"The blog has made Glab into a hip town crier, commenting on everything from local politics and cultural happenings to national and international events, all rendered in a colorful, intelligent, working-class vernacular that owes some of its style to Glab’s Chicago-hometown heroes Studs Terkel and Mike Royko." — David Brent Johnson in Bloom Magazine
One of the recurring themes of this global communications colossus is my dearly held opinion that we humans, by and large, are full of shit.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m as full of shit as anyone else. With exceptions, of course. There are, after all, people whose full-of-shitness borders on the awe-inspiring. Need I mention, for instance, a certain former Commander-in-Chief?
Speaking of former C-in-Cs, I was thumbing through a biography of John F. Kennedy the other AM. It’s called JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century and it’s the first of a two volume set. The second hasn’t been released yet. Interestingly, the author, a fellow named Fredrik Logevall, in his introduction, claims that despite the fact that the 35th President of the United States has been analyzed and gossiped about as much as any other Oval Officer, there really haven’t been any in-depth, comprehensive biographies penned about him. Logevall, ergo, decided to be the guy to right that perceived wrong.
Now then, as for we humans who are so naturally full of shit. Logevall revealed a startling factoid in his intro to JFK. In his words:
By the middle of 1963, close to 60 percent of Americans claimed that they had voted for Kennedy in 1960, although only 49.7 percent had actually done so. After his death, his landslide grew to 65 percent.
Kennedy’s oft-disputed victory over Richard M. Nixon in the ’60 presidential election was one of the very tightest presidential contests in our holy land’s history. Acc’d’g to Britannica, a scant 120,000 votes separated the two after all the ballot boxes, stuffed or not, had been emptied. That’s out of a total of 68.8 million votes cast that autumn. As I scroll down the list of tight races throughout our glorious history, Kennedy’s squeaker over Nixon appears to be the closest of all, in relative terms.
For our purposes here, it doesn’t matter if Kennedy won by 120 thou or 120 mill. The thing is, as his presidency progressed, the populace became more and more enamored of him to the point when pollsters rang up people to ask who they’d voted for in ’60, thousands of them flat out lied and said they did.
Perhaps they answered in a more creative, imaginative way than the act of simply telling the truth would have demanded. Perhaps they reasoned, Hey, I like the guy. He forced those dirty Russkies to back down over Cuber*. So if I got a second crack at it, I woulda voted for him. That counts, right?
( * Sorry, occasionally I lapse into JFK’s Boston accent when I think about him.)
No, it doesn’t count. The pollsters asked, Who did you vote for in 1960? And after Kennedy was snuffed at Dealey Plaza, an overwhelming majority of Americans either tried to convince the pollsters they’d voted for him or had somehow convinced themselves they had.
Either way, they were full of shit.
Like I said.
Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Lying is in our nation’s DNA. To be sure, the Germans, the Botswanans, the Laotians, the Micronesians, and the habitués of every other land on this globe regularly lie and/or are willingly lied to. But we raise the sin to an art form.
Only the United States, in its Declaration of Independence, proclaimed All Men Are Created Equal, the words written and ratified by a bunch of men who owned human beings.
Imagine if there’d been social media back in 1776. Thomas Jefferson and the Committee of Five would have been laughed off the internet.
Then again, knowing Americans as I do, countless 18th century netizens would have said, C’mon, man! They mean one day. Y’know, in the future. (And not the too-near future, BTW; we don’t wanna rock the boat too much!) Or others’d chime in, Nuh-uh! They don’t own slaves. Those Africans wanted to be kidnapped, chained, whipped, and stripped of their rights and dignity. Working the fields for the Founding Fathers would look great on their resumes!
Thomas Jefferson, et al, were full of shit. Even if their aspiration for a limited egalitarianism was novel and forward-thinking some 250 years ago. And it was.
The other day I posted a thing on social media saying something on the order of the term guerrilla came to mind…. Oh hell, here’s a screenshot of the post:
The post, apparently, triggered a lot of people’s memories. They too, had been confused by the homophones. And isn’t that a great and useful word? Homophone.
Anyway, the whole thing got me to thinking about the bazillions of misconceptions I had as a child. The world, people, and life in general were utterly baffling to me. I suppose I should concede that they all still are, even at my advanced age, but the years (okay, decades) have taught me one thing — that I can pretend to understand a few more things today than I did when I was seven. Maybe I really do but if so let’s put emphasis on the word few.
Anyway, part deux, I figured I’d gather a few more goofy ideas I had when I was wee here on the pages of this global communications colossus. So here goes.
Shriver (L) & Kennedy.
Back in those days, a fellow named R. Sargent Shriver was a big dude in the Kennedy administration. He was the first director of JFK’s brainchild, the Peace Corps, from March, 1961 through February, 1966. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson then tabbed him as the director of the federal Office of Economic Opportunity sometime during Shriver’s Peace Corps directorship, meaning he had two big jobs at once. LBJ must have figured the workload might be too much for him so the then-prez gave him instead the ambassadorship to France, a post, I’m sure, that is the equivalent, in dream job terms, of being in charge of eating pizza, drinking bourbon, and watching Arrested Development reruns and being paid scads o’dough to do so.
