The Penises of Southdowns Drive

I decided I wanted to document the penises of Southdowns Drive.

These graffiti appeared sometime maybe last summer. I found them amusing and somewhat charming, at least as far as penis graffiti go, and imagined they’d be removed or covered up pretty quickly, considering how many parents walk this route with young kids on the way to and from the park.

But nope, still there. Not sure if this should be attributed more to apathy and a lack of city responsiveness, or to a high degree of liberal tolerance on the community’s part.

Check ’em out next time you’re on Southdowns, just East of Bryan Park.


Bloomington’s Little Free Libraries (2)

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are two more Little Free Libraries on or just off Davis Ave. a little to the West of Bryan Park.

Here’s the one on Davis.  When it’s closed, it’s not at all clear what the green wooden box is — it almost has the look of a green electrical box — which may be a disadvantage, although I also kind of like the suspense in opening the latched box and finding out what’s inside.

photo 1


Right now its contents are hit or miss.  7 Habits of Highly Effective People, How to be a Success, the Boomer Burden.  Also a Barnes & Noble edition of Vanity Fair, Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation, and an old edition of a Horatio Alger novel. I didn’t take anything.

The box has a lovely situation next to a brook, with a bench, and in the middle of a series of gardening boxes (you can see some lettuce in the foreground of this photo).

photo 2


Right around the corner, by the corner of Davis and Franklin, is this neat tree-mounted Little Free Library:

photo 3

Since I was last there a day or two ago, it seems that someone has added several old-school 60s-70s male literary novelists: John Fowles’ A Maggot (just checked, actually 1985), Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business (everyone in my family was reading that some summer when I was 12 or so– I barely remember it but recall thinking it was great), John Barth’s The Floating Opera.

Also, this stern note: Wed. May 28- I Wonder Why Someone Took All the Books?  Uncool, folks!  Take one or maybe two and try to come back to replace them!

photo 4

Bloomington’s Little Free Libraries

The Little Free Library movement apparently began in 2009 in a town called Hudson, Wisconsin, and has spread like wildfire.

What is a Little Free Library?

It’s a “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. You can, too!

[The founders] were inspired by many different ideas:

  • Andrew Carnegie’s support of 2,509 free public libraries around the turn of the 19th to 20th century.
  • The heroic achievements of Miss Lutie Stearns, a librarian who brought books to nearly 1400 locations in Wisconsin through “traveling little libraries” between 1895 and 1914.
  • “Take a book, leave a book” collections in coffee shops and public spaces.
  • Neighborhood kiosks, TimeBanking and community gift-sharing networks
  • Grassroots empowerment movements in Sri Lanka, India and other countries worldwide.

The group’s original goal was “to build 2,510 Little Free Libraries—as many as Andrew Carnegie—and keep going.”  But “this goal was reached in August of 2012, a year and a half before our original target date. By January of 2014, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world was conservatively estimated to be nearly 15,000, with thousands more being built.”

I was delighted to come across one of these a few weeks ago near Bryan Park in Bloomington– it’s on E. Davis street, about a block and a half or so West of the park.  This one is a metal [actually painted green wood] box, if I recall correctly, with a door that shuts with a latch.  I took a book from it, although I am already forgetting what it was.  I owe them a book!

Then, the other day, I was walking home and came across this magnificent new one on the corner of First street and Highland Ave.  It has a glass door, so you can see the spines of the books from the sidewalk, enticing you to stop to look more closely; and as you can see, it has an extra bottom shelf for some guardians of the library, and a sort of visitors’ notebook.


The collection of books was excellent, and I snagged the recent (published March 2014!) Philip Marlow re-boot, Benjamin Black (aka John Banville)’s The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel.  Not too shabby!  Today I took a dog walk back to the box and delivered what I think was a fair trade for that prize, an extra copy of Don DeLillo’s Underworld that I’ve had for ages– which you can see here.  This is clearly a pretty highbrow/ high-quality L.F.L.  There’s a copy of Wonder by R.J. Palacio, one of my kids’ favorite novels.

The proprietor of the box were doing some landscaping work around it when I showed up, and I learned that her L.F.L. is not part of Bloomington’s developing system (which the Monroe County Public Library is organizing, with help from a grant), but is a free agent. She also told me that there’s another box around the corner from the one I’ve seen on E. Davis, this one attached to a tree, like a bird house.

Here’s also a video about the Little Free Library story:

<p><a href=”″>Little Free Library Story</a> from <a href=”″>Beargrass Media</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

The whole idea could be accused of having a whiff of Portlandia-style preciosity or twee-ness to it.  But I’m a fan.  I can definitely never pass one of these without checking out its contents, and it’s fun to think about how each book got there, and where it may end up.

I will be on the lookout for the new L.F.L’s in town that should be cropping up.  Check them out!

