Category Archives: Doug Storm

Hot Air

A Recommendation & A Remembrance

Hey, while I’m still off ghosting the great Midwest memoir, you might fill the void left by my hiatus from these precincts by clicking on over to Doug Storm’s Common Errant blog.

He’s not as deranged as I have been about this whole blogging dealio, inasmuch as he slaps a post up every week or so as opposed to nearly every day. That’s cool; what Comm Err lacks in quantity, it certainly makes up for in quality.

Anyway, I’m still still plugging along with Charlotte Zietlow on what’ll surely be the greatest hey-Ma-look-at-me tome since The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. That groundbreaking book came up yesterday at Paul Zietlow’s memorial service, attended by half the population of Indiana as well as dozens of visiting academics and bonhomies from around the nation. One of Paul’s eulogists told the tale of the late IU English prof’s deep infatuation with the Grant bio, a book he’d discovered after he’d retired and thus was free to read for pure pleasure. The old bird — I think it was David James — said for the next six months the former Civil War general and 18th President of the United States was a constant companion whenever the two chums would get together for lunch or a meeting.


Lunch Companion

That’s a good story, one of a man completely in love with reading. There’s no finer or more respectable paramour than a book. And here’s another anecdote, one that gets to the very heart of the beloved prof who occasionally wept when he read poetry to his classes, earned kudos and awards for writing when he was a Yalie, and was a tireless advocate for social justice and local good-works orgs. It’s told by Paul’s daughter Rebecca.

One day, Paul had his little granddaughter — either Zoe or Alice, I forget which — in his lap. The kid wanted her shoes off so Paul helped her slip them off. Next thing you know, she wanted them back on. Paul helped her slip them back on and tied their laces for her. Being a kid, she wanted them off again so Paul helped her get them off again. And, of course, she wanted them back on again and…, you know. This went on for times innumerable, Rebecca remembered through her tears. Maybe it was a half dozen times — maybe a dozen. In any case, Paul patiently and lovingly helped his little granddaughter on and off with her shoes, never once complaining or attempting to give little Zoe or Alice the brush.

Of all the things Paul Zietlow accomplished in his life, that might have been the most defining.

Hot Air

Hores Sense

Happy National Grammar Day, everyone! Watch your colons.

In trying to learn about NGD, I came upon a neat little organization and its blog, both of which, sadly, no longer exist. Why? Well, prob. because nobody much cares about good grammar ennymore. Nevertheless, skim through the posts of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, especially a handwritten essay by a grammar-schooler about his dad’s love of “hores.” A taste:

Hores make you feel good. My dad wants a hores but my mom says no.


“Sex Worker” Is More Appropriate

Natch, good spelling is as important as good grammar.

BTW: Start making your plans now for National Punctuation Day, September 24th every year.

Plaster Saint?

So, the character who, in the interests of truth, justice and the American way, got the Jackie Robinson West Little League team stripped of its 2014 national title got himself in a bit a jam himself early yesterday morning.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Christopher Janes of suburban Evergreen Park, menaced a woman and her husband in the wee hours a block from his house Tuesday. He allegedly chased the woman, who ran into her house after she pulled into her driveway and saw him causing a ruckus. Janes then pounded on her front door and yelled at the couple to come out — using foul language. The couple called the police as Janes ran away. He was apprehended not far away with his arm bleeding.

Janes has been charged with assault, disorderly conduct, resisting a peace officer, public intoxication, and using threatening and vulgar language. At the time of his arrest, acc’d’g to the Trib, he refused to cooperate with police and would not say how he injured his arm.


Janes’ Mug Shot

Meanwhile, nine of the 13 members of the Jackie Robinson West team, traveled to the tony northwest suburb of Northbrook where they met and greeted some 300 kids and adults who came to see them at the local YMCA. The Saturday evening event was sponsored by the Northbrook Community Relations Commission. The players talked about their trip to the White House to meet President Obama, visiting Disney World, their work ethic, and what classes they liked in school.

As for Janes, he will be arraigned April 13 in Cook County Circuit Court.

