Category Archives: Mike Cagle

Hot Air

Stop Trying To Be Blissful

Bloomington ex-pat and current law school drone in Oregon, Mike Cagle, points out a new self-help book that sez, essentially, no self-help book is worth a shit.

It’s called F*ck Feelings, which is about as near perfect a title as I can imagine. The New York Post carried a piece on the tome day before yesterday and, generally, when the New York Post tells me the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning, I’ll assume the paper’s got it all wrong. This time, though, the rag is spot-on.

The book’s author, a big shot East Coast shrink named Michael Bennett, tells us to stop spending all our dough on books and DVDs and seminars and sessions that purport to tell us how we can achieve some impossible state of bliss. That nirvana state, he says, doesn’t exist, nor will it ever.

Book Cover

To borrow a paranoia from food fetishists and other nudges who are certain we’re all under the fascist control of one industrial-governmental-scientific cabal or another (and we are, but not to the imaginative extent the Anti-Bigs want us to believe), Doc Bennett had better watch his step before Big Self-Help puts a bullet in him.

Anyway, Bennett, who wrote the book with the help of his comedy-writer daughter, Sarah Bennett, tells us:

Fuck happy. Fuck self-improvement, self-esteem, fairness, helpfulness and everything in between.

Man, how’s Barnes & Noble gonna survive?

Here’s a line from the Kirkus Review blurb about F*ck Feelings:

The authors show us how to stop reaching for the moon, to read the situation, keep cool, and effect what you can. “Sometimes we are simply life’s bitch,” they write.

BTW, the Bennetts say they sprinkle F-bombs and other poesies promiscuously throughout the book because “profanity is a source of comfort, clarity, and strength.”

Well, duh.

Bennett, the MD, writes a simultaneously humorous and serious-as-a-panic-attack blog called — what else? — F*ck Feelings, in which he offers advice and caveats about all the snake-oil self-help authors who are getting rich/richer/richest on your insecurities. He bills himself “Dr. Lastn*me,” explaining “real doctors go by their last names, and you shouldn’t let the Phils, Lauras, Nicks, and Drews cause you more pain.”

The Bennetts, père et fille, posit that life offers us only fleeting moments of contentment and security; cherish those moments and understand the rest of existence is a puzzling load of shit.

Natch, I’d dig an iconoclast and bullshit-caller like Bennett.

His and his daughter’s book is a needed pendulum swing from the ’80s and 90s “inner child,” “Dr. Love,” and self-actualization psychobabble rages.

I can’t wait to read it.

Ergo, Here’s My Own Self-Help List Of Affirmations

The things I’m proud of:

  • I’ve never seen an episode of Friends
  • I still don’t really know what Gangnam style is.
  • I have no idea why the Kardashians first achieved fame
  • I was onto Donald Trump as far back as the ‘80s, thanks to Spy Magazine


  • I’ve never fired a gun
  • I haven’t voted for a Republican since the party came out against the ERA
  • I quit the Catholic church when I was 12
  • I’ve never tried heroin
  • I studied comedy improv at iO (formerly, ImprovOlympic), under Charna Halpern and Del Close
  • I have washed my own clothes since I was 18 years old
  • I scrub my own toilets
  • Mike Royko once wrote a message to me, telling me to “fuck off”



  • I do not own a smart phone
  • I’m not addicted to too many things
  • I have never reproduced
  • I emerged in 1999 from a fifteen year battle with panic disorder and agoraphobia
  • I’m still alive despite suffering from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Congestive Heart Failure
  • I work out at a gym four or five times a week
  • I once saved 28 people’s lives (and my own) while piloting a DUKW in Lake Michigan


A “Duck” Splashes In

  • My spaghetti sauce
  • I sell books
  • I once fell down a flight of concrete steps while drunk in pitch darkness and never left my feet
  • The Loved One has not brained me up until this point in time
  • I chased a burglar out of my home while stark naked one night
  • I marched against the Gulf War in 1991
  • I volunteered for the Obama campaign in Kentucky in 2008
  • I can type with two fingers as fast as many people using five

There. Now I’m blissful. For the moment.

