Category Archives: Resist

Hot Air: GOT-cha

So this Game of Thrones rigmarole is finished, right?

Two observations:

  1. The simplest and most penetrating answer I can give to why I had/have no interest in this thing is: I don’t care about dragons. I know, I know, GOT aficionados are gonna argue that there’s so much more to it. To that I respond there are literally millions of works of fiction that investigate and illuminate human relations, political chicanery, familial and regional ententes and detentes, power dynamics, etc. But hundreds of millions of people around the world have chosen this work of fiction to become addicted to. That’s many, many, many more people than have screamed their fealty to Gordimer or Rushdie or Walker or Wollstonecraft Shelley or any of the countless imagineers who’ve mused over those same human concerns. It’s the dragons.
  2. I’ve been reading that scads of people are mad about this last season, how the plot and relationships turned out, and how the scriptwriters cheated viewers. In fact, there’s even a petition demanding the producers have the last season re-written! Okay, if you’re among those aggrieved fans, listen closely: You aren’t the artist behind this work of art. Someone else is. You don’t get to demand artists redo their art because you don’t like it. That’s why it’s art: it’s the vision of a single creator or group of them. They are sharing with you their insights and capabilities as expressed in this painting, this song, this TV show, or this novel. Art is not a democracy.

There. These are the only public comments I’ve made on this most sweeping cultural phenomenon since the Beatles. And they are the last.

What’s your art?

Metal-working? Do you juggle the burl? Bake cookies? Are gemstones your thing? How about comedy?

The Muses would dig Bloomington. This sprawling megalopolis is home to Artisan Alley, a support and education resource, social center and tool repository, and all-around one-stop shop (as in work– ) for the creative among us. This town is chock full of folks who noodle, manipulate, gesticulate, bark, howl, jeté, smear and daub and the center of the universe for many of them is Artisan Alley.

Originally a glorified clubhouse for a bunch of Indiana University grads who majored in the arts or at least had major interest in same, AA has evolved into a school/day camp/industrial park/advocacy center/marketplace for the more ethereal among us.

A tall fireplug of a fellow named Adam Nahas is the founder and executive director of the newly-certified nonprofit. Himself a practitioner of scads of different creative pursuits, he was last week’s guest on Big Talk.

Here the podcast to the May 16th program. And tune in today during the WFHB Daily Local News at 5pm for an eight-minute spot featuring extended conversation between him and me.

News Boss In Town

Hearty congratulations to both Kyrie Greenberg and WFHB. She for getting the News Director gig soon to be vacated by the heroic and mightily talented Wes Martin and it for making an impeccable choice.

Greenberg

Hot Air: Alley Cat

This week’s Big Talk features Adam Nahas, founder and executive director of Artisan Alley. The interview airs later this afternoon at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

If you miss today’s program, you can catch the podcast on the ‘FHB website. I’ll provide the link to the podcast after it posts at 6pm, just as soon as I can get around to it.

Hot Air: An Anniversary, Remembered

[ Scroll down to Gloden, Glab, Gabbing entry for info on this podcast. ]

Mississippi Firing

Today is the 49th anniversary of a campus incident just as tragic as that of Kent State just ten days prior.

Unlike the trouble at the Ohio campus that’d been roiling for days and days, a small riot broke out, suddenly and unexpectedly, at Jackson State University, one of the largest historically black colleges in the nation. Keep in mind this was the year 1970, a mere five years after the “eve of destruction” annum when the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles blew up, ushering in a series of “long, hot summers” as well as inspiring tens of millions of panicky white working class voters to dedicate their entire political philosophy to the draconian containment and institutionalized discipline of urban blacks.

The cause of the mini-riot was a rumor that Fayette, Mississippi mayor Charles Evers and his wife, Nannie, had been assassinated. This just seven years after civil rights activist Medgar Evers, Charles’ brother, had been killed by a rifle-toting troglodytic member of one of Mississippi’s many White Citizens’ Councils.

Several dozen college and high school students gathered on the campus in the Mississippi capital city Thursday evening, the 14th, and reportedly threw stones at passing cars driven by whites. Jackson city police and Mississippi Highway Patrol officers responded to the disturbance and formed skirmish lines. Shortly after midnight numerous state troopers, armed with shotguns, opened fire on the crowd as well as the nearby five-story tall Alexander Hall, a women’s dormitory. Some 150 shotgun blasts were fired within 30 seconds resulting in every facing window of Alexander Hall being blown out. When the smoke cleared, two students were dead: Phillip Gibbs, a junior at Jackson State and James Green, a senior at Jim Hill High School.

