Showing posts with label Louisville. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Louisville. Show all posts

15 January, 2018

Every day is a title fight, Part 3: A Winter's Tale

 The snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches. - e.e. cummings

Only a few go mad.
The sky moves in its whiteness
Like the withered hand of an old king.  
God shall not forget us.
Who made the sky knows of our love. - Kenneth Patchen
Since we hit black ice a few weeks back and totaled (effectively) my car, I'm finding myself more reticent than usual to go out into the weather. It's nothing near the random anxiety attack I experienced before crawling up into the eaves spaces of our house to fix a hole in the roof. No lights spots, heart palpitations and sweating, or vertigo. Nothing like that. Something like that might be acceptable ... at least more acceptable, anyway. An anxiety attack feels more like a condition -- and therefore not my fault --  than just having to admit that I'm scared.
It's not like I haven't slid on black ice before. I once spun a car 360 degrees on black ice in in the middle of a major intersection (if there is one that can be called that) in Mount Carroll, Illinois. My only saving grace then was that  
  1. it was a small car
  2. it was late and so there was no traffic, and
  3. I didn't hit anything.
I was in the car with my second ex-wife. We were driving home from having dinner out (I think) and when we hit the ice, I did what I always do in that situation: I took my foot off the gas, avoided the break pedal and tried to steer out of it.

Luckily, we did. But we did rethink going out in weather after that... if for no other reason than that Chevy Aveo was not built for northern winters.

I remember that one being more fun than frightening, though. It's not that there wasn't an element of danger. We were close to houses and electric lines and things that make little plastic cars crumble when hit head on.  I suppose I could blame bravado on my part, or the fact that my second ex-wife never really knew how to handle any displays of fear or sadness -- probably because I used to police those kinds of reactions religiously and when I didn't, she was taken so aback that she thought I was a pod person. It could also be that the only thing the men in her family cry about is when the University of Kentucky loses, and I've never been much on college basketball.

This wreck, in some ways, not much different. We were in what is normally a high-traffic area (I-71 southbound near the Kentucky River) , when we hit a spot of black ice and the rear end of the car spun out in front of me. Luckily, there were no other cars around, but there was a guardrail that stopped us before I could manage to spin out of it entirely and straighten the car.

Amanda and Stella were both in the car with me, and other than a few bruises, we all walked away from it without injury. And for that, I am eternally grateful,

But I find myself more than a little hesitant to go out when there's even a little snow or ice. Not having a vehicle with 4WD is part of the reason. Mostly, I worry about other people's driving to the point that my stomach turns into a rock and I have to avert my eyes from road just to stay mostly calm.

I've had nightmares since in which the incident did not have such a positive outcome. And I find it difficult to block them from my mind when the topic of going out into the weather, even for the best of reasons, comes up.

The part of me that wishes I were wired a little differently tells me I should just be grateful and embrace the fact that we are all still alive. And I am grateful. I'm even more grateful that Amanda and Stella weren't hurt.

Perhaps the oddest thing about sorting through my emotional reaction to the incident is the fact that the only thing I'm afraid of is losing them. Politicians and powermongers don't impress or scare me, in spite of their reach and in spite of how difficult my indifference to their perceived authority sometimes makes my life and the lives of people I love.  What scares me the most is losing them. That's not the same as being alone. Being alone doesn't bother me. Being without my family -- or even the thought of it -- scares me more than I can articulate. I'm scared of losing them, and scared of the rage that loss would unleash. A rage that, like love, is all consuming and would burn the heart and soul right out of me.

Which is why, when pedantic, small-minded people like Vicki Aubrey Welch try -- badly -- to wield political power like a Tammany Hall gangster, my initial reaction is incredulity.

That's also why it doesn't surprise me that the local Democratic Caucus, now bound to support the incumbent that was not groomed for the position like a puppy farm poodle, is working on every back door plan it can to make sure they don't have to support him.
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15 December, 2017

Every day is a title fight, Part 1: the applicants

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.~ Pericles

Politics is the attempt to achieve power and prestige without merit. ~P. J. O'Rourke
Mick Parsons, every day is a title fight part 1
The day of the interview, we sat in the 3rd floor conference room at city hall along with the other distinguished candidates.   Everyone -- well, mostly everyone -- was friendly and polite. Chase Gardner had his game face on, and John Witt ... a notorious Beechmont crank -- sat in the corner as if he was worried about something rubbing off on him. But the presumed front runner, Nicole George, brought a box of chocolates, which showed not only a certain amount of class but also that potential political appointees and recovering addicts have something in common; namely, both groups rely on chocolate as a way to curtail the cravings. And apparently chocolate works both for booze and for blood cravings. 
I mean, who could have guessed? It does give a kind heart hope.
The pleasantries dissipated quickly after initial greetings and meetings the hopefuls broke off into their subsets: the political movers, the local activists, one crank, one cop's wife, and the rash outsiders. George and former horseman Bret Schultz, the lone Republican, commiserated over the ineffective advocacy of $500 per plate political fundraisers. The activists banded together to talk about everything but politics and the unspoken competition for a metro council appointment that might, if levied correctly, help any number of causes. Witt sat in the corner and spoke very little, except on points of procedure. At one point the topic of South End economic development came up and Witt said only that he was opposed to more traffic and liked being able to get to the grocery store without dealing much with it.
The rash outsiders -- Amanda , me, and Nikki Boyd  sat over at the end of the table, having very little to say about $500 plate dinners or the various and noble projects and organizations we should be involved with that the three don't know about because we're ensconced in our own projects and organizations.
Mick Parsons, every day is a title fight, part 1I knew I didn't have a shot. Not really. The odds were so far out there that only a gambling addict would put a borrowed quarter on me. Amanda didn't think much of her chances either, though I thought that between the two of us, she would have the better chance for a whole host of reasons. Nikki Boyd just seemed genuinely happy to be there and was, from what I could tell, a very nice person who also questioned her chances simply because of the number of politicos in the room.

Then the interviews started. We were sequestered until our turns so no one would know the questions asked by the metro council members who came out to see potential appointees kick at the clouds as they hanged.
I was nervous when it was my turn. I don't get nervous speaking in front of politicians. I've spoken before Metro Council twice before as a concerned citizen, most recently in response to the city's treatment of the homeless population. But I wanted to put a more conciliatory foot forward. After all, I wasn't there to try and admonish or cajole them. In spite of the long odds, I felt like there was a real opportunity to be in a position to help not only the neighborhood I live in, but the homeless population I serve.

Of course, this would be no Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But what really is, after all? Life isn't a Frank Capra movie.


