Category Archives: R.E. Paris

Hot Air

Saying Goodbye to RE

Attendees at Saturday’s memorial service for Bloomington fixture RE Paris recounted tales of the book addict’s life.

The gazillions of books she’d amassed throughout her years on this planet have been donated by sons Eric and Nick to several orgs. I was allowed once to peek into her basement where she kept her literary trove. I thanked her to never force me down there again — the sheer number of stacks and piles and the certain nightmare of accounting for all her tomes made my head spin and I’m dizzy enough as it is.

RE eventually did inventory all her books and then she put them up for sale online. It was her dream to run her own book selling outfit and before she died in July she’d accomplished that, actually making a living at it. She also dreamed, acc’d’g to Steve Volan, who’d read her business plan, of taking over the old white house on College Ave. that now serves as HQ for the Monroe County Dem Party. She wanted to open a combo book shop, cut flower shop, cafe, and all-around third place there. She would live in the garret above the operation.

Her plan, sez Volan, was impeccable and, I learned Saturday, her brother-in-law (who is rolling in dough) was willing to finance the place. But the congestive heart failure that she didn’t even know she had cut both the plan and her life short.

The most touching — and apt — line came from RE’s sister, who lamented, “She was a wounded bird.” Nothing could top that for encapsulating the life of Miss Ruth Ellen Paris.

RE Paris

A Young RE

Anyway, the aforementioned Steve Volan served as emcee of the memorial. It must be said he did a fabulous job of mixing reverence, respect, and gentle humor throughout the proceedings. The memorial, ironically, turned out to be life affirming. Kudos, Steve.

And farewell, RE.

Mortality’s Mug

Speaking of mortality, this next story has to do with my own.

Let me preface it, though, by confessing my pockets are the worst place imaginable for my money for a couple of reasons:

  • No. 1 — From my own undisciplined, instant-gratification POV, the sound of scratch jingling in my pockets is a clarion call that demands I spend it. I’m a drunken sailor when it comes to the USD. It’s clear I don’t like the feel of money in my pocket — or, for that matter, in my wallet, cigar box, sock drawer or even under my mattress — since I work so assiduously and quickly to empty said receptacles of funds.

Empty Pocket

  • No. 2 — From a more mature, sober-sided perspective, if a profligate spender like me actually has a pocketful of currency,  she or he (me) will continue to engage in the self-sabotage of not putting aside money for a rainy day. I always respond to that charge by saying, Yeah, but what if it never rains and I’m stuck with all that money, huh? Anyway, money in my pocket ≄ money in my future. Money, by my gut take, is not for tomorrow; it’s for today.

Okay, got it?

The presence of The Loved One in my life is a welcome fix to that character shortcoming. She, to borrow a line from that noted philosopher Mike Ditka, throws around nickels like manhole covers. She labors mightily, setting up a budget for us and making sure we keep to it. She researches investments, shifts assets from here to there, and otherwise cracks the fiscal whip around Chez Glab/TLO.

In that role, she has discovered that buying our toiletries online in bulk actually saves us dough in the long run. For instance, every once in a while I’ll find on my desk a newly-delivered box of several dozen units of Tom’s of Maine underarm deodorant (either Woodspice or Lemongrass — they both pleasantly enhance my bouquet).

Now then, the other day a box arrived containing a few dozen packages of Williams mug shaving soap. (See, I loath grocery store shaving cream because it stings my handsomely sensitive face — remember, one of my goals in life is to avoid pain and unpleasantness at every turn).

Williams Mug Shaving Soap

The Harbinger

As I emptied the big box and stashed the soaps in my toiletries drawer, I realized that at my age several dozen shaving soaps will probably last me until the end of my life.

Imagine that! Think of any product you buy regularly and then imagine not having to buy it again because, well, you’ll die before you need to do so.

Arrghh!

I was hoping for some more romantic, even literary late-life symbolism of my mortality. Think of Michael Corleone sitting in his garden, reflecting on his life. Or any number of statespeople, famed artists, or saintly figures deciding to get to work on those memoirs.

From "The Godfather: Part III"

Michael, At The End

Not so with me. I have be forced to grapple with humanity’s saddest and most challenging realization via the delivery of a bunch of shaving soap.

Damn.

Critter Commemoration

Let’s stick with mortality. Yesterday, people took to the streets again in Ferguson Missouri, to express outrage over a fire that partially destroyed a makeshift memorial to slain black teenager Michael Brown.

Ferguson’s mayor wants the world to believe that the fire was accidental — perhaps the lit candles ignited a cardboard sign or a teddy bear. The people in the streets want the world to believe the fire was started intentionally — several have claimed they smelled gasoline as the fire burned.

In any case, the memorial was comprised largely of stuffed animals.

