The Pix. Let’s Go!”

[Wondering about the headline? Consult your Cassell’s Latin-English Dictionary. Once you’ve translated, then you can make fun of me.]

Pants On Fire

Y’know how the ever-aggrieved Right in this holy land is always complaining about that big old mean liberal media? Well, maybe complaining isn’t quite the right word; how about squalling like rotten little brats?

Bumper Stickers

W/o their laundry list of imagined slights, insults, and deadly threats, I don’t know how the Right could survive. But they go on, screaming about how the world’s out to crush them. Chief among the crushers, of course, are television stations, newspapers, news magazines, Hollywood, all the interwebs, talk radio, anybody with a pen or a keyboard, and every living being who’s ever listened to, seen, or read anything.

And guess what: It’s all bullshit. William Kristol, one of the Right’s chief theorists and himself a media creature, is quoted by Joe Conason in the book Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth:

I admit it. The liberal media was never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failure.

Thanks for the clarification, Billy-boy.

Hamilton’s Hoosiers

Staying with book larnin’, let’s look at a Lee Hamilton anecdote from Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland:

Lee Hamilton, an Indiana freshman Democrat, described what it was like to defend his civil rights record at the local taverns:

“Haven’t we done enough for the Negro?” someone will ask…. That’s where they begin calling me names.

Lee H. Hamilton

Freshman Wisdom

Hot Air

Schadenfreude & Innocent Joys

Now and then good things happen:

• Arizona Guv Jan Brewer vetoed that state’s vile refusal-of-service bill directed against homosexuals. Conservatives are having apopolexy at this moment because, clearly, the veto is meant to enslave all Christianists. The uber-pious of this holy land were calling AZ’s SB1062 a law ensuring “freedom” for those who buy into the notion of a Big Daddy-o in the Sky. See, those god-ists want to be able to shun and discriminate against a class of human beings because that Big Daddy, apparently, told them to do it. Freedom, right?

From Media Matters

● The National Enquirer was forced to finance a playwrights’ grant well into the future because that rag had published a weird (what else?) accusation that a straight man was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s gay lover and fellow freebase freak. That straight man got all huffy after his schoolboy son pointed out the headline informing anencephalic America that Pops dug men and dope. The straight man sued and — presto! — the Enquirer settled because, natch, they hadn’t a leg to stand on. Now the rag must bankroll something to be called the American Playwriting Foundation which will award a yearly $45,000 prize for a selected, unproduced play.

Hoffman/Katz

Hoffman & David Bar Katz: Not Lovers

[Note: Don’t embarrass yourself and try to point out that I’ve spelled one word playwright and another playwriting. The spellings are correct.]

● The Bruster’s ice cream palace at the junction of SR 46 and SR 446 — a guilty pleasure mecca virtually visible from my back porch — opens for the season tomorrow. Whee! BTW: Now that gay marriage is becoming more and more acceptable to Ma & Pa Kettle, ice cream marriage is sure to follow. Count me in.

Bruster's

Oh, Baby

The Chocolate Moose, meanwhile, remains open daily from 11am-7pm until the Sky Gods come to their senses and remember Bloomington is not Bismark, North Dakota.

● Have I mentioned Krista Detor‘s new CD and book package are now on sale at the Book Corner? Yup, her Flat Earth Diary and the accompanying Notes From the Bridge will cost you a cool $22. So, whip out that wallet and support your local canary and book peddler at the same time.

Flat Earth Diary

● Still looking for that silver lining: My beloved Chicago Cubs have not, as yet, lost a game in 2014. The season starts in five weeks.

Joe Camporeale/USA Today

Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA Today

● Finally, an old radio hit that’s been pleasantly earworming me for a couple of weeks now. I figured I’d share, so here:

Hot Air

Negotiating 101

Here’s what John Kerry and his entourage don’t get. Many, many Americans have their own definition of the term negotiating.

Kerry at Iran Talks

See, for most of the world, the word denotes a process wherein two or more parties sit around a table and talk about what they want. Naturally, the things each party wants are far different from those the other party or parties want. Ergo, how do they come to a reasonable understanding?

Well, according to most of humanity’s grasp of the concept of negotiation, they give and take, inch by inch, teensy steps at a time, until, at some point, all parties’ acceptable wants and needs are satisfied. Well, satisfied-ish.

This concept works on a global scale as well as in national and individual relationships.