Mayoral Miscellany

Doug Storm hosted all four candidates for Bloomington mayor last night on WFHB’s Interchange program.

Don’t worry: No blood was spilled.


Click Image For Podcast


The Onion, as always, nailing it:


Click Image For Full Story

Bim Bam Boom

So, yeah, this holy land possesses thousands of thermonuclear weapons capable of turning our fair world into a smokeball. Russia packs a few thousand pika-don fireworks as well. The United Kingdom, France, and China long have been gleeful members of the nuke club. Add to them India, Pakistan, and Israel, all of whom have tinkered their way into armageddon territory.

Funny thing is, most of the above-mentioned gasp and wring their hands whenever another nation-state hints that it’d like to develop the capability to blow the world to bits. Some otherwise smart citizens even say Well, fair is fair: We have the Bomb, why can’t they?

As ludicrous as this sounds, the leaders of those countries who possess nuclear arsenals seem to have been made less rash by their Bombs. Well, at least ever so minutely less rash. Think of Vietnam and how the US didn’t turn it into a full-blown conflagration for fear the Chinese or the then-Soviets might decide to get trigger happy in response. The USSR itself similarly tampered its urges to kill in any number of conflicts in the last half century lest we blow them to smithereens.

So rather than counting the grateful dead by the millions, we’ve kept the number of war casualties to…, um, oh. Millions.

Bomb Test

Huzzah — We’re In The Club!

Still, those leaders of the nuke club fear the prospect of a wild-man gov’t joining its ranks. To wit, North Korea. It’s still trying to perfect its own penis-envy doomsday weapon and no doubt will put an effective warhead on a dependable missile sooner rather than later. And whereas the pioneer members of Nukes, Inc. seemed content merely to develop and test their big bangers — that being enough to scare the bejesus out of their potential rivals — N. Korea seems to dig verbally assaulting its perceived enemies with threats of leveled cities.

Take yesterday, for inst. Ri Su Yong, the North Korean foreign minister, issued one of his country’s regular and predictable threats against to US. If this nation and its allies, South Korea and Japan, keep on flexing their muscles in the neighborhood of North Korea, Ri said, his land’ll blast a US city into its constituent atoms. He elaborated:

Now the DPRK has the power of deterring the U.S. and conducting a pre-emptive strike as well, if necessary.

The muscle-flexing Ri refers to is the annual joint military exercise conducted by the US and S. Korea happening right now. Every year, the US and SoKo play-act at soldiering intentionally in eye- and earshot of those excitable North Koreans. And every year North Korea pledges to take out Los Angeles or Seattle if they don’t stop it.

I mean, possessing the capability to incinerate hundreds of millions of human beings with the push of a button is one thing, but bragging about it? Well, now, that’s going too far.

H-Bomb Ditty

The Renegades covered this old Bill Haley and His Comets single back in 1966. How bizarre a species are we that we can sing in celebration of global nuclear holocaust because that’d mean there’d be one lucky male survivor along with 13 women?

I beginning to think Darwin was wrong. There is no such thing as evolution — only devolution.

In any case, this is a very cool version of a very deranged song.

Hot Air

Storm Of Battle

Doug Storm, the dynamic, dynamite host of WFHB’s Interchange is gathering the 2015 Bloomington mayoral combatants in his studio for a battle royal Tuesday evening.

The four candidates for mayor — John Hamilton, Darryl Neher, John Turnbull, and John Linnemeier — have agreed to face the nation…, er, well, the city live on-air with Storm officiating.


[L-R] Linnemeier, Neher, Turnbull, Hamilton

Storm wants the B-ton citizenry to submit some Q’s before the show so if you want to know how Neher or Linnemeier might react if the ISIS hordes threaten our thriving, throbbing megalopolis send an email to Doug at

The party primaries will be Tuesday, May 5th with Hamilton, Neher, and Linnemeier facing off for the Dems and Turnbull running unopposed in the Republican race. This promises to be a fun election, what with it being the first real contested campaign in better than a decade. Neher has outgoing Mayor Mark Kruzan’s backing while Hamilton claims former mayors Tomilea Allison and John Fernandez as allies. Hamilton also is amassing an all-star cast of Indiana University Maurer School of Law profs on his endorsement roster as well as former legislators Lee Hamilton and Baron Hill and even singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer. Neher counters with current statehouse figures Shelli Yoder and Matt Pierce.

