Category Archives: Norman Rockwell

Hot Air

Peace

Huzzah for Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who took a bullet to the head for the unforgivable sin of wanting to go to school. Malala today was announced as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize co-winner.

Malala

She Is Malala

The local Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where Malala lives, sent a hitman out to find her one day when she was headed to school. She’d already gained prominence as an activist for allowing Muslim girls to attend school in the region. She had to be stopped, the Taliban decided. The gunman boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, and proceeded to fire three slugs from his Colt .45 at her.

She survived the attack somehow and then became known worldwide as she recovered. A German internet and satellite news channel called her “the most famous teenager in the world.” She wrote a bestselling book entitled I Am Malala.

The youngest Nobel Prize winner ever, Malala continues to press for educational access for Muslim women. The Taliban, I might remind you, exists at its present strength mainly because President George W. Bush and his neo-con cronies shifted American military might from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iraq for the war they always lusted for.

It’s a safe bet Georgy-Boy will never win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Who Was That Guy?

Comes October and memories of the Cuban missile crisis. I was too young to remember much of it save for the ghastly, worried look on my mother’s face for the duration of the two-week affair.

I did say at one point, “I hate Castro.” She told me I shouldn’t hate anyone even if their actions are hateful.

I also recall seeing newspaper headlines referring to “Russ.”

Headline

I Hated Russ

I thought Russ was a guy. And a bad guy, to boot. I hated him as well, only I didn’t tell my mother about it.

How did headline writers come up with the idea of calling the Soviet Union “Russ”? Yeah, I know, it’s a diminutive of Russia, but still, why Russ? USSR is pretty much the same width as Russ so it can’t be a space thing.

Russ. Weird.

Boom!

Not too long before the Cuban missile crisis, the Mob blew up a restaurant across the street from my childhood home.

It was the middle of the night and I was sleeping in the same room with my sister Charlotte who was perhaps 19. The boom was deafening and then there was the sound of shattering glass all around the house. The tinkle of glass continue up the block, house by house, in quick succession as the blast wave travelled outward.

Every window in my fam.’s house was blown out. We’d had what would now be considered gorgeous, priceless, leaded stained glass windows in our bungalow. At the time, though, such old fashioned things were considered cheap and undesirable. My parents always talked about saving up enough money so they could get those windows replaced. The Mob took care of that for them.

1621 N. Natchez Ave.

The Bungalow I Grew Up In

Every figurine my mother had was blown off its sconce as well. We could hardly take a step without crunching a shard of glass or ceramic. We all dashed outside to watch the restaurant burn. As the neighbors gathered, all of them in their slippers and robes, one woman shrieked, “I thought it was the atom bomb! Thank god it wasn’t!”

Wow. How big must the atom bomb be, I thought, to be worse than this?

The next morning, an insurance agent from the restaurant sat at our dining room table and wrote out a check for all new windows. My father held the check in his hand and gazed at it lovingly after the insurance man left. “Here’s our new windows,” he said and he and my mother laughed.

The restaurant? It was quickly rebuilt and became a hangout for Outfit guys. None of the neighbors ever really mentioned the incident again. It was Mob business and it was never good policy to stick one’s nose too deeply into it.

Playing Our Parts

One of two Norman Rockwell paintings dealing with baseball was called “Tough Call” (1949). In it, the umpires study a threatening sky, trying to decide whether to call the game or not. Behind them, the managers of the Pirates and the Dodgers put on a show for each other: the Pirates manager, whose team is ahead, is shivering, about to catch his death of pneumonia, hoping to convince one and all the game should be halted; the Dodgers skipper is grinning in the lone ray of sunshine, his cap off. Look at this gorgeous, clearing day, he’s surely saying. Naturally, he wants to game to continue.

Rockwell

Bottom Of The Sixth

Rockwell’s always been fancied as America’s painter. We could do a lot worse. Rockwell’s scene construction and geometric blocking, featuring the classic triangle delineating his directional movement, have been compared to those of the great Renaissance artists. Plus, his subject matter was as soaring and mythical as any painted by Titian, Bellini, or Veronese.