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Afterward, several police and troopers claimed one of them had seen a sniper on the roof of the residence hall  and several other officers swore they’d come under fire from all directions. A federal investigation turned up no evidence that any shots had been fired at the officers. The President’s Commission on Campus Unrest concluded the following September that the “fusillade from police officers was an unreasonable, unjustified overreaction.” The Commission even allowed for the possibility that one or more officers might have seen what they thought was a shooter on the roof (although no evidence that one existed was ever produced); even so, the report stated, a response like the one that early May 15th morning “was never warranted.”

Kent State became an historically iconic symbol of the strife afflicting this nation during the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggle. Jackson State was quickly forgotten. Today if people other than its students and their families think about Jackson State University they know only that the 142-year-old institution was the alma mater of pro football Hall of Famer Walter Payton.

Phillip Gibbs and James Green? Mere footnotes in a long-faded history.

Gibbs (L) & Green

None of the shotgun-shooting officers, nor their commanders, was indicted or otherwise disciplined. Like the Kent State killings less than two weeks before, scared young men carrying loaded long guns responded the only way they knew how to a threatening situation. They hadn’t been trained not to fire indiscriminately at shadows on roofs nor had their on-scene leadership imposed rules of engagement. The officers, of course, were all white; the protesters black.

Jackson State illustrates only that law enforcement personnel firing guns at black people for the flimsiest of reasons is nothing new.

Gloden, Glab, Gabbing

Did you catch Big Talk Extra on the WFHB Daily Local News this week?

BTE is an approximately eight-minute feature every Monday on the ‘FHB’s daily newscast at 5pm offering added conversation from the previous week’s Big Talk. My guest on Big Talk last week was Gabe Gloden, managing director of the Cardinal Stage Company. So, naturally, Monday’s Extra presented more chitchat between him and me.

If you did indeed miss the Monday Gloden/Glab jawfest, fret not, the podcast’s at the top of this post.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Big Talk Extra airs every Monday at about the 14-minute mark of the Daily Local News at 5pm on the same airwaves. Come here for podcast links to both the full Thursday program and the Monday feature each week.

BTW: My guest this coming Thursday on Big Talk will be Adam Nahas, founder and executive director of Artisan Alley.

Hot Air: Switching Stages

Phew! After ten weeks of candidates on Big Talk, I finally got to host a show with someone not looking for votes yesterday.

Make no mistake: I was highly impressed by everyone I had on since February 21st, all the city council aspirants as well as the single declared independent hoping to be elected mayor in November. Here, by the way, are links to the Big Talks with the still-standing candidates as well as the Big Talk Extra features in which they talk about the issues:

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Unless any independents, write-ins, or Libertarians declare, or should the Republican Party caucus in or appoint any candidates by June/July (go here for the official state 2019 election calendar), the above races will be the only ones contested this coming fall.

Once again, I didn’t feature any incumbents on Big Talk this election year because there weren’t enough weeks to cover them all.

Anyway, I wash my hands of politics for the nonce. To that end, I invited Gabe Gloden on the show. He’s the managing director of the Cardinal Stage Company. He and his wife, Emily Goodson, are a theater family; she’s an actor and a playwright and he concentrates on the business and practical end of things. Gloden & Goodson are two more examples of that phenomenon unique to this burgh, “Bloomerangs.” The couple left town for a couple of years to work in both Detroit and Boise, Idaho after Gabe graduated from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. But, like so many who’ve lived in Bloomington, they couldn’t wait to get back and so have re-established themselves here.

Here’s the link to yesterday’s program with Gabe Gloden and — an added bonus — here’s the link to my Big Talk with Emily Goodson from February, 2017.

Gloden & Goodson

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Big Talk Extra, eight minutes of added conversation with the Thursday guest, airs the following Monday during the Daily Local News at 5pm.

Hot Air: 34

Thirty four.

That’s how many voters the Republican Party was able to muster in this town yesterday.

