12.21.2011

After the January 3 Iowa Caucuses, we won’t have Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum to kick around anymore. For each, one of three post-Iowa fates await them: 1) they will take the hint and end their so-called “presidential campaigns.” Like their old adversary, Herman Cain, they may choose to “suspend” their campaigns so as to milk the last drop of fame and TV exposure for themselves; 2) the media will end their campaigns for them, relegating them to spots alongside Buddy Rohmer/Gary Johnson/Jimmy “The rent is too damn high” McMillan; 3) they may simply disappear, taken away by space aliens or voluntarily entering the witness protection program where they will be given a Hispanic surname and relocated to the Mexican border to serve as undercover agents in the coming shooting war with illegal immigrants trying to sneak across the border to work as gardeners and hotel maids for a buck fifty an hour.

Alien vehicle arrives to pick up discarded Republican candidates on Jan. 4 (artist's conception)

Think about what they’ve experienced in the past year! They’ve split their time between trying to convince Iowa Republicans they are serious candidates, trying to convince rich people that they deserve large checks (see also: throwing money down a rat hole), fighting homosexuality wherever they find it, standing at podiums at the outer edges of debates waiting for their 30 seconds of airtime in a 90 minute event, and doing endless interviews with reporters from weekly papers.

It’s been sort of interesting getting to know them. Naw, not really. Neither one ever really came up with any ideas beyond their broad anti-gay dogmas. Bachmann was a fundraising fool as a bomb-throwing Congresswoman but she didn’t wear well with most people who don’t handle snakes as part of their prayer ritual. I personally don’t think she ever recovered from the Newsweek cover that made her look like a meth chef desperate for a tank full of anhydrous. The campaign “peaked” at the Republican straw poll which pretty much erased any pretense to legitimacy that event might have had. The past year hasn’t been real kind to first-gentleman-wannabe Marcus Bachmann, about whom we learned ever so much more than we really wanted to know. And if raising kids was a foundation from which to build a campaign, Kate Gosselin would be right in there. Aw, crap you don’t think she’d ever…???

What can you say about Rick Santorum that hasn’t already not been said by the media? I mean, the guy was really, really trying but what was he trying to do…run as a former Senator AND as an outsider? His dilemma was trying to get voters to remember that he had been in the Senate while the approval rating of Congress dipped down to about the same level as the alcohol content of O’Doul’s.

Bob Vander Plaats -- Once compared homosexuality to second-hand smoke.

Interestingly, two of the self-described heavy hitters in the Hawkeye State’s homophobe ranks — Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley — came out yesterday and endorsed Santorum. It seems pretty stupid to me for “heavy hitters” to wait until the caucus is less than two weeks away to endorse a guy with low-single-digit poll numbers. I’m not political strategist but it might have made more sense when Santorum was trying to differentiate himself from the rest of that raggedy bunch.

Can they really be so self-delusional as to think they’re endorsements might actually MEAN something? Heck, Vander Plaats’s far-right group, The Family Leader, had to rely on money from the Deep South to fund its successful recall campaign of the Iowa Supreme Court Justices. If there is a righteous higher power, the endorsements will be a complete fail and they’ll be relegated to sending ranting letters to the editor to all 300 newspapers in Iowa for the rest of their lives.

Justice Clarence Thomas is Rick Santorum's fave

So requiescat in pacem, guys. The 2012 Republican Campaign Clown Car will be a little less crowded on Jan. 4. Bachmann can head back to D.C. where actually she has a job as a non-insider US Representative. Santorum will return to Pennsylvania and pursue other interests. He’s already had a colorful law career, including representing the World Wrestling Federation, arguing that professional wrestling should be exempt from federal anabolic steroid regulations because it was not a sport. OMG, how many things are wrong with THAT? (As an aside, Santorum — remember he’s a lawyer — says Clarence Thomas is his favorite Supreme Court Justice).

On Jan. 4, we’ll be down to Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry in the Clown Car. On to New Hampshire!

The surviving candidates look ahead to New Hampshire. Pictured: downtown Concord.