Hot Air

The Amazon Reign

[I wrote this Monday and sat on it. Since then every news peddler on Earth has beaten the bejesus out of me on it but so what? Here it is, updated.]

I’ve got a couple of horses in this race, considering I work at Bloomington’s last independent bookseller, the Book Corner, and I’m a book author. When it comes to buying a book on Amazon or copping it at our humble establishment, you know which way I’ll nudge you.

Mind you, I’m not four-square against things like online retail or e-books. I buy eyeglass frames, shoes, undies, and — yes — books via my MacBook. In fact, I’ve even published an e-book. I don’t make a big deal about it, though, because it wasn’t very good. Nevertheless, I’ll e-publish again.

But Amazon? Bah.

The world’s largest online retailer — on which everything up to but excluding the air that you breathe (and don’t hold your breath that that won’t change soon) is for sale — is waging a very public, very bloody war with one of the world’s largest book publishing outfits, the Paris-based Hachette. The two gargantuan companies are battling over who gets to set the price for the books you want to buy through Amazon.

Meanwhile, all but a precious few authors continue to count their pennies and eat at least one meal of ramen noodles a week.


A Typical Author’s Midnight Snack

The book racket operates thusly: Let’s say the the Godly Press is putting out the latest bestseller, My White Heaven, the story of some bratty kid who claims he died and went to heaven while in surgery, survived the ordeal, told his preacher dad about it, and now the old man is making the rounds telling us Obamacare is a fascist plot and sodomy is being taught in our public schools. Godly Press sets the price for the book at, say, $16.95. The book is then offered through a national distributor like Ingram which offers little guys like the Book Corner a 40 percent discount. So, we pay $10.17 for each copy of the book.

We, then, can charge you the full suggested retail price for the book and make a tidy $6.78 for every copy sold. Or we can offer it at a retail discount, say 1o percent, meaning you can buy the book from us for $15.26. We used to offer nice little discounts like that at the Book Corner but then the attractive and charming staff threatened owner, Margaret, with bodily harm if she didn’t bump our yearly wages up over the six-figure mark. Now the Book Corner has discontinued its discounts and we booksellers dine on filet mignon and caviar nightly.

BTW: big retailers like Barnes & Noble and national grocery chains get much, much, much sweeter deals from Ingram and the publishers themselves, ergo their ability to offer 25 percent discounts and more on big bestsellers.

Anyway, the publisher sets the price but allows the retailer to charge whatever she or he wishes.

Oh, and another thing: the less distributors and publishers charge for wholesale product, the more the vast majority of authors suffer in terms of royalties. A penny may be an insult, but a half cent is an atrocity.

And that’s how things used to work in the e-retail racket. Hachette and other publishing houses would set prices for e-books and then Amazon would discount that figure as it saw fit. Only Amazon claimed it couldn’t bear to live anymore if forced to sell books at such low prices.

So now Amazon wants to be able to set prices even higher than the publisher’s suggested figure, ergo making the online retailer tons more dough while still snowing the consumer with 25 percent discounts. Amazon is so dead set on this course that it’s shunting Hachette’s books aside because the publishing house refuses to play along. In fact, Amazon has even gone so far as to advise customers to go somewhere else to buy Hachette books.

That’s serious, babies.

Amazon Corp. HQ

Amazon’s Proposed Corporate Campus Biosphere In Seattle

Acc’d’g to the Guardian US, millionaire Hachette authors like Stephen Colbert and James Patterson are screaming to high heaven at Amazon to be reasonable. Of course, the more Amazon charges for books, the more Colbert and Patterson make. Those guys are going to sell no matter what their books cost. If Amazon gets its way, though, lesser-known scribes will suffer even more than they do already because — let’s face it — who’s going to pay $18 for an e-book by Michael G. Glab?

Hell, I doubt anyone in my own family would pay that much for a book written by me. I would’t pay that much for a book written by me!

Anyway, the other day the LA Times ran a nice rundown of who’s who and what’s what in this pissing match. And the Guardian continues its coverage of the contretemps with the news that the two august firms are now badmouthing each other publicly.

When all is said and done, even after Amazon nukes all of Paris in order to destroy the rump state that is home to Hachette, 99 percent of the authors you know and love will be collecting their coins in a jar against the inevitability of one of those income-less months. So I don’t give a damn who wins.

