Hot Air: The Joys Of Democracy

Is it my imagination? It seems there are more yard signs being displayed during this election season than I’ve ever seen before. I base this observation on my travels throughout southern Indiana.

Hell, I even caught sight of a Joe Donnelly sign on some rural homeowner’s lawn a few days ago.

Anyway, I just thought you should know there are some compellingly monikered candidates vying for office in these parts. I motored down to Salem yesterday to start writing a Limestone Post piece (due today, so what in the hell am I doing spending my precious time on this?). It was a glorious, deep-blue-sky fall day and perhaps I was feeling rather giddy but the yard signs for these pols tickled the hell out of me:

Butch Love Republican for Clark County Assessor

Brittney Ferree Republican for Clark County Council

Scott Groan for West Clark Community School Board

I’d almost be tempted to vote for a Republican for the first time in I don’t know how long just to say I was a Butch Love guy.

And let’s hope ol’ Butch is savvy enough to adopt this ditty as his official campaign song:

Cohousing Talk

It’s odd: Nobody seems to know about the cohousing community that’ll soon be going up on Bloomington’s south side. The 3.5-acre tract will feature several dozen smallish homes centered around a common green and a community house. Cohousing’s been a big deal in Scandinavia for more than fifty years and now is spreading throughout Europe, Canada, and this holy land.

The idea is neighbors will share a lot of amenities and responsibilities, engendering a heightened sense of community, something that, quite frankly, has been disappearing from our modern world for a few centuries now, thanks in large part to the Industrial Revolution and some other dehumanizing advances our bizarre species has made in that time.

The Bloomington development will be the first such cooperative community in Indiana. Cohousing’s more common on the coasts and in Colorado, especially in college towns and other progressive, crunchy locales.

So, if you want to bone up on cohousing click on over to the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk featuring developer Loren Wood of Loren Wood Builders. It’s Part 1 of a two-part series on the nascent community. Part 2 will air next week, Thursday, October 25, on WFHB, 91.3 at 5:30pm. My guest for that show will be Marion Sinclair, co-founder of the Bloomington Cohousing Project.

That same day, click on over to the Limestone Post for my piece on Sinclair, Wood, and the project in this month’s edition of Big Mike’s B-town.

Hot Air: Contrariwise, If It Was So…

Here’s PJ O’Rourke’s take on the internet:

Whose bright idea was it to put every idiot in the world in touch with every other idiot?

Which pretty much encapsulates the whole phenomenon in this mad, maddening year of Somebody’s Lord, 2018.

As if to prove the humorist’s point, WFHB News revealed yesterday that someone — either in or out of local government; no one’s been fingered yet — created a phony Facebook page called “Monroe County Elections.” The page is down now but, acc’d’g to county GOP chair William Ellis, it could have been mistaken for an official page.

Dead Horse Strike No. 3,629: Our Dear Leader’s propensity to pull crazy/fictitious/fraudulent/criminally inaccurate/misleading bosh straight out of his 3XL bottom and present it to the citizenry via Twitter, speech, or press release has given license to the rest of the world’s non-elected a-holes to do the same. I’m not saying people didn’t lie before Li’l Duce became President Gag on a technicality, just that now the nation’s loons have been tacitly authorized by the Leader of the Free World to create the scary dystopia of their wet dreams.

As Gob Bluth states in Arrested Development, (Episode 4; Season 3), “I heard the jury’s still out on science.” As well as the most minimal understanding of the word truth.

Circles Jerk

Perhaps my fave story of the year ran in the Herald Times this AM. Apparently, Bloomington police officers espied a man wanted on an outstanding warrant outside a west side grocery store last night. Before they could put the arm on him, the man jumped into his pickup truck and sped off, leading the officers on a chase into a field northwest of the city off Vernal Pike. The man drove off the road and into the open field where he commenced driving in big circles for an hour.

A BPD spokesofficer said the man wasn’t driving recklessly or aggressively, he just refused to stop. The officers fired pepper spray at the truck, a tactic whose purpose eludes me unless they wanted to make him sneeze uncontrollably, but whatever. After an hour, the cops shrugged their shoulders and went to fetch a resisting arrest warrant against the man, who by this time surely was feeling a tad dizzy.

Nearly an hour after that, neighbors called the police to report the man was still out in the field, driving in circles. With Indiana State Police troopers backing them up, the Bloomington cops, using their own vehicles, put the squeeze on the loopy fugitive. He was arrested and is being held on a $4500 bond.