 

 

 

The Winter Solstice officially occurs tomorrow morning (Dec. 22) at 5:30 am UTC, which is 11:30 pm tonight (Dec. 21) Central Time. After that, the days start getting longer. Yay.

The winter solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star that it orbits. Earth’s maximum axial tilt to our star, the Sun, during a solstice is 23° 26′. Yay.

But what does it MEAN? For the ancients, it symbolized the fine line between a partay and starvation. The wine and beer made from the previous growing season’s crops were now alcoholic enough to induce intoxication. Knowing the months ahead were going to be sketchy from a food point of view, some cultures slaughtered animals rather than feed them scarce grain. This meant a feast, followed inevitably by several months of pretty lean viddles. The Winter Solstice was so important that the ancient Celts invented engineering so they could create Stonehenge which was a giant rock calendar to indicate when the solstice had arrived.

Stonehenge

Although the Xians will holler bloody murder, Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 25 because in ancient times, the Winter Solstice occurred on or about that date. Historians actually think Jesus of Nazareth was born in summer, probably in August.

Ancient Celtic Druid

The people most inextricably linked to the Winter Solstice are the Druids, Celtic priests who engaged in ritualistic magic and blood sacrifice. Today, many Druidic practices are frowned upon but you can create a druid character on World of Warcraft and level him up without shedding any real blood. Just watch out for the murlocs.

A murloc

On the cusp of this astronomical event, I invite you to join the ancients in celebrating the longest night/shortest day of the year. Rather than slaughtering livestock, why not send me a nice meat bundle from Omaha Steaks? In return, I will perform sacred and arcane rituals on your behalf, rituals that include mud, skins, dancing around a heelstone, shaking rattles, and a certain amount of nakedness under the moonlight. Check YouTube for the videos.

Like all politicians, Ron Paul likes to stand in front of American flags.

As many of you know, I am a confirmed OC personality. My wife calls me “Man of Action” and it’s not because of what you think. Nope, I am the guy who will drive two miles to avoid waiting at a crossing for a train that will pass in three minutes. As my mom used to say, I’ve got ants in my pants.

That’s why I’ve decided to be the first person to call the Republican results in the January 3 Iowa Caucuses (cauci?). It’ll be Ron Paul and it won’t be all that close. You can pass those songbooks down to the end of the pew now.

OK, so some of you want an explanation. Here’s why it will be Ron Paul:

1) Attending a caucus requires commitment. Ron Paul’s followers are committed. Maybe not suicide-bomber committed but still more likely to suffer pain and inconvenience than, say, Mitt Romney’s. Unlike those wussy primaries where you just flit into a voting booth, pull the lever and head out, a caucus requires a whole evening. You have to sit down with your fellow caucusees (?) and discuss WHY you support a certain person. People then have the opportunity to grill you and try to dissuade you from your choice and persuade you to convert to candidate they’re supporting. What this means is that the Michele Bachmann supporters who say they support her “because the voices told me to” are likely to come under intense psychological pressure. Likewise the Gingrich advocates who like him “because he uses big words.” Hey, sometimes the voices use big words too.

Like the Man With No Name, Ron Paul stands for something

2) Ron Paul stands for something. Iowans, especially Iowa Republicans, like things in black and white. That’s why so many of them (the Republicans) take the Old Testament literally. Ron Paul gives it to them in black and white. The fact that a great deal of what he says is demonstrable lunacy doesn’t matter. He talks straight talk. His opposition to the war in Iraq and his support for a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion has seduced some left leaners into considering him as a candidate. Once people stop to realize a country such as the one Ron Paul describes would be pretty similar to the border town of San Miguel in the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western “A Fistful of Dollars” where the residents are caught between the warring factions of the Rojos and the Baxter families, libertarianism doesn’t look so good. When you don’t pay taxes, you don’t get any services…unless the Man With No Name rides into town.

The evil Rojos who make a living violating the rights of the residents of San Miguel

But what if you think about the Rojos as the Republican Party and the Baxters as the Democrats?? Does that make Ron Paul the Man With No Name? I’m going to have to get the movie and watch it again!