Brown Memorial

Before And After

Where did the practice of placing stuffed animals at spontaneous memorials come from? The first time I recall seeing it was in the photos of the memorial set up for Princess Diana back in 1997. I figured the whole teddy bear thing made sense in her case since she was, after all, a princess and it’s the infantile among us who are most prone to mourn the passing of princesses.

There also were scads of teddy bears and stuffed animals littering the sidewalk at the Michael Jackson memorial. Again, it makes sense — and you don’t need me to explain why.

Companies that sell teddy bears and other stuffed animals have even begun marketing their products specifically to the grief-stricken. And, in fact, one firm offers a “teddy bear cremation urn” that can be personalized with the name of the deceased. Pardon me while I shudder.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.57.20 AM

Many of these are products, mind you, are geared to customers who’ve lost adult loved ones. I suppose I can understand getting all teddy bearish if you’ve lost a kid, but sending a teddy bear to the funeral home where your 66-year-old uncle who died of coronary artery disease is laid out seems to rather trivialize his memory, no?

I know this: After I turn in my timecard if anybody attempts to memorialize me through the use of a teddy bear (or, almost as bad, a crucifix) I’d want to come back and haunt the holy bejesus out of them. Too damned bad I don’t believe in an afterlife.

Hot Air

Lady Business

I squawked about vajazzling in Open Salon a few years ago. You know all about vajazzling, don’t you? If not, it’s where you get tiny gems implanted around your lady parts because…, well because you have an obscene amount of money and rather than help the needy or something stupid like that, you choose to bejewel your nethers.

I wrote:

Maybe vajazzling is the last gasp manifestation of the Age of Reagan — you know, the fabulous three decades that gave us Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, real-life Gordon Geckos, McMansions, the Hummer H2, gazillion-inch flat screen TVs, Enron, Bernie Madoff, and Lloyd Blankfein. I thought the Great Recession had cooled off this holy land’s fascination with greed and hyper-materialism.

At the time, I figured it was the height of idiocy that women should want karat-ed cooters but — silly me — I neglected to take into account the human race’s capacity for insanity. Turns out one of the biggest growth industries in the doctorin’ world these days is elective female genital plastic surgery, AKA “designer vaginas.”

O'Keeffe

A Georgia O’Keeffe Painting

[Attn. all female readers: be prepared to have the hair on your head stand straight up.] Females as young as 14 are ponying up thousands of dollars for cosmetic surgeons to give their hoo-has the “clamshell” look. This includes the surgical removal of their labia because said flaps are “ugly” or “too long” or “irregular.”

In other words, upper middle class Western kids, of their own volition, are undergoing what many females in Third World countries are suffering unwillingly. Okay, to be fair, fundamentalist Muslims in certain African countries are mandating that females get their clitorises lopped. Kids in this holy land aren’t doing that, natch, but still, they’re getting their gender bits sliced off so’s they’ll look “prettier” and, people, that’s nuts.

Why young teens — and their parents who, presumably, foot the bill — would go all in for a below-the-belt scalpel job to improve the decor of their genitalia is today’s conundrum. How do they know their labia are unattractive vis-à-vis other teen girls’? And to whom would these anatomical structures be repulsive?

Frankly, I can’t imagine a young man beholding his first female genitalia and thinking (or saying out loud), You know, I was all hot and bothered to go through with this but after espying that overly-large set of labia minora, I believe I’ll sit this one out.

Then again, loads of young men are weirdly misogynistic these days so I don’t know what they think about things of that nature anymore.

And what about the bizarre competitions that teen girls have with each other? You know, as in my tan’s better than yours, my teeth are straighter than yours, or even my breasts are rounder or bigger or pointier than yours. The proof for each of these claims is out front, as it were. How do young ladies compare the relative symmetries of their labia? Do they inspect each others’ undercarriages?

This is all too puzzling for me. I think I’ll go back to contemplating something less taxing to my brain, like how can the Palestinians and the Israelis learn to get along.

[For more reading on “designer vaginas” check out this piece in The Daily Beast or this one in the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald.]

Deer Prudence

The question of whether to shoot deer hanging around Griffy Lake or not has been argued with some passion of late. The Bloomington City Council recently okayed a contract with a wildlife management outfit to cull the Bambi pop. around the newly-refilled lake because neighbors are sick and tired of the ruminants snacking on their garden pansies, violas, and buttercups.

Deer

Fitting, then, that our town’s Science Cafe gang will present a couple of speakers who’ll tackle the Q. of what deer dig to eat tomorrow night at Finch’s Brasserie.

Angela Shelton, a research scientist in Indiana University’s Department of Biology, and Steve Cotter, Natural Resources Manager for the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, will double-team a talk about Invasive Species in Bloomington and Deer Herbivory around Griffy Lake.

The gabfest begins at 6:30pm and usually runs about an hour, unless the audience presses for more. In any case, the food and booze both are good at Finch’s so see you there.

Schwarber Soars

As your source for all news concerning Indiana University’s own Kyle Schwarber, I’m happy to report that the baseball player known as the Hulk among his former Hoosier teammates is rising fast in the Chicago Cubs farm system.

