Category Archives: Douglas Coupland

The Pencil Today:


“Never loan a book to someone if you expect to get it back. Loaning books is the same as giving them away.” — Douglas Coupland


This Petraeus scandal is another one of those affairs wherein everybody involved is a flat out jerk.

Honestly, who would want to be involved with any of these chowderheads?

Consider this laundry list of reprobates and their peccadillos:

  • An aging general who leaves his plain, matronly wife parked at home while he bonks a hot babe

Petraeus & Broadwell: Puffing Their Chests Out With Pride

  • A “reporter” who gives her subject both literary and literal blowjobs and who threatens her perceived romantic rival via email
  • Social climbers who throw Champagne-and-caviar bashes for Army brass but also run up huge debts, who weasel their way into a 28-motorcycle police escort just to make a splashy arrival at a Hallowe’en party, who brag about a phoney-baloney diplomatic title, who use that phoney-baloney diplomatic title to attempt to squeeze millions of dollars out of a Korean businessperson, who purchased a ritzy mansion but haven’t made payments on it for years. who set up a questionable charity and then used proceeds to purchase lavish dinners
  • High military officials writing letters of reference in the custody battle of a parent who has been determined by a judge to be lacking in honesty and integrity and who tried to trump up a physical abuse charge against her ex-husband by inducing her 3-year-old son to lie to authorities
  • An FBI agent who sends beefcake pix of himself to a woman the agency will eventually investigate


It reminds me of the OJ Simpson murder trial. Every single person connected with that case was a dope or a social climber or a sociopath or the sire of the Kardashian beings. I couldn’t stand any of those people.

Well, except one. Kato.

Can I Testify?

Kato Kaelin was the only un-detestable soul in the bunch. I mean, he never pretended to be anything more than what he was — a dingbat, celebrity-junkie, coat-holder who had the bad luck to be at home when he heard a thump on his bedroom wall.

I wonder if there’ll be a Kato in the Petraeus case.


Okay, Indiana, you voted for Mitt Romney and elected a Republican governor. And the statehouse is still firmly in the control of the GOP.

What more do you want?

Oh, this: Republican state senator Dennis Cruse will introduce legislation that, in the words of the National Center for Science Education, will be a “permission slip for teachers to bring creationism, climate-change denial, and other non-science into science classrooms.”

A Proud Member Of The Indiana Legislature?

What next, the crucible?


A middle-aged couple walked into the Book Corner yesterday, appearing as if they’d been transported suddenly to another planet.

I tried to make eye contact but they both averted their gazes. They didn’t seem to be potential shoplifters but one can never tell so I kept an eye on them.

Plenty of folks who’d never been in a bookstore in their lives wander into the Book Corner. We’re across the street from the Monroe County Courthouse, where folks who live in such far-flung locales as Bean Blossom township come to pay their property taxes.

They consider a voyage into downtown Bloomington to be akin to visiting Rome. They step into the bookstore tentatively as if concerned that some questionable books sold therein might contaminate them. Within moments they relax, after being assured they won’t be assaulted by members of the Red Brigade.

They Hang Out In Bookstores, Don’t They?

Anyway, this particular couple did the tentative two-step as well. By and by, they felt emboldened to separate, he to thumb through outdoor sportsmen’s magazines and she to search for something.

Eventually, she approached me, presumably after convincing herself I wouldn’t snatch her and do a Patty Hearst job on her. She asked for a Becca Fitzpatrick book in the Hush, Hush Saga teen romance series. I figured she was hoping to buy it for a 12-year-old daughter. I was wrong.

A Hush, Hush Saga Book

“I love these books,” she said. “There’s a whole bunch of ’em. It’s like a series or somethin’,”

“Well, that’s good,” I said, trying my damnedest not to let myself think snarky thoughts.

You make snap judgements about people when you work in a bookstore. Some buy books with titles like “Applied Concepts in Differential Equations.” You immediately come to a conclusion about the entirety of their lives. Same with those who buy Stephen Colbert books or that new biography of Peter Criss, the drummer from Kiss.

Reading Material?

So, noble soul that I am, I labored not to conclude that the woman was a dummy. Lucky for me I did.

“I’m just learnin’ how to read,” she volunteered.

I was speechless.

“Can you believe it? I’m 44 years old and I never learned how to read.” She said this almost matter-of-factly.

“Well, that’s fantastic,” I said.

