Category Archives: John Lewis

Hot Air

Just Folks

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Bloomington not long ago was a sleepy, small college town. Even though we have developers coming in here hoping to build more hulking monolithic apartment blocks along the burgeoning mini-canyons on Walnut and College avenues, and even though our pop. is fast approaching 100k, we still retain bits of that endearing, quaint, small-town-ness.

To wit: This past week, both Claire McInerney and John Bailey, reporters for NPR-affiliate WFIU have come into the Book Corner to make purchases. Each used a credit card, affording me the opportunity to see who she and he were. Each time, I reacted with pleasant surprise: Oh, you’re the voice from the radio, or some such thing.

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McInerney & Bailey

And both Claire and John reacted with such delight that I felt as though I was in a scene from It’s A Wonderful Life. Claire beamed so broadly I thought the ends of her grin might meet at the back of her head. John thanked me repeatedly as if I’d told him his Pulitzer Prize had arrived in my mailbox by mistake.

See, I come from Chicago and even the minor-est media figures there are well-practiced in either canned gratitude or annoyed harrumphing at being recognized. In the big town, expressing joy when someone says they know you through radio, TV, or the newspapers is tantamount to admitting you’re a rube.

Well, you know what? I dig rubes. At least Bloomington’s brand of rube-ishness. It’s a hell of a lot more likable than studied jadedness. I hope we don’t lose that quality for many years to come.

USNS John Lewis

The US Navy is naming its new oil tanker ship after legendary civil rights activist and US Congressbeing from Georgia, John Lewis.

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Lewis Gets His Ship

How cool is that? I bet when that Alabama state trooper was clubbing him to the ground, breaking his skull in the process on Bloody Sunday back in 1965, the last thing on Lewis’s mind was the possibility that his country would name a ship after him.

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Lewis Gets His Head Busted

Of course, Lewis has always maintained a sense of optimism about and belief in this bizarre holy land. I envy him his fidelity. My occasional frissons about Murrica’s goodness and exceptionalism are fairly balanced out by glumness. We shoot each other up seemingly on a daily basis, our legislative processes are manipulated by banksters and corporatists, too many of us still fear black- and brown-skinned people, and the gap between the rich and the poor widens by the minute.

Yet Lewis still loves America. He appeared at the Indiana University Auditorium last September, along with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, his collaborators on the March series of graphic novels recounting his activist career. You could sense his ardor for this lovable/detestable land from the moment he opened his mouth.

I don’t believe I possess the strength of character and will to believe that Lewis has. Were I he, I’d hold a grudge against a country that broke my head simply because I wanted my people to be able to vote. I wish I were as strong as John Lewis.

Gun Crazy

So, here’s prima facie evidence that I shouldn’t love and forgive this holy land so readily. In the aftermath of President Obama’s heartfelt, sincere sermon regarding our national love affair with (or sexual fixation on) firearms, Seymour State Representative Jim Lucas — a Republican, duh! — has reintroduced a bill to allow people to carry shootin’ irons on state-supported college campuses. He sez he wants his “wife and daughter to be able to protect themselves especially on dark evenings walking alone.”

His bill aims to end state firearms carry licensing as well as to prevent all state agencies from banning guns on their properties or inside their facilities. The bill specifically mentions colleges and universities.

The-Wild-Bunch

The Wild Bunch Goes To College

With all due respect (read: none), I might suggest Lucas, his wife, and his daughter actually attend a college campus and try things like reading books wherein they might learn about the nature of crowds, the physics of ballistic projectiles passing through bodies and inanimate materials, the effect of panic on people who might be tempted to protect a classroom by blasting away at some intruder, among other fascinating and informative areas of study.

In other words, you are one dumb son of a bitch, Jim. Again, with all due respect.

Hot Air

An Unmistakable Statement

Think what you will about Barack Obama’s presidency. You’re entirely welcome to piss and moan that he’s a failed president, that his policies are leading us toward socialism, and/or that we’ll be paying through the nose for his programs for generations to come. Wags, “journalists,” and even entire “news” organizations have grown up shrieking such things. That’s okay; this is Murrica and we have the right to say what in the hell ever we want, so long as we don’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. We can even lie from sunrise through sunset, so long as we don’t fudge our résumés or cheat on our taxes.

