Category Archives: Steve Volan

Hot Air

Plastics

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. 

Benjamin Braddock: Yes, sir. 

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening? 

Benjamin: Yes, I am. 

Mr. McGuire: Plastics. 

Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

From "The Graduate"

One Word, Benjamin

And so went perhaps the most famous exchange between characters in a Mike Nichols movie — or, for that matter, any movie made in the 1960s. The Graduate shot Nichols into the Hollywood firmament in 1967. It was his second directorial effort, following some pretty good success the  year before with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

In The Graduate, he took an absolute unknown, Dustin Hoffman, who was short, whose look screamed his Jewishness, and who had a honker of monumental proportions, and turned him into the object of a bored, spectacularly gorgeous suburban housewife’s desires. “Mrs. Robinson,” he blurts to Anne Bancroft, reclining alluringly on her bed, “you’re trying to seduce me.”

“Huh?” she says, chuckling.

“Aren’t you?”

She was.

As much as The Wild Bunch, and Rebel Without a Cause in the 1950s, The Graduate defined the new, post-WWII youth generation. Youth — the word itself became almost a brand. Almost? Hah! Youth culture was sold like jeans, record albums, Pepsi, and sex — all of which which were inextricably tied in with the young.

The Graduate, when all was said and done, was about pointless, directionless rebellion. Revolution, as Abbie Hoffman once shouted, for the hell of it. Well, a mild revolution. A revolution waged from the safety of the revolutionaries’ backyards.

Adults were hypocritical, shallow, materialistic, hyper-status conscious, and, well, bad guys. The young were disaffected, alienated, and somehow aware of the over-30 generation’s sanctimonious affectations. Only they became so aware while lounging in the sunken swimming pools their parents had built for them.

Mike Nichols’ The Graduate was a work of genius. Not too surprising, considering he came from the star nursery that eventually became known as The Second City.

A bunch of then-current and former University of Chicago students and hangers-on started the Compass Players in Chi-town’s Hyde Park neighborhood in the mid-’50s. The Compass gang, including David Shepherd, Del Close, Paul Sills, Shelley Berman, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Alan Alda, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, and others, performed improvised commedia dell’arte skits at a local bar called The Compass. Nichols joined the group and met Elaine May there. The two quickly became lovers and co-performers. They formed a duo act and rocketed to fame far beyond that of the rest of the Compass people at the time. As the Compass Players morphed into The Second City in 1958, Nichols and May struck out on their own, eventually performing on Broadway together in “An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May” and winning a 1962 Grammy award for Best Comedy Album.

Nichols/May

Nichols & May

Nichols has given us so much comedy — just check out his IMDb page — that he can be forgiven for marrying former Richard Nixon speechwriter Diane Sawyer.

One more thing. The final scene of The Graduate, as much else from the movie, has become iconic. The story goes that nobody knew how the movie would end. Nichols directed Hoffman and Katherine Ross to run out of the church where Ross’s character — coincidentally (or not) named Elaine — had left her fiancé at the altar. The two were to run down the street and eventually board a city bus. They dashed to the rear of the bus and plopped down, out of breath and sweaty, she still in her wedding dress and veil. Hoffman and Ross thought the shot of them, huffing and puffing, would be a brief one and they anticipated there would be another, closing shot.

Instead, Nichols instructed his cameraman to keep shooting. Hoffman and Ross sat in the back of the bus, wondering when they’d hear the word “Cut!” It wasn’t to come for long moments. The actors, puzzled, remained half in-character and half out of it, glancing around, the bafflement beginning to cloud their faces.

Only then did Nichols yell “Cut.” The scene was perfect. Nichols knew that the couple had no idea where they were going nor what they’d do when they got there. The quizzical looks that crossed their faces conveyed it better than anything they could have ever conjured as actors.

Who’s Next

Judging by my unscientific, non-comprehesive, seat-of-the-pants survey of some of Bloomington’s most plugged-in citizens, this town’s next mayor may either be John Whikehart, former Ivy Tech-Bloomington chancellor and current deputy mayor under outgoing boss Mark Kruzan, or City Council member Darryl Neher.

This despite the fact that Whikehart is 65 years old and hasn’t made any public utterances about wanting the job.

One or two have even implied that Whikehart was brought into city government for the express purpose of succeeding Kruzan. This conspiracy theory has it that Kruzan knew he’d be getting out before being chased out, especially after the downtown parking meters hoo-ha, and wanted a trusted lieutenant to carry on after him.

Neher, on the other hand, seems a far more likely challenger for the throne.

See for yourself whose names are being bandied about:

Neher

Darryl Neher

Bloomington City Council, District. V. The smart money is on Neher to run.

Ruff

Andy Ruff

Bloomington City Council, At Large. Another great bet to run, at least acc’d’g to knowledgeable observers.

Whikehart

John Whikehart

Bloomington Deputy Mayor, former chancellor of Ivy Tech-Blooomington.

Hamilton

John Hamilton

Ran against Kruzan in the 2011 Democratic primary. A risky bet — a good authority whispered into my ear a year ago that he’s not interested in running anymore. Then again he won’t have to run against Kruzan this time. Hmm.

Yoder

Shelli Yoder

A good bet to run. She’s ambitious and, presumably, looking for a job with a higher profile than that of her current gig as 1st District representative on the Monroe County Council, the better to leapfrog into the US Congress seat she really wants.

Volan

Steve Volan

Bloomington City Council, District VI. Don’t waste your dough on this bet. Tall Steve already has gone on the record saying he won’t run.