When it was my turn, I introduced myself and answered a couple of thoughtful and useful questions. I was nervous, but I was doing ok.

And then spake the Wicked Witch of District 13, Vicki Aubry Welch, who had already come out for the presumed, chocolate-toting front runner.




Now, did she attack my lack of political experience, my past and current activism, or some perceived questionable moral fiber?

No.

Instead, she decided to focus on the fact that both my wife and I were applying for the same political appointment.


I'm still not quite sure why she would find it difficult to understand that each person in a married couple might be interested in applying for the same political appointment. I can only assume that such thing would never happen in her marriage -- which would make me feel sorry for her if it wasn't clear from the rest of the video that she found some way to go after almost every other applicant ... except her pick.


 
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07 November, 2017

Just yesterday morning, Part 3

All things are made bitter, words even / are made to taste like paper, wars gets tossed up / like soldiers used to be/ (in a child's attic) lined up / to be knocked down, as I am... ~ Charles Olson
The life of reality is confused, disorderly, almost always without apparent purpose, whereas in the artist's imaginative life there is purpose. ~ Sherwood Anderson 
Daylight Savings Time, Marriage, Art
Give it about 30 years and no one will even talk about Daylight Savings Time anymore.

Seriously. As annoying as it is, as pointless as it is, and as completely illogical as it is, it will cease to be the topic any real discussion.  
This won't happen because the powers-that-be will suddenly come to their senses and realize that moving the hour hand backwards or forwards doesn't actually extend or shorten the day. As a matter of fact, if anyone talks about hour hands, it will be in the sense of a quaint curiosity. Like jewelry made out of the hair of a dead loved one or the concept of privacy. All things fall into the dust of quaint curiosity shops of the mind -- including curiosity shops -- so seriously, don't put too much stock in the illusion that you're getting an extra hour sleep when we  FALL BACK IN THE FALL.

Don't worry about it. The Internet of Things will do it for us. We won't have to think about Daylight Savings Time because the ability to think about anything -- like the ability to read a clock or have a private thought that can't be described by a meme -- will have disappeared and we will have the IOT (Internet of Things, or, as we'll maybe call it NetStuf) heft the apparent burden of consciousness for us.

But if this Internet of Things... I mean, NetStuf... is so damn dandy, why can't it fix the hole in my ceiling? It can, apparently, predict what kind of advertising I'll respond to based on (really, very) random keyword searches. It can tell me who I was in a past life. It can tell me how I'm probably going to die and -- based just on my Facebook profile picture -- tell me where my ancestors came from. This Internet of Things assures that I'm instantly and permanently connected to countless facts, factoids, fake news, friend updates, new business connections, and scores for everything from the little league game (in languid immobile Summer, anyway) to World Cup Soccer.

But it can't crawl up into the very small and sort of claustrophobic space under the ceiling awning off the attic and repair a hole. It can't climb up on the roof and make any necessary repairs. It's 2017 and there are robots that can vacuum your house while you're gone... not that we can afford one or could even make use of one with three dogs and two cats to either hunt it, stalk it, or asphyxiate it with the endless trails of shed fur.

Ok, I know. I signed up for this life on the margin, right? Making Art out your life isn't easy, nor, I suppose, should it be. Though I'm still unsure of why. And I feel like I've been asking that question a really, really long time.




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11 September, 2017

Sacred Moments in Profane Times: dads, daughters, remembrance as practice / practice as activism

We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.~ Thomas Merton

We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

My daughter came home one evening after work last week and told me she watched a man get stabbed at the bus stop.

She said a man walked up to another man standing next to her at the bus stop, stabbed him, and ran away. Stabbed him like he was just looking for a place to put his knife away. The police were called. The ambulance came. She told me she thought the man died because when the ambulance left, the lights weren't on and it wasn't in a hurry.

The week started with celebrating her birthday. She turned 23 this year. Most days I'm amazed that I have a child who's old enough to drink. I'm also daily amazed by the way she's choosing to walk through the world.

We celebrated her birthday with a short hike near this waterfall where Amanda and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. Actually, we celebrated her birthday over the entire long weekend -- her birthday fell on Labor Day this year -- with a vegan chocolate raspberry tart and a meal at a Morels Cafe, a local vegan restaurant known for its "Farby" Sandwich... which is a surprisingly accurate vegan version of an Arby's roast beef sandwich.

Amanda and I aren't vegan, but my daughter is. We end up eating a largely vegetarian diet, but we would do that anyway.

I always enjoy my daughter's birthdays. Because I wasn't the custodial parent when she was growing up, I take special joy in spending them with her now.  I was glad we spent it as a family. When we were at the waterfall, I mostly watched her from a bit of a distance, watched her taking everything in and soaking in her happiness and satisfaction. I enjoy watching her explore and grow into the beautiful person she is -- striving to find the path of her best possible self.

Even if it means eating a (surprisingly convincing and delicious ) vegan roast beef sandwich.

I enjoy the moments with my daughter -- or sometimes, just around her -- as she reaches out, tries to grow in spite of all in the world that would drag her backwards. When she came home from watching a man get stabbed, it was all I could do not to hug her forever. The world is a dangerous place. It's good that she knows this. I just wish she didn't have to.

Remembrance is such a heavy word. When I think of it, the word is burdened with religious connotation... which isn't surprising for a rural small town boy.  Lately, though, I've come to think of remembrance as something more akin to what Buddhists and monks and other Religious have described as practice. This means not limiting my acts of remembrance... my practice... to one day or to specific times. Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton describes the contemplative life as one in which a person works to make each moment a prayer, each moment a moment in the presence of God. In Sign of Jonas he refers to a monk's life as full of hard work, but also one of peace. A peace that is earned by daily work and by daily devotion.

I'm no monk, and thank Christ for that. I'd be a lousy one. But as I work to keep my writing central -- and what is writing but one form a contemplative life takes in the physical world -- I remind myself that I need to strive in each part of my day, in every aspect of my life, to make each action a kind of prayer. The world isn't designed for this kind of thing, of course. I'm supposed to be about the business of making money and doing my part in the great capitalist machine that's been built up around us. A machine that's choking out the very sound and light of God in the name of power and money.

When I think about how to mediate the world... in the current state of the world... I'm reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh's statement in Living Buddha, Living Christ that it's not simply a matter of choosing whether to be engaged with the world or to have a contemplative life, but deciding how to engage and still have a contemplative life. I've met a lot of people who are engaged.
The tree remembers the shape of the ground.

I tend to struggle, though, when their insistence on engagement -- usually limited by adherence to concepts rather than a clearer reality -- cuts into my contemplative life.  I'm always struggling with where I ought to be -- especially in these days when the New Wave Fascists are in the news, running over protestors, claiming to defend history without realizing -- or caring -- that they are on the wrong side of it.

