Hot Air: Lazy

Ever since the wealth gap became a known thing (to me, at least), I’ve been tending to believe there no such thing as a lazy person.

Or, more precisely, truly lazy people are as rare as, say, insomniacs or kleptomaniacs or any other kind of -maniac. It’s my way of resisting the narrative advanced by lovers of unfettered capitalism that the poor are lumps. You hear it time and again from true believers in the free market and Randian objectivism and other phony-isms. Blaming poverty on the sloth of the poor is really only a self-aggrandizing conceit. “Hey, if you’re poor it’s because you’re a loafer! Look at me, I’m not poor; I worked hard all my life.”

Bullshit.

All Of Us And None Of Us.

Sure, there probably are pathologically lazy people. If most spectra can be represented as bell curves, then the spectrum of industriousness includes the polar extremes of manic go-getters and inert, pathological couch potatoes. Each of those extremes is a tiny, nearly statistically negligible, minority of the overall population. The vast majority of us work hard, struggle to get out of bed in the morning, expend gobs of time and energy on making a living, wish we could escape to a private tropical island, and overall are as productive and cooperative in the workplace as any employer has a right to expect. Maybe you know a lazy person at your job. You probably commiserate about that person with your co-workers. But there may be dozens, even hundreds of people slogging away at your factory or office. There’s just that one guy whom the rest of you can’t stand because he’s a tortoise. So we’re talking about a ratio of hard workers to slackers of perhaps 50-1 or 100-1.

If you’re going to argue that your workplace is loaded with lazy people then either 1) you work in a bizarrely anomalous place or 2) you’re a curmudgeonly son of a bitch who complains about everybody and everything.

The powers that be are thrilled to pieces that scads of us bitch and moan about poor people being “lazy” because that distracts us from the real reason poverty exists — the deck is stacked. If the vast majority of us actually realized that truth, we’d rebel against the system and who at the top of the pyramid would want that? Better we should demonize poor people as takers and leeches rather than losers in the rigged lottery that is the economic system under which we toil.

Anyway, this all comes up today because I read a compelling essay on Medium written by a psychologist. It’s headline tells the tale: “Laziness Does Not Exist.”

This person, a professor named Devon Price, writes:

If a person can’t get out of bed, something is making them exhausted. If a student isn’t writing papers, there’s some aspect of the assignment that they can’t do without help. If an employee misses deadlines constantly, something is making organization and deadline-meeting difficult. Even if a person is actively choosing to self-sabotage, there’s a reason for it — some fear they’re working through, some need not being met, a lack of self-esteem being expressed.

People do not choose to fail or disappoint. No one wants to feel incapable, apathetic, or ineffective. If you look at a person’s action (or inaction) and see only laziness, you are missing key details. There is always an explanation, There are always barriers. Just because you can’t see them, or don’t view them as legitimate, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Look harder.

That’s an argument I buy from top to bottom.

Hot Air: Redemption

It’s been 51 years years now. His memory is fading. Far more than half the population wasn’t even alive when he was shot in a hotel kitchen on an early June morning in 1968. He — and millions of other people in this holy land — thought he was on his way to becoming the President of the Untied States of America. He died a bit more than 25 hours later.

We’ve been fairly fucked up ever since.

I never miss a chance to mark the anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s death. He was one of three absolutely fascinating characters from the 1960s, people whom the Ancient Greek poets would have drooled to memorialize in verse and/or drama. They were Richard M. Nixon, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Bobby Kennedy. All three were extraordinarily complex, contradictory human beings. Each contained within himself the seeds of his own destruction. Each might well have been diagnosed as clinically…, well, um, disturbed.

Two of them did good because good was in their hearts. One them did good only because good was in the land at the time, and his approval of good programs was as inevitable as a tree bending in a strong wind.

Two of them shot themselves not just in the foot, but perhaps through the heart or even the head, some bodily locale that inevitably led to their own demise. Bobby was shot by a loon.

Not that he hadn’t tried to off himself — politically, at least; morally, too — time and again when he was a younger man.

