Monthly Archives: December 2017

Gonna Party Like Its 1899

AP_Trump_Fresco_2

So they all got together on the White House lawn yesterday to celebrate the triumph of abject greed…no word on whether Welch’s Grape Jelly with alcohol was made available to the thirsty. Trump himself got lit up on fawning praise from his various lickspittles, looking like a cult leader (Kim Jong Ugh?)…or a bratty child who’s never had to face the consequences of his actions.

Because suffering is for LOSERS. And, hell, look at ’em, do they look like losers to you?

Will Wilkerson in the New York Times yesterday

The Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is notably generous to corporations, high earners, inheritors of large estates and the owners of private jets. Taken as a whole, the bill will add about $1.4 trillion to the deficit in the next decade and trigger automatic cuts to Medicare and other safety net programs unless Congress steps in to stop them.

To most observers on the left, the Republican tax bill looks like sheer mercenary cupidity. “This is a brazen expression of money power,” Jesse Jackson wrote in The Chicago Tribune, “an example of American plutocracy — a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy.”

Mr. Jackson is right to worry about the wealthy lording it over the rest of us, but the open contempt for democracy displayed in the Senate’s slapdash rush to pass the tax bill ought to trouble us as much as, if not more than, what’s in it.

In its great haste, the “world’s greatest deliberative body” held no hearings or debate on tax reform. The Senate’s Republicans made sloppy math mistakes, crossed out and rewrote whole sections of the bill by hand at the 11th hour and forced a vote on it before anyone could conceivably read it.

The link between the heedlessly negligent style and anti-redistributive substance of recent Republican lawmaking is easy to overlook. The key is the libertarian idea, woven into the right’s ideological DNA, that redistribution is the exploitation of the “makers” by the “takers.” It immediately follows that democracy, which enables and legitimizes this exploitation, is itself an engine of injustice. As the novelist Ayn Rand put it, under democracy “one’s work, one’s property, one’s mind, and one’s life are at the mercy of any gang that may muster the vote of a majority.”

On the campaign trail in 2015, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, conceded that government is a “necessary evil” requiring some tax revenue. “But if we tax you at 100 percent, then you’ve got 0 percent liberty,” Mr. Paul continued. “If we tax you at 50 percent, you are half-slave, half-free.” The speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, shares Mr. Paul’s sense of the injustice of redistribution. He’s also a big fan of Ayn Rand. “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it,” Mr. Ryan has said. If the big-spending, democratic welfare state is really a system of part-time slavery, as Ayn Rand and Senator Paul contend, then beating it back is a moral imperative of the first order.

 

The culmination of generations soaking up rhetoric that’s openly contemptuous of self government.

Which means, welcome to a new Gilded Age. Or, at the very least, to Kansas. Because it’s worked so well there.

 

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Santa Robot

Galaxy was a science-fiction magazine published from 1950-1980. This cover jingle bell rocks.

Cheesy Like An Omarosa: Soul Sistahs

The woman the  world (and  Piers Morgan) loves to hate was shitcanned from the Trump White House last week. Nobody knew what Omarosa did except for stir the pot and remind the Insult Comedian of his glory days as the “You’re Fired” dude.

The main reason I like Omarosa is her pun-worthy reality teevee villainess (villainette?) name. I’ve already made the mighty like a rose pun on her moniker once and it’s past time for a rerun. No residuals for you, hon.

I read an outstanding piece this morning at The Cut about Omarosa’s exit  by Help Me Rhonda Garelick. (I added the help me, which could be interpreted as a cry for help: Help Me Rhonda, I think I’m falling.) I learned therein that there’s a cheesy sci-fi short called Soul Sistahs about Omarosa plotting with a stereotypical Jewish “lady” in a housecoat to steal a lock of Donald Trump’s hair. I am not making this up. Why would I? It’s a terrible idea executed in a way that makes the host segments on MST3K look like fancy-schmancy CG animation. In a word: cheesy.

I’ll skip additional punning on Garelick’s name and quote her description of Soul Sistahs:

A mash-up of 1960s sci-fi TV, Blaxploitation and the Wizard of OzSoul Sistahs features Omarosa playing herself, styled as a superhero-vixen. Wearing skin-tight red PVC pants and matching bra, she faces off against “Ruby,” an outer-space drag yenta in a housecoat (played by director Todd). Ruby dispatches “Lady O” to steal a lock of hair from “the most powerful man in the universe,” Donald Trump. (The hair has magical, money-making powers.) Omarosa accomplishes her task, but betrays Ruby and keeps for herself the stolen tresses whose power then “enters her body.”

While short, the film packs a hefty racist and anti-Semitic punch: Omarosa is described as a “sexy, sassy, slinky beast,” and a “Nubian witch.”  Ruby, played as a nasal, money-grubbing Jewess with a heavy Brooklyn accent, even raises that other racist old film motif, cannibalism, wondering whether a cooked Omarosa would taste like a “burnt knish.” The film ends with Omarosa, having absorbed Trump’s power, laughing maniacally and declaring herself the new ruler of the universe.