Bloomington, natch, is a blue town. It’s a dot of an island in the middle of one of the reddest damned oceans on this planet. But some 80,000 people live here nine months of the year; 40,000 or so the rest of the time. You’d figure one of this holy land’s two major political parties’d be competent enough to attract voters in the hundreds or even thousands in a primary municipal election. Sure, professors and students and social workers and poets and community activists and non-profit workers and all the rest of the types that make up the population of a college town tend to be either Democrats or non-aligned progressives. But how astounding is it that this town’s local GOP can roust only 34 civic-minded souls out of bed on a gorgeous spring morning to exercise their suffrage?

Now, I’m not blaming William Ellis, hard-working chair of the Monroe County Republican Party. He can toil from sunup to sundown and put in overtime at night every day of the year but he’ll still be unable to goose that Republican turnout next time around. Allow me to iterate: I don’t like it one bit.

Not that I like the Republicans — I don’t and I’ve written about the reasons why herein many a time — but I like whatever party’s in charge to be pushed and shoved and cajoled and told off and competed with every time out of the box.

It’s better for us all when the ruling party doesn’t get to thinking its offices and seats are birthrights.

That said, yesterday’s primary results both shocked me and came as no surprise. Everybody who paid the slightest amount of attention could foresee that there was an anti-incumbent mood among the electorate leading up to May 7th. And a few incumbents indeed came a cropper. I mean big time.

First, here’s how I’d doped out the races prior to 7pm yesterday.

I was betting on two At-Large city council members losing their seats. As I saw it, both Susan Sandberg and Jim Sims were going to be looking for new second jobs after the primary. Naturally, Sandberg and Sims garnered the highest and second-highest vote totals among the six candidates for those three seats. Now you know why I don’t run a betting book.

I was dead certain Jean Capler was going to cop one of those At-Large seats with Matt Flaherty, perhaps, taking another. All the while, I had Andy Ruff down as a rock-solid winner. So, you see, even if I was running a book before yesterday, I’d be tapped out of the business today.

Capler looked good because she’s squeaky clean, has done her homework, and she worked her tail off ringing doorbells. Ringing doorbells and meeting voters face to face — and listening — are the most important things a local candidate can do. Still, she came in 4th, although she did reap a nice total. I figure her to be a force in the next municipal or county election.

Flaherty did his homework, too. I just figured people would prefer a more mature, well-established new face. My guess is Flaherty and his sister-in-law, Kate Rosenbarger, double-teamed on certain messages and fed off each other’s work.

Speaking of Kate Rosenbarger, now there’s the big story of the election. She not only defeated longtime incumbent Chris Sturbaum in District 1, she massacred him. She scooped up 66 percent of the district’s votes to Sturbaum’s 28 percent and fellow challenger Denise Valkyrie’s 6 percent. That, my friends, is a landslide. And make no mistake, the charge bandied about throughout the election — that Sturbaum, a home construction contractor, has a conflict of interest whenever he considers zoning, neighborhood development, and residential density — hurt him. Gored him, for pity’s sake.

I wasn’t knocked over by a feather when news that Sue Sgambelluri’d bested Dorothy Granger in District 2. Sgambelluri, a fundraiser for Indiana University, knows people around this town and has a list of relationships with key folks a mile long. And people familiar with her work on the Redevelopment Commission know she studies the matters before that body hard and asks pertinent, cutting questions. She takes her duties seriously. Now she’ll face an equally ambitious and well-prepared opponent in the general election. Republican Andrew Guenther, the individual who gained the aforementioned 34 votes, will be a good debate opponent for her but, if history’s any indication, he’ll be lucky to get within 25 percentage points of her come November.

Then again, you know how dependable my crystal ball has been the last few elections.

And — I’ll be damned — Steve Volan’s opponent in District 6 has yet to phone the victorious incumbent or give a traditional concession speech. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to type those words out and not be a smart-ass.

A nit-pick: Here’s first headline WFIU issued online after the polls closed:

Let’s ignore the tortured English in the hed and simply concentrate on the news value of the piece. Incumbent Mayor Hamilton was running against a ghost. Former Monroe County Commissioner had suspended her campaign weeks ago. Still, some 766 die-hards cast their votes for the scandal-tainted Barge, meaning the mayor walloped her by 84.1-15.9. The shock is Hamilton’s percentage wasn’t over 95 percent. I dunno, weren’t the Ruff and Sturbaum upsets the real headlines yesterday? If I’m the editor, I go with understatement: Hamilton Wins Nomination or some such thing. I’d prefer my news sources reserve dramatic  characterizations for surprise events.

