Category Archives: Robert Frost

The Pencil Today:


“A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” — Robert Frost


Reading “The Age of Reagan” by Sean Wilentz right now.

You know, we think we live in such a divisive time but today’s “culture wars” are next to nothing compared to the strife of 30 and 40 years ago.

Think back to 1977 when Anita Bryant temporarily re-emerged from a well-deserved anonymity by anointing herself the spokesnag for the anti-gay movement. How would we react now if some d-lister started bleating lines like this: “As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children”?

Or equated  gay rights with rights for people who like to sleep with St. Bernards.

Anybody reckless enough to say such stupid things would feel compelled to backstep and and issue mea culpas for weeks afterward.

But 35 years ago, Bryant’s barking helped galvanize and energize a far-right movement that eventually took over many of this holy land’s legislative bodies and largely dominates public discourse. The Rev. Jerry Falwell, a previously marginalized segregationist preacher, threw his lot in with her and the next thing we all knew, his Moral Majority was instrumental in getting Ronald Reagan elected president.

At about the same time, the Constitutional amendment calling for equal rights for women was going down to defeat, thanks to those usual suspects, professional gargoyle Phyllis Schlafly, and others.

Phyllis Schlafly

Can you imagine anyone stepping up to a podium and announcing that women do not deserve the full protection of the United States Constitution today?

At least the Tories and antediluvians of our time have the good sense to speak in codes or couch their regressive ideas in moralistic platitudes.

I suppose that’s progress.


I’m a proud and outspoken liberal and progressive, although I’m not a fanatic about things.

For instance, those on my side of the fence, by and large, are up in arms over GMOs.

Genetically Modified Organisms are understood to be new strains of flora and fauna that have been cooked up in laboratories. Chief among the GMO peddlers of the world is Monsanto Company, the reviled St. Louis-based multinational agri-business monolith.

Since Monsanto is Satan incarnate to most of my philosophical brethren and sisteren, anything that outfit puts out must be evil, evil, evil.

Ergo, GMOs are poisons more harmful than arsenic — which, by the way, can be found naturally in trace amounts in pretty much any soil sample gathered on this Earth.

Anyway, humans have been jiggering with genes in their crops ever since the first person threw a seed in the dirt and discovered a plant would result. Take the organic corn you bought this summer at Bloomingfoods or Whole Foods Market. The big old ears that we take for granted in this 21st Century never existed before humans began cross-breeding maize species — in other words, creating primitive GMOs.


I bring this up because it occurred to me the other day that the argument my side uses for global warming — a concept I fully subscribe to — is that the vast majority of the world’s climatologists say human-caused climate change is real. In other words, scientists say it’s so. Fair enough.

But when it comes to GMOs, the vast majority of the world’s agricultural biotech scientists seem to agree they’re safe.

In fact, the two ratios are pretty much the same.

So, expert consensus is good enough to buy into global warming but to hell with it when it comes to GMOs. Sometimes my side can be as dopey as the other side. Well, almost.

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

CLASS ◗ Dagom Gaden Tensung Ling MonasteryIntroductory course on Buddhism; 10-11am

STUDIO TOUR ◗ Brown County, various locationsThe Backroads of Brown County Studio Tour, free, self-guided tour of 16 local artists’ & craftspersons’ studios; 10am-5pm, through October

HALLOWE’EN ◗ Lake Monroe, Paynetown SRAGhostly Gathering, party, campsite decorating contest, trick or treat, costume contest, “ghost” hunt; Saturday through Sunday at 5pm

FEST ◗ Bloomington Community OrchardCider Fest; 11am

MUSIC ◗ Cafe DjangoBrunch Show: Sam Hoffman; 11pm

HALLOWE’EN ◗ Haunted Hayride and StablesFriendly hayrides; 1-7pm

MUSIC IU Musical Arts Center, Recital HallStudent Recital: Mark Davies, baritone; 1pm