Some half a dozen other names have been floated as well. None of them is worth mentioning here. Note no Republicans have been mentioned. This is Bloomington — duh.

Hot Air

Saying Goodbye to RE

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

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

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

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

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

RE Paris

A Young RE

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

And farewell, RE.

Mortality’s Mug

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

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

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

Empty Pocket

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

Okay, got it?

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

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

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

Williams Mug Shaving Soap

The Harbinger

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

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

Arrghh!

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

From "The Godfather: Part III"

Michael, At The End

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

Damn.

Critter Commemoration

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

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

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

Brown Memorial

Before And After

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.57.20 AM

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

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

Hot Air

The Political Asylum

Our Fox News friends and other purported inhabitants of this Earth who, in truth, live in other worlds, are mad at Barack O. because he wants companies to pay certain salaried employees for their overtime hours.

Philosopher and women of letters Elisabeth Hasselbeck (who, in her spare time, co-hosts the Fox & Friends morning gabfest) sez mandating overtime will undercut America’s work ethic. According to this titan of cerebral stuff and other defenders of the plutocracy, now peeps who hope to get ahead by “going the extra mile” will become lazy, unambitious and, well, probably Democratic, mainly because they’re going to get paid for the time they work.

Hasselbeck

Hasselbeck: Only Lazy Bums Want Paychecks

That, my babies, is today’s Republican Party in a nutshell. Robert Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, and even Tricky Dick Nixon are spinning in their graves as we speak. That’s how mad the mad, mad, mad, mad party has become.

And yet, our Dems still lose any number of elections to them.

Park It

B-town city council guy Steve Volan will be on WFIU’s Noon Edition today at, duh, noon. He’ll be perorating about the parking situ. here in our burgeoning burgh.

Marc Antony

Steve Volan

And I’m certain the genteel hosts of NE will treat him with the respect and deference a statesman of his high station truly deserves.

[Personal to Steve: As if you couldn’t have guessed by now, I’ll never stop being a smart-ass.]

Confidence Game

So the Feds have dropped the hammer on former Bloomington Public Works big shot Justin Wykoff and a couple of henchmen from Bedford for allegedly bilking the city out of 800-large.

Wykoff City ID

Busted

Acc’d’g to US Attorney Joe Hogsett, the Bedford boys submitted phony invoices for construction work and Wycoff approved them, a task he handled with great aplomb and for 33 percent of the take.

It wasn’t until a puzzled fellow Public Works employee dropped a dime on him that the first dark clouds marred Wycoff’s day. Wycoff was a project manager, which means he had a certain amount of say-so in how the city’s dough got spent. Still, you mean to tell me there was no one with the fiduciary responsibility to occasionally peek over Wycoff’s shoulder?

We’re a trusting lot here in B-town.

Twitter Twaddle

As you may or may not know, I don’t really use Twitter. Oh sure, I’ve got an account (don’t ask me how to get there) but I have it set up so it automatically puts out notifications that there’s a new post on The Pencil. Otherwise, I have no idea how many followers I have or even if some terrorist group has hijacked it and is even now devising plans to make another jet vanish.

See, Twitter serves no purpose for me at all. Not even to pimp for this blog, considering I’ve done absolutely nothing to grow my followers list. I just set my account up, well, because it seemed the right thing to do, rather like that time in the early ’90s when I grew a ponytail even though my hairline had already receded dramatically.

Anyway, I’m a strong proponent of using any tech advancement only if it serves a need I already had when said machine or service came onto the market. And I had zero need for Twitter before Twitter came out.

It never occurred to me that I needed to let a widening circle of semi-acquaintances know that the slice of sourdough bread I ate this morning gave me gas.

So, here’s a listing of ridiculous Tweets that illustrate precisely how useless the damned thing is. BTW: h/t to my old pal Jacqueline Gevercer for this. Jacqui was the chief bartender at the Matchbox (“Chicago’s most intimate bar”) back when I met the future Mrs. Loved One there. She was one of toughest dames you could imagine (Jacqui was; although T-Lo could give her a run for her dough).

From Just Something - Creative

Click Image To Read

Sample Tweet:

queue at @sainsburys salad bar for 15 mins to find they had no egg OR giant cous cous. To say this has ruined Monday would be an understatement [all sic]

Read away, with the understanding, I’d suspect, that a few of these Tweeters were aware of their own over-dramatizations. Some of them, though, seem truly distraught by their imagined ordeals.

Rainy Night In Georgia

Here’s the prettiest sad song you’ll hear today — or this year, for that matter.

Tony Joe White wrote it and it became a hit for Brook Benton in 1970. TJW has recording a couple of versions. This one is my fave. It makes feeling the blues a pleasure.

Hot Air, Cooled

The Battle of The Century

Steve Volan and I ran into each other Saturday afternoon on the mean streetcorner outside the Subway on Walnut Street.

The two us us immediately crouched in the ready-to-pounce position. I pulled out my switchblade. He picked up an empty beer bottle and broke the bottom off it. We circled each other as, from somewhere in the ether, the strains of Boy, Boy, Crazy Boy wafted over us.

Innocent bystanders recoiled and watched in silent terror. A child buried his face in his mother’s skirt. Strong men bit their lips.

Steve Volan took a tentative step toward me. I responded in kind. Then he made his big move.

“Before anything,” he said, “gimme a hug.”

We embraced.

And, like that, the battle of the young century was no more.

