Category Archives: Resist

Hot Air: Talking & Typing

Even as I’ve been sitting here for several weeks (or has it been months?) furrowing my brow and wondering what in the heck I’m going to do with this global communications colossus, my WFHB radio interview program, Big Talk, has aired every week, as dependably as snow in January. Er…, uh…, wait a sec, there hasn’t been any snow in these parts this month. But, y’know what I mean.

Anyway, my first two Big Talks of the 2020 calendar year have drawn a lot of comment. I started the annum off with a re-broadcast of my October 2019 interview with Jen Maher, straight-talking clinical associate professor in the Gender Studies Dept. at Indiana University. Maher gave us the latest scoop on gender, a social, cultural, and academic topic that’s undergoing a sea-change in definition these days. Talking about gender seems to ruffle plenty of people’s feathers right now, seeing as how their preconceived notions are being challenged by a younger generation’s determination to smash as many stereotypes and imposed roles as they can think of. College towns and the more avant ‘hoods of big cities have become home to countless kids who’re donning the raiment and bangles of the opposite sex. These groundbreakers aren’t what we used to refer to as drag queens or kings, dressing up for an everyday Halloween. They’re saying they feel more comfortable and themselves in much of the finery heretofore reserved for the binary other. Suffice it to start the conversation by stating the fact, accepted by more and more people in 2020, that gender does not mean the same thing as sex.

Me? I’m not put off by those who are indeed flaunting the old rules. On the other hand, I doubt if you’ll catch me in a skirt or wearing makeup any time soon. It is important to note, though, that I got my ear pierced (by a delightful Jamaican linguistics PhD student named Yvette using a half a potato, a needle and an ice cube) back in May, 1977. At that time, a man wearing an earring was a sin probably on a par with setting off a bomb in a nursery school. Being 21 y.o., I was more than happy to be seen as such a provocateur. A couple of years later, when my circle and I began hanging out in punk rock nightclubs and gay discos, I took to wearing a touch of eyeliner and occasionally enameling one or more fingernails. Those looks, too, branded me in the eyes of the sexless, soulless office hordes as a person to be kept away from the children, which was fine by me as I had no aspirations to becoming a kindergarten teacher.

I never went any further in cross-dressing even though loads of people my crowd danced with, partied with, and occasionally ate breakfast with sported gold lame pants and feathery boas. Trust me, I never would have looked good in gold lame pants.

The Maher interview, in any case, has caused any number of people to approach me on the street and throw in their two-cents’ worth re: gender. A similar thing has happened in the wake of my second BT of the new decade, the first installment of a two-part chat with university administrator and diversity pioneer Charlie Nelms. Charlie’s one of those people who are not widely recognized yet have played a key role in campus life both here in Bloomington and at the numerous other schools where he’s worked over the last four-plus decades. When he began his working life, it was shockingly hard for a black or brown person to gain a doctorate except at an historic black college or university. He devoted much of his professional life to making that track easier for those whose skin was too dark for the comfort of a certain benighted segment of the American population. After the Nelms interview, Part 1, I again was stopped by passersby inspired to comment on the show. I like that; it makes me think producing and hosting Big Talk means something in this often all-too-meaningless world.

Hell, I could go back to the last Big Talk of 2019 when my guests were Michelle Martin Coleman and Elaine Guinn, the driving forces behind Project Stay, a suicide prevention and support group. Not many want to think about it, but suicide becomes a bigger problem than usual around the holidays. Again, listeners responded positively to that show.

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So, this week’s Big Talk will be Part 2 of my conversation with Charlie Nelms. I didn’t plan it this way but it worked out perfectly. Nelms, Part 2, will air Thursday, January 16, the day after Martin Luther King’s b-day and just two weeks prior to the beginning of Black History Month in February. Tune in at 5:30pm on 91.3 FM or listen to the podcast on the WFHB website.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep on noodling about The Pencil. I have no idea what the future holds for this blog but I’m paying good dough to keep the website alive so I’d better figure out something fast. Soon as I know, you’ll know.

 

 

Hot Air: Break The Silence

Talking About The Unspeakable

There’s a little bitty part of me that feels bad about doing this during the “season of joy” but, upon further reflection, nah, I’m really good with today’s edition of Big Talk. My guests this week-before-Christmas will be Michelle Martin Coleman and Elaine Guinn, the movers and shakers behind Project Stay. The two of them, via Project Stay, hope to provide support and comfort for people contemplating suicide as well as for those who’ve lost loved ones to that most unspoken act.

Martin Coleman (L) & Guinn

Heck, I lead off today’s show with the Q: How in the world do we talk about suicide?

Martin Coleman lost her father to suicide nearly 50 years ago. Guinn tried to take her own life several years ago. In the ensuing years, they’ve dedicated so much of their lives to studying the phenomenon. They know about this thing.

