Category Archives: The Sun

Hot Air

Gay’s Rights

Extremely tall poet Ross Gay is back in town after a year-long sabbatical. The assoc. director of the Creative Writing Dept. at Indiana University, Gay took the year off to practice his penmanship, churning out scads of new poems and even an essay or two.

Gay

Ross Gay [Image from The Cortland Review]

For instance, his take on the dicey relationship between this holy land’s cops and its darker-hued citizens ran earlier this summer in The Sun magazine. The Sun is a neglected jewel, tackling issues and featuring voices that the corporate media usually only sniff at. Search me as to how The Sun survives: There aren’t any ads for Chevrolet, Subway, or Home Depot. Its cover price is competitive with periodicals that are chock-full of pimpings for vodkas and boner pills.

I’ll take The Sun over Time eight days a week.

Anyway, Gay revealed some very personal experiences he’s had with cops making traffic stops on him. He is a respected member of the community, tenured, a leader in his department. He’s also Black. Well, light brown. His dazzling smile can brighten any room. To associate the strictly chromatic descriptor black with him seems somehow amiss.

To many cops, though, that’s all he is. Black.

Police Stop

Just Another Stop

You have to check out Gay’s piece, written even before Michael Brown was whacked. I direct this especially to those who can’t seem to grasp why all the rage over the Brown killing. Don’t worry — Gay’s argument is not all anger and righteousness. This guy can write, of course. He cites, as an example, a  joke about blacks and the cops:

The African American comedy duo Key and Peele have a skit in which President Obama is teaching his daughter Malia to drive. When she runs a stop sign, a cop pulls them over. Astonished and a bit embarrassed at having detained the president of the United States, the cop tells them they can go. But Obama, earnest as ever, says, “No, I want you to go ahead and treat us the way you would if I weren’t the president.” In the next shot we see Obama getting slammed on the hood of the car and handcuffed. It’s funny. And not only black people laugh at such jokes. Everyone does, because everyone knows. [The counter-italics are Gay’s.]

If the comedy duo’s bit appeals to you, sneak a peek at Paste mag’s “10 Best Key & Peele Sketches.”

For the Gay essay, go here.

[h/t to Bryce Martin.]

A Fine Man

One of my personal heroes is the late Nobel Prize-winning scholar Richard Feynman. The Bronx-born theoretical physicist who helped develop the frustratingly arcane study of quantum electrodynamics was named one of the ten greatest scientists of all time by a Physics World poll, played the bongos, and worked on his formulas while sitting in a booth at the local strip club.

In other words, my kind of guy.

It tickles me to note that his second wife (his first died of tuberculosis) sued him for divorce, describing him in her complaint thusly:

He begins working calculus problems in his head as soon as he awakens. He did calculus while driving in his car, while sitting in the living room, and while lying in bed at night.

Feynman gained national renown through his books and lectures. His memoir Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman and his collection of lectures on basic physics, Six Easy Pieces, are are valued parts of my core library.

Feynman

Feynman

Now comes news that his most famous lectures are available for free online. The California Institute of Technology has published his seven-hour-long “Feynman Lectures on Physics” in three volumes, readable on any device.

Say what you will about the internet — that it has turned us into a nation of screen-gawking zombies, that it makes nude pix of Jennifer Lawrence available to every drooling knucklehead, or that it is now the primary outlet for the likes of Glenn Beck — it allows us to learn the ABCs of physical existence through the words of one of the smartest human beings ever to walk the Earth.

[h/t to The Loved One.]

Church Girl

Speaking of drooling knuckleheads, who do you think makes the decisions about what you hear on your MP3 player? Not only are record company execs knuckleheads, they’re knuckle-draggers.

In their professional opinion, it seems, every artist who possesses a vagina must strip down and shake as much of her toned flesh as possible in order for her to be worthy of distribution through the corporate music system.

Here’s how bizarre the music biz is when it comes to gender politics: Rihanna earlier this year tweaked, bumped, grinded, and exposed herself while caterwauling the songs from her latest album — and she was praised for “empowering” women. The men who determine what we see and hear in popular music and the critics who shill for them view women as nothing more than fap fodder.

At least the strippers plying their trade while Richard Feynman worked on his calculus notes at a corner table didn’t claim they were the ideological daughters of Margaret Sanger, Rosalind Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Which brings us to Charlotte Church. Remember her? Back about 15 years ago, she made a huge splash as a cute, virginal 12-year-old, belting out arias and other classical and religious pieces in a debut album entitled Voice of an Angel. The Barnes & Noble music-buying crowd snapped up the disc by the millions. PBS ran a special featuring her, further endearing her to the faux-sophisticated crowd.

When she reached the age of 19, she decided she wanted to sing pop tunes. The first bit of advice she got from the bosses at her record company? Show ’em your tits.

Church

Church: The Virgin & The Whore

Well, that was essentially what they said. Here, let Church explain it herself:

When I was 19 or 20, I found myself… being pressured into wearing more and more revealing outfits. And the lines I had spit at me again and again, generally by middle-aged men, were “You look great, you’ve got a great body, why not show it off?”

Or, “Don’t worry, it’ll look classy, it’ll look artistic.”

Church revealed this in an eye-opening speech she gave at the BBC-6 Music annual John Peel Lecture.

Still a very young woman, Church felt enormous pressure to bare her skin. Those record co. execs made it clear that since they were paying her their good money, they had a say in how much jiggle she was to display. She continued:

… I was barely out of my teenage years, and the consequence of this portrayal of me is that now I am frequently abused on social media, being called slut, whore, and a catalog of other indignities that I am sure you’re are also sadly very familiar with.

How’s that for the voice of an angel?

You ought read the entire speech. It’s not long but it’s loaded with bombshells about the abuse of women by their record companies.

Me? I’ll still take Carrie Brownstein.

Brownstein

Brownstein [Image from Stereogum]

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.

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