And while I feel like I've been clear on this point, I'll keep on it for another short paragraph:

If you aren't Antifa, you aren't paying attention. Being Antifa doesn't mean you need to join a group. You don't need to dress in black. You don't need to be a socialist. Or a communist. Or an anarchist. You just need to understand that fascism is bad and is a threat to America and to the Democratic experiment. There's historic precedence for it.

And once you understand that, make it part of your daily practice. Like prayer. Like meditation. Like breathing. Like an old sycamore tree that remembers the shape of the ground washed away by the ebb and flow of water, hold to what matters.

Do this in remembrance of your children. Do this in remembrance of the sacrifices your grandparents made. Do this in remembrance of the remembered and forgotten dead. Do this in remembrance of a world where knives are not sheathed in people at bus stops. Do this in remembrance of the living who should not have to bleed so the war machine can keep spinning. Do this in remembrance of the radical idea that all people are equal.

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11 August, 2017

Save me from philanthropy: cultural preservationists versus the martyrs

'...if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing' ~ Michel Foucault


When I was growing up, I was told all I needed to succeed was a pair of bootstraps and the sheer determination to pull my feet up over and behind my shoulders.

You know. Like a double-jointed hooker.

And although no one said it, the fact has always been understood that success in America means being able to face the system that's screwing you rather than taking it face down in a stinky foam pillow.

We put so much store on success -- and by success I mean not having the misfortune of being considered a blight or inconvenience to someone else.

Working in homeless outreach, I've heard it all. A lot of people -- so many that it sometimes causes me to despair when I ponder the future of the human race -- view the homeless as a blight, like aggressive red ants or the ever-increasing clouds of Africanized bees. People on my neighborhood association page regularly put the homeless in the same category as car thieves and drug dealers. Stigmatized as violent criminals, they're treated like a scourge that needs to be gotten rid of.

It doesn't do any good to explain to these preservers of a homogeneous and non-existing (not to mention never-existing) culture who say these things that homelessness is not moral judgement; people have been treating homelessness, poverty, as well as mental and physical disabilities, as a moral judgement for centuries.  The rampant spread of literacy and access to the most recent research in economics, mental illness, addiction, and disease doesn't seem to have any impact on these self-appointed pillars of culture and society.

Then there are the martyrs. They see the homeless and equate them with the sad-eyed animals they see in PETA commercials. It's not that they're any less repulsed. They see a problem that needs to be fixed. They see something broken that needs to be healed. The actual story, the actual reasons, the actual complex details behind someone's homelessness, don't really matter. The complex ball of issues -- economic, psychological, physiological -- don't matter. They read articles about how other cities here and abroad take the homeless and put them in the empty houses. They see this as a solution. Or they want to build more homeless shelters -- having never seen the inside of one themselves.They see themselves as the saving crusaders of the homeless. All they need is a job. All they need is a place to live. All they need is to see their doctor, or their shrink.

The world is full of well-intended and soft-hearted little fascists that would save the homeless-- whether they want to be saved or not-- just to save themselves from the awful inconvenience of having to be reminded, daily, of their existence.

Outreach only works when you embrace the belief that you can't save anyone. If, in the process of serving them, they decide to take it upon themselves to pick themselves up, you are there to lend a hand and help. They are not broken toys that need a little glue and dusty shelf to sit on.

Compassion is a PR word here in Louisville... at least among the elected leaders. The drive is economic and the homeless are treated with derision and apathy as people seek to "solve" the problem of homelessness without increasing funding or improving access to the institutions that over-burdened and underfunded while other organizations (one in particular) get the lion's share of public money to lock the homeless out of the one place most "regular" citizens say they belong -- in a shelter -- while managing to exploit them for profit in the name of "saving them."

At least there are good people here who counter-balance all this cynicism. I meet them all the time, work with them on outreach, hear about them from the folks on the street when I serve. I know they're out there and it gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to do right by our brothers and sisters without the burden of ego and the paternal tendency to believe they can't speak for themselves.

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26 April, 2017

Love is the best disease

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me. -- Winston Churchill


When I rolled into River City on a Greyhound bus 5 years ago this week, I had no idea what I was in for.

My plan was to stop through on my way west. I'd been living on the road since January and had been bouncing around the East Coast, Appalachia, and the Ohio Valley for months. I stayed with family, visited friends, and slept on buses, trains, and in stations between Chicago and Newport News.

The way I understand it, she had to pay someone $20 to pick me up because no one wanted to drive downtown to the bus station. Traveling by the big grey dog is frowned upon by a certain segment of the population, and perhaps (though unlikely) by some of you, Dear Friends and Readers. So it was that after beating the bushes and offering cold hard cash, Amanda managed to find someone to pick me up and deposit me at the house that would, eventually, become my home.

And I say again: that wasn't my plan. My plan was to roll west, cross the wild Mississippi River, explore the big square states and head to the Left Coast, where all freaks and all geeks of every stripe are welcome.  I didn't intend on settling down so much as wandering around and back again. I had some unfinished business up in Illinois -- an anti-climactic and passionless divorce -- and was planning on looping back east to visit family and friends.

When I came to Louisville five years ago this month, I didn't expect to meet the love of my life. I expected to reconnect with an old friend from college that wouldn't mind a visit now and again as I passed through The Bluegrass.

But that's exactly what happened. I didn't expect my entire life to change, but it did. That's the way love works, though. It's not calm. It's not reasonable. It doesn't take your plans into account. And it doesn't always mix in with the life you're setting up for yourself.

If you're lucky, love makes you a little crazy. Cynics say that falling in love is like a drug and just as temporary. Being in love takes work. And that work requires that come back to that person, over and over again. If the definition of insanity is the desire to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, love means looking at the love of your life everyday and embracing inevitable change.

In a way, real love is a disease. It invades you and changes the way you breathe, the way your blood flows. Love demands that you make changes, even when the changes might be uncomfortable at first.

I'm not always particularly good at living the domestic life. I've written about that before. But I love that today, I get to celebrate my marriage to a woman that knew that when she decided to take a chance on a guy like me.

And that's the thing about love. It's not a warm fuzzy kind of thing.

But if you're lucky, it sure does feel that way most of the time.