The holiday season is a particularly bad time for people suffering from depression and hopelessness.  If my listeners get anything out of today’s Big Talk, I’d hope it’s that they’ll be much more prone to talk to people who appear to be slipping down that slide. It’s not all that hard to see the signs in people who may be at risk of suicide. They may have experienced severe childhood traumas in their past. They may have lost a parent, a child, a friend. They may have lost a job or gone through a divorce or breakup. They may not be taking pleasure in the little things — eating, socializing, whatever — anymore.

All a concerned person has to do is ask. You’d be surprised how openly and quickly one who’s spiraling downward might communication those most frightening thoughts. As Guinn says, all the concerned person has to do is listen — perhaps even just for a few minutes — and then ask that person to stay. Ergo Project Stay.

In any case, tune in this afternoon at 5:30pm for Big Talk on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

And if you can’t catch the show as it airs, you can listen to the podcast on the WFHB Big Talk page.

Most important, if you’re grappling with the question, Should I end my life?, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1.800.273.8255. And if you’re worried someone near you might be contemplating that final solution, go to Project Stay’s Facebook page. Should the situation warrant it, says Martin Coleman, “you can always take the person to the hospital, or if it is a emergency where the person would be harmful to themselves or others, you can call the police.”

But first, both Martin Coleman and Guinn insist, “just intervene for those crucial moments.” That is, talk. Ask. And stay with that person through the crisis (they do pass). You staying with them just might insure they’ll stay in this world.

Lenny & Hef

The Loved One pointed this out:

Lenny Bruce just might be the single most important comedian of the electronic media era. He’s the guy whose trampling of norms, whose use of “four-letter words,” whose forays into heretofore forbidden subject matters, whose propensity to flip the bird to any and all authority no matter the personal cost to himself, blazed the trail for Richard Pryor and George Carlin and Bill Hicks and Sarah Silverman and all the other jokesters who enjoy whatever level of freedom exists today.

You know, Lenny killed himself, too. Of course, he didn’t know he was doing it at the time. Or maybe he did.

Hot Air: Just Stuff

What’s Goin’ On?

So, it’s been going on two months since I palavered herein. Some folks are even messaging me asking why their auto-notifications haven’t been working or what’s wrong with this site, etc. Well, nothing’s wrong with your auto-notifications or this site. It’s me. For a variety of reasons, I elected to remain mum here for a little while. See, November and December are the toughest months for me to scratch my way though, head-wise. Y’know, that ol’ Seasonal Affective Disorder thing. I pull in my wings and just try to push my way through the creeping darkness.

In cheerier news, I’ve finally turned my Charlotte Zietlow book manuscript over to an editor — huzzah! And, I sense, the ed. digs it. A lot. She’s sweating over it as we speak and, if all goes well, we might actually see a real, honest-to-gosh hard copy of the thing in this town by spring. Imagine that!

Actually, I have been imagining that for more than five years now. Yup, CZ & I started this oral history project in August 2014. And, for pity’s sake, with all the things Charlotte’s gone through during that time, we could have written a whole book covering just that slender fraction of her life.

Anyway, keep an eye out for further announcements.

Eels?

I just finished an article for the Limestone Post. Publisher Ron Eid discovered a fun book called Hoosiers All: Indiana High School Basketball Teams, by Emerson Houck. Being a fairly recent immigrant to these parts — phew, lucky I got here before the wall was built! — I had no idea how big high school basketball was in the sovereign state of IN. Houck, clearly a tad obsessed with the topic (making him no less sane re: prep hoops than several hundred thousand other Hoosiers) wrote a 475-pp paean to the game as played by 13-18 y.o.’s from the shores of Lake Michigan to the Ohio River.

Eid, the Charles Foster Kane of the Post, asked me to do a piece on the many and imaginative nicknames and mascots of the 1000 or so HS’s Houck encyclopedi-izes. I leaped at the chance the way, say, Shawn Kemp leaped for rebounds for Elkhart’s Concord High School back in the mid- to late-’80s. The Concord team, BTW, is known as the Minutemen (hell, the school itself is located on Minuteman Way in the northern Indiana town). Concord girls’ teams, it must be added, are also called the Minutemen, saying something or another about the school’s gender sensitivities.

I riff for several thou. words on this state’s high school Spartans and Warriors and various jungle cats, miscellaneous rumbling beasts, vipers, airplanes, Miners, ballistic missiles, and even fish of the rivers and seas decorating the chests of schoolboy hoopsters. Believe it or not, there actually have been two separate Indiana high schools that’ve called their teams the Eels. One of them played in a gym fondly dubbed the Eel Tank.

Indiana, natch, is one singular place.

Keep another eye out for that piece to appear soonly.

Reelin’ In The Customers

Caught a mention of the Columbia Record Club not long ago. Those of us of a certain age remember ads for the mail order retailer. I’d say I was 13 or 14 when I first caught wind of it, both through mag ads and through my older brother Joey’s participation in it. Joey got a stereo for Christmas one year. It may have been a Zenith as that company was based in Chicago and in fact its main factory was mere blocks from our house, just north of Amundsen Park where Joey and I both played baseball.

