May Day!

May Day. One aspect of this historical day of observation is the one relating to the accomplishment of workers. You know, having a job. Work. Making a living. Having a place to live, put clothes on one’s back and food on one’s table. At the height of the industrial revolution during the 19th century, having a job was one thing. Being able to make one’s life easier by means of their paychecks providing for basic needs and security was quite another thing. In many cases, one’s job was certainly a matter of labor, but the pay was crummy, and the working conditions often less than ideal, as in at times fatal. Their employers weren’t concerned about their working conditions or an honest return on their labor–which aided in the success of the employing company. The owners–eventually labeled “robber barons”  might hear their workers complaints through the managerial pipeline, but didn’t feel any obligation whatever to address their concerns with compassion. If the job being performed injured someone or at times caused a fatality, it was simply harsh reality. There would always be someone to replace those who fell victim to that reality. However, the workers eventually began to organize and demand change. Their struggle to gain worker’s rights, often a bloody clash with company-backed head bashing goons, took many years, but did force management to guarantee rights to both better pay and safer working conditions, and eventually such “perks” as the 8-hour work day, the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, and eventually other upgrades such as sick days and even paid vacation time.

I’m condensing a lot here, but this annual May Day observation typically goes by unnoticed and not the least bit celebrated. Many people who gripe about organized labor as some form of counter-productive influence on the marketplace probably have no idea that without the labor movement that took on those robber barons, their own jobs and whatever benefits they are granted as terms of employment would likely not exist without the historical fight for their ever being granted at all. I just feel, in my gut, that some people have to be forced not fuck over his/her fellow human. There’s my cynicism again. Dang!  But when I hear someone bashing unions, I chalk it up to the person being either an ignoramus or a shill for management.

Not that there hasn’t been documented corruption within unions. Of course they aren’t completely without fault, but I truly believe the corrupt “case studies” depicting abuse of union power is the exception and not the rule. As a teacher, I have worked as such without union representation/membership and with it. No doubt, my work life has been improved since being able to join a union. Better pay, other guaranteed benefits came with the advent of faculty fighting to have a union, even for adjunct instructors such as I am, one of the field hands of higher education.

Maybe I am too cynical, but I feel pretty sure that, in many, many, many cases, if an employer didn’t have a Collective Bargaining Agreement with its workers, benefits would be harder to come by, if at all.  This fight for a decent wage, worker safety, decent benefits and job security is never ending, certainly. Look at Amazon, the richest company in the known universe. I keep reading about accusations of how it mistreats its workers. I’m not digging into the weeds on what that reality is, but my instincts tell me that Gordon Gecko (remember him from the movie Wall Street? “Greed is good”) is alive and well, having become the guy who runs Amazon. You know, the guy who tries to extort money from cities before agreeing to set up 2nd or 3rd command stations in their area. This CEO is one scumbag, greedy motherfucker, okay? But there are many like him. It’s in the DNA of some people to be scumbags, and when they attain more and more power the scum-o-meter keeps notching up. I personally try not to do any business with Amazon, but in the age of mergers and acquisitions, this company has tentacles reaching into our pockets on the sly, as in Whole Foods stores. Not that I could afford to shop much at that chain, but when I heard Amazon had bought it, I never go there anymore. I’m sure I have made zero difference in the company’s bottom-line, but it’s part of voting with the wallet, dig? For all I know, Amazon owns the company that makes the coffee filters I use, or the duct tape I recently bought to temporarily re-secure my side view car mirror to the door of which it is part.

Amazon does get blow-back. New York City told it to take a hike and go extort another town that is idiotically willing to bargain with its slimy CEO. And it gets that blow-back because there are plenty of case studies on workers standing up for the greater good. Norma Rae! Win some, lose some. But once upon a time not that long ago, workers were always on the losing end of things, working 60-70-80 hour weeks. Even child labor was common–here in the U.S.–during those robber baron days.

However, the more things have changed, the more they seem to have slowly been changing back, to the bad ol’ days. Job stress? Every job has stress. Imagine if the labor movement had been beaten back and no gains ever made? Stress? You’d be ordering creature comforts on the cheap. Therapy candles. Bath salts. Lava Lamps. And Amazon Sub-Prime would deliver it to your ramshackle doorstep, for a nominal charge. Adjusted for robber baron era rates, the company would make calculations on your pittance of a wage so you’d still have a few nickels available for the goods (in spite of them being marked up 300%). Then you could kick back and relax for a few hours before going back to the assembly line. At some point, maybe a century later than what did happen, the labor movement would still come around. After all, we are not sheep are we? Are we?

Hmmm. I’m going to have to think on that for a bit. As I look at the news of the day, day after day, I do wonder how we got to this bizarre point, when so few people control so much of our lives and the cost of that lopsided equation keeps going up. Maybe it’s time for another Howard Beale moment, as in we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore! That’s what May Day celebrates. Not Howard Beale, from the movie Network. The righteous rebellion! Great movie. If you haven’t seen it, It’s probably available on Amazon. Or your local library. For free.

Choose wisely…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cinema Verite

“Did you steal him, or are you using him to beg?” Who is “you” and who is “him” you should want to know. Also, who is asking the question? In a moment…

“Why are you so much lighter skinned than your brother?” The questioned individual replies, “His mother drank lots of coffee when she was pregnant” It’s the same “you” as in the above, and the little brother in question is the same “him” as above. But the question, however, is not asked by the same person up there in the first sentence of this entry.

