Category Archives: Mike Royko

Hot Air

Huston, You Were A Problem

I understand a fellow named Tom Huston spoke at Indiana University last week. Huston, the Herald Times (paywall) informs us, was an IU student back in the early 1960s. He became a 1960s campus activist and later went on to become a White House advisor.

Some reformed hippie, you’re probably thinking. Someone like Tom Hayden, say, or even on a grander level, John Kerry.

You’d be wrong.

Any student of the Nixon Administration’s secret, anti-democratic machinations knows the name Tom Charles Huston. He was recruited by the Nixon mobsters after he’d set up the Young Americans for Freedom chapter here at IU and had had established a career for himself as a provocateur, dirty-tricks player, and pathological anti-communist.

After Huston settled in at the White House, he became known among many administration staffers as “Secret Agent X-5,” a mocking reference to his purported obsession with cloak and dagger stuff. In fact, he penned the notorious “Huston Plan,” a scheme that would allow Nixon et al to spook the citizens of this holy land so that he and his cronies could carry out their doomed Vietnam War in peace, among other vital foreign policy objectives and pastimes.

Spy vs. Spy

Cartoonish

The United States in 1970, Nixon and Huston believed, was under assault by wealth redistributionists, radical black nationalists, and anti-war terrorists. Mind you, many among those groups indeed were wild-eyed loons but the Nixon crowd’s panic caused them to shiver over the specter of, in Mike Royko‘s colorful characterization, little old ladies in tennis shoes who met in church basements to pray for peace. Something had to be done to stem the breakdown of our beloved society. Before you’d know it, strapping young black bucks would be co-habitating with Iowans’ daughters, the women of Wyoming would be forced to work in hard core porn films, the sons of New Jersey-ites would be pouring LSD over their breakfast flakes, and the Soviets would be chuckling aboard their submarines as they waited off the coast of the the Carolinas for their orders to invade our soft, hedonistic land.

Nixon that spring called for a meeting of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the National Security Agency head, the CIA director, a high-level representative of the Army, and Huston to discuss what could be done. The various attendees were directed by the president to coordinate their efforts against civil rights activists and anti-war protesters. Huston was charged with crafting a set of marching orders for the group.

Here are a few strategic and tactical recommendations Tom Huston called for:

  • Increased use of phone taps
  • Increased use of planted listening devices
  • Break-ins to offices of targeted organizations and individuals
  • Mail intercepts
  • Using underaged college students as paid informants
  • Intercepting international communications of American citizens
  • The creation of mass detention camps in isolated areas of the country for protesters

In other words, Tom Charles Huston would have made Stasi and the KGB proud.

Huston’s recommendations were part and parcel of Nixon’s paranoiac reign which included plans to firebomb the Brookings Institute, the break-ins at the Watergate office complex, an elaborate spying operation on the Democratic Party, G. Gordon Liddy’s “Gemstone” plan to kidnap anti-war protesters and use prostitutes in an effort to catch Democratic officials in compromising positions, hush money paid out to Watergate break-in defendants, destroying evidence, ordering the FBI and CIA to stand down in their investigations into administration wrongdoing, and other delights.

Much of Huston’s plan scared the bejesus even out of J. Edgar Hoover, who was not known as the nation’s foremost champion of civil liberties. Some parts of Huston’s plan were scrapped but much was implemented.

Huston never went to jail for his sins, although I can’t think of a better place for him. Since the Nixon downfall, he has become a noted international corporate real estate attorney, now semi-retired from the the Barnes & Thornburg law offices in Indianapolis.

Yesterday, he told IU students how swell Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan were and how today’s political climate was born of the modern conservative movement’s awakening in the mid-’60s.

Ick. I think I need to go outside, breathe some fresh air and gaze at the sunny, blue sky in order to purge myself of such toxins.

Higher Ed

The Loved One and I attended a nice little dinner party last night, Several of the guests were academics from IUPUI. The dons were old vets of the pedagogy rackets and, as such, have seen big changes in the student body lo these many years.

For instance, one of the profs, a hard scientist we’ll call Jack, told us the tale of an Indianapolis car dealer he knew who said that some of the Chinese students coming to town for a college education have more pocket money than can be found in a small town’s bank vault. One newly arrived student, the dealer related, walked into the dealership one day and fished out a mighty wad of cash from her purse. She proceeded to lay out a hundred thousand USD on the dealer’s desk. “Can I buy a car with this?” she asked. No word on whether the dealer has regained consciousness.