Humans (need I even say this?) are truly a fascinating species.

Big Talk

Tune in this afternoon for Part 1 of a Big Talk two-parter on the proposed Bloomington Cohousing neighborhood under development on South Maxwell Street. Cohousing is an idea that originated in some Scandinavian countries back in the early 1960s and it has since spread across Europe, Canada, and this holy land. These neighborhoods consist of a couple of dozen smallish homes centered around a common green and a common house containing a shared community kitchen, dinning room, library, crafts room, day care center, etc.

Proponents say its a great way to revive the old, tight neighborhoods we’ve all heard about from the fuzzy past. One observer once wrote in support of cohousing: “Children should have 100 parents.” — which either is or isn’t a selling point for the concept.

Anyway, scads of folks are excited about this idea. The city’s signed off on it and groundbreaking is expected sometime later this month.

My guest this afternoon will be developer Loren Wood, proprietor of Loren Wood Builders. Next week’s guest will be Marion Sinclair, the woman who co-founded the organization that got this thing going, the Bloomington Cohousing Project.

Tune in to Big Talk today at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM, or catch the podcast (a link will be provided here tomorrow morning). And don’t forget to read all about the plan in my Limestone Post piece on Sinclair slated to run a week from today.

Hot Air: Quick Hits

I voted yesterday — and the joint was packed! The county’s early voting polling place on 7th St. had a line snaking out the door. But I’ll tell you this, they’ve got the operation down. From getting in line to attaching the “I Voted, Have You?” sticker to my shirt, a total of a mere 15 minutes elapsed. They’re running an assembly line, babies.

So what can I conclude from this experience? Well, we need some more data points:

  • I’ve been hearing this time and again since early voting started this time around: the polling place has been crowded every day
  • Women came out in droves for the May primary
  • Taylor Swift gave the pop music crowd a…, well, swift kick in the pants the other day and there ensued a significant bump in millennials’ voter registrations

That enough for you? We’ll see in 20 days. The Pollyanna in me sez scads of voters from sea to shining…, or should I say non-voters; those who went AWOL in 2016, opening the door for this holy land’s first Jerk Presidency, are suffering from well-deserved senses of humiliation and shame and are eager to atone for their mortal sin.

Women are more enraged than ever now that President Gag’s second Supreme Court nominee — that’s right, the Wannabe Corporate Fascist has installed two associate justices on this nation’s highest bench — skated through sexual assault charges and got hisself confirmed by a bunch of alabaster he-men.

For the most part, Hillary Clinton, the greatest lightning rod for borderline psychotic hatred in American history, is pretty much sitting this campaign out. Natch, she’s not running but, thankfully, she’s also largely keeping her mouth shut, giving the hate-mongers little ammo on that front.

In any case, maybe — just maybe — there will be a Blue Wave next mo.

Then again, I should have learned two years ago never again to make election predictions.

A Brainy Pol

Loyal Pencillistas are well aware that I’ve rarely dodged an opp. to lambaste our town’s reigning mayor. For chrissakes, I’ve practically begged a certain county official to throw her hat into next year’s mayoral race.

Nevertheless, I’ve got to say this about the Honorable John Hamilton: the dude is a reader, kids. F’rinstance, he’s devouring a biography of the Hoosier State’s own Wendell Willkie, and if you don’t know who that cat was, y’all oughtta at least look him up on Wikipedia. He ran for president in 1940 against two-time incumbent Franklin Roosevelt and then tried to run for the Republican nomination in ’44 but fell embarrassingly short. He was what we in a later day might have called a Rockefeller Republican, meaning he was rather progressive on social issues. Almost alone among GOP-ers in the days leading up to America’s entry in WWII, he was a strong proponent for our land’s international involvement.

Mayor Hamilton eats that kind of stuff up as well as some of the most important and compelling fiction, both classic and modern. Hell, he’s almost as well-read as his bride, law school prof. and former Clinton and Obama administration shingle Dawn Johnsen. The two of them bounce into the Book Corner on any given Saturday and chatter about all the impressive tomes they’ve read.

In the long run, I want my public officials to be readers rather than barely functionally literate louts like, well, you know who.

Barely Functionally Literate Lout.

Gas Money Guzzlers

I dunno if the laws have been changed recently but I notice a disturbing new trend at gas stations. Seems a lot of them are posting phony prices on their signs.

