Category Archives: Resist

Hot Air: Baking & Burning


The great pleasure of doing Big Talk is meeting some of the most wonderful and fascinating people in town. Cristian Medina is one of them. He’s a research scientist at the Indiana Geological and Water Survey where he and his colleagues are trying to figure out ways to lasso the carbon dioxide gas produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Medina et al hope to scrub the gas, turn it into a pure stream and maybe — just maybe — inject it into the subsurface of the Earth where it can be stored in reservoirs in sedimentary rock layers.

Cristian Medina

Medina admits this solution isn’t the best one — hell, there may be unforeseen side effects should the scheme ever go into practice — but, for pity’s sake, something’s got to be done to stop the ongoing baking of the atmosphere. An even better solution, Medina says, would be an all-out effort to get our energy fix from renewable sources like the sun, the wind, and geothermal. But even a dreamer like Medina is savvy enough to know we’re not going to make that commitment any time soon so we’d better figure out an alternative remedy now, before St. Paul, Minnesota, turns into Nairobi, Kenya.

Besides trying to save the rest of us from cooking ourselves to death, Medina, a native of Chile, is a tireless volunteer around town, pitching in at WFHB where he used to be host of ¡Hola Bloomington!; showing up weekly at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, and serving as president of the Bloomington Indiana Scholastic Chess Club. Dang mang, he even used to cook up big pots of food and lug them over to People’s Park and Seminary Square to help feed the homeless. And that ain’t all he’s been up to hereabouts since his arrival a little more than ten years ago.

My advice to you is click on over to the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk for my interview with him. I’m telling you, these Big Talks are just the tonic to counteract all the bad news  we who haven’t drunk the Li’l Duce Kool-Aid™ have had to endure the last couple of years. Even better, click on this link for my written profile of him in the Limestone Post.

And why should I even be telling you about the Post piece? You oughtta be reading the online mag regularly in the first place, dig?

Hacking Their Way To Freedom

Did you catch this one the other day?

The guy who came up with the old Virginia Slims ad slogan, You’ve come a long way, baby!, died last month. Those of us of d’un certain âge remember those hip, kicky cigarette ads celebrating the modern female who, by golly, could smoke as many daily packs as any man, damn it!

The adman’s name was Pat Martin and he worked for the Leo Burnett agency in Chicago. He penned the line 50 years ago, in 1968, that landmark year. The message may seem weirdly antediluvian today but you have to keep in mind that women, even well into the 20th Century, could be jailed for dragging on a square in public.

Adman Pat Martin

Considering the fact that our traditionally male-dominated society has, for millennia, relegated females to one of two categories — mother or whore — breaking rules and having sex long have been two prime avenues for our sisters to demonstrate something akin to self-determination. And puffing on a slender smoke from a pastel pack surely was a liberating experience, a breaking of the rules, for many women in those benighted times.

Sure, yeah, we now know cig smoking is one of the worst sins a human can commit against her/himself. That fact was sort-of known back in ’68; the Surgeon General’s Warning was only four years old at that point. Common sense will tell you that inhaling the smoke from a burning substance on an hourly-or-more basis will surely bode ill for your overall health but smoking was still seen as a statement of adulthood, of legal majority, a half century ago. Women rightly figured if it was okay for men to walk around all day enshrouded in a nicotine fog why couldn’t they?

Not all assertions of personhood or liberty are pure and above critique. My sis, for one, took to dragging on a Virginia Slim now and again around 1970, a time when she was discovering her own independence, her own agency. I wouldn’t say the act turned her into an Eleanor Roosevelt or Malala Yousafzai but the Slim and the puffing thereon were things she could call her own. Prior to that, she neither owned nor was anything other than what a certain patriarchy had conferred upon her.

Hot Air: Outs & Ins


Shocker: Rahm Emanuel opts out of the 2019 mayoral election in Chicago.

Non-shocker: A “senior official” in President Gag’s admin. penned an anonymous op/ed in the New York Times this week revealing many high-ranking people working for the current president are standing on their heads trying to protect our holy land from…, well, him.

Emanuel (with wife Amy Rule) announces he’s out.

Then again: Emanuel had to realize he was dead, politically, when he screwed up the city’s response to the Laquan McDonald execution. By stonewalling and obfuscating he lost in the snap of a finger the black vote in my beloved hometown. Nobody becomes mayor in The Third City w/o the black vote.

“Coward” or selfless protector of the nation?

Then again, Deux: Some people are saying the anonymous “senior official” should have the gumption and moral center simply to quit. The op/ed writer wants to remain incognito, presumably, because s/he wants to keep her/his job. Perhaps I’m Pollyanna but isn’t it possible that this person honestly and truly wants to do some little bit to hold the crumbling democratic/republic together? Simply quitting just means Li’l Duce can fill the vacancy with someone who doesn’t care about trivialities like the rule of law, diplomacy, prudence, decency, America’s highest aspirations, etc. — in other words, someone just like himself.


