Category Archives: The Nutty Professor

Hot Air

Urban Renewal In Bloomington

How can you not love the work that Derek Richey and Jennifer Sommer-Richey do over at Bloomington Fading? Here’s the latest vid they’ve put out, chronicling the demise and renaissance of downtown Bloomington from 1950 through the ’70s. Check it out:

It’s important to note that the federal government programs collectively known as “Urban Renewal” were the result of politicians and bureaucrats together developing plans to ease the suffering of poor people in this holy land. But, as happens far too often, when politicians and bureaucrats begin working with money men, the best of intentions go awry.

Make sure to visit Derek and Jennifer on Facebook and at their website.

Rubbing Salt In Their Wounds

Here’s hoping the struggles with family health issues and America’s far-from-perfect health care system don’t take too much of a toll on the Sandberg clan. Bloomington city council member Susan Sandberg long has been an advocate for streamlined, equitable, efficient health care. Now she and her kin must leap the hurdles the for-profit health rackets have erected before them.


Sandberg & County Prosecutor Chris Gaal At The Monroe County Fair

Good luck, Sandbergs, and hang in there!

What’s Different About America?

My pal the Big Shot Lawyer (who shall remain nameless lest he sue the pants off me for some reason or another) joins me regularly at The Pencil’s back office, aka Soma Coffee. We talk mainly about The Law, which is something — we both agree — that exists more in theory then actual practice.

Honestly, the law students who hang at the java joint ought to close their textbooks and put an ear in on our conversations. They’d learn a thing or two that might help them as they go out into that great professional world to rid clients of any spare cash they might have laying around.

And, the truth is, it’s not technically the conversation that’d educate them — my contributions are drips in an ocean compared to what the Big Shot Lawyer adds.

Anyway, now and again BSL and I veer off into talk about Bloomington, the Hoosier State, this holy land, and even the world at large. Health care, for instance, came up on Wednesday. The question arose, Why is health care so easily and efficiently meted out in places like, say, Sweden?

Crack barrister that he is, BSL went right to the heart of the issue. “Everybody’s the same in Sweden,” he said. “They all look alike, sound alike. So when someone says they need help, everybody’s willing to pitch in because, you know, “Hey, he’s just like me!”



As opposed to here in Murrica, where people of countless colors, speaking scads of languages, listening to tons of weird music, eating all sorts of exotic poisons including garlic and cumin, and worshipping all the wrong gods hold out their hats and say, “Can you help me out?”

To which the majority of us respond, “What? Using my tax money? Help you out when you don’t even realize who the one and only true god is and, almost worse, you eat garlic? Hell no!”

It’s the classic case of The Other. Murrica is chock-full of Others. It’s what made us great but, ironically, it’s what keeps us all at arms’ length in these divisive times.

Mood Is Wrong, Mood Is Wrong!

Yeah, I’ve been a downer the last few days, what with the dramatic tumbling of this great nation into the 13th Century, thanks to the spanking the Democrats got from the Republicans Tuesday. So let’s go all light and breezy for a bit, shall we?

How about this ditty from the summer of 1969, the first big AM radio hit for Crosby, Stills & Nash? Groove, babies!

BTW: The hed for this entry is a reference to Jerry Lewis’s Buddy Love taking a seat at the Purple Pit piano in the original The Nutty Professor.

The Pencil Today:


“So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all the questions for the time being.” — Franz Kafka


I was just wondering how long our food fetishist mania will last.

Oh, I’m not talking about the move toward more natural and locally-produced foods and homemade meals. We all agree it’s better to eat a nice bowl of stir-fried vegetables and brown rice than it is to scarf a Whopper, Coke, and fries.

A Double Whopper With Cheese

I make a banana bread that’s twice as tasty as a Sara Lee cake. My oatmeal cookies and Italian butter cookies make Oreos taste like so many plastic lids.

Sure, it’s a big investment of time and labor to eat well and right but we have to be creative about the whole deal. For instance, I try to cook two or three dishes every Sunday afternoon, making enough to last the rest of the week. Once a month I make a huge batch of spaghetti sauce, freezing it in four separate containers and then using one a week for my rigatoni fix.