Like you, I’m an inveterate gas shopper. By & large, I stop at the cheapest station so long as it’s not some cut-rate purveyor of rubbing alcohol. Finding the best deal on motor juice ought to be a simple procedure — simply find the lowest price posted. But some stations these days are pulling a fast one. A few months ago when gas prices topped $3.00 hereabouts, I saw one sign proclaiming the fuel’s availability for $2.65. Bingo — I squealed into the joint and stuck the nozzle in my gas hole. Lo and behold, the price registered as $3.05. Some quick detective work revealed that the $2.65 quote was for “Members Only,” a caveat in the smallest possible type on the station’s main sign. Now that’s fraudulent kids, no matter what the law says.

When I’m careening down the boulevard at 53 mph, I ain’t got time to read the fine print.

There ought to be a law.

My KInd Of Town

Spent the afternoon in Indy yesterday after dropping off The Loved One at a downtown hotel for some professional conference or another.

Make no mistake, Indy — for a big city — is awfully nice and awfully manageable.

First off, this state’s capital missed the building boom of the 1980s and ’90s, meaning all its old, quaint, pretty structures from the later years of the 19th Century and the opening anni of the 20th, weren’t yanked down, higgledy-piggledy, to be replaced by soulless glass and steel boxes. So when Indy’s downtown renaissance finally did come, it was at a time when we all were attuned to the historic and esthetic values of heretofore underused Art Deco structures, modernist towers, neo-classical public buildings, and even Palladian cultural centers.

Then there’s Indianapolis’s refreshing dearth of crowds. Like the town’s award-winning airport, the city is fabulous because, in the main, nobody’s around mucking up the place. There’s everything you can want in a big city: live theater, museums, monuments, tall buildings, fine restaurants, and the one or two hundred people who do traverse downtown Indy’s streets are representative of many of the world’s races, creeds, colors, and toupee styles. Traffic moves swiftly, there’s rarely a tie-up, thousands upon thousands of pedestrians aren’t converging on your hot rod the nanosecond the light turns yellow, and so motoring through the central city is a dream.

Now get this, I had to pick up TLO at five o’clock, normally an apocalyptic hour in any other big city. Somehow, though, I knew that if I drove directly up to the big downtown hotel where her meeting was, I’d be able to stow my iron remarkably close to my destination.

Y’know what? I found a parking space half a block from the hotel and, to top it all off, there was an hour and a half left on the meter!

That’s a city I can love.

Hot Air: How We Think

I want to throw this out there for discussion.

In this day and age of gender fluidity, we’re realizing that much of what Identifies us as either female or male is imposed on us by conventional cultural “wisdom.” There’s no reason why females should prefer pink and males blue other than some stale traditional lore. Girls who excel in math, say, or chemistry are breaking a mold created by elders from the distant past for no good reason other than to aggrandize themselves. A lot of the ways our binary gender system makes us think and feel are no more valid than the societal commandment that females use one toilet and males another.

That said, we still do, in more ways than we can count, think like women or men.

For instance, when Christine Ford told the tale of her alleged encounter with then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, she said he tried to rape her. The incident, she implied, scarred her for life. The memory of it haunted her, adversely affected her attitude and behavior, sabotaged her relationships with men, and drove her to enroll in intensive psychological counseling sessions.

Women around the country — hell, around the world — embraced her. They sympathized. They empathized. Even if they hadn’t experienced such a trauma themselves, many females knew that’s precisely how it would have marked them.

The key concept in Ford’s testimony was Kavanaugh tried. He — or whoever her assailant(s) was/were — didn’t rape her. She got away. She pushed and shoved and strained and struggled and through will, muscle power, and wile, got away from her attacker(s). My own first reaction was to think, Man, if I’d dodged that bullet, I’d have been strutting around telling myself how strong, how smart, how lucky I was.

In other words, it wouldn’t have been a trauma. It wouldn’t have left a scar. It’d be a badge, a reminder of what a potent agent I could be. Hell, I’d think, one or two guys tried to harm me — and I beat them! I won!

I’d brag about the story for the rest of my life. I have no doubt most of the other males I’ve known well might very well react the same way.

So, why the disconnect? Is this discrepancy hard-wired in our brains or is it an artificial construct of our patriarchy?

I’m eager to hear what you think.


BTW, today is You Go Girl Day.