The first questioner is a very young girl–possibly about the same age as the young boy she is inquiring about. The young boy, scrawny, maybe 12 years old, is seemingly unfazed by what is being asked. The young girl is only a momentary presence within the young boy’s life but she is asking a question that is not all that outrageous, and the young boy knows it. Why? In a moment…

The “Why are you so much lighter skinned…?” is asked by an adult, someone who is a very fleeting presence for the boy who is simply trying to survive–along with his “little brother,” who is not much more than a year old.

The boy has run away from his parents. Why? He has many reasons for such a drastic decision, but the tipping point was when his parents sold off his younger sister, only 11 years old, for marriage. So, by the time he is asked about stealing the semi-toddler, possibly to use him to beg for money or food, he has already been living on street smarts, gumption and guile, and takes no offense from the question. And why should he?, as the young girl is something of a street urchin too, working at surviving, but apparently on her own.

How did this young boy become what would seem to be the guardian of his not real little–one year-old?–“brother”? The tike’s mother has been taken by authorities for being an undocumented person from Ethiopia, herself struggling to survive and care for her child. She has taken in the runaway, whom she meets as he is asking for any job at a seedy amusement park–in Beirut, Lebanon. She has been hiding her child, and when she’s suddenly taken while away from the the boy and the child, the boy takes it upon himself to look after his “brother”.

Preposterous, you assume? Well, not so fast. The young girl mentioned above is Syrian. In Beirut. Is it that hard to image an Ethiopian mother can end up working in another country, without “papers”? With a one year-old son. Is it absurd to think a young boy, a runaway who enters into a flimsy “quid pro quo” with her so they all might have a better life could, not knowing what has happened to the mother, and having been alive long enough in a rough and tumble, gritty and seemingly callous, cruel world, want to take charge of Little Brother, not trusting the adults that made this world he sees before his eyes?

This narrative is by way of the movie Capernaun. Film critics have likened it to everything from Dicken’s “haves and have nots” stories, to Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief, to a fairly recent film entitled The Florida Project. Rightfully so. In any of the those three comparisons is a distinct narrative thread of children, very young children, having been brought into a world that all too soon bears down upon them, at best teaching skin-toughening, harsh lessons on the vagaries of life, and at worst killing them.

Art imitating life? Well, I doubt that Dickens, De Sica or Sean Baker (Florida Project) created their stories from pure imagination. Lebanon. Syria. Ethiopia. That’s three places where maybe life isn’t all candy colored and easy to survive, especially if not of the manner born. What about Yemen right now? Take a close look at that waking nightmare. Then imagine being a child witnessing it first hand. Or…

Somalia. Nigeria. Central African Republic. Venezuela. Afghanistan. South Sudan. Democratic Republic of Congo. Those are the currently ranked worst human catastrophies. Capernaun isn’t a documentary about the rubble and ruin that surrounds the lives of its characters in Lebanon, but it is based on the reality that informs it. Most of the performers are non-professional, people whom the filmmakers took from the real mean streets and gave them a means of telling their story. It looks and feels like a documentary, no doubt.

The intense focus on such young children being caught up in real world chaos, (Chaos is one definition of movie’s title) begs the question: why so much suffering? Hard to imagine the children of the world are the cause. Certainly, some kids do really bad things, but then we get to nurture and nature cause/effects. Hey, there’s 7.3 billion of us humans on Earth now, so sure maybe there is an inevitable bad seed here and there. But that wouldn’t play out if the parents were in charge, capable and caring enough to reign-in the feral child that might lurk within all of us, possibly part of of our collective DNA. If unchecked, those bad seeds grow to be bad and big. Some of them become dictators. Autocrats. Presidents! Who the fuck is in charge in all those African countries? Or Yemem. Or Afghanistan. Or…

…right in your neighborhood. Around my slice of the world in Chicagoland, just a few hours ago, a 5 year-old boy’s body was found after several days of searching. I didn’t voice my opinion to anyone, but I’ve been around long enough to know how the narrative of this missing boy would almost certainly play out and it now officially has: the parents have been charged with his murder.

That’s worse than what happens to our young boy in Capernaun (though I’m not going to reveal exactly the outcome should you not have seen this great bit of filmmaking). What did the missing boy who was found dead today do to deserve that fate? What did the parents of his parents possibly do to turn them into child murderers? And so on and so on.

This is one sicko world when seen from a good distance, let alone from up close and all too personal. Why is this so? How do so many rotten assholes get to be in charge? Of anything?! Where there is poverty and desperation somewhere, no doubt that same somewhere houses those who are wealthy and quite secure.

Power corrupts. Absolutely. Know the history of the world. As far back as you can read about humans being in the picture, born innocent, but not always staying that way, eh? Or just keep up with the reports from the front lines in those impoverished, war torn countries. Good people risk their lives to document the carnage, the cruelty, the dispassionate means of someone controlling and conquering as much as possible, as though they alone are entitled to what simple comforts and security life may offer one and all. It’s the 21st century and Maslow’s Pyramid is likely quite crowded with people on the ground floor of that theory of human motivation. But like all pyramids, there is only the tiniest of fractions of space available at the top compared to its bottom. According to Maslow, we are all capable of reaching its pinnacle, labeled self actualization. That doesn’t seem to be playing out so well though, ya think? Well one person’s self actualization may be another person’s ground floor, as in just managing to live from day do day, getting “food, water, warmth, rest”. Hey, don’t take Maslow seriously. It’s a pyramid! If he really thought we could all through grit and determination, psychologically driven, reach the top, he’d have made it a flat, very very wide and not too tall metaphorical structure.