The truth is for much of Bobby Kennedy’s life, he was a jerk. He was ridiculously combative, pathologically competitive, overly sensitive, clannish, retributive, suspicious, and downright mean. The hagiographies written about him, primarily Chris Mathews’ 2017 love letter to him, notwithstanding, his life until he was 38 years old was a melange of stubborn, vengeful, manipulative, self-aggrandizing single-mindedness.

Then his brother got his brains blown out and he blamed himself — at least somewhat. Bobby Kennedy suffered what laypeople would call a nervous breakdown after John F. Kennedy was killed. His mental and emotional anguish changed him, forged him, refined him, elevated him. He became a better man, a good man. He stepped outside himself and embraced others. He started seeing black and brown people, poor people, disenfranchised people, crushed people the world over, as no different than him. He devoted his life to speaking for them and hoping — praying — to better the lives of anybody and everybody whose life was shit.

Make no mistake, the world sentences tens of millions…, hell, hundreds of millions of people to a life of shit at any given date or time. That is the human condition. The mahatmas among us do what they can to halt the ocean waves of oppression and inequity. Bobby started doing what he could in 1964, when he began emerging from his coma of grief and near madness.

That’s why Bobby Kennedy is so fascinating. He grew, psychologically and as a soul, in those four short years before he was rubbed out.

His story is a triumph.

Making America Grate

The Loved One and I took the hounds to the lake, as usual, the other day. Tuesday, I think it was. It was a gorgeous early evening, the setting sun bathing Paynetown in a golden light. The geese pecked and honked. The turkey vultures swooped and reconnoitered. A deer stopped in her tracks and watched us, warily. The clouds were high, light brush strokes. The lake rippled by a breeze.

It was, in short, a perfect moment.

A couple of guys pulled their motorboat out of the water at the ramp. They wiped it down and fastened the protective tarp over it. The they pulled away, toward the park exit road. They stopped unexpectedly a couple of hundred yards away from me and Steve the Dog. The Loved One and Sally the Dog were off, farther east, near a stand of trees.

The men were in a big white pickup truck. The guy on the passenger side opened his door and poured out the contents of what looked to be a couple of cans, beer most likely. As he closed his door, I could hear him and his pal laughing. The pickup began to move again. I turned my attention back to Steve who’d started sniffing and then trying to eat a small bird’s egg on the ground. After the pickup had gone a few feet, I heard the clatter of a couple of cans on the pavement. The truck moved along, the men’s laughter growing dimmer as it got farther away.

The Loved One verified what I’d heard. “They threw their cans out on the ground!” she said, seething. I looked closely again at the spot where the pickup had stopped for a moment and sure enough, there were cans on the ground.

To this moment, I can’t fathom what would go through the minds of a couple of guys who’d simply throw their crap out of their vehicle in a glorious spot of nature like Paynetown. Well, anywhere for that matter — a city street or a parking lot. What in the goddamned hell is a man thinking when he tosses garbage out of his car?

A detail: The man on the passenger side, I’d noticed when the two were fussing over the boat after taking it out of the water, was wearing those big baggy American flag shorts. He wasn’t wearing them ironically, I sensed, or because their was nothing else clean for him to wear that day. He wore them because he wanted the world to know he was an American and proud of it.

To him, clearly, being an American means he can do whatever in the hell he wants. Freedom, baby! America’s great and who the fuck are you to tell me what to do with my beer cans?

I guarantee he took no note of the high, brush stroke clouds, the swooping turkey vultures, or the pecking honking geese. The man’s soul is dead.

And for a brief, unapologetic moment, I wished he was too.

Big Talk

Today’s Big Talk is Part 2 of my interview with Phil Proctor and David Ossman, “What’s Left of the Firesign Theater.” Tune in later this afternoon at 5:30, immediately following the Daily Local News on WFHB, 91.3 FM. If you miss it, I’ll post the podcast link here tomorrow AM.