Before Shriver went to Washington, he was president of the Chicago Board of Education. Born and raised in Maryland, Shriver as a young man wasan assistant editor for Newsweek (for you younger folks that was a thing we fossils called a magazine; people actually read about the news in newspapers and mags, if you can believe it). In that position, he’d somehow oiled up the Kennedy family and actually reviewed the late Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.’s diaries at Kennedy Pere‘s behest. Next thing anybody knew, Shriver was getting hitched up to Eunice, the middle child of the mob of heirs and heiresses to the Kennedy fortune. As such Shriver became a Famous Person, although those born in succeeding generations wouldn’t have been able to identify him if he was sitting in their lap. His star by then had been outshone by his daughter, Maria Shriver, a network news reader and eventual wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, either of whom today wouldn’t be identifiable to anyone under the age of 30.
They Were Somebodies, Once, A Long Time Ago, I think.
These are all things I learned as an adult.* When I was a child, all I knew was he was (sorta) from Chicago and now was a big deal pal of the president. I just assumed when the local newsreader said his name, he (invariably he) was saying Our Sargent Shriver. Y’know, because we were all proud of our hometown guy being such a national big shot. Chicago newsreaders, after all, didn’t call JFK Our John F. Kennedy, did they? ‘Course not; he was from the foreign shores of Hyannis Port.
Speaking of song lyrics, in 1967 Aretha Franklin had a big Top 40 hit called “Natural Woman.” Listening to it with half an ear, as I did all the songs I heard on WLS and/or WCFL at the time, I heard her sing, You make me feel like a Manchuria woman, which I found a puzzling way to be made to feel, indeed.
Okay, you get the picture. Here’s more.
I had a weird worldview, natch, as a kid. I might have confused R. with Our and natural with Manchuria, but I also knew a tiny bit about geology, among other things. For instance, I knew the Earth was covered by a thin crust on top of a thicker layer of stuff that, in turn, lie upon a molten ball of metal. Mind you, I was five at the time. I’d been sick throughout much of my kindergarten year so, sequestered at home, I spent much of my time reading the World Book Encyclopedia, so missing school actually made me smarter than my peers, who were busy memorizing the letters of the alphabet.
Alright, the Earth’s crust. Living in Chicago, I concluded that the entire globe was covered by concrete and asphalt pavement. Observing this and watching workers break up concrete on occasion and exposing the muddy, claylike stuff beneath it, I concluded said concrete and pavement was, yep, the Earth’s crust. The lawns and backyards in front of and behind my family’s and all our neighbors’ houses? Why the adults of the world had simply broken up and disposed of the Earth’s crust lying over them so that their kids, when playing therein, wouldn’t break their heads open if and when they fell. Mighty thoughtful of them, no?
They Set Fires, Then They Raced To Put Them Out.
How about this? There was a firehouse on North Natchez Avenue, about three quarters of a mile north of our home on that street. While I was in bed in the still of the night in the middle of the summer, with the windows wide open, I’d actually hear the firemen starting their trucks’ engines, turning on their sirens, and commencing to speed to wherever the hell they were going. It’d take a few moments for them to drive down Narragansett Avenue and take a right on North Avenue, whereupon the trucks’d blow past our house, seemingly yards away from my bedroom window. All this time, I’d wonder where they were going and why they were so fortunate enough to be awake in the middle of the night so that they could actually go somewhere. I suppose I might have heard some adult joke about firemen starting fires or something but, being a kid, I had no ability yet to distinguish between adults’ bullshit and real information. Y’know, the same way a lot of grown-up Americans today can’t tell the diff. between facts and bushwa.
So, I came to the conclusion that firemen, becoming bored by sitting around the firehouse all the time, actually started fires so they could crank up their engines, turn on their sirens, and speed down Narragansett Avenue. I mean, why in the hell else would anybody want to be a fireman? On top of that all, most of the lucky firemen got to ride on the outside of the truck, hanging on to shiny silver bars as the truck barreled down the street. Good god, I’d have done that job for free! Same with the garbagemen who, similarly, often rode on the outside of their trucks, holding on to bars, albeit a lot less shiny and certainly not silver.
Until the year 1967, I was vaguely aware of professional sports. The Cubs games were always either on TV or the small transistor radio my mother kept next to her in the kitchen. Because of that I formulated an understanding of how Major League Baseball worked. A bunch of teams played each other in two separate leagues, the American and the National, through the spring and summer. In October a team from the American League would play a team from the National. The winner would be the champion of the whole world. Even at that tender age, I thought whoever played baseball in Egypt or China was getting a raw deal because they never got to play for the championship of the whole wide world. Thus, I was starting to become aware of the intrinsic unfairness of the world.
In any case, throughout the entirety of my short life, the Cubs never came within a light year of playing in the World Series. So, I began to conclude that the rules forbade such a possibility. The Cubs, by decree, were ineligible to ever play in the World Series. Their purpose, in the scheme of things, was to play practice games against the real teams of MLB, so they could get ready to, potentially, play in the World Series, should fortune look so kindly upon them.
I’m not the only one who though in such terms. For example, I had a friend, a few years older than me, who grew up in New York City. He told me once that his sister, a few years his junior, understood the World Series to be an annual contest between the New York Yankees and whichever other team was deemed good enough to take them on that particular year. See, the Yankees played in the Series 15 times in the 18 seasons between 1947 and 1964, so what other conclusion could a kid come to?
