Category Archives: David Brent Johnson

Hot Air

The Immaculate Fix

Get ready for another reading of William S. Burrough’s The Junky’s Christmas.

Burroughs

Burroughs

It’s become a holiday tradition in these parts, thanks to the combined efforts of The Burroughs Century and the Writers Guild at Bloomington. B-town scribes Tony Brewer, Arthur Cullipher, Ian Uriel Girdley, and Shayne Laughter will perform the piece in a live radio theater performance Wednesday, December 17th, 8:00pm, at Rachael’s Cafe. Trumpeter Kyle Quass and saxophonist Chris Rall will back them up.

Ian Girdley also will read from his new book, This poem Drank the Wine (sic).

Burroughs’ seasonal moral: Not all gifts are sugarplums and good can arise in the absolutely unlikeliest of places.

Whee, Me!

Malcolm Abrams and David Brent Johnson are the perpetrators of this:

From Bloom Magazine

Click on the image for the full story. Perhaps my fave part of the above is the exclamation point after my name. You’d think that would be more appropriate for a profile of, say, Vladimir Putin or Taylor Swift.

What’s the opposite of an exclamation point? An upside down exclamation point? Nah, Spanish already has claimed that. I dunno. Anyway, read.

Start The Presses!

Ledge Mule Press has issued its second book, Then Gone by Romayne Rubinas. With two tomes on its résumé, the Press can now be considered the real deal.

Book Cover

Hand-Printed & Hand-Bound

Poets, writers, and all-around Hoosier sophisticates Ross Gay, Chris Mattingly, and Dave Torneo run Ledge Mule. Then Gone was produced on a hand-fed Chandler & Price letterpress machine and was hand-bound by the three. The trio opted to produce only 200 copies of the book so it just may become a priceless collectors item one day.

Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait for the deaths of the principals involved before the thing pays off.

Ledge Mule’s first offering was a collection by poet David Watters entitled Hollow & Round. It came out earlier this year.

Catch Romayne reading her poems at The Back Door, Saturday, December 6th, at 7pm. She’ll appear with poets Kate Schneider and Shaina Clerget.

Queerball

How cool is this? American major pro sports’ first on-field/court/ice arbiter has come out. Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott has been calling balls and strikes in the Big Show for some 29 years and just this month revealed publicly he’s gay. Scott’s been involved with a fellow named Mike Rausch since the year after he broke into MLB. Scott and Rausch got married last month.

Scott/Rausch

Scott (L) & Rausch

Even cooler, MLB big shots have known Scott was gay for years now. “…[T]his is not a surprise to Major League Baseball, the people I work for,” Scott told Outsports online yesterday. “It’s not a surprise to the umpire staff. Until Mike and I got married last November, he was my same-sex domestic partner and had his own MLB I.D. and was on my insurance policy.”

Yet another reason for me to love baseball.

You Want A Hero? Here.

There was a time in the deep murky mists of memory when the people of this holy land actually did good things just to, well, do good things.

For instance, in 1948 after the Soviet Union had imposed a blockade around the city of West Berlin, a US Army Air Corps pilot named nicknamed Hal regularly flew a C-54 transport plane (like the one pictured below) into Tempelhof Airport. His usual cargo — 10 tens of flour. Berliners, America had realized, needed to eat. Under the direction of General George C. Marshall, the Berlin airlift, known as Operation Vittles, flew thousands of tons of food into West Berlin.

Berlin Airlift

A Berlin Airlift Plane Landing At Tempelhof

Earlier that year, Hal had met a bunch of kids who watched as the stream of transport planes flew into Templehof. They’d asked him for some candy. All he had were a couple of sticks of gum. He tore those sticks in half and handed the four pieces to the kids who proceeded to tear off bits of the wrappers and pass the scraps around. The kids, having experienced the deprivations and horrors of war and occupation, simply sniffed the bits of wrapper. The looks of sheer glee and gratitude on their faces, Hal later said, were unlike any he’d ever seen.

So he started recruited his own crew members and, eventually, crews of other planes in his unit to donate their rations of candy and gum. The crews would makes little packages of the sweets and attach them to parachutes made of their handkerchiefs and, as they flew over the gang of kids, would drop the treats. It soon was raining candy at Tempelhof.

After a time, Hal had gotten scads of private citizens and candy manufacturers to donate some 21 tons of candy for his makeshift operation. The kids took to calling him the Candy Bomber.

Nobody splashed candy makers’ names all over those transport planes. No individuals screamed out to the world what fabulous souls they were for dumping tons of candy into waiting kids’ hands. They simply wanted to bring joy to the kids. Simultaneously, they were feeding a city of 2.5 million people.