Anyway, Joey then had to put together a record collection which would have cost scads o’dough had he bought albums at either Sears or Frank’s dimestore, both on North Avenue, the main street we lived nearest to. So, he subscribed to the Columbia Record Club. The pitch was, you could get a certain number of albums for a penny which, to me, seemed the greatest deal ever offered. What I didn’t know, of course, was Columbia actually inked you to a kind of contract, obliging you to buy scads more albums at a more realistic price. That initial offering was what’s known as a loss-leader: the company takes a bath in order to draw you in and then hits you over the head with a blackjack to swipe your wallet and/or your checkbook. For instance, have you ever wondered why turkey costs so little, usually a bit more than a dollar a pound? The grocery stores price the bird at such a steal because they know that when you come in for your Thanksgiving dinner, you’re going to load up on hundreds of dollars-worth of other groceries — pies, yams, vegetables, wine, whipping cream, and countless other things — so, in the end, they make…, well, scads of money while you think you’ve burglarized them for the main course.

So, Columbia Record Club held out its albums-for-a-penny carrot knowing the co. would make its nut subsequently when it’d ship you your obligatory monthly record for which you’d pay, I think, 3.99 (a hefty chunk of change at the time, especially for teenagers and fresh adolescents like Joey and me. The kicker was you’d have to go way out of your way to opt out of the deal, much like internet deals today that offer you a free month of something but ask for your credit card number when you sign up. When the next month rolls around you’re automatically charged real dough for whatever subscription or offer you’d thought was a smart deal. In the end, it’s never a smart deal.

Joey amassed a pretty neat collection, including Blood, Sweat and Tears’ eponymous second release which, BTW, beat out Abbey Road for Album of the Year at that year’s Grammy Awards presentation. Joey also ordered and got, among many others, a Wes Montgomery record, “Time Peace: the Rascals’ Greatest Hits,” and (most memorably for me at that stage of my young life) Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass’s “Whipped Cream & Other Delights”. That album cover was undoubtedly the most one-handed record sleeve ever produced. Here it is:

The apparently nude woman sitting in what looked like a mountain of whipped cream is still alive, having celebrated her 84th birthday in September. The model, Dolores Dixon, who’d done a lot of bit parts in ’60s TV shows actually wore a strapless bikini and was covered from the waist down with a Christmas comforter. And that wasn’t whipped cream she was sitting in. It was, in fact, shaving cream because that wouldn’t melt under the heat of photographer’s lights. Dixon made $1500 for the shoot. That’s a lot of scratch for the time (1965), so she must have carried quite a profressional rep then though few people would recognize her walking down the street. I can only say I suffered several dozen near-heart attacks studying that album cover in whatever solitude I could find.

Anyway, Pt. Deux: the Columbia Record Club was begun by Columbia Records in 1955 as way to reach rural customers whose only access to new music was by mail-order. The operation, originally based in NYC, was so successful and had reached so many more customers than isolated farmers that Columbia had to move it to Terre Haute (who knew?) a year after it started, the Indiana city being a rail hub and centrally located. Membership eventually totaled in the tens of millions. The company’s high point came in 1994, by then renamed Columbia House, when it accounted for more than 15 percent of all CD sales. By that year, if you’d have mentioned the club to me, I’d have been certain it’d long ago gone out of business. Two things killed the Club/House: 1) the obsolescence of CDs and 2) a 2001 data breach on its website put the company’s customers at risk. Tie those two developments together with the rise of Amazon and big box stores from which you could get discs and movies without being lashed to an expensive contract and the Columbia Record Club-slash-Columbia House was forced into bankruptcy in 2015. Later that same year, a reconstituted Columbia House began offering a vinyl-record subscription service in an effort to capitalize on the retro popularity of the old-fashioned discs.

Anyway, Pt. III: Here, for your enjoyment, is the biggest hit from the Whipped Cream album, A Taste of Honey:

The God Problem

Do you believe in god (or, if you prefer, God)? You don’t have to answer but you can try to solve the Bat & Ball Problem. Your answer to it, some researchers say, can reveal your take on the existence of a putative Guy Who Created Everything.

Lots

Want to see something cool? Go here.

It’s the World Population Clock, a running monitor of this planet’s human billions. It’s chock-full of figures — macro and micro — re: our ever-expanding numbers. Dig this chart:

Each and every one of the above-stats is increasing in real-time, proving rabbits got nothin’ on us. I screenshot the image at about 10:55 am, today, Tuesday, December 3, 2019. By the time you get your eyes on it, these numbers’ll be long out of date.

Try this zen-like exercise: Just sit there and stare at the stats on the site and watch as they move ever upward. And think, as the figures grow, of all the women panting and shrieking as new citizens of the world emerge from their birth canals.

A number of the globe’s human institutions, both religious and not, continue to frown on the use of contraceptives. We’re an odd lot.

Hot Air: Crazy Talk?