So the Right can keep on peddling its slop. But those who didn’t show up at Selma Alabama, yesterday for the 50th anniversary remembrance of Bloody Sunday, are being more honest with that one single act than with all the facts, figures, interpretations, and innuendos they’ve mouthed and keyboard-spewed for the so-far six-plus years of the Obama reign.

Washington Post

Obama Embraces John Lewis At The Edmund Pettus Bridge

[Saul Loeb photo/Getty Images]

They’re saying:

  • Civil rights don’t matter;
  • Black human beings don’t matter;
  • Voting doesn’t matter;
  • The rule of law doesn’t matter.

They’re saying a lot for being so uncharacteristically silent.

Kyle Watch

Is Kyle Schwarber single? Does he go out with anybody?

Aw, what am I saying? He’s not my type.

The burly and supremely talented former Indiana University catcher came to the plate Thursday in sunny Arizona. It was his first at bat as a professional baseball player in Spring Training. He promptly hit a grand slam home run. On top of that, it was his birthday. The kid is only 22.

Sigh.

Schwarber

Schwarber

If he keeps this remarkable hitting up — he’s been tearing up the minor leagues since he was drafted out of IU by the Chicago Cubs last June — he’ll be smashing baseballs onto Waveland Avenue outside Wrigley Field by the end of the 2016 season.

Maybe he is my type after all.

Rules & Regs

Now, this may be a silly thing to make an issue of but, well, I gotta. I was in the restroom at my local Subway yesterday afternoon. After I finished my primary business therein, I stood at the sink and washed my hands. And there, right next to the sink was the sign, “Wash Your Hands.”

I doubt if there’s a restaurant or other food service establishment in this holy land that doesn’t have that sign or a similar one in its rest rooms, most of them reading, in fine print, something on the order of By order of your local health dept.

Sign

I’m willing to bet a bushel-full of cash that all those health depts. also mandate that the sign must be within a certain few inches of the sink. Which is the worst place for it to be.

If you’re standing at the sink, you’re washing your hands, right?

The sign should be right above the urinal. Or next to the flush lever in the stall. That’s when whatever king or queen of slobs who needs to be prodded into washing their mitts should be, y’know, prodded.

There. I feel better now.

Political Science

I’ll sigh again here in today’s post, but for a different reason.

A story in this AM’s Herald Times (paywall) tells us that there’ll be a Bigfoot investigation campout at Monroe-Morgan State Forest the first weekend in May. Yep, a gang of people who fancy themselves scientific researchers will be on the lookout for the famous wraith that has purportedly appeared, fleetingly, before the eyes of yahoos all around the backwaters of this holy land for decades.

Apparently, credulous souls have glimpsed the reputed giant in the woods just north of this thriving, throbbing megalopolis. And despite the fact that Bloomington is home to rational thinkers, reputable scientists, and dogged investigative types, only a select few have gazed upon the decidedly non-glabrous, towering, hermetic figure. A guy named LeRoy Nail of Martinsville, the leader of the local chapter of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, says his group has investigated three confirmed sasquatch sightings in Morgan County. The national BFRO lists 76 sightings of the beast in Indiana over the years.

Sigh. Again.

From BFRO

Bigfoot Footprint In Morgan County

To think there are scads of us who passionately believe that if only we can calmly and patiently lay out well-reasoned arguments, all the people of this great nation will happily accept certain scientific truths. Such a liberal way of thinking.

Which, itself, is highly un-scientific. Researchers have shown, time and again, that well-reasoned arguments — far from being convincing or persuasive — actually steel the resolve of non-believers.

For instance, I know a guy who believes the following:

  • Communist infiltrators have run vast swaths of the United States government since at least the end of World War II
  • Bobby Kennedy smothered Marilyn Monroe to death with a pillow because she’d heard JFK blab some state secrets while in flagrante delicto with her
  • The JFK assassination was a Mafia hit
  • A spaceship from another planet crashed into the Earth and the bodies of its occupants were operated on in a secret facility in Nevada
  • The moon landings were hoaxes
  • Homosexuals are engaged in a systematic plot to take over the public school teaching profession
  • Hillary Clinton ordered the murder of Vince Foster
  • The US government employs high-altitude airplanes to spray mind-control drugs over heavily populated areas

"Chemtrails"

“Chemtrails”

  • Barack Obama was trained from childhood to be a Muslim plant whose job was to take over America and destroy it

This fellow is otherwise a respectable, seemingly reasonable chap. He runs his own successful business. You wouldn’t consider him a wild-eyed lunatic at first glance.

Yet he firmly rejects any suggestion that global warming or climate change threatens us.

And, yes, he believes there are sasquatches or Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) running around all corners of this globe. “There’s all kinds of scientific evidence for it,” he says.

He is impossible to talk to.

To liberals, he’s simply misguided, in need only of enlightenment. To the Right, he’s the key to the White House in 2016.

My Pal Foot Foot

A “classic” by The Shaggs, who inexplicably were resurrected from a well-deserved obscurity back in the 1990s by musicians and critics who should have known better.

Hot Air

Rights Without A Home

Well, whaddya know? Our big sister up to the north, Indianapolis, this week passed a law to protect the homeless.

The homeless, for pity’s sake.

How very retro of the Circle City. Hell, you’d think this was 1964 or something. This development is so earth-shaking that the story is being carried in Al Jazeera, for chrissakes.

Not only that, AJ notes, there a whole goddamned “movement” to protect and care about those w/o McMansions or even well-appointed refrigerator cartons in this holy land. Can Al Jazeera be talking about the same country I know?

Refrigerator Carton

Home?

Acc’d’g to the story, homeless-protection laws are being passed in places like Washington, D.C., Madison, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota. Okay, these three are People’s Republics, primarily run and inhabited by subversives, preeverts, and pointy-heads whose political and philosophical spectra run only from pink to red. But Indy?

Yes, Indy. Under the new law, awaiting the mayor’s pen, the homeless would be guaranteed “the rights… to carry out basic human functions such as sitting, standing, eating and sleeping in public areas.”

Heavens. Gov. Mike Pence surely tossed and turned all last night. Not only are the homeless not billionaires, thereby not worthy of due respect in this Free Market, Ayn Randian, I-got-mine-and-to-hell-with-you nation but they’re not even hundredaires! How can a patriotic American even think about them?

Apparently, Indy Council guy LeRoy Robinson has been thinking of them. He sponsored the bill. I didn’t know anything else about him, but I like him.

Robinson

LeRoy Robinson Of Indianapolis

So I did a little digging into this Robinson character. Is he a Russian plant? A member of ISIS? Kim Jong Un’s man in America? Perhaps all three?

Here’s what one prominent Indy att’y said about him when he was running for his City Council seat:

I have watched Leroy grow since childhood into a very well rounded young man with a passion for his community, education, and public service.

Evidence, perhaps, that he wasn’t born in Kenya like some other elected officials we know? We’ll see.

He’s a former schoolteacher, which automatically should disqualify him from US citizenship if the likes of, say, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have their way.

Last fall, Robinson displayed on his City Hall desk a sign reading “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” along with four other council members.

I’m liking him more and more.

Funny thing is, he’s a Christianist, which should be cause for me to sniff dismissively. But maybe — just maybe — his religious belief has inspired him to care about silly things like education, justice, and the homeless. If so, he sounds to me like an honest-to-gosh follower of Jesus Christ — as opposed to those who say they are but aren’t.

Tears Of Joy

The National Weather Service is going way, way, way out on a limb and predicting high temperatures over the next five days to range from 43º today to 56º Wednesday.

I think I’m gonna cry.

Bird & Flowers

Can It Be?

House Boy

It was learned these last couple of days that no House Republicans were slated to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the first of the Selma marches and the Bloody Sunday police riot that shocked the nation — well, some of the nation — on March 7th, 1965.

Bloody Sunday/Selma

John Lewis (Foreground) As The March Commences

Today’s celebration has been attracting pols like bumblebees to bright pink flowers. Jeez, even George W. Bush says he’s going to attend (of course, he doesn’t have to worry about alienating Right Wing voters anymore.) Everybody, it seems, wants to get in on the civil rights act. Everybody that is, except Congressional Republicans.

The tsk-tsking that all Republican members of Congress had better things to do today — including get their cars washed, shoot a round of golf, and clip their toenails — came as an embarrassment to the GOP. So last night, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told the world that, yes, he’ll be in Selma this afternoon.