The evil Baxters who accidentally shoot two-thirds of the residents of San Miguel while trying to kill the Rojos

 

3) Ron Paul has youth on his side. First, let’s point out the obvious: anyone under 30 who doesn’t have a nice trust fund is absolutely insane to be a Republican. But let me stipulate that such crazy young people do exist and Ron Paul has been successful reaching out to them. Young people are often portrayed as being passionate in support of causes and if this is so, Ron Paul will be the beneficiary. Paul is lucky that the caucuses are at night because if they were at 7 am, the youth participation would be negligible, especially in college towns.

4) The rest of the field is so repugnant. Come on, people! Can you imagine a serious person actually sitting face to face with other Republicans and arguing that Rick Santorum should be the Republican candidate? Or Bachmann? Or Newt Gingrich, whose unfavorables within his own party are off the charts (not to mention his wife)? Or Mitt Romney, who a) is a Mormon which most Republicans think is something like a B’hai or the Amish; b) has been running for president since 2007 but hasn’t seemed to have gotten around to visiting Iowa since he got his ass handed to him on a silver platter in 2008; c) is really the reincarnation of Teddy Kennedy with a few less pounds.

In summary, if you can find yourself a bookmaker, liquidate all your capital assets and put them down on Ron Paul of Texas in the Iowa Caucuses. I guarantee you’ll be richer than Romney on Jan. 4.

12.19.2011

 

Kim Jong Il (Quaker Oatmeal commemorative package)Another great world figure has passed from the stage. RIP Kim Jong Il.

Sure, Vaclav Havel served as an inspiration to millions, the poet-politician who became president of the Czech Republic. Havel was described by the Christian Science Monitor as “Impish, shy, a playwright and poet, a friend of both rock and roll stars and physicists, Havel offered not just a voice, but a deeply moral and spiritual vision for human rights and for addressing what he called “our crisis of civilizational values.”’

That’s great. But Vaclav Havel never ever had 11 holes in one in a single round of golf. He never shot an incredible 34 under par. Upon finishing this, the first and only round of golf he would ever play, Kim announced his retirement from the sport.

As a poet and playwright, Havel published six books of poetry, 19 plays, nine books of nonfiction and a novel. Impressive but far from the 1,500 books Kim is reported to have written during a three-year period in college.

Kim Jong Il (Al Davis impersonation)

Vaclav Havel never had the panache to carry off the jumpsuit and platform shoes look, not to mention the pompadour.

Unlike Kim, Havel never even approached spending $800,000 a year on Hennessey cognac, and this in a country where the average annual income is a buck and a half.

A North Korean government website once stated that Kim Jong-il never needed to urinate or defecate. Havel peed and pooped.

In summation: Vaclav Havel = great man. Kim Jong Il = godlike.

Al Davis (Kim Jong Il impersonation)

12.18.2011

Sometime soon, just for laughs, take an informal poll among your friends and relatives; ask them “who da man?” Good question. Who IS Da Man? If you want, we can meet back here after the holidays and compare notes.

How would YOU answer the question? Would you select a great political leader? A brilliant scientist? A star athlete” A religious figure? Perhaps a military hero? Who IS da man?

I humbly submit there is ONLY ONE “Da Man” and his name is Santa Claus.

Santa Claus, AKA, "Da Man"

Last night, we were at a brass band concert here in Mount Vernon. During the encore song of a very nice program, a door to the auditorium opened, spilling light down the aisle. When people turned to see who was coming in so late in the program, they saw Santa Claus himself entering the room, stopping to shake hands, wave and wish people Merry Christmas. After the song ended, the young female conductor turned around and when she saw Santa, she lit up. Santa had done what he does better than anyone who ever lived; he brought joy to someone.

It’s a big shock when you learn the literal truth about Santa. Sometimes you’re young (as in when an older sibling rats it out) and sometimes you’re older (my nine-year-old grandson still believes!). Sometimes you learn slowly (rumors grow more numerous, you start to figure out the story is illogical and violates common sense in any number of ways). Other times, it’s as quick as a slap across the face with a wet mitten. Boom, it’s over for me so it’s over for you, kid sister!