Back to that little girl from sentence one up there. She tells her similarly struggling, grubby looking fellow pre-teen bottom-feeder that going to Sweden would be the best place of all. Why?

“Kids there, they die only from natural causes”. Crazy, eh? Well, maybe. As some philosopher once said “We are poor indeed if we are only sane”.

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What News?, AG Barr edition

You’ve heard the expression if it bleeds, it leads? If not, it refers to the inclination of many television news programs, especially the local news stations (many of them affiliates of NBC, ABC, CBS) to begin their broadcast with some report on blood having been shed somewhere. Somewhere as in likely not anywhere close to 99% of the viewing audience. In my Chicago area, there is usually no shortage of gun violence leaving one or more persons dead, be it a result of a targeted or seemingly impulsive killing, on a street corner or in a club, outside the club, at a gas station or in someone’s home. The victims of these bloody narratives might have paid for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because he or she owed money or drugs. Not that the reason matters to Brad Blowdry and Brenda Breathless, the human templates for the typical duo who serve as the bearers of this deadly news, who usually mechanically shake their heads to acknowledge their disapproval and sadness about the story before moving on to other important matters. Like the weather. Even if the weather is PERFECT, the staff meteorologist dutifully breaks down the essentials of temperature, wind speeds, and a glimpse of what the future may hold. If the weather is in the least adverse, it will be broken down with intricate analysis and a promise that Mr. or Ms. Weatherperson will keep close track of developments.

The exception to this first several minutes of the broadcast occurs when the lead-in, bloody story is really, really big news, as in yet another mass shooting. However, even the mass shootings seem to get coverage proportional to the number of dead involved in the event. Seriously. There’s been so many of them that a “leader board” could be charted for quick visual reference to the historical magnitude of each. Three or four dead? Borderline sensational, unless it has happened in the nearby broadcast area. What video is there? Is the shooter dead or on the run? 10 or more dead and it demands longer, more probing consideration. If the carnage is in the dozens, it’s “team coverage” and unless the horror played out locally, reporters are dispatched to ask local authorities what is to prevent such an incident from happening closer to home? If the mass shooting has a quantifying shock value to consider, it even kicks that all-important weather report out of the broadcast completely (leaving the viewer to step outside to get a hint). But, one way or another, the newscasts, even the national evening news, stick to lead-ins that offer a story whose implications are capable of eliciting a what the hell?! response from its audience. Maybe the lead-in isn’t bloody at all. But there’s turmoil out there somewhere, right? Oh, is there ever…

Naturally we all hope there won’t be another mass shooting–anywhere. Or that the innocent child isn’t picked off as collateral damage on the mean streets of urban USA. But that’s hoping for a lot, no?

Sensational news? For me, it has become difficult to be shocked by much anymore. I’ve lived to see decades of coverage that invokes how bad things can be, far and wide. Unfortunately, we now even have “fake news” as a common usage term—even invoked by the news media that the expression seeks to mock! Truth? You want the truth? Can you handle the truth? So, the weather report has been cut due to that HUGE story. If someone says it’s cloudy and about to rain, and someone else says it’s sunny and not going to rain, do you treat both opinions as having equal credibility , or do you simply step outside and check the weather yourself? Weather reports aside, in journalism, it used to be check it out before reporting/repeating something. Not so much these days. Otherwise, how is it that there’s so much anger and divisiveness in the air these days, with shouting matches replacing honest, reasoned debate? Fake news? That expression has come along in just the last few years. It comes from the human mouth or the digitally delivered Twitter-mouth of a certain someone residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Methinks that come tomorrow, the fake news perpetrator will be hogging the headlines more so than he has ever hogged them before–and we know how the media loves to simply repeat his blatherings, rather than stepping outside and looking for what’s really there to see. Or not see what has been purported to be there. Why? What’s so special about tomorrow? That Mueller report, of course. Barring a mass shooting of grotesque proportions or an invasion by alien creatures from deep space, it’ll be a day when that elusive “truth” will be debated and argued over (reasonably? Hmm.). Except, there isn’t going to be much to actually see in the report. It’s clear that AG Barr will have redacted chunks of the 400 page document. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for either the media or congress to demand to see what has been blacked out. I mean, c’mon. When has the media or congress done anything to challenge the typically implausible, reality-denying, derisive, hateful, nonsensical, impulsive, petty vitriol that has emanated from 1600 Mar-A-Lago?

That’s tomorrow’s big story. In case you missed other news from far and wide: 150 children–on average–per day die of malnutrition in Yemen. A piece of legislation was advanced by our usually less-is-more modus operandi that guides most of congress to end U.S. support of that Saudi-backed war. Benedict Donald vetoed the legislation. He seems to prefer the bloody Saudi regime more than those Yemenite children. But we know kids don’t count for him, as in the children of the brown-skinned refugees, offspring of those “rapists and drug dealers” that he insists are their parents. Who must be kept out of our country. Which he says “is full”. And speaking of the Saudi regime, I read a blurb stating that in spite of the proven regime-ordered murder of Mr.Khashoogi, a reporter who actually worked hard to expose the Truth about the corrupt and bloody Saudi royal family, that business is again booming for them. So much for the consequences threatened following the grisly documentation of that murder/dismemberment.

Oh, and back to AG Barr. He ordered that those migrants/refugees being held by our government near the southern border cannot be granted bond. Thus, they may remain in confinement for…well…until hell freezes over, which would be an ironic twist on weather reporting being kinda overblown by the media. Not to mention, when there’s the not so unusual historic storm or weather event there’s no mention of the documented climate change that threatens Mother Earth. Which reminds me of another blurb I saw reporting that a couple hundred Extinction Rebellion protestors were arrested in London recently. Talk of ironic! They get arrested, while the Saudi Prince who–as proven– ordered Khashoogi’s murder is not. Isn’t this one wacky world, my fellow humanoids?