Yeah. Tall Steve and Big Mike are friends again. The mother held her child close and cried tears of joy. Those strong men gasped in relief.

The crisis ended, thankfully, without bloodshed.

If these contretemps swirled on without your knowledge, consider yourself fortunate. Many, many aware citizens slept fitfully Friday night, worrying about the future of our metrop. That is, if they were able to sleep at all.

Think of the damage that could be wrought by an all-out war waged between this worldwide communications colossus, The Electron Pencil, and the pride and joy of the Bloomington Common Council, the representative of District 6, the tallest statesman in local history, Steve Volan. Oh, the humanity!

Had enough of my operatic hyperbole? As of Friday night, Steve Volan, had had his fill.

I’ll admit it: I started it all.

And I’m more than happy to allow Steve to finish it. (For background see the Facebook thread that nearly blew up into a gruesome street battle; scroll down to the post that begins Steve Volan wants you….)

From Facebook

Steve posted a comment underneath the original EP post. I figure it’ll get bigger play if I reproduce it here. So, read away.

Well, I have to admit that the Pencil threw me for a loop with this post. Because for a while, I thought it was serious.

It isn’t, but quite a few people in Bloomington these days hold many of the hyperbolic opinions described…enough to make this post sound like news, when it was satire. Since the topic is so hot, I thought I’d untangle a couple of common misconceptions the Pencil’s hyperbole unintentionally alluded to.

First, the meters weren’t “the brainchild only of the mayor” et al. I’ve been advocating the return of meters to downtown for at least seven years. I say this not to brag — who wants to claim something so apparently toxic? — but so as to not leave the mayor and Public Works hanging out there by themselves. I take responsibility for being the most adamant supporter of the meters on Council, without shame. They are a necessary tool for the management of the most popular part of Bloomington.

Second, revenues from parking have never gone directly into the General Fund, but into a fund specifically for parking dollars. (During the recently completed 2014 budget process, Council approved creating a second fund: now garage dollars will go into one and meter dollars into the other.)

Is it significant that these dollars don’t go directly into the General Fund? It is…now that meter dollars will generate revenue in excess of the cost of parking operations. Use of those extra dollars for general purposes (other than strictly for parking operations) will require a vote of Council to transfer them to the General Fund.

The administration has publicly admitted that regulation was not the only goal of installing meters. Excess revenues was also a goal (just not the “sole” one, as EP said). That’s one reason why, yes, I’m planning to introduce legislation to form a Parking Commission: to give the downtown some more direct say in what those revenues will be used for. Because dollars generated downtown should stay downtown and be invested in downtown.

Another reason is to give the public a say on what meter rates should be. Should they all be $1/hr across the board all the time? I think they should vary with time of week and proximity to demand. We should want to optimize the city’s parking supply. That kind of optimization is complicated; there ought to be a body with members of the public — directly affected by such policies — dedicated to studying and thinking about how to set such rates.

If I seem touchy about all this, it’s because parking is about as touchy a subject as it gets these days. Everyone’s talking about it; on behalf of those that are touchy about it, I wanted to wade in here and clarify before things got hairy. Okay, Pencil, on with it.

So, there it is. The crisis has been relegated to the…, hey, wait a minute! Did he say I got things wrong in my original post? Why that dirty, no good…, where’s my switchblade?!

It’s A Small, Small World Hot Air

All local, all the time today.

Meters, Made

A member of the notorious Bloomington Seven had his gang’s most egregious crime against humanity on his mind yesterday.

Tall Steve Volan plopped his skyscraping frame in a chair in the WFHB lobby following his Thursday afternoon music show. He accosted innocent passersby for their feelings on how the recently installed downtown parking meters have directly affected them. (Of course, he might use the term canvassed but, y’know, he’s a politician.)

Anyway, Tall Steve is getting all voice of the people-y now. Perhaps he’s concerned about the seemingly universal negative reaction to the downtown pay-to-park move that went into effect in August. As far as I can gather, the only people happy about the new coin bandits around the Square and surrounding streets are restaurant and cafe owners who want the continuous flow of open parking spaces that meters will produce.

Deatil from photo by Ying Chen/IPM

Meter Matters

The rest of the citizenry is ready to string up Volan, Mayor Mark Kruzan, and the other city council members (the B-7) who voted for the meters.

Next, Volan wants to gather the mobs in a safe place in order to convince them he is indeed a servant of the people. He’s looking to set up one or two public forums in hopes of evoking community input on the meter mess.

The ultimate goal, Volan tells me, is to establish a parking commission here in Bloomington. He revealed there was no blue-ribbon body that pondered the philosophical, moral, and practical considerations of making shoppers dig into their pockets and purses for quarters every time they come downtown. The meters were the brainchild only of the mayor and a few Department of Public Works wonks who crunched numbers and felt a frisson when they concluded that pay parking would dump thousands of dollars a day into the general fund.

Image Delete Message

Natch, pols hate to admit money is the sole reasoning for any decisions they make, so Kruzan et al claim to want to prevent all the nouveau downtown residents from hogging parking spaces all day and night long. Volan says the idea is for residents and downtown employees all to park off-street, thereby leaving an open parking field for customers, diners, and other dignitaries.

The city, from this EP vantage point, sees all the East Coast B-students whose parents have copped them swanky condos downtown, are swell for all the dough they spill in the city but their aircraft carrier-sized SUVs take up much of the available municipal acreage.