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14 June, 2016

America in retrograde: of Ali and the Orlando Massacre

Our currency is flesh and bone. - Pink Floyd, Dogs of War

Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even. -- Muhammad Ali

“All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance.”-- Edward Gibbon, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire


Burial of the Dead after Wounded Knee, 1890, in South Dakota
One of the wonders of this, our technological age, is that a person doesn't even have to be six feet under before the armchair historians will offer their pronouncements.* Sitting at the neighborhood watering hole I frequent and talking to another one of the regulars, I could barely contain my frustration. Muhammad Ali was dead, his funeral -- which the city of Louisville treated like his last great title fight -- was planned, and local gas stations took the opportunity to raise the price just in time for the influx of people coming into River City to show The Champ their respects. The political and cultural opportunists on all sides had already dug into their positions to lay claim to the dead boxer's voice, legacy, and life.  

Personally, I can think of no worse a fate for a man who spent his life making sure his voice was
clearly understood in spite of his industry's and the media's attempts to handle him.  But that wasn't my frustration, really. While I recognize Ali as a talented boxer and a cultural icon, I don't have the same sort of personal connection that many who are Louisville natives have.

My frustration? Racism masking itself as Patriotic indignation. For every person calling Ali a hero, for every person who signed that impromptu, well-intended, and, I can only assume, ill-thought out petition to replace the University of Louisville's memorial to the Confederate Dead** and erect a Muhammad Ali statue (that I can only assume would resemble slightly the statue of Rocky Balboa*** that still stands in Philadelphia) in it's place, there are, of course, all the angry old (white) guys who insist on calling him a draft dodger and a bigot.

I tried to point out that when Ali refused to present himself for the draft during the Vietnam War, that was he eventually stripped of his title and served four years in prison. His reasons for refusing were moral and ethical ones, and were based on figures that were accurate. There were a large number of blacks serving as canon fodder in the war effort, just as there were a predominately large number of poor people -- black, white, brown, what-have-you -- who were cannon fodder in a misdirected war against global communism.  The regular I was talking to -- someone I usually talk about all the normal things people talk about in bars^ -- pointed out that Ali's tour probably would have not been in the jungle.

"They'd have taken his picture. He'd box a few matches, get his picture taken, and probably would have been stationed in Germany."

"So he would have been a PR tool,"

"Exactly!" 

 "Which probably would have been used to recruit more young black men to serve in far, more dangerous details in a war he was morally and ethically opposed to."

The conversation eventually moved on to how the Roman empire was toppled by sex (his view) and how Democracy, "like Communism, is a good idea on paper." But I'll come back to this conversation at a later date for another blog post.

I will comment on those who called him a bigot, thought. Ali joined the Nation of Islam -- a Black Nationalist religious organization, not to be confused with actual Islam. I don't know if that made him a bigot. The Nation did not, like the KKK (to which some people try and compare it) string people up for sport and take pictures of their burned, eviscerated, raped, and sodomized corpses the way hunters pose with their kills. The Nation probably DID have Malcolm X killed. But he actually did something -- he spoke what he saw as an evolving truth... much in same way Ali did through the course of his life. I don't know if he was a bigot. I don't believe, like some of the more granola loving pundits do, that he "transcended race." To suggest that entirely co-opts his struggles, his mistakes, and his triumphs into a weak and untenable ideological standard -- and in doing so, erases it. Bigotry is as much a response to a situation as it is a learned habit. I really hate idiots. So there. I guess I might be a bigot, too.

In the realm of death manipulated for by political and cultural pundits, the 50 deaths at Pulse in Orlando over the weekend has once again gotten the NRA crowd and those who want to see fewer guns on the street marshaling their forces and organizing full on meme wars for the hearts, minds, and digital device memories of the American people.

The NRA has gotten pretty good at shifting the conversation away from the fact that guns that shoot more bullets faster do, in fact, tend to result in higher casualties. This is the truth of war, and any kid who grew up playing Risk^^ knows that.  There is a faction of the Democratic Party, and liberals^^^ in general, that have gotten pretty good at shifting the conversation away from the fact that the 2nd Amendment can be interpreted a couple different ways depending whether you're a strict constructionist or not, while avoiding the central problem of having the government monitor or limit access to what are arguably unnecessary weapons^^^ -- that such a system would leave all the really dangerous guns in the hands of the people who have racked up more dead bodies than a Death Race 2000 reboot*:

the United States Government.

People are understandably outraged. We should always be outraged when violence rips apart people's lives.  What we need to be careful of, however, is falling back on simple solutions for what are complex issues. Everyone having a gun all the time is not a solution. No one having any is not one either.

Violence is a part of human nature. The earliest examples of law was meant to restrict and penalize this impulse. Law -- new laws, old laws -- will only do so much, and I am unconvinced that a change in law will bring forth the necessary change in our cultural consciousness.  Denying that we have the capacity for violence by claiming we have evolved because we have cell phones and electric cars and don't have to eat meat if we don't want to is delusional. Denying that we will never cease being violent creatures driven by our most basic needs and therefore need a tighter yoke to keep us in line is where totalitarianism finds root and grows, using whatever ism happens to be in vogue at the time.

How we respond to this violence will determine how future violence plays out -- because we are far from that utopian dream of a peaceful world. Besides the fact that humans are violent by nature -- or we still wouldn't be here -- the other fact at play is that as long as violence pays out in money and in power, we will never come to terms with our violent nature.

As it's an election year, of course all politicians of note are laying claim to the narrative being spun around the death of 50 people who only wanted to have a good time in a place they felt safe enough to be themselves. Ever the astute showman and salesman, Generalissimo Trump had to step his fat foot in it early:



Of course, the other megalomaniac got hers in, too, now that she conveniently supports marriage equity.


As I write, they are still identifying the dead. Their families are being notified. The carnage is far from cleaned up, although the larger narrative, with all of it's plot twists and Choose-Your-Own* Moral of the story is being polished to a shit shine that might even inspire Gov. Matt Bevin like plain old chihuahua shit apparently does.

And even as public officials and families work to identify the victims of this massacre, their deaths are being used by both sides to scare their armies into one battle or another.  Flags are at half mast again. We are mourning our fallen brothers and sisters in live CNN time... until the next tragedy.

At some point we will realize our entire lives are being filled with death, with violence, with fear. At some point we will decide to move beyond all of this and advance. At some point we will let our dead be dead.