[Correction: Isabel Piedmont-Smith correctly points out that Shelli Yoder is not a “statehouse figure.” Yoder is a member of the Monroe County Council. Mea culpa. And thanks, Isabel.]

Both Turnbull’s and Linnemeier’s candidacies appear quixotic at this time.

Storm’s got plenty of questions to throw at the quartet but he’s still aching for listener input. Go to the show’s Facebook page for more info. And tune in, for pity’s sake, Tuesday at 6pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. It promises to be an hour of real democracy — fitting since we like to call ourselves one.

Big Questions

And, hey, don’t forget I’m doing a Q&A thing with the four candidates myself. Yup. Even now the boys are contemplating deep questions like What was the first album you ever bought with your own money? and Do you do your own taxes?

Now that’s democracy, kids.

My profiles of the candidates will appear in next month’s Ryder magazine. If that doesn’t get you voting, hell, I have no idea what will.

Who Loves The Sun?

I do. Even today, when it’s a goddamned bone-chilling 11º at 10 in the morning.

This recent spate of frigidity has turned me off even from checking the NOAA site for the 10-day forecast. I figure Why depress myself?

That’s why, when I overhead someone say it was going to be 50 degrees come Tuesday, I started feeling that old hint of optimism. Winter, folks, just may end one day. You heard it here first.


Hot Air

The Richard Thompson Hangover

So, if any of you out there has a trace of vim and vigor left after last night’s Richard Thompson show at the Buskirk Chumley Theater you just might be able to, y’know, do another thing or two in Bloomington over the next couple of weeks or so. It’s a long shot, but it may be possible.

To wit:

1) You may rouse yourself from your post-bliss stupor and take in An Evening with the Creator of Gasland: Josh Fox. He ain’t no R. Thompson but he’s creative, serious, an intellectual, and an activist for all the right causes. His documentary, Gasland, was nominated for an Academy Award® in 2011. It deals with the effects of natural gas drilling and fracking in this holy land. Fox’s film will be shown at 6pm Saturday, October 25th, at the Unitarian Universalist Church. At 8pm Fox himself will discuss all the issues involved with the audience. The cost? Free.


Josh Fox Is Sorta Sexy, Too

2) If you can bear to reenter the Buskirk Chumley Theater so soon after last evening’s rapture, you can catch a mixed-media presentation by Bloomington’s own Tim Bagwell entitled Stop War! An Anti-war Observance of Veterans’ Day. It’s another free dealio that begins at 8pm, Monday, November 10th. Bagwell served as a Marine in the Vietnam War and is now a poet. He has rented out the Buskirk on his own dime to put on this presentation.

Of course, it’s understood that our town’s population of women of a certain age need some time to recuperate from their collective experience last night. That Richard Thompson fellow — I dunno what it is, but he’s got it. I’d pay a few tens of thousands of dollars for a small vial of the stuff.

Marti Crouch On Interchange

Whatever you do, don’t miss tonight’s installment of Doug Storm’s Interchange on WFHB radio. His guest will be former Indiana University instructor and researcher Marti Crouch. They’ll talk about GMOs, natch, among other biotechnology hot topics.


Nobody Ever Learns Nuthin’

Hot shot bassist Gordon Patriarca of Chicago shares a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt. The line is shocking in that it perfectly describes what this holy land has become even though the President said his piece some three quarters of a century ago!

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.


Eleanor & Franklin

They had begun to consider the United States as a a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.

“We know now….” Do we?


Hot Air

Hard Work Doesn’t Pay

Running a racist society takes a lot of work. Hard work. You’ve got to hand it to the folks who’ve marginalized and demonized people who are brown, black, or even slightly tanned after the company picnic last weekend.