Alright, here’s the last one (for today). Even as late as the age of 11, I remained blissfully (frustratingly?) unaware of the mechanics and justifications for sex. All I knew was people were dying to do it. As was I, whatever it was. Almost up to that point, I envisioned sex as being some bizarre ritual wherein a girl and I would take our clothes off and stand there looking at each other. I’d seen Playboy magazine and one or two other men’s publications and the women just stood — or lie — there doing nothing but be unclothed. Ergo, sex.
Then one afternoon after school, I dashed down to Amundsen Park to play baseball. One of the guys brought along a deck of pornographic playing cards, the backs of which portrayed couples engaged in the act that Mark Twain so aptly called “a refreshment.” None of us was sophisticated enough to know what in the hell these couples really were doing. The game was lengthened by the fact that each team at bat was busy poring over the cards, studying the couplings as intently as world-renowned scientists examining some heretofore undiscovered species of butterfly. “Hey, c’mon you guys,” the team coming off the field would yell, “get out there!” They were eager to hit and, in truth, even more eager to study the cards themselves.
I was particularly fascinated by one card portraying a couple, the woman straddling the man while his business was attached to her business. Being that the cards were static pix of the action, not filmed records of it, I took this particular image to infer that people engaged in the act simply remained motionless. “Hmmph,” I though. “That doesn’t seem like much fun.” The whole idea seemed to me to be rather uninspiring, except for the seeing-the-girl-naked part.
She Fell On The Bathroom Floor.
Which brings to mind the testimony of the son of an old friend, the late, witty author Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Amy and her husband had three small children at home at one time. As such, the couple’s opportunities for “refreshment” usually bordered on nil. Being clever folk, they came up with the idea of locking themselves in the bathroom when the urge struck so they might refresh w/o the young’uns bursting in on them. Except one day they forgot to lock the door. Their kid threw the door open and there they were, on the tile floor amid a jumbled mass of discarded clothing and towels, locked in a position similar to that of the couple on the aforementioned playing card. The kid quickly withdrew (as, I imagine, Amy’s husband did). Nevertheless, the image seared itself into the kid’s memory.
Not long after that, the kid came up to Amy and said, “Mom, what is sex?” Amy replied, “What do you think sex is?”
He stated, confidently, that sex was when Moms and Dads took their clothes off and fell on the bathroom floor.
And you know something? He wasn’t terribly far off the mark.
[ * For pity’s sake, I forget to even mention that Shriver had run for Vice President in 1972 on the George McGovern ticket. He replaced McGovern’s original choice, Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton, after it was revealed Eagleton had undergone electroshock therapy during mental hospitalizations, a fact he and his wife had decided to keep mum about when McGovern came calling. Actually, describing Eagleton as McGovern’s first choice palters with the truth. McGovern had asked — nay, begged — any number of better-known, more qualified fellows to be his running mate but all had turned him down. They’d read the writing on the wall — incumbent Richard Nixon was well on his way to winning one of the biggest landslides in United States history that fall.]
Fifty years ago today, the nuns at St. Giles school told us we were to go home when class started after lunch. I had no idea why.
I did know Sister Caelin seemed sad.
When I got home, I found my mother obsessively vacuuming the same spot on the living room carpet. Looking closer, I realized she was crying. It was the first time I ever saw her cry.
I wondered if I was in trouble.
The TV was on. Ma never had the TV on during the day. Simpler times, you know. TV watching was for night time, after work and dinner, school and homework, and all the day’s chores had been completed. Ma noticed me standing there, staring at her.
“Mike,” she said, dolorously, “President Kennedy is dead.”
Then I cried.
Dealey Plaza Today
I knew who President Kennedy was. He was the boss of America, a man bigger even than Chicago’s Mayor Daley, a fact I was just starting to wrap my mind around.
I knew Mayor Daley could tell my Dad what to do. It was very difficult for me to grasp that someone could tell Mayor Daley what to do.
That night, I was sorely disappointed to learn that regular Friday night TV programming would be suspended in favor of wall to wall assassination coverage. I found it very unfair.
As the weekend went by, I came to understand the gravity of the killing of a president. I also came to understand how fragile all our hierarchies, relationships, and systems were. I saw Lee Harvey Oswald get whacked by Jack Ruby. I tried to get used to saying President Johnson.
I began to get that everything in this weird world — save the world itself — was temporal.
In these more hyper-sensitive, more protective days, a lot of parents might advocate shielding seven-year-olds from jarring news like the murder of a president. Kids have plenty of time to grow up, they might say. Kids aren’t prepared for that kind of reality.
To which I’d reply, no one is prepared for that kind of reality. And, I’d add, the weekend of John F. Kennedy’s assassination was the first and most effective introduction to the real world this little kid could possibly receive.
I have a lot of issues with the things my parents did and didn’t do in raising me. But the fact that they never shied from telling me the unvarnished truth about world affairs or family secrets wasn’t one of them.
For that, I thank them.
And On And On And On And….
The WFHB soap opera continues. As recently as Sunday, for instance, acting general manager Cleveland Dietz was pondering what he might do with the rest of his life.
Now, he knows where he’ll be spending his days at least through the end of the year. This week Board of Directors president Joe Estivill as well as regular Board member Richard Fish have approached Dietz, asking him to remain on the job through December 31st.