Are you punk enough for our soy latte?: Soundtracks of the Cafes of Bloomington, IN

20120919-223190-college-tours-where-to-eat-near-indiana-university-somaSoma cafe, Bloomington; photo from

I find it interesting/ amusing that if you were placed blindfolded in one of the main downtown cafes of Bloomington, you could likely tell which one it was by hearing 20 seconds of the soundtrack.

The Scholars Inn Bakehouse (on the square): something very mainstream.  I’m here right now, and it’s been total classic hits of the corniest/ most old-school variety.  Sam Cooke’s “She was Only 16,” something by Linda Ronstadt, a Steely Dan song, “Shake Your Booty,” Creedence, etc. Absolutely zero gestures towards contemporary hipness of any kind.  It’s as if they’re aiming for visiting parents or even grandparents of IU students.  I have to admit I’m finding the bland medley somewhat soothing and non-distracting as I read, however.  (Right now, I kid you not, Seals and Crofts’ “Diamond Girl”!)

Soma.  In the back room, attempted deathly, library-like silence that can become very uncomfortable if someone actually has the temerity to have a conversation.  (I have to admit that I once participated in a conversation about Derrida (!) here as 15 people tried to work; it was kind of excruciating.)  In the front room, something very- to ridiculously hip/hipster.  Old Sonic Youth, say.  Usually great stuff, although once in a while it feels to me as if they’re trying too hard, and/or the music just gets too grating and distracting, and I wish for just a touch of Bakehouse-style corniness/ background tuneage.  A friend once characterized Soma’s vibe as: “are you punk rock enough for our soy latte?”

Starbucks.  You know what they play there.  Interestingly, this is likely to be much “hipper” than what you’ll be hearing in the (local, non-corporate) Bakehouse.  Something NPR-approved, the Shins or Neko Case or some such, perhaps.  (I generally like it.)  In case you needed to be reminded of the degree to which corporate America has adopted the signifiers of hip.

The Pourhouse.  This is perhaps the most interesting case.  The Pourhouse soundtrack seems to me to tend to cluster in a Venn Diagram overlap where “hipster/ indie/ alternative” overlaps with Christian rock.  Or, let’s say, indie-alt music that would be potentially palatable to someone who likes Christian rock.  Sufjean Stevens would be an obvious example. I find the Pourhouse overall a very pleasant place to work, and it used to be my go-to cafe, but lately I’ve cut back so thoroughly on post-breakfast caffeine that I get through the afternoons on peppermint tea, which they do not stock.

I realize I’m forgetting Rachael’s Cafe.  I haven’t been there for a while and I can’t recall offhand what they’re usually playing.

I tease out of love, cafes of Bloomington.  Rock on!

Kenneth Anger at the IU Cinema

I’ve been looking forward to Kenneth Anger‘s visit to the IU Cinema for quite a while.  The 300 tickets for the evening showing of some of his films sold out at least a month ago, so I was not the only one.  My understanding of Anger was actually pretty received and second-hand.  I own his scurrilous early-Hollywood tell-all history Hollywood Babylon (first published in France in 1959; the version I have is the 1970s one that sold 2 million copies, I believe) but had never seen full versions of any of his films.

The evening showing included two of his most famous, 1947’s Fireworks and 1964’s Scorpio Rising, along with a few very recent short films.

Fireworks is quite amazing.   It’s actually difficult to imagine it being made at that date.  It’s a 15-minute fantasia in which a good-looking young man played by the 19 or 20 year old Anger dallies with and is beaten up by some buff, muscle-flexing sailors.  Blood spurts out of Anger’s nose and milk pours on his head; it culminates with the fiery explosion of a Roman Candle sticking out of a sailor’s crotch.  Anger says he was influenced by early-cinema pioneers like the Lumiere brothers and Melies; it’s easy to see the influence Fireworks must have had on David Lynch and queer cinema of the 1980s and 1990s by Gus Van Sant and others.

Scorpio Rising seems similarly way ahead of its time.  Anger himself has aptly described it as “a death mirror held up to American culture… Thanatos in chrome, black leather, and bursting jeans.”  Biker dudes caressing their motorcycles, reading comic strips, petting a Siamese kitty, buckling their leather jackets and slipping into leather boots.  Death’s heads, Nazi insignia, and grim reapers.  Pop songs of the moment:  “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton, “Torture” by Kris Jensen and “I Will Follow Him” by Little Peggy March.  And “Wipeout” for the inevitable fiery crash.  David Lynch must have been inspired by Anger’s use of “Blue Velvet.” I believe Anger invented the jarring juxtaposition of cheerful, peppy pop songs with scenes of violence that directors like Martin Scorsese (who’s said he’s a fan of Anger’s) made so much a part of their method; there’s no question that Scorsese’s use of pop songs in Mean Streets had to be directly influenced by this movie.

