Hot Air: TalkLink

Hey, I invented a word!

What it means is you can click your way clear to hearing yesterday’s Big Talk featuring Courtney Payne-Taylor, skateboarder, motivator, and founder of GRO (Girls Riders Organization).

And here’s a vid from the GRO archives:

Hot Air: That One Thing

Many of us wish we had that one thing in our lives that made living worthwhile.

A vocation. A passion. A reason to wake up in the morning.

Some successful folks (really successful, in the I’m-reasonably-contented sense as opposed to phony successful as in I-own-a-lot-of-worthless-shit) usually find a way to fake it through life. Most of us find inspiration — or at least a reason not to swallow cyanide capsules — through our children and grandchildren. I know several people whose bodies are wracked with cancer yet still they hold on to life by their very fingernails because they couldn’t bear the idea of never seeing their progeny again.

Even those unlucky (or lucky) matriarchs and patriarchs must occasionally wonder how fabulous life would be had they discovered some intense devotion to…, what? Something. Some movement. Some idea.

Marie Curie had her radium. Joyce Carol Oates has her books. Greta Thunberg has her planet. Their lives were/are filled — sated, for chrissakes — by that one thing.

The thing that got them up in the morning.

Courtney Payne-Taylor has found her thing. It’s her skateboard. That one thing opened her life — her eyes — to a commitment to teach girls, young women, middle-aged women, and even old women how to keep their balance on the narrow, wheeled board. And how to pop back up when they inevitably fall. And how, in fact, to fall the right way.

The skateboard, Payne-Taylor has found, is the prefect metaphor for life itself.

The Bloomington GRO Crew (Payne-Taylor is in the red shirt).

So, she’s founded GRO (Girls Riders Organization). She actually spent years criss-crossing the country, solo, in her van, bringing skateboards to small towns and big ones, teaching girls and women — and, sure, boys and men, too — how to balance, how to fall, and how to balance again.

Payne-Taylor joins me on this week’s edition of Big Talk, today at 5:30pm, on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

She’s got plans, big plans, for Bloomington and the nation as she expands the reach and charge of GRO.

Join us to find out about her passion. And, if you miss it, come back here tomorrow for the link to the podcast of this week’s episode.

Hot Air: They’re Ba-a-a-a-ack!

The State Of Kate

Galvin

Just putting the finishing touches on today’s Big Talk, featuring the Cardinal Stage Company‘s artistic director Kate Galvin.

She came to Bloomington just about two years ago by way of the vibrant theater scene in Philadelphia where she won awards for directing and a rep as a real musical theater comer.

The Cardinal’s 2019-20 season begins in precisely two weeks, on September 5th, with the opening of “The Great Gatsby” at the Ivy Tech Waldron Auditorium.

Tune in this afternoon at 5:30 for the Galvin chitchat on WFHB, 91.3 FM or come back here tomorrow for the link to the show’s podcats.

Quit Complaining

The students have moved back in, for the most part.

With Move-In Week just about in the rear view mirror, the complaint dept. doors have swung open so wide and with such vehemence that they’re about to turn into this:

BTW: I miss revolving doors, I don’t know precisely why. Maybe because it used to be so much fun watching people from Podunk, Iowa trying to navigate them.

Anyway, every second person you bump into in this town is carping about the traffic and the drivers who go the wrong way down one-way streets, and the New Jersey-ites with their massive, maybe even armored, tinted-windowed, black SUVs.

Here’s an example of how persistent the kvetching is: Last week, my beloved Cubs lost a gut-wrenching heart-breaker in the bottom of the ninth to the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the culmination of a stretch in which my erstwhile boys had soiled their undies time and again. I was so traumatized by the events of that final inning that I took to a social medium and posted “I hate them! I hate them! I hate them!” Most people caught the drift, knowing me and my obsession with the North Side nine, but one commenter replied, “Thought you meant the returning hordes of students!”