Oh wait. Another irony. Extinction Rebellion? Climate change. The end of life on planet Earth. Guess who doesn’t believe that’s a problem? Hint. He doesn’t seem to like children..

But what the hell? It’s all bread and circuses that really matters to many of us. For instance, back to Chicago for a moment. Very recently, there was the annual (starting in 1999) Star Wars convention in town. That “bleed and lead” mentality at play with news broadcast? I recall at least a couple of local stations actually LEADING with THAT “news” when the convention started. And 30,000 or more people packed the convention hall for the 3-day event (almost 100,000 for the weekend?). I wonder: do those attendees–most of whom are grown adults–have a life at all? I also wonder how many of them pay attention to what is actual news.

Bread and circuses. One more blurb I have to mention. And this really is important news! Kim Kardashian wants to become a lawyer.

Star Wars? I don’t get it. Never got Star Trek either. But one thing I’ll say for Star Trek (which has its own convention too) is that it did provide one of my favorite expressions, one that seems so fitting in our Mad Magazine, Looney Tunes world-at-large:

Beam me up Scotty. (implying that, and this is NOT fake news, there’s not much intelligent life detected by Scotty, from wherever he needs being beamed back from; or at least I like going with that tag).

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Reality Bites

I came across a great quote by that brooding philosopher Nietzsche that is surprisingly positive at the expense of a perceived negativity: We have art so that we shall not die of reality. See what I mean? Art good. Reality, not. Well, it’s not that simple, of course. Since–as the saying goes–beauty is in the eye of the beholder, who can be the ultimate arbiter of what is “art” or what “reality” is similarly pleasing or not?

And here’s another expression to add to this line of thinking: opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. So you look at a piece of so-called art and think: I don’t like it. Or maybe you just don’t get it. Then again, if you dislike something and someone else does like it, how to determine who is right or wrong? Then you have to define some terms, as in what is “right” and what is “wrong”. Hey, what’s wrong with this picture? You’ve heard that one, no doubt. Sure. But what is the picture? Is its content blatantly repugnant? Offensive? Insensitive? Inconsiderate? Appalling? Depraved? What are the parameters of such judgments?

Hey, this blog entry is getting rather philosophical, methinks. I thinks. Therefor I ams. But what is being thought? There’s that expression: what were you thinking, which usually implies the “you” in question did something bone-headed. We can have a field day defining what constitutes being “boneheaded” right?

You bought THAT for how much? What the hell were you thinking? In this scenario, what difference does it make what the person bought and for how much? Different strokes, okay? But those assholes–uh–I mean opinions. One man’s/woman’s ceiling is another man’s/woman’s floor. Round and round we go, with Earth spinning on its axis, tilting away on its journey around the sun, indifferent to human thought. Good thing the sun doesn’t make judgments, or our Earth either. One or the other might decide it doesn’t like this or that and one thing dims and other spins slower or faster. Then reality is clearly a bummer. But while that might not happen, Mother Earth is–in my humble opinion–judging its human inhabitants. Those beautiful oceans, glaciers, greenery, lakes and streams, the air we breathe and the water we drink in order to simply stay alive are under stress. If Nature does think, methinks it is thinking, in its unfathomable power and beauty, what are you people thinking? What are you doing? If you don’t stop it, then…

However, not all of us see this unfolding climatological reality the same way as far as what thinking has led to what we are doing and what doing so needs be thought about a bit more clearly. Is this climate stuff alarming? It should be, but many choose to believe it is Nature being “normal”. Hey, opinions…lead to choices. We all make our choices. We make our judgments. Almost constantly. Much of it impulsively. Or compulsively. Some very deliberately and with no malice intended. We make plans, but then life/reality gets in the way, eh? Or Nature gets in the way. Going to that ballgame today? I doubt it, as it’s only 37 degrees and wet out there, in spite of what the calendar says and how it was 35 degrees warmer and brilliantly sunny just 48 hours ago. Nature, the only real superpower (take that you absurd, comic book frauds!).

Okay, back to Nietzsche. He also famously said: hell is other people. True dat! Oh, c’mon, you know what I mean. But that’s selective. Not all people are hellish, except that history would appear to proclaim that we human beings are a very belligerent, cruel and thoughtless lot. But history is a chronic occurrence. That paragraph up there that started this entry? That’s history. Is history artful? Maybe Nietzsche was alluding to the historical evidence that would possibly have him think of how art is an antidote to historical reality. The arts. Visual, performing art. Dance. Music. Literature. For me, especially those last two. But what I like others may dismiss as drek. Different strokes again…

Get real!

Art is a reality that can save one from reality? Go figure. And again, we all have our opinions. Based on, what? Intuition? Experience? Impulse? Does it matter? Yeah, it does. Take a look around. Who would want to choose this reality?: The Sultan of Brunei declares adultery and homosexuality shall be punished by stoning the accused to death. Stoning? it’s 2019! Not that any prior time legitimizes such cruel and unusual punishment…for simply being human. Nature? Yeah, as in human nature. Look around. What do we hear and see? Our sick world, far and wide. Not exactly a love fest. Or, close to home, our current government wanting to cut 1.2 billion dollars for both academic, plus before and after school programs. Or cutting $190 million for programs to boost literacy from birth to age 20, or another 27 million for grants aimed at school libraries. And 25 million or so for arts education programs that someone in D.C. thinks is a waste of money. I guess the art budget cut is intended to deny many students of the ability to escape dreaded harsh reality. Damn. Absolutely Draconian.