The dealer had more. Another student bought a luxury car from him and, surprisingly, a couple of months later came in to buy another car. As if that weren’t enough, the same young man returned another couple of months later to buy a third car. The dealer learned that the young man was being given a $30,000 a month allowance by his parents. The kid confessed he wasn’t creative enough to blow thirty G’s a month so he simply decided to buy a new car every couple of months.

The other academic, a soft scientist we’ll call Adam who has also taught at Indiana University here in Bloomington, went on to describe how the campus parking lots in both places are rife with BMWs, Porsches, Lotuses, Maseratis and other chariots of the gods. The high end rides, he added, most assuredly were not owned by teachers and professors.

Maserati

Student Transportation

Jack wondered what possible work that awaited such privileged young folk after graduation could possibly excite and challenge them. Adam remembered how he dreamed of one day owning a car that didn’t threaten to collapse in a heap of rusty parts in the middle of the road after he would graduate from college. And, he said, he remembered being overjoyed in those all too rare months when he’d have enough money left over to buy an album or two.

Both academics agreed that one of the prime motivators that got them through four years of slogging and cramming was the dream that their real world work would elevate them from student poverty. “What,” Jack asked, “keeps these kids going now?”

The two old birds also agreed that IUPUI and IU both are specifically marketing themselves toward the scions of the uber-rich worldwide. And they’re not alone; pretty much every U. around this holy land is lusting after kids for whom $30,000 is a monthly allowance.

There’s no dearth of such privileged princes and princesses. The fast rise of China’s economy in the last couple of decades has produced a mini-club of families richer than your average oil sheik. South Korea, too, is crawling with obscenely nouveau riche families. Those Middle East oil sheiks also are shipping their spawn off to America to book-learn how to run daddy’s biz when the time comes.

It all makes me wonder what their care packages look like.

Your Daily Hot Air

Hiroshima Day

The nuclear bombings of two cities in Japan were the logical coda of the single most brutal enterprise the species Homo Sapiens sapiens has ever undertaken — and if we’re very, very, very lucky, will ever undertake.

Hiroshima

World War II claimed anywhere from 60-100 million lives. It doesn’t matter how they died; only that the people of this mad planet wanted them dead.

BTW: Shoot over to Neil Steinberg’s blog post today about the excruciatingly unlucky few who survived both bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. True story.

Nixon Resignation Day

Here’s Mike Royko writing Richard M. Nixon’s political eulogy in the Chicago Sun-Times the day after the president quit:

My personal reason for not wanting Mr. Nixon prosecuted is that he really didn’t betray the nation’s trust all that badly.

The country knew what it was getting when it made him president. He was elected by the darker side of the American conscience. His job was to put the brakes on the changes of the 1960s — the growing belief in individual liberties, the push forward by minority groups. He campaigned by appealing to prejudice and suspicion. What he and his followers meant by law and order was “shut up.”

So whose trust he did he betray? Not that of those who thought he was the answer. He was, indeed, their answer.

Nixon

Nixon

The Past Is Prologue

Ukulele savant Susan Sandberg points out this timeless observation by Lyndon Baines Johnson:

If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him someone to look down on and he’ll empty his pockets for you.

LBJ

Johnson

Winning Isn’t Everything

Speaking of the 1960s, I just finished reading a biography of Vince Lombardi entitled When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss.

Lombardi was often portrayed as a brutal, tyrannical leader who’d have steamrolled his grandmother to win a football game. Many people felt he was a man without conscience or sensitivity toward his fellow man. As such, some figured he’d be a great political leader for the turbulent ’60s. In fact, soon after Nixon secured the Republican nomination for president 45 years ago this week, the candidate floated the idea of approaching Lombardi to be his running mate. Nixon’s aides took him seriously and looked into Lombardi’s background. What they found surprised them: The iconic Green Bay Packers coached turned out to be a lifelong Democrat who was particularly close to Bobby Kennedy and the slain senator’s family.

Lombardi

Lombardi

Anyway, the coach’s views on civil rights surely would have sunk a Nixon/Lombardi ticket. Here’s an anecdote. Early on in his term as boss of the Pack, Lombardi and his team traveled into the South for an exhibition game. They went to a large restaurant for a meal. Lombardi was told the black players on the team — only a couple of guys, really, in those days — would not be allowed to enter the place through the front door. They’d have to come in through the back door and eat in a special room for blacks just off the kitchen.

Jim Crow

Lombardi was incensed. He realized, though, he couldn’t smash Jim Crow all by himself that day so he did the next best thing. He directed his entire team to enter through the back door and eat their meal in the back room reserved for blacks.

Pretty cool, eh?

Add to that the fact that Lombardi had at least one player on his team whom he knew was gay. The coach said to his assistants, If I hear one insult or snide remark coming out of your mouths you’ll be fired before your ass hits the floor.

