BY DAVID BRENT JOHNSON
Walk into The Book Corner on Bloomington’s downtown Square and you’re likely to be greeted with gravelly gusto by an employee in his late 50s with prominent Groucho Marx eyebrows, black-rimmed glasses, a pierced ear, hairless head, and the body of a retired heavyweight boxer.
But Michael Glab, aka “Big Mike,” isn’t just helping customers from behind the counter. He’s using his vantage point at The Book Corner, and day-to-day interactions with a variety of Bloomingtonians, to craft his blog, the Electron Pencil (“arts, culture, politics, science, and hot air”), a daily must-read for many of the town’s movers and shakers. The blog has made Glab into a hip town crier, commenting on everything from local politics and cultural happenings to national and international events, all rendered in a colorful, intelligent, working-class vernacular that owes some of its style to Glab’s Chicago-hometown heroes Studs Terkel and Mike Royko.
Glab often works on his blog weekday mornings at Soma Coffeehouse & Juice Bar, taking frequent breaks to chat with friends and regulars as they come and go. His topics emerge from his about-town conversations and his voluminous online reading, giving the Electron Pencil an eclectic range; a recent post included among its categories local singer-songwriters Carrie Newcomer and Tom Roznowski, Georgia’s gun-carrying laws, homophobia, and sex toys. Glab occasionally ventures into the personal, as when he chronicled the final days of his ailing mother. The only requirement for his content, he says, “is that it interests me. I can’t be comprehensive; I can only be inspired.” He seeks to entertain his readers, too: “I want to be the standup comic of the blogosphere.”
Glab also hosts a sporadic WFHB radio program, Big Talk with Big Mike, and edits the online content of The Ryder Magazine. He self-deprecatingly characterizes his various enterprises as “this communications colossus,” but proclaims little ambition beyond a simple desire to write. That desire led Glab to do a decades-long stint for Chicago Reader, the Windy City’s alternative weekly. A long-standing Cubs fan, Glab also authored the e-book Coping with the Cubs: A Memoir of Depression and Hope.
Five years ago, after a brief stay in Louisville, Kentucky, he and his wife, Karen, landed in Bloomington and fell in love with the city. “I’ve never felt so at home as I do here,” he says.