Soul Sistahs is among the sleaziest, tackiest, and dumbest things I’ve ever seen. If you want to see Omarosa in skimpy clothes riding a motorcycle, this short film is for you.

Drag Yenta Ruby is so OTT that she makes Beverly Goldberg look and sound like a WASP from Nebraska. At least Bev is a woman as opposed to a dude in a bad wig and an Edith Bunker housecoat; nobody would want this Ruby to take her love to town.  Btw, I love The Goldbergs, especially Bev’s bedazzled garments and the fact that Big Tasty is played by an actor with the last name of Gentile. Oy, just oy.

Soul Sistahs is truly one of the weirdest pop-culture artifacts I’ve ever seen. As Archie or the Donald would surely say at this point: Stifle, dingbat and show da movie.

Plan to hate watch this ten minute flick ASAP. The producers charge $2.99 on Vimeo and they’re bound to go after the free copies on the YouTube. It’s not worth 29 cents let alone 2.99. As Drag Yenta Ruby would say: Oy just oy.

Quote Of The Week: Trump Wine Edition

I like wine but Dr. A is the wine drinker in the family. I’m more of a beer, bourbon, and whisky kinda guy. Neither of us is an oenophile although I like the word. Words that begin with O are often funny even the medical ones: try saying osteopathic five times without giggling. End of marginally relevant opening paragraph.

Donald Trump is a teetotaler, which makes it odd that he bought a winery in Charlottesville. It was really a chance to swallow prime real estate in Albemarle County on the cheap. Believe me. Number two idiot son, Eric, runs the place.

This week’s quote comes from food writer Corby Kummer who explored the world of Trump wines in the company of an oenophile:

What about the 2015 Trump Meritage, a blend of red grapes that are “sourced,” meaning trucked in from the West Coast. The label calls it “American red wine”; it sells for $30 on the Web site. My guest tasted the Meritage: “Welch’s grape jelly with alcohol. A terrible, fumy, alcoholic nose. If I served you that on an airline you’d be mad.” (A buyer at a well-known Washington wine shop I later asked to evaluate the wines—he once sold Trump vodka, produced from 2005 to 2011, because he liked it—took one sip of the Meritage, wanted no more, and said, “Grocery-store wine.”) My guest went on, “They’re lying about the alcohol on the label.” He knew this, he explained, by a strange method of marching his two front fingers down his chest after he swallowed, saying that when he could feel the alcohol down to his belly button he knew it was 14 percent alcohol, which is what the label said. But this wine pushed his fingers below the belt. He knew the Meritage was 15 percent—and a 1 percent variance, oddly, is permitted on labels. “This’ll rip you,” he said.

Party on, Trumpy.

I bold-faced the best bit but the paragraph was too good to omit.  This oenophile knows his shit as well as his shitty wines. I’d be pissed if I paid good money for wine best suited for drinking out of a paper bag under an overpass. Trump swill wines, of course, aren’t as cheap as chips: they retail from $18 to $54. It’s what happens when a greedy teetotaler owns a winery.

I cheated a bit and posted a picture of the 2012 Meritage. Why? Because I have no idea what the hell a Monticello red wine is other than a marketing ploy to capitalize on Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson fetish. Jefferson was not a teetotaler and he never wore a dead nutria atop his head like the Insult Comedian.

What happens when a greedy teetotaler owns a winery? Welch’s grape jelly with alcohol.

Since Trump wines should be poured out, not consumed, I’ll give Eric Burdon and War the last word:

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Switched On Santa

Switched On Bach was featured in this space not long ago. It’s time to give Father Christmas equal time.

Here are some random tracks from Sy Mann’s 1969 LP:

Have yourself a Moogy Little Christmas, y’all.

 

Fake News Happens Because of YOU, Kids!

Learn to diagram sentences properly because SLJKFL’SKJDFDL;KFSJARGLEBLARGE: 

The ancestral lineage of fake news is easy to trace. It winds back through the birther movement and Benghazi, as a tool for weakening political opponents. It filtered through Sarah Palin, who never said she could see Russia from her house, and Al Gore, who never said he invented the internet — myths that hardened into seeming truths due to repeated retelling. It has silly origins, as networks begged us to believe that reality TV was real. It had sinister origins, as W. begged us to believe that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq.

Okay, so at least we’re admitting this predates Trump and Russia, and that someone profits from political division. Don’t love the “both sides” business, but Sarah did get a raw deal on that one considering how much stupid shit she ACTUALLY said.

We are at this point in the column the optimist who jumped off a building. So far, so good.

Yet the origin of fake news, as it applies to modern times, is not important. What’s important is the acceptance of fake news. How did we go from a nation of skeptics to a nation of carp, blindly slurping up every bit of rot that wafted to the bottom of the lagoon?

There might be no better place to start searching for answers than in the English classrooms of our public schools, which in the latter half of the 20th century bought into the idea of descriptive linguistics, or the notion that rules were overrated.

There’s the crash.

Let’s not talk about Rupert Murdoch’s money or the benefits to the wealthy that result. Let’s talk about what public school kids learn in English class!