If you do, and want Amazon to triumph, here’s a petition entitled Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages.

Run Him Out Of Town

Speaking of dough, if you want to kick in to the Mike Cagle kitty, he’s got a gofundme site up now. One of B-town’s most pop. bachelors, Cagle has given the raspberry to his former employer, Cook Medical, and will be setting off for the the Portland’s Lewis & Clark College to study law.

He’s hoping you’ll find it in your heart to pitch in so he can afford to move his yacht, his matching Bentleys, and his solid gold bathroom fixtures to Oregon where he’ll live the life of a poverty-stricken student for a few years.

I figger, Why not? The dude wants to practice do-goody-good law and, heaven knows, we need more shingles like that around these parts. Plus, contributors will get a piece of Cagle art for their largesse. C. has been a crackerjack cartoonist for lo these many years although he expects to lay the pen and the brush down while he hits the books.

Cagle Art

Cagle Scratch



Hot Air

Firehouse Politicking

The WFHB gang got together for its annual meeting this afternoon at the Monroe County History Center. A quintet of candidates stood for election to the Board of Directors and four of them sat before a crowd of volunteers prior to the meeting’s official start to explain to them (the vols) why they (the cands) should be elected.


The four were on their best behavior and told the multitude what good citizens and lovers of community radio they were. Q’s were fielded and the only one that hit home with me was Music Director Jim Manion’s: “Other non-profits specifically charge their Boards with the task of fundraising. Some organizations even give their Board members fund-raising quotas. What would you do to improve fundraising for Firehouse Radio?”

None of the candidates was able to say something on the order of “Hey, no prob. I’ll put the touch on three or four millionaire friends and colleagues of mine.”

Which, BTW, is the primary qualification for membership on many a Board.

Anyway, the new Board members who, presumably, won’t be bringing in any five- or six-figure donation checks this coming year are Markus Lowe, William Morris (Brother William to his listeners), and Kelly Wherley.

They and the rest of the Board this coming year will have to figure out ways to goose the station’s fundraising numbers.

Pay Cagle’s Way

Soon-to-be Bloomington expat Mike Cagle wants your dough. He’s jumping on the crowd-funding bandwagon to facilitate his move west to study law.

Only Cagle will toss a premium your way if you pitch cash at him. See, he’s a crackerjack cartoonist, as anybody who’s anybody in this town would know. So if you empty your coin pouch into his PayPal swag bag (or whatever online money laundering service he’s using), he’ll  present you with an original, signed work of art. Something like this:

Cagle Art

A Cagle Poster For Krampus 2013

Cagle, of course, is not the only crowd-funder in town. Ink-stained wretch Shayne Laughter had the cyber-hand out for spare change to fund her residency this summer at the Can Serrat artists’ colony in Spain. Shayne will depart in two weeks for Iberia where she’ll work on XXXXX surrounded by the gorgeous trees and hills of the Penedes wine-growing region. God, I hate her.

Anyway, help these artists if you’ve got some disposable lettuce. Look at it this way: It’s better than throwing  a C-note or more a month at Comcast just so’s you can watch reruns of Two and a Half Men.

Saty tuned for a link to Cagle’s alms cup. He’s busy setting it up as we speak.

Hot Air


How excited are you about that new politico-memoir, A Fighting Chance, written by Elizabeth Warren?

Warren’s the coolest human in politics these days. I’d love to live in world wherein she’d be the queen. OTOH: I don’t want to see her get within a mile of the Oval Office. People who have a fighting chance, to borrow a phrase, of becoming president must compromise themselves into a certain near-nothingness, witness one Barack H. O.


Tough Dame

The Devil has in his safety deposit box the souls of some 43 presidents as well as all the real challengers they faced before becoming the boss of this holy land. And don’t correct me on the no. of presidents — Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, ergo he’s counted as two of ’em.

Anyway, I want Warren on the outside, fighting the good fight. So far, she’s the best there is at that job.