We went (with our visiting friend Jane) to see Anger’s afternoon talk as well as the evening show, which also featured a Q&A.  Not sure we really had to go to both.  Anger was for the most part very unreflective about his work, sometimes almost hilariously so.  One example: someone asked a question about the origins of Fireworks.  Anger told a story about the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots in L.A. when sailors beat up zoot-suit-wearing Latinos, explaining that it was the inspiration for the movie.  OK, fair enough, but someone followed up to ask, “could you say a little more about how those events turned into this film?”  Anger basically had nothing more to say other than that it was based on a dream he had in which he the one beaten up by the sailors, and that he considers it to be an anti-war film.  In the two hours or so of on-stage discussion I saw, he had almost nothing to say about the homoeroticism of his films (though to be fair, he was asked very little about this directly) nor about their formal innovation and experimentation.  From his conversation, you might never guess that his movies were anything but fairly straight-forward narratives.  He seemed mostly interested in technical issues about the camera and film stock, and about his continual difficulties in finding funding.  (He’s never made a feature film, despite various efforts.)  Another example, when someone asked him about his ground-breaking use of sound and music in Scorpio Rising, his answer was something like, “well, those were the songs that were popular on the radio that summer.”

One funny thing happened.  In the Q&A he mentioned that he had been going to show three recent films, but that the IU Cinema director Jon Vickers (who was standing right there) had told him one of them was too racy for the “mixed audience.”  Anger implied that the film had one “explicit” scene as seen through a peephole, but that it was fairly tame.  Someone pressed him about this — the audience was not happy –and finally Vickers took the mike and explained that since the audience had not been warned about very explicit content, he had not wanted to spring this one on us.  He suggested that after the Q&A, there would be a brief break allowing anyone who wanted to leave to do so, and then the movie would be shown.

It was 9 p.m. and I was starving and sort of wanted to go eat dinner, but of course we could not be the prudes to get up and leave at that point!

The movie turned out to be, basically, a little piece of arty porn featuring closeups of some kind of wealthy industrialist receiving fallatio from his bodyguard while another titillated guard watches on a surveillance camera.  This to the soundtrack of the Police’s “I’ll Be Watching You.”  Pretty lame, actually — and definitely pornographic, so I felt kind of sympathetic to Vickers’ actions (after all, this is a public institution in Southern Indiana and you don’t necessarily want to get the attention of Republicans in state government), even though he came off initially as the bluestocking censor.

Despite Angers’ generally low-affect tone, his affection for the Kinsey Institute came through clearly.  He told a neat story about how he met Alfred Kinsey in the late 1940s, who turned up at an early showing of Fireworks and asked Anger if he could purchase it for the Kinsey collection.  Anger said, sure, you can have the reel we just watched, so they made the transaction on the spot, and Anger later (in the early 50s) visited Bloomington and did interviews with Kinsey.

the Hinkleburger


I lost my debit card, Am Ex card, faculty i.d. and driver’s license last weekend.  My wallet had a ripped pocket and I think everything fell out somewhere in the farmer’s market.  I have enough faith in the friendly small-town experience that I kept waiting for someone to get in touch… but no dice.  To the 19 year-old who tries to use my i.d. to buy beer or get into clubs, TOO BAD FOR YOU that I’m a bald 40-year-old.  (Although if the truth be told, when I was 19 I had some 35 year old’s i.d. which did generally work to get me in to see bands… but of course, I was already starting to go bald: Q.E.D.)

Anyway, I had to drive to the West side to go to the B.M.V., which is really not too much of a pain here — it took me about 15 minutes and $10 to get the new license.  On the way home I realized that it was approaching noon and that I was going to drive by Hinkle’s Hamburgers, so I just had to stop.

Hinkle’s has been around since 1930:

Hinckle’s Hamburgers is a revered Bloomington eatery whose straightforward motto is “We Grind Our Meat Fresh Daily.” Famous for its burgers, Hinkle’s has grilled the “Hinkleburger”, a burger consisting of fresh ground chuck, fresh onions, pickles, salt and pepper, since opening in the 1930’s.

I try to eat only locally farmed/non-industrial meat, and I tend to doubt that describes what Hinkle offers, but I have to make an exception for the Hinkleburger.  They pop this little ball of meat on the grill and press sliced onions into the ball, so the onions get grilled into and with the meat.  Delicious!  Another trademark of the place is that they usually serve your food to you in little paper bags, even if you’re eating there.  (This is represented in the iconic “guy holding two paper bags full of burgers” on their t-shirts.)