Hell, not only do they have to crush the hopes and dreams of an entire segment of the population, they have to keep them docile while they do it. Then times change and next thing they know they have to pretend they’d never intended to keep those people down. In fact, they must holler to high heaven that no one is so near and dear to them as (pick one) the red man, the black man, the brown man, the yellow man, or — if they’re trying to appear particularly open-minded — the woman of any dusky hue.

In any good, progressive society wherein the appearance (if not the reality) of racism is frowned upon, leaders must work overtime to assuage their consciences and convince the general pop. that — horrors! — de facto disenfranchisement is the last thing they’d want. Even if it is an article of faith among many leaders that a lot of dark people don’t particularly care to work.

Sometimes all that hard work can lead to unforeseen problems.

Take, for instance, that ugly child molestation ring authorities in the United Kingdom announced they’d cracked yesterday.

Allegedly, a group of men conspired to abduct, rape, beat, and traffic upwards of 1400 kids, some as young as 11, acc’d’g to an inquiry commissioned by the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. The men had been engaged in this pastime at least since 1997.

Prof. Alexis Jay, author of the inquiry’s report, wrote, “It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered.”

Alexis Jay

Prof. Jay Searches For The Words

Now you may ask how this gang got away with it for so long. After all, 1400 youngster gone missing might tend to raise an eyebrow or two even if the mass snatching took place over more than a decade and a half. The Rotherham report actually acknowledges that upper-level police officials and many elected officials had heard about the scheme but declined to take action for a variety of reasons including disbelief, institutional inertia, and indifference. (The report did not mention anything about officials partaking of the services of the ring so neither will I.)

One significant reason why authorities looked the other way as the men threatened kids with guns, forced them to watch rapes to intimidate them, and snatched their innocence from them was the fear of being labeled “racist.”


Yep. The men in the ring were described in the report as “Asian.” NPR reported yesterday they are Pakistanis. Here’s how the report explains things:

Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought as racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.

See, maintaining a veneer of kumbaya trumps a little child rape, you know. Families torn asunder, lives ruined, the standards of civilized society pissed upon with glee — none of these things were as pressing as the need to appear not racist.

No doubt the functionaries who turned a blind eye to this mess will be criticized, fired, perhaps even prosecuted. It’s a damned shame. Doesn’t anybody want to reward hard work anymore?

Please Police Me

It’s high time we realize we’ve got a bit of an unrecognized treasure here in Bloomington.

Doug Storm hosts a fab talk show called Interchange on WFHB radio. On it, he delves deeper into issues than any other ten gabfests put together. Take last night, for instance.

Storm corralled Monroe County Sheriff Jim Kennedy as well as University of Wisconsin-Whitewater sociology prof Greg Jeffers. The three (Storm incl.) hashed out what we want from the police , especially in light of the ongoing and decades-long militarization of local police forces. The Q., as Storm posed it, is Do we want officers of the law or of the peace?


Sheriff Kennedy

It’s not the first time Storm has tackled the eggshell issue of policing America. He has links to previous shows on his program webpage.

Go here to hear the program. And try to catch it live whenever you can.

Me, Yelling At Clouds

I’m going to pose a question here, one that I’ve been asking for a good decade or more. And still I haven’t gotten a satisfactory answer.

Who is everyone talking to on their cell phones?

This puzzlement first came to me when I’d be driving early in the morning back in Chi. around 2003 and 2004. I’d see scads of people yakking on their phones even though the sun had barely risen. I’d be behind a driver for a couple of miles on Pulaski Avenue, say, and all the while she’d be pressing her phone to her ear. Believe me, driving a couple of miles on Pulaski during morning rush hour can take anywhere from a day and a half to three weeks. Yet all that time, the driver ahead of me would be conversing.

With whom? About what?

And Why?

From "The Simpsons"

I loathe humanity in the morning. If I had my finger on the nuclear button a 7:45am, the Earth would be a burned-out cinder. Hell, if my mother’d called me that early in the morning to tell me she loved me and that I was the jewel among all her children, I’d have hung up on her.

Morning is for misanthropy and coffee, in that order.