Pencil Logrolling

If you don’t read the Comments section of this communications colossus you might have missed this from yesterday:

Shameless Related Promotions Department: I’m working with my dear friend and doc-film collaborator Nadeem Uddin to get his lifelong project finished this year, the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal gas leak disaster. If you ever wondered what a major chemical attack would look like in a densely populated civilian area, this is it.

We’re currently setting up an Indiegogo campaign to fund production of the second segment, which looks at how a child exposed to the gas in 1984 has passed on genetic defects to his children.

PS – Nadeem is coming to town for a visit in late May. Anyone interested in a screening of footage and some Q&A?

The comment is from Penicillista and great friend, Shayne Laughter. If she’s in on a project — or even if she merely gives it her blessing — you know it’s the real deal and worth your while.

Mid-Life Adventure

One of our town’s most compelling figures, cartoonist Mike Cagle, is shipping off to Oregon this summer. He’ll begin the 2014-15 term as a student at Lewis & Clark Law School. He sez he just may want to practice public interest law.

How can you not love B-town when this burgh is populated by folks like Mike. Our loss is the world’s gain.

Sterling Redux

I wiped the floor with Donald Sterling yesterday, natch. The only thing right-thinking folk might quibble with was my assertion that Sterling should not be officially punished for utterances in, presumably, his private home where he was being recorded without his knowledge. That, friends, is thought crime.

Now, don’t have a fit; I fully support a boycott of his Los Angeles Clippers games. He’s a bad man in so many ways I’ve run out of fingers and toes and facial hairs to count them. The sooner his evil soul departs his body, the better. But, again, human beings should not be persecuted or prosecuted by any authority for the hate in their hearts.

Or, as Bill Maher says, “Calm down. Being an asshole is still legal.”

Oh, BTW, Sterling is a Republican. Registered. Who’da thunk it?

And, to make this farce even more ridiculous, certain conservative groups and publications are trying to spread the lie that’s he’s a Dem! We live in a weird, weird country, kiddies.

Large And In Charge

And, speaking of posterior orifices, our gal Sarah Palin bleated this past weekend before the assembled multitudes at the NRA’s annual fapfest, held this year in Indy.

And, again, just like yesterday when I took the bullet for you by listening to the Sterling tape, I did it again by listening to Palin’s speech. Babies, I am your freakin’ he-ro!

The gist of her shrieking could be summarized in the quote, “If I were in charge….”

No word yet if audience members began masturbating furiously in their seats upon hearing this most risible sentiment.


We all have heard her marvy quote about waterboarding being the way “we baptize terrorists.” Nuts, right? But did you catch her statement that, again, if she were in charge, she’d be standin’ tall right there in the Ukraine and she’d have stopped Putin from making his land grabs?

Swear to god, this piece of work sees herself as something like that Chinese kid who stood before the line of tanks in Tiananmen Sq. back in 1989.

Okay, that’s my report on Palin. That’s plenty of heroism for this big boy for one weekend. I’ll be going off to check myself in for battle fatigue treatment now.

The Pencil Today:


“It gets better.” — Dan Savage


Illustrator and comix genius Mike Cagle points out a fascinating story of revenge in the rural town of West Branch, Michigan.

Well, the folks pulling it off will soft-soap it as a teaching moment for the town’s teens. I know better.

Here’s the dope: the kids at Ogemaw Heights High School voted a sophomore girl named Whitney Kropp to the homecoming court for this weekend’s festivities. Kropp was shocked by the vote because 1) she hadn’t run for the honor, and 2) she’s the kind of outsider kid that ABC-TV used to make after-school specials about.

See, the kids had all gotten together to vote for Kropp as a prank. Ha ha ha, she’s the geeky chick with the multi-colored hair and she wears black much of the time and she’s pretty much a loner. In other words, she’s the girl I would have had a crush on in high school, but that’s me.

Whitney Kropp

To the vast majority of this holy land’s fat and arrogant youth, she’s a joke.

Ergo, her schoolmates voted her in as the sophomore queen so they could point at her and laugh. Which they did.

Her sophomore boy counterpart even quit his post on the homecoming court because, reportedly, he was loathe to to be seen walking arm in arm with such a nerdgirl.

Kropp, according to her mother, cried in her bedroom the night after the vote was announced.