And the biggest surprise this town will have seen in 50-plus years would be something on the order of Hamilton & Republican Opponent In Dead Heat or Sandberg Edges GOP Challenger.

Then again, considering who the national Republican standard-bearer is these days, I might hope we’re not thusly surprised any time soon.

Hot Air: Chart Toppers

A friend of mine named Gary Yarocki from west suburban Chicagoland reminded me of the fabulous old radio hits handouts Chi-town pop stations used to issue every Thursday and Friday.

My hometown had two Top 40 stations, WLS and WCFL, back in the 1960s and early ’70s. Each station’s call letters actually stood for something. WLS originally had been bankrolled in the 1920s by Sears, Roebuck and Company. The Chicago-based retailer billed itself as the World’s Largest Store; ergo, WLS. As for WCFL, it went on the air right about the same time as WLS and was owned by the Chicago Federation of Labor (note the organization’s initials). The labor federation intended the station to be commercial-free and listener-supported; as such it would have been a pioneer in the concept of public radio in America. And — wouldn’t you know it? — regional business and manufacturing associations stood on their heads to prevent WCFL from commencing operations because, y’know, labor unions and communists and sexual perverts and all that.

Anyway, I would listen to the two stations anywhere from three to 14 hours a day when I was entering my teens. I’d switch from one to the other depending on which was running commercials or playing a song I detested. For example, “Honey,” by Bobby Goldsboro sucked to high heaven so when it came on I’d leap at the dial of my transistor radio and flip it to the other station in hopes of hearing The Rascals’ “It’s a Beautiful Morning” or even the damned news, which’d be 23 times more enjoyable than “Honey.”

At the same time, another station played a different kind of music. WVON (the Voice of the Negro) played Soul and R&B hits. Not that ‘LS and ‘CFL didn’t play songs by the likes of Marvin Gaye and The Four Tops, but the west side station featured black artists exclusively. Unfortunately, I wasn’t hip enough to be a ‘VON listener as a kid. It was only in the late ’70s and into the ’80s when old ‘VON DJs had migrated to other stations and would play “dusties” that I became aware of what I’d been missing. By that time, ‘LS and ‘CFL had been begun transforming themselves into Easy Listening outlets or talkers or whatever else was the hottest trend in the radio biz at that particular moment, so they were dead to me.

So, I really didn’t miss out on the genius of such black artists as Gene Chandler, Betty Everett, Jerry “The Iceman” Butler, and the Stax stable of musicians. WVON, too, put out a chart pamphlet. As much as the fabulous music I eventually caught up to, the names of the ‘VON DJs still sing to me. They included:

  • “The Mad Lad,” Rodney Jones
  • Bill “Butterball” Crane
  • Joe “Youngblood” Cobb
  • Pervis Spann, “The Blues Man”
  • “Nassau Daddy” Ed Cook
  • Lucky Cordell
  • Herb Kent, “The Cool Gent”

That lineup didn’t even include titans like Daddy-O Daylie, one of the first black DJs to be featured on a traditionally white, network owned-and-operated station, or Ramsey Lewis, whose own fame as a recording artist transcended that as a platter-spinner.

I was wise to black music on local television around 1969 and ’70, though. I became addicted to Ch. 26’s late Friday night “Red Hot & Blues” dance program hosted by Big Bill Hill and “Soul Train” when it was still a local UHF afternoon dance show hosted by Clinton Ghent. Whenever Ghent’d make small talk with whatever live musical guest was on that day, he’d greet then by extending his flat palm, face up, and say, “Spank the plank, Hank.” Oh, and Big Bill Hill once presented a one-legged dancer on Red Hot & Blues.

(One of these days, I’ll tell the story about the tornado that swept through northern Kentucky about 10 years ago and the one-legged man directing traffic around fallen trees in Carrollton.)

This was all around the time I began to come to the conclusion that many black guys were a hell of a lot more fun — and creative — than most white guys. A later “Soul Train” host, and the one who’d become synonymous with the show, Don Cornelius, came up with such poetry as “Here’s a groove that’ll sure enough make you want to groove,” and “Here’s a big’un everybody’s diggin’,” when introducing songs.