Here, BTW, is the podcast of last week’s Part 1 show with the two. And here’s the podcast of Sunday’s Firehouse Follies, “Fireheads & Tales,” featuring Proctor and Ossman, as well as sitcom veteran Gary Sandy, musician/actor Amy Walker, guitarist extraordinaire Jason Fickle, the Gospel Girlz, and scads of other funny, crooning, warbling, belting, joke-cracking performers.

Hot Air: A Great Fall

I had to do it. It’s been decades since I’d seen the movie the first time. I’ve seen it several times since. When the book it was based on came out, I started reading it as fast as I could get my hands on it.

All the President’s Men.

The news the last couple of years has been getting me down. I have to take little breaks of a day, maybe two, sometimes three from the New York Times, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, Democracy Now!, CNN, the BBC, NPR, social media, and all the rest of the bearers of the info that this holy land’s president is…, well, what he is — a grifting, unprepared, incurious, insulting, thin-skinned, anti-intellectual, philosophically barren greed monkey. Who, BTW, is pushing us as close as he humanly can to becoming a corporate monarchy, he and his coat-holders and lick-spittlers in the House, the Senate, and two-thirds of the statehouses of this nation. They’re all culpable but the current President of the United States is their standard-bearer.

The president’s very name makes me want to retch.

So Sunday night I watched the movie version of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s 1974 bestseller recounting their part in the then-dynamic and vigorous news media’s investigation into the hundreds — even thousands — of small and large criminal capers we now bunch together under the rubric, Watergate.

There was a “cancer growing on the presidency,” White House Counsel John Dean told the conspirator-in-chief, and he was right. And, as in many cancers, the patient (we, us) really didn’t know about the spreading tumor until it was almost too late. But countless journalists and activists dug and poked and prodded and uncovered until the malignancy was revealed and excised. Bernstein and Woodward only happened to be the most celebrated of the politic-oncologists so they got the big book deal and then the 1976 movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford playing them.

I had to watch it because I needed a happy ending.

Reporters all over the country slogged through interviews, reports, documents, testimonies, and any and every other conceivable type of journalistic resource, working late into the night, banging on doors, sticking microphones under officials’ noses, filling up their notebooks, getting swollen ears from spending hours and days on the telephone, in short, trying to get at the truth.

And, don’t kid yourself, the American people, by and large, had little interest at first in hearing the truth. Remember, Richard M. Nixon was reelected five months after the initial Watergate break-in by one of the greatest landslides in American history. A newspaper clipping exists somewhere in my files (I’m too lazy to dig it up at this moment) with the headline exclaiming a significant majority of American voters believed Nixon was “more trustworthy” — that’s the term used — than his 1972 opponent, George McGovern. Nixon, of course, was long known by the sobriquet “Tricky Dick” while McGovern had long been perceived as a wholly honest, if ultimately hapless, kind of a guy. Nevertheless, Americans trusted Nixon, for some ungodly reason, more than the South Dakota senator.

But thanks to all those reporters, the electorate and even Nixon’s own fellow Republicans came to demand that he get the hell out of the White House. It was a time when people, to a certain extent, listened to reason, when they could be swayed by cogent argument, when they could change their minds when confronted with the facts.

That time was long ago. By the calendar, it’s only been 45 years since Nixon was forced out of office. It may as well have been 4500 years ago. Was the Egyptian pharaoh Nyuserre Ini accused of presiding over a lawless Fifth Dynasty in 2474 BCE? Would it have mattered to the common Egyptian, scraping out a living near the banks of the Nile? We late 20th Century Americans purportedly were Aware and Informed and we Participated. Yet in the summer of ’72 we sat back in our recliners, pointed the clicker at our new Zenith Chromacolor IIs, and vegged out on reruns of Marcus Welby, MD, thoroughly uninterested in the news that the Committee to Re-elect the President (dubbed the perfectly appropriate acronym CREEP) and high officials up to and including the president himself were engaging in illegal conspiracies, obstructing justice, using the FBI and CIA for political purposes, and all the rest of the sins, mortal and venial, of Watergate.