“Uh huh. My husband’s teachin’ me how to read. He said we’re gonna do this no matter how hard it is. He said, ‘You better learn how to read. It’s time.'” There wasn’t a hint of embarrassment in her tone — if anything, only pride.

She explained that she’d be back in about a month, after she and her husband got their next check. Then she could buy some of those teen romances.

Sometimes when people want to buy junk books like “How to Read the Tarot,” I console myself about the transaction by thinking, Well, at least they’re reading. Plus, they’re buying from us so we’ll stay in business that much longer.

This woman wasn’t the first 40-something to buy a teen romance for herself. And normally I need to console myself when taking an adult’s money for this kind of kid lit. But the next time the woman comes in, I’ll be proud to sell her a couple of Becca Fitzpatrick novels.

Meeting her was the best thing that happened to me all day yesterday.

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallDoctoral Recital: Elena Paradies on organ; 5pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallDoctoral Recital: Yoon Won Shin on piano; 5pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Sweeney HallPerformer Diploma Recital: Michael Miragliotta on trombone; 5pm

MUSIC ◗ Bear’s PlaceThe Matt MacDougall Quartet; 5:30pm

LECTURE ◗ IU Memorial Union, Whittenberger Auditorium — “What Are Friends For?: The Adaptive Power of Social Bonds, Presented by primatologist Joan Silk of Arizona State University; 5:30pm

FILM ◗ Monroe County Public Library –“The Line“; 6pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s PubBuilt for Comfort; 6:30pm

STAGE ◗ IU AuditoriumMusical: “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas“; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallEarly Music Institute Chamber Music Concert; 7pm

PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO ◗ IU Latino Cultural Center — “Akadoi Epera: The Embera’s Hope,” By Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleKara Barnard & Chuck Wills; 7-9pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts Center, Recital HallSenior Recital: Abigail Kunkel, mezzo-soprano; 7pm

FILM ◗ Boxcar Books — “No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger“; 7pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “The Motorcycle Diaries“; 7pm

LECTURE ◗ Monroe County History Center — “Saving Indiana’s Old Barns,” Presented by Justin Smith; 7pm

SPORTS ◗ IU Assembly HallHoosier men’s basketball vs. Sam Houston State; 7pm

STAGE ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Center, in the Rose FirebayDrama, “The Rimers of Eldritch“; 7:30pm

STAGE Ivy Tech Waldron Center, AuditoriumComedy: “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps“; 7:30pm

COMEDY ◗ The Comedy AtticJames Adomian; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts Center All-Campus Band, Brett Richardson, Trae Blanco, and Christopher Dortwegt, conductors; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallLatin American Popular Music Ensemble: “¡Anda Jaleo!“; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The BluebirdDavid Nail; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallMaster’s Recital: Jeong Hoon Lee on flute; 8:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlaceAndrew Simmerman Trio; 9pm

MUSIC ◗ Rachael’s CafeRadar Eyes, The Constants, Jerome & the Psychics; 9pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopMount Carmel, Charlie Patton’s War; 9:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlacePretty Boy Freud; 9:40pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s Place Ampersand; 10:30pm


ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Threads of Love: Baby Carriers from China’s Minority Nationalities“; through December 23rd
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st
  • Embracing Nature,” by Barry Gealt; through December 23rd
  • Pioneers & Exiles: German Expressionism,” through December 23rd

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits through December 1st:

  • “Essentially Human,” By William Fillmore
  • “Two Sides to Every Story,” By Barry Barnes
  • “Horizons in Pencil and Wax,” By Carol Myers

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits through November 16th:

  • Buzz Spector: Off the Shelf
  • Small Is Big

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits through December 20th:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners
  • Gender Expressions

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibits:

  • The War of 1812 in the Collections of the Lilly Library“; through December 15th
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections from the Slocum Puzzle Collection

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibits:

  • Doctors & Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical Professions
  • What Is Your Quilting Story?
  • Garden Glamour: Floral Fashion Frenzy
  • Bloomington Then & Now
  • World War II Uniforms
  • Limestone Industry in Monroe County

The Ryder & The Electron Pencil. All Bloomington. All the time.

The Pencil Today:


“You can’t get mad at weather because weather’s not about you. Apply that lesson to most other aspects of life.” — Douglas Coupland


So, is it I? Or is it The Loved One?

Perhaps it’s the combination of us.

Whatever the reason, ever since we left Chicago in March, 2007, nature wherever we’ve lived has gone insane.

