Category Archives: Monroe County HIstory Center

Hot Air

Criminals

Justice has been served. Truth will out. The law triumphant. Huzzah, and all the rest of the holy horseshit prosecutors, moralists, and plaster saints will toss our way now that those eight Atlanta teachers have been sentenced to prison for the unforgivable crime of participating in a test cheating scandal.

Oh, and guess what — they’re all black.

Who’da thunk?

Three of them were given 20-year sentences (seven in the joint, 13 on probation plus $25,000 fines). The other four got lesser prison terms and fines. The judge in the case, one Jerry Baxter, was livid as he sentenced the criminal bastards. “Everybody starts crying about these educators,” he ranted. “There were thousands of children harmed in this thing. This was no victimless crime.”

Baxter

Judge: Everybody’s Crying

[Image: Kent D. Johnston/Reuters]

Baxter did not elaborate precisely on how thousands of school kids from slum and ghetto schools that were in danger of being closed had their average test scores not reached a certain level would be harmed. Presumably they’d grow up thinking its fine and dandy to cheat when neighborhoods are in danger of losing their schools and teachers are liable to lose their livelihoods.

Which is unforgivably wrong.

Tests, BTW, of which there are altogether far too many in the first place, sucking up time and energy that could be devoted to something like, well, education.

Oh, yeah, that’s right — they are educators.

Or were. They’re convicts now.

Something the following esteemed citizens are not:

  • George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their Halliburton co-conspirators who lied to the world and pressured this holy land into a senseless war costing more than half a million lives
  • Jamie Dimon, Angelo Mozilo, Jimmy Cayne, John Thain, Lloyd Blankfein, Hank Greenberg, Dick Fuld and their consiglieres affiliated with the credit ratings agencies, the state and federal regulatory agencies that winked at their three-card monte financial instruments, and the politicians who helped them all set up the biggest economic bubble in the Earth’s history and the economic disaster that followed its bursting in 2007-08
  • The dons and capos in charge of the world’s biggest polluters including ChevronTexaco, Exxon, BP, Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, Statoil, Royal Dutch Shell, British Coal Corp., Peabody Energy, BHP Billiton, and the rest of the 90 state- and investor-owned corporations that are responsible for two-thirds of the global warming-causing emissions on this gagging planet
  • Every cop who has shot a brawling black man but did not do the same to any such white men

And…, oh, I could go on and on. But you get the point. Wealth has its privileges. Skin color has its perks. But those cheating teachers, man, they belong in prison for chrissakes!

The Board Reacts?

Bloomingfoods petition man Keith Taylor says he’s learned the Board of Directors of the local grocery co-op is having a special meeting today. Could it be in response to petitioners who are demanding the the Board come up with a plan of action to deal with all the crises B-foods faces these days?

B-foods

We’ll see.

They Are What They Are

Those four Blackwater triggermen who were sentenced Monday to prison for whacking 17 innocent Iraqis at a roundabout in Baghdad? Let’s stop calling them “security contractors.”

Let’s call them what they are — mercenaries.

Sure, the term carries emotional and judgmental weight. It should.

News anchors and reporters have been referring to them as security contractors, which makes them sound like trained technicians who are performing some necessary task for the good of us all. In reality, they’re killers for pay.

Now you might argue that all soldiers are killers for pay — there’s a grain of truth in that. But, traditionally, soldiers in this holy land and likely all the self-described holy lands of this mad planet have been dragged into the uniformed life pretty much against their will. Even during the “good war,” World War II, guys who got their notices from their local draft boards opened those missives with with dread. Popular depictions of guys who were gung-ho about going into the army rarely were complimentary. Such characters were seen as, well, loons.

And that’s precisely what guys who worked for Blackwater are. (The defense contractor is now called Academi — Blackwater has such a negative connotation; Academi sounds sort of excitingly futuristic. Let’s not participate in the company’s PR campaign, alright?) Anyway, Blackwater employees were (and are) guys who want to go to war. They want to carry big guns and shoot other humans. They dig the blood, the gore, the spilled intestines, the rush of fear, the flood of adrenaline.

Nisour Square

Blackwater, Red Rivers

[Image: AFP]

They got all that and more at the Baghdad intersection in 2007.

Mercenaries.

Get It First But Get It Right!

From The Pencil Department of Corrections: A clarification. In my Monday post referring to Jeffrey Wolin’s Pigeon Hill: Then & Now retrospective, I noted that you can see Wolin’s pix at Pictura Gallery, which you can. But the specific exhibit on Pigeon Hill is at the Monroe County History Center.

[h/t to Mike Burns]

Gone

Percy Sledge — November 25, 1940-April 14, 2015.

Hot Air

Hah Times

You know, it’s the little things that give me a kick sometimes.

Yesterday, for instance, a customer came in to the Book Corner and bought a pile of tomes. When I swiped her credit card, I noticed that her initials were H.A.H. Naturally, I had to tell her, “I know you know this already but I just have to say it: Your initials spell out HAH.”