The only difference was, their visions were directed upward, to the heavens, whereas Rockwell’s were anchored firmly on this holy land’s Main Street. In either case, the worlds they portrayed did not exist, and for that matter never existed, except in the artists’ minds.

Anyway, I bring up Norman Rockwell for the two managers he painted. They’re both looking at the exact same day, the same sky, the same clouds. The breeze on their skin is the same temperature. The rain drops plunk equally on each man’s cap bill.

Yet, to prove their opposing points, they act as if they’re on opposite sides of the Earth.

You couldn’t find a better representative of what passes for today’s political discourse. There are no more conversations, no more contemplations, no more compromises. There is only good and evil. I’m right, you’re wrong, and thus it will always be.

A report I heard on the radio this morning (sorry, I can’t find a link to it just yet) got me to thinking about this. It seems the rare earth elements that make up much of our hybrid cars’ batteries are, naturally, in super short supply.

As I recall, a metals expert says that China is the world’s biggest supplier of those elements right now. If the US wants to stabilize their prices as well as put in a strategic backup supply of the metals, it’ll have to mine for them. Yet, the expert says, those who howl the loudest for electric-powered cars are the same people who howl the loudest whenever someone wants to dig a mine. You can’t have it both ways, the expert says.

Rare Earth Metals

[Clockwise from top center]

Praseodymium, Cerium, Lanthanum, Neodymium, Samarium, & Gadolinium

Which makes sense.

We all pretty much agree that mining is a destructive activity. What we don’t agree on is the fact that we need to do it. We need iron. We need coal. We need uranium. We need Europium, Holmium, and Lutetium.

Mining in any form has become a dirty word to a certain subset of the citizenry, as dirty, say, as GMOs, nuclear power, and other current bugbears of the progressive set.

Mining company execs say stripping the topography of flora and topsoil is the greatest thing in the world. Ecologists say it’s the scourge of the planet. Like the two managers looking at the same sky, they see different things.

Chinese Lutetium Mine

A Lutetium Mine In China

Everything’s black and white. Muslims are sweethearts; Muslims are cutthroat terrorists. Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were angels; Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were vicious thugs. The unemployed are victims of a stacked deck economy; the unemployed are lazy.

Everybody sees everybody else as the enemy.

We’re going to have to live with some mining while simultaneously curbing the abuses of mining companies. We’re going to have to eat GMO foods while making sure Monsanto doesn’t take over the world.    We (those of us who consider ourselves liberals or progressives) have got to accept that Republicans, fundamentalist Christians, free marketeers, gun lovers, anti-abortionists, anti-contraceptionists, creationists, people who hate paying taxes, those who want to privatize schools and roads and the police all live in this land. And, of course, those folks have to live with us.

This great divide, this abyss between the Right and the Left wherein each side thinks the other is out to destroy the United States of America can only last for so long before we start firing guns at each other. In fact, that may already have begun, here and there, in hot spots around the nation.

That Norman Rockwell, he really knew America.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I learned to draw everything except glamorous women. No matter how much I tried to make them look sexy, they always ended up looking silly — or like somebody’s mother.” — Norman Rockwell

FUNTIME

Idly surfing the interwebs last night I came across this publicity still from the film noir classic, “The Killers.”

That’s Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster. Here’s a simple question — are they the two sexiest human beings ever brought together on film?

In fact, let’s make this official. Herewith is another in our irregular series of Pencil Polls:

For my dough, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are mere romantic manqués. They can’t touch Ava and Burt for steaminess, passion, and delicious, forbidden love.

So, we’re presenting a list of hot screen couples. Pick your fave pairing. Results to follow in a couple of days.

Anyone who writes in Julia Roberts & Richard Gere from “Pretty Woman” will be banned from this site permanently.

Oh, and remember, I’m a native Chicagoan so you can vote as often as you’d like. Additionally, I’ll accept unmarked envelopes stuffed with cash to influence the results. Hooray for democracy!

SMART GUY

If your mind is open, you can acquire wisdom from the unlikeliest of sources. For instance, I read Cracked.com every day. I learned something about politics and Big Media from it this week.

When I was a kid, Cracked magazine was sort of a cut-rate Mad magazine. It wasn’t as incisive or insightful as Mad but it’d do in a pinch.