Would we — could we — get a significant majority of American’s today to demand Donald Trump vacate the Oval Office even if reporters produced incontrovertible evidence that he, to use his own imagery, stood in the middle of 5th Avenue and shot somebody?

I wonder.

Are Too! Am Not!

A note: My original intention was to use the above piece as preamble to making the point that nobody can be swayed by argument anymore in this nation and this phenomenon has extended even to the smaller potatoes contretemps that we engage in locally. The sad tale of Amanda Barge, for instance. The internet started heating up in reaction to Saturday’s Herald-Times headliner (paywall) about the county releasing a gazillion pages of documents regarding the affair and so I’d wanted to say even here people have dug in with their heels and no amount of evidence or attempts at persuasion can move a soul off their dime.

So, okay, I’ve said that. And, BTW, that’s all I’ll say about the Barge thing from now on. The spat has turned into a shitstorm and lots of folks are turning it into a mean little playground bullyfest. Both sides.

Well, I’m out of it. I said my piece when the story first broke. I needn’t say another word.

Hot Air: Cry Like A Baby

A little girl was injured at the baseball game Wednesday night between the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros. Batter Albert Almora, Jr. smashed a scorching line drive into the seats behind third base in the fourth inning, the ball hitting the child flush.

Not much is known about the kid or the extent of her injury. All I can make out from the footage I’ve seen indicates she’s about 4 or 5 years old and she was screaming in either terror or agony (or both) as her father raced up the aisle with her in his arms, on his way to the Minute Maid Park concourse for emergency treatment.

Neither the Houston Astros nor the family of the little girl have released any information about the kid’s condition in the days since the incident. We don’t even know her name at this time. Witnesses and videos indicate she was conscious and communicative, as mentioned earlier, immediately after the being hit by the liner.

The story has gained attention around the world because, well, it was a tiny kid getting clunked, the whole thing could have turned out to be a real tragedy, and the reaction of the batter, Almora.

The Cubs’ centerfielder broke down in tears as the stadium fell into a hush. He had to be consoled by team leader Jason Heyward and manager Joe Maddon. Then, the next inning, Almora sought out a security person who’d been nearby the girl when she was hit, asking after the kid’s condition. He broke down again, sobbing visibly as the security guard held him in her arms.

There’s no hint that the child might be permanently damaged by the blow (physically, at least — I’d bet she’d be loath to accompany her dad to a baseball game any time soon) so I’ll point out something positive and wonderful to emerge from this almost-horror story.

A big-time professional athlete was unafraid to show real, honest emotion in a very public setting. Almora’s at an age when a lot of males feel compelled to strut their macho stuff — he turned 25 in April — and would consider such a display to be a sign of weakness or worse. Almora buried his head in his arms as he kneeled outside the batter’s box in the moments after hitting the ball. His shoulders shook and heaved even an inning later while the security person consoled him.

He cried like a baby. That, by my lights, made him the strongest person in that whole ballpark. Maybe even in the whole game of baseball.

Funny Fracas

Here’s the link to yesterday’s Big Talk featuring Phil Proctor and David Ossman, the surviving members of the storied, revolutionary comedy troupe, the Firesign Theater.

The Firesign Theater

Pictured above — circa 1970 — the surrealist/anarchist/dadaist, excruciatingly literate word-playing quartet is down to two remaining funnymen, Proctor (L) & Ossman (in glasses), who bill themselves What’s Left of the Firesign Theater. Phil Austin, who created the signature character, private eye Nick Danger, died in 2015. The team announced his death with the simple yet perfectly expected gag line: “Nick Danger has left the office.” Peter Bergman, the driving force behind the founding of the group in 1966 at Los Angeles radio station KPFK, died of leukemia in 2012.

I had such a blast with Proctor & Ossman in the studio and we went on for so long that I’ve decided to air the interview on successive weeks. Yesterday’s program was part one; part two will run Thursday, June 6th, at 5:30pm, on WFHB, 91.3 FM. And, yeah, I’ll post the podcast link to that part as well next week.