Or, the tyrants will take over. And then it won't matter because we'll be too tired, too exhausted, too demoralized to notice that there aren't any flags anymore, and that the number of dead is too high to be accurately counted.
_______________________________________________________________
*Armchair Historians: those who, based solely on their life experience, act as if they understand all of human history. I suppose Google (or Bing) helps, too.
** See here, on UofL's own page about it. As a student of history, I think it's important to remember all of it. All I seem to hear from the apologists for leaving this statue where is, however, are cries and denouncements that liberals are trying to erase history -- usually spoken within the same two or three breaths that compare indentured servitude to chattel slavery, followed by the statement that African tribes often raided and sold neighboring and enemy tribes to sell them into slavery -- while conveniently letting the white slaver traders and the American economic system that depended on slave labor off the hook. After all, they were just trying to earn a living... and it wasn't ILLEGAL... right? Were American History taught as it actually happened, these apologists would not be so fired up about not revising it. The truth is they want the sanitized version we were taught to be the story -- not the blood, the bones, and the crimes against humanity, upon which all civilizations are built.
*** Proof that movie studios need to pay more for garbage pick up, and Philadelphia needs a better relationship with the Teamsters.
^ Sports, Politics, and the Downfall of Western Civilization. Not always in that order. 
^^For those who were born after the technological age: Risk was a kick ass board game in which you learned world domination.
^^^ Clintonian "New Democrats", or Republican Lite. Neoliberal (Friedman economics) sensibilities spiced up with JFK, MLK, and Gandhi quotes. Think of it as grand larceny, but they say please and thank you. And SMILE, BITCH, SMILE.
*With any luck, this won't happen. But then again... Amazon Prime needs a new show.
** There used to be a series of what would now be called YA books called "Choose Your Own Adventure." You read up to a plot point, and then were given a series of options with corresponding page numbers to turn to.  Sort of like Mad Libs*** for fiction.
*** Ah, forget about it. Google it if you want to know. 




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11 May, 2016

Etiquette and indignity: riding the Grey Dog


[From pocket journal, 9 May 2016]

At the. Louisville Greyhound Station, waiting for the bus to Cincinnati. I know this isn't a proper jaunt, but I feel a certain mental and spiritual release just sitting here on the floor with my rucksack and the blue guitar*. [They've taken out even more seats since the last time I was here.]

The post-Derby exit crowd is still here -- the proles that no one looks for in the expensive boxes or theexclusive parties where the rich, the famous, and the rich and famous wear ugly hats, ugly ties, and take pride in urinating on the city in a most non-metaphoric fashion while making fun of the accents, the politics, AND while the city's most glamorous whores -- the mayor, the city council, and the Chamber of Commerce** -- open wide and swallow whatever the out-of-town rubes have to offer. In addition to the obvious hangovers and economic losses being nursed***, space on the buses at a premium. This means, among other things, that that Greyhound drags out the broken down cans to accommodate the crowd.

My bus is number 6222. I always look at the number. It's a habit born out of complaining. Yes, I realize it often does no good to complain when, after riding in a mostly air conditioned sardine can for 25.5 hours from Louisville Kentucky to Norfolk, that your bus driver is lost in rural Virginia. It does no good, but I do feel a little better afterwards -- especially  after listening for 2 hours as other passengers, none of whom have ever been in the state of Virginia, try and give the bus driver directions to get back on the interstate.

I know what you're thinking, Dear Friends and Readers -- GPS makes this sort of foolishness impossible.

Oh, if only that t'were true. If only.

Traveling by the Grey Dog is one of those things I often swear I'll never do again. By its very nature, it is undignified and uncomfortable. Many people lack the basic etiquette to minimize the absence of dignity and comfort. I have even written about how I will never travel by the rolling sardine can again.

But I end up doing it anyway. And this is why they always win.

This particular bus is one I'm sure I've ridden before. It used to be a nice one, too. One of the late 90's models -- seats still wide enough for a non-stick figure person (though certainly not big enough for a man of large appetites to stretch out). Plenty of room in the above head storage bins. Unlike the new buses they advertise, there is no free wifi, and there are a few electric outlets every 3 or 4 rows. It's true that the newer buses have shiny, all faux leather seats, free wifi, and plenty of electric outlets. But the seats are more narrow, there's less leg room, and the above head storage compartments are smaller and shorter.

The seat I'm sitting in is stuck in a reclined position that I have always found uncomfortable on buses. It's more slouchy than relaxed and I've slept better on the bus sitting straight up. I know this seat will not be fixed. Mine is not the only broken seat, as the seat ahead of me is also stuck in a reclined position. The young woman sitting in it, trying to master English as a Second Language with an adult ESL reader, is apparently unconcerned that her head is almost in my lap and that a jolt or a speed bump could make us far friendlier with one another than either of us wants.

These seats will not be fixed or replaced. At some point, after the engine has been taped together from all the miles and abuse, it will finish out its service somewhere in the Great Empty -- a large, square state like Iowa, Wyoming, or Montana. They send all the broken up cans out there to rust, rattle, fall apart and die like an underfed racing hound.

Yes, the buses are made to be driven into the dirt. But the inevitable entropy is driven -- pun intended -- by riders who think a bus seat is a recliner, who don't know how to use earphones, and by those who don't seem to grasp that no amount of lounging, seat hogging, and a total lack of spacial awareness makes rolling along at 55 mph in a rolling sardine can more dignified.

And moreover, the basic business model -- as far as I can tell from my vast experience riding the Grey Dog and its various geographically locked clones -- is built on a mutual acceptance of an undignified humanity. They tend to put the nicer, newer (and smaller) buses in larger markets in the northeastern seaboard and southern California. Then, once the buses get a little too used in service, they're moved to more populated markets in the midwest, south, and west until they make the death roll even further west, into the mountain time zone far, far away from the shiny, made for TV background coasts.

I wish there was a train between Cincinnati and Louisville. There used to be. But CSX won't pay to update and repair the tracks for commuter trains. So on the bus I go.

There is, I suppose, always this:

_____________________________________________________________________________________________
*The blue guitar is a Washburn Rover, a travel guitar. Sounds a little tinny, but holds a tune and can fit in the above seat storage. Someday I'm going to put in an electric pick up so I can plug it into an amp.
** The Chamber of Commerce has rebranded itself as Greater Louisville, Inc. You know. Because that changes the nature of what they are, which are parasitic savages.
***No one who wins big at the Derby takes the bus home. It's a universal truth.
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19 April, 2016

Old friends, new soil, and starting over

Lay this unto your breast: Old friends, like old swords, still are trusted best. -- John Webster

There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.  -- Jean-Paul Sartre

Many demolitions are actually renovations. - Rumi

You're not the same as you were before. You were much more... muchier. You've lost your muchness. -- The Mad Hatter


What I'm worth here: one stale donut, probably left by grad
students who don't know how to clean.
Eden is built one shovel full  at a time. 