Vince Lombardi was no Spiro Agnew.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” — Mark Twain

PAY ‘EM: DAY 6

So, Chicago Teachers Union reps vote on the new CBA tomorrow. And now the post-mortems begin.

For instance, a New York University professor of education came up with all the answers in a CNN Op-Ed piece last night.

Now that the strike is over, the professor writes, the Chicago public schools need to be fixed.

This Just In: Fix It

Come to this space tomorrow for a statement by medical researchers that human beings must breathe clean air.

Anyway, Professor Pedro Noguera, of the NYU school of education, cites an “exhaustive study of many of the reforms carried out during the Duncan years” (current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the longtime head of the CPS). The study, Noguera tells us, discovered that schools can be made better with a combination of “effective leadership, parent-community ties, professional capacity, and a student-centered learning environment.”

Professor Noguera

That’s like saying the secret for the Chicago Cubs to become a good baseball team is to get players who hit, field, and pitch better.

And look at the last two items on the study’s recommendation list. You know what “professional capacity” means? In plain English it’s good teachers. That “student-centered learning environment”? Translation: the focus of the school system should be teaching kids.

I’m glad Professor Noguera does not teach English.

That titan of good newspaper writing and personal deity of mine, Mike Royko, once penned a column for the Chicago Daily News about something he christened Educatorese.

“Until now,” Royko wrote, “only professional educators knew how to speak educatorese, that mysterious language with which they befuddle the rest of us.”

Mike Royko

As usual, Royko was being snide. The fact is, though, in-groups of people have been utilizing terminologies and languages that the common clay can’t understand as a way elevate themselves to priestly status since humankind began scheduling meetings.

Zoologist and human sociobiologist Desmond Morris once pointed out that lawyers and doctors and scientists long ago retained Latin as their linguae francae because it was important to keep their professional secrets from, ugh, people.

Morris also mentioned how the royal houses of Russia and Poland insisted on carrying on their business in French rather than their respective national languages because, again, they didn’t want their populaces to stick their snotty noses into affairs of state.

And keep in mind that for most of the last 500 years, the Roman Catholic Church insisted its members not read the Bible since only its priests could be trusted to understand it.

Throughout human history words have divided as much as they’ve united.

One of the most baffling words imaginable is pedagogy, a fave term of educators. They speak earnestly of pedagogical outcomes, pedagogical methodologies, and, simply, the process of pedagogy.

Pedagogy means teaching.

Teachers teach.

Pedagogues obfuscate.

Royko laid out a list of terms average citizens should learn so that they could “speak like an educator without being educated.”

Pedagogical Legend, Professor Irwin Corey

Here are some of the terms Royko brought to light:

  • Interdisciplinary
  • Intrapersonal
  • Ontological
  • Attitudinal
  • Multicultural
  • Cognate
  • Conformance
  • Introversion
  • Gestalt
  • Verbalize
  • Facilitate
  • Synthesize
  • Individualize
  • Total modular exchange
  • Vertical team structure
  • Individual horizons

Some of these terms make pedagogy sound as straightforward as the word is. They all come from a careful reading of school memos, education studies, and textbooks done by actual teachers — or, more properly, pedogogic outcome facilitators.

Things haven’t changed much in the 40 years since Royko brought Educatorese to the public eye.

Students still drop out of high school in this holy land at an unconscionable rate. Many big city school systems are still viewed as boondoggles.

And pedagogical savants still run our school systems.

SCHOOL DAYS

Probably the coolest girl band ever, the Runaways.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Some believers accuse skeptics of having nothing left but a dull, cold, scientific world. I am left with art, music, literature, theater, the magnificence of nature, mathematics, the human spirit, sex, the cosmos, friendship, history, science, imagination, dreams, oceans, mountains, love, and the wonder of birth. That’ll do for me.” — Lynne Kelly

THAT’S RICH

The most ironic story of the last few days is the news that Washington, DC, host city of the 2012 International AIDS Conference, has an HIV-positive rate of some 3 percent. That’s similar to some nations of Africa, a continent, we’ve been told, which is rife with HIV and AIDS.

AIDS 2012 Opening Day Marchers, Yesterday

It’s the perfect illustration of how weird and busted our health care system and overall economy are. Richest nation in the history of the world — millions of people uninsured, poverty-stricken, uneducated, and sick.

Oh, that invisible hand.

THE NATION’S HAND-HOLDER

Barack Obama showed up in Aurora, Colorado yesterday to console the families of the victims of that legal gun owner, James Holmes.