We spent a couple of years in Louisville, Kentucky. The spring we arrived there, one of the first things we heard was how unbearably humid the place would be when summer hit with full force. So what happened? One of the driest summer’s in Louisville’s history.

The Louisville Of My Memory

Two of the three summers we lived in the River City were drought summers. Let’s see, what else happened there?

Well, there was an historic ice storm in late winter, 2009. It caused the biggest power outage the city had ever experienced. Many roads and city streets were impassable for weeks due to downed power lines and toppled trees.

Oh, and there was an earthquake in April, 2008. One morning the sound of what I at first thought were a couple of dozen grown men running over my back deck shook me out of a deep beauty sleep. Next thing I knew, doors and windows were rattling. Bottles and knickknacks on shelves danced precariously. It felt as though the very ground underneath us had become a vibrating bed in a cheap hotel room. The Loved One suddenly yelled, “It’s an earthquake!”

And she was right. The Wabash Valley Fault spasmed about 120 miles east of St. Louis, causing a 5.2 tremor on the Richter scale. It was followed by a couple of other strong vibrations later that day. The quake was felt in 16 states.

Then we were hit with a hurricane. Truth. Okay, it was the remnants of Hurricane Ike, which had traveled up the Mississippi Valley and then skittered along the Ohio Valley until it hit Louisville early on a Sunday afternoon, September 14th. Weather forecasters advised us the big blow would hit at about one o’clock and would be finished with us two hours later. They were spot on.

Ike was rated a Category 1 Hurricane when it hit us. It had sustained winds of 75 miles per hour with gusts over 80 mph. For the first half hour, I stood in the backyard with my neighbor and we simply watched in silence as fifty-foot tall old trees bent nearly horizontal in the wind. When it became too difficult for us to remain standing, we dashed inside our respective homes. Then limbs and trees began crashing down all around us.

One half of a stately old tree tumbled down on my back deck, just missing cleaving our roof. It took me a week and a half to cut the thing up with hand saws and a Milwaukee Sawzall. One good thing: the huge pile of firewood that half tree became was a nice selling point for the house when we were preparing to move to Bloomington.

Again, Louisville was left reeling. The cell phone system was jammed and for much of the rest of that Sunday, calls couldn’t get through. Eighty percent of the state was without power with some areas waiting weeks before electricity was restored. Gov. Steve Beshear called out the National Guard. On Monday morning, we awoke to find gas prices had jumped 55¢ a gallon. The Red Cross and other emergency agencies set up food banks for people whose refrigerators weren’t working anymore.

The storm was the most damaging in Louisville’s history, even surpassing the notorious tornado that ravaged the city in 1974.

So, we came to Bloomington hoping all the drama would be behind us.

Unh uh.

We were hit with another drought our first summer here, in 2010. It became so dry that fires in fields and around old railroad trestles spontaneously ignited (some of the fires were set; still, conditions were perfect for flames to spread.) And last summer was unusually dry, so much so that our grass went dormant by mid-July and our burning bushes turned flaming red about the same time. We lost a cherry tree as well as a few baby pines.

Tulip Trestle In Greene County

And now, the summer of 2012. Just Thursday, the radio announcer said we would be in for the hottest day “in decades” in this area.

My grass already has gone dormant.

Several of my burning bushes have gone red.

Both our apple and pear trees are looking awfully scrawny.

I shudder to think of our electric bill.

Try to have some fun this summer. And I apologize for all the trouble we’ve caused.

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

◗IU Theater AnnexChildren’s musical,  “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs,” presented by Indiana Festival Theater; 11am

Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Grant Eversoll; 6-8:30pm

Cafe DjangoThe Short List, variety acts hosted by Marta Jasicki; 7pm

The BishopDJ Tyler Damon; 8pm

◗ IU Auer Hall, Simon Music Library — Summer Arts festival, Piano, Read Gainsford; 8pm

Read Gainsford

The Player’s PubSongwriter showcase; 8pm

◗ IU HPER, rm. 107 — Ballroom dance lessons; 8:30pm

The BishopMidtown Dickens; 9pm

The BluebirdDave Walters karaoke; 9pm


◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibit, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%” by John D. Shearer; through July 30th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibit, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts by Qiao Xiaoguang; through August 12th — Exhibit, wildlife artist William Zimmerman; through September 9th — Exhibit, David Hockney, new acquisitions; through October 21st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryKinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st, 11am

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

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