Volan was surprised to learn that the surface lot behind the Buskirk-Chumley Theater was not packed even at the busy hour of two in the afternoon. That lot and the multi-story garage on 4th Street offer the first three hours free. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting the word out about that,” Volan said.

Buy Local

Here are three things you should spend your hard-earned cash on.

Krista Detor‘s new CD, her first in four years. Titled Flat Earth Diary, you can still catch a free sample download here. The CD is due out in January. Bloomington’s own Krista Detor is a cool dame; if you’re not yet a fan, where you been, mang?

Detor

Krista Detor

The Rise of the Warrior Cop, by Radley Balko. Former Indiana University journalism student Radley Balko has released a pressing new book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop. Balko cut his teeth as a press snoop with the Indiana Daily Student. Believe it or n. the IDS is my daily paper of choice. Balko looks into the the militarization of this holy land’s thousands of police forces.

Boston Police

Officers Friendly

Apparently, too many police chiefs and city fathers have grown up watching RoboCop-type movies and have conflated the images on the screen with real life. Do you really want your local cops to tool around city streets in fully armored vehicles and be armed with battlefield weapons?

I didn’t think so.

March (Book One), by Rep.  John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell. Lewis, a chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and one of the famed Freedom Riders, got his head broken in Selma, Alabama on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” His crime? Being one of the leaders of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Bloody Sunday

Lewis, On The Ground

Illustrator Nate Powell now lives in Bloomington. He’s famed for numerous graphic novels, including Any Empire, and is n ow working on a graphic adaptation of Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero.

The first entry in the Lewis graphic novel autobiography trilogy recounts his early days as a freedom fighter. I can’t wait for books two and three.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” — Ann Richards

THOMPSON AND KEATON

What a blast in Bloomington tonight!

British songwriter, guitarist, and all-around good guy Richard Thompson plays the Buskirk Chumley Theater at 8pm. And if you’re a film buff, hie over to the IU’s Jacobs School of Music, Auer Hall, also at 8, for a showing of Buster Keaton‘s comedy, “Spite Marriage.” John D. Schwandt will accompany the silent movie on organ.

Bloomington Tuesday Night Stars: Thompson & Keaton

By the way, the tall Thompson (he can give our own Tall Steve Volan a run for his money) came into the Book Corner yesterday. I was fairly busy at the time so I hadn’t taken notice of the celeb in my midst. Only when I ran his credit card did it occur to me that, holy smoke, it’s Richard Thompson!

I showered him with fan praise and — whaddya know? — Thompson showered the Book Corner with his own plaudits.

If you’ve got tix for his gig, you’re in for a big treat.

THE STRIKE: DAY 9

Fingers crossed that Chicago’s teachers approve the proposed deal with the school board this afternoon.

If done, classes will resume tomorrow. If not, the howling from the anti-unionists will become deafening.

Bosses: The School Board’s David Vitale & The Union’s Karen Lewis

The idea is starting to filter out that much of the teachers’ quibble stems from their rigid opposition to the trend toward privatization, not only in Chi but around the nation.

Just a reminder to those who dig privatization: we call them public schools for a reason.

NOT SILVER-TONGUED

Quick question: Is Willard Romney on the payroll of the Barack Obama reelection campaign?

I mean, the guy is running for president, sure, but if he sabotaged himself any more we’d have to grant him honorary membership in the Bluth family of “Arrested Development.”

Mitt Romney Would Fit In Nicely Between George And Lindsay Bluth

Romney washed his hands of responsibility for half the nation at a Boca Raton fundraiser in the spring. He characterized that half as tax non-payers, bums, gold-diggers, and welfare queens. Someone had sneaked a video camera in and caught him in the act.

See, that’s the way Republicans today look at the people of this holy land. The POG had better jump down off its high horse soon or else they’ll be losing a lot more races.

Anyway, Romney’s big mouth makes me think of that great quote (at the top of this column) delivered by Texan Ann Richards at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. She was referring to another patrician Republican running for president at the time, George H.W. Bush.

Somehow Richards became the Texas governor in 1991. How a plain-speaking, unabashedly liberal, feisty female could grab the reins in that antediluvian state is beyond explanation. The Pan troglodytes of Texas came to their senses four years later when they threw her out of office in favor of — oh, my aching head! — George W. Bush.

Had Ann Richards been a pol in, say Illinois, Pennsylvania, or even Nebraska, she just might have become president herself.

NEW SAN ANTONIO ROSE

Here’s a pretty good quality recording of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys‘ 1940s Texas Swing hit.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov

MIKE ELK SPEAKS

Studs Terkel, in his book “Talking To Myself: A Memoir of My Times” writes that the best reporter is the one who asks the impertinent question.

Studs Terkel

As you know, if you’ve been paying any attention at all, reporters today ask mostly gotcha questions, the kind they know the answer to already but are designed simply to embarrass the subject, or softball questions that even the editor of a high school newspaper should be embarrassed to ask.

Let’s go a step further. Linda Ellerbee once wrote that if she hadn’t made someone feel uncomfortable in her reporting for the day, she felt as though she hadn’t done her job.

Linda Ellerbee

Then, of course, early 20th Century newspaperman Finley Peter Dunne said the job of the the journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Mike Elk yesterday asked an impertinent question (actually, two), made a bunch of people feel uncomfortable, and afflicted a big shot.

Bingo! The man is a three-time winner.

Elk got up yesterday at a business/political masturbatory press event in Washington where the big boss of Honeywell International, David Cote, expected to be lavished with praise for…, um, well, for being the big boss of Honeywell.