Estivill & Fish
The Board will vote on the extension at Monday’s meeting.
Meanwhile, insiders are certain the board will start the entire GM search process over again, meaning the community radio station won’t have a permanent boss until April.
Which is ludicrous.
This latest development, following the withdrawal of controversial choice Kevin Culbertson earlier this week, would mean WFHB will have gone almost an entire year without a general manager.
A state the size of California can pick its governor in less time. And, in case the Board doesn’t know it, California is bigger with a far vaster budget, and hundreds — perhaps thousands — of departments, bureaus, and offices. Plus, the job pays a hell of a lot more than WFHB will pay its future leader.
This whole “national search” business is a pretense the station can no longer afford. WFHB is a community radio station; its leadership should come, naturally, from a local pool of people numbering a minimum of 200,000, if the latest census figures are to be believed. If the Board can’t find a GM in that crowd — which, by the way, includes the students and faculty of a major university — they’re not looking hard enough.
In fact, the three finalists for the job from which Culbertson was plucked include a former GM of this very station and a proven fundraiser for non-profit organizations. Even if the anti-Chad Carrothers sentiment is deep enough to preclude him from ever getting the job again (a situation that, too, is ludicrous), why can’t the Board fall back on Dena Hawes?
The argument against her that she has no media experience is a red herring. Hawes can raise dough. That should be of paramount concern. Jim Manion can continue to run the Music Department and Alycin Bektesh can keep News humming. They’re both good at what they do. WFHB needs a top dog now. People with money burning holes in their pockets just might begin to wonder if this rudderless ship is worth investing in.
The Board Monday ought to commit itself to finding a general manager within a month. That’s it; 31 days. It can be done. Big organizations, corporations, and even governmental agencies do it all the time.
The Board would do so if it was smart. My guess is when Tuesday midnight rolls around we’ll still be looking at an April target date.
Do you know what a snowclone is? Neither did I until just the other night, when I came across it somewhere, somehow.
It’s something you and I probably have used a dozen times recently. In fact, if you’re a fan of narrowcasting comedy-dramas, you likely have watched Orange Is the New Black. The title of that Netflix production is itself a snowclone.
Snowclones are a type of phrasal templates in which certain words may be replaced with another to produce new variations with altered meanings, similar to the “fill-in-the-blank” game of Mad Libs. Although freeform parody of quotes from popular films, music and TV shows is a fairly common theme in Internet humor, snowclones usually adhere to a particular format or arrangement order which may be reduced down to a grammatical formula with one or more custom variables. They can be understood as the verbal or text-based form of photoshopped exploitables.
In common English, that means you can take a familiar meme or trope and substitute words that make it into a whole new cliche. One of the earliest examples was If Eskimos have a million words for snow, then [some other folks] must have a million words for [something common to them].
BTW: the Eskimo trope is false; they don’t have a million or however many words for snow. Nevertheless, that cliched statement spread like wildfire a few years ago.
Anyway, Orange Is the New Black morphed out of the original fashion world pronouncement, grey is the new black, after many generations of variations.
Can we lay to rest once and for all the absurd fiction that Barack Obama is a fierce tyrant who at any moment will seize all our guns, march us off to re-education camps, and otherwise crush us under his jackboot?
You know, the picture of him as the despot who’ll change this holy land forever as promulgated by Me Party-ists, Right Wing talk radio hosts, Fox and Friends personalities, and other reality-challenged stutterers and judderers?
Because, after all, the first Kenyan-born, communist, socialist, abortionist, coke-snorting, gay-sex-loving Commander in Chief wasn’t even able to convey to his staff and the heads of all appropriate federal departments that his signature health care reform had damned well better roll out smoothly or somebody’s ass would be on fire.
BHO’s background, as the sane among us realized from the get-go, was not that of even a sergeant-at-arms but more as a maître d’. He was a community organizer, for pity’s sake, something that squawking heads like Sarah Palin made hay out of back when she had pretenses to relevance. That means he was schooled and expert at gathering everybody ’round and hearing their opinions and suggestions, no matter how fercockter they may be. Community organizers are loath to tell anyone to shut up, to get with the program, to refrain — please! — from insisting for the twenty-three-thousandth time that such and such an alderman or mayor be forthwith brought up on charges of crimes against humanity.
Community organizers are conciliators. They’re listeners. They’re includers. Even if those who are to be included bring as much to the party as your wacky pack-rat uncle who refuses to go online because…, well, because.
They are not martinets. Nor are they mighty brigadier generals who’ll mold a disparate bunch of farm boys and street corner toughs into a single-minded fighting machine.
They persuade people to press doorbells.
They do not say things like, Goddamn it. This project better come out right. If not, I’m gonna eat you for breakfast!
And this is the guy who hundreds of thousands of loons fear will put the nation in shackles?
“Serenity” at 30,000 feet
I know you’re dying for news like this: JFK who was whacked 50 years ago this week, apparently died happy. At least that’s what the ever-reliable New York Post has to say.
The Prez and Jackie, according to a piece in yesterday’s tabloid, “joined the mile high club” during a flight from San Antonio to Houston the afternoon before his fateful drive toward the triple overpass. According to writer Philip Nobile, historian William Manchester wrote that as Air Force One flew over Texas, the Kennedys “enjoyed their last hour of serenity” in their private cabin.