Here’s your hero.

Halvorsen

Gail “Hal” Halvorsen In 1989

Thanks to Pencillista Col. John Tilford (Ret., US Army) for sending in the link to the following vid. In it, Halvorsen is honored for his candy drop. Sure, it’s hokey, mucky and gushy, but if you’re not crying by the time you’re finished watching, you’re probably dead.

Believe it or not, even I can be corny now and again.

Hot Air

The Bloom Is Off The Foods Store?

Here’s some alleged inside dope about the air that Bloomingfoods workers breathe. I caution you to take it with a grain of salt. It’s one person’s observation. I’ll continue canvassing other insiders at the five-store co-op, some of whose employees are making union noises these days.

Bloomingfoods/Union

Acc’d’g to this B-foods employee — let’s call him Joe Doe — morale at the stores has been sinking for a good long time. There are several reasons for this:

  • Newer employees must obey the rules and do the dirty work while older, entrenched employees tend to take these things a bit less seriously
  • B-foods is bruised and bloodied, thanks to competition from the likes of Kroger which is now selling many of the same natural and certified organic products at better prices
  • Management seems slow to respond to the competition — B-foods’ merchandising, inventory, and retail strategies are the same ones the co-op has depended on since its inception 38 years ago
  • Those sweet employee benefits linked to here yesterday? They’re available to full-timers but — here’s the rub — try getting F-T hours

Again, this is one Bloomingfoods worker’s testimony. If there’s any truth to it, though, it would indicate the co-op just might be suffering through a mid-life crisis. Most companies go through it. Brilliant, ambitious, visionary entrepreneurs start businesses that take off like rockets. For years these operations are model wealth generators, their set-ups sleek and enviable. After a couple of decades of robust growth, the ideas that put these cos. ahead of the pack have been co-opted by everybody else in the industry. Those one-time visionaries eventually find themselves incapable or unwilling to adopt newer ideas in their fields. They’ve become hidebound and cocksure.

Hell, even Apple kicked Steve Jobs out the door at one point. Every company needs a shake-out at the top at some point in time.

Is this Bloomingfoods’ time?

Maybe, maybe not. Stayed tuned here for more testimony from insiders who may or may not buy into this theory.

Ebola Causes Insanity

And now a new flood of crazy has begun. This time the topic is ebola.

You had to figure that would happen, no? First, batshit paranoia emanated from the cakehole of that deep thinker, Phyllis Schlafly (who, unaccountably, is still alive and being interviewed). Schlafly sez Prez Obama, natch, not only is responsible for ebola coming into this holy land, he wants it here. The reason? So’s we can become just like the rest of the planet’s cool kids.

He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too.

Schlafly

Schlafly

So says the woman whose greatest accomplishment in life was to lead the battle against the passage of an amendment to the US Constitution that would guarantee civil rights for half its citizens. Thanks, Phyll.

Anyway, pop star, noted domestic abuser, and serial violent tantrum-thrower Chris Brown has now weighed in on the greatest threat to America since the last one. He tweeted yesterday:

I don’t know … But I think this Ebola epidemic is a form of population control. … getting crazy bruh.

Brown

Brown

Laugh if you want, but his tweet contains an unassailable truth: he doesn’t know.

Whee, Me!

Scads o’thanks to writer David Brent Johnson and publisher Malcolm Abrams for the neat profile of this scribe in the October/November edition of Bloom magazine.

Johnson/Abrams

Johnson (L) & Abrams

Somehow, Johnson succeeded in catching the gist of The Pencil and me in only 400 words. That’s writing, babies. And Abrams had the good sense to recognize that the founder of this communications colossus must be immortalized in his mag.

Honestly, boys, I appreciate it. Now, let’s see some good Bloom ink translate into a gazillion page views here!

Hot Air

Another Box

Oh great. The Herald Times this morning reports a new soulless downtown mixed-used building has been approved by the Bloomington Plan Commission.

Blocks

The Proposed Building

The structure will house three residential apartments with ground-floor commercial space. Acc’g to the HT, the proposed project has been granted six zoning waivers, thereby allowing it to violate that many not-so-sacred municipal commandments to preserve the treasured look and feel of central B-town.

The building will stand next to the equally anonymous and utilitarian Bloomington Transit Center at 3rd and Walnut streets.

[I’d provide a link but the HT has a paywall so you can either trust me or drop 75 cents on a copy of today’s paper.]

Money For Nothin’!

I’ve been feeling down of late so this email really brightened my morning:

Email

What A Lucky Guy I Am!

