Category Archives: W. Kamau Bell

Hot Air

Life Is Not Fair

Listening to my fave radio station in the world — Louisville’s WFPK — this morning, I learned that it’ll be pushing 60º in the River City today.

Sixty goddamned degrees.

Spring

Flowers

Now L-ville is a mere 71.13 miles from B-ton as the crow flies. So why is it that they get March-like temps and we get freezing rain, sleet, and snow today?

I’m telling you, some rotten-to-the-core weather deity has it in for us.

Condolences; Here’s Your Bill

We all agree that there’s a crisis in health care in this holy land. It’s true even after the initiation of the Affordable Care Act under which some 12 million people are now covered.

Still, though, health care in America is a money game. If you’ve got the dough, you don’t have to worry all that much about fancy tests and ER visits and expensive prescriptions. If you’re poor, well, life is tough, isn’t it?

That is, human health care. What about critter doctorin’?

I know a guy — let’s call him Randy — who’s on the hook for a medical bill from a veterinarian that he can’t pay. He’s an Army veteran and he’s going to school right now, looking to earn his master’s degree in business.

Randy’s cat was injured a while back. Over the next couple of days, the cat’s wound became infected. Randy took the cat to a local veterinarian. The vet told Randy the cat would have to stay overnight. The next morning, the vet called Randy and gave him the bad news — the cat had died that night.

Randy cried his tears and got on with his life. Then the bill came. The veterinarian wanted $600 for treating the cat and boarding it overnight.

To a guy like Randy, $600 may as well be $60,000. He’d be hard pressed to pay if the vet had demanded $60. Randy told the vet he didn’t have the dough. The vet responded by hauling Randy into court.

The two parties have yet to meet before the judge. Randy says the vet is a villain, charging him, essentially, for services that did him and his cat no good. Why, Randy wonders, should he have to pay for them?

This one’s a poser, no?

Cat

A Live Cat

Even lawyers, a breed we like to stereotype as money-grubbing, offer services at contingency rates, meaning if they lose your case, you don’t pay them. Can’t doctors do something similar?

The argument can be made that doctors, their nurses, their receptionists, their record-keepers, and everyone else associated with running a well-oiled office still have performed for you whether or not your cat dies or the dot on your skin becomes cancer. Then again, lawyers can say the same thing. Doctors may counter that they actually use goods and products — hypodermic needles, catheters, medicines, and those paper slippers you have to slip on as you trudge down the hall to the MRI room. Somebody’s gotta pay for them.

All Randy knows is he brought his cat in for repair and was left only with an impossible bill.

I don’t know where I stand on this right now. I suppose if I were Randy’s confidant (we’re only acquaintances) I’d suggest he work out a payment deal with the vet or offer to fork over a percentage of the total at once. Of course, Randy would say he doesn’t even have a fraction of the $600.

The only conclusion that makes any sense is being poor sucks.

The Bell Of Bloomington

Our town’s Bell family is quite a high-minded bunch. Janet Cheatham Bell, who lives here, writes about being a black woman, touching on nearly all aspects of living in this holy land, what with our racism, sexism, poverty, materialism, our love of guns, our fear of The Other, and a myriad of different ills. Her kiddo is comedian and social commentator W. Kamau Bell who’s the equal of or better than 98 percent of the gabbers and muggers who appear nightly on television (and don’t ask me who the superior two percent are). He had his own show a while back, on an FX network, but that didn’t work out. He doesn’t look altar-boyish like Jimmy Fallon or innocuously clownish like Conan O’Brien. He looks like, well, a black man and that’s a bit scary for Ma & Pa Kettle.

Bell

Bell, Then & Now

Janet has been writing about her negotiations with America for years. Her tomes include:

  • Famous Black Quotations
  • Victory of the Spirit: Reflections on My Journey
  • The Time and Place that Gave Me Life
  • Not All Poor People Are Black

Nobody’s made a movie based on any of her works but I’ll tell you this: They’re a hell of a lot more compelling than some upper middle class white woman’s story about “finding herself” by hanging around with sub-continent mystics and shamans.

Bell (Janet Cheatham, that is) this past month did a series of radio and web interviews largely in celebration of Black History Month. Here are some highlights:

She hints she has a few more interviews coming up in March — Women’s History Month — so keep an ear and/or eye out for them. Perhaps it’s time we start seeing the likes of Janet Cheatham Bell as more than just token speakers for black people but as articulators of the entire human experience. She is one of us — all of us.

Sun Goddess

Ramsey Lewis and Earth, Wind & Fire collaborated on this gem in 1975. Don’t ever let anyone tell you the ’70s were a bad decade for music.