The big bat he became noted for during his years here is just as potent against professional pitching. In fact, Schwarber’s numbers against minor league hurlers are even better than those he posted in collegiate ball. That could be because he’s benefitting from top-flight coaching or it could be because, well, he’s the real deal.

Kyle Schwarber

Schwarber

Schwarber, in case you’ve forgotten, was selected number four in June’s Major League Baseball amateur draft. Very few experts had him pegged that high but, according to Cubs’ VP of player development Jason McLeod, he’d had his eye on Schwarber beginning in his freshman year and was certain from the start that the catcher was going to be a special hitter.

Schwarber has risen swiftly through the Cubs system, starting out in Boise in June, earning a promotion to Kane County after a week, and in July already has been promoted again, this time to Daytona. Schwarber’s still catching even though many scouts feel his big league future is in left field or at first base. The Hulk’s presence in the Cubs organization has contributed to the system’s ranking as the best in baseball recently by ESPN expert Keith Law.

Even if Schwarber continues to punish minor league pitchers, don’t expect him to make an appearance at Wrigley Field until late 2015 or, more likely, 2016. The current Cubs brain trust led by Theo Epstein believes strongly in getting kids plenty of minor league at bats before exposing them to big league hurlers.

Me? I can’t wait to see the Hoosier Hulk swinging for Sheffield Avenue on Chicago’s North Side. Stay tuned here for further updates.

More On Paris

According to her obituary in the Nashville Tennessean, a memorial will be held for RE Paris sometime in September.

Paris was born and raised in Nashville, as anyone who’d ever heard her twang could attest. It’s not known at this time if the memorial will be held here or there. Stayed tuned here for further updates.

Hot Air

Yes And…

“Life is much richer when you say ‘yes’ than if you say ‘no.'”

So said Richard Branson to the Chicago Sun-Times some years ago, as reported by Neil Steinberg in his column today.

Branson

Richard Branson

Apparently Branson’s bank account (accounts?) would bear this out. He’s one the the richest guys around, natch, making his dough through such ventures as Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic Airways. It isn’t just money, though, that makes for a rich life. As long as you have enough to eat, a roof over your head, health care, an education, friends, and family, your life can be as rich as Donald Trump’s (or richer because I can’t imagine Trump’s world being at all fulfilling — either to me, theoretically, or him, in reality.)

Anyway, Branson appears to be one of those guys whose def. of success does not include the annihilation of you, me, or anyone else. He’s a win-win type of primate. Capitalism of late seems a hyena-versus-lion proposition, as in I’m eating and if you’re starving, what do I care?

Today’s world, as defined by Trump, the Kochs, the oil companies, and the Wall Street banksters, is a win-lose prop.

So huzzah for Branson and his riches, pecuniary and otherwise.

Saying Yes has been a philosophy I’ve tried to adhere to (often with success, even) ever since I studied comedy improvisation under the late Del Close and Charna Halpern at the improvOlympic (since renamed, thanks to trademark lawyers, iO Chicago). I started going up on stage to create skits and scenes without a script back in the winter of 1986. I even was part of an improv troupe that put on a weekly stage soap opera called “Children’s Hospital,” along with such notables as comedy guru Mick J. Napier and musician Jim Tomasello. At the then-improvOlympic, I worked with and watched such future Hollywood stars as Mike Meyers, Chris Farley, Lili Taylor, Joel Murray and a raft of others.

Close/Halpern

Del Close & Charna Halpern

The single defining commandment of iO was “Yes and….” In fact, boss Charna Halpern‘s business card read “Yes and….”

It’s a simple idea. Whatever suggestion or proposition someone makes on stage, you go along with it. You build on it. You say to the person who proposed it, “Yes, and…,” and then you build an even taller skyscraper of imagination. If your stage mate says, for instance, Here we are an a spaceship to Mars…, you don’t say, Aw, that’s crazy. You say, Yes, and when we get there, we’re going to hunt for extraterrestrial badgers with our ray guns. Won’t that be fun?

On our first day in class Charna (who taught the intro course) told us the Yes and…. thing not only would make us good improv performers but would actually help us in our daily lives. It sounds almost cultish or at least self-help-ish to say this, but she was right.

I’ve striven to say Yes rather than No as much as humanly possible in the ensuing three decades. Think of all the arguments you’ve ever had; as a rule, they arise when someone, maybe you, says No.

Some examples:

  • Wife: You know, sometimes I feel you don’t pay attention to my issues.
  • Husband: No. You don’t pay attention to my issues.

  • Person A: Life is bleak. I wonder why I should go on.
  • Person B: No, it isn’t. You just need to snap out of it.

  • Person X: The Israelis must be able to defend themselves.
  • Person Y: No. They’re murderers!

  • Person 1: The Palestinians must be able to defend themselves.
  • Person 2: No. They’re murderers.