I detest it when people say all politicians are crooked or self-centered. That’s a self-aggrandizing statement. See, the person’s really saying: I’m on to them and I’m so much better than they are.

To which I respond: No you’re not and no you’re not.

I’ve met too many pols in my day who truly want to serve the public and whose grounding is both ethical and compassionate.

Barge (L) & Yoder.

I had a couple of them on Big Talk yesterday — Monroe County Commissioner Amanda Barge and Monroe County Council member Shelli Yoder. They’re the founders of the now-annual Opioid Summit here in Monroe County. They’ve been bending over backward for several months putting this years gathering together. Barge & Yoder claim a significant triumph already in the wake of last year’s inaugural event: thanks to the the 2017 Summit call for easier access to naloxone in Monroe County, they say, the number of overdose deaths hereabouts has dropped dramatically.

Click on over to hear my chat with Barge & Yoder.

Hot Air: Fewer & Further Between

I still don’t know precisely how I feel right now, having begun to pull away from (mostly-)daily posting on this global communications colossus. A brief glance at my menu of past posts shows I only chimed in four times in August. It’s not exactly a divorce, so let’s call it a trial separation.

I’m not looking for any long-term relationships with other websites right now. In fact, I’m not even considering casual encounters with other blogs at the moment.

So, whither The Pencil? Search me. I just know I was getting burned out on the political civil war of words that public discourse has become in this second decade of the 21st Cent. And how many ways can I express my sheer bafflement over the election of a crass, disturbed, unlikeable, nativist, supremacist, greed monkey, reality game show host-emeritus as our Dear Leader?


I do find I have tons o’time to do other penning these days and that’s good. And Charlotte Zietlow and I are making bang-up progress on the book of her life we’ve been slaving over for four years now. We may actually publish an honest-to-gosh hard copy sometime before the the USA goes the way of the old USSR, which eventuality may or may not be right around the corner, historically speaking.

Big Talk is still happening, of course. Matter of fact, a fellow of impeccable rep. around these parts — a litterateur and man-who-knows-others — yesterday AM compared me as an interviewer to Charlie Rose (to my great advantage, I’ll have you know). Make sure to tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM, every Thursday at 5:30pm or come here every Friday for the link to the previous day’s podcast.

The Loved One and I are soldiering our individual ways through a series of annoying and almost-debilitating aches and pains these days, proving once again that as we Homo Sapiens age we may become more comfortable with our hearts and minds but our bodies sure go all to hell.

Times change. F’rinstance, one of the eternal standbys of my youth, a cultural and economic touchstone of this great nation, Sears, is for all intents and purposes lying on its death bed, what with last month’s announced closing of the co.’s last store in Chicagoland. Sears, when I was about 11 or so, was essentially the center of the universe. Except for gasoline, prescription drugs, and one or two other things, every single solitary thing an American citizen (or even a temporary visitor from the likes of Uganda) could need could be gotten at Sears. Mine was located at North and Harlem, at the extreme western edge of Chi. The old Mercury Theater was just half a block to the west, the place where I saw my first film breast — that of actress Carrie Snodgrass (whose then-promising career, apparently, was cut short by the birth of a son  who had cerebral palsy; the kid’s father was Neil Young) in the otherwise forgettable Diary of a Mad Housewife. At the time the external gland in question made its appearance, I fretted mightily that the rest of the audience (ten, maybe 11 people at most) could hear my heavy breathing so I stifled my respirations to the point, I then worried, I might pass out.

The North & Harlem Store.

But, yeah, Sears. Everybody and her/his sib. bought jeans there, and dress pants, shoes, socks, slips, wigs, cosmetics, tools, washing machines, furs, vacuum cleaners, Cub Power bumper stickers (I copped a good half dozen of them with my saved allowance in the summer of 1969) and even records. I bought, IIRC, my first album there, the “Hair” original Broadway cast soundtrack. My mother went to work at that Sears in about 1967. She sold wigs and then furs — or was is vice versa? In any case, for the next decade and a half, pretty much every Xmas and b-day gift given by her to my daddy-o, me and my bro. & sis.’s, and one of her many grandkids came in a Sears box. She got a 25 percent discount, so natch.

Now, Sears stores are mostly gone.

Not that The Pencil, like Sears, is going under. Let’s look at the unfolding events herein as an evolution. Who knows what this rant machine can become? Time, as Jeeves so often counseled Bertie, will tell.

Wise Words.

Read, Right?

Books I’m reading right now, have just finished, or are on the nightstand waiting for me to finish reading something else:

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil de Grasse Tyson

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari

Our Kind of Traitor, by John le Carré

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus, by Bill Wasik & Monica Murphy

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It occurs to me: I used to read a heck of a lot more when I was riding the el or bus downtown a few days a week. Public transportation just might have been one of the publishing industry’s greatest boons beginning in the late 19th Century and extending well into the last one.