I don’t hate the students, primarily because they and the main campus of Indiana University itself make Bloomington what it is. It’s like saying the beach’d be a great place to laze around if it weren’t for all the water and sand. There are some things that, morally, you can’t complain about because you shoulda known when you:

  1. Moved there;
  2. Married them;
  3. Gorged on a sack of White Castles;
  4. Tried to squeeze your expanding backside into;
  5. Voted for when the whole rest of the goddamned world knew the guy was a talentless, crass, egomaniacal, megalomaniacal, borderline sociopath who lies only whenever he opens his detestable mouth.

Bloomington is a town full of lively coffeehouses, exciting theater companies, the rare independent bookstore, Lotus Fest, and Ross Gay. It’s one of the very few tiny islets of Blue in this crushingly Red state because of the +40,000 plus human beings who teach, study, cut classes, pontificate, bloviate, act, sing, write, dance, sculpt, paint, strum, blow, screech, and profess their undying love for humanity here.

You knew that when you moved to Bloomington.

You’re thrilled to tears in June and July when you can find a parking space and then get seated almost immediately at the Anatolia or Taste of India restaurants on 4th Street. Places like that don’t exist in, say, Martinsville. There’s a reason for that. Martinsville folk think Oreo’s rainbow cookies celebrating Pride Month will turn their sons and daughters into raving homosexuals. They’re afraid the cooks and bus staff at a place like Anatolia are secretly planning a second 9/11-type attack while preparing their scarily exotic dishes.

We embrace all that here because we’re the nine-months-of-the-year home to people from China, Kazakhstan, India, Niger, Seattle, and countless other strange lands. We tolerate single-sex couples occasionally ambling down Kirkwood Avenue holding hands because…, well, universities draw such a dizzyingly diverse mix of humanity. Hell, we even have our own local chapter of Black Lives Matters. (Note: There isn’t one in Martinsville.)

That, babies, is the whole package. Bloomington. Relaxed and nearly empty during the late spring and summer months, it gets packed in mid-August when its population, for all intents and purposes, doubles. If that didn’t happen annually, we’d be — sorry, gotta say it — Martinsville.

For a couple of decades I lived in what the real estate people like to call Wrigleyville in Chicago. When I moved there in 1984, I dug the idea of walking to the ballpark on any given day the mood struck me and copping a ducat for the baseball game. Of course, that was just about the time Wrigleyville along with Lansdowne Street outside Boston’s Fenway Park were just becoming the first “ballpark villages,” loci of overpriced restaurants and bars, music venues, boutiques, souvenir shops, cutesy furniture markets, and other such detritus attractive to young, urban professionals who flocked to the area, causing home prices and rents to skyrocket faster than the national debt under a Republican president.

Those folks (whom we used to refer to as Yuppies) shrieked loudest about the ungodly crowds milling around “their” neighborhood on game days. They formed groups and associations to fight every breath and motion of the baseball organization that made Wrigleyville or Fenway-Kenmore so desirable to them in the first place. Hell, they’d have been pleased as hell if the Cubs or the Red Sox suddenly decided to pull up stakes and move to Schaumburg or Foxborough.

No, you don’t get to carp and moan about crowds when you decide to move next door to a stadium.

Just as we in Bloomington don’t get to howl about how snarled traffic is for the three or four days of Move-In Week.

Sure, we can raise hell when over-served students deface storefronts or double- or triple-park on Walnut Street or act like horses’ asses toward waitstaffs, just as the denizens of Wrigleyville or Landsdowne Street can scream about people pissing in their gangways or bloodying each other in drunken fistfights on their front lawns.

But the crowds and the traffic come with the territory.

And the 40,000 Indiana University people are Bloomington.

Hot Air: When American English Isn’t Enough

Party People

Two items:

  1. I know I’m late to a lot of stuff — mainly because I don’t care about a lot of stuff that most people do care about — but I just found out about gender reveal parties. Really, people? Maybe I’m alone in this but I honestly don’t care about if, when, and how people are reproducing, let alone what sex their kids are going to be. And — even more honestly — if you do care then may I suggest you find a hobby?
  2. I saw an Indiana University student cruising down a sidewalk on a scooter this AM. He was sporting a red T-shirt with this emblazoned on its back: Anti-Socialism Social Party. I wonder if he’ll ever realize how utterly fercockter that whole sentiment is — and on so many levels.

A-a-a-and, speaking of yiddish, please read on ⬇︎

Beyond Words

Musician Mike Cohen (no, not that Michael Cohen) treats us to this linguistics lesson (scroll down for translation key):

For you philistines too unenlightened to already know the English translations of the above mots, or too lazy to look them up, The Pencil provides this invaluable key for you:

  • chazera pig; a piggish person
  • ganef — (variant of gonif) a thief; a disreputable or dishonest person
  • lignera liar
  • mamzera bastard
  • nebbisha pitifully ineffectual, timid, or submissive man
  • nokhshleperan imitator; a sycophant
  • pishera nobody; a child; a squirt
  • putza stupid or worthless person
  • schluba talentless, unattractive, boorish person
  • schmegeggebullshit, baloney, nonsense
  • schmuck — (literally, penisa foolish or contemptible person 
  • schnorrera beggar or scrounger; a layabout
  • shandea disgrace; embarrassing; shameful
  • shlegera thug
  • shtarkera big bruiser; an ape
  • tsvuaka hypocrite

You’re welcome.

 

Hot Air: Too Many, Too Much

The already very funny Billy Bullion nailed it with this one:

Hillary got it terribly wrong. There are SOOOOOO many more deplorables.

More than can fit in this basket.

A Deadly Game

So a guy died the other day while participating in a taco-eating contest at the minor league ballpark in Fresno, California. The guy, 41 y.o. Dana Hutchings, keeled over while scarfing down scads of the Mexican delicacies. Acc’d’g to Fresno TV station KOAA, “It was not immediately known how many tacos the man had eaten or whether he had won the contest.”

I like that little nugget tacked on to the end of the quote. Did the reporter ask if the dude had won? And what would have prompted the reporter to wonder if he had or hadn’t. Would winning have made his tragic death ever so slightly more, y’know, worth it?

Wait a minute — tragic death? That’s my word, and I’m sorry I wrote it. People dying in an airplane crash or a hurricane, mall shoppers getting mowed down by a terrorist, a sixteen-year-old violin virtuoso being sidelined by Multiple Sclerosis, all these are tragic happenstances.

A knucklehead gorging himself on junk-y food in a competition with other knuckleheads? A middle-aged cetriolo ( * see note at bottom of post), likely with a thick layer of fat surrounding his heart as a precursor to the inevitable atrial fibrillation? Stuffing food in your mouth for fun? Nuh-uh, babies. That’s no tragedy. That’s stupidity.

Dig this bit from the Fresno Bee:

(Fresno) Grizzlies fan Matthew Boylan, who attended Tuesday night’s game with his wife and four children…, said he quickly noticed Hutchings because “he was eating so fast compared to the other two (contestants.”

“It was like he’d never eaten before, “Boylan added. He was just shoving the tacos down his mouth without chewing.”

About seven minutes into the contest, Hutchings collapsed and hit his face on a table as he went down to the ground, Boylan said. The eating contest immediately ended, though there was no stoppage to the actual baseball game.

Phew. Thank goodness the baseball game wasn’t delayed or cancelled! I mean, it’s just one guy’s life, after all.

Which brings us to the villains of this macabre tale. The Fresno Grizzlies staged the taco eating contest as a teaser to the coming weekend’s Taco Truck Throwdown, a big bash featuring 30 local taco trucks as well as entertainment by the likes of Goodie Mob with CeeLo Green, Too Short and A.B. Quintanilla, and the Kumbia KIngs. The Throwdown, which was to include the World Taco Eating Championhsip, the Saturday main event, was sanctioned by an organization called Major League Eating, whose raison d’être, apparently, is putting on these food orgies.

Is it so hard to attract fans to minor league baseball games that the two aforementioned outfits have to schedule gluttony extravaganzas? If so, why not just put on something like Meth Fest? You know, see who can ingest the most crystalline powder before passing out. Hell, you can even have categories like Smoking, Snorting and Shooting. It’d be a sure-fire success as I’m certain meth freaks from hundreds of miles around’ll converge on the ballpark for their blasts of free junk.

And the winner is….

And you know what? It’s not likely that anyone’ll die, seeing as how meth addiction is a slow suicide.

Oh sure, call me crazy. But what do you call people who put on these eating contests?

[ * I love this word, cetriolo. It’s Italian for cucumber and is used by immigrants and their progeny to mean…, well, a knucklehead. In the Sicilian dialect, it’s pronounced CHEH-drool. That means it’s unintelligible to the rest of Italians. If you come from a largely Sicilian neighborhood, as mine on the northwest side of Chi. was, you come to understand that at least one of every three or four males is a cetriolo…, oops, sorry. I meant CHEH-drool.]

 

Hot Air: The Lively Art of Conversation

Sometimes I wish Big Talk was an hour-long program or even an hour and a a half. Such was the case for yesterday’s episode featuring Dr. Rob Stone, our town’s most passionate voice advocating for universal, single-payer health care.

Stone on the Stump. 

Stone had been a fixture in the Bloomington Hospital emergency room for some 28 years and now specializes in palliative and hospice care. But he’s been active — nay, hyper-active — in orgs. like Medicare for All: Indiana (he was a founder and now is director) as well as the Indiana state coordinator for Physicians for a National Health Program. One of his great heroes was Dr. Quentin Young, a Chicago-based advocate for universal health care and, for a time, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s personal physician.

In case you missed yesterday’s broadcast, here’s the show, in toto:

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30 pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. The entire Big Talk archive resides here.

Lively

BTW: The headline? That was the tagline for a WTTW-Ch. 11 Chicago late Saturday night gabfest called Kup’s Show. Hosted by Chicago legend Irv Kupcinet, Kup’s Show was the final iteration of a talk show he’d originated in 1952. Kup, as he was affectionately known, actually was among the very first pioneers of the talk show format in the then-nascent television medium.

Kup (R) with Liza Minelli & Sammy Davis, Jr.

In fact, by 1957, Kup had earned such a reputation that he was called in to serve as one of a revolving set of hosts to replace Steve Allen on NBC’s The Tonight Show. Producers eventually tabbed Jack Paar to replace Allen.

Kup’s Show — originally called At Random — for many years ran as an open-ended program. Kup sat around a coffee table with three or four guests gabbing about world events, philosophy, sports, Hollywood gossip, and much more until the group was talked out. Often the show, which originally aired live at midnight, might run, according to one source, until 5:30am. Kup would introduce each and every episode with his slogan, “Welcome to the lively art of conversation.”

Kup (L) with Marlon Brando.

Kup retired from hosting the weekly program in 1986.

He’d been born and raised in the old Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side, then populated by Eastern European Jewish immigrants and their kids. Kup earned a football scholarship to Northwestern University but was forced to leave after he brawled with a fellow student. He transferred to the University of North Dakota and, after graduation, was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. A shoulder injury put an end to his pro career after a single season and he came back to Chi. to work as a sports reporter for the old Chicago Daily Sun. That paper eventually merged with the Chicago Times to become the still-existent Chicago Sun-Times.

While still at the Sun, Kup took up writing a short gossip column. Capitalizing on Chicago’s position as the nation’s central rail hub, he’d hang out at any of the city’s trans-continental railway stations and snag Hollywood actors, directors, and producers for interviews while they waited for their connecting trains to either coast. Owing to geography and his own doggedness, he became one of the nation’s premier gossip columnists, along with the likes of Drew Pearson, Hedda Hopper, Luella Parsons, Ed Sullivan, Herb Caen, and Walter Winchell. By and by, Kup became so powerful that the stars started coming to him. He held court at the Ambassador East Hotel’s Pump Room restaurant, much as his cinematic counterpart J.J. Hunsecker did in “Sweet Smell of Success.” The Pump Room’s maître d’ would send limousines to the rail stations to pick up the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Otto Preminger to have them deposited at Kup’s legendary Booth One table.

Karyn Kupcinet

In November 1963, scarcely a week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Kup and his wife Essie’s daughter Karyn, an aspiring actress, was found dead in her West Hollywood apartment. The LA coroner ruled she’d been strangled — her hyoid bone was broken — and called her death a homicide. The killing was never solved. One published rumor held that Karyn had been a paramour of JFK and that she’d called a local telephone operator minutes before Kennedy was shot, warning that the event was imminent. That theory goes on to assert that Kup himself was somehow privy to a Chicago Outfit plot to kill Kennedy and that his daughter was rubbed out as a warning to keep his mouth shut. That theory remains specious to this day.

Kup expressed a grieving father’s certainty in his memoir, Kup: A Man, an Era, a City, that Karyn’s lover and fellow aspiring actor Andrew Prine, who’d go on to have a long career as a TV drama character actor, and who at the time of Karyn’s death was breaking up with her, was somehow involved in the killing.

Kup (R) and Jimmy Hoffa.

Kup’s Show (and At Random) featured guests as diverse as Martin Luther King, Jr.; LA Dodgers manager Tommy LaSorda; Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Malcolm X, presidents Richard Nixon and Harry Truman; and Liberace.

Kup’s wife Essie, a notorious chain-smoker, died in 2001. Heartbroken, he made sure she was buried with two fresh packs of Pall Malls. Irving Kupcinet died in 2003 at the age of 91.

Hot Air: They Bought Our Democracy

Fascinating story in today’s New York Times about Cordelia Scaife May, an heiress to the Mellon family banking, oil, and aluminum fortune.

It turns out this woman’s foundation has bankrolled anti-immigration organizations over the years to the tune of at least $180 million. It can be said that the nativist, anti-immigrant carbuncles of our holy land might not exist without regular fresh injections of her dough through the years. Considering the fact that Li’l Duce began his then-quixotic presidential campaign in 2015 by demonizing brown people trying to enter the United States through this nation’s southern border and then, somehow, actually won the 2016 election (on a technicality), it can be further asserted that her money largely put the current president in office.

The Scaife/Mellon clan long has been active in political affairs, hoping in the main to turn America into a heretofore unimagined (except by them) corporate valhalla where the citizens serve as nothing more than voiceless, powerless worker ants in a global pismiric playground for multi-billionaires.

A fellow named Richard Mellon Scaife bankrolled the original “vast Right Wing conspiracy” against the Clintons way back when Bill was gov. of the state of Arkansas. See, throughout the late ’80s, Republican and Right Wing strategists figured the biggest potential threat to their burgeoning hegemony would be a charismatic southern Democrat, one who would be slavish to corporate interests while espousing moderately progressive social issues. That’s pretty much the dictionary def. of one William Jefferson Clinton.

Scaife was the sugar daddy for the American Spectator‘s “Arkansas Project,” a dedicated, obsessive probe into every pore and orifice of the future president’s life and doings. Scaife and his cohorts feared the holy hell out of the Kennedy-esque (in many more ways than one) Clinton. Hillary’s hubby, natch, didn’t disappoint the gumshoes, considering his nearly pathological predilection for extracurricular sex. It was the Arkansas Project that dug up Paula Jones, who served as the starting gun for an eventual race to impeachment.

(For a nice portrait of the concerted effort to smear the Clintons off the face of the Earth, check out The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, by investigative journalists Joe Conason and Gene Lyons.)

Don’t kid yourself, it wasn’t a lovingly decent concern for the well-being of easily manipulable young women falling under the sway of the Rhodes Scholar charmer. The likes of Jones et al were mere pawns on the Right’s chess game of nullification and obstructionism. Scaife and his minions essentially set into motion a slow-moving coup, with Mitch McConnell’s shoplifting of Barack Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court pick and the dumb luck of President Gag’s Electoral College victory that same year serving as nails in the coffin of what we once naively referred to as our democracy.

Make no mistake, that inherited Mellon industrial fortune has brought us to this day where Republicans, corporate evangelicals, reproductive rights abrogators, ecological terrorists, and white supremacists run the White House, the Senate, the US Supreme Court, and two-thirds of this nation’s statehouses.

Money walks while everybody else talks.

 

Hot Air: Bill of “Rights”

I’ve had my eardrums blown out any number of times at the Aragon Ballroom. The old, cavernous live music venue on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood was the site of more Ramones and Iggy Pop shows that I attended throughout the years than I can remember.

In fact, I recall one such show w/ Iggy as the headliner and the Ramones as the openers on a fall Saturday night sometime in the late ’70s. Sandwiched between the acts was the old hard rock guitarist Leslie West. He’d played with Mountain, who’d appeared on the Woodstock stage the second day of that historic cultural touchstone. Hardly ten years after the definitive love/rock gathering of humanity in the mud of upstate New York, West and others like him would be considered old men, dinosaurs of a bygone era in rock. West at the time of the Aragon show was, shall we say, corpulent, putting him at esthetic odds with the gaunt kids who dug punks like Iggy and Joey Ramone. The combined weight of those two wouldn’t equal one of Leslie West’s thighs and the crowd surely let him know it. I could make out shouts of “fat pig” and “fat asshole,” discernible over the earsplitting booing and hissing as he played. Punks, it should be said, were not Gandhian nor were they particular astute. Whoever’d put the show’s card together should have been fired posthaste. It was like pairing Kelly Clarkson with Tierra Whack today.

The saddest moment of the entire evening came when, lo and behold, it was announced in the middle of West’s set that it was his birthday. A big cake with scads of lit candles was wheeled out onstage. The booing and catcalling only increased. A bottle, then another and, ultimately, a shower of them came flying in ballistic arcs from the crowd. West and his bandmates beat a hasty retreat, cutting their set short. It would be the last time I ever took in a show at the Aragon, even though I’d stayed through to the end and watched as Iggy climbed an amp tower and beseeched the crowd to dare him to leap off it into their arms. Iggy always put on a fun show and I’d be willing to bet he was appalled that a fellow touring pro had been treated so rudely by the audience.

(L-R) Pop, West, Joey

My first ever show at the Aragon was for a southern rock band called Black Oak Arkansas, whom I’d seen at a 1972 Labor Day weekend rock fest, familiarly known as Bull Island, on the Wabash River. To this day I can’t adequately explain why I went to the Black Oak show at the Aragon, considering I pretty much loathe the band’s sound. Perhaps it was because I’d wanted to re-visit the groove I felt the first time I’d heard them, seeing as how I was tripping my ass off on some type of acid or another at that time. The Black Oak/Aragon show was in 1973 and I recall my ears ringing — nay, screaming for the next three or four days. The Aragon’s sound quality was notoriously bad. Chicago Reader rock critic Bill Wyman described the Aragon sound in a January 1991 piece as “legendarily weird.”

Wyman went on to write: “The domed roof and the balcony running around the sides and back of the hall take bass notes and turn them into a reverberating rumble. The simple expedient of turning the bass down, people familiar with the hall’s acoustics say, clears things up considerably — but this tends to fly in the face of the prejudices of sound people….”

That “reverberating rumble” was a signature of every show I’d ever seen at the Aragon. By the time I went to see Iggy and the Ramones with Leslie West in the late ’70s, I’d grown wary and weary of attending shows there. My ears would shriek and my head would pound continuously in the aftermath. I knew every show I’d heard there was pushing me thismuch closer to deafness when I’d hit the age of, say, 55.

As I said, the abominable treatment the crowd gave Leslie West pushed me over the edge and I never went back to the place.

Nevertheless, the Aragon holds a special place in my heart, a precious memory of my 50 years in my beloved hometown. It was right around the corner from the massive Uptown Theater, where I once saw Brian Ferry, and the old Al Capone hangout, The Green Mill, where, one night on a first date while a jazz band did a set, I did ten quick pushups next to the bar just to impress the girl I was with. Impress her I did; we went on to wage an intense, passionate three month affair that, when it was thankfully terminated, left us both mentally and emotionally exhausted. All around the Lawrence and Broadway intersection were little 24-hour taquerias and supermarket-sized Chinese restaurants, all of them fabulous and all patronized by an endless parade of people of every race, color, and sartorial preference, drag queens, gangbangers, pinky-ring-wearing hoodlums, cops, and sax-toting buskers. It was the kind of scene I miss dearly now that I live in South Central Indiana, although I don’t know how comfortable I’d feel back there now that I can’t throw thumbs* as readily and capably as I once could.

[ * Back when I was a teenaged thorn in society’s side, “throwing thumbs” meant fistfighting. I learn today, it means liking too many things on Facebook. Slang, natch, like formal language itself, is a fluid thing.]

Anyway, I bring up these recollections of the old Aragon Ballroom because I read this morning that the place has sold naming rights to an operation called Byline Bank. I’d never heard of Byline Bank before which, I suppose, is as good a reason as any for it to plaster its name over things. You’d think a byline bank would be a newspaper typesetter’s convenience so he wouldn’t have to spell out, say, Martha Gellhorn‘s name from scratch every time she filed a story.

Byline Bank, it turns out, is a regional financial institution with some 50 full-service locations in the Chicago and Milwaukee markets. Like most banks, it’s been bought and sold more times than a 1995 Toyota Corolla and it’s only gone under the name Byline since 2015.

Now, the old Aragon will be referred to in advertisements and news stories as the Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom. The only good thing about it is they’re keeping the Aragon Ballroom part of the appellation.

I detest the promiscuous naming of things after corporations. I realize that’s the way of the world these days and resisting it is akin to trying to stop the waves of the ocean. Chicago, for instance, is home of Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox ballpark, and quite possibly the most hideously monikered playing filed in this holy land. Then again, there are the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland; the StubHub Center outside LA; the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville; Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas; and Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina, named not after the legendary movie tap dancer but the Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits chain of LDL pushers in the southeastern United States.

Corps. over the decades have paid billions of dollars for the privilege of pasting their names over stadia, buildings, bridges, theaters, performance venues, rapid transit stations and even, if you can believe it, a section of the Antarctic Coast.

Satellite image of the Walgreen Coast.

The naming rights phenomenon exists and it ain’t going away. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Hot Air: Bye-bye, Sugar Daddies

Lots of folks are starting to think we’re now going to make sure lunatics can’t get their mitts on war weapons. The El Paso and Dayton slaughters, they reason, are two too many. This holy land, the reasoning goes, has reached its limit and we’re all about to get sane re: guns.

Republicans, generally the most rabid of 2nd Amendment zealots, one by one are beginning to utter rhetoric heretofore reserved only for gun control advocates. Hell, even the current occupant of the White House is calling for more stringent background checks, for pity’s sake.

Things are changing, it’s said, because we’ve had enough.

As usual, the conventional wisdom is…, well, full of shit.

The rational among us for eons have been screaming and holding our collective breath for reasonable restrictions on the availability of automatic weapons and the ability of hate-mongers and the mentally whacked-out to purchase them as easily as copping a new set of Michelins. We long have supposed the reason promiscuous trigger-pullers are given carte blanche hereabouts is that a majority of the public wants unrestricted access to shootin’ irons.

That’s never been true. Poll after poll through the years — through the decades — indicate most of us have wanted and continue to want real regulations on the buying and selling of homicide hardware. We haven’t changed through the years. Something else has.

That’s the NRA. Over the past year or two, the gun manufacturing industry’s heavy lifter has been beset by scandal. There’ve been infighting at the top, revelations that certain NRA officials have been looting the group’s coffers for personal gain, and a subsequent significant drop-off in fundraising. Suddenly, the NRA has become something to shrink from. Politicians who’ve sucked up to the NRA every election cycle now find that money tree drying up.

Consequently, erstwhile dependable congressbeings and statehouse lizards are becoming more normal when it comes to firearms legislation. Normal being the rest of us who haven’t been paid scads of dough by Smith & Wesson and/or Remington Outdoor via the Nat’l Killing Ass’n to do their murderous bidding.

