Category Archives: IU Writers Conference 2012

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov

MIKE ELK SPEAKS

Studs Terkel, in his book “Talking To Myself: A Memoir of My Times” writes that the best reporter is the one who asks the impertinent question.

Studs Terkel

As you know, if you’ve been paying any attention at all, reporters today ask mostly gotcha questions, the kind they know the answer to already but are designed simply to embarrass the subject, or softball questions that even the editor of a high school newspaper should be embarrassed to ask.

Let’s go a step further. Linda Ellerbee once wrote that if she hadn’t made someone feel uncomfortable in her reporting for the day, she felt as though she hadn’t done her job.

Linda Ellerbee

Then, of course, early 20th Century newspaperman Finley Peter Dunne said the job of the the journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Mike Elk yesterday asked an impertinent question (actually, two), made a bunch of people feel uncomfortable, and afflicted a big shot.

Bingo! The man is a three-time winner.

Elk got up yesterday at a business/political masturbatory press event in Washington where the big boss of Honeywell International, David Cote, expected to be lavished with praise for…, um, well, for being the big boss of Honeywell.

See, Honeywell sachems were also scheduled to guide Barack Obama around by the elbow at the company’s headquarters in the appropriately named Golden Valley, Minnesota, so both the prez and the company could tell the world how wonderful they both are.

Only Mike Elk elected not to play the game. He took the audience microphone and referred to a Fortune Magazine handjob article about Honeywell and Cote, wherein the boss crowed what terrific corporate citizens he and his outfit are. Then Elk flung two impertinent questions at Cote: one about Honeywell’s union busting practices (the company’s Metropolis, Illinois, plant first locked out, then axed 1400 union workers) and the other about a possible radiation leak there. The idea being, those aren’t the acts of nice neighbors.

Well, the assembled reporters, PR flaks, pols, and execs gasped, we never!

Elk got the mic yanked out of his hand and he was given the thumb. When he protested that he was a reporter and showed his credentials, one woman’s off-screen voice can be heard saying, “That’s not a member of the press from the Hill; this is a member of the press.” Presumably, she’s pointing at some well-behaved media stenographer who’ll only ask Cote what wondrous things he and Honeywell have done lately.

Tell Me, Mr. Cote, What’s It Like To Be You?

In fact, after Elk was given the bum’s rush, another person got up and said, “One of the things I’m concerned about is, the, um, y’know, the unemployment rate for African American young people is — I don’t know whether this is true, it says 38 percent? — and, um, my son was an all-best high school….” Here, the vid ends, cutting her off in mid-interrogation, which is too bad because it seemed to be the preamble for an all-time great softball question.

The speaker clearly was telling the assembled multitude how fabulous her kid is and then probably was going to ask what Honeywell proposed to do about putting such fine young lads to work in plush corner offices ASAP. Then Cote could tell her how terrific Honeywell is at hiring African-Americans and all other people who were born with brown skin. Then everybody could have glowed and grinned, the men could arrange a circle jerk and the woman could have a group hug.

We’re fabulous!

I thank the god I don’t believe in that I never was able to fit into a corporation environment like Honeywell’s.

BTW: I love how the woman wonders if it’s true that unemployment among African-American young people could possibly be 38 percent. It introduces just the right amount of faux-skepticism about a real problem that could just as easily have been described as “the historically persistent high levels of joblessness among young blacks.”

Man, the corporate world demands an unconscionable amount of toadiness — not only from its paid minions but from the public at large.

Be thankful Mike Elk is not a toady.

On the other hand, Elk never got answers to his questions and most of the mainstream news yesterday was about the Obama tour of the Honeywell plant. So score one for the corporatocracy versus the impertinent journalist.

LEO’S BLOOMINGTON (OR IS IT BLOOMINGTON’S LEO?)

Leo D. Cook ought to be granted the title of Mr. Bloomington here and now.

Wouldn’t he be perfect as the local radio or TV host who interviews all the fascinating characters who live in and pass through this bustling metrop?

The Definitive Leo D. Cook Photoshopped Photo

He could tell stories, draw the people out, and otherwise create a weekly hour’s worth of whacked-out chat. Can you imagine a show with the guests Steve Volan, Jeremy Gotwals, and, say, Lynda Barry, who’s in town for this coming week’s IU Writers Conference?

People In Our Listening Area Are Advised To Take Cover

That conversation might be declared a hazardous incident site by FEMA. Or it could be great radio.

Anyway, Leo’s long-range plan to attain celebrity takes another step forward this coming week with the commencement of “Bloomington’s Got Talent,” a weekly talent (duh) show at The Bluebird. The thing will run every Tuesday night through the summer. Leo will emcee.

Registration begins at 9:30pm with the first acts going onstage at 10.

TURN OFF YOUR TV — GO OUT

Lots to do this weekend. Luckily, you’ve got the Pencil’s GO! events listings. Click the logo. Follow instructions.