See, Honeywell sachems were also scheduled to guide Barack Obama around by the elbow at the company’s headquarters in the appropriately named Golden Valley, Minnesota, so both the prez and the company could tell the world how wonderful they both are.

Only Mike Elk elected not to play the game. He took the audience microphone and referred to a Fortune Magazine handjob article about Honeywell and Cote, wherein the boss crowed what terrific corporate citizens he and his outfit are. Then Elk flung two impertinent questions at Cote: one about Honeywell’s union busting practices (the company’s Metropolis, Illinois, plant first locked out, then axed 1400 union workers) and the other about a possible radiation leak there. The idea being, those aren’t the acts of nice neighbors.

Well, the assembled reporters, PR flaks, pols, and execs gasped, we never!

Elk got the mic yanked out of his hand and he was given the thumb. When he protested that he was a reporter and showed his credentials, one woman’s off-screen voice can be heard saying, “That’s not a member of the press from the Hill; this is a member of the press.” Presumably, she’s pointing at some well-behaved media stenographer who’ll only ask Cote what wondrous things he and Honeywell have done lately.

Tell Me, Mr. Cote, What’s It Like To Be You?

In fact, after Elk was given the bum’s rush, another person got up and said, “One of the things I’m concerned about is, the, um, y’know, the unemployment rate for African American young people is — I don’t know whether this is true, it says 38 percent? — and, um, my son was an all-best high school….” Here, the vid ends, cutting her off in mid-interrogation, which is too bad because it seemed to be the preamble for an all-time great softball question.

The speaker clearly was telling the assembled multitude how fabulous her kid is and then probably was going to ask what Honeywell proposed to do about putting such fine young lads to work in plush corner offices ASAP. Then Cote could tell her how terrific Honeywell is at hiring African-Americans and all other people who were born with brown skin. Then everybody could have glowed and grinned, the men could arrange a circle jerk and the woman could have a group hug.

We’re fabulous!

I thank the god I don’t believe in that I never was able to fit into a corporation environment like Honeywell’s.

BTW: I love how the woman wonders if it’s true that unemployment among African-American young people could possibly be 38 percent. It introduces just the right amount of faux-skepticism about a real problem that could just as easily have been described as “the historically persistent high levels of joblessness among young blacks.”

Man, the corporate world demands an unconscionable amount of toadiness — not only from its paid minions but from the public at large.

Be thankful Mike Elk is not a toady.

On the other hand, Elk never got answers to his questions and most of the mainstream news yesterday was about the Obama tour of the Honeywell plant. So score one for the corporatocracy versus the impertinent journalist.

LEO’S BLOOMINGTON (OR IS IT BLOOMINGTON’S LEO?)

Leo D. Cook ought to be granted the title of Mr. Bloomington here and now.

Wouldn’t he be perfect as the local radio or TV host who interviews all the fascinating characters who live in and pass through this bustling metrop?

The Definitive Leo D. Cook Photoshopped Photo

He could tell stories, draw the people out, and otherwise create a weekly hour’s worth of whacked-out chat. Can you imagine a show with the guests Steve Volan, Jeremy Gotwals, and, say, Lynda Barry, who’s in town for this coming week’s IU Writers Conference?

People In Our Listening Area Are Advised To Take Cover

That conversation might be declared a hazardous incident site by FEMA. Or it could be great radio.

Anyway, Leo’s long-range plan to attain celebrity takes another step forward this coming week with the commencement of “Bloomington’s Got Talent,” a weekly talent (duh) show at The Bluebird. The thing will run every Tuesday night through the summer. Leo will emcee.

Registration begins at 9:30pm with the first acts going onstage at 10.

TURN OFF YOUR TV — GO OUT

Lots to do this weekend. Luckily, you’ve got the Pencil’s GO! events listings. Click the logo. Follow instructions.

SUMMER SOFT

It’s June. The blazing days are coming. But it’s perfect out right now.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.” — Aldous Huxley

SINE QUA NON

No matter how spineless, ridiculous, fatuous, self-sabotaging, flip-flopping, pompous, pretentious, condescending, naively idealistic, or downright batty my Democrats are, we have nobody on our side — repeat, absolutely nobody — as mad as Donald Trump.

Let me reiterate: Nobody.

(BTW: I want my props for using the term reiterate properly — I had repeated the word nobody once already, which was an iteration, then I used it a third time. Ergo reiterate. Thank you.)

CUT HIM IN HALF AND COUNT HIS RINGS

Speaking of Democrats, today is Bloomington City Council member Steve Volan‘s birthday.

No word yet on whether ice cream and cake will be served at City Hall.

Birthday Boy

(Just in case anybody gets the wrong idea: Tall Steve is not spineless nor is he ridiculous, fatuous, self-sabotaging, flip-flopping, pompous, pretentious, or downright batty. Sadly, this means he has no future in state or national party affairs.)

ASSES

Without Cracked.com I don’t know how I could survive in this crazy, mixed-up world.

The comedy website this week linked to a site that is pure genius. It aggregates FB posts, Tweets and other social media ejaculations, all of which have in common some variation on the caveat, “I’m not racist, but….

Here’s an example:

Or how about this?

Homo Sapiens sapiens is billed as the Earth’s most intelligent species but, honestly, even Equus africanus asinus is disgusted with us.

“Jesus, You People Are Idiots.”