This is reality, folks. And so, a tip of the hat to that brooding philosopher about art helping us survive. Or at least endure. While we all wait for an outcome. And if painting, sculpture, dance, singing, playing music, taking in a puppet show or watching some TV series, or a movie, a documentary or reading some author just doesn’t connect with you, then maybe that long walk along the beach. Watching that sunrise or sunset. Smelling those roses. If for only that brief moment. Listening to and watching the birdies. The wet grass beneath your feet. The oddly comforting–at times–sound of the rain falling. Yeah, maybe it’s Nature that is your art that takes you away from what you need being taken away from.

Or petting the pooch or the kitty. Think about how many people freely admit to liking animals far, far more than people. Opinions. Makes sense to them.

Me, I’m getting a bit tired of waiting for reality to make more sense, at least as I judge right from wrong and treasure from trash, and all the rest. One person’s rapture is another person’s dread I suppose. Think of Van Gogh cutting off that ear. Great art from great suffering? Maybe.

Suffer no fools, though. And don’t argue with a fool. Others may not not be able to see the difference–to throw down one more expression that fits our current national dysfunction. Unfortunately, some fools display that characteristic as an ugly form of art. You might know what/who I’m alluding to. My eyes are wide open. A blessing and a curse. And so, to quote from one of the forlorn characters from what I consider a monumental work of art–The Iceman Cometh: Don’t be a fool! Buy me a drink! To What point did you think this discourse was leading? Something profound? I’ll leave that to O’Neill or Nietzshe.

Nostrovia!

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Allied with Reality

I indulged some classic 20th century Americana earlier today by stopping in a McDonald’s, impulsively, to satisfy a craving for a breakfast sandwich. So what?, you say. Well, I honestly can’t recall when I last had any desire whatsoever to visit a McD’s, as well as the numerous other fast, at times freaky fast, grab-and-go “restaurants”. McD. Ray Kroc. The American success story, having started microscopically with one humble outlet 65 or so years ago, and now a global presence with those iconic golden arches that are a ubiquitous part of urban and rural landscapes. Oh, and a symbol of that above noted “Americana”.

Norman Rockwell made a living out of painting portraits of that Americana. I never caught a pleasing vibe from Norm’s work, but hey, that’s just me. Having grown up in 1950s America, perhaps I couldn’t appreciate his vision, mine being distracted by the reality of inner city Chicago. The people who populate his portraits of wholesome living in the U. S. of A. never seemed to match anyone or anything I saw with my own eyes. Thanksgiving dinner in all its wholesome glory. Baseball games. His “four freedoms”: from want, of speech, from fear, of worship, part of upholding the American way of life during the threat of losing those freedoms to fascism during WWII. I suppose it served as a bolstering form of boosterism cum propaganda as that battle of Allied vs Axis powers played out. If Rockwell lifted the spirits back home during that virtual winner-take-all tussle that played out overseas, then hooray for his contribution to such a crucial cause.

The allied forces beat back Hitler and Hirohito, paving the way for that post-war 1950s era of peace and prosperity. Suburbia! The rise of the shopping centers. See the USA in your Chevrolet. A nation on roller skates. Oh, and TELEVISION. The Hula Hoop. Rock and roll. Outdoor movie theaters. McDonald’s! And so much more Americana.

Now it’s roller “blading”, mega-malls, death metal, deep suburbia morphing into high-rise hipstervilles, 80-inch 4D flat-screen TVS, digital everything, smarter and smarter, “smart phones”. Artificial Intelligence. Drones (I saw one at a department store the other day selling for $20; really, I can buy a drone for that little and possibly inadvertently bring down a jetliner if it gets sucked into an engine). Holy shit! Talk about having freedom! Oh, and along with the digital hazedaze comes social media. Like this WordPress blog.

And so, McD’s and my indulging an egg and cheese muffin, once a cultural phemon back when, is reduced to my passing four of them along a 12 mile drive before, as stated, impulsively pulling into one and satisfying my hunger. Our cultural landscape is now so not 1950s-ish. Then again, after the carnage of WWII, with Rockwell’s “four freedoms” seemingly saved for posterity, my memory, cluttered up with my formal and informal knowledge of the cause and effects of history, I’m pretty sure the 50s, 60s, and on and on, right up to today, March 24th, 2019, have always been more an illusion of prosperity, harmony, peace, love and understanding than daily waking life. Hell, Rockwell’s freedoms mojo and the Allies sacrifice did save the world for a more civilized form of existence for all humankind (well, in theory). Peace and love? Hitler blows his brains out in a bunker, and the Third Reich is kaput. Then, barely before the ink dried on Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allied forces came the Cold War and its never-ending (not in theory, but in stone cold reality) threat of global thermonuclear incineration. I guess Rockwell thought better of painting harsh realities like the mostly civilian death toll from our nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which though foreign targets, were then, in 1945, and as is still the case today, a product of the same American ingenuity–creating nuclear weaponry!–that brought us the above noted Hula Hoops and the advent of television with its mostly mind numbing content.

We’re approaching the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when those Allied forces stormed the beaches in northern France, to ultimately take back the continent from the Nazis. What kind of world would it be if the Axis forces won? Hmm. Let’s not go there…

but recall the saying: evil triumphs when good people do nothing.