The Serene Couple
Gird yourself for tons more dispatches along these lines as the half-century celebration continues this week.
The above headline, translated from the Italian, means Hot Air (with the subhead signifying, For the Chief). But, hell, this is good ol’ Bloomington, home of Indiana University and some of the smartest people on Earth (including you), so you knew that.
Anyhow, it’s in honor of my mother, The Chief (La Capa, natch). She got the bejesus kicked out of her, first by gravity, then by dehydration. See, she keeled over in the middle of the night next to her bed and there she remained for the next couple of days (at least).
She came within a hair’s breadth of turning in her meal card, thereby becoming eligible to meet at last one of her great heroes, John F. Kennedy, face to face, in god’s good heaven. That is, if both she and he merit eternal residence at the foot of the Big Daddy-o in the Sky.
My brother and his son, who live nearby her in west suburban Chicagoland, dropped in on her a week ago Saturday and found her staring at the ceiling, both her hips fractured, one femur shattered, and the crown of her pelvis cracked off. Lucky for her, she doesn’t remember a thing about it all.
Unluckily, The Chief is going to have to move out of her apartment. I’m telling you, she was more proud of living alone and being able to take care of herself into her 93rd year than anything else she’d ever done. Now, she may never walk again and she’ll have to live in a nursing home.
By my reckoning, the only bigger disappointment she’s ever experienced was the great Cubs collapse in 1969. “If they can’t win it this year,” she said, dolefully, as that star-crossed season wound down, “they’ll never win it.”
Before The Fall, August 1969
Here we are, 44 years later and whaddya know? The Chief was right.
I rebelled against pretty much everything my parents stood for when I was a teenager. Hell, if it was at all possible, I would have held my breath simply because they found it imperative to fill their own lungs with air. But even then, I shared with my mother a love of the Cubs. Even while we argued about whether or not the sun would rise in the east the next morning, we could at least agree that we wanted, more than anything, our Cubs to win something, anything.
I doubt if there was ever a phone conversation between us during any baseball season where one of us wouldn’t ask the other, “Didja see the game today?”
It was our way of saying I love you. Because, truth be told, we didn’t know how to say it any other way.
Heaven On Earth
She has already slipped into a deep funk over her predicament. I know because she told me so. And even if she hadn’t said a word about her gloom, I would have known. I sat with her in the hospital and she never once asked me what the Cubs did that day.
Here’s a secret, and I hope everyone who reads this will understand. I wish my brother and his son had arrived at her apartment a half hour or even an hour later. She could have slipped away without suffering the indignity of living in a wheelchair, at best, in a nursing home.
The way I see it, she has already suffered one crushing disappointment in her life. She doesn’t need another.
Yesterday, of course, was the 66th anniversary of the fabled crash of the UFO into the desert in southeast New Mexico.
It seems that UFO conspiracy theories have petered out in recent years because we have better, juicier fever dreams to keep folks with hyper-active imaginations awake at night. Keep in mind that Dick Cheney personally directed the 9/11 attacks and Barack Obama was bred by foreign Muslims to take over this holy land. These two fairy tales are a tad more urgent and compelling than a government cover-up of the crash of the family flying saucer driven by some drunken ET teenagers out for a joyride. (h/t to Maxwell Bodenheim of Forest Park, Illinois, for this explanation.)
Anyway, the 50th anniversary of the second oldest conspiracy theory I can think of is fast approaching and this one just may overshadow, at least for a time, the sins of Cheney and Obama. That is, the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963. (The oldest consp/theo is probably the plot by FDR and the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff to stage Pearl Harbor so’s the USA could jump that much more quickly into WWII. I’m telling you, these conspirator types are brilliant.)
The JFK theory tied together pretty much all the bogeymen that scared the poo out of the widest range of the American citizenry in the mid-60s. The Russkies, Castro, the Mob, right wing generals, the CIA, LBJ, Nixon, the federal reserve, representatives of huge defense contractors, and even anti-Castro exiles met in some secret location to get their stories straight on the impending whacking of the Prez. Not only was this gang brilliant, their ability to coordinate such a massive planning confab — flights had to be booked, hotel rooms reserved, boxed lunches brought in; all in secret — was awe-inspiring. Just getting Castro and his exiled opponents in the same conference room must have been nothing short of a miracle.
LBJ And The Man He Whacked
The city of Dallas is planning a big shindig for the 50th to be held smack-dab in Dealey Plaza, where the hit took place. It’s not known if organizers will stage a reenactment but I’d bet against it. OSHA regulations put in place since the assassination probably would preclude having an actress in a pink Chanel suit climb on the trunk of the limousine.
Imagine, though, the field day the conspiracy theorists are going to have, come this fall. Already, Bill O’Reilly’s two assassination-porn books, Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy, are New York Times bestsellers. Sales of the latter likely will go through the roof starting in September.
Here are a few fun facts about Jackie Kennedy’s famous dress. It’s in a vault in Maryland, embargoed until the year 2103. Jackie’s mom sent the suit and the purse her daughter carried that fateful day to the National Archives shortly after the assassination. The suit has never been cleaned. Oh, and Coco Chanel, despite never having commented on the fact that one of her creations had suddenly become a gruesome icon, did say some years later that, because of her penchant for wearing miniskirts, Jackie “wears her daughter’s clothes.”