Take The Loved One and me, for instance. Let’s say I had the irresistible urge to travel down to Mesa, Arizona next February, where I could sit in the warm sun and watch my beloved Chicago Cubs gambol across the Spring Training playing fields. Many thousands of Cubs fans do this each year. It’s one of those rare endeavors wherein they get not one but two priceless boons. They are able to escape the living hell that is a midwestern winter and they get to bask in the glow of their heroes and dream of the coming summer.

Cubs Spring Training

Look At That Pretty Sky

So, in our hypothetical situation, I’d say to The Loved One, “Darling, I’ve been meaning to ask you — and by the way, have I told you how much I love and cherish you lately? No? How silly of me — well, I’ve been meaning to ask you if you wouldn’t mind if I take a little trip down to Arizona to catch a bit of Cubs Spring Training. I won’t be gone long and — you know what? — I won’t even eat while I’m down there. In fact, I won’t even spend any money on a hotel room. Heck, it’s warm in Arizona, by golly, and I can just spend my nights in a sleeping bag on the desert floor! Honest, Angel, I really, really, really want to do this. It’s something I’ve dreamed about for years. Whaddya say, huh? Whaddya say?”

At which point, The Loved One would ponder my position, being the thoughtful and careful soul she is. After a few moments’ thought, she’d reply, “How about this? You don’t go down to Mesa, Arizona in February to sit in the warm sun and dream the impossible dream that your Cubs might win more games than they lose next summer and, in return, I’ll refrain from crashing a cast iron skillet over your head.”

“Hmm,” I’d say. “Sounds good to me.”

See how it works?

Understand, though, that The Loved One practices the art of negotiation as defined by many Americans.

To many in this holy land, negotiating has little to do with inch by inch increments and niceties like give and take. We’ve learned by observing the negotiating styles of people like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and other clever bargainers that negotiating means, Sign here or we’ll crash a cast iron skillet over your head.

Similarly, they’ll say as they sit around that bargaining table, No, we won’t let you do what you want to do and to stop you, we’re going to shut down the government, refuse to vote on your judicial and administrative appointments, and tell the world you’re a commie abortionist. And if that doesn’t work, why, hell, we’ll secede. Oh, by the way, did we mention we’ve got tons of guns?

To the Cruz crowd, America’s single most successful negotiating ploy took place in early August, 1945.

Nagasaki

Here’s Our Offer

So, any deal that does not include the abject humiliation and the paralyzing of the Iranian government is a total loss for us.

I’d rather negotiate with The Loved One than those dopes.

And Another Thing

At least one observer on the Right is saying the Iran Nuclear deal is merely a smoke screen designed to make the gullible public forget the horrifying atrocity that is Obamacare.

Sen. John Cornyn (R [Of Course]-Alabama [Where Else?]) sez, “Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care.” He horked up this pearl of wisdom, natch, on his Tweetin’ machine, ergo the pidgin English.

Damn that Kenyan mole! Doesn’t he know that once a president comes under fire for some controversial act or legislation, he is no longer permitted by law to do anything else in the whole, wide world, no matter what?

Thank you, Sen. Cornyn for setting these Confederate States of America straight.

Confederate Soldier

Fighting The Good Fight

Board News

The WFHB Board of Directors will meet tonight somewhere in City Hall at 7pm.

The room originally reserved for the meeting may be too small for the expected turnout of interested volunteers who hope to witness the Board talk about high-minded ideals and peace on Earth among….

Oh, okay, I’m being cynical. The Board just might commit to finding a new General Manager for the station by the end of the year. There I go, being zany again.

Hot Air Today

Barack & Me

Here’s a chuckle: Yesterday I portrayed Barack Obama as a paper tyrant. This morning I checked my email and — whaddya know?! — I got a message from none other than the President of these United States.

Yup. The sender line read Barack Obama. And the first sentence of the message was Michael: I wanted to talk to you directly.

Now, don’t get your shorts in a bunch over this, natch. He didn’t go on to say, Listen here, jerk, if I were wearing jackboots, I’d plant one right in your vast ass.

Obama

I assume. I didn’t read the missive. I’ve been getting emails from the Leader of the Free World ever since he began running for prez back in 2007.

The funny thing about getting so many campaign beggings and exhortations from the Obama camp, many of which are purportedly signed by the Kenyan-in-Chief, is that if the man himself ever did really send me a personal email, I’d ignore it out of hand.

So, personal to Barack Obama: If you need to contact me, call me. You’ll have to leave a message because I never answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize.

Forgotten Fact: Ernie Banks Was Black

The single greatest Chicago Cub of all time is being honored at the White House this afternoon.

