Category Archives: John F. Kennedy

Hot Camelot Air

Dallas

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

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.

Johnson

The President?

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.

Estevill/Fish

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.

Word Trivia

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.

From "Orange Is the New Black"

OITNB

Here’s the definition, according to Know Your Meme®:

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.

Highest Office In The Land Hot Air

Paper Tyrant

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?

Obama

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.

Dallas, November 1963

The Serene Couple

Gird yourself for  tons more dispatches along these lines as the half-century celebration continues this week.

Aria Calda

Per La Capa

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.

Kennedy

Her Hero

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.”

Holtzman No-Hitter, 19690819

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.

Wrigley Field

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.

One Day

Your Daily Hot Air

Flying Saucers And Pink Dresses

Yesterday, of course, was the 66th anniversary of the fabled crash of the UFO into the desert in southeast New Mexico.

Roswell Headline

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.)

Roswell

Joyrider

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/JFK

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 Kennedy

Jackie And The Pink Suit

Coco sure knew what the important things in life were, no?

A website dealing with all things Jackie actually has an entire page devoted to the pink suit.

And, natch, the chic ghoul can buy a replica pink suit on eBay; it’s a steal at $189.99.

That pink pillbox hat Jackie wore? It’s missing.

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.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing to do but to stand there and take it.” — Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson & Kennedy

AT LAST!

This is it, kiddies. Who’s your hero: Ayn Rand or Saul Alinsky?

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.

NICE MEME

… 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.”

That’s why I vote.

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.


Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

VOTE ◗ The Curry Building, 214 W. Seventh St. or your local polling place; 6am-6pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer Hall — Doctoral Recital: Namanja Ostojic on guitar; 5pm

POETRY ◗ The Venue Fine Art & GiftsReading, “The Art of Poetry,” By Jenny Kander; 5:30pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopElection Viewing Party; 7pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “Nenette and Boni“; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleThe Indiana Boys All-Star Jam; 7-9pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts Center, Recital HallGuitar Studio Recital: Students of Petar Jankovic; 7pm

STAGE ◗ IU Halls TheatreDrama, “Spring Awakening“; 7:30pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s PubBlues Jam; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallWind Ensemble, Stephen W. Pratt, conductor; 8pm

GAMES ◗ The Root Cellar at Farm BloomingtonTeam trivia; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallHot Tuesdays Series: Jazz Combo; 8:30pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts Center, Recital HallDoctoral Recital: Yuan-Yuan Wang on violin; 8:30pm

ONGOING:

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:

“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):

SUPERSIZE ME

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 StudiosPublic participation in creating a ten-foot sculpture called “The Angel,” Rain or shine; 9am-5pm

LECTURE ◗ IU SPEANBC News’ Phil Lebeau talks about the auto & aviation industries; 9:30am

STUDIO TOUR ◗ Brown County, various locationsThe Backroads of Brown County Studio Tour, free, self-guided tour of 16 local artists’ & craftspersons’ studios; 10am-5pm, through October

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford HallMike Stern Trio; 2:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Bear’s PlaceGyrogenics Quartet reunion; 5:30pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s Pub — Jason Fickel & Ginger Curry; 6:30pm

WORKSHOP ◗ BloominglabsIntro to Programming, 10-week course beginning tonight; 6:30pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “Casablanca”; 7pm

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

LECTURE ◗ Monroe County Public LibraryNaturalist Jill Vance talks about the wild turkey; 7pm

POLITICS ◗ Brown County Office Building, Gould & Locust Lane, NashvilleMeet the candidates for county offices; 7-9pm

STAGE ◗ Bloomington Playwrights ProjectComedy, “Rx”; 7:30pm

STAGE ◗ Brown County Playhouse, NashvilleDrama, “Last Train to Nibroc”; 7:30pm

LECTURE ◗ IU AuditoriumChaz Bono talks about gender identity, free; 8-9pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s Place Eric Lambert; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Ford-Crawford Hall — Doctoral recital, Ruti Abramovitch on piano; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlaceNew Old Cavalry; 9pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopR. Stevie Moore; 9:30pm

ONGOING:

ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “New Acquisitions,” David Hockney; through October 21st
  • Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists; through October 14th
  • “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
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • Ab-Fab — Extreme Quilting,” by Sandy Hill; October 5th through October 27th
  • Street View — Bloomington Scenes,” by Tom Rhea; October 5th through October 27th
  • From the Heartwoods,” by James Alexander Thom; October 5th through October 27th
  • The Spaces in Between,” by Ellen Starr Lyon; October 5th through October 27th

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibit:

  • “Samenwerken,” Interdisciplinary collaborative multi-media works; through October 11th

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits opening September 28th:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners;” through December 20th
  • Gender Expressions;” through December 20th

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibit:

  • “CUBAmistad” photos

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 LibraryExhibit:

  • Outsiders and Others:Arkham House, Weird Fiction, and the Legacy of HP Lovecraft;” through November 1st
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections form the Slocum Puzzle Collection

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Soup’s OnExhibit:

  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Culture: “CUBAmistad photos; through October

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • Bloomington: Then and Now,” presented by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • “Doctors and Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical professions

The Electron Pencil. Go there. Read. Like. Share.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I believe that as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.” — Robert F. Kennedy

THE LIVES WE LEAD IN A LIFETIME

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

Click. And GO!