Hot Air: Child Belaboring

George Carlin

This is one of those mornings when I need a strong dose of George Carlin to counteract the bushwa everyday life throws at me. It’s graduation season and half the world is crowing about their kids finishing kindergarten or elementary school or junior high or what the hell ever school is passing them on to the next one. Y’know, doing pretty much what every other freaking kid in this holy land is doing or has done or will do. Call me a curmudgeon (you’d be right) but I don’t care what your kid has done if it’s not finding a cure for cancer, imposing world peace, or inventing a perfectly safe recreational drug.

Carlin in 2001 did this bit:

Here’s another pack of low-grade morons who ought to be locked into portable toilets and set on fire. These people with bumper stickers that say, “We are the proud parents of an honor student at the Franklin School.” Or the Midvale Academy or whatever other innocent-sounding name that has been assigned to the indoctrination center where their child has been sent to be stripped of his individuality and turned into an obedient, soul-dead conformist member of the American consumer culture. “Proud parents.” What kind of empty people need to validate themselves through the achievements of their children? … Here’s a bumper sticker I’d like to see: “We are the proud parents of a child whose self-esteem is sufficient that he doesn’t need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car.” Or, “We are the proud parents of a child who has resisted his teachers’ attempts to break his spirit and bend him to the will of his corporate masters.”

There. I feel better now.

The Gods Of Hellfire!

Yesterday, I felt on top of the world.

I spent the afternoon with Phil Proctor and David Ossman, the surviving members of America’s answer to Britain’s Monty Python, who are billing themselves as “What’s Left of the Firesign Theater.”

Firesign Theater alumni Proctor and Ossman are in town for three events this weekend. Tomorrow night, Friday, May 31st, they’ll be at the Brown County Playhouse doing “The Art of Comedy,” a 90-minute performance and Q&A session that begins at 7:30pm. Saturday night, they’ll be appearing at Bear’s Place with Tony Brewer, Amy Walker, and the Writers Guild at Bloomington gang for “Sinuous Divinity: A Poet’s Cabaret,” with (natch) comedy nonsense sprinkled in. The festivities begin at 6pm and run for a good two hours — maybe more. Then, Sunday afternoon, Proctor & Ossman join the usual suspects at this season’s iteration of the Firehouse Follies, “Fireheads & Tales” at the Waldron Center, 4-6pm. Proceeds go to WFHB.

Proctor and Ossman will appear on this afternoon’s Big Talk at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. I’ll post the podcast link herein as soon as I get around to it.

Hot Air: GOT-cha

So this Game of Thrones rigmarole is finished, right?

Two observations:

  1. The simplest and most penetrating answer I can give to why I had/have no interest in this thing is: I don’t care about dragons. I know, I know, GOT aficionados are gonna argue that there’s so much more to it. To that I respond there are literally millions of works of fiction that investigate and illuminate human relations, political chicanery, familial and regional ententes and detentes, power dynamics, etc. But hundreds of millions of people around the world have chosen this work of fiction to become addicted to. That’s many, many, many more people than have screamed their fealty to Gordimer or Rushdie or Walker or Wollstonecraft Shelley or any of the countless imagineers who’ve mused over those same human concerns. It’s the dragons.
  2. I’ve been reading that scads of people are mad about this last season, how the plot and relationships turned out, and how the scriptwriters cheated viewers. In fact, there’s even a petition demanding the producers have the last season re-written! Okay, if you’re among those aggrieved fans, listen closely: You aren’t the artist behind this work of art. Someone else is. You don’t get to demand artists redo their art because you don’t like it. That’s why it’s art: it’s the vision of a single creator or group of them. They are sharing with you their insights and capabilities as expressed in this painting, this song, this TV show, or this novel. Art is not a democracy.

There. These are the only public comments I’ve made on this most sweeping cultural phenomenon since the Beatles. And they are the last.

What’s your art?

Metal-working? Do you juggle the burl? Bake cookies? Are gemstones your thing? How about comedy?