I don’t know who Michael or Ira Curry are but as of now, they’re my Best Friends Forever.

Feel free to suggest what I should do with my fresh, crisp 600,000 USD in the Comments section. And, hey, if you find yourself short of cash over the next few weeks, you can count on me to help. I am, after all, rich now!

[UPDATE: I did a little googling and found out that Ira Curry won big in some regional lottery this past December. Michael Curry must be a relative. How nice of them to think of me.]

Hitting It Big

Equally fortunate, it seems, is our town’s David Brent Johnson. He’s no newly-minted $600,000-aire but his weekly jazz program, Night Lights, has been picked up in the Chicago market by radio station WDCB.

DBJ

David Brent Johnson

DBJ’s show debuted in the big market last week. WFIU‘s Night Lights is syndicated on 17 stations in 14 states as well as one station in the Philippines. WDCB is trying to position itself as Chi.’s radio place for jazz. NPR affiliate WBEZ dumped its overnight jazz and blues programming in 2007. Music aficionados were up in arms but the decision stood, as opposed to last year’s brouhaha over a proposed elimination of opera programming at WFIU.

Slowly but surely the world is learning about Bloomington as a music capital.

You Will Speak Correctly

How about that heretofore anonymous diplomatic bureaucrat’s street-talk dis of the European Union last week?

Victoria Nuland, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, was phone chatting with the US ambassador to the Ukraine the other day. She and the ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, talked about the rebellion in that country. They speculated on the role of opposition leader Vitali Klitschko in any subsequent reorganization of the Ukraine gummint. Nuland pretty much told Pyatt that Klitschko ought not to be too big a shot because he’s essentially a babe in the woods.

Image from boxing.com

Tough Negotiator

Which makes perfect sense because the sum total of Klitschko’s life experience thus far has been his success at beating the bejesus out of men wearing shorts. See, Klitschko’s a boxer. He gained the world’s heavyweight boxing championship back in 1996. He retired from the Sweet Science last December still wearing one of the bazillion belts that the various international boxing authorities hand out. Experts say he was a powerful puncher and had strong chin.

These attributes stand a politician well only in a metaphorical sense. It’s been several millennia since we’ve asked our dear leaders to personally whack the crap out of each other for the good and glory of our respective peoples.

Still, Klitschko is popular in the Ukraine, the way, say, Peyton Manning would be in this holy land should he decide to chuck football and run for the United States Senate.

Nuland went on to tell Pyatt that the United Nations should try to broker an agreement between the Ukraine state and the opposition, not the European Union. Apparently, she doesn’t hold the Union in terribly high regard. “Fuck the E.U.,” she said.

The Money Shot Comment Is At 3:04

Somehow, a recording of the phone conversation was made public. And, natch, European leaders are screaming bloody murder. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel tut-tutted the comment. One of her PR flacks said Merkel considers the verbiage “absolutely unacceptable.”

I’m just wondering if the folks who gave the world the phrase deutschland über alles some 75 years ago have as yet earned the privilege to criticize other people’s lingo.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I can’t understand looking forward to seeing a commercial.” — Paula Poundstone

A NATION OF AD PIMPS

A word of explanation about the quote above. Poundstone on this morning’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” was talking about how a grocery checkout clerk was shocked that she had neither watched the Super Bowl nor cared a bit about the telecast. “Not even the commercials?” the clerk gasped.

Poundstone later concluded, “No wonder we’re going downhill.”

Guess what — she’s freakin’ right!

LAND OF THE FREE(-ISH)

Like many Americans, I complain a lot about many things.

Admittedly, there’s much to complain about and I needn’t run down that list here for the three thousandth time. If you’ve been reading these screeds, you know where I stand on everything from “Two and a Half Men” to the corporatization of this holy land.

The Golden Arches-Spangled Banner

We’re a complaining bunch, we Americans. Louis CK does a terrific bit about how impatient and demanding we are. He talks about a guy saying he hates — hates — Verizon because a couple of his calls had been dropped. He refers to a woman saying she was once forced to sit in an airplane on a runway for 40 minutes before it took off, and described it as the worst day of her life.

Louis points out, correctly, that both cell phone technology and human flight are virtual miracles that we should be amazed to partake of. He challenges the person who hates Verizon to create his own cell phone network and see how close he can come to perfection in its operation. Then he riffs on the woman, saying the airplane, of course, did take off and she was sitting in a chair in the sky like the Greek gods did, moving from New York to Los Angeles in a matter of hours, a trip that at one time took years.

High Above Omaha

We do forget what a special time we live in, especially in this very, very privileged nation.