My Heroin

A frozen pizza takes 25 minutes or so before you can dig in. My homemade pizza takes about three hours, including the time it takes to make the dough and let it rise. But man, when I eat it I know I’m doing better than Tombstone (which, by the way isn’t at all bad tasting.)

When I make my own pizza, I control the amount of cheese I put on it. I throw on good green things like spinach. I cut down on the salt and add more garlic powder to the sauce to make up for it. I use whole wheat flour. It’s a flat out better food than something I grab from the freezer.

Nobody can argue that making your own meals, using wholesome ingredients, and minimizing the use of white sugars and white flours isn’t smarter than the alternative.

Brown Is Better

But I can find a lot to argue about with the people who are obsessed with food. The Starbucks switch from using cochineal as a food coloring is a case in point.

The coffee chain has been using cochineal to make its some of its drinks and food look red for years. Cochineal is South American and Mexican bug whose shell weight is nearly 25 percent carminic acid. People have been using carminic acid extract mixed with elemental salts to produce a red dye for 500 years.

Carminic Acid-Covered Cactus

In fact, the sainted Mayas and Aztecs revered the insect and its dye so much they often used them as currency and tribute. I call the two peoples sainted because so many folks today speak in reverent terms about them, as if anything and everything they did was superior to our venal, corrupt, tyrannical society.

Some of those folks, no doubt, jumped on the viral bandwagon that made Starbucks stop using cochineal.

It’s ironic because cochineal is a natural food product. And I was under the impression that we were trying to get more natural in our grub. (This despite the fact that things like arsenic are as natural as, oh, quinoa, a South American grain popular with the Bloomingfoods and Whole Foods Market crowds.)

Mango-Quinoa Salad

So thousands of people got online and shrieked at Starbucks to stop using cochineal. Why, I don’t know. One theory has it that vegans are repulsed by the use of the once-living critter product.

Now that’s ironic because I can’t picture many vegans having a jones for Starbucks’ Strawberries & Cream Frappucino, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Raspberry Swirl Birthday Cake Pop (what the hell ever that is), Mini-Donut with pink icing, and the Red Velvet Whoopie Pie. These are the only products Starbucks dumps cochineal into. My understanding is that vegans want only the purest, non-animal foods in their bodies, not products whose names sound like sex toys or Cracker Jack prizes.

The Red Velvet Whoopie Pie? figures the whole thing is the result of the “Ugh, gross!” reaction.

“Our distaste at the thought of ingesting bugs is based on cultural factors rather than the properties or flavors of the insects themselves,” Barbara Mikkelson writes on the urban legend-busting website. “Western society eschews (rather than chews) bugs, hence the widespread ‘Ewww!’ reaction to the news that some of our favorite foods contain insect extract.”

Here’s the funny thing: Starbucks now will begin replacing cochineal with lycopene extract from tomatoes. The tomato was long thought to be a poisonous fruit, especially after a 16th Century British barber named John Gerard wrote that tomatoes contain deadly toxins. Brits and American colonists refused to eat tomatoes for the next 200 years based on Gerard’s single statement, which was probably based more on the fact that the dark and uncivilized Spaniards and Italians ate them as much as on the presence in tomatoes of trace amounts of the glycoalkaloid tomatine.

A Plateful Of Poison!

Tomatoes really didn’t become popular for use in America until the late 1800s, so strong was the mistaken notion that they were noxious.

If you’re a glass-half-empty kind of person, you might conclude we haven’t learned a thing in half a millennium.


The only song I can think of that mentions pizza is this ditty by Dean Martin.

You may know this already, but Martin was never much of a drinker, despite putting on a lush-y facade in his eponymous 1960s television variety show.

Dean Martin, Buddy Love (With Stella Stevens), and Jerry Lewis

And another thing, he wasn’t the inspiration for the Buddy Love character in the Jerry Lewis movie, “The Nutty Professor.” Buddy Love was an oily, arrogant, perfectly tailored ladies man who’d take over a piano bar and sing love songs at the drop of a hat. Truth was, Buddy Love was Lewis’s own doppelganger.

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