Category Archives: Parade Magazine

The Pencil Today:


“Advertising is a racket, like the movies and the brokerage business. You cannot be honest without admitting that its constructive contribution to humanity is exactly minus zero.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald


People were eating free bowls of Total cereal on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn yesterday morning.

A couple of big party tents and dozens of folding chairs were set up around long tables in front of the venerable domed structure. All were plastered with the Total brand name. People wearing Total t-shirts, vests, and smocks walked around the square, directing passersby to the giveaway.

It was all part of the “celebration” for Bloomington being named one of the 25 hardest-working towns in America by Parade Magazine Sunday.

The “Celebration” Raged On In 25 Cities

At least that’s what the press release issued by Total claims. For my money it was nothing more than a cheap hey-look-at-me-stunt. In fact, the entire list of hardest-working towns thing is an ad man’s gimmick.

I’d like to think we’d keep the courthouse lawn fairly free of commercialism. And if we were going to allow businesses to tout their wares on it, those businesses would at least be local, not some multi-national, Fortune 500 concern with annual global net sales near $15B.

Corporate Headquarters, Golden Valley, Minnesota

Perhaps the citizenry of Bloomington is too sophisticated for such obvious commercial flattery. I didn’t see many people flocking to the tents and tables even if they were going to get something for nothing.

But whoever gave Total and its parent, General Mills, the go-ahead to use our public space to hawk their breakfast cereal is easily flattered indeed.


So, perhaps the best business to get involved in these days is bill collecting for hospitals.

One of the side effects of the sputtering, stuttering economy is the growing inability of poor and working class families to pay their hospital bills. Last year, hospitals in the United States provided some $39B in “uncompensated care,” meaning treatment for the uninsured.

One publicly traded hospital collection agency, Accretive Health, reported a 130 percent increase in company profits in 2011 over 2010.

Wait, did I type business? I meant racket.

“Now, Whaddabout D’at Money Y’Owe Me?”

According to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, that fabulously successful business, Accretive, is planting collectors in hospitals to circulate among folks waiting to be treated in emergency rooms. The collectors are allegedly leaning on the sick and injured to pay off their outstanding hospital bills for previous services.

Accretive employees get to people after they’ve registered at the ER or the obstetrics desk. “Patients are harassed mercilessly,” one hospital staffer told the New York Times. If the patients owe on unpaid bills, the Accretive people stall and pressure them. Even those who don’t owe money are given the rough massage by Accretive employees — they’re badgered to pay in advance for treatment, a practice unheard of until recent times.

That, my friends, is a racket. And Accretive isn’t the only racketeer in on this dirty business.

In a more innocent day, we called such people goons or plug-uglies. You knew them because their fists were the size of small bowling balls and their noses were crooked. Now you can’t tell them apart from nurses and patient service representatives.

“Y’Don’t Want Me To Get Tough Now, Do Ya?”

Swanson has filed a lawsuit against Accretive regarding its practices. She’s conferring with state and federal regulators over whether to file criminal charges.

I imagine there’ll be plenty of tut-tutting over these ghoulish corporate tactics. Nothing illustrates the transformation of health care from a civic good to a profit-making enterprise better than this story. The lament surely will go up: The corporate bean counters are now holding the strings, controlling our doctors and nurses!

I’d like to bring the discussion down to the individual level, though.

What kind of a human being would willingly work for a company like Accretive?

Yes, I know jobs are scarce these days, and one can’t be terribly picky about things. Someone offers you a job, you snap it up, even if it’s not the perfect position.

Still, how desperate do you have to be to agree to strongarm a pregnant woman whose pains are five minutes apart? Won’t trying to squeeze money out of people who are suffering appendicitis attacks or whose kids are burning up with fever all day eventually get you down even if you are keeping up with the mortgage payments?

“Hey Kid, Where’s Your Mudder? I Gotta Talk To Her’.”

If the only thing that counts is the earning of regular pay, why not hire out as a contract killer or sell crystal meth to teenagers? I’ll bet those two vocations pay a hell of a lot better than Accretive does.

These days it’s a luxury to refuse to work for big bad Barnes & Noble, say, because it’s putting independent bookstores out of business. As long as this recession hangs around, you can table your finely honed social conscience. It’s better to eat and keep your home than it is to maintain some impossible standard of political purity.

The people who work for Accretive, though, have to dig being thumb-breakers, even if they’re not required to actually snap phalanges. Yeah, Accretive is an evil corporation if these charges are true but it’s made up of little individuals who are equally as amoral.

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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

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

American Red CrossThursday Book Sale; 9am-4pm

City HallToday’s 1st Public Input Session for Switchyard Park; Noon

◗ Bloomington, Citywide — IU’s Arts Week Everywhere 2012; Ongoing, various times

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

IU Dunn MeadowRent-a-Puppy, play with puppies fundraiser for Bloomington Animal Shelter; 1pm

IU CinemaLecture, Irene Taylor Brodsky discusses her documentary film, “Hear and Now”; 3pm

Irene Taylor Brodsky

Meadowood Retirement CommunityFive Star Chef Challenge; 3:30-6:30pm

IU Memorial Union, Whittenberger Auditorium — Presentation, Gayle Cook talks about “The Mystic of the Domes”; 4pm