The town’s elders got wind of this whole deal and mobilized for action. They created a Facebook page to support Kropp. They’re going to flood the football stadium Friday night, wearing her fave color (orange), and cheering their lungs out when she is introduced on the field.

They’re also going to pay for her gown, hair, makeup, and all the other froufaraw that surrounds such a teen beauty pageant. They’re calling themselves “Team Whitney.”

The story has gone national, natch. Kropp has appeared on the Today Show and her Facebook support page had 36,146 likes as of 7:50 this morning.

So, now, young Whitney will be the star of homecoming weekend. The game Friday and the big dance Saturday night will be bookend acts for the Whitney Show.

That’ll show ’em, say the town’s elders. The idea being, those mean kids will learn a lesson.

I doubt it.

Remember, it’s adults doing the “teaching” here. And what do adults know about popular girls versus geek chicks?

No, it’s more likely the adults are trying to screw the little bastards at their own game — which I endorse wholeheartedly.

In fact, if the adults really, really want to get a message across to the kids of that school, they might employ some more, shall we say, persuasive means.

Lemme tell you a quick story. When I was very young, I was the kid who was bullied and ridiculed in school. Being a nascent genius, I came to the conclusion after years of having my books strewn all over the street and being pushed into piles of dogshit that my best defense against such treatment would be an offense.

I had to leave my first elementary school, thanks to the bullies. In my new school, I decided, I wouldn’t be the bullied. I’d start leading the pack in bullying somebody else. Better him or her than me, right?

This worked for about three years until I was a freshman in high school. One of my classmates was an overweight, effeminate guy named Bobby. I zoomed in on him, making his life a holy hell. I never missed a chance to snap him with a wet towel in the gym locker room. I mocked his whiny voice. I led groups of guys in tying his street clothes into knots while he was off in the shower room.

I was a rotten little bastard to Bobby.

But at least it was Bobby and not me, I’d think on those rare occasions when I felt bad about what I was doing.

One day, one of the biggest, toughest guys in school stopped me coming out of the shower room. He was a lineman on the varsity football team. He pulled his ham-sized fist back and unleashed a punch that, when it collided with my sternum, felt as though I’d been hit by a Tomahawk missile.

I collapsed on the tile floor. He stood over me and said, “Why don’t you leave the poor guy alone?”

It was an epiphany. That such a symbol of maleness and accomplishment could stand up for an overweight, effeminate underclassman impresses me to this day. I vowed at that moment — before even lifting myself up off the floor — that I’d never pick on a kid again.

Since then, I’ve dedicated myself to defending the defenseless. Since then, I’ve identified with everybody who’s ever gotten bullied.

Who knows? Maybe I would have come to the same conclusion had that big football lineman simply talked to me and not tried to put his fist through my chest cavity.

All I know is, for the next couple of weeks, every time I ran my fingers over the lump on my chest, I remembered his words. And today, I don’t even need to feel the swelling to hear those words.


Get yourself over to The Venue Fine Art & Gifts to hear IU’s Ross Gay read his poetry tonight at 5:30.

I generally shy away from poetry but Ross is the real deal. This guy can throw around the ink and the meters with the best of them.

Ross Gay

The only Bloomington-area events listings you need

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Brought to you by The Electron Pencil: Bloomington Arts, Culture, Politics, and Hot Air. Daily.

FOOD ◗ Corner of Sixth & Madison streetsTuesday Farmer’s Market; 4-7pm

MIXER ◗ Topos 403Young Professionals of Bloomington, monthly get-together; 5:30pm

POETRY ◗ The Venue Fine Art & GiftsRoss Gay, An American Poet, the poet reads from his own work; 5:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleRichard Groner, 6-8:30pm

FILM ◗ IU Swain Hall East — “Miss Bala,” directed by Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico; pm

LECTURE ◗ IU Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center — “How Does A More Cooperative Ape Evolve?” presented by primatologist Brian Hare; 6pm

WORKSHOP ◗ BloominglabsIntro to Soldering, for electronics; 6-8pm

NATURE HIKE ◗ Leonard Springs Nature ParkGuided, one-mile hike, observe wildlife, binoculars & magnifying glasses provided; 6pm