REAL AMERICANS

We Democrats are fortunate to have as “The Others” a gang as wacky as the Tea Party.

We make fun of Tea Party-ists dressed up as colonial rebels. We dig pointing out the risible hypocrisies in their rants.

Tea Party Party

When they call themselves true Americans we even go so far as to say that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Ho-o-o-o-old on there, paisanos.  A closer look at the origins and execution of the what the history books refer to as the  Tea Party reveals that the 21st Century apers are as American as, well, pizza or even chop suey.

(Side note: I grew up thinking that chop suey was the definitive Chinese food. It wasn’t, of course, but such was the extent of our ethnic and cultural understanding in those days. Does anybody even order chop suey anywhere anymore?)

Anyway, here’s the dope on the Tea Party, Part I.

There wasn’t just a Boston Tea Party; there were a minimum of five, all of which took place relatively simultaneously. Tea Parties also broke out in the harbors of New York City, Greenwich, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Annapolis, Maryland.

Between smokes in the teacher’s lounge, your seventh-grade history teacher told you angry patriots dumped tea in Boston harbor because those mean old Englishmen were proposing to tax the bejesus out of it. Those Englishmen, her story went, loved taxing us and not allowing us representation in their hall of flatulence otherwise known as Parliament. Ergo, we started a Revolutionary War to fix their asses.

The Teachers Lounge At My Elementary School

Like the story of chop suey (and chop suey itself) — it’s full of shit.

The tax on tea actually was imposed on The British East India Company, a multi-national outfit headquartered in jolly old. BEIC raised its prices accordingly for everybody it shipped the leaves to, including colonists and Englishmen alike.

As for the tea trade in the New World, BEIC was the sole approved dealer of the stuff. When that company raised its prices, a lot of colonists, including many surprising names, cranked up a black market, importing tea illegally from places like the Netherlands.

Suddenly, BEIC found itself stuck with tons of tea it couldn’t sell in the colonies. So the company slashed its prices to compete with the black market.

Our patriotic forebears became quite huffy about this turn of events. They didn’t like an enormous British corporation trying to muscle in on a market they’d created for themselves here.

In fact, no one was more put out about it than the guys who ran the black market import operations. In other words, businessmen. As opposed to patriots who spent their free time mulling over history and philosophy and the rights of man and so forth.

In the case of the Boston version of the Party, big shots like Sam Adams and Benjamin Edes whipped up crowds with fiery rhetoric and filled dozens of tough guys with high-proof rum as three BEIC ships sat in the harbor ready to unload their cargo.

Instead, Edes’ gangs of drunken men boarded the ships and for three hours dumped the tea into the drink. The task might have been accomplished in less time but many of the raiders (dressed as Indians — what is it about Tea Parties and the wearing of Hallowe’en costumes?) began puking their guts out from the cheap rum they’d been drinking and had to be carried away.

The English closed down Boston harbor as punishment. One thing led to another, war was declared, the plucky Americans won, and now we’re free to listen to the Lady Gaga CD of our choice.

So, the original Tea Party was nothing like the grass-roots uprising we’ve been led to believe. It was manipulated, financed, and directed by big business. Precisely as the Koch Brothers and the Mellon Empire are propping up the modern Tea Party.

Americans all.

WASH YOUR FACE. BRUSH YOUR TEETH. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.

Today’s events listings. Click the logo, then GO!

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, color, class, or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful.” — Margaret Mead

THE PENCIL IS THE CUTTING EDGE

Being a long-time alt-journalist, I love it when I can beat the pants off big media.

A month ago I put up a K-pop video featuring a bunch of young zombies called 2NE1. “K-pop,” I wrote, “is evil.

The music phenomenon from South Korea glorifies showy materialism, its voices are auto-tuned and pitch corrected until they no longer even seem human, and the blatant sexuality of the obviously underaged performers is creepy.

K-pop is soft-core child porn with a cheap, artificial soundtrack.

Typical K-pop Girl Group

Now, Al Jazeera English has produced a 25-minute documentary on the craze from South Korea.

Young kids, the doc reveals, are being exploited by “South Korea’s unique idol-grooming system” to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for slave-driving impresarios. The hours and physical demands on the kids are nearly unbearable. The training regimen for the genre’s manufactured stars stresses conformity. Potential K-pop idols’ lives are controlled even down to what they eat. The girls are forbidden to have boyfriends.

Kids who sign up for K-pop star training often even have to cut off contact with family and friends. One such star confesses, “I want to meet my family. I want to spend time with them. I want to talk. I want to have dinner with my family. I want to hug my mom. I want to say, ‘Oh Mom, I love you.’ I miss them so much.”

Sounds more like a religious cult than a creative art to me.

The rage for K-pop is being used as a PR tool to goose the South Korean consumer and service industries. Plastic surgeons, for instance, are making gobs of dough slicing up patients’ faces so they can resemble stars.

Yep, I was right. K-pop is evil.

Remember, you heard it here first.

KID STUFF

Despite a mini-rash of “big-city crimes” a couple of months ago, Bloomington still is, at heart, a small town.

Want proof? Here are the top two entries in the Herald Times’ Police Beat column yesterday:

  • A 19-year-old kid, apparently drunk. left the Steak ‘n Shake on College Mall Road early Thursday morning without paying for his meal. The entry notes that the kid actually returned to the restaurant.
  • A 14-year-old schoolboy showed a bag of pot to another kid at Tri-North Middle School.

So don’t fret too much about our town going straight to hell.