Even in the wake of the Great Recession, we have plenty to eat, we have cars, we have warm homes, we have cable, and, yes, we have cell phones.

The latest estimate by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization holds that in 2010, 925 million people were hungry in the world. That’s a shade below one of every seven human beings alive.

Even in these hard times, we’re doing pretty well here.

So, I figured I’d say something positive today.

I woke up in the middle of the night Wednesday. I couldn’t get back to sleep and yet I was too tired to read, so I clicked on Netflix to watch a movie. I selected something called “Death of a President,” a pseudo-documentary that was made in 2006.

The movie deals with a trip of then-President George W. Bush to Chicago to deliver a speech to a gathering of big shot business leaders. As he walks out of the Sheraton Hotel after the speech, he is shot twice in the chest by an unknown gunman. He is rushed to the hospital where he dies after several hours of surgery.

The FBI and the Chicago police beat the bushes to to find the shooter and after a couple of weeks settle on a Syrian-born, nationalized American citizen.

This fellow, Jamal Abu Zikri, once traveled back to the Middle East to study Islam at an ill-defined camp which turned out to be an al Qaeda training center. He was threatened with death if he attempted to leave the camp but eventually found a way to escape and returned to his home and wife in Chicago.

In the hysteria following the assassination, authorities cobble together some iffy evidence and, depending mainly on Zikri’s supposed connection to al Qaeda, get him convicted of the crime. In the meantime, new President Dick Cheney pushes through a third Patriot Act that allows the government even greater latitude in spying on and detaining suspected terrorists. Cheney also pushes the CIA hard to find connections between the Syrian government and the assassination.

I’m not telegraphing the ending by saying doubt is cast on everybody’s motives.

The movie is more about emotionalism, fear, rage, prejudice, xenophobia, vengeance, jingoism, radical hyperbole, and, essentially, every destructive trait that exists today in these Great United States, Inc. than the actual act of killing the president.

These destructive traits threaten to grow exponentially until they suffocate us.

“Death of a President” is not flattering to us. The US Chamber of Congress did not push it for an Oscar.

Still it ran in theaters here. And it’s a standard offering on such an innocuous service as Netflix.

That says a lot about America — maybe as much as “Two and a Half Men” and the corporatization of this holy land do.

I refer back to Louis CK who cracks that people in certain other nations wake up some mornings and say “Uh oh, today’s the day we get our heads cut off.”

Can you imagine movies depicting the killings of Hu Jintao, Manmohan Singh, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Dilma Rousseff, Yousaf Gillani, Vladimir Putin, Sheikh Hasina, and Yoshihiko Noda?

“Nyet.”

They are the bosses of the ten most populated nations on Earth, minus the United States. The people they boss constitute fully 53 percent of the people on this planet.

These 3.7 billion people, I suspect, would not be permitted to view a movie of such an uncomplimentary nature, much less one that allows the possibility that any of those nine dear leaders could be offed.

And keep in mind I haven’t included several billion other souls who live under a rogue’s gallery of minor despots, tyrants, and sadists.

I don’t like where we’re headed in these United States. I also know we still have a hell of a lot of freedom and latitude.

It’s worth remembering that now and then.

THE ART OF THE MICROSCOPE

Brain scientist Alex Straiker’s microscopy-based artwork will be on display in March at Finch’s Brasserie here in Bloomington. He’ll share the stage (or, more accurately, the easel) with award-winning botanical microscopist Jessica Lucas.

Straiker studies the effects of cannabinoids on the brain at Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Lucas is a researcher and outreach educator in the Shaw Lab at IU’s Biology Department.

Jessica Lucas’s Image Of A Fast-Growing Seedling

Alex and his lab-mates treat mice to mega-doses of THC and then check their brain structures to determine, among other things, why they crave White Castle sliders for hours afterward.

Straiker’s striking images have appeared on this site several times already in our short history. Watch this space to find out the date of the opening reception for his show.

JAZZ TIMES

Tune in to WFIU Monday afternoon for David Brent Johnson‘s “Just You and Me” daily jazz show.

DBJ And His Special Gal

DBJ tells me he plans to feature the jazz Grammy award winners Monday. The Grammy awards will be presented Sunday night in New York.

“Just You and Me” begins at 3:30 and runs for an hour and a half. It’s a good bet DBJ will be spinning loads of Roseanna Vitro and Kurt Elling.

Today: Saturday, November 5, 2011

THE BIRTH OF A SENSATION

Welcome to the newest reason to love Bloomington.  You’ve arrived at the online news, arts, culture, and opinion extravaganza we call Electron Pencil.