FEST ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesHalloween Family Fun Fest: Day of the Dead; 2-4pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer Hall — Master’s Recital: JunYi Chow, composition; 2pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallSundays in Auer Hall Series: Faculty/Student Chamber Music Recital, Pacifica & Kuttner Quartets, Atar Varad on viola, Jacob Wunsch on cello, Evelyen Brancart on piano; 4pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleDavid Sisson; 5-7pm

MUSIC ◗ St. Thomas Lutheran ChurchIU Organ Department Pipes Spooktacular; 6-7:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlaceMisty Stevens, Old Truck Revival, Avacado Chic, Homebrew Holler; 6-8pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Auer HallMaster’s Recital: Christine Buras, soprano; 6pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s PubAndra Faye & Scott Ballantine; 6pm

FILM ◗ IU Cinema — “Anjos do Sol (Angels of the Sun)“; 6:30pm

BENEFIT ◗ Buskirk Chumley TheaterEarthquake Relief Concert For Tabriz Region of Iran, Presented by North American Humanitarian Relief Project & Trained Eye Arts; 7pm

MUSIC ◗ The BishopHusband & Wife, Jared Bartman, Dastardly; 7pm

PERFORMANCE ◗ Rachael’s CafeThe Projection, Don’t Call It a Comeback, Lawnmower; 7:30-10pmpm

MUSIC ◗ First United Methodist ChurchIU Voice Faculty Cabaret; 7:30pm

POLITICS & COMEDY ◗ IU AuditoriumBill Maher; 8pm


ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “New Acquisitions,” David Hockney; through October 21st
  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Threads of Love: Baby Carriers from China’s Minority Nationalities“; through December 23rd
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st
  • Embracing Nature,” by Barry Gealt; through December 23rd
  • Pioneers & Exiles: German Expressionism,” through December 23rd

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • Ab-Fab — Extreme Quilting,” by Sandy Hill; October 5th through October 27th
  • Street View — Bloomington Scenes,” by Tom Rhea; October 5th through October 27th
  • From the Heartwoods,” by James Alexander Thom; October 5th through October 27th
  • The Spaces in Between,” by Ellen Starr Lyon; October 5th through October 27th

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibit:

  • Buzz Spector: Off the Shelf; through November 16th
  • Small Is Big; Through November 16th

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners;” through December 20th
  • Gender Expressions;” through December 20th

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibit:

  • “CUBAmistad” photos

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit:

  • Outsiders and Others: Arkham House, Weird Fiction, and the Legacy of HP Lovecraft;” through November 1st
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections from the Slocum Puzzle Collection

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Soup’s OnExhibit:

  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Culture: “CUBAmistad photos; through October

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • Bloomington: Then and Now,” presented by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibits:

  • Doctors & Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical Professions
  • What Is Your Quilting Story?
  • Garden Glamour: Floral Fashion Frenzy
  • Bloomington Then & Now
  • World War II Uniforms
  • Limestone Industry in Monroe County

The Ryder & The Electron Pencil. All Bloomington. All the time.

The Pencil Today:


“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” — Robert Frost


The first student from the Maurer School of Law came into the Book Corner with a flyer at about noon.

I looked at the photo of the missing woman and wondered why people would be worried. The flyer indicated she’d been missing for only a few short hours.

Missing At Noon

Another Maurer student came in with flyers at about 4:00pm. I told her someone had been in already. Then I asked her, “What’s the deal here? This woman has only been gone since this morning. How can you call her missing? Hell, I’ve been out of the house since this morning and I’m not missing.”

The student had the lawyer’s poker face down already. She mumbled a few things that I didn’t quite catch and then she shifted gears. The woman, she said, now speaking clearly, was the wife of a well-liked professor.

“Come on, now,” I pressed. “What’s going on?”

The student took a few steps back, toward the door. “It’s really…,” she started. “I can’t….”

I filled in the blanks. “Is it a medical issue?”