The Blue Line Stop at Damen.

Hot Air: Extinct

Hah! Those lazy bums.

Apparently, our foreparents, the gang scientists like to refer to as Homo Erectus, went extinct because they weren’t Rand-ians — as in followers of Ayn Rand‘s model of success. The Erectus — that’s right; the plural’s the same as the singular — weren’t hard charging, tireless, aggressive, impatient, no time for reflection or unnecessary compassion, John Galt-like heroes of achievement.


Acc’d’g to recent research, Homo Erectus went extinct because they were too complacent to even climb the nearest hill to see what was beyond it. They weren’t prone to go looking for new territories, new sources of tools, new horizons to conquer and so, well, they just died off.

Not only that, Homo Erectus went kaput because they were incapable of dealing with the climate change that swept the world at the time they were plodding along, not pushing themselves to the extreme.

I’m willing to bet that some blogging member of a future primate species will be writing pretty much the same post with us, Home Sapiens, as the subject.

Funny thing about history. It always repeats.

Show Time

A couple of Big Talk notes.

Last week’s show featured WFHB volunteer coordinator Cindy Beaulé. She’ll be hosting her own birthday bash tonight at the Players Pub, with the likes of the Uke Tones, Bob Lucas, Opal Fly and Kapow!, and Mercury Johnson & the Evinrudes (search me; I couldn’t find a link for them) providing the music. The festivities begin at 5pm.

Don’t think Cindy’s simply screeching Whee! Me! The bash is really a benefit for WFHB, with the gate going to the station. BTW, WFHB’s fall fund drive begins Friday, September 7th and runs through…, well, there is no end date this time around. The big potatoes at the community radio station are bound and determined to make goal this season no matter how long it takes. And keep in mind you can donate to WFHB any day — hell, any hour of the day — simply by going to its website and clicking on the big red Donate now button.

Go Ahead; You Know You Wanna!

The second Big Talk note concerns today’s show. My guest at 5:30pm will be Vince (Carlos) Gaitani, president of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Reserve. For the life of me, I had no idea his group existed. The Sheriff’s Reserves are volunteers — fully trained, armed, fully-authroized law enforcement officers — who help the paid deputies in a pinch and who hire themselves out for crowd control at big events like Indiana University football games and so on. So, yeah, there are right now 11 badge-wearing members of the Reserve, one of whom just might be the cop in the squad car pulling you over for going 83 mph down SR 446.

Many thanks to Jan Walker for turning me on to the Sheriff’s Reserve.

Tune in at 5:30pm every Thursday for Big Talk on WFHB, 91.3 FM and come back here each Friday for a link to the podcast.


Hot Air: The Pope, The Crank & The Screwballs

I notice the Pope has announced his opposition to the death penalty, period. The boss of the Roman Catholic Church and political head of the tiny but influential nation called The Holy See has essentially made it the entire faith’s tenet that capital punishment is an evil.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, AKA Francis I

Well, at long goddamned last. For all the “pro-life” bluster the Christianists have spouted in the last half century, few of them have made the logical leap to recognizing the supposed sacredness of life across the board. When I hear pro life I think only of anti-abortion; that’s been the rhetoric and the activism since abortion became big news in the mid- and late-1960s. Oh sure, there’ve been a scant few priests and nuns who’ve called for a ban on state killings and war, but they’ve been such outliers that, statistically, they don’t exist.

I’m under no illusion that the world wouldn’t be better off without broken human beings like Charles Manson or John Wayne Gacy. My own opposition to the death penalty is based on a widely-shared mistrust of elected or appointed politicians and jurists to do the right thing in all cases. Look, we don’t trust our leaders to fix potholes the right way. We don’t believe they have the ability to end homelessness. They’re helpless in the face of drug addiction. And we expect them to be able to carry out executions fairly and justly?

Now, if only Francis can do something about the child molestation problem bedeviling the Church. One suggestion: How about putting an end to the boys-only club that is the priesthood.

ET Romeos

I try to respect another’s argument or stance as much as prudence will allow. Hell, I’ve got Republican friends. And I’ve had heated debates with people on my side of the fence about how the world needs conservatives to balance off the liberals like me and them. But sometimes I just have to hear a guy out and nod non-commitally because, man, he’s not stating a thesis, he’s just crying out that he’s cracked.

Case in point: A guy comes into the bookstore early Saturday morning. Very chatty. Opens the conversation…, no, wait, let me emend that — opens the soliloquy by positing that our two-party political system  is woefully inadequate in this day and age of multiple points along the poli-philo spectrum. The Republicans, said he, are the party of the stern Dad — there’s a right way and a wrong way and we all had better toe the line. The Dems, on the other hand, are the Mom party, cosseting the populace, forgiving, rescuing, accepting all manner of deviations and eccentricities.

As a simplistic rendering of the parties, an explication of the extremes of both sides, his analysis can stand w/o me jumping on him with both feet. As long as we weren’t concerned with subtlety and nuance, I didn’t feel the need to quibble with him.