We swooped down to these environs from the big town on the shores of Lake Michigan a little more than two years ago (after a brief side stay in Louisville, Kentucky.) Now we’ve found our home.

We’d been part of The Third City communications powerhouse from November, 2008, starting up that whole shebang with the estimable journalist Benny Jay. Like Martin & Lewis and Frank & Jamie McCourt, we went our separate ways this past August.

Hoping to carry over our success from the Windy City, we’ll be trying to tie together all the mini-communities that make this 70K-pop. micro-lopolis one of the most cosmopolitan in this holy land.

Over the next few weeks look for us to present a daily updated art gallery featuring painting, sculpture, photography, videos, and other eye candy. We’ll also offer fresh short fiction and movie, TV, live performance, and stage reviews. There’ll be podcasts of poetry readings, essays, and rants.

And you can begin each day with the well-reasoned, scintillating, and invaluable opinions of Big Mike Glab.

We’re glad you’re here. Dig in!

MOB JAMBOREE

Bloomington’s own franchise of the Occupy movement that huffy Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Va) not long ago characterized as a “growing mob” is still sleeping in tents at the appropriately monikered People’s Park.


America’s Been Very, Very Good To The Cantor Family

I honestly don’t know which “mob” imagery he was trying to evoke. There is of course, the Mob of “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas.” But he may have been trying to channel his own inner Laurence Olivier as the uber-ambitious Crassus in “Spartacus,” denouncing the growing sentiment of Power to the People in Stanley Kubrik’s version of ancient Rome.

“Did you truly believe,” Crassus roars at the republican (small-R) Gracchus in the  Senate, “Rome could be so easily delivered into the clutches of a mob?”

Yeah, I see Cantor more as the cock-of-the-walk defender of the patricians. I also see him being ministered to by a body slave in his private bath, as portrayed in the director’s cut of the 1960 classic.

Rome Was Very, Very Good To Crassus

You remember that scene don’t you? Tony Curtis plays the body slave, Antoninus, squeezing a sponge over Crassus’s bare back. Crassus asks the scantily clad Antoninus if he’s ever eaten oysters or snails. Antoninus says he has never had a snail.

Crassus then asks if he considers the eating of oysters or snails to be a moral question because — duh — he’s not really talking about oysters and snails.

Antoninus is far less than thrilled about where the conversation is headed.

Uh, No Thanks, I’m Not Very Hungry.

After Antoninus towels him off Crassus reveals that he prefers both oysters and snails. Then Crassus stands near a window proferring a magnificent view of the imperial city on the river Tiber.

Crassus: “There, boy, is Rome! … There is the power that bestrides the known world like a colossus. No man can withstand her…. How much less, a boy!

“…There is only one way to deal with Rome, Antoninus. You must serve her. You must abase yourself before her. You must grovel at her feet. You must….” (Crassus pauses for effect) “…love her!”

Crassus turns back toward Antoninus and discovers that his slave — who has seen his master’s snail and has no taste for it — has run away.

Now I’m not saying Eric Cantor prefers snails as much as he prefers oysters (although Max Blumenthal, in his 2009 book “Republican Gomorrah,” posits that the GOP is chock-full of closet snail eaters.)

I’m jes sayin’ he loves gazing out at the vista of the colossus that bestrides the known world, circa 2011 — the same vista Occupy Wall Streeters are as unenthusiastic about as Antoninus was about escargot.

Bloomington’s “mob” is holding strong even as the weather grows inexorably more crappy. Thursday would have been a perfect day for Occupy Bloomington campers to call it a season. They haven’t. This thing looks as real in our town as it is across this colossus.

(The following pix were shot at noon, Thursday, November 4, 2011, at People’s Park.)

PUBLIC RADIO NEEDS YOUR DOUGH

Stumbling into Soma Coffee for my fix this morning, I almost crashed into WFIU’s jazz boss, David Brent Johnson, and his delightful bride, Brenda McNellen. (And isn’t she the sweetest human on record? She grinned at me as she always does despite the fact that I grunted at her.) Seeing the two reminded me that pledge week started yesterday. “Go raise some money,” I said to DBJ. He promised he would.

Do your part.

TRAINED EYE

Videographer Steve Llewellyn tells us about the grand opening of a new art space all day (mostly) today.

Trained Eye Arts Center will offer bands, hot air balloon rides, wine and finger food, folk dancers, comedy improve, poetry readings and more, all for a fin (four bucks if you say you arrived via the B-Line Trail.

The new headquarters for the arts collective is at 615 North Fairview. Doors open at noon and the fun goes on until midnight.

%d bloggers like this: