Category Archives: Johnny Cash

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I’m a real rebel with a cause.” — Nina Simone

REBELS

Independence Day.

We consider ourselves free in this holy land, and I suppose we are when compared to the rest of the world.

But there is no freedom without bondage. The old baseball manager Earl Weaver once said you can’t be a true rebel unless you’ve lived under the yoke of one kind of imposed order or another.

We profess to have loathed the tyranny of the British Empire when in reality the yoke we bore back in the 18th Century was that of King George III’s mental illness. It can be argued we really had no profound disagreement with the British and regarding the concept of freedom.

We wrote “… that all men are created equal.”

Yes, men. They’re all that counted when our Articles of Confederation, our Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution were written. White Men. White men who owned land.

White Men

The British themselves were slowly but surely coming around to the idea that male landowners ought to be able to govern themselves. We were just in a little bit more of a hurry about it all.

That was an amazing concept for the times. If we think it’s rather quaint — what about women and blacks and homosexuals and everybody else who isn’t Anglo, pale-skinned, and carrying X and Y chromosomes in their cells? — we have to remember that we’ve come a long way.

“It is possible,” Molly Ivins wrote, “to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”

We’re still struggling. But, again, there is no freedom without bondage.

I’M FREE

… and freedom tastes of reality.

DREAMING

People talk about The American Dream as if there is such a thing; that is, one shared aspiration among our 300-plus million citizens and the countless others around the world who want to get in on our good thing.

I’ve met enough disparate people to know there are almost as many American Dreams as there are Americans.

Still, the mythmakers may be right. There is one overriding American Dream that supersedes all those other, idiosyncratic dreams.

For all the people who laugh at Donald Trump — his hair, his bombast, his “Hey Ma, look at me!” persona — virtually every one of them wants to be him.

American

That’s the true American Dream. To be rich. To be so rich you can tell the world to fk off.

To be so  rich you’ll never have to work another day in your life.

To be so rich that when the cable goes out you can bully the customer service rep on the phone and get someone out to fix it even on Christmas Day.

To be so rich you don’t even have to vote.

To be so rich beautiful young women or men (whichever you prefer) will be willing to see you naked despite the ravages of time on your body.

I saw a black guy once on the Fourth of July all decked out in red, white, and blue, his car festooned with American flag decals and the insignias of the unit he served in Vietnam with.

I was tempted to ask him why he was so demonstrably in love with this country. After all, he was old enough to remember when it was illegal in many states for him to have sex with a white woman. Illegal!

He was old enough to have seen Lyndon Johnson sign the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in 1964 and ’65, laws that essentially recognized him as a human being — something this holy land had not done without reservation since its inception.

How in the world could a man who’d experienced so much insult, both institutionally and from his individual countrymen, be loyal to the state that made all that insult possible?

What is it that he sees in the United States of America? What would make him put his life on the line to prop up a corrupt little nation in Southeast Asia — one he’d probably rarely heard of before he was shipped out there — just because American politicians told him he ought to?

Why was he willing to dress up in that land’s colors?

We were at a gas station in Louisville, Kentucky at the time. He jumped in his car and drove away before I could talk myself into querying him. Too  bad.

And even if I had asked him all those questions, would he have answered truthfully? Would he toss around catchwords like freedom, independence, and liberty?

Maybe, just maybe, he loves America because he dreams that here he can become a rich man.

My dream? Only that we dream of something more.

YOU DREAMER, YOU

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

◗ Downtown Bloomington and around Courthouse Square — 4th of July Parade; 10am

◗ Courthouse Lawn — Independence Day concert, Bloomington Community Band; 11:30am

The BishopAmerica, Fk Yeah: A Night of America, For America; 4pm — patriotic films, “Red Dawn”; 8pm — “Rocky IV”; 10pm — “Team America: World Police”; midnight

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibit, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%” by John D. Shearer; through July 30th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibit, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts by Qiao Xiaoguang; through August 12th — Exhibit, wildlife artist William Zimmerman; through September 9th — Exhibit, David Hockney, new acquisitions; through October 21st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryKinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st, 11am

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” — Billy Wilder

PRELUDE TO MASS SUICIDE

Hah! And you thought I was being obsessive by devoting so much of this space to those two execrable professional virgins who sing about Rick Santorum.

All I know is this morning’s TV and radio reports on the victories of god’s candidate in yesterday’s Mississippi and Alabama primaries feature snippets of the song. It has now earned the imprimatur of the corporate media.

First Love, my dear friends, has arrived.

“I Know What’s Best For Your Uterus!”

And if, by some sick turn of history, the closeted candidate goes into the Republican convention with a chance to unseat putative front runner Willard Romney, the First Love earworm will become a pandemic.

Lady Gaga will wish she’d thought of penning a ballad extolling a rollback of reproductive rights and drooling over the dyed and addled Ronald Reagan.

[Headslap] “I Coulda Had An Earworm Hit!”

KING OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC

Just in case you missed it, Willard won the caucuses in Hawai’i and American Samoa last night. Game On!

“Thank You, My Fellow Samoans!”

THE ILLINOIS GUBERNATORIAL RETIREMENT PLAN

I met Rod Blagojevich the day he started campaigning for a seat in the Illinois House back in 1992.

It was a sunny Monday morning and this earnest-looking guy in a nicely pressed suit and a helmet of hair was handing out flyers in front of the Francisco stop on the Ravenswood el line. I looked at the photo on the flyer and then at the guy and said, “Hey, this is you.”

Vote For Me, I’ll Set You Free

He got a big kick out of that. He flashed a smile that almost blinded me. Lucky I was wearing sunglasses.

He told me why he was the best candidate for the office. He seemed so serious and honest and self-effacing. He made a lot of people think that of him over the years.

He told me he was a neighbor. The Blagojeviches lived a block and a half away from me, on Francisco Avenue. I’d pass his house every time I walked down to the convenience store for a newspaper or an ice cream bar. His bungalow was notable in that it was surrounded by a tall, black metal fence, the kind Mayor Daley had given a sweetheart contract to one of his donor/cronies to surround every park in the city with. I guess Blagojevich figured he ought throw a little business that guy’s way as well.

Rod Blagojevich was nothing if not politically astute.

Well, to a point.

He turned awfully stupid when he was taped by federal prosecutors trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s US Senate seat.

Not Free

Today he goes into the slammer for that and other crimes. He’ll serve about 12 years of his 14-year sentence in a minimum security facility outside Denver.

I needn’t recount all his in-office malfeasances and felonies here. Nor will I list all his embarrassing media exploits since being convicted in his impeachment trial in 2009.

I’ll only point this out; it may be his most despicable crime. In October 2002, Rod Blagojevich was the only Illinois Democrat in the US Congress to vote in favor of the authorization of George Bush’s bullshit Iraq war.

Enjoy your twelve year stay in the federal B&B, Rod baby, you earned it.

FOLSOM PRISON BLUES

Dedicated to my ex-state legislator, ex-congressman, ex-governor, and ex-neighbor Rod R. Blagojevich.

Today: Wednesday, November 16, 2011

MY NAME IS SUE, HOW DO YOU DO? NOW YOU GONNA DIE.

Heard a great quote from the late economist John Maynard Keynes this morning.

“In the long term,” he said, “we’re all dead.”

Sounds pessimistic, no?

No. I take it to mean, Get the hell going and do something now.

And, in fact, that’s what Keynes was was advocating. He was a crisis economist. His idea was that during periods of financial collapse, worrying too much about the long, long range repercussions of rescue efforts gives short shrift to people who are suffering now.

Yeah, Keynes was being a smart ass when he uttered the line. That’s probably the main reason I like it. The above-mentioned reason, though, ranks a very close second.

We’re all the walking dead. Throughout my entire adult life, my guiding principle has been, What am I gonna think about when I’m laying on my deathbed?

Am I going to think, Man, that was quick; and watching all those episodes of “Two and a Half Men” really made it fly by?

This Is How You Want To Spend Your Life?

So, early on, I decided to do what I love and hopefully, in my infinitesimally miniscule way, give this crazy, mixed-up world something good. I became a writer.

My idea was I could introduce readers to people they’d never be able to meet, describe places they’d never be able to see, and explain things they’d never have an opportunity to think about.

I’ve been rewarded with a rich life of fascinating characters, broadened horizons, and occasional crushing poverty. You can’t win them all.

A pal of mine — let’s call her Thalia — just quit her job. She wants to start her own online business. The going has been slow and stress-inducing. But she’s plugging away almost to the point of jeopardizing her health and whatever sanity she has left.

Thalia visited me at The Book Corner the other day. She danced around my questions about how things were going until, finally, she could no longer evade them. “I’m scared,” she said. “Plus, there’s that voice in my head that says Are you nuts? Whaddya doing? You’ve got no business starting your own business.”

If she was smart, if she was prudent, if she was thinking about the “long term,” she’d have stayed in her job. And died a long death.

She’ll live now. She’ll continue to eat — albeit in smaller portions. But she wants to trade in a product she loves and has been trained in. And she wants to do something that just might do this crazy, mixed-up world some good.

Yep, Thalia will really live now — that is, until she dies.

WHO’S SUE?

Does the previous entry’s headline ring a bell? It’s a line from a very famous song, the biggest hit Johnny Cash ever had, called, “A Boy Named Sue.”

I used to listen to it constantly on the transistor radio I had surgically attached to my ear during the summer of 1969, much to the annoyance of all adults in my general vicinity.

The best line I could think of that referred to death was the one about the boy, Sue. You know who wrote that song? Shel Silverstein.

Yup, That Shel Silverstein

POUNDING THE KEYBOARD

Not every local writer or author is as wildly celebrated as our own Joy Shayne Laughter.

Passing motorists point at her and shout, “Hey, there’s the chick in the fedora!”

Our Joy

She lives a life that’s the envy of South Central Indiana. In fact, she was seen the other day at Kleindorfer’s, shelling out big bucks for the most expensive snow shovel in the place.

Some scribes, though, toil away in anonymity.

Take Larry Eubank. Comes in to The Book Corner every morning for a Herald Times. Always listening to music on his quaint, old-school headphones. Friendly as can be.

He was holding a copy of a brand new book in his hand when he came in yesterday morning. He held it up and said, “Just to let you know, I brought this in. I’m not shoplifting.”

So I put the phone down before the 911 operator could pick up.

“You’re lucky, pal,” I said, watching him through narrowed lids.

Turns out the book in his hand was, indeed, his. As in, he wrote it.

It’s his second book. Ironically, I’d just sold his first book last week to an Ivy Tech student who’d expressed an interest in works on socialism vs. capitalism. That book was called “The Case against Capital.” Larry’s new book is called “Why Marx Was Wrong.”

The copy he had in his hand was an uncorrected galley edition. It’ll be published by AuthorHouse.

Larry and I likely would disagree about everything up to and including whether the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning. He’s penned articles for, among others, the website WorldNetDaily, a gang whose very existence makes me break out in hives.

But what of it? That’s one of the reasons I became a writer — to get to know people who I wouldn’t normally pal around with. To broaden, as I mentioned earlier, my horizons.

Larry Eubank is still as friendly as can be. And he’s living his dream. I like that.

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