Long ago, back in the days before…, well, everything, there was a movie called Magnum Force. It was the second in the Dirty Harry franchise, starring Clint Eastwood as the loose cannon, morally unambiguous (in his own mind), eponymous San Francisco Police Department inspector, Harry Callahan. Magnum Force hit the theaters on Christmas Day, 1973.

The plot was considered a way-out, dystopic fantasy at the time. The intelligentsia of the day snorted that everything about the Dirty Harry series was ludicrous. This particular tale involved Dirty Harry discovering the existence of secret cabal of SFPD motorcycle cops who’d banded together to dispense extrajudicial justice, performing street executions of pimps, drug dealers, mobsters, and other such undesirables. The rogue cops considered themselves avenging angels of death, doing what the bureaucrats and the bleeding hearts refused to do — protect the innocents from the bad guys.

Harry Callahan not only roots out the gang but he destroys them, the film’s climactic scene taking place at a bay shipyard where Callahan offs the cabal’s leader with a time bomb. The Dirty Harry series gave rise to the Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey set of cinematic vehicles led off by Death Wish in 1974. Bronson’s Kersey was a civilian who, similarly, broke both laws and societal norms in an effort to right the moral universe. BTW: Perhaps my perversely fave scene in the Death Wish series comes in the third installment when Kersey fires a M72 LAW rocket launcher at the leader of the street gang that’s been terrorizing the neighborhood. The gang leader is blow out a third story brick wall and lands in the parking lot below where — and this is sinfully beautiful — local kids and adults dance in joy around his burning body.

Like I say, all these frontier justice ’70s era movies were viewed as the craziest of nightmare fantasies.

Back to Magnum Force. Nobody really wanted to believe that our nation’s police forces could possibly infiltrated by groups that didn’t honor the rule of law no matter the cost. Oh sure, there’d been scads of movies wherein individual corrupt cops were flushed out and brought to justice. But a whole gang of like-minded police officers essentially running a rump justice system? Heavens no, not in our holy land!

Cut to today. Evidence mounts that police departments around the country, to one extent or another, are rife with KKK and other white supremacist groups. One or two of the departments, mirabile dictu, are even taking that threat seriously.

Who’s more morally certain — and perfectly willing to dispense vigilante justice — than a KKK-er?

And what about the Dallas cop who killed a man in his own home when she “inadvertently” thought his apartment was her own? Or the cop from Ft. Worth who shot and killed a woman early Saturday morning for the crime of standing near the window in her own home? What are we to make of them? Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps this: Are there police officers who wish to either foment a race war or wipe as many black human beings off the face of the Earth as possible? And, are these cops somehow working in concert w/ each other?

Tie these incidents in with the rash of police shootings of unarmed black men — and the concurrent non-shootings of white people posing even greater threats than the unfortunate black guys — and the curious among us have to start wondering.

Can it be that police depts. here and there — or even all over the place — are becoming havens for white supremacist death squads? I mean, how outlandish is it to think a cop went into the wrong home, thinking it was hers, and immediately ices the unlucky black guy who lives there. Truth be told that whole story is preposterous! Not only that, a key witness in the Dallas cop’s murder trial was gunned down, execution style, just days after testifying. And the cop this past weekend who just happened to see a black woman passing in front of her own window and decides, hell, she must be a criminal so I’ll just shoot her dead? Even more incredible!

Is the hypothesis that there are police officers who want to rid this nation of dark-skinned citizens any more unbelievable than those cops’ alibis?

Sex Talk

In case you missed last week’s Big Talk with comic book artist, animator, and overall visual imagist Milton Knight, here’s the podcast for that show.

This week my guest will be Indiana University associate professor in the Gender Studies Dept., Jen Maher.

Maher

I’ll tell you how I became aware of Maher. At the beginning of every semester, it seemed, female IU students, clearly fresh out of high school, would come in to the Book Corner and ask for our most cheesy romance novels. And, each semester, I’d have to disappoint them because we didn’t — and don’t — carry romance novels, even mega-sellers like Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele. The way we figure it, those rare customers who come in asking for romance novels would be better served doing their literary shopping at the Kroger. And that’s not a dismissive insult; that’s just the way our and Kroger’s business models roll. Our customers wouldn’t go to the Kroger to purchase The New Jim Crow.

Anyway, I got around to asking these young women what was up. They certainly didn’t appear to be typical romance connoisseurs. The books they were seeking, they told me, were assigned by one of their professors, Jen Maher. Romance novels, Maher reasoned, helped them understand something or another about gender roles. Which will be precisely what I want to talk to Maher about on Big Talk.

Gender’s the big signifier these days, the outward cloak that tells the world whether you buy into its strict, binary categorization or you’re willing to give it the finger by wrapping yourself up in the raiment, makeup, and mien of the opp. sex.

Tune in every Thursday at 5:30pm for Big Talk on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

Hot Air: Poor Students

I’ve always been drawn to write about or interview for the radio high school dropouts or folks who otherwise took circuitous paths to success. Inasmuch as I barely squeezed my way through all levels of school, I identify with those who were too impatient, too fidgety, and — for that matter — too untamable to succeed in school.

