Category Archives: Koch Brothers

Hot Air: Flotsam And Jetsam

This Just In…

Today is World Press Freedom Day, proclaimed in 1993 and celebrated every year on May 3rd by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization).

The news media may indeed exist in a horseshitty state here in this holy land in the year of our lord 2016 — what with Fox News, the dumbing down of the Murrican public, our fascination with ciphers like the Kardashians, and other insults to my intelligence — but, still, if you dig deep enough, you’ll get the info you need to come to rational, reasonable conclusions about the condition of this mad, mad, mad, mad world. You just have to do a little work.

And since I lack the personal resources to visit Homs province in Syria or grill Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on a daily basis, I depend on those imperfect, under-seige news bureaus and reporters from NPR, the New York Times, the BBC, Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi, Barbara Ehrenreich, the Guardian, ProPublica, PolitiFact, and dozens of others to keep me straight about the psychoses and sociopathic impulses of my fellow species-mates.

We may be blissfully ignorant these days in America, but w/o a free press we’d be awfully dumb.

Eerie Erotica

Yesterday, Lauren, the delightful barista at Hopscotch Coffee (okay, they’re all delightful, but she is in her own inimitable way), wore a dress that reminded me of Morticia’s on “The Addams Family.” So we talked about Morticia and Gomez. I said they were the only couple on TV who acted as though they actually loved each other. Hell, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. No other TV couple had ever suggested that they had a physical relationship with each other.

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Wedded Bliss

Other than M & G, TV couples until “The Brady Bunch,” which premiered in late September, 1969, all slept in separate single beds. Man, because of that I thought my parents, who shared a bed, were gross. In fact, really early on, I figured they were too cheap to buy two beds.

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The Bradys, Though, Didn’t Seem All That Frisky

In any case, Morticia and Gomez obviously had a rollicking, rewarding sex life. The lesson TV conveyed? Only monstrous ghouls would be so overtly sensual.

Update: It occurs to me that Lily and Herman Munster also slept in the same bed! That’s right — both mid–sixties monster sitcoms featured married couples who had normal, natural marital relations.

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Monstrous

How in the world did we of a certain age survive our TV upbringing?

Numbers

I notice that Hillary is three million votes ahead of Bernie when all the primary figures to date are added up.

Yet Bernie’s idolators still cling to the notion that the Clinton campaign is benefitting from some kind of anti-democratic (note: small d), voter-repressing, Nazi, Vlad the Impaler, Tyrannosaurus Rex crushing of the will of the noble citizenry.

Now, I voted for Bernie in the IN primary because I wanted to give my modest imprimatur to his aims and philosophies. I can only hope his goals become part of the Democratic Party’s plank come convention time this summer. But his most ardent followers came thisclose to turning me off to him, what with their obsessive aggrievement, their righteousness, and their pathological demonization of Hillary.

Many so-called progressives are citing and linking to Right Wing websites to spew slanders against Hillary. Suddenly, apparently, lefties are reading The Daily Caller, Breitbart, and Drudge just to get the mud on Hill. I’ve even seen WND attached to some social media smears on the former Sec’y of State. You can’t get more wingnutty than that. Well, maybe if you click on this.

Still, the Bernie-istas are so frothy for their guy that they’ve joined forces with the Dark Side that’s been libeling and smearing the Clintons since the moment the couple came onto the national scene in 1991. And, believe me, the Clintons have never needed anybody’s help in looking slippery.

The Bernie crowd — that is, the hyper-super-ardent wing thereof — reminds me of nothing so much as the Tea Party-ists now. Everybody’s against us, they both claim. We won’t compromise. If you criticize us or our guy you are, de facto, part of the massive, secretive, evil, jack-booted cabal that rules our nation and world.

The two gangs are a tiring lot.

May 3rd Birthdays

James Brown — The Godfather of Soul and The Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.

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Frankie Valli — Falsetto-voiced front man for the Four Seasons and himself one of the godfathers of the New Jersey boys sound.

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Valli (bottom center)

Niccolo Machiavelli — Author, The Prince.

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Jacob Riis — Photographer and muckraker, he forced Americans to acknowledge the poverty in their midst.

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Golda Meir — Israeli prime minister, 1969-1974. It’s claimed she was moments away from launching her nation’s nuclear weapons against its Arab enemies during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

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Norman Corwin — Radio dramatist of the 1930s and ’40s, he presented social issues to the listening public. He served as the inspiration for the likes of Orson Welles, Rod Serling, and Norman Lear.

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Pete Seeger — Blacklisted during the McCarthy years, he and his group, the Weavers, sang about working people, race, democracy, and repression. He wrote “If I Had a Hammer” and “Turn, Turn, Turn!”

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Ron Popiel — “Wait, there’s more!” Sold Chop-O-Matic, Veg-O-Matic, and the Pocket Fisherman nightly on TV. Was fond of declaiming, If you want dine with the classes, you have to sell to the masses.

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David Koch — One of two brothers who, because they inherited a billion-dollar empire from their daddy-o, believe they can purchase the US Congress and 50 statehouses.

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Hot Air

The Next Appeal

Much of America jumped for joy upon hearing the Obergefell decision last week. Other Americans, though, groused, clenched their fists, and vowed to…, um…, to do something.

Those of us who think we’re familiar with this holy land’s system of writing, enacting, and interpreting laws might react with a derisive snort to the Religious Right’s pledge to act. As we understand it, once the US Supreme Court rules on a disagreement over a law, well, that’s that. There is no higher authority than the Supremes.

Ah, but that’s not so, say the Holy Rollers. There is god.

Anti-Same-Sex Marriage

The Big Daddy-o in the Sky is mightily pissed, they tell us. Almightily pissed. They know because they talk him him regularly. The fact that their conversations always are one-sided means little to the pious of our nation. Somehow they know what his immensity is thinking. He’s thinking about unleashing earthquakes, hurricanes, epidemics, and other annoyances upon our blighted land because we’re now allowing same-sex couples to get married.

Don’t mess with god, the Very Right sez. He’ll hit you so hard your mother’ll fall down.

Teehee, the rest of us say.

Put the brakes on your snorting, sez me. Don’t laugh at the Religious Right. They’ve got a power behind them greater even than god. They’ve got the Koch Boys.

Murrica’s second richest clan engineered the Citizens United decision — declared, natch — by that very same Supreme Court in 2010. CU gives the Kochs the mechanism by which they can control elections hereabouts. And do you know what remedy some Republicans are touting? The election of US Supreme Court justices.