But after a while, if you want, you can build an alternative world for yourself where Santa and Aristotle can both exist.  Of COURSE there’s not just a single Santa. There’s too many people around the world for one individual to be able to give joyservice to them all.

Merry Old Santa by Thomas Nast (1886)

Even if you figure a big fraction of the world’s 8 billion people aren’t part of the Santa orbit (Jews, Muslims, commies, Hindus, Ba’hais, etc) there is STILL a ton of work. So many years ago, the Main Santa decided to open some recruiting posts. Given the fact that Santa is a rotund man, it was logical for M.S. to turn quickly to Iowa as prime recruiting ground. The state’s economic development office immediately offered some choice locations, conveniently TIF’d so as to sweeten the pot. It was a big success! Given the unemployment rate in the state, the fact that a good portion of the state’s workforce is idle over the winter (farmers, etc.) and given the fact that Iowans have a neutral accent (experience has shown that Santas with pronounced drawls or New Jersey accents encounter legitimacy problems in the field). Plus, Iowans are nice which is a required quality for Santa.

So those Santas you see around town are trainees, interns if you will. Hard-working rookies who are learning the Santa ropes. But why? The pay is bad; being a Santa isn’t going to help you crack the 1%. The suit is hot, the hours long, the beard itchy, the likelihood of some kid dumping a Slurpee down your pants is high. Money is not the motivator. Nor is fame. If anyone labors in anonymity, it’s the guy behind the Santa suit.

Father Christmas

The reward of being Santa comes from being plugged into the myth, to be part of that big river of belief that’s been flowing through Euro-Western society for more than a thousand years. Based mainly on St. Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop, Santa Claus also draws on Germanic pagan traditions such as that of Odin. By the middle ages, a character named Sinterklaas had emerged in what is now Holland. The stories about Santa’s employment of elves derive directly from the Sinterklaas story, although Sinter used mischievous helpers in blackface and colorful outfits. These assistants were called ‘Zwarte Pieten’ or Black Peter. You can look all this stuff up.

While the Santa you see in the store, at the mall, on the corner, may not be Main Santa, he (I’ve never seen a she-Santa) IS a continuation and culmination of centuries of tradition. And while for kids, Santa’s main job is to haul the merchandise, for many of us who have exited through the one-way door of belief, Santa still brings a smile to our faces. We smile because we remember the magic Santa brought when we were kids, when we looked for cookie-remnant evidence of his presence. We smile at the thought of a rotund man controlling an eight (or on foggy nights, nine) reindeer hitch flying through the sky. We smile because we remember the Night Before Christmas, and yes, Victoria and trying to figure out how Santa moved his throne from Sears to J.C. Penney faster than we could walk between those stores. We smile when we remember the letters we sent him c/o North Pole, so carefully written, so lovingly addressed. We remember focusing on being good just after Thanksgiving and hoping it would be enough. We smile to remember marking years by the arrival of Christmas.

1918 parade featuring Santa Claus who is about to use a ladder to climb onto the balcony

Mainly we smile because Santa is Da Man.

 

It’s Saturday night!

Saturday Night Fever! Saturday Night Live! Saturday night’s alright for fighting! Saturday night special! Saturday night massacre! Saturday night and Sunday morning. As those inimitable philosophers, the Bay City Rollers, sang:

Gonna dance with my baby till the night is thru
On Saturday Night, Saturday Night
Tell her all the little things I’m gonna do

Tonight, we’re taking my mother-in-law, who will turn 90 in exactly one week, to the Mount Vernon school auditorium to listen to the Eastern Iowa Brass Band. If I tell my mother-in-law “all the things I’m gonna do” it’s likely to be “I’m gonna put your oxygen machine under your seat and hang your coat on the back, OK?” or “I’m gonna get another cookie, do you want one?”

The local paper says the program will be in two parts. The first part will be the EIBB’s program from the recent US Open Brass Band Championships competition. After intermission, the band will play Christmas (OK, “holiday”) songs. The audience can sing along. Santa Claus is expected to show up. Afterward, there will be a cookie reception. How did my life come to this?