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.

Ben Sachs

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.

Wow.

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.

BALL OF CONFUSION

Vote for me and I’ll set ya free!

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“There is a distinct difference between having an open mind and having a hole in your head from which your brain leaks out.” — James Randi

CELESTIAL BEAUTY

Just a reminder, the transit of Venus will be visible in these parts in the hours just prior to sunset Tuesday evening.

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.

Eclipse Cheaters

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.

GO! — NOW!

UNINTENDED PR CONSEQUENCES

WHaP reminds me of all the foofaraw over Martin Scorsese‘s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” based on the eponymous book by Nikos Kazantzakis.

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.

Go figure.

CANDID

BuzzFeed the other day ran a list of the most powerful photos ever taken.

Which got me to thinking which pix I’d pick. Ergo, here they are (in no particular order):

The French guy crying as the Nazis march through Paris

Vietnam: The naked girl running, the self-immolating monk, the Saigon police chief executing the guy in the street

The JFK assassination: LBJ takes the oath, Ruby shoots Oswald, JFK Jr. salutes

Earthrise from Apollo 8

The Chinese student and the tanks

Martin Luther King lay dying

World War II: Marines reenact the flag raising at Iwo Jima, the sailor kisses the nurse on V-J Day

The National Geographic Afghani girl

Che

Protest: John Carlos and Tommie Smith give the Black Power salute, Kent State, the flowers in the gun barrels

(All photos copyrighted.)

There. How about you? Tell us what’s on your list via the comments.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“If you want to be a purist, go somewhere on a mountaintop and praise the east or something. But if you want to be in politics, you learn to compromise. And you learn to compromise without compromising yourself. Show me a guy who won’t compromise and I’ll show you a guy with rock for brains.” — former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson

WILL YOU BE MY HERO, PLEASE?

How about that Alan K. Simpson?

The old bird who used to be a demi-villain to liberals back in the ’80s is now a darling of the left set because he tongue-lashed his fellow Republicans over the weekend.

Simpson appeared on CNN with Fareed Zakaria Sunday and called GOP legislators’ anti-tax intransigence “madness.”

Anti-Tax-ists

Just goes to show how far we liberals and progressives have fallen when we have nobody to idolize but Republicans who occasionally say something that makes sense.

Simpson, by the way, says only a combination of solutions can revitalize the economy. That includes higher taxes for some Americans.

GO!

Click this logo for the Pencil’s events listing, the best in Bloomington, natch:

FACE TIME

I’m the most curious guy you can imagine (and that’s true on a number of levels.) But there are certain things I don’t need to see or know.

One of them is the video of the cops shooting that crazy nude man who was eating the face of another man.

Here’s A Pretty Cardinal

In fact, that’s all I know about the story. I fear that if I click on any of the articles about it, I’ll see too much.

There’s nothing more I need to know about it.

UNHAPPY ANNIVERSARIES

Get ready for the flood of stories on the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of IU student Lauren Spierer.

Profit-driven media is big on anniversaries. I look at it as lazy journalism.

If you think the Spierer anniversary will be bad, just wait until November, 2013. That’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

He Did It, Okay? Can We Move On Now?

Oh, and steel yourself for yet another wave of conspiracy books, documentaries, and articles.

VEGETABLES ARE SOCIALIST

Michelle Obama’s new book comes out today. “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America” recounts the story of her White House garden.

Which reminds me that the unimaginably bizarre Rush Limbaugh raked her over the coals last fall for her garden.

“We do not like being told that we can only eat what’s in her garden,” he ranted on his radio show, which is listened to by tens of millions of mammals daily.

BTW: he also called her “uppity” once. But neither he nor his listeners are racists. How do I know? They say so — when they’re not busy calling a professional woman who happens to have dark skin “uppity.”

Sometimes I just want to scream.

HARVEST FOR THE WORLD

I don’t remember if I’ve posted this song before but no matter, it’s worth hearing again.

The beauty of this Isley Brothers tune is that, while acknowledging that things are largely going all to hell, there is always hope. Every time I hear it, this song makes me think of morning.

The Pencil Today

THE QUOTE

“Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.” — Henny Youngman

VI WILL VIE

Hoosier Dems are going all in for women this election year.

I’m all for it.