…however, on this day in late March, 2019, the freedoms that were secured by American and Allied troops seem to have been bastardized by the passing decades. As I write this, our current occupant of the White House awaits what has been a formal, two-year investigation into his possible collusion with a foreign entity that may (I’m being polite here) have influenced the shocking 2016 election outcome. Whatever that official report reveals, and I suspect it will be kept mostly under wraps, I am left with the same feeling of what was the point of saving our freedoms back then if this is what we get for it? And by “this” I mean what appears to be the inherent tendency of humankind to exploit and destroy one another? Look around. Check the newsfeeds (but try for the non-mainstream media outlets as they tend to practice actual investigative journalism, not the false equivalency template of truth vs bullshit). It’s that wounded madhouse out there. Genocide. Racism. Xenophobia. Mysogyny. Homophobia. Wealth vs poverty. And maybe worse than any of those mindsets, is the apparent willful denial of looming climate catastrosphy both here and abroad.

The more things change, the more they remain insane. In the meantime, there’s pop culture, bread and circuses, instant global communication via social media networks that appear to traffic in delusion, illusion, confusion, jealously, depression, anxiety, loneliness, alienation, and the emojis that mimic the mood of the moment.

In the words of David Byrne and the Talking Heads, “we’re on a road to nowhere”. I hope things get better, but I just can’t shake the feeling that we’re on that road to nowhere, and to quote Jerry Garcia, “what a long, strange trip its been”. Hoping I’m wrong, okay? But my eyes are wide open. That road, for better or worse, will have a McDonald’s on it, in case you need a quick fix of that good ol’, old school symbol of simpler times in the Norman Rockwell world of Americana-at-large.

Now, beam me up, Scotty. Or, are we in The Matrix? After all, believing will always precede seeing. Apparently.

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What’s News?

Now! Live Tonight news, the number one news source on your channel eight gateway to the stories that matter most to you, our number one viewers from across all seven counties in the greater metro area at six o’clock!

Good evening, and happy hump day from myself–Brad Blowdry and…

…me Brenda Breathless here at the channel eight news desk.

Brenda, we start with a quick look at the weather. So over to Sonny Lightfoot.

Good evening, everyone. Right now it’s fairly mild out there but temperatures are expected to fall tonight, making for less mild conditions, with the possibility of some rain. We’ll have our team coverage of area roadways for our 10 o’clock broadcast so that anyone on the roads later can quickly hear about any flooding in the city and in those super boonies. You may all recall that super soaker that dumped  seven inches of rain in fifteen minutes last year, and resulted in five people drowning in spite of climbing into an abandoned treehouse.  I’ll have a complete weather report later in this broadcast. Back to you, Brad and Brenda.

Thanks, Sonny. Breaking news! A man has barricaded himself inside his Wazoo City home after reportedly losing his job in Boonesville earlier today. He has apparently brandished  a gun from his rear window, which faces into the wooded area near Calhoon Creek. Neighbors say he may have some cats or a hound dog or other pets in the house with him, and he is threatening to kill himself or anyone trying to stop him if he decides to do that. Police are at the scene, trying to negotiate with the man, who neighbors say they think his name is Ray Bob Tucker. Or Bobby Joe Tucker.  Our live tonight reporter, Charlene Shane is at the scene. Charlene…

Yes, Brenda and Brad, the police say the man who–as you have noted is possibly one Ray Joe Tucker of  Marshwater Road near the county line–has repeatedly flashed a gun through a window, threatening to shoot anyone who tries to enter his property. The man, according to what I’ve gathered by talking to the sheriff, Chester Monroe, lost his job as a chimney sweep with Clean Sweep by being replaced by what is called a “sweep bot”.  As you can see, police have cordoned off the area surrounding his house, and a SWAT team is on the way from Marfaville. We are told that Joe Tucker Ray  worked as a sweep for thirty-three years, according to his supervisor, Max Shaft. Police are trying to establish a phone connection to Ray Bob Billy’s house, but he may have cut the line. It’s believed that Joe Ray has never owned a cell phone. One neighbor has stated no one has ever seen the inside of his house, and that he’s usually not very talkative when encountered and his clothes always seem sooty and tattered. Oh, and that he may have once served prison time for operating an illegal moonshine operation in Beauford county when he was quite younger. Police say they have not had any trouble with Joe Billy Ray since he moved here two months ago from East Wazoo City. However, he had to be rescued after being trapped in a chimney in a South Wazoo cannery, and was quite drunk at that time. That’s the latest here from Marshwater Road. Back to you Brenda and Brad.

Brenda, what’s our next news flash? 

Well, Brad, The Wazoo city council today voted to outlaw the wearing of any sports apparel bearing team logos. Evidently there’s been a series of fights and strong armed robbery concerning these warm-up jackets and sneakers at Wazoo High. The council is concerned that these shoes and jackets could lead to more violent outcomes, as is the case in urban centers such as Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Tulsa, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Jersey City, Denver, San Antonio, St.Louis, Minneapolis, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and New York City, where last year over two hundred teens have been murdered for these items, especially those never out-of-fashion Air Jordans and Jordan’s number 23 jersey, each of which cost nearly two hundred dollars. Jordan has evidently made an appeal to those who covet his shoes and jerseys to not wear them in public after purchasing them through his Air Up There virtual sportswear emporium. Also, in an official statement from  the National Association of Sporting Apparel and the NRA, jackets and shoes don’t kill people, people with guns kill people, or people with baseball bats and knives or bows and arrows kill people. Over to you Brad…

