The New York Times, with its unerring knack for finding the stupidest people in any non-New York venue it chooses to cover, finds a few in Kokomo:
“We hold onto a lot of traditional values,” said Brian L. Thomas, 39, as he bought a cup of coffee along the courthouse square here on Wednesday. “Saying you’re ready to change is probably not the best or only thing you would want to say around these parts. Frankly, we want it to be like it used to be.”
Many of the two dozen voters interviewed in this central Indiana manufacturing city of 46,000 expressed queasiness over the notions of change that both Democratic candidates have proudly pledged elsewhere. Though residents bemoaned economic conditions that have taken away thousands of factory jobs and given the state the 11th-highest rate of foreclosures, they also said they worried about doing things — anything — very differently.
“What are we going to change to?” asked Ron O’Bryan, 58, a retired auto worker who said he was still trying to decide which Democrat to vote for in the May 6 primary. “You mean change to some other country’s system? What do you think they mean?”
Jeremy Lewis, a 28-year-old window washer, said simply, “Old-fashioned can be in a good way.”
“We want it like it used to be” — that’s Indiana in a nutshell. They could put that on the license plates. When Ron O’Bryan still had a job in the factory, I guarantee someone in town was mourning the good ol’ days when you made your living the good way, on a farm, and spent the evenings shellin’ peas and drinkin’ lemonade.
Other things Kokomo has found amusing: Old Ben, the world’s largest “preserved” steer (photos here; he doesn’t look that big), and, of course, the world’s largest sycamore stump. Perhaps if Obama presented himself as an attraction — world’s first black presidential candidate to be a serious contender, maybe.
I’ll tell you one thing, however: All three of these guys got the Obama e-mail, and believe every word. Maybe spending all your time in North Carolina is a better idea.
OK. All this talk of celebrity sightings yesterday reminded me of a thread on Metafilter Monday, about “Expelled,” the latest attempt by the religious right to condemn Michael Moore’s tactics by aping them. The argument bores me, but I was struck by a few comments about Ben Stein sightings in the wild:
I once saw Ben Stein in an airport, wearing a suit and some kind of hipster foot apparel. There weren’t very many people around, and as a journalist who has met my share of very famous people, I generally know how not to behave around them. But as I’d been amused by Ben Stein’s Money — the game show that turned anti-Semitism into a laff ryot — I gave him a little nod and smile when I walked past him. He whipped his head away with an absolutely exasperated look, as if I’d been a paparazzo from TMZ. Puh-leeze.
For a long time, the editorial department in Fort Wayne paid for a subscription to the American Spectator, and I used to read it with a mounting sense of wonder. (It’s where I learned the word “poofter,” in fact; R. Emmett Tyrell turned homophobia into a laff ryot.) One of my favorite features was Ben Stein’s Diary, which was always exactly the same from month to month. Ben would go about his life, much of which at that time involved acting in commercials and making personal appearances based on being that-guy-from-Ferris-Bueller. He always wrote of his life as an ongoing delight, how lucky he was to fly first class and be fed delicious food from craft services, how people would come up to him in airports and say “Bueller…Bueller” and it was just so wonderful to have these great fans. Who could possibly object to people in public telling you they’d seen you in a movie? It was just so, so great to be Ben Stein, etc. etc.
Glad to know there was no end to his lies, either.
Another recurring theme in Ben Stein’s diary was his overwhelming love for his little boy, Tommy, whom he and his wife adopted late in life. He called him “my little angel.” Tommy was terribly spoiled, but it pleased Ben to spoil him; he liked being rich and being able to fill Tommy’s life with gimcracks and geegaws, and so he did. When I first read about “Expelled” it occurred to me that Tommy should be a grown man by now, so I wondered where he might have ended up. Hmmm:
Ben Stein writes in the current November/December 2001 issue of The American Spectator that “Our son, God love him, has basically stopped going to school…he’s surly, and desperately unhelpful…He has gotten so self-obsessed and self-referential, so utterly unconcerned about anyone but himself, he’s a walking time-bomb for self-demolition. So, he’s going to have to go to boarding school.”
This distraught, clearly loving father writes that upon his return from a recent trip:
“Tommy is in his room sitting at his fancy computer…playing his goddamned Everquest, the worst thing that ever happened to him, a literal curse, a drug that eats away at every drop of energy and initiative. It’s a sort of online ‘Dungeons and Dragons,’ and he loves it beyond description. He can stay on forever…He is simply a demon at it. And we are the demon facilitators because we are so happy he’s not using marijuana, we keep letting him play his evil Everquest.”
That was around 2001. In a 2005 entry, it appears Tommy has gotten over Everquest and moved on to drag-racing on public streets with his dad:
Tommy wanted to race again. We did. Again, I peeled, and he didn’t. This time he got way ahead of me. Alas, moments later a police cruiser appeared behind him with its lights flashing. The car pulled Tommy over and I followed them. But the police, staring at me intently, motioned to me to stay in my car. They then went over to Tommy. Then they came to me. “We’re just giving him a warning, because we know who you are and we like you,” said a policeman. “But you should talk to your son. He refuses to admit he did anything wrong.”
Well, he learned from the best, Tommy did.
Trivia note: Ben Stein’s Diary was among the sources plundered by White House plagiarist Tim Goeglein. I’d love to know which part.
Oh, and by the way, a letter to the editor in Newsweek this week:
In your April 14 Periscope interview with Ben Stein (“You Say You Want an Evolution?”), one of Stein’s responses contained a serious error: He said, “There are a number of scientists and academics who’ve been fired, denied tenure, lost tenure or lost grants because they even suggested the possibility of intelligent design. The most egregious is Richard Sternberg at the Smithsonian, the editor of a magazine that published a peer reviewed paper about ID. He lost his job.” Sternberg has never been employed by the Smithsonian Institution. Since January 2004, he has been an unpaid research associate in the departments of invertebrate and vertebrate zoology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Dr. Sternberg continues to enjoy full access to research facilities at the museum. Moreover, Stein’s assertion that Sternberg was removed from a Smithsonian publication is not true. The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington is an independent journal and is not affiliated with the Smithsonian.
Randall Kremer, Director of Public Affairs
National Museum of Natural History
Bloggage? Oh, a little:
Village Voice gossip Michael Musto dug up a SFW nude photo of Charlton Heston. Not a bad one, either.
WDET, our local public-radio affiliate, had a fascinating story last night on this guy, Orville Hubbard, Dearborn’s racist mayor. Never lost an election in his life, never met a non-white person he wanted to live next door to. A truly vile man, a politician to the bone. They played some sound recordings of the guy, which included a gem where he called Irish Catholics “the worst,” because “they’re so prejudiced.” You can listen here.
The Comics Curmudgeon gets off quite a few zingers in any given week, but his one about the Family Circus is the best.
And with that, pals, I’m off to work, the gym, Trader Joe’s, Target… The list is endless, but most destinations will be reached by bicycle. Envy me, world — I’m preparing for peak oil.