Yesterday I was out in my front yard, digging up the grass layer in a 4x5* plot of ground for a garden expansion. We've talked about this expansion for about two and a half years but, for one reason or another, hadn't gotten around to it.**

It's really unfair to call what now grows in our front yard grass. It's more like a picker's pack of weeds: three-leaf clover, crab grass, and the remnant of what used to be, I think, a flower bed. In characteristic fashion, the previous owners, The Beamus's*** chose to fill everything in with the cheapest fill they could find. Underneath the picker's pack of green weeds there's a lot of clay (not surprising for the region) with a mixture of plastic bits, pieces of walkway brick, and other debris I'm not sure I want to identify.

I haven't cleared a space of ground like that in more than a couple of years. This time last year, between my foot problems and the stabbing leg muscle cramps woke me up out of a dead sleep or would strike after any kind of physical exertion, I wouldn't have been able to tackle the project and hope to finish it. But this year, I did it -- because of some smart medical advice, some more attention to my own health, and the fact that I'm too damn stubborn to let the machinations of darkness win that easily.

Yes, the previous statement is dramatic. But I'm probably in a dramatic mood because today is my last at the University of Louisville, home to the corrupt as hell but still as of yet untouchable Dr. James Ramsey, in Kentucky, where our tiny tin pot fascist governor is going after higher ed ^ like  Richard "The Iceman" Kulinski.

My end of the semester exodus from this campus will most likely mark an end to my time in higher
The All-Seeing Eye above my cubicle. I'm leaving it for the
next inhabitant. I rarely feel lonely with it watching me.
Always. Always watching me. Like a tender,
patronizing, fascist
education. And while I'd like to claim I am marching out by choice and kicking the dirt off my work boots for its repudiation of me, the fact is these Institutional and Harrowed Halls have spit me out.

There's no room here for a guy like me. I make all the wrong kinds of noise and annoy all the wrong kind of people, in spite of the fact that I consistently do my job.  I've worked to improve my lot and the lot of other part-time cogs^^ like me, but all that's happened around here is nothing. A large swell of a wave, lots of potential energy biting to go kinetic, and then...

NOTHING.


Nada.
Nunca.
A pile of old dog shit in a KFC bucket.

After my retaliatory bum's rush from KCTCS, the drive to make any improvements dried up and disappeared because there was no one willing to step up be the next standard bearer.^^^

Part of my mistake has been, I think, my desire to behave like a far more diplomatic person than I actually am. When I try to act in a way incongruous with my basic nature, things always, naturally, go askew.

I am not a diplomat. I am not the person to go in and reach a compromise that satisfies no one and placates everyone. I am a contrarian. I come from a long line of contrarians. I'm a wrecking ball. I'm an embodiment of the whirlwind. Time and experience haven't dulled this about me, nor do I expect them to any time soon.

I was reminded of this recently, when a friend from my graduate school days, Stephanie, came in to River City for a conference. We met for drinks at one of my favorite downtown dives and talked for several hours. I've always had a soft spot for Stephanie. We're cut from a similar contrarian cloth. That's not to say we see the world in precisely the same way. But she reminded me that there's a necessity to calling out injustice, to standing up to bullies, to aiming for a higher moral and ethical standard. Old friends are good precisely because they can

  1. keep us honest, and 
  2. they have a longer view of our lives than we do sometimes, as we are stuck living day to day.

So, yes. I'm starting over. Again. I've gotten pretty good at it, actually. I'm armed with the same weapons that have gotten me here. Eden is built one shovel full at a time. Sometimes I shovel cheap fill. Sometimes I shovel shit. It all turns to fertile soil eventually. And as I move forward, I know I'm not working towards some Sunday morning Meet the Press commercial retirement fantasy. Poets and contrarians never retire.

I'm not investing in my retirement. I'm training for the next fight.
________________________________________________________
* Not precise. Yes, I eye-balled it. And it's a little crooked. That's what second growing seasons are for.
** Last year was a busy year. The year before that, we were broke, or damn near. Some plans have to wait for the situation to present themselves.
***May their names be struck from the book of careful homeowners.
^Yes, I'm aware of the lawsuit being organized by Andy "Don't call me Baby" Beshear. Keep in mind that under his Daddy, former governor Steven "At least I'm not Ernie Fletcher"  Beshear, the state budget cut higher education 10 times in a dozen years. Truth: Democrats like an uneducated population, too.
^^Because from an institutional view, that's all any of us are. Cogs that can be replaced. Usually with a less expensive one that's made out of plastic and manufactured in a sweatshop.
^^^ In classic military strategies, standard bearers marched ahead with the drummers to embolden the foot soldiers. NOTE: Standard bearers usually died first. It's a strategy of demoralization that still mostly works.


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04 March, 2016

Trump Bumpin': Uncivil Rest Along the Dirty Sacred River

Stella and the Chairless Ones. She's making notes for her own blog post
The air was palpable, thick with anticipation and the muttering of all the mantras that make the rise of a fascist important to notice. Of course people were excited. Many of them were there to listen to a man who they hope will be the next President of the United States. Many of them would never be that close to him again. Those who were there to protest were equally excited. It's rare to see the personification of the New Old American Fascism in person, to bear witness to what may very well be the beginning of the end of the Democratic Spirit in America.

Slogans and signage gives you a clear indication of what to expect. The "Hillary for Prison 2016" swag was enormously popular... and I have to admit I thought it was pretty funny, too since I'm not fan of the DNC's Goldwater Gal.  There were plenty of trucker hats (made in Bangladesh) emblazoned with MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. I saw a few with the slogan "border, culture, language [commas added for grammatical correctness], a mantra often sang by no less than far right wing nut jobs like radio personality Michael Savage and multi-media troglodyte* Glenn Beck when they rant about "taking America back."

3rd set of protesters being led out, the Love Trumps Hate folks.
The police were there, too, of course, to help the Secret Service detail roust out protesters and protect the crowd of Trump supporters from the consequences of free speech and free thought. Stella and I hung back. I wanted to have a clear line to the door after the very presence of their demagogue would give the adrenalized crowd permission to act out all of their pent up aggression... which, unless you're not on social media, happened.**

Me and my shadow. 
In spite of being what I thought was relatively inconspicuous, we still managed to get a buddy of our very own. He was a little too chunky for a Secret Service detail. He spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder and looking down to type on his phone. He wasn't obviously armed, but he did have a radio... probably to call for reinforcements if the fuzzy guy and his daughter got out of hand. He was private security, maybe. Maybe an off duty cop doing a little double-dipping. I felt honored, really. After all, I left my THE BEST FASCIST IS A DEAD FASCIST t-shirt at home.

We took part in a small protest outside before the rally. I wanted to make my opinion known before going inside and trying to get a closer look at the personification of our country's evil underbelly.