Plato: “What is happening to our young people?” (4th Century BCE)

HOW CLOSE IS TOO CLOSE?

Speaking of journalism, its relationship to politicians comes under the scope in this month’s Vanity Fair. Writer Suzanna Andrews profiles Rebekah Brooks, the disgraced former editor and biz bigshot within Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire.

Brooks

Brooks was brought down along with a few other co-conspirators in the News of the World phone hacking scandal last summer.

She’d weaseled herself into the good graces of Murdoch, the big boss himself, by employing a deadly combination of striking looks, sheer charisma, ambition, obsequiousness, craven opportunism, and a pinpoint targeting of rivals.

A scant 20 years after hiring on as a secretary within the Murdoch mob, Brooks had risen to the top. She became editor of News of the World at the tender age of 31, editor of The Sun three years later, and CEO of News International six years after that.

In addition to cozying up to Murdoch, Brooks worked her magic on the UK’s biggest pols, including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and David Cameron.

Love, David

In fact, Brown and Cameron and their wives attended her 2009 wedding. Andrews claimed that Cameron signed letters to her, “Love, David.”

My hair stood on end as I read all this (Well, at least the hair on my arms did; my scalp has been unencumbered for many years now.) Journalists, I pontificated to myself, should keep a healthy distance from the subjects they cover.

What would Brooks’ take be, for instance, if Blair or Brown were embroiled in a scandal? Would she go soft on them, even subconsciously?

I remember learning that NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell was going to marry grotesque sauropod Alan Greenspan even while he was still Chairman of the Fed.

That, I concluded at the time, was somewhat akin to incest.

So, I’m pure, right?

Not so fast.

It occurs to me I’m on friendly terms with the likes of Pat Murphy, Susan Sandberg, Regina Moore, and Steve Volan, among other government pay-drawers and decision makers. Am I too friendly with any of them?

Too Friendly?

Earlier this month I called for Amy Gerstman, the Monroe County Auditor, to resign immediately for her actions in the credit card scandal.

From all I hear, Gerstman is a kind and sweet soul who is honest at her core, albeit less than alive to the appearance of the county’s checkbook watchdog using the county’s credit at Kroger.

But what if she and I were big pals? Would I have the stones to demand her ouster?

What if Susan Sandberg had been caught using city-issued credit cards for personal use?

Could I call for her head?

I don’t know.

All I know is, I’m glad I don’t plan on getting married again so I won’t have to decide whether I should invite any of my public official acquaintances to the reception.

DIANE’S DEATH A SHOCK

Just spoke with a colleague of IU law professor Earl Singleton. This colleague attended last night’s visitation for Singleton’s late wife Diane.

According to the colleague, Diane’s death — and the puzzling circumstances surrounding it — came as a complete surprise to Earl and the couple’s two kids.

“I can’t imagine a more uncomplicated and steady family,” this colleague said.

BLOOMINGTON’S WATER SHEIK

The Boys of Soma gathered for Day One of their regular weekend confab this morning.

Tough Guy Pat, the Caliph of Clean Water, came in for a ruthless ribbing in the wake of today’s Herald Times story revealing the 2012 salaries of our town’s elected and appointed officials. He has reeled in the pro-forma 1.5 percent raise for non-union city employees.

Another one of the Boys, who’s also listed in the H-T salary database, observed that the Caliph’s salary bump was like giving Mitt Romney a 1.5 hike.

Tough Guy Pat merely laughed as he lit his cigar with a crisp fifty.

Loaded

SHE’S NOT THERE

One of the greatest pop songs of all time, performed by The Zombies. Listen for the complicated harmony and the insistent building of volume and adding of instrumentation up to the final crescendo.

Now, don’t ask me why the You Tube OP chose to pair the song with footage from “The Outer Limits.” No matter, I love both the tune and the show. As a nine-year-old I recall waiting all week for “The Outer Limits” to come on. And more often than not, I’d be driven to dash out of the living room in terror at the sight of certain monsters on the program, only to tip-toe my way back in within moments.

As always, enjoy.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“All personal belongings, tents and possessions must be removed from People’s Park on or before noon on Thursday, January 5, 2012.” — Mayor Mark Kruzan’s order, posted at 6:30pm, Wednesday, January 4, 2012

SHOWDOWN

Well, that’s that. Maybe.

Mayor Mark Kruzan has given the bum’s rush to the Occupy protesters at People’s Park.

They had until noon today to clear out. Cops posted eviction notices on lamp posts last night at about 6:3o. That triggered  a rush to City Hall where the City Council was gathering for its regularly scheduled meeting. Occupiers packed the chambers to express their displeasure. A few of them vowed to resist the ouster.

Occupiers At Last Night’s City Council Meeting (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/Herald Times)

City Council member Steve Volan told the Herald Times he wished the mayor had provided more notice not only to him and his colleagues but to the Occupiers.

My guess was there’d be at least a bit of trouble.

So, I packed up my digital camera and my pocket voice recorder and went to People’s Park a little bit after 11:00 this morning. Here’s what I saw and heard:

The big M*A*S*H-style tent is already gone, as are several of the other, smaller tents. People are busy gathering gear up and trundling stuff to nearby cars. Several sweep up half a winter’s worth of salt and pebbles from the decorative masonry walk.

A guy stands up on a bench and starts howling about the death of somebody or something. Immediately, six or more voices rise to drown him out. An older looking dude barks, “Hey ____! Fuck you!”