Yet there people were, chit-chatting away.

And, then as now, they’d do it all day long.

Even after my coffee, my tolerance for my fellow humans only rises slightly.

There was a time when I imagined a lot of people with phones pressed to their ears while in their cars, walking down the street, waiting in line at the grocery, or while ordering lunch might be engaging in something wholesome and constructive — phone sex, perhaps. Husbands, wives, lovers of any sort, even those who hadn’t yet crossed the nudity threshold in their nascent affairs, all of them titillating each other via Verizon — that I could understand.

I’ve spent many an hour (back when I was a randy oats-sower) asking the person on the other end of the line what color nail polish she was wearing. The mind, mind you, is the most powerful sex organ any of us possesses.

Phone sex is so 1999, though. (Too bad, I might add.) The looks on people’s faces as they gab indicates nothing so scintillating as aural eroticism is going on.

Unless you’re talking a fellow neurosurgeon through a Novalis® Shaped Beam Surgery procedure on the brain of the President of the United States or you’re inducing tumescence of one sort or another in that special someone, what is so important that you must be on the phone all day long?

Beam Surgery

So, What Do I Do Next?

You should thank me for not asking about all those people texting.


Hot Air

Hive Mentality

Gawker yesterday ran a piece chiding this holy land’s worker-drones to — get this! — take their vacations.

Gawker 20140820

Egad, good heavens to Betsy, and my stars! Honestly? People have to be told to take their vacations?

The vast majority of my adult life has been given over to the avoidance of working in a corporate cubicle environment. No doubt I’d have made piles more dough had I invested in a few button-down shirts and highly shined shoes but I probably would have pulled a Robin Williams by the time I was 40. So, in exchange for a measure of financial security I gained at least a couple of decades more life. I win.

I’ve been a freelancer for some 31 years now. That means a lot of toil at home and in libraries and coffeehouses. That and a lot of pretending I’m not home when I hear a knock at the door and the rent is two weeks late. But, thank every imaginary god in the holy heavens, I’ve pretty much avoided staff meetings, team building exercises, write-ups (you know I’d get them by the fistful, don’t you?), ambitious rivals, cut-throat competition, and two-faced colleagues.

I’d take a six-year stint in debtors prison over that any day of the week.

One winter — IIRC, it was in 2001 — I was sort of blind-dated with a big time public relations firm in what was then called the IBM Building at Wabash Avenue and the river in Chicago by a mutual friend of the proprietor’s and me. Mind you, this wasn’t some River North hipster outfit that handled, say, the Pink tour or the Donnie Darko local flack campaigns. This was an operation fitting its home in the iconic, frigid, Mies Van der Rohe hyper-geometric prism of an office block. I even forget the name of the firm. In fact, I remember nothing about it save that the boss handed me a lengthy list of appearance commandments, I was told that I spoke too loudly, and my new shoes hurt.

IBM Building

Straight & Narrow

I lasted less than a week at that job. I’d sit in the building lobby before work and during my lunch hours, watching workers trundle by. None of them, it seemed, cared what they looked like other than to conform to their own companies’ appearance codes. They were pasty and doughy and their faces betrayed no emotions. They’d long ago stopped even hating their jobs mainly because, I’d guess, hating their jobs might one day cause them to quit. And god forbid they couldn’t buy that new Dodge Caravan they’d been looking at the last few months. It’d been the only thing they’d lusted after since college.

I concluded that week that people who “thrived” in that environment had an ability I lacked — to deny their very humanness. They were the sexless, soulless office hordes* and they scared the bejesus out of me.

Really, I don’t know why they should have scared me. I suppose I was worried I’d be seduced by their “security,” and their benefits — things as far from my possession at that time as, say, the Terra Cotta Warriors might be. But even then I knew know matter how much I might want “security” and the option to get a broken arm set without putting myself in years-long debt would not be motivation enough to join the ranks of the *SSOH.

I’d never be pasty and doughy enough.