One of the forms of non-protest... I wrote about it in my last blog post... was The Empty Seat Coalition's idea of buying tickets and not going. I posted picture on my Facebook page to let those folks know how that strategy worked out. I'll share it here as well:
Seats? What seats?
A Democrat Hears a Who. A Republican Doesn't Hear At All.
After The Don's 7 state sweep on Super Tuesday, all of those people who insisted that America would never, could never actually elect a Reality TV star*** who spouts such venom are now trying to salve themselves with the idea that America would never, could never let The Donald beat Our Ol' Goldwater Gal.

If he pulls off the nomination (likely) and goes up against Hillary Clinton -- who has been re-coronated by the mainstream media as the presumptive Democratic nominee after a decent showing  on Super Tuesday -- he will have a good chance of winning it all.

And if you're sitting there reading this and insisting that America could never, should never, would never elect a fascist, stop trying to compare him to Hitler and think straight. He's not Hitler. Hitler was a failure who ended up dead in a bunker with his girlfriend. Think about Franco, in Spain. His fascist movement unified Spain and he ruled standing atop the bones of nameless martyrs he sent to still undiscovered graves for 40 years. People there still celebrate him.

Trump did not create this wave of fascism. He stood up in front of the tide. He's an opportunist, not a zealot. It doesn't make him less dangerous; it just makes him a different sort of the same amount of dangerous.


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_________________________________________
*Dear actual troglodytes. Please accept my apology for using you as a negative metaphor.
** Please note that LMPD, that bastion of lawlessness and inhumanity, did nothing. And they're still insisting on doing nothing even though they were there and witnessed it.
*** Because we've never elected an entertainer to public office before. Right? 

29 February, 2016

RE: Donald J. Trump in Louisville versus The Empty Seat Coalition

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.- Genesis 3:15

My body is my ballot. - Utah Phillips quoting Ammon Hennacy  

Mab J. Trump, Queen of the Pixies
In case you missed it or live under a rock, Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump is going to be here in River City tomorrow. The rally at the Kentucky International Convention Center has promised to be jam packed full of people looking for a leader who can deliver the sort of America they say they want.

There's also a protest building that I call The Empty Seat Coalition. The plan is this: people are supposed to go through Trump's website, reserve two free tickets to the event, and then not show up.  This is an apparently popular form of protest, or so my Facebook feed would have me believe.  Many of my lefty/progressive Facebook friends have embraced the idea that Trump will get the idea that Kentucky doesn't like him and his dangerous rhetoric if he shows up to a rally full of empty seats.

 Now, if that actually worked out, the visual impact would be amazing. And given that many of my lefty/progressive friends pretty much only talk to other lefty/progressives, the idea has gained momentum. And naturally, one form of free speech is orchestrated silence, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.

There's only one problem.

A lot of people DO want Trump to be President.  A lot of people have bought into the violent and
Hillary J. Trump: the ultimate neoliberal
dangerous rhetoric.

He's built a campaign on anti-immigrant venom, machismo, and a brand of anti-populist anti-establishmentarianism that only a millionaire can pull off.  He refuses to reject to the endorsement of the KKK. He promises to build a wall between us and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it. He promises deep corporate tax cuts. He is not as critical of national health care as the traditional GOP thinks he ought to be, and stumbles over religious questions.  Most recently, he quoted Benito Mussolini -- who was another anti-populist,anti-establishment, self-described successful business man (he published a newspaper.) He's not a conservative in the traditional sense .He is, in short, a neoliberal ... just like the presumptive Democratic Candidate.

The problem with ignoring Donald J. Trump away is that ignoring him only feeds the fever tide he is rising in front of. Let me be clear - Trump did not create the tide of fascism he has made himself leader of. It was here already and, like a smart opportunist (a good businessman) he took advantage of it and has built it up into an irrational fervor.

It's in these kinds of situations that I think of a cheesy Merlin mini-series I watched as kid. It starred Sam Neil as Merlin, the last wizard. Mab, who created him to wield magic against humanity, tempted him perpetually, much in the same way the serpent tempted Eve and the way Satan tempted Jesus in the biblical tales.  Merlin eventually defeated Mab by ignoring her into non-existence.

Such a nice story. Except there's a reason it was made-for-tv fiction.

It doesn't work.

I have a ticket to the rally, and I'm going. There is nothing that could ever compel me to embrace the fascism Trump is preaching. I'm not going because I'm considering voting for him. I'm going because voices like mine need to be there, and because someone needs to be there to give an actual report of the event.  I'm going because if my body is not my ballot, nothing else is. Democracy is not supported by the piece of paper or computer screen in a voting booth. Democracy is  supported by people showing up -- to vote, and sometimes, to protest.

If you are reading this and you bought tickets in order to leave them empty, let me suggest that you go to the rally. Let's all sit together and sing "This Land is Your Land." Let's all sit together so our voices are represented, not ignored.  Imagine if Martin Luther King decided to address America's racial and economic inequality by not Marching on Washington. Or if Rosa Parks decided to protest racist policies by not riding the bus. Or if Big Bill Heywood and Joe Ettor had decided to speak out against the treatment women in New York City sweatshops by NOT going to New York and instead telling the strikers to go back to work.

It's not enough to wish evil away. Evil must be faced directly, without hesitation, and be banished. Otherwise, you're just making yourself feel better by cooking marshmallows while the world burns. The only people who win then are the arsonists.

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15 December, 2015

Being a fish along the dirty, sacred river; or piscean mind puzzles


I've been fighting the wallpaper in the dining room. I promised this time last year that we would tackle the project. Neither of us are sure exactly how long the dingy, annoying stuff has been stuck to the walls, but since the house has only had 3 owners and WE didn't do it, it at least narrows the field. Our initial impulse is to blame the most immediate former owners, the Beamus's. Amanda's been living in this house for about 10 years and whenever we run across something that is rigged, rushed, or done incorrectly, it almost always traces back to them. We curse them regularly.

The wallpaper appears to pre-date them, however, so we cannot curse their name. This time.

Removing wallpaper is a frustratingly slow process. Having never done it before, and having only an abstract notion of how to do it, naturally I did research first. What I found quickly was there is no one correct way to strip the awful stuff; there is, in fact, a host of moderately successful DIY methods that no one can make up their minds about. There are manufactured chemicals, of course. Then there's the diluted fabric softener method*, the vinegar water method**, the patch and paint method***, and the dynamite method+. All of those (except the dynamite method, though my impressions are hypothetical) pale in comparison to using a steamer.