Perhaps he’ll see what it’s like to be a token.

In any case, do you need any more evidence that no matter what Republicans say, they really, really don’t give a shit about dark-skinned folk?

Hey, while we’re on the subject, here’s a reminder. You oughta get yourself a copy of the graphic novel, March: Book One, illustrated by B-ton resident Nate Powell. It’s the story of then-civil rights activist and current US Congressguy John Lewis’s road to Selma. Lewis was clubbed on the head by one of Alabama’s state troopers and suffered a fractured skull that day fifty years ago.

Bloody Sunday

John Lewis Hits The Ground

Here’s my January 2014 interview with Powell on WFHB and here’s a longer interview I did with him for for the April 2014 Ryder magazine.

Daylight Savings

Set your clocks ahead tonight, woohoo!

Clock

Son Of Seymour

This should make a certain percentage of Bloomingtonians happy and a certain percentage nauseated: a new biography of John Mellencamp will be released next month. Titled Mellencamp: American Troubadour and written by David Masciotra, the book is being published by the University Press of Kentucky and is due on booksellers’ shelves April 6th.

Book Cover

I don’t know why it is but tons of my adopted town’s citizenry love to tell stories about how their girlfriend’s brother-in-law once ran into Mellencamp at some hardware store and the rock star emeritus was all kinds of a-hole-ish. Sometimes I think peeps expect guys like Mellencamp to pump their hands and say, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a fan. Can I pay for all your stuff? I s’pose it never occurs to folks that they might be the hundredth person to grab him by the arm that morning and stutter, You’re…, you’re…, that guy…. Right?

Or, maybe he is a jerk. I dunno. Read the book and find out.

She Likes Us! She Likes Us!

Search me as to why I missed this a couple of months ago but let’s celebrate it now: Comedian Amy Schumer named the Comedy Attic one of her 10 fave clubs in the country in USA Today.

All the rest were pretty much big city joints — the Gotham Comedy Club in New York, Punchline in San Francisco, Hollywood Improv in LA and the like. Schumer’s list ran in the paper’s January 11th edition. She had this to say about Jared & Dayna Thompson’s place and our thriving, throbbing megalopolis:

It’s the Midwest, but they’re nobody’s fool. The people are smart, and I love the culture there, and the restaurants and the bars. It’s kind of a happening city.

Schumer

Funny Girl

Hot Air

Criminal Behavior

This day, 49 years ago, Alabama state state troopers and Selma city police kicked the living bejesus out of a large group of people who had the nerve to violate the Deep South’s most cherished and rigidly reinforced system of laws.

That is, Jim Crow.

Led by folks like John Lewis, now a Democratic member of US Congress from Georgia, that group of people wanted to be allowed to vote. That urge, in the Deep South in those days, was more heinous than the urge to molest a child or assassinate a president. Lewis, for one, paid for his depravity by getting his skull broken by a trooper’s nightstick.

Today, the benighted Right has more subtle methods of prevented dark skinned Americans from voting.

Storytellers

So, as expected, Rand Paul is the darling of the CPAC wingnuts again this year, winning the ultra-conservative fap fest’s annual straw poll of fave prez candidates.

And, in a shocker, coming in third was the fabulist, Dr. Ben Carson, whose claim to fame is his bestselling book, America the Beautiful, a treatise that informs us that this holy land is really heaven on Earth and things like poverty, racism, sexism, and any other purported sins of our nation are commie lies.

These two guys are the Tea Party wing of the GOP in a nutshell. While telling us this is greatest, most perfect nation in  the history of all humankind, they warn us that it’s populated by a bunch of lazy, immoral, dependent-on-gov’t, Hollywood-liberal-loving, crypto-socialist takers.

Paul/Carson

Darlings

I believe the psychologists and psychiatrists of the world would call that type of personality schizophrenic.

A Real Storyteller

Above all else, Dave Hoekstra is a Cubs fan. That alone makes him, in my eyes, a human being worthy of esteem.

Add to that, though, the fact that he’s spent the last 29 years telling stories about Chicagoans. He was more Studs Terkel than Mike Royko. He wasn’t going to raise his morning readers’ blood pressure by exposing an outrage perpetrated by a petit tyrant in some city office. He didn’t tackle the broad and terrifying issues of the world. No, he simply went out on the streets of the city and met its residents.