It was in the winter of 1971 that I got my first break in radio. I co-hosted a half-hour weekly program called “Oak Park Schools at Work” featuring not-too-fascinating news from Oak Park-River Forest High School and Fenwick High School, the all-boys Catholic school I attended. It aired on WOPA, atop the Oak Park Arms Hotel, the first radio outlet for Big Bill Hill. One show, my co-host — I think his name was Dan Staszak — and I fell into a giggling fit. Station manager Wayne Osborne, a white-haired old bird who actually wore penny loafers with pennies in them, took us aside after the show and put his face in ours. “God damn it!” he yelled. “Don’t you ever pull that kind of bullshit again! If you think something’s funny, you share it with the audience! You sounded like a couple of assholes!”

Afterward, Dan Staszak and I confessed to each other we thought he was going to deck us. It was a great lesson, that this radio stuff was serious business.

I’ve been serious about radio ever since.

To that end, tomorrow I’ll publish links to all the Big Talks I’ve done with challengers to incumbent Bloomington city council members in this year’s municipal election. I began the series in February with Kate Rosenbarger and will finish it up this afternoon with Denise Valkyrie. The two are facing off against District 1 council member Chris Sturbaum, so they make apt bookends for the series. Each week, I’ve devoted my Thursday half-hour show to each guest’s personal and professional life. Then, the following Monday on Big Talk Extra during WFHB’s Daily Local News at 5pm, we talk about that guest’s issues and platform.

So, if you want to know who’s who among the newcomers in this year’s local primaries (only one Republican is running and, yes, Andrew Guenther was a Big Talk guest) you might sneak in some listens between now and the final voting day, Tuesday, May 7th.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. All shows are available on podcast via the station’s website.

 

 

Hot Air: Murder, He Wrote

After seeing several of his novels optioned (Hollywood-speak for a producer paying for the privilege of considering making a movie based on the book for a finite period of time, usually a year), Bloomington’s own New York Times bestselling author Michael Koryta at last appears to be the film world’s next big thing. His list-topper, Those Who Wish Me Dead, is headed for the big screen with megastars Angelina Jolie and Tyler Perry recently inked to starring roles. Brit actor Nicholas Hoult, who has appeared twice as The Beast in the blockbuster Avengers franchise, is signed to play one of the crime novel’s vicious killers.

A consortium of producers as well as director Taylor Sheridan remain mum about which roles Jolie and Perry will fill. The film has been set to begin production next month. The movie’s being bankrolled by Creative Wealth Media and producers include Steve Zaillian, Garrett Basch, Aaron L. Gilbert, and Jason Cloth. Sheridan has written the screenplay.

It’s not unusual for a successful author to have several works out on option. Interested parties take the year to try to find enough money to make the picture and recruit top stars to play in it. In a perfect example of Catch-22, the money people love to see big stars signed up before they commit their dollars while the big stars want to see if there’s real money behind the project before they sign contracts. Apparently, the producers have successfully juggled those seemingly contradictory tasks in this case.

TWWMD was released in 2014. It’s the story of a 14-year-old boy who witnesses a savage murder. The killers have been hunting down and killing anybody who might implicate them so the kid has to go into hiding. Noted New York Times book reviewer Janet Maslin described the book as “a lean, propulsive action-adventure thriller with a raging forest fire as its backdrop and with much more finesse than that description might suggest.” She adds: “The ingenious tricks and conversational wit of Those Who Wish Me Dead don’t usually come with this territory.”

Koryta

Michael Koryta appeared on Big Talk May 24th last year. He worked as a police beat reporter for the Herald Times while a student at Indiana University. After graduation, he supplemented his income by working as a private investigator even as he was already churning out popular tomes. In a movie-like turn of fate, Koryta was out on a drive with his parents and sister one summer evening when they passed a man standing near a stream, looking forlornly this way and that. It turned out the man was the father of Jill Behrman, an IU freshman who’d disappeared several days before and was eventually found murdered. A couple of years later three woman confessed to the murder but investigators later claimed they were lying. Four years after that, a man named John Myers told relatives he was afraid he might be blamed for Behrman’s murder. He was tried and convicted for the murder. Many people to this day believe Myers did not do the deed and, in fact, Behrman may have been hit by a car as she rode her bike the morning she disappeared. This theory holds that the person or people who hit her (maybe even the three woman who’d confessed) panicked, stashed Jill body in their car, and took her somewhere to be shot in the head (she was found with a shotgun wound in the skull). Koryta has strong opinions on the case but, professional investigator he is, he won’t allow me to reveal them publicly.

