Category Archives: HBO

Frigid Air

Random Thoughts

So, where’s  all that snow we were s’pposed to get?

Hey, not that I’m complaining. Loyal readers know all about my feelings for winter.

Anyway, the Book Corner is closed today, so stay home and read whatchyu got.

The electricity at Chez Big Mike and the world headquarters of this communications colossus went out for only a second or two last night. Nevertheless, The Loved One and I loaded up our pockets with flashlights and transistor radios and started thinking about calling around for hotels that accept pets.

Which reminds me, our palatial estate is now the new home of Sally the Dog.



I’d been seeing her loitering around the back yard for a few days a couple of weeks ago and then, one day when The Loved One was out with Steve the Dog, she came up to them. Natch, T-Lo couldn’t resist her so she leashed her. T-Lo lugged her over to the Bloomington Animal Shelter where the dog was checked for disease and to make sure she wasn’t affiliated with al Qaeda. We were then designated as her “Angels” so that, after a week or so if nobody claimed her, we’d get first dibs. And we did.

When we got her home, she and Steve the Dog had to do a little negotiating over who’s who and what’s what, but no blood was drawn. She seems mostly thankful that she doesn’t have to sleep outside in the deep freeze.

The cats, Terra & Kofi, did their obligatory sniffing around and deemed her innocuous so they have given her the official feline imprimatur: They ignore her.

Only problem is she’s not versed in the manners and mores of ridding her bony little body of waste. And, being a pup, she is still pretty much a poo machine. So there’s the matter of picking up unexploded bombs twice a day and telling her in no uncertain terms that this just won’t do. She just looks at us with sad eyes. It’s going to take a while before she catches on, I’m afraid.

The Loved One couldn’t be happier.

Woman Power

Speaking of T-Lo, we just finished watching the John Adams biopic mini-series on Netflix. You may recall, it was an HBO production that came out in 2008 and starred Paul Giamatti as J.A. and Laura Linney as Abigail A.

Scene from "John Adams"

Paul Giamatti as John Adams

It was good stuff, as long as you keep in mind that H-wood isn’t terribly interested in historical accuracy. Then again, most reviewers hold that the series held reasonably true to David McCullough’s eponymous biography, upon which the series was based.

Giamatti (the son of former baseball commissioner and president of Yale University, A. Bartlett Giamatti) is one of our finest actors and brought J.A. across as a courageous, thoughtful, progressive revolutionary, albeit one with thin skin and an occasionally self-defeating ego. Linney (who’s a dead ringer for the Laughing Planet manager, Michelle) is also a top-flight thesp.

Scene from "John Adams"

Laura Linney as Abigail Adams

The key subplot of the thing was how Abigail advised, pushed, scolded, cheered and, at times, plotted the course of her husband’s career (and, by extension, the future of the as yet unborn nation).

[Spoiler alert] The last scene of the 7-part series portrays J.A. & A.A. returning to their long-neglected homestead after the revolution victory to find it has been trashed and squatted in. J.A. has just been elected the second prez of the US, after hearing George Washington grumble that the job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Adams is wracked by tooth pain and seems beaten down by the events of the last couple of decades. He slumps in a chair in his old home and seems doomed never to have to get up out of it again.

Abigail, who is forever on the move, chides him. “Rise up, John. Rise up.” And he does. Fade to black.

At which point I commented: “So, she was the driver. She was the power behind the man.”

And you know what? T-Lo gave me a lecture.

She said: That’s what a man would say. She only had as much power as men would allow her. It’s always been like that. How powerful could she have been if she had real freedom? Things are still pretty much like that today. And, As long as women can only have as much power as men will give them, they aren’t powerful at all.

And you know what, again? T-Lo is right.

Invisible Men & Women

Ramiro Gomez has spent the last few years living among the fabulous, the beautiful, and the wealthy of Hollywood Hills. He makes his daily bread as a live-in nanny there.

Seeing the upper crust every day in its natural habitat, he realized that their privileged life is utterly dependent upon a population of intentionally unseen, ignored human beings, mostly Mexican immigrants, who make things go.

An artist, Gomez decided to add images of these invisibles to found photos of luxury. The ghostly maids, pool cleaners, and valet parkers in Gomez’s works remind us that although we are indeed a more equitable society than ever before, we’ve still got a hell of a long way to go.