Gubernatorial candidate John Gregg is putting his money on Vi Simpson, the Indiana Senate Democratic  Caucus leader, as his running mate on the Democratic ticket. He’ll make the announcement today.

Vi And Her Guy

Simpson joins the state’s Ninth District Congressional candidate Shelli Yoder on the November ballot.

It’s a gamble and it’s a good one.

Indians has been turning monochromatic (red) since Barack Obama squeezed out a narrow victory here in 2008. Senator Evan Bayh retired and was replaced by retread Dan Coats in the 2010 election. Congressman Baron Hill got the thumb that year as well and watched altar boy Todd Young fly to Washington.

The Dems need to turn to their ace in the hole — women — to reverse that trend.

Neither Shelli Yoder nor Vi Simpson will strike rural voters as wild-eyed, radical femi-nazis — that is, of course, unless said suffragists have been so conditioned by the Fox News gang to see all those to the left of John Birch as loyalty risks, traitors, and saboteurs.

Democrats have no hope of ever luring those voters away from the GOP.

I’m not deluded enough to think Indiana may turn touchy-feely liberal Democrat any time soon (or even later) but the Dems must put up a better fight than they have of late.

Even Obama’s surprising victory here owed more to the upset stomach that the Bush/McCain/Palin bunch induced in the voting public than anyone’s great desire to see an almost-liberal take the White House.

But, jeez, folks — if even the People’s Republic of Bloomington can’t put a Dem in its own Congressional seat then these precincts truly have become a one-party monolith.

TERPSICHOREANS

My old man came from the generation that knew how to dance.

No matter how paunchy, tubby, clumsy, or homely a guy who grew up during the Great Depression was, the minute a wedding band would strike its first chord, he could jump up and sweep his equally awkward wife across the dance floor as if he were a combination of Gene Kelly and Jack Kennedy.

They’re Playing Our Song, Jackie

It never ceased to amaze me that Dad and all my uncles could become as smooth as silk when the music started. I mean, I knew these these guys wore black socks with their slippers at home, that they were more adept at producing a variety of different flatulent tones than cooing sweet nothings in their brides’ ears, and that the simple act of getting up out of the La-Z-Boy was for them akin to scaling a medium-sized mountain.

So how could they also be these fabulous dancers?

Old Joe Glab could also swing a shoe to a polka tune like nobody’s business. Polka dancing demanded a certain level of physical exertion that in other circumstances would be guaranteed to strike Dad and all his peers immediately dead from myocardial infarct.

Yet he and his contemporaries could polka all the night long.

When I was 21 and 22 I could undulate my hips to funk or disco five nights a week. I could pogo to punk with the best of them. But at some indeterminant point in my life, I lost the ability to dance.

I learned this dramatically one Friday night about a dozen years ago. I went out on a date with a hot tomato divorcee named Robbie. She and her ex were big-time art dealers in Chicago. We had dinner, then she suggested we go out dancing. Cool.

So we zoomed up to Joe Shanahan’s uber-trendy Smart Bar near Wrigley Field. I’d spent many a long night gyrating and sweating to the likes of Alison Moyet and Rick James there in the mid-80s so I figured I could still reach back and put the good moves on.

I Could Ride The White Pony With My Eyes Closed

We dashed out on the floor and started in. Robbie acquitted herself quite nicely — I, on the other hand, felt as though I’d suddenly turned into an epileptic. I could no more keep to the beat than a Mormon.

I looked around and saw all these kids half my age slithering the way I once could. Some of them, I have to admit, were eying me critically. As in, What the fk?

It felt as though the DJ was aiming a spotlight at me. Come to think of it, he may have been. Of course, I became even stiffer and more dopey.

More kids started staring at me. I was certain they’d go home that night, fall asleep, and then wake up with a start, horrified at the memory of what they’d seen. Worse, I could imagine them imagining that Robbie and I would go home later and, ugh, have sex. (We didn’t.) I’d scarred the poor kids for life.

How could I lose it all so quickly? And why were Dad and his generation able to keep it well into their 60s and 70s?

Life is unfair.

I’m reminded of all this because Dave Hoekstra of the Sun-Times Facebooked the news that Chicago’s polka king, Eddie Blazonczyk, died yesterday.

Just about everybody from the dancing generation is gone now.

Soon — very soon — the only males left in the world who can dance will be those under the age of 30.

Did I mention that life is unfair?

VIRAL PIE

Yet another reason why the interwebs is (are?) the greatest single invention of mankind.

Without my connection to the faux/real world, I would never have known this pizza joint ever existed:

Me? I wanna go there, eat a slice, and then stand outside the place scratching at the corner of my mouth. Imagine the looks on people’s faces as they drive by.

Yeah, I’m deranged.

Anyway, BuzzFeed has ten more such iffy trade monikers. Go there and laugh.

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