Oh, and it’s National Sausage Pizza Day.


Hot Air: You Say You Want A Revolution?

Ben Fountain is an author whom Malcolm Gladwell has declared a genius. Fountain wrote the short story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, his first book, published when he was 48 years old. He followed that up with the novel, Billy Lynn’s Long halftime Walk, that was made into an Ang Lee blockbuster.

Ben Fountain

Now he’s recently released a non-fiction work entitled Beautiful Country Burn Again, in which he states that this Trump era is just about as much a crisis for our holy land as was the Great Depression or even the Civil War. I agree with him. The perfect storm election of Li’l Duce, his victory on a technicality, is the result of an unholy alliance between greedists, the Taliban-like Christian fundamentalists, the Rand-ian corporatists, and white nationalists. It’s a repudiation of all the progressive advances this country has made since, oh, the Trust-Busters and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, through the New Deal, integration and voting rights, the Great Society, the women’s movement, gay liberation, and all the things I’ve held near and dear that occurred both before I was born and while I’ve inhabited this mad, mad, mad, mad world.

Now that the Republicans have hijacked the United States Supreme Court, accomplished by staging a junta-lite with the Senate’s refusal to vote on Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in 2016, the laws of this country will be interpreted by a gang of scary ideologues for decades. With the ever-growing gap between rich and poor, the transformation of our universities into vocational training centers whose products are millions of malleable, debt-ridden consumerists, the modern-day concentration camps that our privately-run prisons are becoming, and the coming climate change-spurred catastrophes, the wealthy had ought to build their gates and walls high and strong between now and, say, 2050.

In any case, Fountain has succinctly described where we are today — and perhaps where we were always headed for decades, nay, centuries prior:

Profit proportionate to freedom; plunder correlative to subjugation.

Sorry kiddies, that’s America today. And maybe that’s been America forever but at least we tried — or pretended to try — that we had higher goals and loftier aspirations. No more.

All In Lear’s Head

I heard an interview with Norman Lear on the NPR program Here and Now this afternoon. Those of us d’un certain âge remember Lear, now 96, as the brains behind the cultural landmark that was the sitcom All in the Family. Honestly, those born after AITF can have no idea how huge the show was, both as a ratings bonanza for CBS and as a mirror held up to our American society. Hell, the first time the sound of a toilet flushing ever emanated from our living room TVs, it was on All in the Family.

Carrol O’Connor as Archie Bunker.

Me? I detested All in the Family. Why? Shoot, if I wanted to see that kind of polarized, family drama all I had to do was sit down to dinner with my own nuclear kin. My old man, in fact, had the exact job Archie Bunker did — shipping and receiving dock manager. Oh, and Daddy-o and Archie saw about as eye to eye as any two humans possibly could on things like race relations, women, gays, Vietnam, and any of the other American cultural flashpoints of the early 1970s.

My father loved Archie Bunker. Loved him.

My old man on my sister Charlotte’s wedding day, 1960.

The Here and Now interviewer asked Lear how he managed to portray Archie Bunker as the narrow-minded, incurious, frightened, gleefully ignorant lout he was, spewing out pejoratives like coon, chink, spic, and fag, and have the TV audience get the joke and understand such verbal daggers were weren’t meant to be blessed for general public use by their RCAs and Zeniths.

INTERVIEWER: When you dealt so openly, through Archie Bunker in All in the Family, with racism, there’s racist utterances coming from him in every program, obviously you trusted the audience would get that, that the audience would react appropriately.

LEAR: I had no doubt the audience would get that.

Norman Lear is full of shit.

Keep in mind, AITF premiered in January, 1971. By that fall, it had rocketed to No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings and remained atop the heap for the next five seasons. It would never finish lower than twelfth in the ratings by the time it went off the air in 1979. Everybody watched AITF (‘cept me, natch).

Make no mistake: a huge percentage of its audience, perhaps even a majority of it, loved Archie as much as my father did. They didn’t “get that.” They, too, tossed word bombs like coon (or, even more likely, the N-word), chink, spic, and fag. They loved Archie because he was them. And even though Archie regularly got his comeuppance in each episode, they dug that too because it fed into their nascent sense of aggrievement, a sense that has become paramount in American life these days.

Look, a mere year and a half after AITF premiered, the American electorate reelected one Richard Milhouse Nixon president by the greatest landslide in American history to that point. The Nixon voter was Archie Bunker.

Archie’s president.

It wasn’t just liberals chuckling about the benighted Bunker that made AITF the number one show on television. It was my Dad, along with a few tens of millions of like-minded souls, saying, Look, that’s me on the TV screen!

BTW: Lear’s original intent was for the Mike Stivic character, played by Rob Reiner, to be the centerpiece of the show. It was only when Lear started getting sacks for of mail telling him how much viewers dug Archie that he switched the show’s focus to the Bunker dad.

Have I mentioned Norman Lear is full of shit?


Hot Air: God, Guns & Money

After all that, it looks like Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed by the United States Senate and will take a seat on the Supreme Court of this holy land.

And, yeah, this land has gotten that much holier since the unholy Li’lDuce has taken over. Of course, I’m using the term holy in a couple of different and contradictory ways here. The American Christian Taliban finally has achieved its version of nirvana — it has, through the ballot box, the idiot box, and a little bit of hook and/or crook, become the ruling party of the United States. It’s got most of the statehouses, most of the governors’ mansions, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the White House, and the highest court in America.

Wanna bet they’re still going to be running around crying about how they’re so all put-upon and discriminated against and everybody from feminists, blacks, drug-running Mexicans, transexual bathroom-goers, and, for chrissakes, everybody who is not precisely they, is getting their way and boo-hoo-hoo, poor us?

My take? Good old RBG had better stay alive for at least the next two years and possible even the next six.

Hot Air: The Indescribably Tiny God

I can’t let this person’s passing…, um, pass without comment.

Nobel Prize winning physicist Leon Lederman died Wednesday at the age of 96.

It was his book, The God Particle, that got me fascinated with the questions Why Are We Here? and What Really Is This Thing We Call Reality?

Lederman studied some of the smallest possible things we humans know to exist: quarks, leptons, and neutrinos. He was, in fact, the person who brought to the general public’s attention the Higgs Boson. The Higgs, back in the early 1990s, was thought to be the one as-yet undiscovered bit of matter that would explain everything. It was finally observed in tests at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in 2013. The Higgs Boson is the unimaginably tiny pellet created by a certain stimulation of the Higgs Field (the molasses-like stuff that fills every inch of the known universe). The Boson then attaches itself to other elementary particles, giving them mass. In other words, the Higgs is the reason there is tangible stuff.

A physicist named Peter Higgs, among others, proposed in 1964 the existence of the particle that would come to bear his name. In the ensuing years, lots of people took to thinking once the existence of his eponymous little grain was verified, well, we’d know all there is the know about existence. It would be the missing link in what has become known as the Theory of Everything (TOE).

Now, this is tough stuff to wrap your brain around. I’ve read dozens of books geared to the general public about particle physics and I still don’t get it all. Or even a very significant part of it all. Hell, I understand it the way I understand Japanese: I know hai means yes, and that pretty much covers it. When we’re getting down to this minute level of existence, nobody really knows anything; as Richard Feynman famously said regarding his chosen field of expertise: “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

The smart human being, ergo, knows what s/he doesn’t know.

Not being a physicist, a mathematician, a cosmologist, or even an engineer, I’m smart enough to know I don’t know a goddamned thing. When I happened upon Lederman’s book back in the mid-90’s I was hooked. I realized at that moment I would never, ever fully understand what in the hell he was talking about. I could read about the Higgs Boson and the rest of the particles that make up reality until the day I would die and still not come within a light year of grasping any of it. That was perfectly fine by me. Curiosity ends when the mystery is unravelled. If curiosity is a primary reason to go on living — and I believe it is — then to be guaranteed I’ll never know the answer means I’ll never have to stop being curious.

Since I don’t believe in god, it remains imperative for me to acknowledge something greater than myself. Hell, if you can’t surrender to the fact that you are not the biggest and/or only thing in this life, well, you’ll end up a heartless, soulless bastard like…, oh, I needn’t hit you over the head with that hammer again.

In any case, The God Particle — maybe because the mythical creator of the universe is mentioned in the title — struck a nerve in me and millions of others.

Here’s a part of the beauty to be found in Lederman’s book: he writes of “the invisible soccer ball.” Imagine, Lederman asks us, a group of extraterrestrials coming to Earth and being shown around. They go to a soccer game. Thousands of people in the stands watch two teams of eleven players each running around on the field below. Only the visitors somehow are unable to see the soccer ball. They see everything else: the green of the grass, the colorful jerseys of the players, the cheering fans, the nets, the referees, the scoreboard, and so on. They see the players seemingly chasing something all around the pitch. Every once in a while, the crowd goes wild and the players on one side embrace each other in near-ecstasy. One of the more observant of the ETs notices that immediately preceding these outbursts of sheer delirium, the netting behind one of the goals is momentarily distorted. This ET tells her friends, “There must be something we can’t see that is being chased around and occasionally directed into the goal.”

That, Lederman explained, is how a certain few physicists concluded there must be a boson that would bear Higgs’ name, even though they’d never seen it and so could not say for sure whether it existed or not. What would become known as the Higgs Boson had distorted the physicists’ nets enough times to convince them it really was something, even though it was, at the time, invisible to them.

We mere human beings will never attain a Theory of Everything. The only conclusion I can come to, after reading all my books and pondering the findings of Leon Lederman and Peter Higgs and Richard Feynman and all the rest, is to truly understand the mechanics of the universe, one would have to be the universe. If that’s what people who believe in god mean by god, then I suppose I believe in god. Although, there’s hardly any evidence that the majority of people who believe in god are thinking — or have ever thought — in precisely those terms.

I haven’t seen their invisible soccer ball distort the net yet.

BTW: the subtitle of Lederman’s book was If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?

That’s something I and the rest of us will ask, unrequitedly, for the rest of our lives. We’ll never get the satisfaction of knowing — and that’s okay by me.

A Big List Of Big Talk Links

I’d been letting my Big Talk page go un-updated for quite a while now so here are the latest episode links, for your consideration:

▶︎ Sarah Perfetti — co-founder, Be Golden Women’s Empowerment Conference: October 4, 2018

▶︎ Marc Haggerty — community activist: September 27, 2018

▶︎ Chad Rabinovitz & Simon Coronel — Bloomington Playwrights Project artistic director & internationally-renowned illusionist: September 20, 2018:

▶︎ Christian Medina — community volunteer: September 13, 2018

▶︎ Amanda Barge & Shelli Yoder — co-founders, South Central Indiana Opioid Summit: September 6, 2018

▶︎ Vince (Carlos) Gaitani — head of Monroe County Sheriff’s Reserve: August 30, 2018

▶︎ Cindy Beaulé — WFHB fundraiser: August 23, 2018

▶︎ Hoagy Bix Carmichael — son of composer/songwriter/actor Hoagy Carmichael: August 16, 2018

▶︎ Feliz Çiçek — feminist artist: August 2, 2018

▶︎ Troy Maynard — humorist, author: July 26, 2018

▶︎ Chris Mattingly & Dave Torneo — poet & publisher: July 19, 2018

▶︎ Darran Mosley — DJ, karaoke host: July 12, 2018

▶︎ Paula Chambers — Flow Arts entertainer: July 5, 2018

▶︎ Amanda Biggs — actor: June 28, 2018

▶︎ Sam Stephenson — author, historian: June 21, 2018

Tune in every Thursday, 5:30pm, for Big Talk on WFHB, 91.3 FM. And don’t sweat if you miss an episode: you can listen to the podcast any time.

Hot Air: Baking & Burning


The great pleasure of doing Big Talk is meeting some of the most wonderful and fascinating people in town. Cristian Medina is one of them. He’s a research scientist at the Indiana Geological and Water Survey where he and his colleagues are trying to figure out ways to lasso the carbon dioxide gas produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Medina et al hope to scrub the gas, turn it into a pure stream and maybe — just maybe — inject it into the subsurface of the Earth where it can be stored in reservoirs in sedimentary rock layers.

Cristian Medina

Medina admits this solution isn’t the best one — hell, there may be unforeseen side effects should the scheme ever go into practice — but, for pity’s sake, something’s got to be done to stop the ongoing baking of the atmosphere. An even better solution, Medina says, would be an all-out effort to get our energy fix from renewable sources like the sun, the wind, and geothermal. But even a dreamer like Medina is savvy enough to know we’re not going to make that commitment any time soon so we’d better figure out an alternative remedy now, before St. Paul, Minnesota, turns into Nairobi, Kenya.

Besides trying to save the rest of us from cooking ourselves to death, Medina, a native of Chile, is a tireless volunteer around town, pitching in at WFHB where he used to be host of ¡Hola Bloomington!; showing up weekly at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, and serving as president of the Bloomington Indiana Scholastic Chess Club. Dang mang, he even used to cook up big pots of food and lug them over to People’s Park and Seminary Square to help feed the homeless. And that ain’t all he’s been up to hereabouts since his arrival a little more than ten years ago.

My advice to you is click on over to the podcast of yesterday’s Big Talk for my interview with him. I’m telling you, these Big Talks are just the tonic to counteract all the bad news  we who haven’t drunk the Li’l Duce Kool-Aid™ have had to endure the last couple of years. Even better, click on this link for my written profile of him in the Limestone Post.

And why should I even be telling you about the Post piece? You oughtta be reading the online mag regularly in the first place, dig?

Hacking Their Way To Freedom

Did you catch this one the other day?

The guy who came up with the old Virginia Slims ad slogan, You’ve come a long way, baby!, died last month. Those of us of d’un certain âge remember those hip, kicky cigarette ads celebrating the modern female who, by golly, could smoke as many daily packs as any man, damn it!

The adman’s name was Pat Martin and he worked for the Leo Burnett agency in Chicago. He penned the line 50 years ago, in 1968, that landmark year. The message may seem weirdly antediluvian today but you have to keep in mind that women, even well into the 20th Century, could be jailed for dragging on a square in public.

Adman Pat Martin

Considering the fact that our traditionally male-dominated society has, for millennia, relegated females to one of two categories — mother or whore — breaking rules and having sex long have been two prime avenues for our sisters to demonstrate something akin to self-determination. And puffing on a slender smoke from a pastel pack surely was a liberating experience, a breaking of the rules, for many women in those benighted times.

Sure, yeah, we now know cig smoking is one of the worst sins a human can commit against her/himself. That fact was sort-of known back in ’68; the Surgeon General’s Warning was only four years old at that point. Common sense will tell you that inhaling the smoke from a burning substance on an hourly-or-more basis will surely bode ill for your overall health but smoking was still seen as a statement of adulthood, of legal majority, a half century ago. Women rightly figured if it was okay for men to walk around all day enshrouded in a nicotine fog why couldn’t they?

Not all assertions of personhood or liberty are pure and above critique. My sis, for one, took to dragging on a Virginia Slim now and again around 1970, a time when she was discovering her own independence, her own agency. I wouldn’t say the act turned her into an Eleanor Roosevelt or Malala Yousafzai but the Slim and the puffing thereon were things she could call her own. Prior to that, she neither owned nor was anything other than what a certain patriarchy had conferred upon her.

Hot Air: Outs & Ins


Shocker: Rahm Emanuel opts out of the 2019 mayoral election in Chicago.

Non-shocker: A “senior official” in President Gag’s admin. penned an anonymous op/ed in the New York Times this week revealing many high-ranking people working for the current president are standing on their heads trying to protect our holy land from…, well, him.

Emanuel (with wife Amy Rule) announces he’s out.

Then again: Emanuel had to realize he was dead, politically, when he screwed up the city’s response to the Laquan McDonald execution. By stonewalling and obfuscating he lost in the snap of a finger the black vote in my beloved hometown. Nobody becomes mayor in The Third City w/o the black vote.

“Coward” or selfless protector of the nation?

Then again, Deux: Some people are saying the anonymous “senior official” should have the gumption and moral center simply to quit. The op/ed writer wants to remain incognito, presumably, because s/he wants to keep her/his job. Perhaps I’m Pollyanna but isn’t it possible that this person honestly and truly wants to do some little bit to hold the crumbling democratic/republic together? Simply quitting just means Li’l Duce can fill the vacancy with someone who doesn’t care about trivialities like the rule of law, diplomacy, prudence, decency, America’s highest aspirations, etc. — in other words, someone just like himself.


I detest it when people say all politicians are crooked or self-centered. That’s a self-aggrandizing statement. See, the person’s really saying: I’m on to them and I’m so much better than they are.

To which I respond: No you’re not and no you’re not.

I’ve met too many pols in my day who truly want to serve the public and whose grounding is both ethical and compassionate.

Barge (L) & Yoder.