Obama In Aurora

You, know, Ronald Reagan perfected this aspect of the presidential portfolio. Say what you will about Saint Ronald — and I’ve said plenty about the most terrifying president of my lifetime — he was brilliant as our chief cheerleader, mourner, and tucker of the nation into bed at night.

Mike Royko once wrote that Reagan was a miserable prez for domestic issues and a riverboat gambler when it came to foreign affairs, but he was so good at the above-mentioned tasks that he ought to have been named king for life. He could handle all those warm and fuzzy duties while staying as far away as possible from the more pressing work of the White House.

And that was George W. Bush’s undoing. His abominable showing after Hurricane Katrina led to his downfall, the fracturing of his party, and the election of Obama himself. Reagan would have spent many an hour letting the folks of New Orleans he was with them.

Bush, for his part, seemed blase about the whole deal, his most memorable utterance being that famous frat-boy backslapping, “Brownie, yer doin’ a heckuva of a job.”

It’s Yucky Down There

Obama’s got this part of the job down pat.

HILLER THE WOODSMITH; HILLER THE WORDSMITH

Our own Nancy Hiller has a big piece coming out in the October edition of Fine Woodworking (#228).

From Fine Woodworking Magazine

The author of “A Home of Her Own” is a terrific keyboard banger.

A little shameless promotion here: we’ll be carrying the mag at the Book Corner. Oh, we’ve got the book, too. See you there.

CRAZY — TERRIFYINGLY CRAZY

This weekend I noticed a number of references on Facebook to the deranged theory that the Aurora, Colorado shooting was a false flag op carried out by one-worlders eager to strip the the planet’s citizenry of their sacred armaments

The theory goes like this:

The United Nations is pushing its Arms Trade Treaty. See, some of the nations of Earth are making tons of dough selling pistols, rifles, automatic weapons, rocket launchers, mortars, and every other conceivable firearm short of nuclear bombs to the poorer countries so those little guys can shoot themselves up good.

The UN is saying, Hey, let’s slow this biz down a little, huh.

Business As Usual

Natch, the gun people in this holy land think this is the absolute worst infringement on our rights imaginable. They feel the UN treaty is only the first slide down the slippery slope to the seizure of all guns from all god-fearing Americans.

Don’t ask me why they think that. I can’t begin to explain the psycho-sexual love people have for guns around these parts.

Yeesh!

Suffice it to say, though, that the Great United States, Inc. is the world’s largest exporter of firearms. Every war in every corner of the Earth is being fought with Americans guns.

It couldn’t be that those simple folk fretting about our sacred rights are being set up by American gun manufacturers and dealers, could it?

Anyway, this weird, weird conspiracy theory holds that James Holmes is sort of a Manchurian Candidate who was hypnotized or drugged to do his dirty deed Friday night, thereby whipping up the namby-pamby nannies of the nation to shriek for gun control.

Yeah, I know, it can’t get any more psychotic.

In fact, I put a post up on Facebook myself the other day saying the next person who espoused this lunacy would be de-friended by me immediately and gleefully.

My old trivia competition pal Andy Wallingford of Louisville took note of my post. He sent me a message and a photo.  “Remember,” he wrote, “when conspiracy theories were fun?”

The US Air Force Tunnel Borer

The conspiracy theorists have put forth a variety of reasons the United Sates Air Force would own the machine picture above. The top among them include the idea that the federal government is creating a vast series of underground mountain tunnels in the western United States, wherein our leaders can retreat and live in splendor while the rest of us die horrible deaths from disease, war, poison gas, asteroid collisions or some other such calamity.

Another theory holds that the tunnels have been created to house extraterrestrials who are working in concert with the feds to be able to skitter underground to all the nations on Earth and then implant their seed in unsuspecting humans.

Try to forget the fact that the proponents of these theories might be living on your block and just enjoy their beauty and unfettered creativity.

Look, I fantasize making sweet, sweet love with Anne Hathaway. My fever dream has about as much chance of coming true as those of the conspiracy theorists.

Oh, Big Mike…

GOOSEBUMPS

My favorite baseball player of all time, Ron Santo, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday afternoon.

Santo’s Plaque

Here’s a portion of the acceptance speech given by his widow, Vicki Santo.

For the entire speech, go here.

Beautiful words: “God, how he loved the Cubs, and the Cubs’ fans.”