On the other hand, one can go too far, albeit rarely, in saying Yes to everything. To wit:

  • Rush Limbaugh: Sandra Fluke is a slut.
  • Sane person: No she isn’t. You’re an asshole.

The No-sayer (in most cases) puts a halt to the progress of any conversation or plan. The word itself is combative. It’s fearful. It stops time. I try to say Yes whenever I can (and, as I say, I occasionally succeed.) Yes is freedom; No is not.

Try saying Yes all day today. You might be surprised.

Career Counselor

Who is this son of a bitch, Abdul Hakim-Shabbaz?

That was the first thing that jumped into my mind when I read his horribly mean-spirited piece in Tuesday’s Indy Star recounting his clever, fun prank of asking panhandlers for money.

Hakim-Shabbaz

Abdul Hakim-Shabbaz, Social Reformer

He wrote:

There is nothing more annoying than trying to enjoy a meal, cigar or just some quiet time and have people come up to ask for money. And since the City-County Council Democrats continue to block any meaningful proposal to get these guys off the streets, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I decided to turn the tables on the panhandlers and start asking them for money.

So he hectored panhandlers for money. What a wit, no?

No — as if it’s necessary for me to answer that for you.

In order to put these poor, homeless bastards in their place, he actually asked them for a handout. Pardon me, while I catch my breath; I may laugh myself into a heart attack.

And that would be because I, unlike Hakim-Shabbaz, actually have a heart.

He thinks a lot of the panhandlers he must endure as he digs the good life in downtown Indianapolis are really frauds and leeches. There’s the woman who “claims” she’s disabled but is able to push around all her Earthly belongings in a shopping cart (now there’s a great con job, eh?) Then there’s the kid who’s selling candy for charity but the sharp-as-a-tack Hakim-Shabbaz notes the charity is a different one every day.

Hoohoo, haha! — he began asking them for money. Oh man, he’s killing me!

So who is this social observer on a par with Wilde, Dickens, Sinclair, or even Marie Antoinette? Turns out he’s a talk radio host/attorney/standup comedian/college law instructor. Here’s his own bio on his website.

I suppose Hakim-Shabbaz might advise Indy’s crew of panhandlers to do as he did; that is, get jobs as talk radio hosts/attorneys/standup comedians/college law instructors. Then they wouldn’t ruin his day by asking for money.

You know, it may be easy to become a talk radio host/attorney/standup comedian/college law instructor just like him. All you have to do is work hard at being an asshole.

Paris

Here’s the latest on the passing of RE Paris.

Paris

According to her son, Eric, she began having trouble breathing at home Wednesday morning. She managed to call for an ambulance but by the time it arrived, it was pretty much too late. No details yet on why she had trouble breathing, although she’d been physically ill for a while, thanks in large part to being too broke to afford health insurance premiums.

Hot Air

Peace

RE Paris is gone and that’s that.

I won’t mourn because life was such a lousy ordeal for her. If, as I suspect, there is nothing after death but, well, nothing, she at least is not suffering anymore. I met her nearly five years ago and was struck by her quick mind, her hair-trigger sensitivity for injustice and unfairness, her knowledge of books and music, and the sense of pain that seemed to seep out of her every pore.

Paris

RE, Young And Smiling

She worked as hard as the richest person I know but she never was able to to amass a spare few dollars. She was in a business that doesn’t afford many of its employees and practitioners trivial things like health care. Maybe, just maybe, if we lived in a land that thought health care is something everybody deserves, she might still be with us today.

She might even have looked forward to tomorrow.

I don’t know.

I only know there is no tomorrow for RE now. How lucky I am — and you are — to still have one.

 

Your Daily Hot Air

Some Of My Best Friends Are White

Oh man oh man! A flamboyant tip o’the lid to book babe RE Paris for this one. She points out a spot-on farcical indictment of white culture and parenting from Gawker writer Jesus Diaz.

See, a bunch of ultra-violent, scary, faux-uniformed surf thugs raised havoc in Huntington Beach, California this week. They are, of course, white as white can be. Diaz takes this phenomenon and runs with it.

Photo by Allen J. Schaben/LA Times

Discrediting Their Race

Following the template set recently by white navel-gazers bemoaning the black culture’s putative failings in raising children, taking responsibility, committing acts of mayhem upon each other and so on in the half-dozenth or so generation of fallout and blowback to the Trayvon Martin affair, Diaz points the finger at caucasians who are letting their race down.

“Many people don’t want to hear this kind of tough love,” Diaz writes, swiping the line from numerous white commentators. He then goes on to cite cherry-picked stats: 84 percent of whites are killed by other whites and most white rape victims are raped by whites.

Diaz calls white leaders Joel Osteen, Bill O’Reilly, and Hillary Clinton to task for not speaking out on the issue of white on white violence at surf rallies, equine events, and Ivy League campuses. He then spreads the blame uniformly across the entire white population — again, just as white self-appointed moral guardians are doing with blacks: “When did so many white parents fall asleep at the wheel?”