Jackie And The Pink Suit
Coco sure knew what the important things in life were, no?
One of the archivists in charge of the suit said a couple of years ago, “It looks like it’s brand new, except for the blood.” Which is like saying December 7th, 1941 was a perfect day in Oahu, except for that mess down by the docks.
I was seven years old when Lee Harvey Oswald did his thing. I was vaguely aware of the existence of President Kennedy. I only knew the nuns at St. Giles had red-rimmed eyes when they told us we were to go home that gray Friday afternoon. My second-grade classmates and I momentarily believed the word assassination signified something really good, considering we’d never heard it before and it allowed us to bolt school early.
When I got home, my mother was compulsively vacuuming in front of the TV. She was crying. I’d never seen her cry before. I figured she personally knew JFK. Otherwise, why would she be so busted up that he’d died?
That, I can safely say, was a loss of innocence. Believe me, we’re going to be sick to death of hearing that phrase by November.
Abraham, Martin & John
To this day, this song brings tears to my eyes. It was released soon after Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in 1968.
Time to put up or shut up. If you haven’t voted yet, get going.
In Monroe County, you may vote at The Curry Building, 214, W. Seventh St. Or you can go old school and vote at your precinct polling place.
BIG MIKE MAKES THE CALL
Alright, let’s get down to cases.
Here’s what’s going to happen today. I’ve already told you Barack Obama’s going to win. Now I’ll give you the margin.
We’ll Do It Again In January
The winning margin for the Democratic candidate for President of the United States in the popular vote will approach five percentage points.
That’s right. My guy will be reelected by a rounded-off plurality of 52-47 percent. That odd one percent will go to the usual lineup of perennial candidates and write-ins for Mickey Mouse.
A number of states have broken their own records for number of early voters. Big voter turnout is good news for Obama.
Here’s the dramatic prediction, though: Obama will win the electoral college contest in a landslide with some 300 votes.
I feel confident in these projections, as confident as I felt when I predicted the Chicago Cubs would go to the World Series in 2004.
… THE BEAUTIFUL
There’s plenty to be outraged and disgusted about in this holy land. Still, hidden somewhere deep beneath the the jingoism, the greed, the entitlement, the delusion, the willful ignorance, and the maddening piety, lies a republic of the people.
Had he been alive when this whole crazy American idea got off the ground, Ray Charles would have been a slave, considered to be somewhat less than fully human. By the time he died in 2004 he’d become the designated psalmist for the nation.
It’s worth thinking about the truest quote I’ve ever read about this nation. It was written by another person who’d been written out of America’s charter, a woman, Molly Ivins. By the time she died in 2007, she’d become the plain-speaking conscience of the nation.
“It is possible,” she wrote, “to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”
“Who’s gonna take me seriously with this on my head?” — Leanza Cornett
WHO’S THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL?
I never watch the televised presidential debates for the same reason I’ve never cared about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Or even any human beauty pageant, for that matter.
You know, these TV debates became important only because of what happened in the fall of 1960. Sen. John F. Kennedy, the Dem nominee for president that year came into the scheduled series of debates — the first time the events would be televised nationally — as the punk kid trying to elbow his way past the sitting vice president and foreign policy maven Dick Nixon.
The wags figured the debates would be a slaughter, with the wily Nixon taking the brash rich boy out for a spanking.
Things didn’t turn out that way.
JFK won the election because, during that first debate, held at the WBBM-TV studios in Chicago, he appeared cool, calm, sun-tanned and healthy. Whereas Nixon was gaunt and pale, having recently suffered through some health issues.
Not only that, Nixon fidgeted and sweated. Kennedy was charming and composed.
Beauty And The Beast
Boom — knockout for the challenger. So Kennedy won the beauty pageant and the White House.
Seems a rather silly criterion upon which to base a vote for the leader of the western world, no?
Anyway, don’t cry for Nixon, America, because he capitalized on his dorky, dweeby, homeliness and his loss to the uber-wealthy, elite Kennedy, to vault into the presidency eight years later. Nixon basically told the voting public, Hey, I’m a schlub — just like you.
The electorate bought it and, coupled with the fact that the Democratic Party was in the midst of a five year long suicide attempt, we elected ourselves a paranoid, self-loathing, suspicious, unindicted co-conspirator to be our leader. As a reward, we got Watergate, an unprecedented bombing campaign in Southeast Asia, Pat Buchanan, Karl Rove, and the original Rat Fuckers.
Oh, and a couple of pandas from China for the Washington National Zoo.
But I digress.
In the 1980 presidential candidate debates, Ronald Reagan out-prettied Jimmy Carter, which wasn’t very hard to do. Carter was somber and serious, talking about nuclear weapons and energy and the Middle East. Reagan was the chipper cheerleader.
The nation was ready for a pep rally.
When Carter brought up some controversial decisions Reagan had made as California governor, Reagan good-naturedly scolded him, saying, “There you go again.”
Grumpy & Happy
The debate would be remembered for those words as well as a line Reagan uttered during his closing comment: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
Reagan routed Carter in the election.