Work by Ramiro Gomez

Work By Ramiro Gomez

Check out Gomez’s stuff here and here.

[h/t to Jerry Boyle.]

The Pencil Today:


“Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.” — Frank Zappa


Gotta say it: I miss Rick Santorum.

The political debate has pretty much petered out now that the wackiest altar boy in the nation has quit the presidential race.

We Miss You, Man

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are involved in a staring contest over who loves women more. Romney said recently, “93 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women who lost those jobs.” Obama, in turn, has dispatched his wife, not to correct Romney’s awkward sentence construction, but to say her man is the greatest thing to happen to women since the invention of chocolate.

Michelle Obama actually said this about the her husband’s deeds for women: “We have an amazing story to tell. This president has brought us out of the dark and into the light.”


Suffragette Introducing Featured Speaker Barack Obama

And in some weird, Twilight Zone-ish turn of events, Ann Romney, a woman who has struggled valiantly to assemble a staff of nannies and maids, has become an icon for all the hard-toiling homemakers of this holy land.

Oy, oy.

I don’t suppose this debate-for-the-ages will rank with the Lincoln-Douglas wrestling matches of 1858.

Sigh. Oh, for the madness of Rick Santorum.


And, yes, I’m a political geek.

See, I’m pumped about the release in two weeks of the fourth volume in Robert Caro‘s brilliant series of books on the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson. It deals with the 1960 presidential election, Johnson’s ascendency to the presidency following the Kennedy assassination, and his electoral coronation in 1964.

Johnson Drives His Beloved Amphi-car

LBJ was one fascinating man. He stole elections, bullied opponents, battled for civil rights legislation, loathed John F. Kennedy and then served under him as vice president, allowed the nation to slip into a senseless war in Vietnam and found himself mourning that course of events. He issued orders to members of his staff while perched upon the porcelain princess with the door wide open.

Caro won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Power Broker,” his look into the life of New York City strongman Robert Moses. (BTW, Oliver Stone is working on an HBO biopic based on Caro’s book.) He copped another Pulitzer for the third volume in the Years of Lyndon Johnson series, “Master of the Senate.” For my dough, Caro has to win a third Pulitzer for “The Passage of Power” if it’s even half as good as the previous three tomes on the man.

Robert Caro

Pick up any of the aforementioned Caro books; you’ll understand a lot more about how America works if you do.


Dig this observation by social ecologist Peter Drucker:

“Like the forces of war, depression shows man as a senseless cog in a senselessly whirling machine which is beyond human understanding and has ceased to serve any purpose but its own.”

Peter Drucker

The quote, written in 1939, has been interpreted as a description of the madness that was the Great Depression. It sounds to me more like an indictment of unfettered capitalism itself.


“Don’t give me that do-goody, good bullshit.”

The Pencil Today:


“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” — Malcolm X


What a coincidence!

Only two days after Forbes Magazine released its yearly list of the world’s billionaires, we at The Electron Pencil proudly present our inaugural annual roster of broke Americans.

Forbes Got Nuthin’ On Us

(We are working with our crack legal team to determine if we have a case against Forbes. It is our assertion that Forbes intentionally scheduled its release to upstage our eagerly awaited list of the Penniless. Stayed tuned for more developments.)

Several of the Forbes select few have expressed displeasure at having information about their personal finances splashed all over magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV. Our lucky few are circumspect as well. In fact, each of them has pleaded with us not to reveal their identities or net worth.

Forbes Porn

But we are nothing if not tireless, intrepid journalists. Our commitment to unearth the truth no matter the consequences must trump their desire for privacy. As a compromise, we will not use the full names of our honorees.