MUSIC ◗ Cafe DjangoJFB Jazz Jam with Tom Clark; 7pm

POLITICS ◗ Ivy Tech-BloomingtonLeague of Women Voters Candidate Forum, Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation board candidates; 7pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “A Bag of Hammers,” with appearance by director Brian Crano; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ Rachael’s CafeChad Nordhoff; call Rachael’s for show time

STAGE ◗ IU Halls TheatreDrama, “When the Rain Stops Falling;” 7:30pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallStephen W. Pratt conducts the Wind Ensemble; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s PubBlues Jam hosted by Fistful of Bacon; 8pm

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


ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “New Acquisitions,” David Hockney; through October 21st
  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • What It Means to Be Human,” by Michele Heather Pollock; through September 29th
  • Land and Water,” by Ruth Kelly; through September 29th

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibit:

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

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits opening September 28th:

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

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibit:

  • “CUBAmistad” photos

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit:

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

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Soup’s OnExhibit:

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

ART ◗ Boxcar BooksExhibit:

  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Papercuts by Ned Powell; through September

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

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

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

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

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

The Pencil Today:


“Those who, in principle, oppose birth control are either incapable of arithmetic or else in favor of war, pestilence, and famine as permanent features of human life.” — Bertrand Russell


Student academic fraud is on the upswing, according to a piece in the IDS this morning.

We’re talking cheating on a test or hiring a ringer to write a paper, that sort of thing. Some 366 cases of such enhanced achievement misconduct were adjudicated last year. This year the number of cheaters already is approaching that total, according to the article, even though the spring semester isn’t even half over.


Using last year’s figure, let’s just assume the actual number of cheaters was three times the official number. That gives us a shade under 1100 future Wall Street icons…, er…, I mean, cheaters. That’s a pretty heartening number, no?

When you consider that some 95,000 aspiring scholars attended classes at the seven Indiana University campuses, you realize that only .0038 percent of students are kinky, to use an old alley cop term for lawbreakers.

“So, Cheating On Your Semester Finals, Eh?”

Not bad, eh? The pressure on college students to succeed, especially in this Great Recession era, is enormous. When only one in approximately 261 students spits on the academic code, in my hypothetical scenario, I think we can safely say IU crammers by and large are honest souls.

The whole subject reminds me of that great Woody Allen line: “I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”


Miles Craig, Crystal Johnson, and Mike Cagle all posted this funny pic on their Facebook pages.

If the GOP anti-sex league wasn’t so scary, it’d be funny.


Bloomington author Joy Shayne Laughter paid her respects at Soma Coffee‘s unofficial Big Mike Table this morning when she came in for her daily IV drip. Joy was all agog over an essay she read by a writer named Andrea Balt on the web journal Elephant.

Balt tries to explain women. Don’t get me wrong, I love Joy to pieces, but now, after reading the essay, I’m more confused than ever about those folks who possess different plumbing than I do.

Then again, perhaps my confusion means I really get it now.

Women are like quantum mechanics. As Richard Feynman reportedly said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

Particle Paths Illustrating Quantum Mechanics Probabilities


Was there ever a cooler girl group than the Runaways?

Joan Jett and Lita Ford are underappreciated among rock ‘n roll experts only because they carried the wrong set of chromosomes in their cells.

And, by the way, doesn’t it look as though Joan Jett is chewing gum in this video? Maybe it’s my imagination, but if she is, it’s the perfect touch.

The Pencil Today:


“There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge in every country is the surest basis of public happiness.” — George Washington


The local Facebook-iverse was abuzz last night over the mention of one of our own in the Village Voice.

Seems that those city slickers suddenly have realized that there are actually people out here, and not just goats. And some of us Hoosiers can read and write and — gasp! — think.

State Senator Vi Simpson, top dog of the Democratic caucus, came in for the imprimatur on the Voice’s Scientology blog (golly gee, I didn’t know there was a crying need for such a thing). Writer Tony Ortega breathlessly marvels over the mere existence of Vi, who cleverly introduced an amendment to weaken a Republican bill to get creationism taught in Indiana public schools.