In 2004, John Kerry whaled on President George W. Bush in their first debate. I actually watched that show, although I can’t for the life of me remember why. Anyway, I was astounded to discover that I actually felt sorry for Bush. He looked lost, physically diminished even, as the erudite Kerry tore down his arguments one by one.
All the experts agreed: Kerry had won the debate big time.
Dopey & Doc
What do you think happened? A large percentage of jes’ plain folks in this holy land felt Kerry was too smart, an egghead. Poor old Georgy Boy was just a guy trying to do his job running the country and some Harvard-educated snob comes along and tries to tell him what to do. Bush’s polling numbers actually improved after what I’d figured was a knockout blow.
Now, my side of the political spectrum is always honking about “issues.” The debates must be about hard facts and real problems and definitive plans, they say.
Yet many folks on the Dem/Left/Progressive team last night commented that Barack Obama wasn’t “aggressive” enough, whatever that means. Should he have slugged Mitt Romney at some point in the night?
I suppose that would send ratings through the roof. Maybe that’s the future of presidential debates. The candidates can go after each other on a remote island. Whomever captures the other wins. That would be something Americans could understand.
But last night’s debate was a wonk-fest. Obama and Romney argued like seniors on the high school debate team. Which, I figure, is what debate is all about.
But now the Obama side wants glitz and glitter and a he-man show of strength. They want that ultimate zinger, the kind that Ronald Reagan could deliver so well and so easily.
Times and sides change.
For the last few days, wits and pundits have been predicting that Romney would narrow Obama’s lead with his performance in the first debate. How they knew this in advance I can not say (other than to point out that news creatures need to invent new angles when conventional wisdom starts getting ripe.)
Sure enough, the post-game commentary and the pronouncements this morning have Romney coming out ahead last night. He looked like he belonged up there, the consensus goes. As opposed, I guess, to Romney showing up in shorts and a T-shirt. Romney, the experts say, looked presidential.
Maybe Obama should have slugged him.
I bet Obama will slug Romney in the next debate. Metaphorically, of course. Then Obama will see his numbers grow again. The final debate will be a tepid affair, with both guys deking and jabbing, but neither willing to risk going for the big blow so close to the election.
My hundred bucks on Obama still looks safe.
THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARSENALS
One thing none of the three debates will address is the issue of guns.
That matter’s been settled and put to bed. We have agreed as a nation to allow our citizens to arm themselves to the teeth against…, um, against what I don’t know.
Well not all of us have agreed. Not I, for one. And not Nikki Giovanni, the writer and commentator. Here she is on Democracy Now!, spitting into the wind (click on the image for access to the vid; sorry, I couldn’t embed it):
You’ve been reading about that news anchor in Wisconsin who lambasted an emailer for calling her fat, haven’t you? Or you’ve at least seen the vid on YouTube, right?
The woman is being praised from all quarters for standing up to what can only be described as bullying in the guise of a faux concern for the health of nation’s youth.
I’m all for her. Only I would have saved her a lot of breath. Had I been tasked with writing the news script for her response, I would have handed her a sheet with the original email on it, which she’d read, then the instruction for her to look straight into the lens and say, “And you, sir, are an asshole.”
Simplicity is best, don’t you think?
The only events listings you need in Bloomington.
Thursday, October 4th, 2012
Brought to you by The Electron Pencil: Bloomington Arts, Culture, Politics, and Hot Air. Daily.
ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Center, outside WFHB Studios — Public participation in creating a ten-foot sculpture called “The Angel,” Rain or shine; 9am-5pm
LECTURE ◗ IU SPEA — NBC News’ Phil Lebeau talks about the auto & aviation industries; 9:30am
Bobby Kennedy was shot in the head 44 years ago tomorrow. He lingered, unconscious, for a day, then died.
At the time of his death, Bobby Kennedy was a caring, dedicated, sensitive man.
But for much of his adult life, he’d been a jerk. He’d been ruthless, clannish, a moralizer, pathologically ambitious — the list can go on.
Tragedy changed Bobby Kennedy. The death of his brother catapulted him into deep depression. He had, for lack of a more scientifically accurate term, a nervous breakdown. He emerged on the other side of it a different human being.
Kennedy was Roman Catholic. For all the Church’s sins — and there are many — one praiseworthy aspect of it is its insistence that there is redemption.
I’ve experienced redemption once or twice. Maybe even three times. So, I would assume, have you.
No, not religious redemption. Human redemption. For lack of a more scientifically accurate term.
THE PENCIL’S DAILY EVENTS LISTINGS
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ANYBODY WHO DISAGREES WITH ME IS MENTALLY ILL
A movie reviewer from my old haunt, the Chicago Reader, has panned “The Avengers” in his capsule review.
Naturally, he’s been flooded with emails and other communiques calling into question his sanity and accusing him of possessing the foulest character. After all, this is the United States of America wherein everybody’s opinion on a movie is of paramount import.
The “calling into question his sanity” part elicited a revelation from reviewer Ben Sachs, though.
Sachs told the reading public that indeed his brain wiring is screwy — he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2004. No one outside his circle of friends and family knew about his problem until he was goaded into this public confessional by a commenter named Morganthus who called him “emotionally imbalanced,” an assessment based only on Sachs’ dislike of “The Avengers.”