Ernie Banks — originator of the sobriquet, The Friendly Confines, the poet who sang, Let’s play two! — will receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

I loved Ernie Banks almost as much as I loved Ron Santo. He was the personification of optimism itself. Before his 15th season in the big leagues, he announced, “The Cubs will be in heaven in 1967.” The next season, he predicted, “The Cubs will be great in 1968.” The season after that, he said, “The Cubs will be fine in 1969.”

Banks

Ernie Banks

These pollyannish pronouncements, mind you, came after a two-decade run of utter incompetence by his beloved employer, the Chicago Cubs. Hell, the city would have thrown a parade down Michigan Avenue if the Cubs had even achieved mediocrity.

Ernie’s spirit was never broken, though. Playing baseball even for a lousy team and earning a hefty paycheck for doing so must have seemed as sweet a deal as any kid who grew up in the Jim Crow South could have imagined.

Ernest Banks was born January 31st, 1931, in Dallas, Texas. His hometown was ruthlessly segregated in those days and for many, many days thereafter.

Dallas Morning News columnist Kevin Sherrington has a nice piece this morning about what Ernie Banks meant to Dallas, and what Dallas meant to Ernie Banks. On the one hand, neither meant much to the other. Then again, Dallas and Ernie meant everything to each other. Read it to get a little picture of Dallas’s — and Texas’s — enduring relationships with its black daughters and sons.

By the time Ernie was 24 years old, of course, he’d become the toast of the nation’s second city. He never spoke about the prejudice and bias he experienced in Dallas. Then again, he never spoke much about anything negatively.

Banks preferred to look on the bright side. He might have been characterized as an Uncle Tom in the strife-ridden ’60s, if only the militants and radicals who threw around labels like that had thought for a moment about him. Ernie never really was seen a a black man in baseball. Bob Gibson was black. So was Curt Flood. Roberto Clemente. Even Willie Mays.

Flood

Curt Flood

Ernie? He was Mr. Cub.

No, he wasn’t a civil rights trailblazer. No one ever knew where Ernie stood on issues like voting rights, open housing, integration, and so on. No one ever asked him. He lived in a world that seemed to be higher than that, a world where blacks and whites played a kid’s game together in the sunshine.

The rules were the same for a cracker from the South and a skinny but supremely powerful Negro from Dallas.

For a few hours each summer afternoon, Ernie made us forget about racial bigotry, interposition and nullification, law and order, poverty, and cities on fire.

I idolized the militants and the radicals, sure. But Ernie provided me a regular, albeit brief, respite from all that was ugly in a very ugly time.

Hot Airedales

Hanging In There

Ju-u-u-u-ust wondering: What if a noted B-town expatriate who is now an ex-expatriate wanted his old job back here?

And what if that old job, mirabile dictu, is still open from the time that ex-expat left this glorious metrop.?

What might happen?

Would the governing board of the local cultural institution communicate through winks and nudges that, although the ex-expat would have to go through the formality of the application and interview process that all other seekers of that plum-ish job have endured, he might as well start hanging his awards back up on his old office walls? Those board members who will vote on the job vacancy wouldn’t be letting the other applicants hang like chads?

Or would they?

Dalmatians

Who Doesn’t Love Dalmatians?

More, More, More

Staying on the local scene, yet another of our ink-stained wretches, Joy Shayne Laughter, tells me poet/Superman Tony Brewer actually has published three books now. I neglected to mention yesterday his first book, The Great American Scapegoat.

Hurts So Good

Alright, this is really whacked, so bear with me. Ever since I emerged from my blissful, childlike slumber at the age of 11 in 1967 and became a Cubs fan, I have endured precisely 3869 of their regular season losses. In addition, my heart was broken a total of 19 times in those rare years the Cubs qualified for post-season play.

That’s right, my beloved Cubs have proven themselves inferior nearly 4000 times since I hitched my emotional wagon to them.

And you wonder why I occasionally show signs of bitterness and hopelessness.

Grace

Fat Man Was a Firecracker

And, in case you were wondering, it is now Day 3 of what has been variously described as a “pinprick,” a “slimdown,” “not a big deal,” “nothing to worry about,” and countless other borderline criminal euphemisms.

Yes, the Shutdown. Some 800,000 federal employees are out of work for the time being. Many, no doubt, are wondering how they might keep up with such trivialities as utility bills, rent, mortgage payements, and keeping the larder stocked but, y’know, that’s not a big deal.

In other news, Tea Party-ists have signed a letter to the residents of Nagasaki, Japan telling them to quit bringing up the events of August 9, 1945, because, after all, it was only one airplane dropping one bomb. Jeez, people, get over it!

Nagasaki

Oooh! Aaah!

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