Mad’s still out there as a hard copy magazine but Cracked is now only a web presence. Cracked seems to have superseded Mad in terms of overall popularity and name recognition among kids today (that includes anyone who’s a year and a half younger than I am). Cracked also has upped its game — its now as cutting-edge as Mad ever was.

Anyway, in an article entitled “5 Ways to Spot a B.S. Political Story in Under 10 Seconds,” Cracked offers as cogent an analysis of the role of corporate media and internet idiocy in the political arena as can be found in any collegiate media studies course.

Take my word for it and go there. You’ll thank me. Here’s the list — you do the reading.

  • 5) The Headline Contains the Word “Gaffe”
  • 4) The Headline Ends in a Question Mark
  • 3) The Headline Contains the word “Blasts”
  • 2) The Headline Is About a “Lawmaker” Saying Something Stupid
  • 1) The Headline Includes the Phrase “Blow To”

Even I — the most reasonable man on the face of the Earth — have fallen prey to one or more of these Big Media manipulations. How about the time that knuckleheaded state representative from Ft. Wayne, Bob Morris, called the Girl Scouts “radicalized” and accused GSA leadership of pushing an abortion agenda down its young membership’s throats.

I went all righteously ballistic on Morris and stood on my head trying to prove that he was the voice of the Republicans.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Republican platform is as appealing to me as spending a weekend at a retreat with the Kardashians, but the truth is just because a person is a member of the GOP doesn’t mean s/he is psychopathic.

No, only Bob Morris is. And that’s David Wong’s point (Wong is the author of the Cracked piece.) Wong asserts that any large group of people will contain a few lunatics. Even a group as small as a dozen would probably claim a maniac or two among its members. To paint the entire group with the brush handed you by its most deranged member is a childish act.

Wong brings up the recent hoo-hah over a Ted Nugent comment about Barack Obama. At this year’s NRA Convention in St. Louis Nugent said, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” He then ranted about some “battlefield,” “chop[ping] their heads off,” and “clean[ing] house.”

Clearly it was just wacky, white noise (and I mean that on a couple of levels).

Ted Talking

Big Media went gaga over it, though, wondering if the Motor City Madman was actually threatening to take out Obama with his bow and arrow. Reporters flocked to Mitt Romney to find out when precisely he’d disassociate himself from Nugent’s remark and if not, was it because Romney endorsed the assassination of the president?

It was pack journalism and media hysteria at its finest. And all because some old man rocker flapped his gums.

So, check out the piece. Perhaps it’ll make you a smarter voter.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE MIND

I can take or leave Ted Nugent’s music — mostly I can leave it. But his first big hit with the band, the Amboy Dukes, was about as cool as anything released in the year 1968.

This vid is funny in that it shows the band as sort of stiff and contrived in a Republican-y way. I wonder if Nugent was a Republican even back then.

The song, though, is terrific.

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

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Monroe County Public LibraryExhibit, “Muse Whisperings,” water color paintings done by residents of Sterling House; through May 31st, 9am-close

Monroe County Public LibraryUsed books and media sale; 9am-4pm

IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits, “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”; through July 1st — “Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than To Be Seen): Muslim Self Portraits; through June 17th — “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”; through July 1st, 9am-4:30pm

IU Grunwald (SOFA) GalleryMFA & BFA Thesis 3 exhibitions; through May 5th, Noon

IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th, 1:30-5pm

Bear’s PlaceJazz Fables, IU Jazz Graduation Concert; 5:30pm

IU CinemaShort films from students in IU’s Department of Telecommunications; 6:30pm

Farm Bloomington, The Root Cellar — Ryder Films, “The Fairy”; 6:30pm

Monroe County Public Library, Auditorium — “We Don’t Know Where to Put You, Huck,” community panel discussion about Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”; 7-8:30pm

Cafe DjangoTom Miller at the piano; 7:30-9:30pm

The BluebirdSon Volt; 8pm

Son Volt

Upland Brewing CompanyAaron Persinger; 8pm

The Comedy AtticTJ Miller; 8pm

Max’s PlaceNew Old Cavalry; 9pm

Bear’s PlaceKaraoke; 9pm

IU CinemaStudent film, “Student Seven”; 9:30pm

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