Hot Air

Love That Dirty Water

Janet Cheatham Bell, the memoirist and proud mom of W. Kamau Bell, shares a question being asked in meme form on the interwebs:

Environment Meme

I assume by people this meme means just plain folks, the yous and mes of the world as opposed to, say, the Koch Bros. or their legislative coatholders like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). And there are indeed tons upon tons of yous and mes who truly believe anything having to do with the environmental movement is nonsense, hysteria, and, in a lot of cases, merely a cover for some nefarious socialist or commie plot to take over this holy land.

Like a round Earth, the germ theory of illness, and the sheer impossibility of the Chicago Cubs ever winning a World Series, humankind’s soiling of the environment would seem to be one of those things that we all simply have to agree on. And those who don’t — well, they’ve got to be pretty whacked out, no? If you met a guy who told you, proudly, he’s a member of the Flat Earth Society, you’d smile nicely and begin to sidle away from him, wouldn’t you?

Yet we’re bombarded on a daily basis with folks who say there is no human-caused climate change, the search for alternative energy is a scam, and fossil fuels are the greatest thing to happen to us since the birth of Jesus.

No wonder Mom Bell and others who’ve shared her meme are scratching their heads.

I may have a couple of answers to their question.

See, many, many Murricans see environmentalism as a “blame” issue. That is, they interpret environmentalists as saying America and its people are “bad” for having screwed up the environment.

That contradicts our mythology of American exceptionalism. We’ve told ourselves since the American Revolution that we are special. We’re better than those stuffy old Europeans. We’re smarter than the Africans. We’re more humane and dedicated to freedom than the Russians and the Chinese.

We told ourselves that the westward spread of American culture and settlement was a Manifest Destiny — that is, we were charged by god with taking the Native Americans’ land and, in the process, pretty much wiping them off the face of the planet.

When a people can excuse themselves for the genocide they’ve committed because god sez it’s cool, they can be move forward confidently in the knowledge that all their subsequent actions will be looked kindly upon by that Big Daddy-o in the Sky. So if some owls disappear or millions of gallons of crude oil fill up Prince William Sound, well, golly gee, we’re only imperfect humans executing the will of a perfect lord.

Then, too, there’s the implied indictment of capitalism itself coming from the environmentalists. Oil companies are rapacious, coal mine execs are greedy, SUV manufacturers are selfish louts — the list of betes noires goes on. Now that’s crazy, the conventional wisdom goes. All the aforementioned villains are rich men, and if there’s any belief we Murricans have cherished, it’s that wealth is sacred. If you’re rich, then y’done good, boy. Don’t give us details about how you earned it, just let us sneak a peak into your palatial estate occasionally.

I mean, how else to explain Donald Trump?

Trump

Inexplicable

Profit is good. And if some clever fellows can make a sweet penny pumping crude or releasing mega-tons of freed carbon into the air, why then they’re good, too.

Now you’re telling us rich guys are the bad guys? You’re nuts. Environmental crazies. Haters of America.

The lesson? You can make it harder for people to breathe. You can fill their drinking water with toxic sludge. You can melt the polar ice caps if you like. Just don’t mess with their myths.

Oh, Oh, Boston….

A couple from Boston wandered into the Book Corner yesterday. They were in town for a weekend wedding and decided to stay a few extra days to take in the sights. They told me they love Bloomington.

We got to chatting, natch, and I learned the man is a writer. His name is Chuck Burgess and he’s penned a couple of books on Boston sports teams. The title of one of them, in fact, is the inspiration for the headline atop the preceding entry.

It’s a line from the mid-1960s one-hit-wonder, Dirty Water. It was done by The Standells who, other than growling through that song, were notable for appearing in an episode of The Munsters entitled “Far-out Munsters” (1965).

Here they are, performing a version of the Beatles classic, I Want to Hold Your Hand, in a clip from the show that, oddly, has been dubbed into Spanish:

BTW: I dig the dancing guy wearing the little fedora with a feather in its band on the right. He is the very definition of cool.

Anyway, the song Dirty Water was the weirdest tribute to Boston imaginable. Its title refers to the then-spectacularly polluted waters of the city’s three main rivers as well as Boston Harbor. It also references a mugging that the songwriter, Ed Cobb, suffered there and the Boston Strangler, and mentions the town’s sexually frustrated college coeds.

Oddly enough, Dirty Water became a theme song for the city and its sports teams. Both the Boston Bruins and the Red Sox beginning in the 1990s played the song after home victories. Weird, huh?

The Standells had nothing to do with Boston other than singing the lyric, Boston, you’re my home, in the song. The were a California garage band who, according to legend, would stand around booking agents’ offices hoping for gigs and so named themselves accordingly.

Chuck Burgess (along with co-author Bill Nowlin) squeezed an entire book out of the Dirty Water-Boston sports connection. It’s called Love That Dirty Water! The Standells and the Improbable Red Sox Victory Anthem. It’s out of print now but you can still get it on Amazon and through other re-sellers.