Brenda, the Wazoo City Zoo discovered its two giraffes have apparently been stolen. Zookeepers this morning were shocked to find the two animals where nowhere in sight when employees went to feed them. As our viewers may know, the giraffes are the most popular of the zoo’s animals, even more than the primates or Missy, the bob-tailed mountain lion captured in the Ozarks by some survivalists who had planned to kill and eat her before she killed and ate the three of them, all wanted for the Molotov cocktail attacks on government buildings which seriously injured dozens of people. Missy was awarded a medal for bringing those three to justice after she was placed at the Wazoo zoo a year ago. But the giraffes attract more attention seemingly because of those amazing long necks. The two animals, named Chester and Millie-Mae, according to zoo officials may have been taken by pranksters from  Wazoo Automotive Tech School. The zoo says the two animals always respond to their names, and are asking anyone who sees them to call their names. If they fail to respond, the zoo says it may be a matter of stumbling across the wrong giraffes. Over to you Brenda…

Brad, in another unfortunate incident, three people in Goodwrench Plaza were seriously injured today when a skateboarder lost control of his device during the noon hour lunch crunch. The skateboarder, whose name is being withheld owing to his being only seven years-old, said he was trying to perform a “triple three sixty” when he and the skateboard went their separate ways. The injured were taken to city hospital and all are expected to survive. Police say the skateboard had a pointed front edge, with Ren and Stimpy cartoon figures pasted onto it. Authorities are trying to determine who Ren and Stimpy are. 

Brenda, let’s go to Estelle Lipscomb, our roving reporter, who has a report from where, Estelle?

Brad and Brenda, I’m here at Lovers Leap, on the edge of town. The leap a gorge of over seven hundred feet, has long been a hangout for amorous couples and in some cases a jumping off point for the fatally smitten, though wingless, lovebirds. But no fatal leaps have occurred in over five years, and the gorge has taken on another type of leap into its abyss temptation by becoming part of the bungee jumping craze. You can see here behind me,  a young man has the bungee cord secured around his right ankle, and he’s about to take the plunge! The operators of the bungee experience, named Go Ahead, Jump! charge seventy-five dollars for the thrill ride straight down into the gorge. Let’s watch as this one takes off. There he goes! Why would anyone do this, Brad and Brenda? Our camera is following his descent, with the bungee cord at his leap-off point unraveling rapidly, and in a moment or two it will be completely stretched out. The jumper, according to the handler at Go Ahead, Jump! says the jumper should stop falling about twenty feet from the dry river bed at the bottom. He’s still falling, and the bungee cord is about totlly unraveled, Just a few more seconds. There! Wow. I can barely make out the person down there, as he bounces up and then down and up and down as the cord relaxes moment to moment. I can hear him shouting, maybe screaming from way down there. A winch will start hauling him back up. That will take about ten minutes. Medical personnel are always standing by just in case, both up here and down there. The things people will do for a thrill! Insane, hun? It looks as though someone, a young woman, may have fainted near the jump-off point. She’s being attended to. Maybe it’s her boyfriend down there. I can still hear him. He sounds excited. We better cut away, guys, I think I just heard some rather vulgar shouts coming from down there. That’s it from Lovers Leap. If anyone is interested in taking the plunge, well you know how this works. It’s a breathtaking experience, as far as I can tell, Brenda and Brad. Back to you two.

Brenda, let’s go back to Charlene Shane and that barricade situation…

Brenda and Brad, police have defused the situation here as that SWAT team arrived and stormed into the house. No shots were fired, and in fact it turns out that Mr.Ray Joe Billy Bob Tucker III, did not have a real gun. Rather he was brandishing a cigarette lighter shaped like a gun, about the size of a Derringer. The police commander on the scene has called for a ban on all fake guns, saying they serve no purpose other than to make a fast buck by the manufacturers in China, which seems to make everything and anything.  He said, China probably made the sweep bot that took Bob Ray Bill Joe’s job from him. There goes Billy Joe, cuffed and tucked into the squad car. I wonder if those cuffs are made in China. I’m not going to ask though guys, okay? Back to the studio…

Wow, quite a newsday and we still have more stories to come, including sports and an update on that possible gullywasher Sonny Lightfoot mentioned at the top of our newscast…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Day at the Races

Hot diggity damn, maw, paw, it be the bestest of days cuz we be gots the Daytoner five hunnerts to watches! It be mighty fines we gots be sittins at the bar heres at Dixie’s Suther Fry Eats and Drinks Caffay. We kins viddy the race and cheer on our bestest driver, Earl Ray McCoy in dat nifty red Chevy. Charlotte dun gots a new 32 incher on tops the ol beers cooler. It be ways better en dat old jap 27 incher. This ones being a Motorsrollers what done be made here in the bestest countree anywherze. Least ways dats what I done be heard bouts Motorrollin tvs. Soun les jappy anyways.

Joe Ray Tucker Bob, members we gots to shares one jumbos pile of wingy dingy hot nuggets en makes it lastin no matters if dis race be going fo hours and hours. Yo paw and mes gonna haves a buckets of suds or twos, and yous can be have a sips or tree but yous caint be gettins all suds up cuz you be being our desagratin driver, whens we goes back to Bufurds Crik cuz yo knows how paw and mes like our Sunday suds, espeshules on Daytons racin day.

Aw, maw, I kins handles my beer. It be aints no big dealin handlins paws picks up truck, evens iffins the clutches be offs a just a slites bit. Say, maw, wher be done paw go? Racin bouts commecin.