Truth be told, I have no idea how I got through high school. I never did a lick of homework and rarely cracked my textbooks. Re: homework, my philosophy always was, Look, I’ve given you six hours of my day; the rest of the day is for me. I had, after all, books to read and things to learn. The books my teachers wanted me to read and the things they wanted me to learn held little or no interest for me. I wanted to know about astronomy and baseball, politics and art, movies and psychology, none of which subjects were offered in my schooling before college. By the time I did go to a university, after some gap years and certain fits and starts at Chicago’s community colleges, I’d learned the rudiments of studying and regimented learning but still lacked the ability to sit in one place for hours at a time, a necessary talent for successful studentry. (You may notice I also had a propensity for making up words, QED; such flaunting of rules was frowned upon by my teachers.) I dropped out of the University of Illinois-Chicago far short of a degree.

Knight

A fellow named Milton Knight, too, loathed school.

He’ll be my guest at 5:30pm today on Big Talk. A recent immigrant to Bloomington, Knight against all odds and the wishes of his parents became a comic book artist and animator. Even though he only took a single college course, he became a sought-after comics artist for publications like the Village Voice, the National Lampoon, High Times, Heavy Metal, and even Al Goldstein’s barrier-shattering Screw magazine. Later, he’d go on to help animate cartoons for Disney TV, MGM TV, Warner Bros., and HBO.

Knight’s got a solo exhibit up at Artisan Alley‘s Dimensions Gallery through the end of this month. His is a compelling story so tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM this afternoon or come back here tomorrow morning for a link to the podcast of my interview with him.

BTW: You may recall my Big Talk show featuring Adam Nahas, the founder and executive director of Artisan Alley. Listen to that podcast here. And, if you can’t get enough of Nahas, check out my Limestone Post feature on him here.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB. Don’t forget, it’s fall fund drive time at ‘FHB so pony up if you’ve got some spare scratch. Go here to donate.

Hot Air: Song & Chants

Face-Off?

I write notes to myself in the middle of the night whenever stray ideas float into my head or when I see something on the internet that I might want to comment on but I’m too lazy to do so at the moment. Last night, for instance, I saw an article about the Sarah Dye appearance at a Grassroots Republicans meeting at the Ellettsville branch of the Monroe County Public Library.

Dye, of course, is the “natural” farmer who’s been outed for being connected to a white supremacist group that used to be known as Identity Evropa but is now called something else so that its members may more easily spread their horseshit without being labeled as…, y’know, white supremacists. Dye is a vendor at the Bloomington Farmers Market and protesters have been raising hell about her and her husband’s presence there this summer. There’ve already been near-dramatic confrontations including one Saturday AM when locked and loaded gun fondlers showed up to demonstrate in favor of her right to spew rhetorical emesis online.

I saw somewhere that one speaker at the Grassroots Republicans gathering suggested a bunch of them show up tomorrow morning at the Farmers Market to show support for Dye. Because it was — I think — 2:00am when I saw the tidbit, I thought, Hmm, I’m gonna say something about that when I wake up. I didn’t take a note because I was half-snoring at the time.

Of course, I couldn’t find the article or social medium post referring to the person’s call-out as I started typing this post. Did I dream it? Was it taken down? Who knows?

I do know this. I’m not feeling good at all about the prospect of scads of white supremacist defenders showing up at the Showers Common tomorrow. Guaranteed, there’ll be a hefty contingent of folks who want Dye and her like to get lost who’ll show up in response. That sounds like a recipe for mayhem

Here’s hoping I dreamed it.

Women Talk

It’s not even 100 years since the Senate and the two-thirds of the state legislatures decided to guarantee women’s right to vote in this holy land. In fact, the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment will be celebrated next year.

Fleck

The Monroe County History Center will mount an exhibit commemorating women’s suffrage in 2020. A huge part of that will be research done by the Center’s collections manager, Hilary Fleck. She was awarded a May Wright Sewall Fellowship grant by Indiana Humanities earlier this year to compile a history of the suffrage movement in Monroe County as well as a rundown of women politicians hereabouts.

Fleck joined me on Big Talk yesterday. If you missed the show, here’s the podcast. And tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM, Monday, at 5:00pm for the Daily Local News feature, Big Talk Extra, wherein Fleck chats with me about some notable names in the local fight to get voting rights for females.

Next week on Big Talk, a couple of dynamos behind the MidWay Music Festival — Alexi King and Rachel Glago — will join me in the studio to talk about the sound bash scheduled for Saturday, October 5th, at a half dozen venues around town. The MidWay Fest is an annual Bloomington production featuring women and non-binary folk strumming, banging, warbling, cooing, keyboard plinking, fretting, and every other kind of music-making. The MidWay people found, a while ago, that while half the audience for any given music festival is female, the vast, vast, vast majority of performers at such events is male. Natch, something had to be done so the MidWay gang cranked up a fest featuring non-males.