One young woman wielding a broom tries to calm everyone down. “Keep your dignity,” she says, almost mantra-like as she swept.

I ask another young woman why people are on the guy. “I don’t want to make any judgments about people,” she says, but she pauses, making sure I know she’s judging the fellow. Another guy who overhears my question comes up and angrily explains: “That’s _____. He’s sexually assaulted two people in this city.”

The young woman nods in confirmation. The guy on the bench will continue to circulate through the crowd for at least the next hour and a half, challenging the Occupiers to take up the cause of the dead man. And each time, voices will be raised to drown him out.

A couple of people begin the human megaphone trick wherein they loudly proclaim an announcement which will be echoed by the crowd.

“Mike check…,” the two say.

“Mike check…,” the crowd repeats.

“It’s 40 minutes until noon…,”

“It’s 40 minutes until noon…,”

“There’s still stuff…,”

“There’s still stuff…,”

“To be picked up.”

“To be picked up.”

Already the number of reporters and photographers on hand approaches that of the Occupiers. Ryan Dawes from the WFHB News Department whacks me on the shoulder. We agree to double-team for interviews.

He corrals a thirtyish woman who appears authoritative. She is Nicole Johnson, wife of Josh Johnson, one of the three Occupiers who was arrested on New Year’s Eve.

Nicole Johnson

“We asked for an extension from the mayor,” she says. “We did that last night. We had less than 18 hours to pick everything up. Our lawyer was there (at the Council meeting) because we knew stuff was going down but we just didn’t know what. So, the (Occupiers at Council meeting) consesused to ask for an extension. We didn’t know what we needed to be doing but we knew we needed more than 18 hours.

“It was a little unfair. We’ve been here for almost three months. To be gone in less than 18 hours is a little harsh.”

The eviction notices state that any tents or personal belongings left in the park after the noon deadline will be seized.

“We have a large constituency of homeless that live in the park,” Nicole says. “These tents here are tents that people have been living in. They have no place else to go.”

Nicole estimates some 20 homeless people have been sharing quarters with the Occupiers. She says some of the homeless have substance abuse issues which preclude them from being admitted to more traditional overnight shelters.

“We don’t even have detox in Bloomington,” she says. “And that is one of the things we’ve been doing here, a part of what we were doing anyway, and that is social services. There’ve been many times where we’ve had to bring individuals to the hospital because of alcohol poisoning, of the homeless. They would return to the park four hours later in full DTs. We would have to put them in the bed and watch them.”

I ask why the Occupiers did that for the homeless. As Nicole begins to answers she breaks down crying.

“Because they’re human! And you know, that’s one of the beautiful things that’s happened in this park.”

Nicole composes herself and then explains the decision-making process that these Occupiers had adopted. Everyone’s voice is heard, she says, all options and opinions are weighed. When people strongly disagrees with the consensus, they are welcome not to have to participate in that particular course of action.

“There is no forum like that,” she says. “There is no forum with that equality in our current government structure. That’s what we’ve been doing in the park.”

Ryan asks her how many Occupiers will remain in the park after the eviction deadline.

“We are staying in the park until eleven o’clock tonight (the usual park closing time).”

She then talks about how today’s activity — the tent breakdown, the cleaning up, the leaving — happened almost spontaneously. Then she points out a couple of tents in the far corner of the park, against the Bicycle Garage building. “I don’t know why people are setting tents up there,” she says. “I don’t know why people are meditating on top of the big bunk bed frames we built.”

Indeed, three young women are sitting cross-legged in the sunshine, their eyes closed, amid the activity. “So I don’t know what anybody’s planning to do at eleven when you’re supposed to be out of the park.”

She says her husband is at work at this hour. He’s to be arraigned tomorrow in Monroe County Court. She says the Herald Times has reported that the county prosecutor will charge him with two counts of felony resisting arrest with bodily harm to a police officer. She tells us to check out the You Tube footage of Josh Johnson’s arrest.

[The loudest voice in the video seems to be that of Nicole.]

Now she tells us that she and her three children stayed overnight at People’s Park when the weather was warmer but soon temperatures had become too harsh for them.

“This has been an amazing transformational period in my life,” she says. “This is really just the beginning.”

It doesn’t look like much of a beginning, though. People are still tearing down homemade structures and cleaning up after themselves. By now the number of reporters and photographers at least equals the number of Occupiers.

The human megaphone sounds again.

“Mike check…,”

“Mike check…,”

“We got two minutes…,”

“We got two minutes…,”

But that revelation instantly becomes a spontaneous song. Occupiers sing “We got two minutes” again and again.

Noon comes and no police officers or city workers are to be seen.

At five minutes past noon, a man winds his way through the crowd, sarcastically crowing, “What happens if there’s no violence?” He repeats the question, loudly in the direction of any journalists who, in truth, are in all directions here.

“What if there isn’t a fight?” he continues. “What happens? Then there’s no story! Then what are you gonna do?”

Moments later an Indiana University garbage truck pulls up to the corner at Dunn Street and Kirkwood. There’s a hush and then the human megaphone kicks on.

“Mike check…,”

“Mike check…,”

“It looks like…,” the leader says, her voice trailing off as she points at the truck. Now the truck pulls away. It had only been stopping for the stop sign.

“It looks like…, just a truck,” she announces.

A passing pedestrian walks up to the three young woman meditating on the bunk bed structure. He asks, “There’s still no leader here?”

“No,” one of the women says, “there will never be a leader here.”

At 12:20pm, I leave.

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