The Burgesses and I had a great time talking about the book, about Bloomington and Boston and Chicago, too, and about little independent booksellers. By the time they had to leave, we were clasping each others’ hands like old friends.

There’s nothing in the world like working in a small bookstore.

Dirty Water

Oh, okay, here it is:

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Your Daily Hot Air

Funny Man

I know precisely what I’ll be doing Wednesday night, March 12. I’ll be sitting stage-side at Jared Thompson’s Comedy Attic.

Why?

To see the coolest funny man (or the funniest cool man), W. Kamau Bell, skewer everything in this holy land — and, hell, the rest of the world while he’s at it.

Photo by Matthias Clamer

W. Kamau Bell

I’ve been missing my weekly fix of WKB ever since the FX/FXX cable outfit cancelled his brilliant gabfest last year. Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell put everybody from Conan O’Brien and Arsenio Hall to TV’s favorite altar boy, Jimmy Fallon, to shame. He was trenchant, cutting-edge, politically aware, culturally conversant, and he gave no quarter. Naturally, his number weren’t good enough to save his show’s life. ‘Murrica, right?

Anyway, he’s touring the country in the late winter and early spring and he’ll be here in his proud mama’s beloved Bloomington. Yeah, our own Janet Cheatham Bell, author and educator, raised the son of a gun. She’ll be at the Attic, I’m sure.

Me? I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Miracles Of Modern Technology

Just wondering: Have the Peerless Leaders of this bustling metropolis ever seen or heard of the brand new technological innovation pictured below?

Snow Plow

And another thing: Has anybody around here heard tell of that hi-tech substance that some folks say makes snow- and ice-covered roads safe to drive on? I believe it’s called salt.

Salt/Water Interaction by Temperature

How It Works

See, late this afternoon I drove from Pencil World HQ on State Road 446 to Bloomington’s courthouse square. It’s a drive that usually takes about 9 minutes. Today, it took me 45. The drive back was just as long.

And in all that time I saw nary a one snow plow nor salt spreader.

A tip for our City Fathers & Mothers. It’s winter out.

Do You Mind?

America, here is your hottest craze: Mindfulness.

It’s a perfect reflection on our holy land.

Mindfulness is a concept that has been bandied about in the corner of the woo world that we in the book industry refer to as “Eastern Culture.”

The American Psychological Association says mindfulness arises from “a largely obscure Buddhist concept founded about 2600 years ago.” It became popularized in recent years through the writings of Zen Buddhist big shot Thich Nhat Hanh as well as an American pal of his by the name of Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Advice: Don’t Sweat It

The best definition I can give you is it’s a state of mind that enables the practitioner to brag that s/he is concerned about “reality,” the ‘important” things in life, and a more “healthful” way of thinking and living while the rest of us are frittering our lives and precious thoughts away on trivial pursuits like, well, making a living.

Its basic philosophical exhortations include:

  • Keep cool
  • Don’t worry
  • Be nice

Mindfulness, therefore, is simply a ancient predecessor to that late-1980’s, early-1990’s self-help family of fads wherein a passel of PBS-fund-drive superstars tossed out philosophical and behavioral bromides like so much confetti. There were Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten), John Bradshaw (“your inner child”), Leo Buscaglia ( the hug-meister), and Robert Bly (the drum banger).

Up until a few years ago, the only people conversant in mindfulness were those already predisposed to ideas such as reiki and ayurvedic medicine. In other words, awfully credulous folk.

Time

Now mindfulness has hit the mainstream. The cover of Time magazine’s February 3rd issue was devoted to this latest rage. And the evil geniuses who travel annually to Davos to strategize slicing up the known world have been sharing tips the last several years on how to utilize mindfulness and meditation to make the planet’s workforce more docile and compliant.

Americans will believe in anything, apparently. Except maybe evolution.

The Battle Of The Century

Speaking of evolution, science hero Bill Nye is debating Creation Museum founder Ken Ham tonight.

[Watch the live stream here.]

Debate Promo

Click Pic For Live Stream

I’m not watching, listening, or caring. First, you can’t really debate a person who holds a belief that is based on faith. It’s almost like debating someone over whether or not chocolate tastes good. It either does or it doesn’t, depending on the person who’s doing the tasting. And if that person doesn’t like chocolate, s/he can never be persuaded otherwise.

Ken Ham believes god created the world some 6000 years ago. He also holds that humans and dinosaurs lived side by side in our not-so distant past. These beliefs are not based on any rational evidence but on a surrender of logic to “received wisdom.” This is not meant to be an insult; the Bible warns against using one’s intellect to figure out the ways and means of the Big Daddy-o in the Sky.

Creation Museum

Faith, Not Evidence

Nobody can ever win this debate. Neither man will convince the other side of anything. Here’s a sure shot: Tomorrow morning, people on both sides of the “debate” will claim victory.

That’s not a debate; that’s a dog and pony show.

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