I had a couple of them on Big Talk yesterday — Monroe County Commissioner Amanda Barge and Monroe County Council member Shelli Yoder. They’re the founders of the now-annual Opioid Summit here in Monroe County. They’ve been bending over backward for several months putting this years gathering together. Barge & Yoder claim a significant triumph already in the wake of last year’s inaugural event: thanks to the the 2017 Summit call for easier access to naloxone in Monroe County, they say, the number of overdose deaths hereabouts has dropped dramatically.

Click on over to hear my chat with Barge & Yoder.

Hot Air: Fewer & Further Between

I still don’t know precisely how I feel right now, having begun to pull away from (mostly-)daily posting on this global communications colossus. A brief glance at my menu of past posts shows I only chimed in four times in August. It’s not exactly a divorce, so let’s call it a trial separation.

I’m not looking for any long-term relationships with other websites right now. In fact, I’m not even considering casual encounters with other blogs at the moment.

So, whither The Pencil? Search me. I just know I was getting burned out on the political civil war of words that public discourse has become in this second decade of the 21st Cent. And how many ways can I express my sheer bafflement over the election of a crass, disturbed, unlikeable, nativist, supremacist, greed monkey, reality game show host-emeritus as our Dear Leader?


I do find I have tons o’time to do other penning these days and that’s good. And Charlotte Zietlow and I are making bang-up progress on the book of her life we’ve been slaving over for four years now. We may actually publish an honest-to-gosh hard copy sometime before the the USA goes the way of the old USSR, which eventuality may or may not be right around the corner, historically speaking.

Big Talk is still happening, of course. Matter of fact, a fellow of impeccable rep. around these parts — a litterateur and man-who-knows-others — yesterday AM compared me as an interviewer to Charlie Rose (to my great advantage, I’ll have you know). Make sure to tune in to WFHB, 91.3 FM, every Thursday at 5:30pm or come here every Friday for the link to the previous day’s podcast.

The Loved One and I are soldiering our individual ways through a series of annoying and almost-debilitating aches and pains these days, proving once again that as we Homo Sapiens age we may become more comfortable with our hearts and minds but our bodies sure go all to hell.

Times change. F’rinstance, one of the eternal standbys of my youth, a cultural and economic touchstone of this great nation, Sears, is for all intents and purposes lying on its death bed, what with last month’s announced closing of the co.’s last store in Chicagoland. Sears, when I was about 11 or so, was essentially the center of the universe. Except for gasoline, prescription drugs, and one or two other things, every single solitary thing an American citizen (or even a temporary visitor from the likes of Uganda) could need could be gotten at Sears. Mine was located at North and Harlem, at the extreme western edge of Chi. The old Mercury Theater was just half a block to the west, the place where I saw my first film breast — that of actress Carrie Snodgrass (whose then-promising career, apparently, was cut short by the birth of a son  who had cerebral palsy; the kid’s father was Neil Young) in the otherwise forgettable Diary of a Mad Housewife. At the time the external gland in question made its appearance, I fretted mightily that the rest of the audience (ten, maybe 11 people at most) could hear my heavy breathing so I stifled my respirations to the point, I then worried, I might pass out.

The North & Harlem Store.

But, yeah, Sears. Everybody and her/his sib. bought jeans there, and dress pants, shoes, socks, slips, wigs, cosmetics, tools, washing machines, furs, vacuum cleaners, Cub Power bumper stickers (I copped a good half dozen of them with my saved allowance in the summer of 1969) and even records. I bought, IIRC, my first album there, the “Hair” original Broadway cast soundtrack. My mother went to work at that Sears in about 1967. She sold wigs and then furs — or was is vice versa? In any case, for the next decade and a half, pretty much every Xmas and b-day gift given by her to my daddy-o, me and my bro. & sis.’s, and one of her many grandkids came in a Sears box. She got a 25 percent discount, so natch.

Now, Sears stores are mostly gone.

Not that The Pencil, like Sears, is going under. Let’s look at the unfolding events herein as an evolution. Who knows what this rant machine can become? Time, as Jeeves so often counseled Bertie, will tell.

Wise Words.

Read, Right?

Books I’m reading right now, have just finished, or are on the nightstand waiting for me to finish reading something else:

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil de Grasse Tyson

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari

Our Kind of Traitor, by John le Carré

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus, by Bill Wasik & Monica Murphy

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It occurs to me: I used to read a heck of a lot more when I was riding the el or bus downtown a few days a week. Public transportation just might have been one of the publishing industry’s greatest boons beginning in the late 19th Century and extending well into the last one.

The Blue Line Stop at Damen.

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