In any case, the Behrman murder and his chance sighting of her father inspired Koryta to write the novel How It Happened. It’s not at all a fictionalized version of the Berhman murder but it does entail a person falsely confessing to killing someone. HIH was released last year. Koryta’s latest, If She Wakes from Little, Brown & Co., is due out May 14th.

Hot Air: Nightmare

Forty-four years ago today a photographer snapped one of the most iconic — and saddest — photos in this holy land’s long history.

It was on this date in 1975 that America lost its first war. The evacuation of the US embassy in Saigon played out as the advancing armies of North Vietnam and the Viet Cong poured into the city. North and South Vietnam would be unified under a communist government and Saigon would be renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

More than 50,000 United States soldiers died in the war — which, BTW, technically was not a war at all but a “police action.” Lots of references like to call it an “undeclared war.” Estimates of civilian dead range from 625,000 to 2,000,000. The total number of military deaths on both sides has been estimated between 334,000 and 392,000. Some 1,340,000 combatants from the US, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam were wounded. Overall, anywhere from 1.3 million to 4.2 million people lost their lives in the battle for Vietnam and the associated civil wars in Cambodia and Laos.

None of the millions killed or injured would give a shit that it was an undeclared war. They’re just as dead as if the war had been official.

Four presidents gave us Vietnam. Dwight Eisenhower authorized the granting of billions of US dollars to the French for that country’s obviously doomed fight against a grass roots insurgency in the 1950s. Once the French got wise and high-tailed it out of Southeast Asia, the Eisenhower administration began showering a corrupt and unpopular South Vietnamese rump government with American dough. John F. Kennedy, early on in his term, sent “military advisors” to South Vietnam. Lyndon Baines Johnson used the excuse of two probably false and possibly staged attacks on US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin to plunge this country into an 11-year-long bloody quagmire. Richard M. Nixon and his consigliere, Henry Kissinger, ordered the dropping of millions of tons of bombs on the North, threatened to use nuclear weapons, and considered bombing North Vietnamese dikes which would have caused massive flooding killing millions more civilians.

The quagmire ended the day this photo was taken:

That line of people climbing the ladder up to the Marine helicopter? The last American civilians and many South Vietnamese citizens desperate to get out of the fallen capital.

The United States in the immediate aftermath of World War II was seen around the world as a beacon for democracy and a bulwark against tyranny. A mere 20 years later the United States of America had pissed away that reputation and whatever goodwill remained among the nations of this planet. It had become, instead, a crushing empire.

In case you were wondering, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, or Cộng hòa xã hội chủ nghĩa Việt Nam, the nightmare four presidents said would result if we didn’t send our young soldiers off to die there, is now a good friend of the United States, a valued trading partner, the manufacturer of much of our nation’s consumer goods, and a popular tourist destination for Americans.

As Edwin Starr sang in a 1970 pop hit: War / What is it good for? / Absolutely nothin’.

Hot Air: Guns & Money

The Gap

The economy is fabulous. So says the headline on CNN online this AM.

Note, though the caveats in the subhead: “[C]onsumer spending and business investment have slowed.”

You’ll pardon the pun, but it seems the people — you and I — aren’t buying it. The economy’s good, sure. For someone.

It sure ain’t us.

Draw!

Just ran into Steve, the brewmeister at the Indianapolis coffeehouse, The Commissary, on New York Street.

I told him I’m avoiding Naptown like the plague this weekend because of the thousands of gun-fondlers who’re descending upon the burgh for the annual NRA Convention. Both the president and the vice president of this holy land are scheduled to speak to the fetishists today. Steve says he and his Commissary colleagues are crossing their fingers and sending good vibes in the direction of the operators of a friendly rival coffeehouse directly across the street from the convention center. Business’ll be great, sure, but it’ll be a pile of tainted dough. Plus — who knows? — w/ that many gun nuts infesting the ‘hood, there’s always the danger somebody packing heat’ll start firing away to satisfy one or more grievances.

Of course, nobody’s allowed to carry in the convention hall. Still, there’ll be hangers-on floating in the periphery, and they’re the people one would have to spend sleepless nights worrying about.

The Commissary, BTW, is actually a combination coffeehouse and barber shop. Go there; Steve & Co. are good people.

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Big Talk

Here’s the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk featuring Ryan Maloney, candidate for the District 5 seat on Bloomington’s city council in this year’s Democratic primary.