As in, Hey, vote for me, I’ll set you free! Imagine Donald Trump on the Supreme Court. Or Glenn Beck. How about Sarah Palin? You know, of course, one doesn’t have to be a lawyer to be a US Supreme Court justice, don’t you? The Constitution says nothing mandating lawyers as bench warmers.

Palin

Habeas Who? Nolo What?

But if, say, Sen. Ted Cruz has his way, some specially anointed water-carrier for the Kochs just might make it into a black robe. Cruz is telling the world via his recently-released political memoir that we must start having general elections for Supreme Court justices.

Acc’d’g to him, the justices should reflect the will o’the people. Acc’d’g to reality, such elections would more likely reflect the will of the Koch Boys. And if the Kochs figure a candidate for the Supremes — who just happens to be a flamboyant god-ist — will serve their lofty interests, they’ll throw their dough behind him. Dough wins elections.

Let’s be frank: It’d be a sure bet a guy who’s philosophically simpatico to the Kochs would be a crucifix waver. Davey and Chuck know better than anyone the history and efficacy of the American plutocracy using Jesus to further its interests.

Those of us giddy that the US Supreme Court has ratified the freedom of any two adults who want to chain themselves together in wedlock had better watch out. The Religious Right has god behind them. And god has the Kochs behind him.

The Explosion Of Privatization

So, another Space-X rocket ship has exploded upon taking off. It’s a shame. Now the astronauts in the International Space Station will have to wait for their latest copy of Entertainment Weekly magazine.

Space-X is the rocket booster manufacturer and operator that scored a contract with NASA to resupply the ISS in the aftermath of the Space Shuttle era. The idea being private industry can do the job immeasurably better than a gov’t agency. That’s the philosophy behind privatization, right?

Right. Elon Musk put together the Space-X aerospace corp. with one of its stated goals being putting a crew of humans on Mars. Eventually. Till then, though, Space-X’d do the heavy lifting for the ISS.

In the last eight months, though, two Space-X vehicles have blown themselves to smithereens. That is, the last two Space-X ships are now nothing more than metal splinters. Make no mistake: space travel is a risky business. Hell, I can’t even lift myself off my recliner without help half the time. A rocket booster must lift tons and tons of stuff, pushing it up to 25,000 mph to escape the Earth’s gravitational pull. The Falcon 9 vehicle that blew up yesterday is designed to carry up to 27.5 tons of food, water, magazines, and toilet paper. That’s even more than I weigh.

Nobody can do it without taking the chance that the damned thing’d disappear in a burst of flaming fuel. Not a gov’t agency. Not a private corporation.

When NASA was first trying to launch rockets into space in the late 1950s, the ratio between successful liftoffs and blow-ups was a terrifying 1-1. In the ensuing six decades, though, the US gov’t agency in charge of space stuff learned how to send people and things off the Earth with a reasonable expectation of success. Oh sure, there’ve been disasters — Apollo 3, the Challenger, and the Columbia — but whenever NASA experienced such a spectacular failure, it had to shut down operations for long months and even years and explain to the American people why it screwed up. As for the non-governmental Space-X outfit, the American public will forget about Sunday’s explosion by the day after tomorrow. That is, those who even were aware of the explosion in the first place.

At least NASA had to put the lives of astronauts and the negative PR fallout from a mission failure on the front burner. The pols who authorized the billions of dollars for the agency’s operations insisted NASA launch a safe vehicle, and costs be damned.

That was then. Now, with privatization, cost is king. Private corps. put profit on the front burner. If one safety check or another cuts too deeply into the total expense of a mission, well then it just might have to be made more flexible, shall we say, or even nixed altogether. Shaving cost is the god of for-profit business. Maximizing revenue is its heaven.

I have no idea at this moment if Musk’s Space-X cut corners to put together its Falcon-9 vehicle. I assume NASA and the company itself will conduct a thorough investigation. But, guaranteed, that investigation will be done outside the public eye. And its findings will make about as much splash as the news that the City of Bloomington is using a new brand of paint for its parking meters.

Suffice it to say I’m no fan of privatization.

Magical Monocrat

Funnyman Aaron Freeman points out a prediction made by then-Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro in 1973:

The United States will talk to us when you have a black president and the world has a Latin American pope.

Some folks are saying this is evidence of the revolutionary boss’s psychic powers — or at least his ability to read the geopolitical tea leaves. I say, Bah. His “prediction” was really code for “When hell freezes over.” I doubt he would have ever guessed that Satan would be shivering while he — Castro — was still alive.

Castro & Doves

Fidel & His Famous Dove Trick

Now, if he would have said, “… when homosexuals can marry in the US and the Pope rails regularly against the evils of capitalism…,” then we could talk about his extra-sensory perceptions.

Hot Air

Another Reason To Go On Living

Happy National Red Wine Day! [h/t to Jan Takehara.]

Coppola Rosso

My Personal Fave

BTW: Here’s a list of 10 Red Wines for Life’s Biggest Problems. And you thought there was no hope left.

Dismal

Perhaps the biggest deal in book publishing this year was the release of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.

Being a study of economics, it normally wouldn’t have been read by any more than, oh, seven or eight people on the planet — that is, until Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman raved about it. Next thing you know, every liberal worth her or his Prius was dashing down to the bookstore to cop a copy.

Me? I haven’t read the thing. It’s economics, right? I’d rather sear the jelly in my eyeballs with a red hot ice pick than read an economics tome. Loyal Pencillista David Paglis once insisted I read a book by the conservative economist Friedrich Hayek. I tried — I swear — I tried. If I say I got through 50 pages I’ll burn in hell for crossing the 9th Commandment. Economics is not known as the Dismal Science for nothing. Besides, Hayek is a darling of Randists and free marketeers who worship elegant theory and formula and rarely, if ever, concern themselves with trivial things like the needs of human beings.

In any case, Piketty argues that the world’s dough is being hoarded by a tiny fraction of its population. Not only that, uber-rich folk are passing their cash down to their kids, thereby insuring that it won’t find its way into the hands of starving kids in west Africa and other unfortunates in the foreseeable future. Piketty also throws in piles of mathematical equations like r > g, which means…, um, hell, I have no goddamned idea what it means.

More important: I don’t care.

Anyway, we could hardly keep Capital… in stock at the Book Corner, so eager were customers to get their hands on it. My educated guess is not five percent of purchasers actually read the book. Like Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, it’s the bestseller that nobody read and now serves only as an interior design accoutrement.