She seemed relieved, as if by guessing correctly, I’d taken her off the hook. “I’m sure you understand,” she said, “there are privacy issues here.”

“Hmm,” I said.

I’d left the flyer the first student had brought in on a book cart. In the hours since she’d come in, that flyer’d been buried and reburied by dozens of books.

By 6:00, when I was locking the door and The Loved One was waiting for me with her flashers on outside of Williams Jewelry, I’d forgotten the flyer completely.

We drove home in silence. It’d been a tiring day for both of us. The Loved One turned right off 3rd Street onto SR 446. The sign at the Bruster’s still advised ice cream junkies to visit its downtown location during the winter, but I had my window cracked. It’s been a weird January.

Then we saw the flashing lights. Dozens of the them. Black and white squad cars, fire trucks, ambulances, unmarked police cruisers, they all formed a clot around the entrance to the new housing development that used to be a horse pasture.

The street has been laid, the utility vaults installed, and safety capped power cables poke out of the ground like plastic crocuses, but not one house has been built yet. None has even been started. Some recovery.

“Uh oh,” The Loved One said, “looks like a bad accident.”

Emergency vehicles were parked well into the new road. Some police cars were parked on the fresh sod.

“Well, what are they doing inside the development?” I said.

Then it hit me.

“Aw shit,” I said. “What if it’s that woman?”

“What woman?” The Loved One asked.

As we drove slowly past the scene, I told her about the students and their flyers. “We’ll find out soon enough,” The Loved One said, her voice indicating I shouldn’t let my imagination get the better of me.

“Well, I’m gonna go there and find out,” I said.

“You do that,” she said.

She pulled into our driveway and I jumped out of the car, grabbing the flashlight from the glovebox. The scene was no more than a couple of hundred yards away from our back porch, just over a rise that obscured the flashing lights until I hit its crest.

I saw a group of firefighters milling around an ambulance. Firefighters, I’d learned long ago in Chicago, usually are good sources of initial information at an emergency scene. They’re not as tight-lipped as the cops, as a rule.

“Pardon me, guys. What happened? Was there an accident?” I asked.

They all looked at each other. Finally, one guy spoke up. “No,” he said.

We stared at each other and simultaneously shifted on our feet. I tried again. “Okay. What happened?”

Another uncomfortable silence. After a long moment, the guy responded. “Somebody,” he said, “was injured.”

His pals all averted their eyes.

I knew I wasn’t going to get anything more out of them.

So I loitered a bit. A heavy duty tow truck came by and positioned itself to pull one of the squad cars out of a ditch. Judging by the ruts in the sod, it looked as though the driver had zoomed off 446 and gotten stuck. Maybe, I thought, it was a chase. Maybe another bank robbery. Maybe there was even gunfire.

Suddenly, I was nine years old again. I thought: Jeez, I’m a grown man and here I am getting excited over a police gunfight. I scolded myself: People get hurt in gunfights, my internal voice said. They even get killed.

The tow truck slowly began to tug the squad car out of the ditch, the driver hoping, I supposed, not to rip apart its undercarriage in the process.

A couple of cops ambled over to their cruiser. Things seemed to be winding down. I ran over to them before they could get in.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m a neighbor. Anything we should be worried about here?”

“No,” one of the cops said. Again, there was an uncomfortable silence.

“Well, what happened?”

He looked at his partner. His partner shrugged. The cop looked back at me. “They found somebody down by the creek.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” I said. And it hit me again. “Aw man,” I said, “was it that missing woman?”

The cop nodded.

“Is she gonna be alright?”

He stared at me, meaningfully. I caught on.

“Is she dead?”

“I’ll let you come to your own conclusion about that,” he said.

And then the two cops drove off.

I thought about those students as I walked back home. I thought about the professor, too. The woman’s husband. Right now, I thought, there’s a person in this town who’s likely suffering through the worst moment of his life.

I didn’t feel so tired anymore. And I remembered that flyer. I never did put it up.