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

Skepchick

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

Caps Off PleaseComics & fun.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

fish_school On Sodaplay

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

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

City Hall, Common Council Chambers — Wage Theft Summit, open to the public; 1:30-3:30pm

The Player’s PubSongwriters Showcase: Host TBA; 8pm

The BishopDJ Donovan; 8pm

◗ IU HPER, room 107 — Ballroom dance lessons; 8:30pm

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • John D. Shearer, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%”; through July 30th
  • Claire Swallow, ‘Memoir”; through July 28th
  • Dale Gardner, “Time Machine”; through July 28th
  • Sarah Wain, “That Takes the Cake”; through July 28th
  • Jessica Lucas & Alex Straiker, “Life Under the Lens — The Art of Microscopy”; through July 28th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st
  • Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; July 27th through August 3rd

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Closed for semester break

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“It’s much harder to be a liberal than a conservative. Why? Because it’s easier to give someone the finger than a helping hand.” — Mike Royko

ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS

Death Panels. Sharks. Tom and Katie’s divorce.

These are merely three of the most-followed stories of the last couple of years, brought to you by a fantastically wired, ultra hi-tech, 24-hour-a-day news media. We have the potential to be the most informed society in the history of the human race.

And we are — at least when it comes to things like death panels, sharks, and Tom and Katie’s divorce.

I don’t believe in conspiracies and secret cabals who force legislation and information upon us to satisfy their nefarious ends.

Nope. I believe we get precisely what we want.

And we want death panels, sharks, and Tom and Katie’s divorce.

To wit: CNN.com runs a little list of headlines on the upper right of their site. They call it “This Just In.” Clearly, the editors believe this is what you and I want to know about right now. Today at 7:00am, for example, there were 24 headlines in the list.

In a world of seven billion souls, there must be enough news to fill hundreds or even thousands of such lists. War. Plague. Revolution. Disease. Floods. Scientific advances. Innovative cures. Spectacular achievements.

Man, I don’t know how CNN.com’s editors do it. But they do and here’s how they did it today:

  • Heiress found dead; husband arrested
  • Denise Rich renounces US citizenship

Denise Rich Doesn’t Want To Be One Of Us Anymore

  • Police: Mom dumps disabled daughter
  • She sneaks off to get contraception
  • Japan’s rare baby panda dies
  • Wild raccoons attack dog-walker

Take Cover!

  • Odor diverts flight, sickens plane crew
  • Usher’s former stepson seriously hurt
  • Sexual predators on cruise ships?
  • He lost 200 lbs. to join the Army
  • Woodchuck steals cemetery flag

So, of the two dozen most important up-to-the-minute developments in the endeavors of the species Homo Sapiens sapiens, fully eleven of them — or 46 percent –are blather.

You want it? You got it.

GREAT LIVES

Let’s stay on a roll. Consider some of the biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs penned about celebrities of late.

Keep in mind that writers had to be hired and trees felled so that these literary gems could come into being. Fleets of trucks and ships were chartered to transport these weighty tomes to the racks of your fave Walmart.

Millions — nay, billions — of dollars, euros, pesos, yuans etc. were spent so that our brothers and sisters around the world might know the truths contained within these books.

And now, the list:

  • “Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time” by Valerie Bertinelli
  • “Wake Up, I’m Fat!” by Camryn Manheim

  • “Goldie” A Lotus Grows in the Mud” by Goldie Hawn
  • “Chyna: If Only They Knew” by Chyna and Michael Angeli
  • “Up Till Now” by William Shatner and David Fisher
  • “On the Couch” by Lorraine Bracco
  • “Pam: The Life Loves of Pamela Anderson” by the National Enquirer
  • “Kenny & Julia Loggins’ Recipe for Lasting Love (and Summer Salad)” by Suzanne Gerber

BTW: They’re Now Divorced

  • “By All Means Keep on Moving” by Marilu Henner
  • “There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale” by Sean Astin and Joe Layden
  • “The Dead Celebrity Cookbook: A Resurrection of Recipes from More Than 145 Stars of Stage and Screen” by Frank DeCaro
  • “Johnny Depp: The Illustrated Biography” by Nick Johnstone
  • “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir” by Steven Tyler
  • “The Long Hard Road Out of Hell” by Marilyn Manson
  • “How I Got This Way” by Regis Philbin

Regis

  • “Wrestling the Hulk: My Life Against the Ropes” by Linda Hogan
  • “Never Say Never: Finding a Life That Fits” by Ricki Lake
  • “No Regrets” by Ace Frehley
  • “Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss” by Peter Criss and Larry Sloman
  • “Gene Simmons: A Rock ‘Roll Journey in the Shadow of the Holocaust” by Ross Berg
  • “The Eric Carr Story” by Greg Prato

Literary Lions

And what better way to conclude this august list than with four — count ’em, four! — bios of all the members of Kiss.

Happy reading!