Clever Simpson

Creationism, for those of you who understandably ignore the bleatings of the god-fearing Right, holds that the Earth is only 6000 years old and that a couple of white people named Adam and Eve ate some piece of fruit, causing all subsequent generations of humans to be born evil. Oh, and that a talking snake persuaded them to munch the honeycrisp.

“Go Ahead, Eat It.”

I figure I’d be god-fearing, too, if I believed in a deity that deranged.

See, GOP Senator Dennis Kruse had introduced the original bill, SB 89, presumably because he thinks teaching evolution, biology, and geology are frightful wastes of our education dollars. The Indiana Senate actually passed the bill, leading me to wonder if those city slickers are right — perhaps we are just a bunch of illiterate goats out here.


Vi Simpson, though, proved at least some of us possess Homo Sapiens sapiens genetic material.

Her amendment called for the teaching of the creation myths of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology as well. Lo and behold, her amendment was passed, probably because, y’know, half to three quarters of those minty-fresh Tea Party legislators probably can’t read anyway.

And the kicker: Simpson received complaints from various minor religion zealots who were put out because their fave fairy tales weren’t included.

“Hey! What About Us?”

In any case, the bill is now watered down enough to make it essentially toothless as well as brainless.

Here’s a hat tip to FB eagle-eyes (and Pencillistas) Michael Redman, Miles Craig, Susan Sandberg, Jim Manion, Steve Johnson, Mike Cagle, R.E. Paris, and Joy Shayne Laughter for catching the Simpson story.

And — huzzah! — those fancy folks from the Big Apple like us, they really like us!


Great. Now some knucklehead with a gun and a teensy package has shot and killed a bald eagle in Morgan County.

The Herald Times reports this morning that the eagle carcass was found earlier this month near Eminence.

Target Practice

Keep in mind that a couple of whooping cranes were gunned down late last year as well. Folks, can we please go back to shooting tin cans off fence posts?

I said this a little more than a year ago, after Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others were pumped full of lead in Tucson, and now it looks as though I’ll have to say it again: America, stick your guns up your ass.


Can you pony up two bucks?

That’s all it costs to see scads of local Bloomington artists show their stuff at — what else? — the Local Artists Showcase, Saturday, February 25, at the Bloomington Convention Center.

Bloom magazine bwana Malcolm Abrams sauntered into the Book Corner the other day in search of baseball magazines — yes, it’s that time of year — and to pass out flyers for the event. Bloom is sponsoring the bash along with Ivy Tech.

Some 67 local painters, scultors, mixed media artists and many others will be on hand.

With tix so cheap, you’ll have plenty of dough left over to buy some nice pieces, no?


Have you caught Womenspace on WFHB yet?

If not, why not? Great music by a revolving cast of XX-chromosome DJs, including Carolyn VandeWiele, Catharine Rademacher, and Liza Pavelich. Check these Spinitron playlists for the show so you can see what you’ve been missing.

VandeWiele, Rademacher & Pavelich

Womenspace airs every Thursday, 9-11PM. Women spinning women, baby. Catch it.

The Pencil Today:


“Clever tyrants are never punished.” — Voltaire.


According to news reports, large groups of people in Pyongyang and other Democratic People’s Republic of Korea locales are stopping in the middle of their streets and spontaneously bursting into tears.

Their big boss, Kim Jong-il, has died.

Further proof that no matter how much a despot crushes them, too many people in this mad, mad, mad, mad world dig being under someone’s thumb

Kim And Some Other Bully


The Herald Times reports that Indiana state law does not govern the keeping of primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees as pets. The deep-thinkers in the state legislature, though, have demonstrated enough foresight to draw up regulations covering lions and crocodiles in the home. Phew.

Do I need to say this? If you yield to your burning desire to keep a chimp as a pet, you deserve it if he tears your face off.

Trust Me — He Doesn’t Want To Live In Your House


Nancy Hiller

Look, it’s the last week of the Christmas shopping orgy. If you don’t buy at least one copy of Nancy R. Hiller‘s gorgeous book, “A Home of Her Own,” as a gift, well, there’s nothing medical or psychiatric science can do for you.


A no spamily, no brattle zone.