John Travolta as Tony Manero

Saturday night holds an exalted place in our culture. You know you’re growing up when Saturday night starts to become important, the  pinnacle of the week, when that brief respite from the alarm clock combines with the desire to socialize, to get out and boogie, to mix and mingle, to participate in the pursuit of the opposite (and in some cases, the same) sex. Friday night, you’re too tired from the work week. Sunday night, you’re thinking about the work week.

Saturday Night Special, Version 1

Time was, on a Saturday night I would dress carefully, slap on some pre-Axe fragrance and head out for some rock and roll. That was then. This is now.

My earliest memories of Saturday night are of my parents going out. Parents gone, good. We can stay up late. In high school, I was introduced to mixed gender parties. Parties, good. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to beer. Beer, good. When I reached legal drinking age, I was introduced to bars. Bars, good. Bars with rock and roll, very very good. Bars with women who like to drink and dance to rock and roll, most excellent! Bars with women who like to drink and dance and…well, you get the picture.

Saturday night was

This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This precious stone set in the silver sea…

OK, so I edited a few lines from the Shakespeare’s Richard II. I needed to get some high culture in this post. I didn’t want you to get the impression that I was a boozehound who frequented bars and stalked women. Not any more.

Saturday Night Special, Version 2

As I grew into my 30 and 40s, Saturday nights found me less and less likely to be in a bar and more and more likely to be at a dinner party. Relaxing with some friends around a table of good food and a good vintage. By the time I reached my 50s, I’d given up alcohol (having consumed my share and your share too) which made me rethink some of my core beliefs in the structure of Saturday night. I spent a few Saturday nights at AA meetings, which offer camaraderie but which don’t offer the same level of excitement of your average dinner party. Or even of your average brass band concert. But it had to be done.

Sad to say, I no longer anticipate Saturday night the way I once did. Saturday night is for the young and the young at heart but that’s all relative; In the unlikely event I make it to 90, I hope I’ll have any desire to get out at all.

12.15.2011

I had started to write a lengthy follow up post about the crapstorm unleashed by UI faculty member Steve Bloom’s article in the Atlantic. But all this is superfluous; the central issue is going to come down to tenure, that rare and anachronistic mechanism by which a faculty member, after a period of “vetting” by his or her peers, is granted what is de facto employment for life. The rationale is that academics need to be protected from retaliation so they will be free to pursue scholarship wherever it leads.

The UI administration is going to be pressed on several fronts to defend tenure and Steve Bloom is going to become the poster boy for everything that is wrong about tenure. Bloom replaces the University of Colorado’s Ward Churchill in the role of poster boy. Churchill, who basically offended everyone with a conscience with his remarks following 9/11, was eventually fired but not for what he said. Rather, the Colorado regents dug deep enough to find some evidence of scholarly shadiness that gave them the opportunity to avoid the academic freedom issue.

The UI is going to be caught dead in the middle and they are fully aware of this. It didn’t take Mason long to distance herself from Bloom’s article although UI spokesman Tom Moore did point out that Bloom has the right to say anything he wants. No recriminations coming, folks. No can do.

It’s like someone coming to your house, calling you an ugly idiot, telling you that your kids are fat imbeciles, your decorating taste sucks, your kitchen stinks, your toilet is filthy, your husband is a lazy bum and then demanding money. $105,000 a year to be precise. Chutzpah at its most exquisite.

For the most part, Iowans are fair people but this one is going to require some ‘splainin’. This flies in the face of common sense. It’s one thing to ensure that scholars are protected from reprisals when they advocate an unpopular stand based on their scholarship. It’s quite another to be protected from the type of stereotype-laced diatribe Bloom unleashed. If there is scholarship at all in this, it’s pretty well disguised as petty meanness. Bloom is acting like a prick and he’s going to get away with it. That’s what strikes Iowans as unfair.

The sideshow now will be to watch Mason and the UI defend academic tenure. Tenure is a sword with two edges. Academics will circle the wagons to defend it but departmental administrators who are stuck with non-productive faculty members drawing down big salaries rail against it in their management meetings. And when old professors who don’t teach and don’t bring in grant money hang around, there’s no room and no money for new blood to enter the academy. But that’s a different (albeit important) issue.