He dun went outs back with Bubba Carl to havins a smoke. Dam shames smokes be outdooze or nuttin deze day cuzzin them commie gettin they undies in notz bout seven hand smokes hutins dems dat donts be being watin to smokes. Thems da ones should be gots to get theys asses outsides if they not likins we smokins type. Tabakee be legal, rights? So, who them coomie do gooders to gets aways wits makin smokin folks stands in the elments to get theys smokes on?

Rits you be, maw. Maybes ourin guy say if peeeples likins us wants to smoke, we kin smokes wheres we pleezes. If he kin get dat wall, he kin do anythin he be pleazin I sez.

Ray Bob Joe Billy, ourins guy guns da makins ourins countrees the bestest agins. Wunner if he be bein at Daytoner. Nazcarts fans all likin ourin guy. I bets iffins ourins guy be a racin cart driver he be the best. I means, kinda the bestest. Maybes not like Kurts or Dales or Richie from back in dem older daze, but he kin do anythin he wants a be the goodest when duze what be he duze.

Sho nuff maw! Hey, theys be bouts ready to wavin the chekurd flag and get di race a goin. The pitcher on Charlottes new tv be purdy clears. 32 incher! Aint never seen so biggins a tvs, an one made herins in ourin countress, not some jap place. Oooh wee! Theres dey be a goin. Thinks maybes theys gunna bes lots uh crashin?

Joe Billy Tucker Bob, we aints comes hereins to see no crashins. Member how our guy Dale gots kilted here back when? Dam shame it was. Dales wasin the bests. Shame it was, en hisin car sho not lookins it hits dat wall hards enuff to kilt hims, but it did. Earl Ray nots gunna crashin. He our rasins hero now. He be from not far from heres in Wazoo. He be practical one of usins! Shame he caint have the confederals flag on hisin car. Thems dam commie stinkins they nozes in our biness agins! Maybe ourin guy can crek thats too. He gets him his wall, keep thems brown salvages outins our countres, and theys all be being drug cartwellers, rapsters and terrorizors.

Gee maw, paw be missins the races. Theys be tens lap on alreadees. What paw doin? Caint be smoks fur how long?

Ray Bob Bubba Billy Joe, nevers youins minds what yo paw be doins. He and Lester Monrow and Bubba Carl prolly drinkin shines in Lesters big F-150 en listin on radio.

Dam Maw, why paw drinks dats shine when Chalotte gots good hootchie right insides hereins?

Youins be dummer than ditch waters, boy. Paw caint afford to drinks Charlottes whisky fo fo hour. We luckies to have nuf to have the wing dings and some suds. He be being ecomonicatin out theres. He be gettins backs to hisin stool by lap hunnert. Race be two hunnert lap, rights? Just sits therres and sip yo suds, boy. I be goin for a smoke soons too.

                         

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Thats wuz one thrilzins racins, maw. Caint beeleeves ourin Guy McCoy has hisins engeen blow up on lap 27. Bad lucks all she was.

I gots to gets me backs to ourin shack and lays flat, boy. So goods yous kin be drivers you paw and me back to Burfurd Crik. Yous be watchins fur dat dam Wazoo traffikin cop. Go slow and eaze, boy. Paw be pass out in back uh hizzin truck.

Maw,  you furgettins whoin yo boy be? Itz Bob Ray Billy Joe Tucker, an eyze be be racin at Daytoner sum day. En eyez be winnings too. All dem too hunnert towsen peoples in them stands, cheers me on too. Like back when with Dale. Shit. Them commies kilted Dale back thens maw, I noze it. Like u be sed, he dead and bearly he hits dats wall. I bets them commie rigs his ride cuz he was the biggis bestet good ‘ol boy they was then. Commies hate us suthin folk and Dale was suthin as genral Lee. Them commies gonna pay fur it too. They gonna die whens ourin guy get HIZZIZ WALL BILTED!

Settling downs, boy. My heads en innerds be akins from the suds and greaszy dinggies I dune put down. But you be be right bout that wall. Keeps dem filthin brownskins outs of ourin countree. Thems jus wanna come herze and drug usins and rapsin usin and terrorizins anyones who not brown likins thems.

Donts youz be a worried maw. Ourin guy be purtektin usins.

He gunna gets him dats wall. And them brownskin be pays fur it.

Best we be goins, boy. Who wons the race? Thnkins I nodded off fur a whiles. All them cars goins roun and roun. Make yo heads a spinnin.

Not sure maw. Waits. Theys be intravooin him soon he get s his lid offin he head. Lissin up. The tv guy be bout to askin him…what? Maw, lookin this guy. He don’t much be lookin likes a goold ‘ol boy. What his name, what the tv guy be sayin his name..

And so, Daniel Suarez, you have made history today here at the Daytona five hundred by being the first Mexican born driver to take the checkered flag! You had a close call, almost hitting that wall on lap 163 but you pulled out. Great recovery. This must be a thrill for you. Oh, here’s yours wife, Benita, right? And your two little ones, Eduardo and Yelitza. Hey, all of you say hello to your American audience.

Maw! I be feelinz sick. Maw. Maw? Wake up maw. Maw. Miss Charlotte, my maw she…

I think she passed out. Best you be getting her home. But be mindful of Chester, cuz he’s on patrol today and he loves getting people from Bueford Creek tickets. Especially if they’re  under the influence. You’ll be in lock-up faster than grass goes through a goose. Right, Billy Bob? Joe Ray? what’s wrong? Don’t you puke on my bar. You do, and you and your folks ain’t welcome back here no more. It’s hard enough running this business these days. Glad that race is over. Making left turns for three hours. What a crazy world.

 

 

 

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