White People

No Excuse

And in a brilliant crescendo, Diaz throws the old slavery-is-no-excuse rotten chestnut back at the pasty-faced commentators. “Whites in America,” he writes, “have been out from under their European ancestros’ boot heels for centuries…. So being ‘oppressed’ is no longer an excuse for behavior like this. How long must we wait for the white community to get its act together?”

Satire, my friends, is a crusher.

Bah!

So, sophomores at Bloomington High School North who wish to take a certain Honors English course were compelled this summer to read Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield.

While typing this, I pondered whether to write forced at gunpoint rather than compelled. Obviously, I went with the less dramatic verbiage, although I’m having second thoughts about it all.

Why on this green Earth would a 15-year-old choose to spend her or his precious summer vacation reading a suicide pill like CD’s DC?

Dickensian London

Happy Summer Vacation!

Look, Dickens specialized in writing about the hellholes of Victorian England. And while some literary titans like George Orwell and Leo Tolstoy slobbered all over themselves praising him, my own fave commentator Oscar Wilde thumbed his nose at Dickens.

Regardless of where Dickens fits in the penman’s pantheon, forcing teenagers to descend into his netherworlds seems an act of child abuse.

Add to that the fact that the Penguin Classic edition of DC runs a full 1024 pages. Sheesh! Was there any time left for a swim in the pool, a hike in the woods, or a bike ride for BHSN sophs?

Thick Book

Have Fun, Kids!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of teachers assigning Disney-like pap to their charges for summer reading. I’d be even more huffy if BHSN sophomores were ordered to read the latest books of consumer-porn, vampire-porn, or other Butternut Bread boluses that pass for teen lit now.

But man, you’re hitting me where I lived some 40 years ago: The books most teachers assigned to me in high school had no connection to my life or anything I was interested in. I would have greedily eaten up The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Slaughterhouse Five, All the President’s Men, The Invisible Man, or Goodbye, Columbus over any given summer. The authors of these books wrote in a language that I understood about issues and conflicts I recognized.

Book Cover

The Mayor of Casterbridge and Lord of the Flies meant nothing to me, especially since they were set among the British, who always seemed to me to be a gang of stuffy pains in my ass.

All I’m asking is for teachers to meet their students halfway.

White Boys/Black Boys

From the Hair original Broadway cast soundtrack. This link accesses the entire soundtrack recording. Scroll down to and select White Boys/Black Boys or just listen to the whole thing. You can’t go wrong either way.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Let me be clear about this: I don’t have a drug problem, I have a police problem.” — Keith Richards

POT O’TROUBLE

President Barack Obama has spent the weekend in Colombia and already nearly a dozen members of his party have been busted.

Hah!

Anyway, at the Summit of the Americas Obama is rolling over with his legs in the air, hoping the right wing will scratch his belly. He’s standing firm against the legalization of drugs even as other national leaders in the Western Hemisphere call for an end to the war on drugs and their legalization.

Personal message to the President: Barry, baby, the right ain’t gonna scratch your belly even if you claim you made love to your wife once with a hunting rifle in the bed, you want to outlaw Mexico, you’re turning the keys to the White House over to Pat Robertson, or you’re getting your daughters fitted for chastity belts.

Forget playing to them, Mr. President; play to us, the folks who fantasized that you equal change.

That’s all for me today. I’ll step aside for that sizzling library chick RE Paris, who’s done some fab research on marijuana, the laws governing it, and our weird, weird relationship with it. (BTW: guess what date Friday is.) Take it away RE.

re: ARTS & LETTERS — AMERICA’S FAVORITE ILLEGAL SUBSTANCE


“Il est dangereux d’avoir raison dans des choses où des hommes accrédités ont tort.”
(It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.) ~ Voltaire (1752)

Member from upstate New York: “Mr. Speaker, what is this bill about?”
Speaker Rayburn: “I don’t know. It has something to do with a thing called marihuana. I think it’s a narcotic of some kind.” (Marihuana Tax Act Hearing, 1937)

read more

GIMME SHELTER

So what vid did you think I was gonna post?

The Pencil Today:

WHERE’S THE HOT AIR? WHERE’S THE QUOTE?

Hoo, baby! Nothin’ like being a communications mogul.

The Electron Pencil media colossus today is bringing aboard the inimitable and redoubtable RE Paris, sizzling library chick and opinionator extraordinaire.

She’ll be appearing weekly in these parts, offering art and culture previews and reviews as well as her own brand of socio-political humdingery. RE’s all Tennessee courtliness on the outside but with 22 kilotons of explosive force underneath. Man, if you’ve got an appointment to meet RE for an alley fight, you’d better bring some artillery.