The Muses would dig Bloomington. This sprawling megalopolis is home to Artisan Alley, a support and education resource, social center and tool repository, and all-around one-stop shop (as in work– ) for the creative among us. This town is chock full of folks who noodle, manipulate, gesticulate, bark, howl, jeté, smear and daub and the center of the universe for many of them is Artisan Alley.

Originally a glorified clubhouse for a bunch of Indiana University grads who majored in the arts or at least had major interest in same, AA has evolved into a school/day camp/industrial park/advocacy center/marketplace for the more ethereal among us.

A tall fireplug of a fellow named Adam Nahas is the founder and executive director of the newly-certified nonprofit. Himself a practitioner of scads of different creative pursuits, he was last week’s guest on Big Talk.

Here the podcast to the May 16th program. And tune in today during the WFHB Daily Local News at 5pm for an eight-minute spot featuring extended conversation between him and me.

News Boss In Town

Hearty congratulations to both Kyrie Greenberg and WFHB. She for getting the News Director gig soon to be vacated by the heroic and mightily talented Wes Martin and it for making an impeccable choice.

Greenberg

Hot Air: Alley Cat

This week’s Big Talk features Adam Nahas, founder and executive director of Artisan Alley. The interview airs later this afternoon at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM.

If you miss today’s program, you can catch the podcast on the ‘FHB website. I’ll provide the link to the podcast after it posts at 6pm, just as soon as I can get around to it.

Hot Air: An Anniversary, Remembered

[ Scroll down to Gloden, Glab, Gabbing entry for info on this podcast. ]

Mississippi Firing

Today is the 49th anniversary of a campus incident just as tragic as that of Kent State just ten days prior.

Unlike the trouble at the Ohio campus that’d been roiling for days and days, a small riot broke out, suddenly and unexpectedly, at Jackson State University, one of the largest historically black colleges in the nation. Keep in mind this was the year 1970, a mere five years after the “eve of destruction” annum when the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles blew up, ushering in a series of “long, hot summers” as well as inspiring tens of millions of panicky white working class voters to dedicate their entire political philosophy to the draconian containment and institutionalized discipline of urban blacks.

The cause of the mini-riot was a rumor that Fayette, Mississippi mayor Charles Evers and his wife, Nannie, had been assassinated. This just seven years after civil rights activist Medgar Evers, Charles’ brother, had been killed by a rifle-toting troglodytic member of one of Mississippi’s many White Citizens’ Councils.

Several dozen college and high school students gathered on the campus in the Mississippi capital city Thursday evening, the 14th, and reportedly threw stones at passing cars driven by whites. Jackson city police and Mississippi Highway Patrol officers responded to the disturbance and formed skirmish lines. Shortly after midnight numerous state troopers, armed with shotguns, opened fire on the crowd as well as the nearby five-story tall Alexander Hall, a women’s dormitory. Some 150 shotgun blasts were fired within 30 seconds resulting in every facing window of Alexander Hall being blown out. When the smoke cleared, two students were dead: Phillip Gibbs, a junior at Jackson State and James Green, a senior at Jim Hill High School.

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Afterward, several police and troopers claimed one of them had seen a sniper on the roof of the residence hall  and several other officers swore they’d come under fire from all directions. A federal investigation turned up no evidence that any shots had been fired at the officers. The President’s Commission on Campus Unrest concluded the following September that the “fusillade from police officers was an unreasonable, unjustified overreaction.” The Commission even allowed for the possibility that one or more officers might have seen what they thought was a shooter on the roof (although no evidence that one existed was ever produced); even so, the report stated, a response like the one that early May 15th morning “was never warranted.”

Kent State became an historically iconic symbol of the strife afflicting this nation during the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggle. Jackson State was quickly forgotten. Today if people other than its students and their families think about Jackson State University they know only that the 142-year-old institution was the alma mater of pro football Hall of Famer Walter Payton.

Phillip Gibbs and James Green? Mere footnotes in a long-faded history.