Wanna learn more? Tune in Thursday, October 3rd at 5:30pm for Big Talk.


Hot Air: Friday Filibuster

Smooth Sailing For Norway

Someone posted this article link on soc. med the other day:

The article ran on July 10, 2018 in The Week and was written by the online mag’s reporter Ryan Cooper. It was classified as an Opinion piece. Cooper made the argument that scads of people are screaming to high heaven that a lot of the government-rescue policies being touted by leftists, especially Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who I’m gaga for, BTW — I’ve been waiting with bated breath for years for a Dem pol to shout unashamedly and proudly that she wants things like universal health care and countless other programs dozens of other industrialized nations provide their citizens) will lead to America becoming some kind of horrifying dystopia, something like Cuba, perhaps. Whether or not Cuba is indeed a horrifying dystopia — its citizenry is well-educated and, yes, it boasts of universal health care yet it also cracks down on dissent, restricts movement, and holds a thumb on its news media’s jugular — can be argued from now until the wee hours. But Norway, Cooper avers, is a shiny gem of a society where nobody goes bankrupt because they’ve contracted leukemia.

That may be true.

If it is, I’ll tell you why. Norway is a hugely homogenous society. The country doesn’t much have to deal with issues like racism, the social safety net, and other such interlocking posers. The day someone got the bright idea that Norway ought to provide universal, single-payer health care for its citizenry, of all the arguments against that proposal, the single most powerful was missing. That would be the oft tacit refusal of its majority whites to countenance sharing the wealth with dark-skinned people.

See, there aren’t enough dark-skinned people in Norway to scare the bejesus out of its whites. Africans and Arabs, and any other strains silly enough to have been born with a few extra melanin cells distributed throughout their epidermes (yes, that’s the plural of epidermis; I looked it up!) aren’t present there to rob the majority whites of their birthright privileges. The idea being, Hey, sure, let’s take care of our Norwegian sisteren and brethren; they look just like us!

Here in America, with all our diversity — and, yes, we’re the most diverse nation on the planet — whichever gang happens to have a stranglehold on a numerical plurality (read: whites) will have the ability to deny largesse to those gangs that don’t look like them-slash-scare them.

In other words, it’s easy for Norway to be so open-handed. It’s not for us.

Lotus Chatter

Did you miss yesterday’s Big Talk? The fairly-new exec. director of the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation, Tamara Loewenthal, joined me in the studio this week. With this year’s Lotus Fest (believe it or not, the 26th such iteration) set to kick off Thursday, September 26th, I thought it’d be the perfect time to find out how the Lotus folks do their thing. Believe me, it ain’t easy, from helping international acts get visas to feeding them while they’re here, Lotus staffers and vols go to heroic lengths to stage our town’s yearly signature event.

Here’s the link to yesterday’s podcast with Tamara.

Loewenthal

Join me next week, Thursday, September 26th, at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM for Big Talk with guest Hilary Fleck, collections manager for the Monroe County History Center. Fleck just scored a big grant to do research on and stage an exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in this holy land. Fleck’ll focus on the history of the women’s vote in this here county, which oughtta be a hoot.

Did you know, BTW, that this town’s first woman mayor was Mary Alice Dunlap, who was appointed to the post by the Bloomington city council in May, 1962. The previous mayor, Tom Lemon, had been tabbed by President John F. Kennedy to be postmaster for the Cincinnati area. When a mayor can’t or doesn’t finish out her/his term, the city council gets to pick a successor, meaning whichever party holds sway at that moment claims the seat. The city’s second female mayor, Tomi Allison, similarly gained office through a city council vote in 1983 when Frank McCloskey quit to become US Congressbeing from this district.

Dunlap ran for reelection in 1963 but lost to Republican Jack Hooker. Allison ran for election in 1983, ’87, and ’91 and won all three times.

The Monroe County History Center’s women’s vote exhibit will open some time next year, marking a century since the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

 

Hot Air: Thank Odin It’s Friggjar-dagr!

Separated At Birth?

A while ago (I’m too lazy to dig back and find out exactly when) I wrote something on the order of Marianne Williamson being the Democratic Party’s Donald Trump. Each is the negative image of the other. He represents all that’s kookiest about the Right, whereas she stands for all that’s most flaky on the Left.

Funhouse Mirror

Now, here’s the diff. between the two parties. Trump became the Republican candidate for president (and won the election on a technicality). Williamson has been weaned out of the Dem candidate pool already. You’ll note she was not invited to participate in last night’s debate. She was unable to poll well enough.

Hidden Messages

Another debate observation, but first I have to admit I never watch political debates, especially presidential candidate debates. They make me nervous. To be even more honest, all TV news-ish presentations make me nervous. It’s the nature of the medium I suppose:

Marshall McLuhan: The medium Is the message.

Anyway, I always follow the debate the next day, in the papers. That way I can muse on the ideas presented by the candidates rather be distracted by such Q’s as Who was more fidgety?, Who jabbed his finger most?, and Who “looked presidential”?, whatever in the goddamned hell that means.