Bloom didn’t write this nasty stuff because he had tenure but if he didn’t have tenure, it’s a pretty safe bet he wouldn’t have written this stuff.

Bloom’s “boss” (faculty members don’t really have bosses in the traditional sense), UI J-school director David Perlmutter, says “Faculty members have academic freedom and freedom of speech, but that works both ways. Professors can write what they want to write, but everybody has the freedom to criticize or challenge that.”

Perlmutter is correct and the media, social and mainstream, is awash with criticisms of Bloom. But the real impact will be when Iowans contact their legislators and their legislators contact Mason. And contact her they must. Bloom has used a national forum to call their constituents meth addicts and their towns “skuzzy.”

Bloom is either completely unaware or uncaring about the delicate political situation Iowa’s public universities are facing in the legislature. At a time when the state budget is stretched thinner than tissue paper and at a time when a Republican sits in the governor’s mansion, this isn’t good. Bloom may have academic freedom but the legislature has the power of appropriations and I would bet my last $10,000 that the UI lobbyists have working overtime the past couple of days making nice with legislators.

Interestingly, Bloom is now casting himself as a victim. He says the enormous reaction to his story proves that he has touched a nerve. Could be. But if someone stereotypes a racial or ethnic group as stupid, lazy, dishonest and untrustworthy the reaction against that isn’t because of truth-telling. It’s because it’s offensive. Stereotypes are the refuge of the intellectually lazy, the kind of people who revel in ethnic jokes. Scholars don’t engage in stereotyping. While Steve Bloom may hold a tenured faculty position at a Big Ten university, I think it’s pretty clear that doesn’t make him a scholar.

 

Iowans on a date

There’s been a lot (well, more like some) outrage over an opinion piece written by a University of Iowa journalism faculty member that appears in the Atlantic Online. The writer, a guy named Steve Bloom, (who is the Bessie Dutton Murray Professional Scholar at the UI journalism school) says he is trying to explain Iowa and its inhabitants (mainly the latter) to outsiders. He does so by providing such insights as:

In this land, deep within America, on Friday nights it’s not unusual to take a date to a Tractor Pull or to a Combine Demolition Derby (“First they were thrashin’, now they’re CRASHIN’!”).

Bloom has lived in Iowa for 20 years. I’ve lived here three times that long and have never been to a tractor pull. In fact, I can’t think of any friends who have been to a tractor pull but then that’s not something my friends would mention out of fear of ridicule.

In fact, just last Sunday, when my friends and I could theoretically been at a tractor pull, we were instead at a poetry reading in Mount Vernon (pop. 4,000) where I live. The event was the celebration of a newly published book of poems by a friend, Glenn Freeman, who was born and raised in Baltimore and who moved voluntarily to Iowa where he teaches writing at Cornell College.

The food for the event was provided by another friend, Matt Steigerwald, who owns the Lincoln Wine Bar (where the event was held) and the Lincoln Cafe, which has been written up in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Midwest Living, Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine, and many other publications. Matt, who has also competed in national competitions against the likes of the chefs from the French Laundry, hails from North Carolina. His culinary skills would be a hit in any major city. He to0 moved voluntarily to Iowa and has sunk extremely deep roots into the local community.

Music for the event was provided by another close friend, Dale Beeks. In addition to being a musical polyglot, Dale is a high-end collector and dealer in antiques, specifically scientific instruments. He literally wrote the book on antique surveying instruments and once owned surveyors tools purchased by George Washington. He was invited by Antiques Roadshow to be one of their on-air appraisers. Dale is originally from the Bay Area in California. He came to Iowa after a long and very thoroughly researched hunt for a new place for his family to live. Out of all the places in the USA, he selected Iowa and he loves it here.

When Bloom refers to Iowa as a”schizophrenic, economically-depressed, and some say, culturally-challenged state”, I’d suggest that he may be 1) pandering to a more effete segment of society; 2) hanging with the wrong crowd and; 3) intellectually so lazy that he reflects very poorly on the University of Iowa and its j-school.

