Hot Air: Words & Actions

Washington Bound?

Bloomington native and Washington veteran Liz Watson kicks off her campaign for US Congress from Indiana’s 9th District Sunday with a meet-and-greet at the Fountain Square ballroom. She was with me, live, yesterday afternoon for this week’s Big Talk.

Frankly, I like her. She’s got the goods for a first-time candidate. I also like Dan Canon, another virginal Dem angling for the primary victory in May, 2018. Both call for more jobs, better health care, and support for working families, and both position themselves as champions of the little guy. (BTW, guy in this instance is unisexual.)

For his part, Canon’s throwing himself a house party in Johnson County this eve. He’s been on the stump since early July when he announced his candidacy.

I Like ‘Em Both

I’ve yet to get to know the other three declared candidate for the Democratic nomination: Jason Leineweber, Tod Curtis, and Tom Pappas. I’ll be contacting them within the next few weeks to corral them for the show. I’ll wait until next year to bring Trey Hollingsworth on, as he’s the incumbent and, so far, remains unchallenged for the Republican nom.

Watson’s coming-out party will begin at 2:00pm and will feature the likes of former United Steel Workers local prez Chuck Jones and my pal Charlotte Zietlow as speakers. I like the fact that Liz is bringing a union guy on board. I’m sick to death of the Democratic Party running and hiding from its labor roots ever since the word union was declared obscene by Saint Ronald and his acolytes back in the ’80’s.

Anyway, catch my interview with Liz here or here.

Next week, IU astronomer Caty Pilachowski fills us in on the upcoming Great American Eclipse.

Football’s Unforgivable Sin

The institution of professional football in this holy land turns my stomach no matter what has happened the last few days in the sport. It’s sadistic and misogynistic. Its rulers know the sport is turning players’ brains into mush — and, yes, those players know the risk they’re taking — but the owners and administrators of the NFL deny former players just compensation for their Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy conditions. This while those owners make billions — billions, I tell you — of dollars putting humans on the field of play where that malady is a near inevitability.

For years, the owners and operators of the sport conspired among themselves to quash any studies or reports on the severity of the CTE problem, much as the tobacco companies of yore sat on smoking/cancer link data or Ford motor company continued to put death traps on the road while ignoring studies that showed its Pintos might easily explode.

The NFL has a bizarre morality. It forgives players who’ve brandished guns in public gathering spots, operated dog fighting rings, or even become involved in murder. But it will not forgive a fellow named Colin Kaepernick for protesting the treatment of dark skinned people in America.

Kaepernick has been a mediocre quarterback in the NFL, meaning there’s a place for him somewhere, on some team. NFL teams fall all over themselves seeking out and signing veteran mediocrities to lead their teams — or at least keep the bench warm while their starters flirt with the perils inherent in the sport. Top quarterbacks are hard to find, so teams content themselves with guys like Kaepernick until the next superstar comes along. Many NFL quarterbacks, whose talents and accomplishments are pedestrian at best, have put in long careers, up to and into their 40s because there’s such a dearth of transcendent talent at the position. But Kaepernick has been out of a job since the end of last season for the sole reason that, for a while, he refused to stand during the national anthem before games. That was his sin, a transgression so vile that he can’t even be paid to ply his yeoman trade at the age of 29. Football general managers usually salivate for veteran quarterbacks not yet 30 to fill some — any – kind of role on their teams.

But not Colin Kaepernick.

Oh, and he wears a big bushy Afro. That’s another thing NFL honchos disdain. They don’t want the paying customer to think its players are getting too black.

Now comes word that NFL legends Ray Lewis and Michael Vick are disappointed in Kaepernick. Both have come out with statements the last few days criticizing him and advising him to get his act together.

One Of These Men Is Not A Convicted Criminal

Odd, this. Vick, you may recall, served 21 months in prison for his part in the operation of a vicious dog fighting ring in Virginia. He was 29 years old when he was released, and several teams jockeyed into position to sign him up to quarterback. Lewis, for his part, was involved in a fatal street brawl between him and his friends and another group outside a Super Bowl party in Atlanta in 2000. The fight resulted in the stabbing deaths of two men. Lewis was found to have lied to the police about his whereabouts at the time of the fight. Evidence also showed that he disposed of a blood-stained suit he was wearing and that the blood of one of the murdered men was found in his limousine. He agreed to a plea deal, admitting obstruction of justice, and served a 12-month probation.

Both Vick and Lewis are disgusted with the actions of Colin Kaepernick.

The bosses of the NFL are disgusted with him, too. They weren’t disgusted enough with the actions of Lewis and Vick to deny them employment. Kaepernick, though, sits by the telephone, waiting for it to ring.

So, if I read the NFL ethos correctly, murder is a venial sin. So is the raising of dogs to tear each other limb from limb for your viewing pleasure. Failure to demonstrate “respect” for the flag is a cardinal sin. Kaepernick, therefore, has been banished to football’s hell, otherwise known as the unemployment line.

Football sucks.

Word Peeve Of The Day

Whenever I hear the word they I tune the speaker out.

That is, they when used to signify some nameless, faceless cabal of evil overlords who are poisoning our drinking water or foisting arch-villain presidential candidates upon us. (And, in the latter case, the they actually is we, the body politic who elected the arch-villain who currently occupies the White House. The man who is now our president was roundly eschewed by those who’d normally constitute the cabal-ish they, namely the Koch boys and other billionaire puppet masters. That they couldn’t distance themselves fast enough from the then-candidate Li’l Duce because they sensed he was such a loose cannon, such an uncontrollable loon, that they couldn’t depend on him to carry out their nefarious schemes.)

It only demonstrates how scattershot the usage of the term they can be.

They could also mean authoritative, benign gangs of scientists or taste-makers. They say you ought to eat oatmeal everyday so you won’t catch cancer. They tell us our toenails should be painted with sliver moons or we should not wear ponytails if we are male.

Who Are They?

They is such a broad term as to be meaningless. If you can’t be specific, you ought to think twice about speaking at all.

Hot Air: Cash Is King…

… And The King Is Dead

Neil Steinberg writes today about the growing number of retail establishments that are going cashless. That is, they’re not accepting your dollar bills anymore, nor your fins, sawbucks, Jacksons, half-yards, or c-notes, for that matter.

Who Needs It?

Oh sure, these businesses have their reasons and some of them are even…, well, reasonable. Neil lays these justifications out nicely, so I won’t pilfer from him here (not that I have any moral compunction against such larceny, only that I’m lazy today).

Still, if any biz around these parts opts to refuse to take my paper or metal, I’ll be happy to inform them I’ll take my own biz elsewhere.

I’m guessing this righteous indignation will last, at most, a year or two. By 2020 at the latest, I’ll have become a non-complaing participant in the coming cashless society.

She Can’t Go Home Again — Just Yet

Check out this week’s offerings in Limestone Post for my profile of a person who’s been living on the streets, in shelters, and, occasionally, in subsidized housing for the last couple of years. Her name is Peggy. I interviewed her on Big Talk a few weeks ago and now you can read about her in the LP’s Big Mike’s B-town column.

Three For The Show

This week is jam-packed with Big Talk sessions. Man alive, they ain’t nuffin’ like hoarding recordings so’s I won’t have to endure my weekly nervous breakdown worrying about who I’m gonna corral for the next show.

I’m knocking three BT’s off this week, one of which will be a live interview Thursday afternoon at the regular time.

The two recording sessions I’ve already done have reinforced my flagging faith in humanity — honest to gosh. This much needed jolt of optimism has come about thanks to the existence in this mad, mad world of two brilliant, civilized, hard-charging souls named Caty Pilachowski and Kate Hess Pace.

Caty (Catherine, acc’d’g to her birth cert.) is a big shot astronomer at Indiana University. She’s as cool as an October breeze. Wanna know how cool? She has her own minor planet, 17025 Pilachowki by name. The (relatively) little hunk of iron and rock was discovered in 1999 and now, forever, will bear her name. And I’m not referring to those scams you used to see in the backs of mags wherein you could buy your own star or some such Trumpish bushwa. 17025 Pilachowski is the real deal.

The current occupant of the Daniel Kirkwood Chair at Indiana University’s Astronomy Dept., Caty came to the studio Monday afternoon to talk about the upcoming total solar eclipse that’ll swath its way across this holy land in the early afternoon, Monday, August 21st. She explained how the show will play out here in Bloomington — there’s a cool little trick you can do with the shadow of your hand, plus the trees themselves will serve to create a spectacular display as the sun’s light gets occluded by the moon that day. Tune in Thursday, August 10th, for the WFHB Daily Local News at 5pm for all the details.

The next week (Aug. 17th), we’ll present Kate Hess Pace the founder and director of the new regional community advocacy and empowerment org., Hoosier Action. Hess Pace just opened HA’s Bloomington office in April and she’s already guided the gang through a door-knocking campaign to raise awareness of potential Medicaid cuts and a US Capitol building civil disobedience event. She’s begun to grow a list of dues-paying members, too. Hess Pace was doing perfectly well for herself, helping run a Minnesota community organization called Isaiah. In the Town Cities, Hess Pace’s group helped defeat a voter ID initiative on the Minn. ballot, curtail predatory lending, and write a homeowner bill of rights. She was happy, her group was doing great work, and she had no real need to uproot herself and move to these parts — save for her desire to bring community empowerment to smaller town America. She felt a responsibility, answered the call, and here she is in Bloomington.

This week’s show will feature a live colloquy with Liz Watson, Democratic candidate for US Congress. It’ll air Thursday during the DLN at 5.

As always, check back here on Friday for links to the podcast and, when I get around to it, the entire, mostly unedited, original interview.

Hot Air: A Cheap Hollywood Ripoff

With a new wartime consigliere installed at the White House there’ve been scads of references to a heretofore ignored species known as the New York douchebag, or, using the Linnaean system of taxonomic classification, Novo Yorkus lavandi calicis.

In the movies, Michael Corleone ousted Tom Hagen when the going got roughest and selected the Don, Vito Corleone, his daddy-o, to take over poor Tom’s job. This current administration’s updated intrigue goes like this: Sean Spicer (AKA Hagen) is out and it’s The Donald’s spiritual son, Ant’ny Scaramucci, who gets the job.


Anyway, you want to know all about crass, pathologically greedy, borderline sociopathic, barely civilized, aggressive-as-makos New Yorkers who’ve excelled in the financial world? Pick up Michael Lewis’s now-30-year-old book, Liar’s Club. Lewis limns specimens like Louie Ranieri to a tee. Lewis S. Ranieri was a superstar at the old Salomon Brothers investment banking outfit. He, essentially, invented the mortgage-backed securities scam and, as such, is one of the primary villains in the worldwide economic collapse of 2007-08.

Louie and his acolytes tried to make Patton, Napoleon, and Johnny “Wad” Holmes look like Francis of Assisi. They fought tooth and nail to outwork, outearn, outdrink, outfuck…, hell, outeverything each other to a pathological degree. An example: Every Friday, they’d order lunch from some nearby joint. Each was so desperate to prove to his co-workers that he could eat more than they, that their lunch tabs amounted into the hundreds, even the thousands, of dollars. They gorged themselves to the point of emesis just so they could say they ate more than the other guys.

Both Li’l Duce and The Mooch are, indeed, Big Apple-ers from birth. Millions of Big Apple-ers are cringing at the thought.

The news today reads like the script from a bad Godfather rip-off, of which there were a scandalous many in the ’70s following the original’s success. None of them was any good. And neither is this administration.

Strat Talk

Here’s the link to Thursday’s Big Talk featuring Bloomington legend and man about town, Spyridon Stratigos — Strats.

Next week, we do a live bit with Liz Watson, who has declared herself in on the 2018 race for Indiana’s 9th District US Congress seat.



Hot Air: Reportage

Katherine Boo wrote the bestseller, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. She’s won a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur genius award, and a National Book Award for Nonfiction. She has a rep for illuminating and explaining important issues while at the same time telling a good, tight story. She gave a talk the other day at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, sponsored by the journalism school of the University of North Texas. In it, she laid out her 15 rules for narrative nonfiction. They’re a must-read not only for journalists, writers, filmmakers, and radio people but for all those who consume the nonfiction works produced by them. (I’ve purposely neglected to mention TV “news” people because, frankly, I don’t give a good goddamn about them. Few, if any, of these rules would be acceptable in that medium, so there’s that too.)

Katherine Boo

[Image: Outlook India]

Anyway, here are the rules:

1) It’s not enough to tell the stories of victims. I also need to investigate perps.

2) I let what I hate give me wing.

3) I’m not the sum of my best or most difficult circumstances, and neither are the people I report on.

4) When I’m first settling into a place, I tell myself that strong presumptions will make me miss what’s happening.

5) Memory sucks.

6) I ask myself: “What would really get lost if this story never ran?”

7) Don’t be a whiner.

8) I don’t try to find simple characters.

9) I try never to forget that my “subjects” are really my co-investigators.

10) Though I seek out the public record maniacally, I don’t assume that it’s accurate.

11) To calibrate my compass as a writer, I share my work widely and not only with journalists.

12) I often tell myself that editors and publishers don’t know what’s going to sell.

13) Even if I’m telling urgent stories, I can still experiment with form and make it a creative process.

14) When after a lot of effort I can’t pin something down, I force myself to put that uncertainty on the page.

15) If my work is successful, I don’t go and get high on my own supply.

Want to read more about these rules? Go here. Thanks to Chip Berlet for pointing this out.


Scoot down your radio dial to 91.3 FM today at 5pm for WFHB‘s Daily Local News. Today, as every Thursday, is Big Talk day. My guest this week is none other than Spyridon Stratigos — Strats!


If you don’t know who he is it’s imperative you listen. Strats is more Bloomington than Letters to the Editor, the Trojan Horse, and all the horking college kids outside Kilroy’s put together.

As always, I’ll post links to the podcast as well as the uncut original interview with Strats here tomorrow.

Next week, we’re planning a live Big Talk with Liz Watson, another of the Democratic candidates for US Congress from Indiana’s 9th District.

Home Runs

Oh, hey, remember how deliriously happy I was last Nov. when my beloved Cubs won their first World Series since proto-humans descended from the trees in the African savanna? An objective observer might have described my mood as well…, orgasmic. Now we learn I wasn’t the only one.

Acc’d’g to hospital sources, there’s a baby boom happening in the Chi. area as we speak — nine months after the climactic event.


[h/t to Pencillista Chris Paputsas]

The Nature Of Nature

[Yet another in an occasional series of pontifications and screeds about words.]

Nature. That edenic place. Birds flutter, butterflies flit, brooks babble, the sun shines, and all is well under god’s loving, watchful eye.

I love nature. I assume you do too. Who doesn’t? The other day, when I arrived at Charlotte Zietlow’s house for our regular weekly book writing session, as I stood on her back porch waiting for her to unlock the door, I noticed a brightly colored bug, maybe an inch long, with the huge hind legs of a cricket or a grasshopper, limbs built to propel it yards downfield, perhaps when it senses it’s being eyed by a red-winged blackbird who’s clearly salivating — or whatever it is birds do when they’re famished. It was a gorgeous bug, its green so rich, nearly neon, that it could have been an artist’s conception. Its antennae were longer, relatively, than any I’d ever seen on another bug, two or two and a half times the length of its body.

I bent over to peer closely at it. It waggled those antennae in my direction as if to say, Watch it, buddy, I’ve got my palps on you.

I do that kind of thing every day. I scan the foliage for those telltale three-leaf red stems, their leaves notched symmetrically, that signify poison ivy. In the process, I take note of all the other kinds of leaves, greens of every shade, long and short, broad and narrow, succulent and dull. When The Loved One and I drive through Brown County State Park, I stop the car in the middle of the road and just listen for the symphony of birds, frogs, and insects. It would be so easy not to hear them, to ignore them, but they’re always there, creating a music the likes of which humans have yet to be able to replicate.

I stop, every chance I get, in other words, to sniff the Rosae synstylae.

In this year of somebody’s lord, 2017, the lucid among us acknowledge that our human industry, our jones for consumption, is doing real, measurable damage. Op/eds, websites, advocacy groups, grid-fleers, and anybody else similarly concerned with the continued health [don’t say wellness] of this mad planet’s flora and fauna extol, like me, the wonders of nature and shake their collective finger at ourselves, the dopes who are doing our level best to eff it up.

But are we effing it up?

We view the world as if it’s home to two competing, irreconcilable forces: nature and humanity. Humans, a lot of us seem to hold, are interlopers on this globe. We’re intruders, second-story guys jimmying the windows and invading the heretofore safe and comfy home of, well, nature.

Only that’s not quite true. In fact, it’s not true at all. We belong here. It’s not, after all, like we came here in so many spaceships from Xenu’s doomed planet, infecting the Earth with our presence.

We are, in fact, nature. We’ve evolved from the same unicellular wrigglers that occupied the warm oceans some four billion years ago that the toad and the red rose have.

In a perverse sense, our despoiling of the environment is, in itself, natural. That’s what we were meant to do. All of our actions — the obsessive burning of fossil fuels, the packaging of anything and everything in plastic, the mowing down of rainforests, the robbery of our fellow critters’ habitats, and more — were the result of our  our wants and needs as natural beings. We couldn’t have acted any other way because, naturally, that’s who we were.

Now we’re faced with a choice. Stop the burning, knock off the plastics, save the trees, let the critters roam, or keep going the way we’ve been since the first Homo erectus applied for separate species designation. Now we understand, we’ve got a choice. But whichever path we choose, it will be natural. As George Carlin reminded us, “The planet is fine; people are fucked…. The planet has been through worse than us. Been though earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drifts, solar flares, sunspots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles, hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages, and we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn’t going anywhere; we are! We’re goin’ away. Pack your shit, folks.”

It just may be in our nature to commit suicide. And the Earth, naturally, will go on without us.



Hot Air: Laugh, Laugh

Author John Irving on Bob Dylan and Neil Young: “They’re not afraid to embarrass themselves — and you’ve got to be able to do that.”

That’s my mantra as an artist. When I first applied pen to paper as a dopey kid, I fretted constantly about how I’d be received. It took years for me to rid myself of that ill-fitting hairshirt. Thankfully, I came to the realization that if I worry about making a mistake or incurring the ridicule of whatever audience I have, I’ll never put anything out there.

So, laugh at me if you want, but I’ve got to be able to do what I do.

The Bane That Is Bannon

Just heard the author of the new book, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency, on Democracy Now. Lemme tell you, this book is a punch in the gut. It chronicles how Bannon read the Fascist theorist Julius Evola and the religious regressivist René Guénon and has absorbed their assertions that the Enlightenment has perverted humankind’s progression through history and moved our species away from a traditional spirituality. This exodus from ancient morality myths threatens to make our species extinct, both Evola and Guénon implied — and now, Bannon flat-out believes it to be so.

Bannon’s mission in life mission in life is to save all mankind (emphasis on man-) from itself. A rather megalomaniacal ambition, no?

The author, Joshua Green, tells a fascinating story about how Bannon essentially created the alt-right, an agglomeration of youthful, aggrieved, helpless, hopeless, pathological self-pitiers that just may have been the difference in the 2016 election (one that, I must remind the world, resulted in Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote). The story goes like this. Some years ago, Bannon heard about a nascent grift called “gold farming.” He saw that tens of millions of young people worldwide were playing massive multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft that offered successful participants the ability to amass points and virtual wealth, so that they could advance even further as they continued to play over the weeks and months. So Bannon got in on the scam. He formed a company that hired Chinese laborers to play the games all day long and accumulate in-game currency. Bannon then took all those spoils and sold them at great profit to people who wanted to be big shots in these online games but didn’t have the time, energy, or smarts to earn the swag under the rules. The company was wildly successful.

Except that serious players got wind of the scheme and started banding together, pressuring the game licensees to bar this kind of chicanery, which they did. Bannon’s company immediately collapsed. Rather than cry into his beer, Bannon took it as a business lesson — young, disaffected obsessives who live on the internet could be corralled and channeled into a massive, mighty political force.

When he became a big shot at Breitbart News Network (Andrew Breitbart himself once called Bannon “the Leni Riefenstahl” of the Tea Party movement) Bannon realized that, although Fox News had wrapped up the older aggrieved, helpless, hopeless, pathological self-pitiers of this holy land, nobody had tapped into the younger generation of similarly sad sacks. Accordingly, he went out and hired internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos and thus began the successful courtship of that hateful young crowd by Breitbart. That group eventually became its own political bloc, tied together by their fears, their loathings, Breitbart News, and dozens — even hundreds — of other fascism-loving, white-skin-revering sites.

Green, BTW, began his career as an editor at The Onion. He went on to work for the The American Prospect and Washington Monthly, and has contributed to Slate, the The New Yorker, and The Atlantic.

Careful What You Wish For

Personal to all those dreaming of the impeachment of President Gag (me included):

If, by some miracle, both the House and the Senate turn Democratic in 2018 and, through some further magical intervention, articles of impeachment are approved, a trial is held, two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict, and Li’l Duce is tossed out, there will be — mark my words — blood in the streets. The anencephalics who love the current president will be enraged, and they have guns.

Ready, Aim…

Come to think of it, there just might be blood in the streets if P. Gag loses the 2020 election. Call me cynical if you want, but I see nothing good resulting from our current state of Gag-ian lunacy.


Hot Air: Sweat the Small Stuff

Wee, Whee!

Put aside all your plans for Wednesday evening. Weddings, funerals, emergency room visits, drop-ins to your parents’ house in hopes one or the other will slip you a couple of twenties — everything. Go instead to Bear’s Place for this month’s edition of Science Cafe.

Subject: Tiny Is Beautiful: Science and Emerging Technologies of Nanocrystals.

Atomic Structure Of 5-Nanometer-Diameter Nanocrystal

[Image: Berkeley Lab]

Speaker: Xingchen Ye, chemistry prof at Indiana University’s Chemistry Dept.

The gray-matter orgy begins at 6:30pm. Be there. I will.

Bad Guys

Time for an update of my list of American Villains (1901-now):

  • Father Coughlin: The very first electronic media personality to become a superstar by pandering to the deep-seated hatreds and panics many Americans — too many — harbor in their hearts.
  • J. Edgar Hoover: The pathologically sexless inventor of the FBI; he repressed his natural carnal urges resulting in his reign of terror upon civil rights, dissenters, the harmlessly misinformed, and, in the words of author/baseball player Jim Bouton, “little old ladies in tennis shoes” who dared speak out against the Vietnam War.
  • Joseph McCarthy: A sick little man who devoted his life to rooting imagined commies and perverts out of US Gov’t, academia, newsrooms, and from under everybody’s beds during this New World’s second and more brutal witch hunt.

McCarthy (R), With Attorney Roy Cohn

  • Andrew Breitbart/Steve Bannon/Roger Ailes: These three pishers don’t even deserve their own individual bullet points, the cucci, even if their sins against the truth and reason have turned this holy land into the planet’s punchline.
  • The brothers Allen and John Foster Dulles: — “Deep state” spooks in the Eisenhower years — Allen was the CIA director and John Foster the Sec’y of State — who orchestrated numerous coups around the world, including the sacking of democratically-elected Iranian president Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, sparking a decades-long campaign of Middle East terror and fundamentalist radicalism that bedevils us to this day.
  • Lil Duce: You know who he is.

Lickspittle Spat

A fellow on Democracy Now! this AM characterized a lot of the top-level in-fighting in the President Gag administration as a battle between Cabinet officials with “diehard business interests” vs. Gag’s “incoherent ideology.”

I buy it.

Power Mad

News Item: President Gag says he has “complete power” to issue pardons.

Dig: No sitting president should be talking so cavalierly about granting pardons — to others, to his family,  or to himself. In fact, no president should ever even bring up the idea of pardons except when s/he issues them. That’s it.

The real granting of pardons is not some funny-haha power like that silly ritual presidents traditionally engage in around Thanksgiving. You know, where the sitting Law-Enforcement-Officer-in-Chief pardons some big white turkey. [And, by that I mean, Meleagris gallopavo, not any of the 63 million-plus jerks who voted for Li’l Duce.]

This (L), Not That

See, just throwing the word pardon around sends the wrong message. Y’know, like, Hey, just come to me for your Get Out of Jail Free card.

It’s like Kohl’s posting a big sign where you walk in, reading: “If you raise enough of a stink, we’ll refund your money on anything, no matter what.” That may, indeed, be the store’s policy but its managers don’t want to plant the idea in your coconut.

Hot Air: An XX-Rated Post

The vast majority of men on this psychotic planet don’t understand women, mainly because they don’t care to.

Women, a mighty plurality of XY chromosome-bearers on this Earth believe, are silly and weak and they’re starting to get above themselves, you know, wanting to control their vaginas and uteri, running for office, being workplace supervisors, and other lunacies.

Me? I’ve always tried to stand on my head trying to understand those people whose genitalia are slightly different from mine. (Really, read up a little on the development of male and female sex junk as embryos develop in the womb; when all is said and done, there ain’t much diff. between this one and that).

I’ve always been more fascinated by women than men. By and large, growing up as a male, I was baffled from the start by the proscribed and compulsory ways we guys are supposed to act and be. We’re expected to strut around like peacocks, hiding our emotions, never listening, only barking, pretending not to feel pain or hurt, ready at the drop of a hat to use violence to solve problems or settle arguments. What a bunch of bores!

Women, though, are allowed to feel. To care. To caress. To nurture. To hold things together. To be strong when everybody else is falling apart. To be, in other words, decent human beings.

[Image: Chicago Tribune]

Which gang would you rather hang around with?

Anyway, I’ve done scads of reading and questioning and contemplating on the topic of who woman are. I’ve familiarized myself with the likes of everybody from Émilie du Châtelet to Virginia Woolf to Adrienne Rich to Roxanne Gay. I’ve watched and noted all the many women of my life. I like to think I know a little something about them but the reality is I probably know next to nothing. That’s okay, as long as I keep digging.

Here a quote I dug up this AM, from Sarah Vowel’s 1997 book, Radio On: A Listener’s Diary:

I took back the night. And it’s all mine until I get stabbed, raped, mugged, shot.

My guess is if you can grasp all the meanings behind that line, you might be able to know, just a bit, what it is to be a woman in the year 2017.



Hot Air: Huxley’s World

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.

— Neil Postman



I wonder if Bloomington will soon have its first African-American City Council member since seemingly forever when the local Democratic Party meets next month to select a replacement for the outgoing Tim Mayer.

One of the talked-about possibilities is a fellow named Jim Sims. He’s an area manager for Indiana University’s Residential and Environmental Service operation. He’s also the newly-installed president of the Monroe County NAACP. His wife Doris Sims is a big shot at City Hall, serving as director of Bloomington’s Housing and Neighborhood Development dept.

It’d be a nice gesture on the part of party sachems who are charged with replaced the retiring Mayer. Acc’d’g to state law, when an elected municipal official quits or dies — or gets thrown in jail, I suppose, as well — in the middle of her or his term, that person’s party meets in caucus to select a replacement. That’s going to happen next month, the day of the total solar eclipse, so a lot of folks who must participate in the caucus will miss the once-in-a-lifetime event.

[Sims Image: Rodney Margison/Bloom Magazine]

Hint to county party boss Mark Fraley — switch the date. That’d be a nice gesture, too.

[Odd Piece of Trivia: Bloomington’s guy isn’t the first James Sims to be president of a city’s NAACP. Another James Sims, of Spokane, Washington, headed that town’s civil rights outfit beginning in 1956. Spokane’s Sims got heavily involved in the civil rights fight after he applied for a state job and scored well on the civil service test but was passed over largely because his skin was the wrong color. Even though it often seems our holy land’s progress on race relations moves glacially — and it usually does — it’s good to keep in mind it ain’t 1956 anymore.]

Greatest Hits

I pulled a fast one — or so I thought when I came up with the idea — on yesterday’s Big Talk. I’d figured I would save myself some time and effort during these dog days by putting together a best-of show. And, considering this week’s episode would be the last under outgoing WFHB news director Joe Crawford, I could dedicate it to him.

Perfect, right?

Only it took me twice as long — at the very least! — to produce this week’s show as opposed to my normal one-guest offering. I was thinking I’d simply scan some old audio files, pick out the best clips, and mash them up into one full program. Easy.

Not so. I worked my poor fingers to the bone searching, placing, editing, smoothing, and sound engineering a half dozen clips from some of my fave guests. Don’t get me wrong, I loved doing the task. But in terms of my sked, I shot myself in the foot.

Ah, well, such is the life of a local radio superstar.

So, hey, here are a couple of links to yesterday’s Big Talk. Clip voices include:

  • Nate Powell
  • Charlotte Zietlow
  • Jeff Isaac
  • Nancy Hiller
  • Doug Wissing
  • Sue Rall

Enjoy. And tune in next week, ‘kay?


All my adult life I’ve tried to run away from the crowd. I’ve hewed to this impulse, some might say, to a fault. Why do I do it? Because crowds scare me. They’re too big and powerful. They can swallow a single human — me — up.


If the majority thinks something, I’m almost automatically suspicious of it. I’d rather be wrong for it than for following the pack and watching it steamroll over some truth.

Anyway, Shankar Vedantem, the Hidden Brain guy from NPR’s Morning Edition, gave me a sort of imprimatur the other day.

Here’s a pile of quotes from his report:

Very simply, being around other people seems to increase our propensity to believe in fake news.

Groups trigger a certain attitude in us when it comes to evaluating information.

[Columbia University marketing professor Gita Johar] conducted a series of experiments…. People were presented with ambiguous statements. Volunteers could say they either believed it, disbelieved it or they could keep an open but skeptical mind and demand evidence, in other words, ask for fact checking. Here’s the catch. Some of the volunteers heard these claims while they were by themselves.

Others felt they were in a group setting or in a social media environment where other people were present and also hearing the same claims. In group settings, people quickly accepted or rejected claims that were in line with their prior beliefs. But compared to when they were by themselves, they were significantly less interested in being skeptical but open-minded.

Volunteers did 30 to 50 percent less fact checking when they heard information presented to them in a social media context compared to when they were alone.

I’m feelin’ smug right about now.

Hot Air: Picture Imperfect

We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so “realistic” that they can live in them. We are the most illusioned people on Earth.

— Daniel Boorstin

Boorstin, an historian and contemporary culture observer, wrote these words in his 1961 book, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. They’re are true now as they were back then, almost 60 years ago. The only thing I’d change today would be his use of the present imperfect, “we risk being.” In this year of somebody’s lord 2017, the proper wordage is “we are.”

Still, in ’61 Boorstin observed that we’d already fallen into a fantasy world. He shared this possibly apocryphal anecdote:

ADMIRING FRIEND: “My, that’s a beautiful baby you have there.”

MOTHER: “Oh, that’s nothing — you should see his photograph!”

And we wonder why we can’t convince President Gag’s fans that he’s a fraud, a trickster, a con-artist, a used-car salesman, the spiritual brother of Professor Harold Hill, Elmer Gantry, and Charles Ponzi.

We can’t because he is their fraud, trickster, con-artist, used-car salesman, and spiritual brother of Professor Harold Hill, Elmer Gantry, and Charles Ponzi. And how dare we try to rob them of their precious photograph?

For the umpteenth time, let’s hope with fingers and toes crossed they only comprise 35 percent of the voting public in this holy land.

A Big Goodbye To A Cool Guy

Tune in tonight for a celebration of the first year anniversary of Big Talk. I mash up clips from some of my favorite interviews (see the slideshow).

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The whole shebang is dedicated to a very cool and professional guy, Joe Crawford, who’s leaving his position as WFHB’s news director. His last day at the station is tomorrow. When I call him cool, I mean it on a couple of levels. He’s a guitarist for a band called Ray Creature (it’s been called “pretty cool” by his sister). Even more importantly, nothing rattles Joe. He’s one of the most unflappable human beings I’ve ever met. During live broadcasts, when a piece of equipment goes haywire or a soundbite is misplaced and the rest of us are going into fibrillation, he’s as calm as a Tibetan monk contemplating a leaf on a tree. Then he presses a button or moves a slider and everything’s fine again. Don’t ask me how he does it.

He’s Even Cool In An IHOP

Anyway, Joe gave me the go-ahead to produce Big Talk some three years ago. After a few fits and starts we went weekly in July, 2016. I thank him from the bottom of my defib-ed heart for the opportunity and I dedicate today’s episode to him. Tune in at 5:00pm on WFHB, 91.3FM. Or, catch my links to the podcasts here, tomorrow.


Hearing the news that Senator John McCain has a particularly pernicious form of brain cancer immediately made me think someone, somewhere, on one form of social media or another, is going to either rejoice in the news that he’s dying or use this malady to explain how he could have held his shockingly stupid positions.

[Image: CNN]

The democratization of mass media means even the troglodytes among us get to air their belchings to a wide audience.

Not that meanness or stupidity is anything new, of course. The revelation of McCain’s glioblastoma reminds me of a similar story back when I was a holy terror in the mid-sixties. At the time, my beloved hometown Chicago was undergoing the upheaval of integration. Civil rights activists were calling for some way — any way — to bring the education of the black kids from the slums up to par with that of middle-class white kids. If busing was the way to do it, then so be it. White Chicago had apoplexy.

The city’s Roman Catholic archbishop, Albert Cardinal Meyer, known as an intellectual among America’s archbishops, long had condemned racism and even gave a speech or two on the same dais as Martin Luther King. None of this endeared him to his white ethnic flock.

(L to R) Meyer, King, And Oklahoma City Bishop Victor Reed In 1963

Then one day in 1965 it was announced Cardinal Meyer had brain cancer. He would soon die during surgery to remove the tumor. A sad end for a decent guy — only an alarming number of white ethnic Chicagoans neither considered him decent nor his end sad.

Over the next couple of years as the fight over busing and desegregation grew uglier, lots of whites huffed at other whites who seemed sympathetic to those causes, “Cardinal Meyer had brain cancer; what’s your excuse?”

Of course, back in those days people who’d dare to say something like that were considered, among polite society, assholes. Today they may be lining up to be considered for positions in Li’l Duce‘s Cabinet.


Hot Air: Credibility

Here are some pretty good rules of thumb regarding what you should trust — and what you shouldn’t — when reading news stories with unnamed sources.

This piece ran in FiveThirtyEight. The author makes the New York Times look like the paragon of all that is good and great in journalism so it’s important to keep in mind that FiveThirtyEight itself was for a few years owned and operated by the NYT. It was sold to ESPN in 2013 and remains under the control of that company. That caveat out of the way, NYT is generally more dependable than most other news sources today. That is, when one takes into account the Gray Lady has a vested interest in maintaining whatever status quo is extant at the moment and it buys hook line and sinker into what is often — and lazily — referred to as neoliberal economics.

Nevertheless, this piece is particularly timely today. Whenever a major scandal is breaking in Washington, the months and even years of revelations come from unnamed sources. People like to keep their jobs even if they’re aghast at some cardinal or venial sin being committed by their bosses. The Watergate affair, for example, played out over a period of 26 months, from June, 1972 through August, 1974. Pretty much every single revelation originally was attributed to an unnamed source and then, eventually, verified either by primary documents or by officials speaking for attribution.

BTW: The biggest scandal that rocked the Obama administration was, natch, his reputed birth in Kenya or whatever other godforsaken hellhole where he was trained to take over our holy land and place the good among us in chains. Now, that scandal has lasted years and years. It began way back in 2004 when BHO ran for the US Senate from Illinois and has lasted through this very day. Yep, social media commenters still are calling for the ex-president to be jailed for forging his birth certificate and otherwise fooling the sheeple of America in order to lead them over the cliff.

Funny thing is, there have never been unnamed sources for this scandal. The whole shebang has been dependent upon the certainty among many that a brown-skinned guy with a foreign-sounding name must of course have been born in some other country — or even on some other planet — and possessed special powers to finagle his way into the White — emphasis on white — House.

Plus, He’s One Of The Lizard People

There are no rules of thumb governing that kind of news sourcing.

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