Remember, primary election day is Tuesday, May 7th. Technically, that’s the last day you can vote. The county’s early voting center at 401 W. 7th St., just west of courthouse square.

The general election will be Tuesday, November 5th, with early voting starting 30 days prior.

Hot Air: The Real Deal

Much as I strive to avoid simplistic explanations for complicated phenomena, I can’t deny there are often basic, one-line, easy answers. For instance, it’s demonstrably true that many conservatives are drawn to authoritarian males, thus explaining why Christian fundamentalists of the Right dig such a seemingly un-Christian President Trump.

It’s also eminently provable that some 150 years of humanity burning fossil fuels has led to a crisis point in our species’ history.

These examples, though, are outliers. The phrase, “If only we could…,” is one of the most dangerous in the language. Take economics. We understand there’s a basic inequality wherein a few thousand of our planet’s human inhabitants control as much wealth as the remaining seven billion of us. Lots of folks today say, “If only we could tax the rich….” As if that alone would remediate the wealth gap.

Just this AM, though, I came upon an interesting piece in the latest issue of The Atlantic. The author, Gilad Edelman, exec. ed. of Washington Monthly, a liberal-ish mag covering politics and gov’t, writes about our current fascination with Pete Buttigieg. Mayor Pete, posits he, is viewed as “authentic.” Edelman riffs on the whole idea of “authenticity” in our national political candidates. Mitt Romney, sez Edelman, wasn’t. Barack Obama was. Donald Trump was, too. Hillary Clinton was not.

Authentic

So what determines political authenticity? Edelman writes:

Candidates from Obama to Trump to the Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg seem authentic to the extent that they seem to be saying what they’re really thinking, rather than what they’re “supposed” to say. The key word here is seem.

Edelman cites a recent paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The paper’s authors, Rachel Gershon of Washington University in St. Louis and Rosanna K. Smith of the University of Georgia, have found that when people believe a speaker is saying something for the first time, they tend to believe that person. When presented evidence the person is saying something s/he’s said before, listeners tend to discount the statement’s authenticity.

Edelman writes:

…[W]e’re wired to assume that all speech is extemporaneous. When that assumption is revealed to be false, we penalize the speaker. This is true, the authors found, even in contexts where it makes no sense to expect speakers not to repeat themselves, such as listening to a tour guide or a stand-up comic.

Hillary Clinton, Edelman argues, had a pat stump speech. In other words, she repeated lines and ideas. Add to that her wooden delivery and distant manner, and you’ve got a huge swath of the electorate who conclude she’s as honest as a used car salesman.

Donald Trump, OTOH, is a notorious improviser. Even his staffers are frustrated by his almost obsessive desire not to hew to a line of thought or stick to a script. Voters, tens of millions of them, loved the fact that no one could predict what might come out of Trump’s mouth next. “He’s real,” they say. This despite the fact that Trump’s entire history screams used car salesman.

Buttigieg, an academically-accomplished, well-versed speaker, seemingly never repeats lines. He, too, is a fine improviser. Ergo, he’s authentic.

“Authenticity,” Edelman concludes, “is not about being honest; it’s about seeming unscripted.”

Gershon & Smith, BTW, are academics specializing in marketing. The Democrats have traditionally been the party of issues and ideas; the Republicans more concerned with perceptions and emotions. In other words, the GOP is the marketing party. It’d behoove the Dems to market themselves a tad more efficiently this time around.

Big Talk

Tune in to Big Talk this afternoon at 5:30pm. My guest this week is Bloomington city council District 5 candidate Ryan Maloney. He is, I believe, the only candidate in this year’s local election not to have been born in this holy land. Maloney hails from Australia. His family moved to Nevada years ago. His mom, BTW, was a lounge singer who, according to him, could do a mean Dolly Parton.

Maloney schooled me in the proper pronunciation of his family’s adopted state. It’s neh-VA-duh — the A in the middle syllable pronounced as the A in cat. I thought I was being all sophisticated by pronouncing it neh-VAH-duh. Nevadans, Maloney insists, bristle at the sound of neh-VAH-duh.

Anyway, tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM immediately following the Daily Local News. AS always, if you miss the show, fret not: I’ll post the podcast link herein tomorrow.

Next week: District 1 candidate Denise Valkyrie. That’ll be the last in my series on challengers for city council seats. Primary election day in Tuesday, May 7th.

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