Category Archives: USA Today

The Pencil Today:


“Toys of fate; it’s kismet!” — Curly Howard


How long do you think it’ll be before local papers like the Indy Star and the Herald Times cease coming out, well, on paper?

My guess is the Herald Times has five years left. Maybe fewer.

The Star? Five years as well. Seven max.

By 2020, the only paper newspapers remaining will be big-time, national publications like the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and one or two others.

The rest? Done.

The Indianapolis Star today runs a FAQ column on its new online subscription policy. The reality is “you get it on your iPad, on your Android phone, on your desktop, in print, on social media or countless other platforms.”

Newsprint is nothing more than another “platform.”

At the Book Corner, only one person under the age of 60 or so buys newspapers. That’s some guy who works for Opie Taylor’s; he’s about 35. I have no recollection of anyone in her or his 20s ever plopping down the 75 cents for an H-T — or any other paper, for that matter.

Wanna know a secret? I get all my news online. And remember, I’m a 30-year veteran of writing for newspapers and magazines.

I won’t cry over the death of the papers.


Ya gotta love it when our elected officeholders display a sense of humor. Especially, when the humor verges on truth.

For instance, after the Me Party-ists and right wingers, who took over the universe in the 2010 elections, decided to roll back women’s access to abortions and contraception to pre-11th Century levels, a few female pols shot back.

Writer Beth Baker penned a sidebar to her main article “Fighting the War Against Women” in the Spring/Summer edition of Ms. magazine. Entitled “What’s Good for the Goose,” the sidebar lists four tongue-in-cheek actions either proposed or approved recently.

Here they are:

  • The “spilled semen” amendment — Introduced by Oklahoma State Senator Constance Johnson, it calls for any semen deposited outside a woman’s vagina to be considered “an action against an unborn child.”
  • Egg and sperm personhood — Passed by the Wilmington, Delaware, city council, it declares all human ova and spermatazoa “eggs persons” and “sperm persons.” They will be protected against “abuse, neglect, or abandonment by the parent or guardian.”

Emily (L), Meet Zach (Leading, R)

  • Erectile dysfunction treatment testing and counseling — Introduced by Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, it would call for mandatory psychological testing, a cardiac stress test, and sexual counseling for any man who wishes to get a prescription for Viagra, Cialis, or other branded boner pills. Additionally, such patients would be required to show the doctor a signed agreement from his sex partner. He then would be directed toward celibacy counseling.
  • Mandatory priapism video — Introduced by Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy, this bill would require men seeking boner pill scrips to watch a video on priapism, the most common side effect of such meds, and its treatment, which is awfully gory. (Boys, cover your eyes — it involves a scalpel.)


Funny? Sure. But none of these laws or declarations is any more ridiculous than the roadblocks to reproductive freedom the right loves to throw in front of women.


You can’t have missed this. Is nothing sacred?

A woman in Galesburg, Illinois told police last week that her home had been burglarized and a collection of her most precious possessions had been snatched.

An unknown intruder or intruders, the woman reported, had taken a pink bag filled with $1000-worth of sex toys.


Her sex toys.

Man. That’s really hitting below the belt.

The beauty of the story is the reaction of Galesburg Police Captain Rod Riggs (okay, now I’m beginning to think this whole thing is a gag — Rod? Riggs?)

Anyway, Riggs told reporters, “There are a lot of odd ducks out there.”

Knowing cops as I do, it’s an even bet as to whether he’s referring to the criminal or the victim.

Or might he be talking about some of the contents of the pink bag?

And Why Not?


Yep. That’s the name of the poor woman who had her sex toys swiped. Come on, Tiara Likes? Rod Riggs? Odd ducks?

Iggy Pop would have to love this story. “No Fun” was released on the Stooges’ eponymous first album in 1969.

According to legend, Iggy called Moe Howard of the Three Stooges to ask the great man for permission to borrow from the slapstick trio’s name. The legend has it that Moe indicated he didn’t care one way or the other. There is no evidence he finger-poked Iggy in the eyes through the phone.

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

Indexed: Note To Hoteliers

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

Present and Correct(New Listing) Fun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

Caps Off PleaseComics & fun.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Monroe County FairgroundsDay 3, 2012 Monroe County Fair, Carnival begins at 4pm, Music: JackLegg, Sheila Stephen and the Rodeo Monkeys; Noon to 11pm

City Hall, City Council Chambers — Bloomington Food Policy Council quarterly meeting, open to the public; 5:30-7pm

The Player’s PubSongwriter Showcase: The McKibben Bros., Chris Little, Terry Turley, Tom Marshalek; 8pm

The BishopDJ Mikey Kapinus; 8pm

◗ IU HPER, room 107 — Ballroom dance lessons; 8:30pm

The BluebirdDave Walters karaoke; 9pm


◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • John D. Shearer, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%”; through July 30th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • Qiao Xiaoguang, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts” ; through August 12th
  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits: Bloomington Photography Club Annual Exhibition; through August 3rd

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Closed for semester break

Monroe County History Center Exhibits:

  • “What Is Your Quilting Story?”; through July 31st
  • Photo exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

The Pencil Today:


“If you mean to keep as well as possible, the less you think about your health the better.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes


We’re back.

Now I can tell you: The Loved One and I had to make a quick trip down to Florida to take care of some family business. Swear to god, I’d decided to not to mention that we were going out of town before we did because I was afraid some reprobate who’d happened to wander onto this site might ransack Chez Big Mike while we were away.

And, caring human that I am, I didn’t want him to be torn to shreds by Steve the Dog, who was guarding the estate.


Anyway, Florida. We got stuck under the canopy of Tropical Storm Debby, which had parked itself in the Gulf of Mexico just below the panhandle and so drenched us all five days we were in the Sunshine State.