Now then, here is The Annual Electron Pencil Penniless List:

  • Ronald H.: A talented jazz saxophonist, Mr. H. recently moved out of his cozy pied-à-terre on the west side of Bloomington. He is now “traveling.” In other words, he is homeless. Mr. H. was ousted from his position as Vice President of Facilities Maintenance for a local elementary school last spring. He was a casualty of school budget cuts. He carries the entirety of his possessions in his backpack which has a missing zipper. Sharp-eyed passersby can catch glimpses of Mr. H.’s holdings when his backpack flap flips open. He is considered among the most open and transparent of our 2012 honorees.
  • Miranda P.: She and her two children — Zach, 5, and Lily, 3 — also are “traveling.” Mrs. P. is currently in the process of dissolving her partnership with Joshua P., who last December attempted a hostile takeover of her finances. Mr. P. at the time was putting together a straight cash transaction for sub-legal pharmaceuticals. When Mrs. P. rejected his entreaties for her cash, he threatened and eventually carried out a night-time assault upon her face. Mrs. P.’s jaw was wired shut and the discoloration around her eyes lasted well into the new year. Middle Way House now serves as temporary headquarters for Mrs. P.’s break-away firm.
  • Jeremy M.: Mr. M.’s home was ranked number one in Car and Driver’s 1992 Best Selling Cars list. His curbfront domicile is known popularly among neighbors as as “that damned red Taurus.” He inherited it from his grandfather who passed away in 2006 while Mr. P. was finishing up his master’s degree in fine arts. Mr. P. is looking to diversify by applying for work at Rally’s Hamburgers, Kroger on 2nd Street, and the Subway at Walnut and 6th streets. Some observers say Mr. P.’s total wealth has been adversely affected by his ill-advised leveraging of student loans to acquire his degree. Mr. P. has responded that his degree has been valued in certain quarters at $1.7 million over his lifetime, as opposed to his total debt load of $53,000. Mr. P. was recently seen purchasing a rare pair of red Chuck Taylors at the Salvation Army Thrift Store on North Rogers Street.
  • Kevin W.: A pioneer in the field of bipolar disorder patientry, Mr. W. visits the four corners of Bloomington on his daily perambulations. He is known far and wide as an often accessible member of the local penniless community. He has made enemies, though, during the days before he receives his monthly dosage of lithium. Mr. W. impresses with his ability to identify the day of the week of any random date a questioner might suggest. Some analysts believe this indicates he also possesses a form of Asperger’s Syndrome which would help solidify his inclusion in future Penniless lists.
  • Jana C.: A long-time leader in the local physical pleasure industry, Ms. C. recently became affiliated with Narcotics Anonymous and has indicated she may be looking to move on to other fields. Her ambitions may be tempered by the pressing needs of members of the housing, utilities, and grocery industries for immediate remuneration for services and goods. When her liquidity sank to an all-time low in February, Ms. C. confided to close friends that she may never be entirely free to leave the sex industry.

We salute our Penniless achievers.


Speaking of the penniless, our go-to researcher R.E. Paris points out that Lester Chambers of the 1960’s power soul group, the Chambers Brothers, has fallen on the hardest of times.

Chambers posted an Occupy Wall Street-type letter on You Tube describing his unfortunate state this week. The post went viral.

Chambers says the recording contract he and his band mates signed in the mid-60’s screwed him out of royalties. He writes, “Only 1% of artists can sue. I am the 99%.”

The Electron Pencil ran a video of the Chambers Brothers’ hit, “Time Has Come Today,” earlier this year.


So, the spectacularly crazed Pat Robertson has come out in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

Wild, huh?

Maybe no so wild when you think about it. Perhaps the human race’s pipeline to the creator of the universe has concluded that too many of his hard-pressed contributors are turning to pot harvesting for him to continue being a prohibitionist.

Pat Knows: You Can’t Contribute If You’re In The Joint

Frankly, this development bums me out, man. I’ve been for the legalization of pot for decades. Sadly, now that Pat Robertson is as well, I’ll have to change my position.


Come to think of it, doesn’t he look sorta high in the photo on the link?


Roger Ebert digs the new HBO movie about Sarah Palin. Actually, “Game Change” is supposed to be about the failed 2008 run of John McCain for president but, honestly, McCain wasn’t the story at all.

I’m tempted to watch the movie but the casting of Julianne Moore as the winking dolt is problematic for me: I like Moore and I’d hate to have her associated with the New White Oprah from now on.

No, Julianne, No!

Too bad the producers couldn’t get Palin to play herself. Ebert describes her as “the greatest actress in American political history.”


Patti Smith, babies.

Across the country, through the fields,

You know I see it written ‘cross the sky.

People rising from the highway

And war, war is the battle cry

And it’s wild, wild, wild, wild.

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