And then he told us their stories.

More, Hoekstra was the only white media being I can think of who’d talk to and write about black people who weren’t exclusively drug dealers or street prostitutes or somehow being terrorized by a soulless, racist world. He introduced us to black people who were, well, people.

Hoekstra also intro’d us to musicians, entrepreneurs, poets, lawyers, salespeople, weekend athletes, and all the other occupations and vocations people can be. If you wanted to know the city of Chicago, you read Dave Hoekstra.

Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra

Now, no more. The Chicago Sun-Times, in yet another in an endless series of cost-cutting moves, has laid off a pile of people. One of whom is Dave Hoekstra.

That’s it. You give an outfit 29 years of your life and, boom, they tell you to take a hike because, well…, because shareholders’ needs are paramount to all things. (I’ll ruminate more on that in tomorrow’s post).

Hoekstra’s pushing 60. He’s not rich. He plods along, financially, just like you and me. And now he’s out of a job. A job he is great at. A job he did admirably and consistently for three decades. A job he ain’t got anymore.

You say newspapers are dying? This is one good one reason why they should be.

[BTW: You want to know how much of a Cubs fan Hoekstra is? When the Cubs opened the 2000 season in Tokyo, as part of a Major League Baseball effort to expand the reach of the game beyond international boundaries, he flew to Japan to catch the game. That’s a fan.]

Relatively Balmy Air

Big Talk

Yo ho, the first installment in my new series of interviews, jointly produced with WFHB radio and The Ryder magazine, came off without a hitch yesterday.

Logo Combo

Media Conglomerate

The series has no name just yet — I’m leaning toward something like The Big Talk. Interview Number 1 aired during the Daily Local News at 5:30pm on 91.3 FM. I’d sat down with Nate Powell, now a Bloomington resident and one of the top graphic novelists/cartoonists in the country. Powell illustrated Congressman John Lewis’s biographical graphic novel, March: Book One. Lewis was one of the pioneers of the civil rights movement and famously got his skull broken by an Alabama state trooper’s nightstick on Bloody Sunday, the day of the first Selma voting rights march.

The series includes both an 8-minute radio interview to be followed by a longer chitchat in the magazine. The Powell interview will run in Feb.’s Ryder, appropriately enough, during Black History Month.

Tons o’thanks to WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh and The Ryder editor and publisher Peter LoPilato for their support. This is gonna be fun!

Anyway, check out the Nate Powell talk online.

Making Things Up

My pal, the retired IU prof of Southeast Asia studies (who, BTW, forbids me from disclosing his name in this communications colossus), suggests we need a word for the practice in coffeehouses and restaurants of combining two or more tables to accommodate a big group of people.

You know, something like schadenfreude¹ or zeitgeist² or doppelgänger³. The Germans, natch, are huge on that portmanteau-ish practice and, in fact, are notorious for coining words that go on and on and on. The language and writing blog Verbavores points out the 30-letter word Geschwindigkeitsbeschränkungen, which actually means nothing more complicated than speed limits.

German Speed Limit Signs

Strassenverkehrsordnung-stuff

A visiting German student working on his thesis here at IU was sitting with us in Soma this AM. We leaned on him to help us come up with such a word. Give us something with table and combine, we said.

He thought for a moment, then commandeered my interwebs machine to type in the following: Tischzusammenschiebungen.

Hmm. Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, does it? We’ll have to keep working on it.

[1: Harm-joy, finding pleasure in the suffering of others; 2: Ghost-time, the spirit of the age; and 3: Double-goer, a paranormal double of a living person or one who uncannily resembles someone else.]

[Oh, one more thing: the name of this media powerhouse, in Teutonic portmanteau, is Elektronenbleistift. You’re welcome.]

Everybody’s Talkin’

Much Less Frigid Air

The War We Lost

So, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s declaration of War on Poverty.

It was one of the great moments in American history.

Loyal readers know how I feel about LBJ. He was an uncouth, bullying, macho, conniving political huckster. He also felt, deep within his heart and soul, a kinship with black human beings and poor human beings. And he acted on those empathies — for a precious moment.

LBJ

LBJ

Had he and the Congress allowed the resultant Great Society programs to actually eliminate malnutrition, lack of education, joblessness, and all the other ills of need that bedeviled this holy land, the richest on Earth, he would have gone down as one of the greatest three or four presidents ever.

Sadly, he got, to borrow a term he often used, his pecker caught in Vietnam.

This nation decided it was far more important to prosecute an unwinnable, pointless, poorly-executed war in the Southeast Asian jungles than to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters here climb out of despair.

Now, here we are, 50 years later. The gap between rich and poor grows daily. Commentators chirp that the economy is is churning once again after the Great Recession, yet it seems the only beneficiaries are moneyed investors and Wall Street casino players. Municipalities and social and cultural institutions are starving for cash. Unemployment remains remarkably high. And far too many of the available jobs are in the service industries, paying minimum wage.

In the War on Poverty, poverty won.

Mother Jones mag yesterday ran a piece on where we are, poverty-wise, now in the United States. A trio of authors suggest we’ve both won and lost the War. If we take the authors at their word, that the result was a mixed bag, then, really, we’ve lost. LBJ himself said, in announcing the War, “… [W]e shall not rest until that war is won. The richest nation on Earth can afford to win it.”

Check out the six charts illustrating the depths of American poverty in the 21st Century. Some things have changed for the better. Some things. That’s all.

The political debate today is no nearer to revisiting the ideas of the Great Society than it is to the consideration of dumping all our currency, stocks, and bonds in a huge pile, dousing it with gasoline, and lighting a match.

Poor people, you’re on your own.

To me, that’s a losing coda.

[h/t to Susan Sandberg for pointing out the MJ mag piece.]

The Big Interview

Hey, dig my interview with graphic novelist Nate Powell this afternoon on the WFHB Daily Local News.

Powell

Powell

It’s the first in a new series of conversations between me and people I find compelling and interesting. Each tête à tête will run as an 8-minute feature on WFHB and then as a full-out conversation in The Ryder magazine.

Powell is the illustrator of the graphic novel, March: Book One, about the life of Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who was a key figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Lewis got his skull broken by an Alabama state trooper on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. That was the day voting rights activists attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge at Selma but were met and routed by local and state cops.

Powell has written and drawn a number of award-winning and big-selling comics and graphic novels including Swallow Me Whole, Any Empire, and The Silence of Our Friends. He lives in Bloomington now with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

Tune in at 5:30pm or catch the podcast (after it’s put up, natch) on the station’s website. The longer Powell interview will run in next month’s Ryder.

A Contrarian’s Rationalization

Loyal readers know I refuse to get a smartphone. Some folks look at me as if I’m from the moon when I whip out my trusty flip phone. I don’t care.

Yeah, a lot of it has to do with my fetish for contrarianism but, really, there’s thought behind my refusal to jump on the e-toy bandwagon.

Smartphone Users

Personal technology writer David Pogue laid out a good case for my narrowly-focused Luddism in last month’s Scientific American:

We all know that the cycle of electronics consumerism is broken. Because it’s an endless money drain for consumers to keep their gadgets current. Because the never ending desire to show off new features leads to bloat and complexity of design. And because all our outdated, abandoned gadgets have to go somewhere. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, we Americans threw away 310 million electronic gadgets in 2010 alone. That’s about 1.8 million tons of toxic, nonbiodegradable waste in our landfills.

See? I’m not a total lunatic.

Hot Air

Quick Hits & Snippets

Cold yet? Just wait. In the meantime, here are some news tidbits, opinions, and pontifications straight from The Pencil world headquarters. BTW: Chris Madsen, long-time voice of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and noted national media consultant, called my almost-daily word spurts “rants” yesterday. Hmm! Rants, eh? I’ll show you some rants.

Brrrrrr…., Grrrrrr!

Personal to Old Man Winter: Just go, will you?

Winter Ice

Music As Biography

Have you read the piece on John Mellencamp in the last Rolling Stone issue of 2013? It’s called “My Life in 15 Songs” and, in it, he describes how he’s grown, how his life has changed through the years as landmarked by certain hits. Pretty cool idea.

Now, I’ve never met Mellencamp, although I like to think we’re neighbors: He and I live on Indiana State Road 446. Of course, his lakefront mansion is some five miles south of my far more modest chez.

Anyway, when I first moved here, I’d hear people talking about M. and their stories generally went something like this:

My cousin’s brother-in-law knew him in high school and, man, was he an asshole. There was this one time….

None of the people who were so certain as to the character of the pop star-turned Americana singer-songwriter had ever seen the man, much less knew him.

I get the feeling that because he’d elected to live in So. Cent. Ind. people expected him to be chummy and warm with everyone he’d run into hereabouts, as if, rather than being a worldwide celebrity, he was everybody’s next door neighbor. So when he’d grunt in response to goggle-eyed fans accosting him at the Starbucks, they’d take it personally.

Mellencamp/Irwin

Jekyll & Bride

Conversely, his ex-wife, the stunning model Elaine Irwin, seems universally regarded as the nicest human ever to breath air in Indiana. I’ve got a theory about that, too, natch. See, people expect super models to be haughty, aloof, and utterly unapproachable. So whenever anyone might run into her in the Starbucks line, they’d hear her say please and thank you to the barista and come away convinced that she was, in truth, gushingly effusive and open-armed.

Face it, folks, we’re a weird species.

I’d Like You To Meet Someone….

Hey, as soon as I finish clacking this post out, I’m off to the recording studio to do an interview with big time graphic novelist Nate Powell. His latest tome is a joint production with Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) and writer Andrew Aydin entitled March: Book One. It the first of a trilogy recounting the life of the civil rights leader from his days on a little Pike County, Alabama, farm through the 1965 voting rights march in Selma (where he got his skull broken by an Alabama state trooper) and on, triumphantly, to the halls of the US Capitol.

Nate Powell Artwork/John Lewis

Powell & Lewis

Powell’s well-known for his graphic novels, including Swallow Me Whole and Any Empire. He took a roundabout route to comix fame and we’ll be talking about it all today. My interview with him will be the first in a joint production venture between WFHB and The Ryder magazine. We’re looking to run a monthly piece in the mag featuring compelling folk from here in the Bloomington area as well as a companion audio feature on the Daily Local News. I’m excited as all hell about it.

Kudos and thanks to WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh and Ryder editor/publisher Peter LoPilato for joining the venture. BTW: I haven’t figured out what to call the thing yet. I’ve tossed around some ideas in my coconut and the best so far seems to be Big Mike’s People. If you’ve got a better idea, by all means pass it on.

Ready, Aim…, Duck!

Wow, here’s a shocker: Those Duck Dynasty hyenas are now pimping for a gun manufacturer. Imagine that! Bigoted people and guns. No one on Earth has ever made that connection before.

Tea Party & Guns

Poor Little Rich Boys

And, of course, the “affluenza” defense is becoming real, at least a version of it. Well, “real” in the same sense that, say, an accused rapist might plead he couldn’t help himself because that woman wore a miniskirt.

Ty Warner, the billionaire entrepreneurial genius who gave us Beanie Babies®, has been convicted of income tax evasion for parking countless millions of dollars in off-shore accounts. See, geniuses shouldn’t have to pay taxes like the rest of us slobs.

He has pleaded guilty in federal court to the tax evasion charges and now is trying to convince the judge in his case that he shouldn’t go to jail because he came from the most deprived of childhoods so how could she expect him to do the right thing when he became a bazillionaire?

Warner

The Tears Of A Clown

Warner faces five years in the federal pen; that’s in addition to the $53 million in penalties and $16 million in back taxes he’s already been ordered to pay. But his reasoning goes that rich geniuses shouldn’t have to go to jail for evading taxes, especially if they’d been forced to endure abominations like taking jobs as busboys and valet parkers when they were in college.

The horror.

Do I need to tell you how I hope the judge rules?

Room To Write

Resident of the Internet-iverse (although his corporal body can be found in Forest Park, Illinois), Bill Lichtenberg, happened upon some chilling stats. Chilling, that is, when one (me) considers the depth and breadth of the competition to get one’s (mine) novel published.

Dominic Smith, writing in the books, arts and culture online magazine The Millions, has found that there are way, way, way, way too many people trying to catch the eyes of traditional publishers these days. Smith writes:

After studying the data, I’m inclined to think there’s a million people writing novels, a quarter of a million actively publishing them in some form, and about 50,000 publishing them with mainstream and small, traditional presses.