Gibbs (L) & Green

None of the shotgun-shooting officers, nor their commanders, was indicted or otherwise disciplined. Like the Kent State killings less than two weeks before, scared young men carrying loaded long guns responded the only way they knew how to a threatening situation. They hadn’t been trained not to fire indiscriminately at shadows on roofs nor had their on-scene leadership imposed rules of engagement. The officers, of course, were all white; the protesters black.

Jackson State illustrates only that law enforcement personnel firing guns at black people for the flimsiest of reasons is nothing new.

Gloden, Glab, Gabbing

Did you catch Big Talk Extra on the WFHB Daily Local News this week?

BTE is an approximately eight-minute feature every Monday on the ‘FHB’s daily newscast at 5pm offering added conversation from the previous week’s Big Talk. My guest on Big Talk last week was Gabe Gloden, managing director of the Cardinal Stage Company. So, naturally, Monday’s Extra presented more chitchat between him and me.

If you did indeed miss the Monday Gloden/Glab jawfest, fret not, the podcast’s at the top of this post.

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Big Talk Extra airs every Monday at about the 14-minute mark of the Daily Local News at 5pm on the same airwaves. Come here for podcast links to both the full Thursday program and the Monday feature each week.

BTW: My guest this coming Thursday on Big Talk will be Adam Nahas, founder and executive director of Artisan Alley.

Hot Air: Switching Stages

Phew! After ten weeks of candidates on Big Talk, I finally got to host a show with someone not looking for votes yesterday.

Make no mistake: I was highly impressed by everyone I had on since February 21st, all the city council aspirants as well as the single declared independent hoping to be elected mayor in November. Here, by the way, are links to the Big Talks with the still-standing candidates as well as the Big Talk Extra features in which they talk about the issues:

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Unless any independents, write-ins, or Libertarians declare, or should the Republican Party caucus in or appoint any candidates by June/July (go here for the official state 2019 election calendar), the above races will be the only ones contested this coming fall.

Once again, I didn’t feature any incumbents on Big Talk this election year because there weren’t enough weeks to cover them all.

Anyway, I wash my hands of politics for the nonce. To that end, I invited Gabe Gloden on the show. He’s the managing director of the Cardinal Stage Company. He and his wife, Emily Goodson, are a theater family; she’s an actor and a playwright and he concentrates on the business and practical end of things. Gloden & Goodson are two more examples of that phenomenon unique to this burgh, “Bloomerangs.” The couple left town for a couple of years to work in both Detroit and Boise, Idaho after Gabe graduated from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. But, like so many who’ve lived in Bloomington, they couldn’t wait to get back and so have re-established themselves here.

Here’s the link to yesterday’s program with Gabe Gloden and — an added bonus — here’s the link to my Big Talk with Emily Goodson from February, 2017.

Gloden & Goodson

Big Talk airs every Thursday at 5:30pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. Big Talk Extra, eight minutes of added conversation with the Thursday guest, airs the following Monday during the Daily Local News at 5pm.

Hot Air: 34

Thirty four.

That’s how many voters the Republican Party was able to muster in this town yesterday.

Bloomington, natch, is a blue town. It’s a dot of an island in the middle of one of the reddest damned oceans on this planet. But some 80,000 people live here nine months of the year; 40,000 or so the rest of the time. You’d figure one of this holy land’s two major political parties’d be competent enough to attract voters in the hundreds or even thousands in a primary municipal election. Sure, professors and students and social workers and poets and community activists and non-profit workers and all the rest of the types that make up the population of a college town tend to be either Democrats or non-aligned progressives. But how astounding is it that this town’s local GOP can roust only 34 civic-minded souls out of bed on a gorgeous spring morning to exercise their suffrage?

Now, I’m not blaming William Ellis, hard-working chair of the Monroe County Republican Party. He can toil from sunup to sundown and put in overtime at night every day of the year but he’ll still be unable to goose that Republican turnout next time around. Allow me to iterate: I don’t like it one bit.