After a while, he drifted toward the rear of the store where Margaret, the owner, holds sway. He bent her ear for a good 15 minutes on politics before I noticed the discussion — oops, sorry, the monologue — turned to hard science. He touched on fossil fuels and geology and archaeology and one or two other topics. One thing he said caught my ear: Those in charge, he stated, are in possession of scads of technologies that they’re not telling the rest of us about, mainly because we, the unwashed mob, wouldn’t be able to deal with the knowledge. The implication, of course, was that well-informed, sophisticated fellows like himself surely can. Immediately my mind flashed to things like invisible death rays and time travel and other scifi chestnuts.

Then he drifted off into genetics. The researchers working on mapping the human genome, he said, have found there are 62 strains of alien DNA in our genes. That is, some 62 different expeditions of beings from other planets have come to Earth, mated with proto- or fully-humans, altering our branch of the genetic tree.

Old Granddad.

Margaret, to her credit, said, “Oh, is that so?” And then she quickly added, “You know, I’ve got to get back to this project I’ve been working on.” I heard his footsteps coming back toward me. I buried my head in the New York Times book review, peering so hard at the computer screen it’s a wonder I didn’t burn holes into it. I read this headline a good half dozen times in succession:

Two New Novels Expose the Fracturing of the American Nuclear Family, From Midcentury to Today

Funny thing is that very headline or a reasonable variation thereof has run approximately 728,000 times in the NYT book section since the term nuclear family gained currency in the 1950s. (BTW, acc’d’g to Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster puts its origin at 1947 while the Oxford English Dictionary finds a reference to it in 1925. Who knew?)

Anyway, the guy took the hint and passed me by on the way to the door. I sighed, gratefully.

Funny thing is, back when he was pontificating at me he’d said the internet was both a blessing and a curse, seeing as how it is the portal to so much human knowledge as well as a cesspool of misinformation. I have to imagine this fellow found out about the 62 alien visits from — where else? — the internet.

It’s our age’s curse that few, if any, of us can distinguish between the portal and the cesspool when we’re online.

Mad, Man

I’ve finally gotten around to reading A First-Rate Madness. Subtitled Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness, it was written by Nassir Ghaemi, professor of psychiatry at Tufts University. The book argues that an unusual number of notable world leaders throughout history have been, well, loco. He cites as examples — pretty much a chapter for each — the likes of Lincoln, Gen. Sherman, Gandhi, Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and others. Each of them, acc’d’g to Ghaemi, was mentally ill. Not as in, say, Charles Manson, but more along the lines of people who’d been laid low by deep clinical depression or who were bipolar yet somehow achieved a high station in life. They were highly functional even though they carried with them psychological burdens that could well have caused them to commit suicide or self-medicate their way to skid row.

For contrast, Ghaemi cites perfectly sane leaders like Neville Chamberlain or George W. Bush who lacked the depressive’s enhanced empathy or the hyperthymic personality’s willingness to take huge risks. These sane people might be perfectly fine leaders in times of peace and harmony but when the global house of cards looks about to collapse, they’re virtually helpless.

Ghaemi writes:

The best crisis leaders are either mentally ill or mentally abnormal; the worst crisis leaders are mentally healthy.

Me? I’ve always held that anyone who wants to be President of the United States has to be somewhat off her or his rocker. I mean, what sane person would want to be the human whose finger hovers over the red button that just might trigger a planet-wide nuclear inferno? Who wants to be the person who’ll never again be able to go for a quick walk in the park or run down to the convenience store for an ice cream sandwich on a whim? Who’s got the crust to say, Y’know, I wanna be in charge of 330 million people? The answer: a nut.

So, yeah, the sane Bush fils really is a few degrees off kilter — but not as awry as JFK was, what with his sexual voraciousness and his mind-altering Addison’s Disease. And not as mentally fragile as MLK, who jumped out a window in hopes of killing himself not once but twice as a teen. Sherman was crazy. Churchill was whacked out. Lincoln was as depressed as a human could get and still find a way to get out of bed in the morning.

It’s these more loony than the average loon kinds of people who’ve excelled as leaders in scary times. And then there’s the likes of A. Hitler, whose madness transcended that of Churchill or Roosevelt. His was another story entirely.

Unfortunately, Ghaemi’s book was written before the unlikely victory of President Gag in 2016 so we don’t know what the prof. might think about our current screwy leader. My take is Li’l Duce‘s madness obliterates the boundary of how daft a person can be and still run a huge government. Then again, it looks as though the US Gov’t right now is really running itself despite the March hare atop it.

What happens if and when P. Gag is faced with a real crisis? Will his psychopathy play well? I wouldn’t bet the mortgage payment on it. See, I wouldn’t want Charles Manson as my dear leader either.


Hot Air: Starry-Eyed

I’ve got four email messages in my archive from a fellow named Hoagy.

That’s right. Hoagy, as in Hoagy Carmichael. More specifically, Hoagy Bix Carmichael, first-born of Indiana’s own legendary songwriter, radio star, movie and TV actor. Just for perspective (and for those of you not familiar with Hoagy, the Elder), the Carmichael penned song “Stardust” is one of the most recorded tunes in the entire history of singles, albums, wax cylinders, CDs, mp3s, and any other medium you’d choose to hear it on. It was one of the first 50 songs to be selected by the Library of Congress in 2004 for inclusion in its National Recording Registry.

Basically, “Stardust” is to music what any thing written by Ernest Hemingway is to literature. And — wouldn’t you know it? — Hoagy made his acting debut playing the nightclub pianist Cricket in the 1944 film version of the Hemingway short story “To Have and Have Not.”

Hoagy Bix is in town to help stage and promote the music and dance revue, “Stardust Road” A Carmichael Musical Journey,” playing at the Wells-Metz Theater through Saturday. I had him on Big Talk yesterday and my profile of him ran earlier in the day on the Limestone Post.

Hoagy Bix tells a bunch of tales of his childhood in Hollywood and what he did as an adult to keep his bearings straight as a celebrity kid. A number of his neighbors, including the likes of Christine Crawford and the Bing Crosby kids, weren’t as lucky — or perhaps smart — as he was. Listen or read to find out why.

BTW: Hoagy Bix recently had a little growth in his cheek/jaw area taken care of so he speaks with a lisp. You might have to concentrate to understand everything he says on the radio interview, but it’s worth it.

Go here for the podcast and here for the Limestone Post piece.

My Mental Health Break

Phew! I had to look it up. It’s been forty days since I last made a non-auto post on Facebook. It’s been almost that long as well since, I suppose, I’ve made any kind of comment at all on the social medium (I can’t say exactly when my last comment was because I’m too lazy to look that up).

Yep. I’ve been staying away from FB. Intentionally. And I’ll be goddamned — I haven’t felt so relaxed since November 8, 2016.

This latest development goes a little bit hand-in-hand with a similar but not as absolute retrenchment from posting on this global communications colossus.

The way I figure it, there ain’t much to pontificate about these days if not about the whack-job that won the US presidency on a technicality that dark Tuesday nearly two years ago. And I’m sick to holy hell of pontificating about President Gag. More broadly, I’m sick to holy hell of him. Sick, too, of being bombarded with every stupid-assed thing he says and does. None of it is news anymore, folks. He could stand up behind that White House podium and call for a return to slavery and that wouldn’t be news either.

He’s the craziest son of a bitch who’s ever ascended to the leadership position of this holy land. At this point, fixating on all the sewage emanating from his face-hole is about as useful as pointing out that Charles Manson had some odd thoughts.

Obsessing over P. Gag’s latest jaw-dropping rhetorical emesis or cranky executive order or musing at length about the direction he’s taking America and the world is absolutely pointless now if you haven’t made the commitment to vote in November, if you’re not doing all you can to get your friends, family, and neighbors to vote as well.

Some 63 million people voted for this horror show two years ago. Hell anybody can make a mistake. I’ll be generous and allow that any 63 million bodies can make a mistake. The question we all have to ask ourselves is Is this a bump in the road or is this the road?\

We all know the score right now. Constantly repeating it won’t change it. We’re at a crossroads, kids, one that’ll last from now until November 3, 2020. We’ve got all the dope and info we need. If we don’t act on it during these key days and months in our country’s history, we’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves if this presidency lasts eight years.

Hot Air: The Only Woman At The Table

Okay, so I’m sitting in the B-town Diner, breaking the fast. Across the aisle from me is a table full of Boy Scout leaders, four men and a woman. From what I gather, there’s a national gathering of Boy Scout types at Indiana University this week. Flocks of them are flittering about the campus, carrying compasses and charts, engaging in some sort of exercise that those of the Scout ilk like to while away the hours in. You may have seen some of them, sporting their bright orange ID tag lanyards, walking around on Kirkwood or Walnut, trying their damnedest not to look lost.

If you care to know more about this gathering, go here.

Anyway, the group at the table across the aisle. One guy dominated the conversation. No exaggeration. No lie. This guy was the Type A of the chat world. He expounded at length…, nay, ad nauseum, about every single topic up for discussion. He was the world’s expert on everything. Not only did he pontificate at great length on every subject he raised, the microsecond another person would bring something up, he’d break in and deliver a speech thereon.

I wanted to scream Shut up! at him within 14 seconds of sitting down.

As I say, there were occasional peeps from the others at the table — that is, except for the woman. I ordered my two over med. w/ hash browns, rye toast and sausage patties (the traditional Big Mike AM repast) and downed it all, in addition to doing two New York Times crosswords and several Herald Times sudokus, and only after that half-hour span, did the group across the aisle begin to stand up. Even then, Mr. Conversation Dominator continued to blab.

Yet not once had I heard a single syllable emanate from the woman’s mouth. I kept glancing at her throughout, wondering if her face’d betray a sense of frustration or resentment. But no, she wore the map of passivity, the look that women throughout the ages have perfected as they’ve withstood the blustery gales of men who know all things.

But, lo and behold, as the group was just about to make its move toward the exit, the woman at last spoke. I hadn’t followed the particulars of the exchange leading up to that point but when I heard her voice, I was drawn in. She said, “Oh yeah, I found that in my….” And — whaddya know? — the Type A talker immediately cut in and drowned her out. All she was doing was reinforcing what the previous speaker had said yet that dominant guy, that obsessive opiner, had to — had to — step all over her and make his voice heard.

Now, this was an egregious example of men keeping women quiet — and women not saying Hey buddy, whyntcha STFU for a half second. Of course, for a woman to say that, she’d damned well better be prepared to suffer the consequences. It’d take a woman with the combined guts of Sheryl Sandberg, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Xena, Warrior Princess, to do that but, hell, you can’t win a war without heroes. The thing is, this kind of thing goes on every day, all day long, in offices, gyms, restaurants, homes, and diners. Men talk; women listen.

I look forward to the day when we’ll be able to look back and say, Can you believe people used to act like that?

Latte, Lager & Lectures

I hear whispers that the next Science Cafe will be held, later this month, at the original Hopscotch at Dodds and the B-Line Trail. Bloomington’s Science Cafe has migrated through the years from the late, lamented Rachael’s Cafe to Finch’s on Kirkwood and, lately, to Bear’s Place.

This latest move is a natural — Hopscotch recently expanded its hours, closing now at 10pm. The java emporium is also serving beer now.

My only quibble with this development is now there’s no reason on Earth for me ever to leave Hopscotch. In fact, my coffeehouse pal, Dr. Alex, the cannabinoid researcher as well as the mover and shaker behind Science Cafe, told me this AM it looks like he and I will soon be roommates, inasmuch as we’ll both be living at the place anon.

Body Talk

Here’s the link to the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk with my guest, artist, feminist, and academician Filiz Çiçek. A native of Turkey, Çiçek is curating the Every Body Art exhibit opening tonight at the Thomas Gallery on North College Avenue. The exhibit ties in with this month’s Bloomington Pridefest, our town’s celebration of all things LGBTQ.

Every Body Art features works in various media reflecting the artists’ conceptions of their own body images and genders, as well as commenting on our society’s imposed definitions and restrictions on same.

The opening begins at 5:30pm. The show runs through August 31st.

Bigger, Better?

Speaking of the NYT, did you catch the front-pager about Apple becoming the first company to be valued at over a trillion dollars?

Now, that’s a landmark in economic history. Hell, it’s a landmark in our holy land’s history, considering big business and these United States are, essentially, two different ways of saying the same thing. And, believe me, it ain’t a landmark worth celebrating.

I’m of the crowd that detests enormity. Bigger is not better. You know what’s big? Hydrogen bombs. Monopolies. Transnational corporations. Tyrannies. Colonial powers. Empires. None of which are particularly admirable or constructive.

In fact, the NYT article cites economists who are jittery over the emergence of a 21st Century brand of uber-corp. Those experts say:

…[T]he rise of so-called superstar firms is contributing to the lackluster wage growth, shrinking middle class and rising income inequality in the United States.

Companies like Apple, some of whom also are approaching a trillion-dollar valuation exert undue social, cultural, and political influence over the rest of us. And, believe me, the things these mega-outfits want aren’t things that will do you or me one goddamned bit of good.

Hot Air: Got Guts?

I notice a brand new book atop this week’s New York Times nonfiction hardcover bestseller list, a piece of dreck penned by one of the Fox News stable of squealers and moaners named Jeanine Pirro. The thing is entitled Liars, Leakers and Liberals. It’s an alibi-laden, truth- and logic-twisting sojourn through the mazelike collective mind of Fox nation, a place I’d sever a limb to avoid.

It reminds me that some time around a quarter of a century ago, the deep thinkers within the Republican Party managed to transform what had been an innocuous descriptor for the left leaning side of the American political spectrum, the term liberal, into a canard. Hell, Newt Gingrich & Co, for chrissakes, remade the word into an accusation, practically a criminal one. A certain pct. of this holy land’s lily-livered pols by the end of the decade of the 1990s would no doubt have preferred to be hit with the charge that they were child molesters than liberals.

Within ten or fifteen years the sickness that’d caused Gingrich et al to turn people they disagreed with politically into lepers had spread to the people on my side of the fence. By the time I’d moved to the sunny climes of Bloomington, Indiana those who could be brushed with that Newtian stroke of poison paint were speaking about the relatively innocuous Republican governor of this state, a short fellow named Mitch Daniels, as if he were a cross between Heinrich Himmler and Jeffrey Dahmer. In fact, one of my first blog posts about Indiana politics addressed this very issue. Mitch Daniels, I wrote, was just a Republican, and not a very extreme one at that. Sure I disagreed with him about most things but, golly gee, he ain’t that bad a guy.

But the die had been cast, the mold set. People flat out couldn’t just quibble about what percentages of the world’s richest nation’s wealth should be divvied up between the military and social services. No, those of the other political party had to be portrayed as malignant tumors metastasizing within our societal body. Gingrich and his followers started us down this piteous path but the Dems, the left, and, yes, the liberals, didn’t need to have their arms twisted to join in on the bully-boy fun.

Nevertheless, the word conservative still is not fraught with the same fatally negative connotation as liberal. That’s probably because the conservatives are awfully damned proud of being conservative, as they should be. Hell, if you’re going to believe in something you may as well be happy about it. As opposed to the scared bunnies who’ve populated the Democratic Party since the latter portion of the 20th Cent.

For some ungodly reason, as soon as Newt Gingrich’s GOPAC memo became public back in 1996, the liberals of this holy land have stood on their soft heads trying not to be…, well, liberals.

My fondest wish is for the next Democratic presidential candidate to stand tall and shout as loud as necessary, Damned right I’m a liberal! My money right now is on Kirsten Gillibrand becoming the Dems’ standard bearer for 2020. That may change, pending whatever weird happenings take place between now and then. Oprah? Bruce Springsteen? Al Franken? Hell, Bernie Sanders? Any of them could be the Dem candidate in two years. The professional politicians among that gang would be loath to admit to being liberal. Perhaps only rank amateurs like Oprah or The Boss would have the guts to assume the mantle. Just like only the rank amateur Republican, Li’l Duce, had the steel shorts to freely admit to being scared of Mexicans and that men have a birthright to grab pussies.

It worked for him. Now where’s the Democrat who’ll take that lesson and turn it to his her advantage among us — yeah, go ahead, say it! — liberals?

Hop Hops

Hopscotch Coffee empire bosses Jane Kupersmith and Jeff Grant must have the golden touch. They threw a grand opening bash for their new beer menu Friday night at their original location at Dodds and the B-Line Trail.

Mob Scene

The place was packed with hipsters, poets, musicians, painters, politicians, moms and dads, a grandma or two, grad students, and countless others, mingling, sipping brew, and downing massive slices of King Dough pizza.

All I know is if the Kupersmith/Grant partnership ever decides to issue an IPO — in addition to serving up their local IPA’s — savvy investors ought to jump in on that opportunity headfirst.

Hot Air: Bobbie & Billie

She Came A Long Way, Baby

Bet you didn’t know this. I know I didn’t.

Fifty-one years ago this month a song was climbing the Billboard Hot 100 chart (as well as my hometown WLS Silver Dollar Survey chart). It’d hit No. 1 on Aug 26th and stay there for four weeks. As a chart topper, it was sandwiched between the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” and the Box Tops’ “The Letter.”

The song is “Ode to Bille Joe,” performed by a previously unknown singer-songwriter, Bobbie Gentry. It was a simple, spare, haunting tune with references and language redolent of the deep South. Gentry makes mention of plowing the lower 40; that nice young preacher, Brother Taylor; blackeyed peas and biscuits; choppin’ cotton; and balin’ hay. It was set in the farthest reaches of Mississippi, the corner of the state that’s part of bayou country.

I remember the song well, having listened to it some 73,000 times on the little Silvertone transistor radio that’d been surgically attached to my ear a few short years before. I was 11 years old at the time. I couldn’t make much sense out of the song; it was as foreign to me as if it had been written in Slovak and told the tale of a teenaged Carpathian Mountains girl.

It’s Bobbie Gentry’s birthday today. She’s 74. She has lived a private life since she dropped out of show business, suddenly and unexpectedly, in 1973. But in 1967, she was one of music’s biggest stars, based solely on the meteoric success of “Ode to Billie Joe.” Here a snapshot of her, next to Glen Campbell, clutching their Grammy awards the next year.

Gentry looks positively thrilled. Makes sense: She was abandoned by her parents as a baby and was raised on her grandparents’ Chickasaw County farm. Her grandparents, acc’d’g to legend, traded a cow for a piano on which little Bobbie taught herself to play. She also taught herself to play guitar, bass, banjo, and the vibes. She wrote her first song at the age of seven.

Now, here’s the bit I didn’t know: Bobbie Gentry was the first woman to write, produce, and perform a song that would go on to top the pop and country charts. Can you imagine that?

Think of all the female singers and songwriters of the early and mid-20th Century. None of them did what Gentry did. Of course, none of them had much of an opportunity to produce their own records. God forbid any record company would let a woman handle the controls.

With Gentry as the pioneer, female singer-songwriters became more and more common over the next few years. There’d be the likes of Carole King and Joni Mitchell and so many more. Today, a female can be just another singer-songwriter-producer, and that’s good.

A reminder that within my lifetime — and yours if you, like me, are of a certain age — women, blacks, gays, and any number of other such folk were, for many practical purposes, nonexistent.

The Billie Joe of the title, BTW, died after a fall from the Tallahatchie Bridge. All these years later, music history geeks still ask Did Billie Joe commit suicide or was she pushed? Gentry has never answered that question — nor has she ever cared to.

Tallahatchie Bridge (since demolished).

I’m Talkin’ Big

Here’s the link to yesterday’s Big Talk, featuring modern-day viking, Troy Maynard, author of the hilarious How to Raise Viking Children and Other Tales of Woe.

Next week: feminist artist Filiz Çiçek, curator of the upcoming LGBTQ exhibit, Every Body Art, opening August 3rd at the Thomas Gallery on North College Avenue.


Hot Air: Talk Is Cheap; Free Even

Big Guys

Troy Maynard was a guest on Big Talk back in December when the show was an eight-minute feature of the Daily Local News on WFHB. I’ve invited him back now that BT is its own stand-alone, half-hour program. You can hear him talk about his book, How to Raise Viking Children and Other Tales of Woe, this afternoon at 5:30pm on 91.3 FM.

Maynard is yoked to Catherine Stafford, Democratic candidate for Monroe County circuit court judge. Troy and I agreed not to mention his loved one’s candidacy on air, so I’m doing it here.


That out of the way, Maynard is one of the world’s sine qua non characters. There’s room on this planet, apparently, for only one of him — and that’s not a pun on his mass, which rivals mine for enormity. He runs around calling himself a viking, much as I run around calling myself Big Mike. Each of us came to the conclusion years ago that, rather than curse our luck because we weren’t long, tall, slender swains who make people swoon, we’d play up that which we are — super-sized blocks of cartilage.

It has worked, I’d have to conclude, for both of us.

Back almost a decade ago, Maynard started posting Facebook anecdotes about being a big daddy-o to a now-trio of spawn whom he and the missus are raising as, in their words, free-range children. His posts became so popular on social media that he decided to turn the best of them in the aforementioned tome. It’s a hoot and so is he. His yarn about being congratulated on buying so much food from local charity booths at a county fair’ll make you titter. His recollection of nearly blowing up a square block as a college student in Terre Haute will make you gasp. (Spoiler alert: It was an accident — Maynard wasn’t, and isn’t, a wild-eyed, bomb-throwing revolutionary. Then again, there is a bit of a feral gleam in his eye.)

So tune in later this PM or wait until I post the link to the podcast here tomorrow.

Every Body

Next week’s Big Talk guest will be Filiz Çiçek, artist-sculptor-filmmaker-graphic designer-photographer-dancer-singer-performance artist, who’s curating the Every Body Art exhibit opening Friday, August 3rd, at the Thomas Gallery on North College Avenue.


Çiçek splits her time between this holy land and Turkey where she serves as the Istanbul coordinator for The Feminist Art Project. On these shores, she has taught art, feminism, and cinema at a variety of college and universities. She’s back in Bloomington teaching an Indiana University drawing class. She came here nearly a decade ago to work on her MFA in sculpture and then her PhD in Central Eurasian Studies. She’s a longtime contributor to The Ryder, a political activist, and (natch) tireless make of art.

The Every Body show will feature LGBTQ artists. The show’s advance notice reads, in part: “The participating artists look at the human body and life experience from many different viewpoints: exploring identity, sexuality, movement, form and the transcendence of form.” It’ll run through August 31st. The opening coincides with next month’s First Friday fete.

Here, BTW, is the roster of artists exhibiting at the Every Body Art show:

  • Brick Daniel Kyle
  • Alexandria Hollett
  • Rob Stone
  • Jessica Hurt
  • Smove G
  • Margaret Belton
  • Kelvin Berzon
  • Javier Cordoan Otera (Puerto Rico)
  • Dimosthenis Prodromou (Greece)
  • Mia Be
  • Jasper Wirtshafter

Big Business

How about those Hopscotch kids? Jane Kupersmith and Jeff Grant couldn’t possibly have envisioned what they were getting themselves into when they opened their caffeine den at Dodds Street and the B-Line Trail almost exactly three years ago. Their empire now includes that original shop along with a smaller outlet connected to their roastery on Madison Street as well as the Rainbow Bakery at 4th St. and Rogers.

Now they’re hosting another grand opening of sorts tomorrow evening as they turn on their sparkling new taps and pour local beers at the Hop HQ on Dodds. The brew bash’ll run from 7-10pm Friday with suds from Function Brewing, Switchyard Brewing, Bloomington Brewing, The Tap, and Upland Brewing. The erstwhile coffee-only-house will still serve the life-giving morning drug every day and be open to all ages but also will sling beer daily until 10pm from now on.

Anyway, see you at the place tomorrow night.


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