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

◗ IU Dowling International CenterEnglish Conversation Club, for non-native speakers of American English; 1pm

◗ IU Musical Arts Center Lawn — Summer Music Series: band concert with David C. Woodley & Stephen W. Pratt, conductors (if rain, concert will be moved indoors); 7pm

Max’s PlaceOpen mic; 7:30pm

The Comedy AtticBloomington Comedy Festival; 8pm

Boys & Girls Club of BloomingtonContra dancing; 8-10:30pm

◗ IU Auer HallSummer Music Series: Festival Chamber Players, works by Moszkowski, Turina, and Brahms; 8pm

The BishopVonVolsung Sisters; 9pm

The VonVolsung Sisters

The BluebirdAlmost Famous; 9pm

◗ IU Kirkwood ObservatoryOpen house, public viewing through the main telescope; 10pm

Uncle Elizabeth’sBoys on Poles, male exotic dancers; 10pm & midnight

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • John D. Shearer, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%”; through July 30th
  • Claire Swallow, ‘Memoir”; through July 28th
  • Dale Gardner, “Time Machine”; through July 28th
  • Sarah Wain, “That Takes the Cake”; through July 28th
  • Jessica Lucas & Alex Straiker, “Life Under the Lens — The Art of Microscopy”; through July 28th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st
  • Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; July 27th through August 3rd

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Closed for semester break

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.” — Criswell

ROLLING INTO THE 2012 SEASON

Wait, what? You weren’t there Saturday night? Come on, people — what’s the matter with you?

Tools Of The Trade

The Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls opened their 2012 regular season at the Twin Lakes Recreation Center. The place was packed, I tell you.

Bloomington’s two traveling derby teams, the B-league Code Blue Assassins and the A-league Flatliners faced off against their counterparts from the Ohio Roller Girls. The CBAs staged a thrilling rally in the final three minutes to overtake Gang Green in the opening bout. The Flatliners, though, fell behind early in the first half and, despite mounting a comeback of their own, couldn’t catch Ohio by the final buzzer, losing 115-90.

The BHRG actually has a mascot now and the kids in the crowd loved it. The mascot doesn’t have a name yet so you might just want to get on over to the team’s Facebook page and make a suggestion. And, hey, the Roller Girls’ ads are becoming slick enough to stand up against the best Apple or Ford has to offer. Okay, I exaggerate, but only a bit. Check out this one for Saturday’s bout:

Wily veteran Truly F Obvious was roaming the roller colosseum Saturday night, natch. She’s retired this year after breaking her arm a couple of times last season. She proudly showed me her scar. She’s got a few bucks’ worth of hardware implanted in her now, holding her radius and ulna together for the rest of her life. Truly made me grasp her forearm, then she twisted it so I could feel the iron. I almost passed out.

Battle Scar

Bleeding Heartland, now in its sixth season, is getting better every year. They were ranked 16th in the North Central region of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association in 2010 and jumped to 13th last year. Could this be the year they crack the top 10?

Their next home bout is Saturday, March 31st, against the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls of Grand Rapids, Michigan. If I don’t see you there, I’ll assume you’re dead. What kind of flowers should I send?

PRESIDENT MITCH DANIELS REVEALED TO BE A KOCHOMATON

There’s still a free specialty drink from Soma Coffee on the line for the lucky aspiring wag who submits the best prediction of how nuts the Republicans will become by the 2016 presidential race (if you click the link, scroll down to “C’mon, Let’s Play”).

I’m figuring the GOP will be trying to decide between Chuck Norris, Marco Rubio, and Ivanka Trump for the nomination. The Dems — book it — will be running Chelsea Clinton.

See? You can let yourself get crazy — just like the GOP!

If you think the party that once claimed Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt as standard-bearers is psycho now, just wait. What are they gonna wanna outlaw next, breasts?

GOP 2016 Slogan: “No Mamms!”

One entrant, Susan Sandberg, worries that the Republicans will run Mitch Daniels in four years. He’ll win, she says, and turn this holy land into a “sexless, artless, colorless, intellectually-starved country.”

Eek.

Bloomington’s own singing sensation Krista Detor submitted her nightmare scenario that builds on Sandberg’s dystopia. Detor writes, “… in 2018, a resistance fighter will be propelled back in time to alert us to the hard truth that Mr. Daniels is actually a cannibalistic automaton, controlled on alternating days by the Koch Bros.” Detor writes a happy ending, though. The resistance fighter will slay Daniels in a light-sabre battle. The Dreamworks people will want to make a movie based on the story and will beg Krista to score it. But our own plucky musical muse will turn them down so she can work for the 2020 presidential campaign of Lucy Lawless.