Capital

Obviously A Staged Photo

Of course, that was then. We now are stuck with four big copies of Piketty’s 700-page epic. They are collecting dust some seven months after it was published.

Piketty’s ponderings, natch, generated about as much criticism as love. In fact, richer-than-god Bill Gates penned a review on his blog the other day. He says he agrees with much of P.’s argument. But, acc’d’g to Bill, wealth inequality is not necessarily the worst thing in the world. It’s a nuanced argument and worth a read, even if Gates does make mention of the dreaded r > g equation. Ugh.

Once you’re finished with that, scoot over to Al Jazeera America for a rebuttal. It’s all a rollicking good time.

Fitting brain candy, I might say, for such a gray day. Just hide the razor blades and don’t turn the oven gas on.

Logical Leaps

Speaking of wealth, Jimmy John Liautaud seems to be the poster boy for the evil rich these days on the interwebs. Folks probably are getting bored with hating on the Koch Bros. — even if they are among the most odious life forms in this solar system. Liautaud’s the boss over at Jimmy John’s Franchise LLC system of sandwich joints. His mug has been all over laptop screens of late for his co.’s ridiculous employee non-compete agreement as well as his propensity to blow the brains out of magnificent critters.

Jimmy John Safari

 

Jimmy John

Jimmy John

Jimmy John

 

Jimmy John And Some Formerly Living Creatures

Little known is the fact that Liautaud has been a big contributor to scary Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The Phoenix New Times a few years ago ran a story about a questionably-legal soft money organization that bankrolled a mean-spirited and disingenuous ad campaign against a challenger to the popular-but-lunatic sheriff. Liautaud gave $10,000 to the org.

Funny, isn’t it, how you can make certain assumptions about folks based on just one of their actions? Like it makes tons o’sense that a guy who digs posing proudly with the corpses of elephants, elk, and tigers might be a financial backer of a law enforcement official who makes Charles Bronson in the Death Wish series look milquetoast-y.

Or that he’d try to screw over his own employees (not that non-compete agreements are worth the paper they’re printed on, but still….)

Or even that his products are to submarine sandwiches as Domino’s is to pizza.

 

Hot Air

Blustering Bosses

So, here are a couple of business people whose mouths emitted sounds even though their brains did not actually contribute to the process:

I’m sick and tired of minorities running our country! As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think that atheists (minority, muslims (minority)n [sic] or any other minority group has the right to tell the majority of the people in the United States what they can and can’t do here. Is everyone so scared that they can’t fight back for what is right or wrong with this country?Charlotte Atkins Lucas

Lucas

The Lucases, Under Siege

and

[Calling for a more “positive” view of US history in school textbooks] As an example, I note our slavery history. Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today!

Shouldn’t our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional. Does our APUSH (AP U.S. History) framework support or denigrate that position?Pam Mazanec

Manzanec

Manzanec (Colorado Independent photo)

Natch, both comments are spreading on the interwebs in a way the ebola virus can only dream of. Charlotte founded Lucas Oil Products, Inc. with her husband, Forrest. Lucas Oil is a huge “lubricants and additives” manufacturer and distributor, mighty enough that the outfit can be the name sponsor for Indianapolis’s magnificent shrine to the sports gods, Lucas Oil Stadium. Now, don’t get all het up about those lubricants and additives. The Lucas concern is not about enhancements for your sexual pleasure; it trades in automotive fluids in 27 countries around the world, reaping some $150 million in revenues as of 2012.

As for Pam, she’s a Larkspur, Colorado, small businesswoman who sits on that state’s board of education.

Further proof that one needn’t have a functioning cerebrum to succeed in business.

Debunking Online Buncombe

Just in case you didn’t know, Arizona Senator John McCain did not meet with ISIS fighters a year ago. Nor did he meet with them ten years ago or a hundred years ago (when McCain was fresh out of high school).

Not ISIS

Yeah, That’s McCain; No That’s Not ISIS

A photo of him grinning and palling around with with purported members of the beheading-happy fundamentalist religionists has been floating around the interwebs ever since McCain called for a military strike against that gang.

Repeat: McCain has never met with ISIS guys.

Demonization

I happened to be telling someone the other day that the Koch Boys are huge philanthropists, having donated scads of dough to cultural and medical charities and non-profits.

Here’s a sampling of who got a piece of the thus-far $600 million that various Koch charitable foundations have distributed (source):

  • New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell: $15 million
  • M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: $25 million
  • The Hospital for Special Surgery: $26 million
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: $30 million
  • Prostate Cancer Foundation: $41 million
  • Deerfield Academy: $68 million
  • Lincoln Center’s NY State Theater: $100 million
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $139 million

The person with whom I was chatting was shocked — shocked, I tell you — that the Kochs had given money to any organization other than those whose raison d’être is to enslave the rest of humanity to the Sacred Free Market.

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The Kochs?

See, that’s the prob. with demonization. Now, don’t get me wrong: The Kochs are bad guys. Their philosophy for a happy, healthy humanity begins and ends with an ever increasing bottom line for Koch Industries. Still, wallowing in all their billions of USDs, they find ways to throw a few bucks here and there to theaters, medical researchers, and schools.

You may speculate on why they’re pitching their scratch at what we like to think of as “liberal” concerns. The Kochs, strategic thinkers that they are, may be thinking that some Lincoln Center plays may one day portray them as saviors of our species. They may even hope to see a one-woman play about the life of Ayn Rand.

And they may well be hoping that scientists will come up with a serum that will allow them to live forever.

It’s just as likely that the Kochs might have — believe it or don’t — a shred of human decency behind their hollow grins and cold eyes.

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The Kochs

Another likelihood is that they may be trying to buy their way to atonement for their sins against Homo Sapiens sapiens and Planet Earth.

See, there’s a ton of reasons why the Kochs might be funding good, honest charities but the irrefutable truth is, they do fund them.

And human beings are a lot more complicated than our popular images of them suggest.

Hot Air

Cancer Profits, Tea Party Benefits

Who knew?

I just learned, via Bill Moyers’ website, that the Cancer Treatment Centers of America is a big-time Tea Party donor.