A lady in her 70s or so was manning the counter.  Two dudes were ordering burgers.  “Onions and pickles?” she asked and the first guy said no apologetically.  “Weak, weak, weak,” she muttered, if I heard her correctly.  Then the next guy said “I’m going to be a wimp too,” and she said disapprovingly, “wimpy, wimpy wimpy.”  I was pleased to be able to be a man and get the onions and pickles.

Seed Sharing Gone Bad

From our local paper today (not sure what accounts for the several-week delay on this news being reported; perhaps there was an attempted hush-up):

A spring party intended to be an opportunity for friends to exchange seeds landed one woman in the hospital after she ate some of the seeds.

Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies were called at 12:10 a.m. March 22 to the 9300 block of East Woodview Drive. The 30-year-old homeowner told police she was hosting a spring solstice party where about 15 people got together to exchange seeds for planting in their gardens. The hostess said numerous types of seeds were in a party-style bag which each guest received.

As the partygoers socialized, someone noticed the 34-year-old victim take a handful of seeds out of her bag and swallow them. Police said others began telling the woman that it wasn’t a good idea to do that since some seeds are toxic. Other partygoers were able to learn that the woman had swallowed purple moonflower seeds. After a few minutes, the woman became intoxicated and began to fall unconscious.

When the deputy arrived, she found the victim was lying on the bathroom floor. According to the report, the woman appeared extremely intoxicated, was incoherent and appeared to be having hallucinations.

The best part:

Police said the woman kept picking at things on her shirt, the deputy’s clothing and out of the air that were not there. She was taken to Bloomington Hospital where she was treated and released.

According to the report, purple moonflower seeds are very toxic and can lead to coma or death.

This is hilarious b/c Sarah has actually been involved in some seed-sharing parties… Little did I suspect what kinds of danger and bad behavior can be involved in such illicit gatherings.  That “party-style bag” should’ve been a tip-off.

Zombie Parade

Sorry I missed this one.

Kirkwood Avenue and Walnut Street are hubs of nightlife entertainment for college students, but this Thursday the streets entertained a different crowd: the undead.

About 100 people dressed up as zombies took over the streets for about an hour, walking straight-legged and blank-eyed, bringing traffic to a halt, jumping on cars that honked at them and slapping up against windows of businesses…..

The parade came to a somewhat abrupt end, though, as police cars pulled up behind the crowd with their lights flashing.

Although at first this did not deter the crowd and many zombies surrounded the police car, yelling, the party dissipated as even more squad cars arrived and one man was handcuffed and put inside one of the cars.

Parade participants were divided about the arrest.

Senior Luke Bapple, who believed the arrest happened because the arrestee had touched one of the police cars, said the arrested “zombie” should have known better.

“I mean, I’ll jump on a civilian car,” he said. “We’re dead, not stupid.”

But senior Samantha Miller applauded the arrestee.

“He was a martyr zombie,” she said.


Amazing flooding here in Bloomington!!! I had to take my shoes off to wade across Third Street — the water was up to my knees, splashing up in the wake of a bus against the window of the coffee shop, and I chatted with a guy whose bike had been swept away downstream in Jordan River! Read in the paper that an SUV floated away for a half block or so on Kirkwood. Craziness.

IDS slideshow: note all the shots of IU students leaping into garbage-and-debris-choked waters; a bit disconcerting one week after the kid died from swimming in the quarry.

more photos.

p.s.  A day afterwards, there were hardly any signs of the flood, it was as if it had never happened.  5 inches of rain in an hour, or something, and then it disappeared.

Local news story of the week

Local news story of the week:

Police: Funny fudge made with lavender, not pot

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Indiana University police say brownies a girl gave to dorm workers didn’t contain marijuana at all. The leafy substance mixed in was lavender.

IU Police Capt. Jerry Minger said the 13-year-old girl came forward after the case was publicized to let officers know the brownies were safe.

The fudge was given to workers at IU’s Eigenmann Hall on May 23 and police were called after one of the employees took a bite and noticed a green, leafy substance inside.

The girl gave some of the lavender to police for a field test, and Minger said it registered a “weak reaction” on a test for marijuana.

The girl made the fudge for a school project, in which she had to make a Swedish food.

Information from: The Herald-Times,

This story received coverage and updates all week. The Herald Times even saw fit to bestow one of their dreaded ‘onions’ (as in Orchids and Onions, an editorial system of praise and blame) on the malefactors who decided to secretly intoxicate the unwitting IU administrators who work in Eigenmann Hall. Quite a letdown to learn it was all a misunderstanding borne out of a local student’s quest for better understanding of world cultures.

Sarah pointed out that it showed a confused, Reefer Madness-esque mindset to believe that someone would make a big expensive batch of pot brownies and… hand them out to random university administrators.

One question: what kind of school project requires that you “make Swedish food”? Hmm, maybe there is more to this story after all…