These are the folks, we all know now, who eat their lunches at their desks and are too skittish about their places in their respective companies to take the vacations they’re owed. They come in early and leave late. They make no waves. They ask no questions. And when the boss says we’ve all got to pull together and work harder, they know it means they’ll be working Saturdays for the foreseeable future.

They’ve basically pissed away most of the advancements labor unions sacrificed for in the century before them.

And they’re the folks the Gawker writer was addressing yesterday, the ones he called idiots. He writes:

Even though Americans say they enjoy their vacations, they also say that they worry about whether their job will get done correctly in their absence, and they worry about being seen as lazy or easily replaceable at work, and they worry that their boss is sending subtle signals that it would be better not to take time off.

The writer tells us some 41 percent of Americans don’t take all their vacation days. Let me repeat: nearly half the citizens of this great nation don’t take all the time off work they have coming to them. Calling them idiots is being charitable toward them to a saintly degree.

He lectures:

That job don’t love you. That job is not your friend. That job is not looking out for you. That job is a machine in which you are a cog. That job has no human feelings. That job is interested only in sucking you for every last ounce of labor that you are physically capable of producing before you pass out.

But I think the *SSOH know that already. They’d quit in a heartbeat if that Dodge Caravan wasn’t so sexy.

Dodge Caravan

I Want You, Baby

Take The Ferguson Interchange

It figures Doug Storm would devote an entire hour of his Interchange program on WFHB to the goings-on in Ferguson, Missouri.

Storm hosts Jeannine Bell, a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, and Valerie Grim, professor and chair of IU’s African-American and African Diaspora Studies department. They’re a couple of heavyweights in the fields of law and the black experience in America. The beauty of Storm’s program is it doesn’t pander to any phony-baloney notion of “balance” — say, by inviting some white rep of the system that allows caucasian cops to gun down unarmed young black men while treating armed white loons with kid gloves.


IU’s Bell & Grim

Check the podcast of Storm’s show. It’s an eye-opener, as always.


Allow me to be a nudge here for a minute.

Make sure to click on the link highlighting the words kid gloves in the above entry. Well, here: I’ll give you the link again.

It’s a list of “10 Armed White Men Who Did Not Die by the Police.”

In case you haven’t been paying attention to things these last 150 years or so, America’s cops have gently, patiently, and peaceably apprehended men and women who’ve brandished and fired off bombs, rockets, pistols, long guns and any other deadly weapon you can imagine time after time.

All the above are or were white.

Among them are people who’ve shot at citizens, police, buildings, and into the blue sky. Among them are people who actually shot people, citizens and cops alike. Among them are people who’ve stood up to the federal government and dared the authorities to apprehend them for crimes they’ve committed. Among them are people who have brought automatic weapons into crowded public places just because they could, regardless of the fear and panic they’ve caused.

The list’s author tells of a man who committed a home invasion, robbed the place, and shot the house up as he fled, shot at numerous innocent people he passed as he ran, was cornered by the cops and told to drop his weapon after taking aim at them, but replied, “No, you drop your fuckin’ gun!” The police eventually disarmed and arrested him.

The author writes:

Had he been black: Six feet under by the time he said, “No, yo-.” Burial and all.

And, of course, we know that when a black young man without a gun dares to wrestle with a cop, he can expect to get shot full of more holes than an uncut wheel of Swiss cheese.

Brown Autopsy

Coroner’s Sketch Of Michael Brown’s Wounds

A number of white people in the last few days have expressed support for the Ferguson police officer who did not gently, patiently, and peaceably apprehend Michael Brown. They say he is a hero.

They hope, apparently, he can return to his job so that he might, if called upon, capture a dangerous, armed white man who has fired at innocent people and threatened police. With god’s help, the officer might capture that man alive.

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!


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).


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.



(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

Modern Problem

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

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


Anywhere, USA

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

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

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

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

Do You Read Me?

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

But people still love them.

I love them.

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

Online Reading

Even Old Birds Do It

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

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

MG News Bookmarks

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

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

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

Funny Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYT Bestsellers 20140122

Holy JK Rowling, right?

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

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

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

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

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

Real Marriage? Real bullshit is more like it.

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