CTCA, in case you’ve been living in an isolation tank the last couple of decades and haven’t seen or heard its ubiquitous commercials, can be described as the most institutionalized of the alternative cancer treatment rackets out there. The operation was begun back in 1988 by a real estate investor, financier, and horseman named Dick Stephenson who felt conventional medicine did not provide enough adequate treatments for the disease. So, his outfit peddles things like homeopathy, acupuncture, reiki, and qi gong along with fact-based treatments such as chemotherapy.

Anyway, Stephenson and the CTCA have shoveled tons of dough at the Freedom Works gang which is an offshoot of an earlier Koch Bros.-founded organization, Citizens for a Sound Economy. Tea Party-ists Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe, among others, split off to form Freedom Works in 2004.

The Washington Post reported in 2012 that Stephenson had committed to donating $400,000 per year for 20 years to FW.

Stephenson

Stephenson

Then again, I really shouldn’t be surprised by this. Skim through any Right Wing or Tea Party sites and publications and you’ll see scads of ads for iffy or downright fraudulent cancer schemes. The angry-white-person crowd is ripe for snake oil claims for a seemingly endless array of maladies. The idea being, I suppose, that they don’t like hearing the truth that this or that disease is going to kill them. So they look for someone, anyone, to tell them it won’t. That goes along nicely with much of the Right’s overall denial of science and established facts in general when said info makes them feel itchy.

The CTCA is a for-profit medical  corporation. Stephenson is now a reclusive bazillionaire. His five-hospital operation reaps bushels of dough per year but don’t expect to find any exact figures because CTCA is still privately-held. It’s enough to know that, acc’d’g to the above-mentioned WashPo piece, Stephenson has spent ten of millions of dollars in recent years supporting conservative causes and individual candidates such as notorious former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh.

Even the business-friendly publication, Forbes, has criticized Stephenson’s cancer-for-profit dealio:

For-profit hospitals present a big ethical problem, even when they provide proper care.  The problem is that motivation to increase profits may work against the interest of patients.

The Federal Trade Commission has disciplined CTCA for making false claims in its ads and the Food and Drug Administration has sanctioned the corp. for conducting substandard clinical tests.

Of course, Tea Party organizations are four-square against big government poking its big nose into businesses, big or small. To them and the rest of the Ayn Rand-loving, invisible hand-ists, the making of money is a sacred end in and of itself even when the makers of money are people who capitalize fraudulently on the desperation of people who are scared to death of dying.

Those damned jack-booted gov’t thugs just might be cutting off a sweet source of cash.

Hot Air

Love That Dirty Water

Janet Cheatham Bell, the memoirist and proud mom of W. Kamau Bell, shares a question being asked in meme form on the interwebs:

Environment Meme

I assume by people this meme means just plain folks, the yous and mes of the world as opposed to, say, the Koch Bros. or their legislative coatholders like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). And there are indeed tons upon tons of yous and mes who truly believe anything having to do with the environmental movement is nonsense, hysteria, and, in a lot of cases, merely a cover for some nefarious socialist or commie plot to take over this holy land.

Like a round Earth, the germ theory of illness, and the sheer impossibility of the Chicago Cubs ever winning a World Series, humankind’s soiling of the environment would seem to be one of those things that we all simply have to agree on. And those who don’t — well, they’ve got to be pretty whacked out, no? If you met a guy who told you, proudly, he’s a member of the Flat Earth Society, you’d smile nicely and begin to sidle away from him, wouldn’t you?

Yet we’re bombarded on a daily basis with folks who say there is no human-caused climate change, the search for alternative energy is a scam, and fossil fuels are the greatest thing to happen to us since the birth of Jesus.

No wonder Mom Bell and others who’ve shared her meme are scratching their heads.

I may have a couple of answers to their question.

See, many, many Murricans see environmentalism as a “blame” issue. That is, they interpret environmentalists as saying America and its people are “bad” for having screwed up the environment.

That contradicts our mythology of American exceptionalism. We’ve told ourselves since the American Revolution that we are special. We’re better than those stuffy old Europeans. We’re smarter than the Africans. We’re more humane and dedicated to freedom than the Russians and the Chinese.

We told ourselves that the westward spread of American culture and settlement was a Manifest Destiny — that is, we were charged by god with taking the Native Americans’ land and, in the process, pretty much wiping them off the face of the planet.

When a people can excuse themselves for the genocide they’ve committed because god sez it’s cool, they can be move forward confidently in the knowledge that all their subsequent actions will be looked kindly upon by that Big Daddy-o in the Sky. So if some owls disappear or millions of gallons of crude oil fill up Prince William Sound, well, golly gee, we’re only imperfect humans executing the will of a perfect lord.

Then, too, there’s the implied indictment of capitalism itself coming from the environmentalists. Oil companies are rapacious, coal mine execs are greedy, SUV manufacturers are selfish louts — the list of betes noires goes on. Now that’s crazy, the conventional wisdom goes. All the aforementioned villains are rich men, and if there’s any belief we Murricans have cherished, it’s that wealth is sacred. If you’re rich, then y’done good, boy. Don’t give us details about how you earned it, just let us sneak a peak into your palatial estate occasionally.

I mean, how else to explain Donald Trump?

Trump

Inexplicable

Profit is good. And if some clever fellows can make a sweet penny pumping crude or releasing mega-tons of freed carbon into the air, why then they’re good, too.

Now you’re telling us rich guys are the bad guys? You’re nuts. Environmental crazies. Haters of America.

The lesson? You can make it harder for people to breathe. You can fill their drinking water with toxic sludge. You can melt the polar ice caps if you like. Just don’t mess with their myths.

Oh, Oh, Boston….

A couple from Boston wandered into the Book Corner yesterday. They were in town for a weekend wedding and decided to stay a few extra days to take in the sights. They told me they love Bloomington.

We got to chatting, natch, and I learned the man is a writer. His name is Chuck Burgess and he’s penned a couple of books on Boston sports teams. The title of one of them, in fact, is the inspiration for the headline atop the preceding entry.

It’s a line from the mid-1960s one-hit-wonder, Dirty Water. It was done by The Standells who, other than growling through that song, were notable for appearing in an episode of The Munsters entitled “Far-out Munsters” (1965).

Here they are, performing a version of the Beatles classic, I Want to Hold Your Hand, in a clip from the show that, oddly, has been dubbed into Spanish:

BTW: I dig the dancing guy wearing the little fedora with a feather in its band on the right. He is the very definition of cool.

Anyway, the song Dirty Water was the weirdest tribute to Boston imaginable. Its title refers to the then-spectacularly polluted waters of the city’s three main rivers as well as Boston Harbor. It also references a mugging that the songwriter, Ed Cobb, suffered there and the Boston Strangler, and mentions the town’s sexually frustrated college coeds.