◗ For years I’ve been saying I don’t trust people who don’t have books in their homes. My gang generally displays their books the way Ma & Pa Normal show off their wall-sized TVs or their new gas-guzzlers. But I had a nice conversation with Tyler Ferguson at Soma Coffee Saturday. We chatted of this and that and at one point she confided that she doesn’t read books, which surprised me because she’s a pretty smart cookie.

Tyler pointed out that she’s unable to sit still long enough to read. Can’t argue with that because she has the energy of the uranium atom. She’s involved with every single sport that has ever been concocted by the human mind. In fact, I hear she’s trying to start up a pitz league here in Bloomington. Pitz was a game played by pre-Columbian Meso-Americans starting around 1000 BCE. It was similar to volleyball, but was played with solid rubber balls. No word yet on whether Tyler’s new league will include the ritual human sacrifices of captives and slaves or the beheadings of the losing team’s captain that so thrilled the Maya and other crowds.

Anyway, how can I turn my back on Tyler Ferguson, one of our town’s true characters? I trust her with my life, or at least my laptop while I run to the restroom.

So I’ll amend my pronouncement: I don’t trust people who don’t have books in their homes — except for Tyler. Otherwise, I agree with the slogan in the Wall Photo shared by Mike Cagle and Craig L. Worrell: “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fk them.”

The Pencil Today:


A timeless observation from the Basque writer Miguel de Unamuno: “Sometimes to be silent is to lie.”

Miguel de Unamuno


Poor Pat Murphy, my drinking buddy at Soma Coffee. Seems as though he only gets his picture in the Herald Times is when his Bloomington Utilities department is looking for more money.

Pat R.H. Murphy

I may tease him and say his middle name should be Rate Hike. He may in turn freeze me with one of his patented dirty looks, though.


WFHB radio general manager Chad Carrothers released January Jones‘ resignation letter, addressed (tellingly?) not to him but to the “WFHB Community.”

January had been the News Director for almost a year. She took over for Chad after he, in turn, took over the general manager’s riding crop following the departure of Will Murphy to NPR’s Ft. Wayne station. She resigned last week.


Chad has whipped the station into a shape it’s never been in before. WFHB beat its fundraising goals in both the spring and fall pledge drives. He’s one of the hardest working human beings I’ve ever met.

January was extraordinarily hard-working as well. Maybe too much so. The key line in her letter reads: “… I’ve realized that the staffing models in the organization make the News Director job a difficult position for me to maintain.”

Without talking to either Chad or January at this time (they’ve not responded to my email messages yet) I can interpret the line two ways:

1) There’s too much work for me to do here without more paid staffers; or

2) There are things I’d like to to have done but couldn’t because I didn’t have the autonomy I need.

I’ll do my best to get more dope on this one.


Here’s a new feature. Since most sentient humans are being driven to psychotic reaction by the flood of spamily, brattle, and breathless revelations of what people had to eat last night on Facebook, we’ve decided to wade through the mess and bring you the most illuminating ideas, events, and developments found there.

Let’s go:

Frank Miller long has been a titan in the comix and graphic novel rackets. His books “300,” “Sin City,” and “The Dark Knight Returns” all have been made into blockbuster movies (TDKR as “The Dark Knight.”) Bloomington’s Michael Redman and Mike Cagle point out that he’s now part of a virulent Hollywood crypto-fascism movement.

Miller on his blog refers to Occupy people as “louts, thieves, and rapists” as well as “pond scum.”

◗ Bibliophile extraordinaire R.E. Paris links to a moving video featuring a kid who was a victim of schoolyard bullying. She tells her own story of catching hell from schoolmates (speaking of louts!) R.E. credits former Star Trek actor George Takei with originating the link.

◗ Chicago-area green economy expert John Wasik points out that the Windy City is home to a Nikola Tesla fan club. Who knew?

Are you sitting down? There are chapters all around the nation!

◗ Finally, San Jose’s Chris Madsen reminds us it’s officially holiday season now that the yearly TV torrent of “It’s A Wonderful Life” airings has begun.

There. Aren’t you a better person for not having to read about someone’s pet bird?

Stay tuned for more.


Go see Grover & Sloan’s fourth installment in their continuing series of the cat and the air pump, today in “Cats and Machines.”

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