Fixin’ T’have A Chat With That RE Gal

We proudly present RE’s first post for the The Pencil international edition. (And I get to lean back and rake in… er, I get to lean back.)

Anyway, today’s post is a sweet little howdy from the purty lady. Don’t be fooled. She’s got some tooth-rattling screeds coming up in the next few weeks. Trust me — she’s already turned in a couple of down-and-dirties dealing with religion in the good ol’ USA and marijuana.

Worry not, Pencil fans, we’ve got armed reinforcements at the ready; they’ll be encircling The Electron Pencil Tower and Annex in beautiful downtown Bloomington when we publish RE’s post next week.

Electron Pencil Tower & Annex In Downtown Bloomington

For now, relax,  read on and get to know this charming southern belle with the sabre tongue. Please note she’ll have her own page here (click re: Arts & Letters just below our title banner.)

Enjoy — and take cover.

OBSESSIONS

Big Mike asked me to come over to the Electron Pencil to speak my mind every once in a while, so here I am. I met Mr. Glab shortly after he moved to Bloomington and was immediately taken by his mix of curiosity, world-weariness, humor and assortment of interesting hats.

This fascinator isn’t one of them, but it should be.

In turn, Big Mike thinks my speech patterns are strange but interesting. He thinks I talk funny. (This was actually said by a person from Chicago.) He makes public note each time I add vowels to words like “sound” (sahyound) or “there” (thayure.)

I suppose I consider myself a recovering southerner. (My name is R.E. and I’m from the south. “Hi, R.E.”)

I’ve lived in Bloomington for many years now, spent a little time residing in Belgium, but my roots are in the south and those roots still bind me and define more than a few of my obsessions, which I will write about from time to time.

So let me just put them out here now:

I have some other obsessions, too, but they don’t quite rise to “category,” such as:

1. The new golden age of American television in the last decade-plus, (well, maybe that is a category.)

2. Songs with whistling.

3. Friends who share interesting music, writing, books, art and ideas.

4. Book- and ephemera-collecting (and selling — you can see things I’ve listed for sale, find The Book Savoury on Facebook, and, eventually, my website will be active, or so the rumor goes.) I suppose this one is a category too, or maybe it’s a subcategory of “books.”

So, shout back, y’all. Let me know you’re here. (I really do not “speak Southern,” despite Big Mike’s insistence that I do.)

Here’s someone who does, however.

(Begging permission from my friends who have heard this one before: one of my favorite whistling songs from one of my favorite twangy girl singers.)

I’ll be checking in weekly.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“At least Bank of America got its name right. The ultimate Too Big To Fail bank really is America, a hypergluttonous ward of the state whose limitless fraud and criminal conspiracies we’ll all be paying for until the end of time.” — Matt Taibbi

NAH, IT CAN’T BE — CAN IT?

Gawker had this first, then Roger Ebert re-posted it. It’s a purported commercial for the Rick Santorum campaign.

Ebert says he can’t believe it’s real. And, quite frankly, neither can I.

I mean, Little Rickey is the altar boy who loved all the attention the priest lavished on him, leading him to become the world’s most prominent closeted figure. His resultant damaged psyche then led him to turn the Republican primary battle into a cheap Outer Limits episode, natch.

But this? For real?

Well, just watch. Someone out there has to know if this is legit or not. Lemme know, would you?

PSANTORUM IS PSYCHO

Here’s the definition of Paranoid Personality Disorder, as presented in the DSM-IV-TR, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition, text revision, that is the bible (you’ll pardon the pun) of the psychiatry profession:

A. A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  1. suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her
  2. is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or untrustworthiness of friends or associates
  3. is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the information will be used maliciously against him or her
  4. reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events
  5. persistently bears grudges, i.e, is unforgiving of insults, injuries, or slights
  6. perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily or counterattack
  7. has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding fidelity of spouse or sexual partner

B. Does not occur exclusively during the course of Schizophrenia, a Mood Disorder With Psychotic Features, or another Psychiatric Disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a general medical condition.

There you have it. Little Rickey is damned on at least five criteria: numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. This man who should be eating soft foods prior to being given his nightly mega-dose of Thorazine may well be your next Republican candidate for Vice President of the world’s only remaining superpower.

THE ONLY TRUE RELIGION

Believe me, I love the Book Corner but I’d jump at the chance to work in this palace in a heartbeat.

The painstakingly preserved 13th Century cathedral in Maastricht, Holland, is the new home of the Dutch Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore.

Dig this shelving under the soaring vaulted ceiling:

Meanwhile back in this holy land bookstores are closing faster than James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks can type out those disposable consumables they call novels.

RUBY, DON’T TAKE YOUR LOVE TO TOWN

Happy birthday, Leonard Nimoy.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” — Malcolm X

THE ANNUAL ELECTRON PENCIL PENNILESS LIST

What a coincidence!

Only two days after Forbes Magazine released its yearly list of the world’s billionaires, we at The Electron Pencil proudly present our inaugural annual roster of broke Americans.