Oddly enough, Dirty Water became a theme song for the city and its sports teams. Both the Boston Bruins and the Red Sox beginning in the 1990s played the song after home victories. Weird, huh?

The Standells had nothing to do with Boston other than singing the lyric, Boston, you’re my home, in the song. The were a California garage band who, according to legend, would stand around booking agents’ offices hoping for gigs and so named themselves accordingly.

Chuck Burgess (along with co-author Bill Nowlin) squeezed an entire book out of the Dirty Water-Boston sports connection. It’s called Love That Dirty Water! The Standells and the Improbable Red Sox Victory Anthem. It’s out of print now but you can still get it on Amazon and through other re-sellers.

The Burgesses and I had a great time talking about the book, about Bloomington and Boston and Chicago, too, and about little independent booksellers. By the time they had to leave, we were clasping each others’ hands like old friends.

There’s nothing in the world like working in a small bookstore.

Dirty Water

Oh, okay, here it is:

 ▲

Hot Air

Capital Letters

I’ve worked at the Book Corner now for about four and a half years. In that time, we’ve sold our share of blockbusters. There’ve been the 50 Shades of Grey series, Go the F●k to Sleep, the Hunger Games trilogy, and, of course R.R. Martin’s Games of Thrones franchise. Add to those immediate splashes the ongoing flow out the door of the Freakonomics pair of books and anything by Malcolm Gladwell.

From our vantage point, the book biz is as healthy as can be. And the hits, apparently, keep on coming. The big deal these days is French economist Thomas Piketty.

Picketty & Book

Kids, Piketty’s huge take on that dismal science, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, is flying off the shelves. It’s big in sheer heft, coming in at 685 pages. It’s big in price —$39.95. And it’s big in sales, natch, moving out its entire first printing less than a week after it hit the streets. Piketty’s publisher, Belknap Press (an imprint of Harvard U. Press), is hustling out a second printing, due May 12.

Literary experts are scratching their heads over the Capital phenomenon. Economics books are about as sexy Donald Trump in a Speedo®. Piketty, though, earned the imprimatur of the liberals’ darling and this holy land’s No. 1 haranguer against the 1%, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. New York magazine has called Piketty the “rock star economist.” Slate and The Nation are fawning over Piketty. Hell, next thing you know, Vanity Fair‘ll be doing a two-page, Annie Leibovitz spread of him in a Speedo®.

The Nation‘s reviewer quotes from Piketty’s Capital: an “…apparently small gap between the return on capital and the rate of growth can in the long run have powerful and destabilizing effects on the structure and dynamics of social inequality.” I consider myself a fairly smart potato but I have no goddamned idea in holy hell what that sentence means. Then again, I’m afflicted by a sort of economics retardation. On the third hand, how many people do you know actually understand the byzantine utterances of economists?

Much of the reason Piketty is breathing the same rarified air as Suzanne Collins and E.L. James is he actually offers strategies to ward off the oncoming crushing global oligarchy that’ll keep the rich ever richer and the poor ever poorer — and an ever-growing swath of the world population. Piketty, among other things, calls for taxing the bejesus out of obscene inherited wealth.

My guess is that millions of copies of Piketty’s Capital will be conspicuously left on coffee tables, the last 4-500 pages of which never being read. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time was purchased for precisely the same reason some 25 years ago. People heard how exciting Hawking’s scribblings were and they dashed out out en masse get the book.

Problem was they found they had to actually read the damned thing which turned out to be a tad daunting.

I have no doubt most purchasers of Capital will come to the same conclusion.

Not that I’m getting all superior here: I probably wouldn’t get past page 63 of Piketty’s epic. The only diff. is I’m not going to buy the book in the first place. Economics, remember, is the dismal science.

Filthy Lucre

Speaking of wealth, if you’ve made your wad in the porn rackets, Chase Bank doesn’t want your dough.

Honest. One of the too-big-too-fail financial mobsters of the world has sent letters to depositors who work in porn advising them to take their bank accounts elsewhere.

AVN Awards

Porn Star Michelle Bombshell & Date At AVN Awards — Her Money’s No Good At Chase (photo by Nate “Igor Smith)

Imagine that! Chase’s parent co., JP Morgan Chase, made billions — shoot, hundreds of billions — defrauding customers by selling them bundles of mortgages that the bank knew were losers. Chase not long ago paid a record $13 billion fine for such activity, which largely caused the near global collapse of 2007-08.

Now, arts organizations, social service agencies, schools, libraries, and other cultural outfits are starving for cash and millions are still out of work. For that, JP Morgan Chase, rewarded its CEO, Jamie Dimon, to the tune of $20 million in 2013. Who sez crime doesn’t pay?

Anyway, if you take your clothes off for dough before rolling cameras, your deposits are dirty, as Chase sees it. The Chase gang, obviously, has an idiosyncratic sense of morality.

Piling On

Okay, let’s stick like glue to the arch-criminally wealthy. The Koch Boys fund the supposed grass-roots org. called Americans for Prosperity.

A for P stood on its head to stop Nashville, Tennessee’s proposed mass transit plan. Known as AMP, the $175 million project would improve movement into and around Nashville, cut down on auto traffic in the center city, and even clean up the air a bit. Natch, the Koch Monsters saw it as a commie plot to rob them of all their billions. Why? Who knows?

Koch Bros.

Aspiring Archcriminals

The Kochs, though, through their dummy assoc., leaned on the Tennessee state legislature to crush the Amp project — and any others like it.

These are the fellows, I remind you, on whose behalf the Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court has turned American elections over to the plutocracy. Corporations are now people. Money is now speech. And the rich now run this holy land brazenly and without apology.

And if you need to take a bus to get anywhere in Nashville, well, fuck you. Go buy yourself a limousine like the Koch Boys did.

[Bonus anger-button issue: The Kochs of late have been standing on their heads again, this time to stop a tax levy to support the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo. Because, as you well know, animals are takers.]

Hot Air

Legends Walked Among Us

Bloomington’s own cinema maven, Peter LoPilato was all dressed up with somewhere to go when he strolled into The Electron Pencil’s back office (some people call it Soma Coffee) yesterday AM.

This intrepid reporter grilled him re: his fancy duds — sports coat, collared short, freshly creased trousers and shiny (-ish) shoes.

“What’s up witchu?” sez I. BTW: I just happened to be uploading a pic of legendary film director and producer Roger Corman in my roll as online manager of LoPilato’s Ryder mag. The big feature this month is a long (repeat: lo-o-o-ong) profile of Corman, who just happens to be in town this weekend. Corman’s visit comes hot on the heels of that of mega-screen icon Meryl Streep who was in town earlier this week to cop an honorary degree from Indiana Unversity. Corman lectured at the IU Cinema yesterday afternoon and several of his films are featured there this weekend. (FYI: You missed The Wild Angels and The Trip yesterday. Today you can catch The Intruder, The Tomb of Ligeia, and a documentary, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel.

Streep/IU

Streep Fêted

I mention Corman because, mirabile dictu, he’s why LoPilato was togged up.

“I’m going out to lunch with Roger Corman,” he said.

I, of course, could only gasp, “Wow.”

Corman/Price

A Young Corman (l.) On A Set With Vincent Price

I fondled Peter’s lapel for a moment, hoping some of his cool could rub off on me, then pressed my interrogation. “Where are you two going?”

Peter LoPilato merely smiled and said, “I’m not at liberty to say.”

Harrumph.

Anyway, I hope Corman paid for the meal. Every time I ask the boss for a raise, he motions back over his shoulder at a small crowd of waifs, shoeless and forlorn, staring at me with hungry eyes. “I would, I swear it,” he says, invariably, “but I’ve got a family to feed.”

Funny thing is I thought Peter only had two kids. The magic of Hollywood, I imagine. Well, like I say, I hope Corman picked up the check.

Superlative Celloloid

My absolutely fave Corman flick is The Attack of the Giant Leeches (he produced it and, to be honest, his fingerprints are all over it). Somehow, on a microscopic budget, Corman and director Bernard Kowalski manage to recreate a steamy, indolent Louisiana bayou world so faithfully that you find yourself perspiring just watching the thing. They get a workmanlike performance out of horror film vet Bruno VeSota, playing his usual corpulent baddie. I don’t know which movie I prefer VeSota in, this one or Daddy-o with Dick Contino. Either way, he’s a treat.

Giant Leeches

VeSota & Yvette Vickers in “… Giant Leeches”

Oddly, though, despite the loving care Corman & Kowalski take in presenting an oppressive, heat-wilted world, their titled giant leeches look about as leech-like as, well, so many papier mâché Chinese New Year dragons. Then again, it’s got to be a challenge trying to make a leech scary. Slimy and gross? Sure. Scary? Uh-uh.

Giant Leeches

A Leech Carries Off A Victim

As long as we’re playing the association game, noted LA gruesome murder chronicler James Ellroy wrote a novella entitled, Dick Contino’s Blues. You can find it in Ellroy’s 1994 short story collection, Hollywood Nocturnes.

Daddy-o

Dick Contino Makes The Scene in “Daddy-o”

Back to Hollywood-comes-to-IU: Roger Corman and Meryl Streep represent two extremes of what the American filmmaking industry does best. Either one is aces by me, as opposed to Hollywood’s current penchant for recycling superheroes and Nicholas Sparks books.

Huh?

From an article in Aljazeera America:

Aljazeera Screenshot

Click Image To Read Full Article

Notice in the subhead where it warns about isolating kids from “the digital world of multitasking”? As if that’s a horror that must be avoided at all costs.

When I first saw this, I figured it was a satiric story, you know, where there author turns you around by saying We’d hate to have our precious snowflakes not be able to be psychological overwhelmed by multitasking and productivity pressures because, hell, who wants a kid that isn’t developing a stomach ulcer by 13 and isn’t on antidepressants by 15?

The author says kids today are part of the “net generation.” They learn by absorbing tons of information merely by darting like hummingbirds from one web page to the other. Earlier generations dove into books and concentrated for long periods of time. That’s old hat.

Information is the stuff that’s liable to fill your mind so much that there isn’t any room left for knowledge (this is me speaking). “Information is not knowledge,” Einstein has been credited with saying. It’s also believed he said, “Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.”

Yet, members of the net generation are happy as clams that their brain cases are crammed with data. Their parents, apparently, are giddy about this as well.

“Opponents to deep, immersive reading come from all directions. Among American boys, there remains a generations-old sense that books are for sissies; I remember this from my own childhood. For neoliberals and technocrats, reading novels is not ‘what the market wants.’ Concentrated reading doesn’t require ideological opposition to be endangered: The pace of contemporary life, even for children, means that there’s simply no time or energy left for it,” the author writes.

Man, that’s a lousy life.

Wither Our Nation?

So. I’m sitting in a booth at Opie Taylor’s with The Loved One and our friends Hondo & Les. We’re playing a raunchy, sick joke card game that Hondo’d bought on eBay because…, well, because the mere playing of it will condemn any and all participants to hell if such a place turns out to be real. I really think he’s daring the god neither of us believes in to damn him for all eternity. And, I guess, I’ll be following him.

Anyway, the talk turns, as usual, to how eff’d up this holy land is. The problem with guys like Hondo is they read and listen to too much Far Right palaver. It upsets their stomachs as well as their minds. The minute some minor candidate for the Nebraska statehouse says something like women enjoy being slapped around because then their slapping husbands and boyfriends go all out of their way to apologize and be nice to them, Hondo and his ilk send out urgent messages to the rest of us saying the whole country’s going insane.

Which it is. I just accept it, largely. Sure, I point out funny (in a sad way) wingnut things here on The Pencil and sometimes stamp my foot about Rand Paul or Kirk Cameron or Rick Santorum. But for the most part, I can’t really keep up with all the loons who have YouTube accounts or blogs through which they can lobby for the regression of America to those grand old days of the Salem witch trials.

Witch Trial, 1692

Good Old Days

I’m more attuned to the utterances of, say, the Reagan/Bush/Bush Supreme Court, especially when it rules that rich guys should own and operate all polling places. Then I’ll yell that the country’s going insane. Between the two of us, Hondo and me, we’ve got the wingnut-osphere covered, I suppose.

Back to lunch at Opie’s. I think it was Les who asked, “Well whaddya think’s gonna happen here over the next few years.”

Natch, I had a ready answer.

The sanctified, blessed, and exceptional Yewnited States of Murrica is in for some changes. As long as the Supremes have codified the establishment of a plutocratic ruling class, the have-nots among us are going to be more restless than ever. Sure, the US always has been run for the benefit of captains of industry and financial pirates, but throughout our history we’ve always pretended that the common citizen meant something herein. No more.

If you have scads of dough, you count much more than if you don’t. That’s law now. Once you shatter the illusion of equality, there is nothing left of the mythical American Dream. When dreams die, people panic.

Now, most of the pop. of this nation is too dense to grasp that a new overclass has been installed, officially, brazenly, and w/o apology. Too many of them think their grand old flag has been sullied by Mexicans sneaking over the border to become busboys and maids, women who want the gov’t to pay for their slut pills, gays and lesbians who want to eliminate every trace of heterosexuality in our precious snowflake children, and, of course, the Kenyan who has taken over as Dictator and Tyrant-in-Chief Forever.

And, yeah, a health care reform that’s turning us into New Stalinville.

While everybody’s shrieking over these imagine threats, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and their coatholders turned the keys over to the Koch Bros. and said, “Here. It’s yours.”

No matter why people think the USA has become the homeland of Satan, they’re fast losing any and all loyalty to the nation. The Bundy Ranch confrontation will be repeated with alarming regularity in the coming years. And one of these times, somebody’s trigger finger is going to get itchy. Once the first shot is fired, all bets are off.

Militia at Bundy Ranch

A desperate band of gunfondlers is coalescing these days, certain that the US has been taken over by the aforementioned evil people. They’re not terribly organized just yet; their only real commonality is the passel of hatemongers who bark at them daily over Right Wing talk radio and, to a lesser extent, via Fox News. But, book it, some demagogue is going to pop up. He’ll preach “defense” and separation. And a lot of people are going to fall into line behind him.

What have they got to lose? They don’t have jobs, money, or power.

Perhaps Texas will be the first state to make secession noises. Arizona and Utah may join in the chorus. Then we’re going to see some real breaking news.

Think it’s impossible? Why?

Scary Hot Air

A Profession Of Fear

I haven’t been moved much at all about all the recent news about government spying. You know, the NSA playing canasta with all our emails and the State Department eavesdropping on the belching and scratching of selected world leaders.

Characters from "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show"

I suppose that’s because I’ve studied so much of the second half of the 20th Century in general and the the 1960s in particular. For that matter, I could have been studying the Jacobean Era of British history (the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth centuries) and felt the same way about things.

Those in power have been spying on those without it since humans first started discussing things sotto voce. And governments have been prying into each others’ affairs forever.

Information is the most valuable currency human beings possess. If you’re thinking there was some grand and wonderful time when powerful people folded their hands and played nice in regard to keeping their noses out of other people’s business then you are a far, far more trusting soul than I am.

Others, though, are up in arms over Guardian newspaper and Wikileaks scoops, as well as the revelations made by former spook Edward Snowden who, if you’ll recall, is now hiding away safely in that very model of openness and candor, Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The PEN American Center recently released a report that a significant number of writers in this holy land are feeling more than queasy about what they commit to paper or the LCD screen. Some, in fact, are beginning to censor themselves. US spying efforts, the report claims, “…are having a tangible and chilling effect on writers….”

The report opens with this graphic:

From PEN American Center

Really? Honestly? PEN American Center says it surveyed more than 520 member writers to come to this conclusion. That means some 170 of that 520 who earn their daily bread by flinging words around and are so dedicated to the vocation that they pay annual PEN membership dues have been made bunny-rabbit scared by the possibility that some grown up frat boys in the FBI or CIA are giggling over their sex messaging as we speak.

Writers are the people we depend on for information about secret wars and industrial poisonings. They tell us about sweetheart deals, legislative payoffs, and clandestine entanglements.

Who else could tell us about the Koch Brothers or ALEC or even the fabulous new DePaul University basketball arena being built with a huge infusion of city funds while Chicago public schools are being closed left and right?

TV news doesn’t do this for us, it being too busy worrying about Miley Cyrus’s tongue and where it’s been.

Cyrus

This Doesn’t Take Guts

Going head to head with the big boys in power takes guts. Your state legislator isn’t going to hire you to be his publicist after you’ve made a name for yourself whistling fouls on statehouse malfeasances. Corporate vice presidents of communications might look askance at applications for copywriting positions submitted by card-carrying muckrackers.

We expect guts from our print reporters and other writers.

Now PEN American Center tells us fully one-third of them lacks said viscera.

Here’s my advice to all those writers who confess that US spying is making them quake in their boots: Quit.

Yup. Get out of the business. We don’t need you. Go get a job running the new employee orientation program at some hospital. Sell some real estate. Manage a dentist’s office. Do something. But don’t tell me you’re a writer. Because you’re not.

Gossip columnist Walter Winchell once wrote, “Red Smith was asked if turning out a daily column wasn’t quite a chore. ‘Why no,’ dead-panned Red. ‘You simply sit down at the typewriter, open up your veins, and bleed.'”

Smith, by the way, was a sports columnist. Writing, even for those in the gossip and sports rackets, takes courage. You’re exposing yourself, something you’re taught not to do from the moment you step into your kindergarten classroom.

My guess is the 170 or so writers who told PEN American Center how jittery they are over government lick-spittlers’ prying never really subjected themselves to the vital process of exposing themselves through their written words.

So I suggest to writers whose teeth are chattering because some computer geeks are accumulating email metadata that they ought to find a gig that doesn’t keep them awake at night.

Hot Air, Cold Pizza

Go Read Alice

Congrats to Canadian short story writer Alice Munro on her Nobel Prize in Literature. Her latest is the collection Dear Life.

Book Cover

Munro’s 82 years old now and she has already announced she isn’t going to write anymore. The Nobel is a fitting coda to her brilliant and glorious career. If you want to learn more about her, here’s a good ten-year old biography of her that ran in the Guardian UK.

Crisis In Black And White

Bingo, babies! The fed shutdown is merely the latest play in the long running game of Republican Us vs. Them politics. The “us” being scared white Murricans and the “them” being everyone else.

Joan Walsh of Salon laid it all out in the Chicago Tribune last week (h/t to Monroe Anderson), although you would instinctively know this if you’ve been paying attention.

Walsh

Joan Walsh

The GOP since soon after the end of World War II has been organizing around the visceral fear whites have that blacks will one day amass enough guns, money, and real power (oops, sorry I’m being redundant) to overthrow the whole shebang here. Not only that, our wives and daughters will be taken as spoils.

No lie. You have to have grown up in an edgy, pure white neighborhood as I did to really grasp this: Black men with their large penises are to be quelled at all costs.