SUMMER SOFT

It’s June. The blazing days are coming. But it’s perfect out right now.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I’ve never really had a hobby, unless you count art, which the IRS once told me I had to declare as a hobby since I hadn’t made any money with it.” — Laurie Anderson

ARTISTS AND GALLERIES OPEN HOUSE

First things first — you have to go to the GO! page today. Click the logo now.

Bloomington is humming with events and activities on this first day of June. Leading the way is this weekend’s Summer Arts Blast. Tonight, galleries around downtown will throw their doors open for the Arts Walk. Painting, photography, poetry, film, music — you name it. Just go to GO! for all the info you’ll need.

Tomorrow and Sunday we’ll have the Open Studios Tour wherein artists around town let people into their homes and studios to see how their art is made.

Which reminds me of the annual Pilsen East Artists Open House that would take place in September in my old Chicago neighborhood. East Pilsen was a designated arts community, chock-full of artists, musicians, playwrights, authors, sculptors and others who were habitually late with their rents.

Pilsen East Artists Collective, The Lampreys

The arts walk happened over a weekend and usually began at noon and ran through 8:oo or so.

One of the artists loved telling this particular story.

Many of the people who would pass through the studios and homes of the artists were young professionals with brand new families who were more concerned with checking out the neighborhood to determine if they should buy in rather than with the art on display.

Now, this type of creature was roundly loathed by the artists for several reasons. One, they were really nothing more than transplanted suburban yuppies (bet you haven’t heard that word in a million years) who would only live in the city until their children were old enough to go to school, at which time they’d flee back to places like LaGrange or Highland Park.

Ooh, We Love The (White, Safe Part Of The) City!

Second, their presence in an arts neighborhood signaled, essentially, the end of said arts neighborhood. See, in Chicago, arts neighborhoods serve as transition states between neighborhoods filled with brown people and those filled with detestable white pseudo-hipsters.

By the time the neighborhood would be washed clean of its brownness, the artists would be priced out.

Anyway, one Saturday morning the artist in question was chatting with some art walkers who’d stopped in and were sincerely curious about his work. A husband and wife came in pushing a luxury stroller that had about as many extras as a Mercedes automobile and, for all the artist knew, probably cost as much as well.

Nothing’s Too Good For Our Little Man

Since the stroller was nearly as wide as a Mercedes to boot, the husband was dashing about in the artist’s home, moving things to make a path for the stroller’s precious princely contents. The artist watched this in amazement.

Suddenly, the young messiah in the stroller announced he was thirsty and only juice would do. So, like that, the daddy-o marched over to the artist’s refrigerator and, without asking, began rummaging around for the juice his heir demanded.

Now, the refrigerator contained only the usual artists’ provisions: a half carton of out-of-date eggs, an almost-empty salsa jar, and store-brand mayonnaise. So the artist didn’t make a move to stop the man from rifling through his private space. He wanted, instead, to watch him.

Maybe Some Vintage Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Too

Eventually, the daddy-o concluded that his golden boy, who by this time was shouting for his juice,  would go ungratified, at least in this particular spot.

So the father closed the refrigerator door and turned to the artist. “Don’t you have any juice here?’ he demanded.

“No,” came the reply

“No?” Pops asked, incredulous.

“No.”

The couple and their squalling kid left the premises forthwith.

The artist and his other guests merely laughed.

So, here’s a tip. Stay out of the artists’ refrigerators this weekend.

Otherwise, enjoy the open houses.

THE CREAM OF THE VINTAGE FASHION SHOPS

While you’re traipsing around downtown digging the art, make sure to stop in at Brynda Forgas’s Hidden Closet in its new location directly behind the Book Corner.

The Hidden Closet

Brynda’s throwing a big opening party for the place staring at 5:00pm. The entrance is on the Kirkwood side. Trust me, it’ll be worth your while; she’ll will be serving cream puffs.

WELL, IF YOU REALLY MUST BE A WRITER….

As if there isn’t enough to do this weekend, get ready for the IU Writers Conference starting Sunday.

Featured scribblers include Lynda Barry (arguably one of the coolest people ever to draw a breath), Dan Chaon, Jean Thompson, Erin Belieu, Lou Berney, Jenny Browne, and James Canary (apparently, he has no website).

Lynda Barry’s Self-Portrait

The shebang runs through Friday, the 8th. One highlight will be a featured reading Monday night by Dr. Susan Gubar, whose book “Memoir of  Bebulked Woman” recounts her struggle with blade-happy surgeons who carved her up in an effort to rid her body of ovarian cancer.

Each day from Monday through Friday is packed with classes for writers and those aspiring to the maddening vocation.

As of this AM, all classes and workshops were still open for registration so get on it, baby.

Here’s a tip from a writer who’s been clacking the keyboards professionally since 1983: unless you’ve got an insatiable jones akin to heroin addiction to put your thoughts, imaginings, and/or fever dreams on paper (or LCD screen) get out while the getting’s good.

Writers, by and large, are whacked-out, half-drunk, personally unendurable, and usually broke. And those are the successful ones.

If, on the other hand, you can’t stop yourself from stringing words together, then by all means sign up for some IUWC sessions.

PAPERBACK WRITER

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?

It took me years to write, will you take a look?

%d bloggers like this: