Category Archives: Karen Lewis

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.” — Oscar Levant

THE STRIKE: DAY, UM, ZERO!

It’s over, hallelujah.

Chicago Teachers Union Boss Karen Lewis With The Good News

So what have we learned?

  • Chicago’s teachers get paid well
  • They deserve every penny of it
  • They were willing to sacrifice precious days and even weeks of earning to fight for better classrooms
  • They’ll fight privatization

Bloomington’s teacher’s deserve a hell of a lot more money than they’re getting now. Too bad Indiana state law bans teacher strikes.

MY SIN

I took a pummeling yesterday from a trio of women.

As I was exiting the back door of the Book Corner, the front door of Hidden Closet — which faces it — swung open dramatically and I was confronted by the scarlet face of boss lady Brynda Forgas. I knew I was in for it. The only question was, What the hell had I done?

“I’m so mad at you!” Brynda hissed, her eyes wide.

I mentally checked off a list of possible offenses:

  • We aren’t having an affair
  • I hadn’t sneaked into her shop and grabbed cash from the register
  • I haven’t told people to stay away from the Hidden Closet
  • We both are moved to shuddering at the sound of the words Mitt Romney

So what did I do? I felt like a ten-year-old.

Forgas In A Less Inflamed Moment

It should be noted that the above inventory of misdeeds took place within a fraction of a second because Brynda launched into her tirade without prompting.

“You mean to tell me you had Richard Thompson in your store yesterday and you didn’t even have the decency to run over here immediately and tell me?!”

Brynda’s face inched closer to mine. I flinch-blinked. Was a jab to the nose in the offing?

She opened her door wider so I could see two cohorts holding cups of tea fortified with what, I don’t know, staring at me through narrowed eyes. One of them was another usually amicable soul, Kathy Loser, chief book pusher at Bloomington High School North. I didn’t recognize the other woman. For all I knew, she was an imported thumb-breaker.

Brynda continued: “I would have dropped everything and come right over! I’d have left a customer standing there!” There was more — much more — but the sound of her voice had become a machine gun.

The women were preparing themselves for the big show at the Buskirk Chumley Theater across the street. Richard Thompson’s show was scheduled to begin in an hour and a half.

As I suffered this verbal onslaught, The Loved One waited patiently in the car for me and watched as the Man of Brynda et al’s Dreams actually came out the front door of the venue and signed posters for some adoring fans.

Now, I like Richard Thompson but I had no idea he was such a MILF-idol. Color me educated as of now.

Sexy Daddy

I was able to discern one bit of info from Brynda’s tirade — she had front row center seats for Thompson. I wonder if we’ll see her at her shop this morning.

I’LL SHOW ‘EM!

We’ve been having trouble with our Comcast broadband service here at The Pencil’s World Headquarters just east of Beautiful Bloomington.

Every night, The Loved One asks, Did you call Comcast?

Grrrrrr

And every night I snap my fingers and say, “Damn! I forgot. I’ll do it tomorrow.”

It’s become a ritual.

Last night, TLO gave me an explicit instruction: “Make sure we get a credit. We shouldn’t have to pay the full amount for this.”

“This” being repeated signal outages that constantly interrupt our Netflix viewing as well as my regular sessions of trance-like admiration for my brilliant work on this site.

Funny, then, that the site I Fucking Love Science, via XKCD, posted this image yesterday:

The caption read: “For when you really, really MUST piss someone off.”

Trust me — I really, really want to piss Comcast off.

CRAZY

Uh oh. Here we go again.

A French magazine has just printed a cartoon making fun of Islam’s big cheese, Muhammad.

Al Jazeera English reports that France is actually shutting down its embassies in 20 countries for fear that Muslim extremists might attack.

French Mag Charlie Hebdo Offices Were Attacked in November, 2011

Sheesh.

Enough of trying to understand how precious Muhammad is to the Muslim world. We get it. What the sane among us don’t get is the psychotic reaction.

The nations where these violent outbursts have taken place in recent weeks had better start taking responsibility for the loons carrying them out.

It’s A Guy Thing

The extremists may revere Muhammad. I, for one, revere free speech and respect for human lives.

PSYCHOTIC REACTION

By the Count Five. It charted in 1966.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” — Ann Richards

THOMPSON AND KEATON

What a blast in Bloomington tonight!

British songwriter, guitarist, and all-around good guy Richard Thompson plays the Buskirk Chumley Theater at 8pm. And if you’re a film buff, hie over to the IU’s Jacobs School of Music, Auer Hall, also at 8, for a showing of Buster Keaton‘s comedy, “Spite Marriage.” John D. Schwandt will accompany the silent movie on organ.

Bloomington Tuesday Night Stars: Thompson & Keaton

By the way, the tall Thompson (he can give our own Tall Steve Volan a run for his money) came into the Book Corner yesterday. I was fairly busy at the time so I hadn’t taken notice of the celeb in my midst. Only when I ran his credit card did it occur to me that, holy smoke, it’s Richard Thompson!

I showered him with fan praise and — whaddya know? — Thompson showered the Book Corner with his own plaudits.

If you’ve got tix for his gig, you’re in for a big treat.

THE STRIKE: DAY 9

Fingers crossed that Chicago’s teachers approve the proposed deal with the school board this afternoon.

If done, classes will resume tomorrow. If not, the howling from the anti-unionists will become deafening.

Bosses: The School Board’s David Vitale & The Union’s Karen Lewis

The idea is starting to filter out that much of the teachers’ quibble stems from their rigid opposition to the trend toward privatization, not only in Chi but around the nation.

Just a reminder to those who dig privatization: we call them public schools for a reason.

NOT SILVER-TONGUED

Quick question: Is Willard Romney on the payroll of the Barack Obama reelection campaign?

I mean, the guy is running for president, sure, but if he sabotaged himself any more we’d have to grant him honorary membership in the Bluth family of “Arrested Development.”

Mitt Romney Would Fit In Nicely Between George And Lindsay Bluth

Romney washed his hands of responsibility for half the nation at a Boca Raton fundraiser in the spring. He characterized that half as tax non-payers, bums, gold-diggers, and welfare queens. Someone had sneaked a video camera in and caught him in the act.

See, that’s the way Republicans today look at the people of this holy land. The POG had better jump down off its high horse soon or else they’ll be losing a lot more races.

Anyway, Romney’s big mouth makes me think of that great quote (at the top of this column) delivered by Texan Ann Richards at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. She was referring to another patrician Republican running for president at the time, George H.W. Bush.

Somehow Richards became the Texas governor in 1991. How a plain-speaking, unabashedly liberal, feisty female could grab the reins in that antediluvian state is beyond explanation. The Pan troglodytes of Texas came to their senses four years later when they threw her out of office in favor of — oh, my aching head! — George W. Bush.

Had Ann Richards been a pol in, say Illinois, Pennsylvania, or even Nebraska, she just might have become president herself.

NEW SAN ANTONIO ROSE

Here’s a pretty good quality recording of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys‘ 1940s Texas Swing hit.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I took up writing to escape the drudgery of that everyday cubicle kind of war.” — Walter Mosley

NOT SO FAST — THE STRIKE: DAY 8

Wow!

Maybe I was all wrong last week.

Maybe the Chicago teachers really did strike for the benefit of the children and to make the classroom a better place.

At least some of them.

Striking Chicago Teacher At A Rally Saturday

The Windy City was all abuzz yesterday evening after Chicago Teachers Union boss Karen Lewis announced that union reps had not agreed to ratify the contract she and her underbosses hammered out with the city’s big Dons early Friday morning.

Union leadership wanted to settle for a pay increase. Perhaps the rank and file want even more — and I’m not talking dough here.

Lewis et al met with the reps Sunday afternoon at which time it was expected the new deal would be approved. No such luck.

In fact, Lewis announced leadership and the reps would not meet again until Tuesday.

Karen Lewis Breaks The News

Talk radio callers since then have angrily wondered why the reps and leadership couldn’t simply stick it out and hash over the contract until they all agreed to sign it.

The fact that the union is taking a big time out tells me tempers flared Sunday. The rank and file seems to be racing ahead of union leadership now.

It can only mean real teachers want real reforms. Not only that, they’re concerned about the possibility that the city will close some 200 schools. That can’t be good for anybody but the accountants employed by the Chicago Public Schools. Union leaders seem only interested in making a nice money deal.

If I’m right here, I salute the teachers. I’m behind them more than ever now.

SPEAKING OF WORK

Joy Shayne Laughter points out this very compelling quote from the one and only R. Buckminster Fuller:

This is pure dynamite, folks.

When I was a kid, my Depression-era parents pounded it into me that any job was a good job. Loading TV’s into boxes eight hours a day, five days a week, at the local Zenith factory was admirable. I did that for three days when I was eighteen. I quit in the middle of the third day when I realized the vast majority of my new colleagues had to get sloshed at the local tavern in order to get through the rest of the day.

Fuller says “we keep inventing jobs” in order that everybody is yoked by “drudgery.”

Charlie Chaplin At Work In “Modern Times”

Why?

How has our world culture evolved to the point that people are shut away in hellish, tomb-like buildings, under the direction of petit tyrants, to make just enough dough to eat and sleep in a warm bed, and then die moments after retirement?

Is there another way?

Is local, self-sustainable culture a viable alternative?

Would the bosses of industry allow us to make a move in that direction?

Fuller offers no solutions. But merely raising the question is a start.

CHAIN GANG

Sam Cooke was shot to death by a Los Angeles motel manager in 1964 after a long, successful career in pop and R&B music.

Sam Cooke

The motel manager on duty said Cooke, half naked, attacked her so she shot him in self defense after a struggle. Evidence exists that a woman Cook brought to the hotel robbed him of of a huge amount of cash while he was in the bathroom. It’s conceivable he thought the motel manager to be in cahoots with the woman. Additionally, the singer Etta James wrote in her autobiography that she saw Cooke’s body at the AR Leak Funeral Home in Chicago and it was badly beaten and mangled.

Sam Cooke also was one of the earliest big-time performers to become active in the civil rights movement.

All in all, a puzzling and sad end for one of the great American voices.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“All the people like us are we, and everyone else is they.” — Rudyard Kipling

PAY ‘EM: DAY 5

Both sides say this morning that the Chicago Teachers Union strike may end any minute.

Striking Chicago Teachers Rally At Buckingham Fountain

School board boss David Vitale told the Chicago Sun-Times that the strike may end as soon as today, with classes meeting Monday.

Teachers union boss Karen Lewis is playing it a little more conservatively, saying “I don’t know” repeatedly when asked about a swift return to the classroom.

As usual, the city is buying the teachers out with scads of dough, which is fine. But the CTU’s demand for improvements in teacher evaluation system probably won’t be part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

On a political note, if the strike does end this weekend, Barack Obama will not suffer any fallout from it, considering that the memory span of the average voter is about 13 and a half seconds.

Designated Bad Guy

Obama’s former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is now mayor of Chicago and has been positioned as the villain in this morality play by striking teachers and pro-union observers. Obama campaign staffers have been keeping their fingers crossed that the stink of Emanuel’s anti-union stance won’t rub off on on the president..

GOD’S MAD MEN

Now the rage spreads to mainland Africa.

Protests over the non-film that ignited the embassy attacks this week have flared up in Sudan.

Sudanese Protesters Burn Down The German Embassy

This whole affair is starting to stink in the worst possible way. Read Roger Ebert’s take on the anti-Islam film, which he has discovered is really no film at all.

And one of this holy land’s fave snake-oil selling preachers, Pastor Terry Jones, was one of the financiers of this particular hate bomb.

I call for the immediately transport of Jones, “filmmaker” Nakoula Nakoula, and anybody else affiliated with “Innocence of Muslims” to the center of downtown Cairo for their just deserts.

The Trailer

That said, my take on the outrage is this: Muslim men ought to spend more time with women. The mobs in the streets are all male, natch. There’s no calming or nurturing influence. Just a bunch of testosterone-engorged bullies shaking their fists and occasionally throwing a stone or slaying an ambassador.

Any culture that relegates women to second-class status is bound to be dominated by the least savory aspects of maleness.

And speaking of males:

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