BTW: Krista Detor coined what might become the most fabulous word in the English language (after the F-bomb, of course.) She calls the android Daniels a Kochomaton.

I hope her vision comes true just so we can use that word regularly.

To enter the contest email me, post it on my Facebook wall, or click on Leave A Comment at the top left of this page.

SCIENCE AS ART

Here’s what you ought to do Wednesday from 6:30-8:00pm: mad scientists Alex Straiker and Jessica Lucas will host an opening reception for their artwork at Finch’s Brasserie.

Straiker will feature photomicroscopy of stained brain cells. He studies the effects of cannabinoids on the brain at the IU Psychological and Brain Sciences Department. Lucas has taken magnificent photos of teensy botanical structures as part of her work in the IU Biology Department.

Plant Root Hairs

Science is fun — and gorgeous. Drop by and ogle the art. If you’re not there, we’ll talk about you.

CHICAGO (THAT TODDLIN’ TOWN)

Man, when I was just starting out in this writing racket, I’d be pounding the Chicago pavement, knocking on doors at the Tribune, the Sun-Times, Chicago mag, the Reader and all the rest, trying to convince any soft-hearted or desperate editor to take a chance on me.

That was back in the mid-80s, before the internet, before the 24-hour news cycle. Dig: I even used a typewriter at the time. Smith-Corona, baby.

Jeez, I’m Old

At the end of any typical day, after getting thrown out of half the editors’ offices in town, I might need some liquid comfort.

If I wanted to cry in my beer with Jeff the Bartender (who was a fine writer and academician in his own right), I’d do Billy Goat’s Tavern under Michigan Avenue.

Every time the door would open, I’d check to see if the Prince of the Papers, Mike Royko, was coming in. Maybe, just maybe, if he could hear what a whippet-quick wit I was, if I could toss off some devastating bon mot, Royko might pull me aside and say, “Y’know what, kid? You got the stuff.”

Never happened.

Royko

If I just wanted hear music and hang around lesser media lights and TV anchors, I’d hit Andy’s Jazz Club on Hubbard Street. If I was lucky, Barrett Deems, Louis Armstrong’s old drummer, might be hitting the skins. It’d be too loud for me to display my verbal chops and, besides, I knew enough to know TV people’d never be interested in me. So I just drank my gin and tonics and floated on the sounds.

This version of “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” by the Oscar Peterson Trio reminds me of those days downtown. The city was everything I’d dreamed it would be back then. Any door in the world could open up for me if only I kept knocking.

Chicago and I celebrated birthdays yesterday — the Windy City turned 175 and I hit 56. Now I know the best door that ever opened was the one that let me in me here, little old Bloomington, Indiana. Go figure.

The Pencil Today:

DOES THAT INCLUDE ME?

My idol, Mike Royko: “It has been my policy to view the Internet not as an ‘information highway,’ but as an electronic asylum filled with babbling loonies.”

Royko

NOW WE’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE

At long last, I can throw my enthusiastic support behind the Occupy Movement.

I’ve been fairly tepid in my backing of the three-month-old grass-roots protest. Staging a Boy Scout Jamboree in People’s Park won’t do the job when the corporate and legislative forces of the mightiest nation in the history of the Earth are aligned against you.

Occupy Bloomington

Yesterday, things changed.

Women’s defense courses teach a few tricks when a person faces a much stronger foe. A man may menace a woman, towering over her, possessing twice her brawn, but if she carefully aims a knee or a toe at those little ovoid organs dangling between his thighs, the contest will suddenly — seemingly magically —  be evened.

Occupiers aimed a swift kick at the balls Monday. Protesters tried to shut down ports in Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, and Portland with varying degrees of success. Others tried to interfere with operations at Walmart distribution centers in Salt Lake City and Denver.

“The Man” isn’t writhing on the ground just yet. He may never. But yesterday was a nice start.

Occupy Protesters Block The Port Of Oakland

THE CRUSADING JOURNALIST

So, having spent Sunday night writing up my Top Ten Local Political Stories in 2011 article for the Ryder magazine, I felt awfully smug and snarky.

I chided both parties, wondered when there’d be a funeral for the local Republican party, gave a justifiable raspberry to the entire Indiana General Assembly, guessed that a certain elected official had nightmares about wearing a county correctional center jumpsuit, and repeated unflattering speculation about how an unsuccessful mayoral candidate raised his hefty war chest this past spring.

Heading Out To Pasture

In fact, I fairly bullied that candidate, a harmless fellow named John Hamilton. His wife, it so happens, is a fairly well-known former Washington appointee, Dawn Johnsen.