“How did Morganthus know?” Sachs wrote.
A Typical Movie Reviewer In His Office At The Mental Institution
In fact, Sachs even explored the role his mental illness plays in his judgement as an arts arbiter. “I liked the movies, literature, and music that I did because they gave form to emotions I couldn’t organize in real life,” he wrote. He wondered if Morganthus somehow sensed this.
That’s a very charitable attitude on the part of Sachs. I can’t imagine that someone who gets so riled up about a movie review that he’ll write in a comment questioning the reviewer’s psychological stability is actually a perceptive soul hoping to help.
Nevertheless, this Morganthus fellow’s rant resulted in Sachs’ fascinating bit of introspection. Read the entire piece; it’s not terribly long.
[h/t to Roger Ebert for pointing out Sachs’ piece on Facebook.]
FAIR IS FOUL AND FOUL FAIR
Wisconsin voters go to the polls tomorrow. Gov. Scott Walker’s future is in their hands. Will they fire him? The outcome is even money right now.
I don’t know what I like less — Scott Walker or recall elections.
For all Walker’s sins — and there are many — he broke no laws. He was elected fair and square by Wisconsinites. Now, suddenly, he can be removed from office just because he pushed through legislation and made executive decisions a lot of people didn’t care for?
Folks, that’s democracy. The concept does not imply that once we elect a guy or gal we get everything we want. Isn’t that rather childish?
Now, if I lived in Wisconsin, I’d stand on my head to help defeat Walker in the next regular election.
This whole hoo-hah reminds me of two things. One is professional quacker Rush Limbaugh crying like a schoolchild after Barack Obama’s election in 2008. “What about the other 46 percent?” he bleated.
The simple answer to his simplistic question was: They’re out of luck until they become 50 percent-plus-one. Rules of the game, baby.
The other thing I thought of was the startling number of my liberal friends who swore they’d move to another country if George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004. A former co-worker who’d moved to Rochester, New York, said it to me one afternoon and I challenged her. “Is that just hyperbole,” I asked. “or do you really mean it?”
“I really mean it,” she said. Rochester is just across Lake Ontario from Canada, she explained, so it wouldn’t be that big a deal. She neglected to mention if the Canadian government had pledged to honor all her wishes after her move.
Dems Flee The US After George W. Bush’s Reelection
I cared for George W. Bush even less than I care for Scott Walker. Bush will go down, I’m certain, as one of our worst presidents.
His two elections saddened and discouraged me. I could only wonder why a modern nation of some 300M people could select as their leader such a chucklehead. Not that I’d be dancing in the streets had either Al Gore or John Kerry won but, the way I look at it, a stubbed toe is better than being kicked in the gut repeatedly.
Anyway, Bush hooked and crooked his way into the White House the first time he ran and then played the war card to win a second time. But he was still my president because I’m a participating member of the American electorate.
Not That I Was Thrilled About It
Say what you will about the late John Wayne, when asked his reaction to the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960, he said, “I didn’t vote for him but he’s my president.”
Sounds a tad more adult than today’s blatherings, no?
Anyway, rules of the game, right? As long as recall elections are within the rules, I hope Walker gets his ass beat.
The phenomenon has only been seen by human eyes seven times.
Wear #14 welder’s glasses or get a pair of those neat eclipse glasses that look a bit like movie theater 3-D glasses. The transit also is visible through one of those pinhole projection boxes the geeky kids in seventh grade always knew how to make when there was a partial solar eclipse.
Which leads me to my fave beat-the-dead-horse question: Why believe in magic and monsters when real life itself is so spectacular?
WE HAVE A MOVIE
Man, you blew it if you were unable to catch the Italian movie “We Have a Pope.”
I just caught the Ryder Film Series offering last night at the SoFA small theater and it was a delight.
A cardinal named Melville is elected Pope and just as he’s about to greet the crowd in St. Peter’s he suffers what can only be described as a nervous breakdown, brought on primarily by his long simmering lack of self-confidence.
The Moment Before The Breakdown
The assembled Cardinals, who by canonical law cannot leave the Vatican until the new Pope greets the crowd, panic and eventually bring in a shrink in an effort to get the new boss to the balcony window.
By and by, the new Pope escapes the Vatican and a certain madness ensues.
The beauty of a lot of non-Hollywood movies is they don’t have Hollywood endings. That’s all I’ll say about that.
The movie will run on cable’s Independent Film Channel and if Peter LoPilato can ever get it back here in Bloomington, don’t blow your chance to see it again.
Released in 1988, TLToC dealt with the fever dreams of Christ as he hung on the cross, baking in the sun, driven mad by pain. He imagines an alternative existence wherein he settles into a simple life, marrying Mary Magdalene and not carrying the burden of all humankind’s sins.
The Man Wants Out; The Deity Has A Responsibility
It’s one of the most pious, spiritual, and reverent movies ever made.
I mean, the whole idea of Christ’s death, as I understand it, was that he was tempted to avoid his fate, but his faith and obedience to his “father in heaven” overcame his human need. And therein, I always thought, lay the foundation for Christianity.
But when TLToC played at the Biograph Theater in Chicago, Catholics and other defenders of the one and only big daddy-o in the sky picketed and shouted and otherwise drew more attention to the film than it ever would have garnered otherwise.