Not that I like the Republicans — I don’t and I’ve written about the reasons why herein many a time — but I like whatever party’s in charge to be pushed and shoved and cajoled and told off and competed with every time out of the box.

It’s better for us all when the ruling party doesn’t get to thinking its offices and seats are birthrights.

That said, yesterday’s primary results both shocked me and came as no surprise. Everybody who paid the slightest amount of attention could foresee that there was an anti-incumbent mood among the electorate leading up to May 7th. And a few incumbents indeed came a cropper. I mean big time.

First, here’s how I’d doped out the races prior to 7pm yesterday.

I was betting on two At-Large city council members losing their seats. As I saw it, both Susan Sandberg and Jim Sims were going to be looking for new second jobs after the primary. Naturally, Sandberg and Sims garnered the highest and second-highest vote totals among the six candidates for those three seats. Now you know why I don’t run a betting book.

I was dead certain Jean Capler was going to cop one of those At-Large seats with Matt Flaherty, perhaps, taking another. All the while, I had Andy Ruff down as a rock-solid winner. So, you see, even if I was running a book before yesterday, I’d be tapped out of the business today.

Capler looked good because she’s squeaky clean, has done her homework, and she worked her tail off ringing doorbells. Ringing doorbells and meeting voters face to face — and listening — are the most important things a local candidate can do. Still, she came in 4th, although she did reap a nice total. I figure her to be a force in the next municipal or county election.

Flaherty did his homework, too. I just figured people would prefer a more mature, well-established new face. My guess is Flaherty and his sister-in-law, Kate Rosenbarger, double-teamed on certain messages and fed off each other’s work.

Speaking of Kate Rosenbarger, now there’s the big story of the election. She not only defeated longtime incumbent Chris Sturbaum in District 1, she massacred him. She scooped up 66 percent of the district’s votes to Sturbaum’s 28 percent and fellow challenger Denise Valkyrie’s 6 percent. That, my friends, is a landslide. And make no mistake, the charge bandied about throughout the election — that Sturbaum, a home construction contractor, has a conflict of interest whenever he considers zoning, neighborhood development, and residential density — hurt him. Gored him, for pity’s sake.

I wasn’t knocked over by a feather when news that Sue Sgambelluri’d bested Dorothy Granger in District 2. Sgambelluri, a fundraiser for Indiana University, knows people around this town and has a list of relationships with key folks a mile long. And people familiar with her work on the Redevelopment Commission know she studies the matters before that body hard and asks pertinent, cutting questions. She takes her duties seriously. Now she’ll face an equally ambitious and well-prepared opponent in the general election. Republican Andrew Guenther, the individual who gained the aforementioned 34 votes, will be a good debate opponent for her but, if history’s any indication, he’ll be lucky to get within 25 percentage points of her come November.

Then again, you know how dependable my crystal ball has been the last few elections.

And — I’ll be damned — Steve Volan’s opponent in District 6 has yet to phone the victorious incumbent or give a traditional concession speech. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to type those words out and not be a smart-ass.

A nit-pick: Here’s first headline WFIU issued online after the polls closed:

Let’s ignore the tortured English in the hed and simply concentrate on the news value of the piece. Incumbent Mayor Hamilton was running against a ghost. Former Monroe County Commissioner had suspended her campaign weeks ago. Still, some 766 die-hards cast their votes for the scandal-tainted Barge, meaning the mayor walloped her by 84.1-15.9. The shock is Hamilton’s percentage wasn’t over 95 percent. I dunno, weren’t the Ruff and Sturbaum upsets the real headlines yesterday? If I’m the editor, I go with understatement: Hamilton Wins Nomination or some such thing. I’d prefer my news sources reserve dramatic  characterizations for surprise events.

And the biggest surprise this town will have seen in 50-plus years would be something on the order of Hamilton & Republican Opponent In Dead Heat or Sandberg Edges GOP Challenger.

Then again, considering who the national Republican standard-bearer is these days, I might hope we’re not thusly surprised any time soon.

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