Johnsen, you may recall, served under Bill Clinton in the Office of Legal Counsel. When Barack Obama took office, he nominated her to be the head of that office. The Republicans dug into her past and discovered that she’d once or twice uttered a sentence about abortion that didn’t conclude with her demanding that women who’d had one ought to be horsewhipped.

Naturally, GOP Senators tripped all over themselves trying to paint her as something akin to a blood-soaked abortionist herself. They held up her appointment in 2009, then adjourned. Obama renominated her in 2010 and, yup, the Republicans held it up again. Finally, after months of sitting around and waiting, Johnsen stuck her tongue out at the whole of Washington, withdrew her name from consideration, and came back home to Bloomington.

She seems happy enough teaching constitutional law here at Indiana University.

Johnsen At Her Nomination Hearing

Hamilton, on the other hand, has led a less headline-worthy life. Were it not for his fortuitous taste in brides, I implied, he might not be given a second thought as a mayoral candidate.

I echoed the oft-repeated whisper that his campaign contribution pot of gold might have been the result of Maurer School of Law faculty members feeling compelled to write generous checks to him as a way of currying favor with their esteemed colleague, his wife.

I even referred to him as Mr. Dawn Johnsen.

It was 21st Century journalism at its finest. I proved myself to be witty, bold, sassy, and ready at the drop of a hat to point and gawk at people in power and those who want to be. And hidden somewhere among all that brilliant verbiage might even have been an atom of truth.

Okay, maybe an electron.

Hell, Bloomington’s a small town, really, and everybody knows everybody else’s gossip. Especially politicians and IU faculty members.

Hamilton might even be the next Congressman from the great state o’Indiana’s 9th District. That’s part of the gossip, too — that his mayoral tilt was really a test run for a bigger prize.

Hamilton’s Real Goal?

One of the hazards of being a professional smart-ass is the fear that one day one of my subjects might walk up and jab me one in the nose. Worry not, though. I figure that John Hamilton is too much of a refined gentleman to flatten my snout. Plus, it’d look bad for a guy trying to run for Congress having to explain why he assaulted and battered a beloved blogger.

Everybody’s happy, right?

I thought so until yesterday afternoon. I was blissfully peddling tomes at the Book Corner at about 2:30 when who walks in but Dawn Johnson herself.

My body froze but my mind raced. Oh sweet Jesus! She’s here to tear my head off. Oh holy god, here she comes!

But Johnsen strode past me. I exhaled. What am I worried about? She’s a big time lawyer. She’s too smart to bloody up some knuckleheaded snark-meister.

Probably Some Journalist

She headed for the back of the store where Margaret, the boss, holds forth.

Oh no. No, no. She’s gonna demand that I be fired. I love this job. I get to hang out among books and readers and meet everybody in town. I even get paid a couple of pennies a week to do it. Oh, what an idiot I am! Why do I have to be such a smart-ass?

I watched as Johnsen conferred earnestly with Margaret. They took an awfully long time, talking about my future. Jeez, I thought, let’s get it over with.

I figured, All you gotta do is tell Margaret that nobody in town’ll ever shop in her store again as long as she keeps that no-good, insulting, smart-aleck, so-called journalist in her employ.

But then I shook my head clear. What the hell am I thinking? The piece hasn’t run yet for pity’s sake! I haven’t turned it in. I haven’t even finished it!

Hahahaha! What a dope I am. I felt like dancing among the stacks.

Johnsen came up to the checkout counter and placed a kid’s book down. “Everything alright?” I asked, my voice cracking the tiniest bit.

Oh sure, she said. She added that she’d ordered another children’s book from Margaret. That’s what had taken so long.

I snorted. Johnsen looked at me, puzzled.

I couldn’t stop myself. “I gotta tell ya…,” I began. I told her the whole story of my little panic attack moments before. Well, not exactly the whole story; I left out the Mr. Dawn Johnsen part.

“And, I swear to god, I thought you were gonna clunk me on the head,” I concluded.

Johnsen laughed. “Oh,” she said, “I’d never do that!”

I handed her the kid’s book in a bag. “Thanks a lot,” I said. “You’re a great sport.”

“I can’t wait to read your piece,” she said. And then she was gone.

I smiled as she went out the door. I watched her walk down Walnut Street, the smile still plastered on my face. For at that moment it occurred to me: Dawn Johnsen and her husband, John Hamilton, are going to read my story.

Sure, she’d never clunk me on the head. But is John Hamilton really all that harmless?

Yeesh. The things you have to worry about when you’re a crusading, smart-assed blogger and so-called journalist.

Does He Pack A Punch?

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