Forbes Got Nuthin’ On Us

(We are working with our crack legal team to determine if we have a case against Forbes. It is our assertion that Forbes intentionally scheduled its release to upstage our eagerly awaited list of the Penniless. Stayed tuned for more developments.)

Several of the Forbes select few have expressed displeasure at having information about their personal finances splashed all over magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV. Our lucky few are circumspect as well. In fact, each of them has pleaded with us not to reveal their identities or net worth.

Forbes Porn

But we are nothing if not tireless, intrepid journalists. Our commitment to unearth the truth no matter the consequences must trump their desire for privacy. As a compromise, we will not use the full names of our honorees.

Now then, here is The Annual Electron Pencil Penniless List:

  • Ronald H.: A talented jazz saxophonist, Mr. H. recently moved out of his cozy pied-à-terre on the west side of Bloomington. He is now “traveling.” In other words, he is homeless. Mr. H. was ousted from his position as Vice President of Facilities Maintenance for a local elementary school last spring. He was a casualty of school budget cuts. He carries the entirety of his possessions in his backpack which has a missing zipper. Sharp-eyed passersby can catch glimpses of Mr. H.’s holdings when his backpack flap flips open. He is considered among the most open and transparent of our 2012 honorees.
  • Miranda P.: She and her two children — Zach, 5, and Lily, 3 — also are “traveling.” Mrs. P. is currently in the process of dissolving her partnership with Joshua P., who last December attempted a hostile takeover of her finances. Mr. P. at the time was putting together a straight cash transaction for sub-legal pharmaceuticals. When Mrs. P. rejected his entreaties for her cash, he threatened and eventually carried out a night-time assault upon her face. Mrs. P.’s jaw was wired shut and the discoloration around her eyes lasted well into the new year. Middle Way House now serves as temporary headquarters for Mrs. P.’s break-away firm.
  • Jeremy M.: Mr. M.’s home was ranked number one in Car and Driver’s 1992 Best Selling Cars list. His curbfront domicile is known popularly among neighbors as as “that damned red Taurus.” He inherited it from his grandfather who passed away in 2006 while Mr. P. was finishing up his master’s degree in fine arts. Mr. P. is looking to diversify by applying for work at Rally’s Hamburgers, Kroger on 2nd Street, and the Subway at Walnut and 6th streets. Some observers say Mr. P.’s total wealth has been adversely affected by his ill-advised leveraging of student loans to acquire his degree. Mr. P. has responded that his degree has been valued in certain quarters at $1.7 million over his lifetime, as opposed to his total debt load of $53,000. Mr. P. was recently seen purchasing a rare pair of red Chuck Taylors at the Salvation Army Thrift Store on North Rogers Street.
  • Kevin W.: A pioneer in the field of bipolar disorder patientry, Mr. W. visits the four corners of Bloomington on his daily perambulations. He is known far and wide as an often accessible member of the local penniless community. He has made enemies, though, during the days before he receives his monthly dosage of lithium. Mr. W. impresses with his ability to identify the day of the week of any random date a questioner might suggest. Some analysts believe this indicates he also possesses a form of Asperger’s Syndrome which would help solidify his inclusion in future Penniless lists.
  • Jana C.: A long-time leader in the local physical pleasure industry, Ms. C. recently became affiliated with Narcotics Anonymous and has indicated she may be looking to move on to other fields. Her ambitions may be tempered by the pressing needs of members of the housing, utilities, and grocery industries for immediate remuneration for services and goods. When her liquidity sank to an all-time low in February, Ms. C. confided to close friends that she may never be entirely free to leave the sex industry.

We salute our Penniless achievers.

TIME IS NOT MONEY

Speaking of the penniless, our go-to researcher R.E. Paris points out that Lester Chambers of the 1960’s power soul group, the Chambers Brothers, has fallen on the hardest of times.

Chambers posted an Occupy Wall Street-type letter on You Tube describing his unfortunate state this week. The post went viral.

Chambers says the recording contract he and his band mates signed in the mid-60’s screwed him out of royalties. He writes, “Only 1% of artists can sue. I am the 99%.”

The Electron Pencil ran a video of the Chambers Brothers’ hit, “Time Has Come Today,” earlier this year.

POT IS MONEY

So, the spectacularly crazed Pat Robertson has come out in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

Wild, huh?

Maybe no so wild when you think about it. Perhaps the human race’s pipeline to the creator of the universe has concluded that too many of his hard-pressed contributors are turning to pot harvesting for him to continue being a prohibitionist.

Pat Knows: You Can’t Contribute If You’re In The Joint

Frankly, this development bums me out, man. I’ve been for the legalization of pot for decades. Sadly, now that Pat Robertson is as well, I’ll have to change my position.

Damn.

Come to think of it, doesn’t he look sorta high in the photo on the link?