That’s in America alone, babies.

Personal to other writers: Back off; you’re crowding me

Radio Talk

Finally, the newly-formed WFHB newsletter committee will meet again tonight. I can say that I’m on the committee and maybe — just maybe — tonight I can get the other members to give me permission to identify them. We’ll see.

Anyway, the committee last week decided to aim for March to put out the inaugural issue.

Stay tuned.

It’s A Small, Small World Hot Air

All local, all the time today.

Meters, Made

A member of the notorious Bloomington Seven had his gang’s most egregious crime against humanity on his mind yesterday.

Tall Steve Volan plopped his skyscraping frame in a chair in the WFHB lobby following his Thursday afternoon music show. He accosted innocent passersby for their feelings on how the recently installed downtown parking meters have directly affected them. (Of course, he might use the term canvassed but, y’know, he’s a politician.)

Anyway, Tall Steve is getting all voice of the people-y now. Perhaps he’s concerned about the seemingly universal negative reaction to the downtown pay-to-park move that went into effect in August. As far as I can gather, the only people happy about the new coin bandits around the Square and surrounding streets are restaurant and cafe owners who want the continuous flow of open parking spaces that meters will produce.

Deatil from photo by Ying Chen/IPM

Meter Matters

The rest of the citizenry is ready to string up Volan, Mayor Mark Kruzan, and the other city council members (the B-7) who voted for the meters.

Next, Volan wants to gather the mobs in a safe place in order to convince them he is indeed a servant of the people. He’s looking to set up one or two public forums in hopes of evoking community input on the meter mess.

The ultimate goal, Volan tells me, is to establish a parking commission here in Bloomington. He revealed there was no blue-ribbon body that pondered the philosophical, moral, and practical considerations of making shoppers dig into their pockets and purses for quarters every time they come downtown. The meters were the brainchild only of the mayor and a few Department of Public Works wonks who crunched numbers and felt a frisson when they concluded that pay parking would dump thousands of dollars a day into the general fund.

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Natch, pols hate to admit money is the sole reasoning for any decisions they make, so Kruzan et al claim to want to prevent all the nouveau downtown residents from hogging parking spaces all day and night long. Volan says the idea is for residents and downtown employees all to park off-street, thereby leaving an open parking field for customers, diners, and other dignitaries.

The city, from this EP vantage point, sees all the East Coast B-students whose parents have copped them swanky condos downtown, are swell for all the dough they spill in the city but their aircraft carrier-sized SUVs take up much of the available municipal acreage.

Volan was surprised to learn that the surface lot behind the Buskirk-Chumley Theater was not packed even at the busy hour of two in the afternoon. That lot and the multi-story garage on 4th Street offer the first three hours free. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting the word out about that,” Volan said.

Buy Local

Here are three things you should spend your hard-earned cash on.

Krista Detor‘s new CD, her first in four years. Titled Flat Earth Diary, you can still catch a free sample download here. The CD is due out in January. Bloomington’s own Krista Detor is a cool dame; if you’re not yet a fan, where you been, mang?

Detor

Krista Detor

The Rise of the Warrior Cop, by Radley Balko. Former Indiana University journalism student Radley Balko has released a pressing new book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop. Balko cut his teeth as a press snoop with the Indiana Daily Student. Believe it or n. the IDS is my daily paper of choice. Balko looks into the the militarization of this holy land’s thousands of police forces.

Boston Police

Officers Friendly

Apparently, too many police chiefs and city fathers have grown up watching RoboCop-type movies and have conflated the images on the screen with real life. Do you really want your local cops to tool around city streets in fully armored vehicles and be armed with battlefield weapons?

I didn’t think so.

March (Book One), by Rep.  John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell. Lewis, a chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and one of the famed Freedom Riders, got his head broken in Selma, Alabama on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” His crime? Being one of the leaders of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Bloody Sunday

Lewis, On The Ground

Illustrator Nate Powell now lives in Bloomington. He’s famed for numerous graphic novels, including Any Empire, and is n ow working on a graphic adaptation of Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero.

The first entry in the Lewis graphic novel autobiography trilogy recounts his early days as a freedom fighter. I can’t wait for books two and three.

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