Dylanesque?

Didja miss this past week’s Big Talk? Don’t sweat it. Here’s the podcast of my interview with musician and goodwill ambassador Travis Puntarelli:

TP is an oft-roving minstrel who for the nonce has put down roots once again here in his hometown of Bloomington. A high school dropout who went on to study tons of things at Indiana U., he’s traveled this land from s. to shining s., co-busking w/ other troubadours and balladeers. In fact, the latter is now the sorta-name of his latest aggregation of music-makers: The Balladirs, more info on which to be found here.

BTW: One of our town’s other street musicians and an overall peculiar* character himself (* in the most complimentary sense), Marc Haggerty, who’s long harbored the biggest of big boy crushes on TP, describes the object of his adulation as a lyricist and songwriter to rival none other than Nobel Prize-winner Bob Dylan.

Puntarelli (screengrab from the documentary by Maya Piper, click for full video)

Such is the width and breadth of the aura that surrounds one Travis Puntarelli. Listen for yourself above or here.

Hot Air: Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me

The Limestone Post and its regular feature, Big Mike’s B-town, both still exist, oh yeah.

This week my profile of Adam Nahas, the big potato at Artisan Alley, ran in the online mag that covers everything vital and interesting in So. Cent. IN. Here’s the link to that story. It’s the partner piece — in spirit if not in time — of my Big Talk of May 16th featuring Nahas himself.

You may listen to the podcast either here:

… or here on the WFHB website. If you’ve got a spare few minutes, I’d recommend going to the ‘FHB site anyway because it’s chock-full of other great radio things, including countless episodes of Interchange hosted by the program’s now-emeritus host/producer, Doug Storm.

In any case, tune in to Big Talk next week for a convo w/ Dr. Rob Stone, our town’s most prominent voice calling for real, effective health care reform. Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm, immediately following the Daily Local News, on WFHB, 91.3 FM. As an added bonus, Big Talk Extra, continued conversation with the previous week’s guest airs every Monday during the Daily Local News at 5pm.

Half A Century?

Speaking of “Everybody’s Talkin’,” the Top 40 hit by Harry Nilsson was played constantly on my hometown pop stations, Chicago’s WLS and WCFL, during the fateful summer of 1969. Fifty goddamned years ago, kids! And, yeah, that was the two-word name of the ditty, even though most of us refer to the 45* by it’s memorable four-word opening line.

[ * If I need to explain what a 45 is, you prob. aren’t going to be interested in this entry at all anyway, so there. ]

Click Image To Hear The Song.

The song hit No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that summer and later won a Grammy award. It charted on both Billboard’s Adult Contemporary and Pop Singles lists in ’69. ET also gained widespread fame as the signature tune in the movie Midnight Cowboy, the very first X-rated flick ever to win the Academy Award™ for Best Picture. The song was written by legendary folkie, Fred Neil. Midnight Cowboy director John Schlesinger tabbed Nilsson to croon a tune for his upcoming pic about a male prostitute, Joe Buck, and his pimp with a limp, Ratso Rizzo. Nilsson wanted to do a song of his own writing called, “I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City.” Schlesinger nixed that tune and called for Nilsson to sing the Neil-penned cover instead, a wise choice. ET went on to sell more than a million records and has been described in the New York Times as “a landmark in the classic rock era.”

A little more trivia: the Mad magazine parody of Midnight Cowboy, to the best of my recollection, Senator, was entitled Midnight Wowboy and the main characters were named Joe Cluck and Ratface Ratfink. God, I loved Mad magazine. Buck and Rizzo were played in the movie, respectively, by Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman.

Times change, natch, and Midnight Cowboy would likely be aired on network television now with minimal bleeping. Back in ’69, though, its themes of male prostitution and homosexuality made half the population faint dead away. For my money, MC is one of the bleakest, most depressing movies I’ve ever seen. If the movie’s very last scene doesn’t chill your heart for days after viewing it, you’re probably dead in the soul.

Fade Out.

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