“Oh, I know it,” she said. Rather than give me the stink eye, she seemed rather proud of the fact. So I pushed the envelope a tad more.

“You know what you should do,” I said, “you should sign every card, letter, and memo only with your initials. ‘Get this report back to me by 5:00pm. HAH.'”

And, again, she didn’t roll her eyes. In fact, she said, “You’re right. I have to start doing that!”

So now there may be an office somewhere in which the mood is lightened a tiny bit every time HAH sends out a memo. They’ll owe it all to me.

Another thing: Before this woman left, she noticed the new Tom Robbins fantasy-memoir, Tibetan Peach Pie, is out. Robbins, author of psychedelic fever-dream novels such as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Another Roadside Attraction, and Jitterbug Perfume, has been a rock star in the publishing world for more than four decades. He’s hung out with the Indian mystic Osho, Timothy Leary, Joseph Campbell, and Gus Van Sant. Natch, he’s done LSD (with Leary, no less.) His legion of literary fans is devoted, if not borderline cultish.

Book Cover

As soon as Tibetan Peach Pie caught her eye, HAH began leaping up and down like a teenager at a JimiHendrix/Monkees concert (bet you didn’t know Hendrix opened for the Monkees on their 1967 tour.) HAH shrieked and bent over at the waist. She clenched her fists to her mouth. Then she shrieked some more. “Oh,” she said — needlessly, I might add, “I lo-o-o-ove Tom Robbins!” Mind you, HAH is 50 if she’s a day.

She bought the book. I hope she likes it. I hope she comes back, too. We need more such lovers of the literary arts in this world.

The New Guy & The Schmalz Bear

Speaking of the Book Corner, the new executive director of the Monroe County History Center, David Vanderstel, dropped by with his wife Sheryl yesterday. The couple’s still living in Indianapolis, from which the MCHC plucked him to run its ops. Vanderstel had been professing history for 30 years, primarily early 19th Century stuff, at IUPUI. Beginning in March, he gave up grading papers for collecting the arcana of our rectangular plot of the Hoosier state.

Monroe County, Indiana

Our Fair County

The Vanderstels have been moving, bit by bit, to these environs and expect to be settled in by July 15th. David’s been commuting daily, meaning his hot rod has prob. been rattled down to a frame with four wheels and an engine at this point.

It turns out Sheryl Vanderstel has made her daily bread as a food historian while the old man lectured about Andrew Jackson et al. Food historian, huh? Seems to me a dream gig. She did leave me with this tip: Don’t use any of the later editions of the kitchen standard, Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. Sheryl V. sez the new versions issued in 1997 and later simply don’t stand up to the original. In fact, the New York Times has characterized the edition published 17 years ago as “the New Coke of cookbooks.”

BTW: Did you know Rombauer published the first Joy back in 1930 as a way to keep her own head above water after her husband had killed himself? Life gives you lemons, you make…, well, you know.

Anyway, y’oughta drop in to the History Center to see the nine-foot-tall Schmalz bear, if nothing else. The proprietor of the long-gone legendary, eponymous Bloomington sporting goods store, Roy Schmalz, had fancied himself an outdoorsman ala Teddy Roosevelt. As such, he hunted large N. American mammals, including elk and the aforementioned towering Kodiak bear. He had the poor critters stuffed and put on display on the main floor of his store. I imagine many unfortunate Bloomington tots of an earlier era shriveled in horror the first time they saw Schmalz’s dead beasts as their dads dragged them to the Coleman lantern aisle.

Schmalz Bear

Photo: David Snodgrass/Herald Times

Schmaltz & Gray Matter

Sticking with one of the last remaining independent booksellers between Indianapolis and the Ohio River (there is the Village Lights book shop  in Madison, Indiana, in addition to the Book Corner), Bloom mag boss Malcolm Abrams paid a visit yesterday afternoon. He’s busy drumming up advertisers for his special Distinctively Bloomington guidebook, due out later this summer. It’ll feature the people, the shops, and the cultural attractions that define this bursting metrop. Abrams hopes to get it into every hotel room in the city. It’ll be an indispensable resource not only for visitors but long time residents as well.

He and I both felt expansive and commenced comparing physical ailments, as men of a certain age are wont to do. I won’t reveal Abrams’ maladies even though HIPAA regs don’t apply to gossipy bloggers but I will report that I learned he ate chicken fat sandwiches as a young lad. I didn’t have the stomach to tell him my mother used to saute calf’s brains in olive oil. I ventured to taste a forkful once; it was my last. My mother shrugged and gobbled the rest of the bovine cerebra. “You don’t know what you’re missing,” she said between forksful.

Schmaltz/Brains

Chicken Fat For Spreading (l) & Calf’s Brains

“Oh yes I do,” I replied, shuddering.

 

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