I did a quick online scan this AM, covering social media, about a half dozen newspapers, some websites, and three or four TV outlets. Going solely by the headlines and pull quotes, I might conclude not one single debater last night brought up any policy issue at all, foreign or domestic. The debate, acc’d’g to that admittedly facile survey therefore, was about as relevant as the Wednesday dinner conversation among the members of a large, contentious family, none of whom wants to address the underlying issues that make them want to strangle half to three quarters of the others around the table.

Doing Good; Doing Well

In case you missed yesterday’s Big Talk, it was a compilation-type show. I cherry-picked six guests from the previous year, all of whom are involved in one kind or another volunteer/activist/advocacy organization. None of the chattering had been aired during the guests’ respective appearances on the weekly Big Talk, Thursdays at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

Here’s the link to the podcast.

And here are pix of the six:

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Hot Air: Not So Fast

Keeping Up Appearances

First, my post about Mayor Hamilton’s bash this past weekend, decrying his use of a city-owned stage/reviewing stand plastered with Bloomington logos, elicited plenty of reaction. I’d say the response was fairly evenly split between people who think I was picking nits and those who feel the mayor would have been better off covering up city logos while he paraded his party’s candidates before attendees of his fifth annual Hamilton Family & Friends Picnic.

The candidates and the logo.

Geoff McKim provided us with a link to the City of Bloomington’s Event Permits & Mobile Stage Rental page. Anybody, apparently, can apply for and, within reason, expect to be able to use the mobile stage for an event.

So Hamilton wasn’t breaking any laws (not that I implied that) or committing any sin, mortal or venial. Bloomington’s chapter of Black Lives Matter can apply for and probably get to use the mobile stage and if someone gets around to photographing the group’s event, there’ll be the city’s logo, clear as can be. Said photo could then be taken to imply that the city endorsed whatever the event was. I suppose the KKK could also apply to use the mobile stage as well and, if they got it, wouldn’t that be a black eye for the city.

Simple solution: erase the city’s logo from the stage so that, in the future, anybody can use it and no one can be confused as to the city’s intentions. When the city wants to use the mobile stage for official events, simply attach to it banners emblazoned with the city logo.

So, was my post a nitpick? Perhaps. But optics is everything. Call my original post an optic-pick.

Ya Gotta Have Friends

You know what’s most remarkable about the Trump presidency? It’s the fact that any number of reprobates, bootlickers, lick-spittlers, numbskulls, fellow greed monkeys, villains, ogres, and general ne’er-do-wells have become something akin to heroic after leaving the employ of the man who fancies himself the Boss of America.

Anthony Scaramucci, for instance, prior to becoming — then un-becoming — Trump’s White House Director of Communications (read: squealer, as in Animal Farm) was as respectable as Chinatown‘s Noah Cross. Nicknamed, appropriately, The Mooch, he represents pretty much all that is distasteful and even downright dangerous about the Goldman Sachs outfit that, in league with several other syndicates, runs this holy land. Yet, when he was given the axe by the erstwhile lead character of “The Apprentice,” Scaramucci turned on his former capo with a vengeance, characterizing Trump as “horrific” and “despicable,” as if the poor naive lamb had no idea who the Stable Genius really was before taking a job under him. Nevertheless, Scaramucci suddenly became our pal once his Trump-disses aired over the last few weeks.

Then there were the likes of fixer Michael Cohen, inexplicable celebrity and token dark-skinned person Omarosa, and erstwhile segregationist Jeff Sessions, among others, who lambasted their ex-kingfish to one degree or another, either in books or during interviews with TV personalities. As each of them shredded Trump, our hearts became at least a little bit warmer toward them. After all, enemy of my enemy is my friend.

The latest fiend to become our friend is John Bolton, he of the itchy trigger finger. Bolton either quit or was fired yesterday because he basically wanted the president to, y’know, act like a president. Now he’s going public to characterize Li’l Duce as a liar and an impulsive lout, as if neither he nor we knew those things two days ago. Still, because Bolton’s bad-mouthing Trump, he’s becoming…, well, one of us.

Truth is, though, he isn’t one of us. Never was. Never will be. But as long as he’s teed off at President Gag, we’re coming thisclose to embracing him, even if we have take decontamination showers after doing so.

Not us, them.

With friends like these….

Is It Or Isn’t It?

The internet recently went a tad gaga over the breaking news that a couple of amateur researchers — just kids, really — have discovered a bacterium strain that can eat plastic and turn it into water. This is breathtaking news because our addiction to plastics has turned many of our planet’s open waters into so many dumps for the stuff. Turtles and birds and fish are being strangled by gazillions of six-pack rings that’ve found their way into the open sea. Huge islands of polymer are growing here and there. I read one story that said there’ll be more plastic in our oceans than fish by the year 2050, although the piece did not provide a link to any such research.