The work is still tedious, but it moves faster. Unlike the first day, when I wasn't entirely sure we would ever be able to finish it, I can see a tangible time line -- though a much longer one than I originally thought. ++

I've also been working on the technical aspects of podcasting. The talking part is easy. Finding news is
even easier, although I have to rebuild my credibility as someone news sources need to talk to.+++  I'm not too worried about it, though I am anxious to record. There are some real stories going on that need to be told and told better than they are being told now. The advantage of the podcast is that I can dig as much as I like and tell the story that insists itself instead of being beholden to mediocre editors.

Teaching myself the technical aspects of podcasting and remembering how sound recording equipment works has kept the prospect of actually DOING the podcast in the abstract -- much in the way that spending a year talking about how great the dining room will look once the wallpaper is gone and it's painted kept the project in the abstract.

Abstract is easy for me.  I could spend all day, everyday, lost in the visionary mist of the abstract. I lose track of time. I lose track of myself. I imagine, if there is a Heaven,it feels something like that. Within the realm of abstract thought there are no creative delays. Creation is as simple as letting go of the interior time clock and seeing what happens.

Delving into the abstract is the work of poets, sages, and visionaries. Genius^, however, is the ability to manifest those abstract thoughts into tangible life -- into the now. The wallpaper will come down and the paint will go up. I'm preparing a podcast that will come out soon, as a test to see if the feed will work. In addition, there are poems to write, a chapbook -- Cortez Eating the Sun -- to prepare and publish under the banner of Dirty River Press, next semester's classes to prepare for, and query letters to write.

Push.

_______________________________________________________
*1 part liquid fabric softener and 4 parts warm water in a spray bottle. In theory, after you shred the paper (scratch a bunch of holes in the surface plastic with this nifty tool.) the fabric softener will loosen the glue. Mostly I find that getting it wet does the same thing, sans the chemical clean smell.
** Vinegar and warm water. See above.
*** This entails covering each seem with Spackle and painting over it. While this seemed less tedious, I had images of newly painted walls peeling. 
+I have threatened to do this. Amanda is not on board with this one. Yet.
++If you have to remove wallpaper, and if dynamite is not an option, skip all the above methods and get a steamer. You will thank yourself.
+++Thanks again, LEO WEEKLY, for being one more job that believed I was good enough to fuck but not good enough to marry.
^ Genius, as it is classically understood, is not a personal adjective. A person is not a genius. The work brought about is an act of Genius.

04 December, 2015

Dirty River Media: An Argument For Muckraking

You can't buy a bag of peanuts in this town without someone writing a song about you. -- Charles Foster Kane (Citizen Kane, 1941)

There are a lot of ways to practice the art of journalism, and one of them is to use your art like a hammer to destroy the right people — who are almost always your enemies, for one reason or another, and who usually deserve to be crippled, because they are wrong." - Hunter S. Thompson


 
Julius Chambers, maybe the first muckraker

The first reported use of the term "muckraker"* was by no less than President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. During a speech, he used it in reference to William Randolph Hearst and Hearst's brand of yellow journalism**. Usage of the term grew and came into include Julius Chambers -- maybe the first real muckraker -- Nelly Bly, Upton Sinclair, and Ambrose Bierce, among others.***

Muckraking is part of the grand tradition in journalism that's dying at the hands of corporate owned media. Keep in mind, Dear Friends and Readers, that no less than 6 corporations own most of the large market media in this country... and that's just TV and radio. Newspapers are corporate owned as well, split between Gannett, The McClatchy Co., Hearst, Cox Media, Media News Co., and Village Voice Media (which has eaten up most of what used to be the alternative weeklies.

Part of the problem is people sometimes confuse muckraking -- which sometimes rears its head under the more polite hat of "investigative journalism" -- with yellow journalism^ -- which is alive and well, as well as well funded.

Another problem is people -- including some who claim to be journalists -- buy into the idea, often espoused by anyone who doesn't agree with the particular brand of facts^^ posited by a reporter or talking head^^^, that journalism ought to strive to be "objective."

That, Dear Friends and Readers, is complete rhetorical bollix.

Journalism can't be objective because its first allegiance ought to be to the truth. The role of the 4th Estate is to drag stories out into the light and hold our elected officials' feet to the proverbial fire. It should not ever be Public Relations for any political party or politician, and should look at everything through a critical lens. And regardless of what anyone tells you, being critical means having an agenda. 

My recent split with LEO Weekly (one of the few alt weeklies not owned by Village Voice Media) occurred over a disagreement on how a particular story ought to have been portrayed.  Another aspect -- which I will call coincidental because it's more of a feeling than something I can document -- is that from their perspective, I got greedy. My work was considered exemplary by the managing editor until I had the temerity to ask if I could be more than a freelancer. After that, all of a sudden, I was breaching journalistic standards.

I'm a contrarian. I'll admit that. But having a natural tendency to disagree is not the same thing as a breach of "the basic tenets of journalism"+ On the contrary, it makes me a good muckraker. You have to have a contrary personality and a solid sense of self to be willing to rub academic department chairs, deans, editors, and politicians the wrong way. A good friend of mine once called this my tendency to "poke the bear." 

And that, Dear Friends and Readers, is what I intend to continue doing.

That's why I'm going to be finding my own press credentials and starting my own endeavor, called Dirty River Media. This will include a few projects, including publishing and podcasting, and other enterprises will hopefully add to the already existing push back against monopolized media and milquetoast reporting.  One project, The Kentucky Muck Podcast, will be a weekly show about local, regional, and state issues, as well as arts and culture, that need to see some light. That's what muckraking is, and that's what I do better than most anyone around. 

I promise my reporting will be honest, authentic, and researched; and I hope it will be entertaining. Stay tuned.
_______________________________________________________________
*Defined as - raking through the muck and finding the real story.
**Hearst more or less invented large scale yellow journalism, the tradition of which is carried on by Fox News, HLN, and MSNBC most effectively.
***People like this are my heroes. So are Ida B Wells, Walt Whitman, Utah Phillips, Hunter S. Thompson, and Pete Rose. Not necessarily in that order. Look 'em up.
^ I just felt like using a bold yellow font. That's one kind of editorial decision that even schooled journalists are comfortable making.
^^ Facts are difficult to find and almost always difficult to use in any critical sense... and generally get confused with "opinion" which everyone has according to one smelly metaphor.
^^^ Talking head -- no, not the band. talking heads read you a news script that they may or may not have had any part of putting together. Probably not, more than likely.
 + The same editor who accused me of breaking faith with "the basic tenets of journalism" is the very same one who quoted HST to me by saying "objective journalism is bullshit."  You can't have it both ways. Either you write something honest and authentic and true, or you write shit.