That’s my addendum to Walsh’s superb take on America’s political history of the last half century or so.

Even the National Rifle Association became a power to be reckoned with by demonizing blacks. The NRA gang was just a nice little club for deer hunters and such until the late 1960’s when, responding to an exaggerated threat of black nationalism and the emergence of the armed Black Panthers, the organization began conducting a national grass-roots campaign to limit access to guns. Yup. Some 40 years ago, it was far more important to the NRA that guns be kept out of the hands of blacks than in the hands of whites. Now, of course, it’s far more important to keep guns in the hands of paranoid schizophrenics than it is to make firearms purchases a tad more inconvenient for everyone else. (The reasons for that transformation are grist for another post, another time.)

Panthers

Black Panthers in 1969

As this holy land’s demographics change, the Strom Thurmond/Dick Nixon/Ronald Reagan/Roger Ailes strategy of appealing to jittery whites is becoming less and less effective. By 2050, say, whites won’t be able to throw their weight around as they are doing in this weird game of chicken that has closed, basically, the social safety net and all other parts of the gummint that don’t have to do with maintaining our sacred duty to threaten the rest of the planet with incineration.

It can even be argued that men like Ronald Reagan weren’t racists in their hearts. But the fact that they found it easy to capitalize on racial fears in order to attain and keep power made them, and the country as a whole, racist indeed.

(OTOH, Strom Thurmond was a racist, through and through, and I don’t care how many children he sired with black women. Nixon wasn’t specifically a racist; he loathed all humanity equally. Ailes? He’s just a pig.)

So yeah, the Republicans and the Me Party-ists who seem to have a power all out of proportion the the rest of the body politic ain’t gonna be big shots much longer. Problem is, with the Koch Bros.’ (among other sneaky plutocrats) dough behind them, John Boehner et al can do some really serious damage to the nation. Hell, they’ve done it already.

Think of it as a fire in your home. It may have started in the kitchen and, thanks to quick work by the firefighters (who get paid by that hated gummint, BTW), the rest of your house was saved. Still, the kitchen’s a wreck. It’ll be a long time before the place is functioning properly.

Walsh is right; this isn’t an all-sides-are-to-blame thing; the Republicans started it and now the rest of us are feeling the heat.

[Big Mike Note: The head for this entry is stolen from a 1964 book of the same name, written by Charles E. Silberman. He was among the first to identify and explain the reality that the USA is really two separate nations.]

Big Mike Explains It All

[Wordpress went a little funny in the head yesterday so this post that should have been dated Wednesday, October 9, 2013, is now dated today.]

Okay, kids, strap on your crash helmets because things are gonna get really, really weird here now.

As you know Peter Higgs won the Nobel Prize in Physics yesterday Monday because a bunch of geeks toying around with the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN facility on the border of France and Switzerland finally found the sub-atomic particle that bears his name. See, Higgs got cracking with pencil and paper (and eraser — lots of erasers) some 50 years ago and as a result of some calculations he did, he was able to predict the existence of the Higgs Boson, aka the God Particle, although most serious physicists get really cranky when the Higgs is called that.

Telegraph UK Image

Peter Higgs

People called the Higgs the God Particle because some wise guys figgered once it was found, scientists would know the secret of existence. That is, why things exist, and why they don’t just smash into each other and annihilate themselves or, conversely, why everything there is doesn’t just go flying off into its own nowhere so that there would be no mass or forces or even pizza.

Talk about existentialism! This whole shebang couldn’t get more mind-bending if the ghosts of Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Kafka suddenly were to appear in the living room playing Twister in their stocking feet.

Twister

That’s Kafka In The Green Suit & Wearing Glasses

Whereas pious folk say the Big Daddy-o in the Sky snapped his fingers one day and next thing anybody knew, light, aluminum, oceans, Adam & Eve, and shingles all came into being, particle physicists tell us reality is just a seemingly endless series of Russian nesting dolls, with ever teensier pieces fitting inside each other. There was a time when the learned among us thought atoms were the smallest things there could be.

Har-de-har-har. Over the last 150 years or so, researchers have found successively smaller motes that make atoms look like honeydew melons. Things got so surreal that when Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig, unbeknownst to one another, dreamed up the idea of the most fundamental particle yet back in the early 1960s, one of them had to reach into the bizarro world of James Joyce’s poetry for a name. Finnegan’s Wake provided the following line:

Three quarks for Muster Mark!
Sure he has not got much of a bark
And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.

What in the hell ever that means. So inscrutable were those two sentences that Gell-Mann immediately sensed he’d happened upon the right language from which to pluck a perfect term. Ergo, quark.

But wait! Even quarks had to be shoved around by smaller pieces of something so Higgs entered the picture in 1964, proposing his eponymous boson. It wasn’t until March of this year that the CERN gang proved Higgs’ speck of near nothingness really does exist.

The Standard Model that most physicists today subscribe to holds that magnetism, electricity, light, and a few other of nature’s magic tricks do their thing via force-carrying particles. These little specks, which are far too miniscule to be seen even with the strongest grocery store reading glasses, have mass or, to use a very technical term, oomph, only because they rub up against the Higgs Field.

Dig: The Higgs Field, which is everywhere, sprinkles photons and other force-carrying particles with confetti-like Higgs Bosons so that they, the photons et al, actually carry some weight and therefore can push things around.

And that’s why there are Republicans, pebbles, electric guitars, and — yes — pizza, as opposed to a universe full of, well, nothing.

Pizza

Raison d’Être

We and everything around us are made of of countless billions and trillions of mini billiard balls — which actually also are waves, but don’t worry your pretty and handsome heads about that because if you start, search parties of shrinks would have to disperse in search of your sanity. Just trust, alright? Anyways, those eensy-schmeensy billiard balls only can come together to become a deep dish pie with sausage and green peppers thanks to the Higgs Field and its mass-inducing confetti called Higgs Bosons.

Understand?

That’s okay, neither do I.

Fortunately, Peter Higgs does and that’s why he won the big prize yesterday.

Aren’t you glad you read this rather than gawked at yet another picture of Miley Cyrus sticking her tongue out?

Cyrus

Put That Back In Your Head!

[Another Big Mike Note: I’m neither a mathematician nor an expert on particle physics. Try as I might, there’s a good chance that my word picture herein describing the Higgs Boson and Field is full of crap. If so and you, dear reader, are a physics geek, please correct me.]

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