Which is a problem. I mean, in addition to plastic putting a chokehold on countless critters and fouling the blue expanses across the hemispheres. Like that prediction, much of the news we get about the environment is, quite frankly, full of shit.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going all Trump on you (were that to happen, I implore someone out there to put me out of my — and the world’s — misery). Global warming and climate weirding are twin ills that promise to eff up the greater environment as well as human civilization over the next few decades unless some kind of miracle should occur. And the news that a couple of students just out of their teens have found a plastic-eating bacterium is indeed miraculous.

And, alas, probably not a thing.

Okay, background. Vancouver high schoolers Jenny Yao and Miranda Wang were futzing around in a lab and, apparently, bred the new strain. When stuffed to their gills w/ plastic, these new bacteria purportedly turn the stuff into water. How convenient! And fabulous!

Wang (L) & Yao

So fabulous that Yao & Wang won five science/entrepreneurship prizes from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, a top-of-the-line business degree factory. The two were the youngest to win the Perlman Grand Prize of the 2016 Wharton Business Plan competition. They copped four other trophies or plaques or grants from the school for their discovery and subsequent creation of a business. They’re the co-founders of a Silicon Valley company called BioCellection, dedicated to plastic recycling.

If there’s anything the web-iverse loves it’s a deceptively simple solution to a gigantic problem. What could be more simple than pouring tankers-full of said bacteria into the ocean and watching them gobble up all the milk containers, McDonald’s straws, cell phone packaging, water bottles (don’t get me started on that scourge), peanut butter jars, innumerable Rubbermaid™ containers, and all the rest of the detritus our species has manufactured since the dawn of the Plastic Age (c. 1907).

It ain’t so. For any number of reasons, it would be impossible to turn the bacteria loose in, say, the great Pacific Ocean and thus wave bye-bye to all the plastic trash in it.

Yao & Wang are working feverishly to develop new plastic recycling technologies, though. As such they should be celebrated. But they’re not miracle workers — nobody is — and so, once again, the internet has missed the mark by a wide margin.

Me? When I first read the breathless posts acclaiming the so-called breakthrough, I immediately thought:

  1. This sounds way too simple
  2. Even if it works, there have to be unintended, unforeseen consequences

The next few years indeed should scare the bejesus out of us. When people are scared, they grasp at panaceas or the ravings of snake oil salesmen. Remember laetrile back in the late 1970s? Expect to read about many more internet shrieks of glee about this or that simple solution to the world’s pollution problems. Hell, I know social media posters who, if you read their rants long enough, seem to know the precise hour and minute civilization will crumble and all life on Earth will cease to exist due to climate change.

Some simple rules of thumb:

  1. There are precious few truths in this life
  2. Nobody can tell the future, especially when it comes to a complex, interconnected set of systems like the environment
  3. If it’s on the internet, take it with a grain of salt

More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that social media are good only for posting pix of your breakfast and cute poses you catch your cat in.

Hot Air: There I Go Again

I’ve already been lectured by a fairly high-ranking member of the John Hamilton administration for being too much of a smart-ass re: the man who runs this sprawling megalopolis.

Don’t all you wise guys, the lecturer snipped, realize being mayor is a hard job? It’s so easy, this person continued — not shaking a finger but, hell, they may as well have been — to snipe and throw bombs from the outside looking in?

I went home and said four Hail Mary’s and six Acts of Contrition as penance. My soul and conscience cleansed, I silently pledged to lay off the chief executive of Bloomington. By golly, I’d make these precincts a veritable safe room for man and his serious, hardworking crew.

A few social medium posts by Hamilton’s esteemed bride — whom he’s referred to as “the First Lady,” earning him my own finger-wagging herein — about his annual Hamilton Friends & Family Picnic has tempted me to commit venial sin once again.

First, scope these pix:

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I notice the stage for the Mayor and his fellow party office seekers is the city’s semi-trailer that serves as the reviewing stand for the Fourth of July parade and other official municipal events. The picnic, additionally, was held in Bryan Park, a public space for which, presumably, such elaborate events must be reserved and paid for (when necessary).

Dear me, I’m trying my damnedest to be a good Catholic (now where did I put that winking emoticon?) but the whole deal raises a few Q’s in my wise guy mind. To wit:

  1. Is the annual picnic a public event sponsored by the city, one family’s gala celebrating all of us in Bloomington, or a political event for the purpose of touting a particular party’s candidates?
  2. Why is city property (the semi-trailer) being used for what looks to any innocent eye as a pep rally for local Dems?
  3. Did Hamilton or the Monroe County Democratic Party pay for the use of the semi-trailer?
  4. Would the semi-trailer be available for use and/or rental for, say, an Andrew Guenther Friends & Family Picnic?
  5. Who paid for the set-up, resources usage (electricity, security, etc.), clean-up costs, and any other expenses incurred during the staging of the event?
  6. If either Mayor Hamilton or the Party ponied up for said costs, why were they allowed to use an item emblazoned with the city’s name and logo, essentially bestowing a government imprimatur upon the whole thing?

And 7. Does asking these questions make me a smart ass again?

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