I actually took pictures of the rain so as to prove to the citizenry of the Great State of Indiana that such a thing exists.

This is rain. It falls from the sky.

We drove all day Saturday and did the same thing all day Wednesday. 16½ hours each way. Yup. Sixteen and one half freaking hours.

I can report that neither The Loved One nor I attacked the other with the intent to cause bodily harm or death. Although the thought crossed my mind once or twice. Her’s too, I’d suppose.

Also, you won’t read this in Wikipedia or any of the usual travel guides but we found it to be all too true: the State of Georgia is the single largest landmass on the face of the Earth. Racing up I-75 from just south of Valdosta to the southern reaches of the Chattanooga metropolitan area took up a significant fraction of our lives.

Asia is but a mere islet compared to the Peach State. In which, BTW, we saw not one single peach. Lots of peanut fields, though.

Peanuts As Far As The Eye Can See

Perhaps the single thing which stood out during our trip was the absolute glut of billboards in Florida addressing the abortion issue. Well, one side of it, anyway. One read, “If you know you’re pregnant, your baby’s heart is already beating.”

We’d see a half dozen or more such billboards in any given mile stretch. Somebody’s obsessed, I tell you.


Our hotel was on the ocean in Cocoa Beach (the town where Major Nelson and Jeannie lived, by the way.) Sadly we never once went out on the beach, for fear that we’d be swept away by the storm.

Cocoa Beach Couple

As an aside, I never shared my generation’s fascination with Barbara Eden as Jeannie. I’m certain I’d say that even if she’d been permitted to expose her navel (really, how weird is TV?) No, my fantasy TV chicks were Marlo Thomas, Barbara Feldon, and Elizabeth Montgomery.

Agent 99, “That Girl,” And Samantha

So, we spent much of our free time in the hotel room which is as close to a prison cell as I’d care to experience at this time of my life. The Loved One, a notorious storm-phobe, clicked the television on in an effort to keep tabs on Debby. (Another aside — why is it Debby and not Debbie?)

I caught a commercial from a cable outfit in central Florida called Bright House Network. The company was offering a spectacular new service for the most up-to-date, wired technophile: the home phone.

Truth. The announcer talked as if no one on Earth had ever thought of such a thing. Now, the line went, you don’t have to dash around looking for your cell phone when someone’s calling. Just pick up your home phone, which is plugged into the wall — right where it always is!

The Cutting Edge

How revolutionary.

How much more bizarre can the American people get?


Ever wonder why USA Today has the second-biggest circulation of any daily newspaper in this holy land? Every hotel, motel, and, I’d imagine, opium den in America offers free USA Todays.

So, I thumbed through the rag. Have I mentioned that America is bizarre? Just reading one single USA Today front page would verify that.

I can picture a future USA Today front page featuring the headlines, “Pakistan, India Nuke Exchange — Tens Of Millions Dead,” “Ohio Teacher Wins Golden Apple Award,” and “Bieber-Gomez Marriage On The Rocks.”

“In Other News, Nuclear War Broke Out Today In….”

Anyway, here are a couple of things I discovered about life on this Earth while reading USA Today:

◗ The late Amy Winehouse’s old man has written a book about her called “Amy, My Daughter.” Quite a wordsmith that Mitch Winehouse is, if his choice of title is any indication.

He tells of being unable to listen to any of Amy’s music since her death. He also confesses he’d like to wring Blake Fielder-Civil’s neck. The boyfriend, according to Mitch, turned his princess on to heroin and crack. Blake is “the biggest low-life scumbag that God ever put breath into,” he writes.

It’s not even a year since Amy W. died of alcohol poisoning. Already, though, the old boy has churned out his book. The show, I suppose, must go on.

◗ The Women’s Tennis Association is all aflutter over the amount of grunting and shrieking emanating from its member stars when they smash the ball. Big time players like Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are notorious for their cacophony during matches.


The WTA will set acceptable noise level rules and will develop hand-held devices the umpires can use to measure players’ noise levels. The association will sponsor education programs throughout all levels of professional play, presumably to impart the crucial information that women tennis players should shut the eff up.

Opponents and fans have complained about the noise for years now, the WTA says.

Which I find enormously weird. The only time in my life I had an iota of interest in professional tennis was when the lovely Argentine star Gabriela Sabatini was just coming up. I’d see clips of her winning one match or another on ESPN and was struck by her moaning, groaning, huffing, and puffing.

And She Grunts!

I found all the din coming from her end of the court to be strangely arousing. Honest. Sabatini’s symphony was the sexiest thing I’d ever seen (or, more accurately, heard) in sports.

And now they want to get rid of all that?


Don’t bother clicking the logo today. I’m still too lazy to do The Pencil’s daily events listings. Come back tomorrow.


Did you ever get a chance to catch that Bobby Darin biopic called “Beyond the Sea” a few years ago?

It was a labor of love for Kevin Spacey, who sang and danced his way through a thoroughly Hollywood-ized version of the singer’s life. Spacey even donned a cheap toupee and phony nose for the part.

Spacey As Darin; Darin As Darin

In real life, Darin had something like a nervous breakdown in reaction to his career going south as well as the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Darin was working for the Kennedy campaign and was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night Bobby was shot in 1968.

He’d begun transforming himself from a slick Copacabana balladeer to a protest singer in the late 60s. His commitment to social relevance was a long time coming; he’d demanded black comic Nipsey Russell open for him at the Copa at a time when the mobsters who ran the joint weren’t overly thrilled about hiring relatively unknown negroes. Later, Darin would start his own record company so he could put out music dealing with issues of the day. His first album for the label was filled with “compositions designed to reflect my thoughts on the turbulent aspects of modern society.”

This from a man who became one of America’s biggest song idols with hits like “Splish Splash” and “Dream Lover.”

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