In the interest of full disclosure, I hold a master’s degree from the UI School of Journalism. I earned this degree before Bloom arrived, for which I think I should be grateful. During my time at the school, (1982-84) there was great emphasis placed on accuracy in journalism. Get the facts right. Old school. Apparently, Bloom belongs to the Republican Party school of communication that says anything is a fact as long as you’re willing to present it as a fact. For example, in his article, Bloom writes, “Rural America has always been homogenous, as white as the milk the millions of Holstein cows here produce.”

In fact, the actual size of Iowa’s dairy herd is 209,000* and that includes some numbers of Guernseys, Brown Swiss, Jerseys, Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorns. It took me about a minute to find out this fact, apparently more time than a journalism professor with a named chair is willing to spend while “researching” an article.

A Holstein cattle. Note the bag between the rear legs, which is where the dairy products are dispensed.

Bloom also writes:

The corn grows so fast in Iowa — from seedlings to 7-foot-high stalks in 12 weeks — that it crackles nonstop throughout the summer months. The sound is like popcorn popping slow-motion in a microwave. That pop-pop-popping can be heard especially in the early morning hours, as dew and fog cover the acres of gently swaying cornstalks that surround farming villages the way the sea encircles an island.

Again, a minute on the internet would have cautioned Bloom against repeating what agronomists say is a very specious assertion. While I am willing to grant him the benefit of the doubt when he implies that he has actually been in a cornfield in the early morning hours, I would submit that with the leaves rustling and scraping, it’s too damn noisy out there to hear microscopic cell division no matter how rapidly it’s taking place.

If this Atlantic piece is what passes for “scholarship,” I bet old Bessie Dutton Murray wants her endowment back.

In the end, whatever outrage Iowans may feel toward Bloom’s journalistic fuck you, it’s probably compounded by the fact that Bloom continues to cash checks underwritten by their tax money. While as a “scholar,” Bloom would claim he has academic freedom to say the things he says, in reality being a dick has a downside. For example, you never get invited to poetry readings on Sunday afternoons and instead have to spend your spare time in river towns like Keokuk, “a skuzzy depressed, crime-infested slum town.”

If I might offer some bits of advice to the poor forlorn Bloom:

Finally, why are you here? If you are so fundamentally unhappy, so professionally unfulfilled, so intellectually lonely why don’t you just move on? Is it tenure that keeps you here? The last third of the article is such an unvarnished venting of loathing for what you perceive to be the “real” Iowa, it’s hard to imagine the depth of your despair. Dude, life is too short to spend it among people who are not worthy of your presence. Go. Leave. Find another university’s tit to suck.

*http://www.iowadairy.org/facts/index.html

This interesting slide show lists the 10 states that have the highest percentage of their populations on food stamps. Guess who loses. Yes, Mississippi. Again. To put this in context, I’d like to reference a post from many moons ago detailing some of the many ways that Mississippi is not just bad but pathetic. I know some of you are saying, “Lighten up, Steve. We know Mississippi has problems but you’re relentless.” Guilty as charged. As long as Mississippi keeps electing clowns like Trent Lott, Haley Barbour, and Ross Barnett (OK, Barnett is a stretch), I’ll keep mocking you.

Every week or so, the Republican Presidential Race Clown Car pulls over to let someone crawl out of the back seat to ride shotgun. As always, Mitt Romney stays in the driver’s seat. This week, it was Newton Leroy “Newt” Gingrich, deep into his third or fourth incarnation as a rehabilitated presidential wanna-be, who got to sit in the front seat. He replaced Herman Cain, who was told to go sit in the backseat and keep his hands to himself. It may be telling that Perry, Santorum, Paul, and Huntsman were told to sit between Cain and Michelle Bachmann. Coincidence or is there a message in this?

Let’s hope Newt doesn’t get too comfortable up there. There have been two constants throughout this race: Romney is always the driver and everyone takes turns sitting in the front seat. Santorum, Paul and Huntsman have been whining ever since the last potty stop. At some point, we’re going to have to pull this car over and set a few things straight.

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