City HallToday’s 2nd Public Input Session for Switchyard Park; 5:30pm

Bear’s PlaceAha! Quintet CD release party; 5:30pm

IU Assembly HallIU Men’s Basketball 2012 Awards; 6pm

Rhino’s All Ages Music ClubBenefit concert for Abilities Unlimited featuring Elmo Taylor and Don’t Call Me Betty; 6:30pm

Pictura Gallery — Artist talk with Russian photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva; 7-8pm

IU Memorial Union, Alumni Hall — Das Racist; 7pm

IU CinemaDocumentary film, “Hear and Now,” by Irene Taylor Brodsky; 7pm

Rachael’s CafeDrunken Moon Cabaret; 7:30-9pm

The Player’s PubOpen Mic; 7:30pm

Yogi’s GrillPoker; 7:30pm

IU AuditoriumMusical, “Young Frankenstein”; 8pm

Cafe DjangoSeth Tsui Jazz Quartet; 8-10pm

IU Memorial Union, Whittenberger Auditorium — Film, “The Artist”; 8 & 11pm

Comedy AtticKumail Nanjiani; 8pm

Bear’s PlaceKaraoke; 9pm

Max’s PlaceWhiskey Mystic; 9pm

The BishopSweetback Sisters; 9:30pm

The Pencil Today:


“Read The Electron Pencil everyday, especially now that we have daily event listings. Scroll down to our Go section. What are you waiting for?” — Big Mike Glab


So, Bloomington has been blessed by Parade Magazine as the fourth-hardest working town in these Great United States, Inc.

I don’t know if Bloomingtonians are dancing in the streets just yet (I’m still sitting in my underwear in my garage office typing out this bilge, after all) but I’m going to have to dump some cold water on all the glee.

Typical Monday Morning In Bloomington

What in the world does this arbitrary list mean? Do the people of, say, Santa Clause, Indiana, which is not on the list, just sit around dreaming of Christmas? Does the populace of Hoboken, New Jersey refuse to work because they’re busy listening to hometown boy Frank Sinatra’s records?

“I Just Don’t Have The Time To Work.”

Here’s the most troubling thing about Parade’s survey and findings: Bloomington ranked so high mainly because our citizens are, as a group, the most willing in the United States to work weekends (“an astounding 15 points above the national average”).

Ever since unions started becoming unfashionable and workers rights turned into a pie-in-the-sky ideal in this Land of Reagan, Americans have been compelled to work longer hours and sacrifice more of their personal and family lives for employers who have been laying them off as never before. The weekend as well as the lunch hour and, for that matter, even an uninterrupted dinner have come to be viewed as luxuries.

I wouldn’t throw a party for the Parade ranking.


Happy World Book and Copyright Day!

Bet you didn’t know this holiday existed. Unless I missed the news, I don’t think there’ll be a parade down Kirkwood Avenue today in honor of it.

Why Not?

Here’s what I suggest you do — take your favorite book to work or school today and just give it to somebody. It could be a stranger or your best friend. No matter, just give her or him a book.

And if the loss of the book makes you feel deprived, I have a simple remedy for that, as well. Go to your local independent bookseller (he he) and buy a new one.

Simple, no?


So, John Edwards goes on trial today for the heinous crime of conspiring to conceal his extramarital affair during his aborted presidential run in 2008. Additionally, the Secret Service/prostitutes scandal continues to race along.

This weekend whiny Joe Lieberman, Independent (read: incapable of commitment) senator from Connecticut, wagged his finger and revealed that one of the offending Secret Service agents actually stayed at the hotel where President Obama was scheduled to occupy when he arrived in Colombia. The horror!

Lieberman: They Had Sex, Those Fiends!

Other than obvious atrocities like shooting an unarmed black teenager on a dark street in a white neighborhood or Mel Gibson offering his opinion on anything, the worst thing you can do in this holy land is have anything other than missionary position sex outside the sacred bonds of marriage.

Ergo, Secret Service agents have been fired and may yet be prosecuted and a presidential candidate whose top talking point was the poor eventually may be sentenced to time in the joint.

Meanwhile, these fine citizens continue to roam the streets freely:

The Unindicted

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

◗ Bloomington, Citywide — IU’s Arts Week Everywhere 2012; Ongoing, various times

The Kinsey Institute Gallery“Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze,” exhibit, art by women examining men; Ongoing

From the “Man as Object” Exhibition

IU Memorial Union, State Room East — Lecture, Dr. Joseph Collentine, chair of Modern Languages at Northern Arizona University, “On the Compatibility between SLA Corpus and Variationist Research”; 2:30pm

IU Asian Culture CenterHenna 101 with introduction and hands-on application; 5:30pm

IU Auditorium“Spirit of Indiana Showcase,” annual student-athlete awards gala; 6:30pm

Bell Trace Health and Living Center“Life in a British Period Drama,” 4-session class on British class life; 6:30pm

Madame Walker Theatre CenterAuditions for “Queen Esther — A Fearless Shero”; 6-8pm

IU Hutton Honors College, Great Room — Indiana Review Editors Showcase; 7-8:30pm

The Player’s PubSongwriter Showcase; 8pm

The BishopNo Requests with DJ Burke; 8pm

The BluebirdDave Walters Karaoke; 8pm

The BishopSpirit of ’68 Presents: WOODS with Mmoss & Apache Dropout; 9pm

The BluebirdLaidback Luke; 9pm

Laidback Luke

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