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF SARAH

Roger Ebert digs the new HBO movie about Sarah Palin. Actually, “Game Change” is supposed to be about the failed 2008 run of John McCain for president but, honestly, McCain wasn’t the story at all.

I’m tempted to watch the movie but the casting of Julianne Moore as the winking dolt is problematic for me: I like Moore and I’d hate to have her associated with the New White Oprah from now on.

No, Julianne, No!

Too bad the producers couldn’t get Palin to play herself. Ebert describes her as “the greatest actress in American political history.”

ASK THE ANGELS

Patti Smith, babies.

Across the country, through the fields,

You know I see it written ‘cross the sky.

People rising from the highway

And war, war is the battle cry

And it’s wild, wild, wild, wild.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“In America, sex is an obsession. In other parts of the world it’s a fact.” — Marlene Dietrich

THE LEAST OF US

Here’s a classic good news/bad news story.

The IDS reports this morning that the homeless are welcome to use Indiana Memorial Union facilities.

The East Lounge at IMU

You know, it’s easy to be magnanimous with people in need as long as they’re cuddly and harmless.

Professional athletes, for instance, are great at this. They’re forever flitting from one children’s hospital to another, signing autographs, bringing game-worn jerseys, and hugging kids made bald by chemotherapy. And, yeah, the poor kids are thrilled to pieces. They grin and swoon. How can anyone with a beating heart not embrace some unfortunate little one who’s dying of cancer?

But what if the needy person stinks or is obnoxious? Things get a little difficult. Take a guy who’s 52 years old and scraggly-bearded, who hasn’t changed clothes or had a full bath in weeks. How quickly is the shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers going to wrap his arms around that guy?

And don’t get me wrong. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in the Monroe County Public Library and have chosen to move from my table when a homeless dude who smells like hell sits across from me. Or when a half dozen homeless folks set up camp at the table next to mine and loudly argue about who’s a better friend of whom.

Suddenly, I’m not a saint.

Not Easy

It’s not easy being a saint. The people who run IMU, though, have made the hard choice and we should salute them.

“We are a very public building and invite everyone into our building,” IMU official Thom Simmons tells the IDS.

That’s the good news. The bad news? Just that there are homeless in this very, very wealthy land.

SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, SEX, TAXES, AND GUNS. AND SEX.

Another h/t to my pal R.E. Paris. She messaged me yesterday, pointing out that the Republican Party in some backwoods South Carolina county is demanding its members sign affidavits that they’ve never had pre-marital sex.

“Would You Be My Wife And S&M Submissive?”

Wow!

Oh, and that “Your spouse cannot be a person of the same gender…,” and “You cannot now, from the moment you sign this pledge, look at pornography.”

Do we really need any more evidence that the GOP is obsessed?

ELECTIONEERING

Barack Obama’s White House shocked the bejesus out of Chicago by moving the G-8 Summit from my hometown to Camp David.

The May pow-wow had the potential to be as wrenching an experience as the 1968 Democratic Convention. Obama’s political advisers sure as hell are not going to let their man suffer the same fate the late Hubert Humphrey did.

Law And Order

Mark it — the Obama brain trust is as politically astute as the gang that Bill Clinton assembled 20 years ago.

That c-note I have riding on the Obama reelection looks like a smarter prop every day.

PULP HISTORY

Did you catch the motion filed by Sirhan Sirhan’s lawyers in an attempt to get the RFK assassin out of prison?

Sirhan did not fire the kill shot, they claim.

The Jordanian-born, Palestine-state advocate put a slug in Robert F. Kennedy’s cranium on June 5th, 1968, in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen. Kennedy died the next morning.

Sirhan’s attorneys say, yeah, their boy was on the scene when the gunshots rang out, but he didn’t kill the presidential candidate.

As is the case in all high-profile shootings, conspiracy theories began bouncing off the walls seemingly before Kennedy was even loaded into the ambulance. The most persistent theory has it that a security guard standing behind Kennedy either inadvertently or as part of a plot fired the deadly bullet.

Me? I have little patience for conspiracy theories. Public officials have a hard time filling potholes efficiently and promptly. They usually can’t even agree on what time to break for lunch. So how are they gonna put together an airtight plan to topple the Twin Towers, whack the president, or capture extraterrestrials?

Once in a great while, though, conspiracy wingnuts raise a point that might just pass the sanity muster. For instance, why couldn’t a part-time security guard who was probably trained for all of two and a half hours have accidentally fired his gun in the chaos at in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen?

But Sirhan’s lawyers say the security guard wasn’t the shooter. Someone else was — and their boy was a patsy.

Wrestling With Sirhan

Here’s where they lose me: Sirhan, they insist, was “hypo-programmed” by conspirators. His role was to serve as the fall guy while the real hit men did their thing.

Oy! You know what? A lot of people are gonna buy into this fever dream. Too many folks in this holy land can’t tell the difference between reality and cheap fiction.

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