Language evolves, the thinking went, so instead of fighting it, why not roll with it?

This gave teachers permission, of sorts, to avoid the hard work of beating proper English into the skulls of balky kids.

Diagramming sentences became passé, and the finer points of the language were lost as students were basically allowed to make it up as they went along.

I’m … not sure you can go from the passing of the diagrammed sentence in public school to W’s weapons of mass destruction bullshit, given that W and almost every TV personality who reported on him in any significant way was a private school kid.

In some ways I understand where this dude is going but knowledge of dangling modifiers and incorrectly placed prepositions can’t replace a finely tuned bullshit detector.

Yet in English classes, the resulting lack of intellectual discipline and critical thinking has startling similarities to the sloppy thought that has elevated fake news from a strategic political endeavor to a big-box store of wholesale lunacy. “Efforting” might not be a real word, but it doesn’t matter because everyone will know what it means; Hillary might not have actually had a disloyal campaign aide killed, but it doesn’t matter because everyone knows that’s the way the Clintons operate.

Oh for God’s sake. These aren’t abstractions. People don’t believe “fake news” because language is evolving. They believe “fake news” because regressive segregationist propaganda tools harnessed the recognizable language and conventions of objective journalism in order to turn the electorate against Democrats and moderate Republicans, whip up fears about black crime and immigration, and aim reasonable concerns about violence — that would otherwise be directed at the NRA — at the owner of your neighborhood falafel stand.

The real mystery isn’t why people believe fake news. It’s why we reserve our greatest contempt for the buyers of bullshit and not the sellers. Your dumb second cousin Pete thinks Hillary invented AIDS and that’s not okay for Pete, but when we’re done critiquing Pete’s grammar can we maybe talk about who got paid to make Pete believe what he believes?

Those English teachers who come under so much criticism here? They’re teaching to GOP-mandated tests and filling out assessment forms while their budgets are being slashed and they’re buying their own paper and fundraising for chairs and the next town over just shot down a tax increase of half a percent to pay for heating the building because a charter-funded ad campaign told them teaching kids to read shouldn’t cost more than a large Diet Coke at McDonald’s.

Why don’t you diagram that.

Via Forward Falcon.

A.

I’m Done With Your Doug Jones Feelings Too, Internet

See the Bernie & Hillary edition.

AAAAND we’re already mad at Doug Jones.  Instead of, rightly, being mad at the assignment editors who are out there asking every conservative Dem to take impeachment off the table like it’s 2005.

Look, the point for anyone who lived in Alabama was not to be represented by a Bible-banging pedophiliac, and for anyone who doesn’t live in Alabama the point of Doug Jones was to elect a Democrat, full stop. Doug Jones is almost not the point at all. The point is a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House, a Democratic White House, Democratic state houses because goddamn, have you seen the world right now?

Blah blah blah Jill Stein blah. People I know and love are suffering and will suffer while we fantasize about having more than two parties, about not having to choose between the arsonists and the (dumb, underfunded, likely corrupt) fire brigade. Me and mine would like the fires out.

Does anyone who’s still pounding on the purity drum really think we’d be worse off with a Congress that could stop this tax obscenity, that could hold the line on Roe, that could actually confirm a Supreme Court nominee from a Democratic president? I get that we all want everybody banging  the impeachment drum at all times, I am as in love with Kirsten Gillibrand First of Her Name as any of you, but elect enough Democrats and the individual weaknesses of this that or the other one don’t matter no more.

Doug Jones in his seat now and for the foreseeable future is not about Doug Jones, it is about the seat. The problem with conservative Democrats isn’t that they’re awful, it’s that the slim margin of control one party usually holds gives shitass attention-whore conservative Democrats outsize power. Had Democrats held the Senate by double digits Joe Lieberman would just be some asshole footnote instead of a whole asshole chapter.

So we can all sit around getting mad and disappointed at Doug Jones or we can make sure the fact that he’s 85 percent of the way there is enough to make a real difference, by electing a shitload more people who are 90 percent and 95 percent and 100 percent there.

A.

Seven Dirty Words, 2017

George Carlin has ascended to satire heaven (he may have opted for hell because “heaven is a place where nothing ever happens”) but his spirit lives on in 2017; inadvertently at least. You may recall Carlin’s classic routine Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television. I’ll put the video up at the end of the post, but here’s the list:

  • Shit
  • Piss
  • Fuck
  • Cunt
  • Cocksucker
  • Motherfucker
  • Tits

Always eager to assist the world of satire, the Trump administration has come up with a list of Seven Words The CDC Can Never Say. That’s Centers for Disease Control, which makes this some serious shit. Here’s the list memed:

It’s a list could only offend a Republican anti-science warrior. You know, the kind of stupid motherfucker who waves a fetus doll around outside Planned Parenthood. These cocksuckers (said in the Deadwood sense of the word) deserve to have the fucking shit kicked out of them until they piss their pants.

I am grateful to whoever at the CDC leaked a list so stupid that it could have been devised by Donald Trump Jr. No cookie for you or your shithead friend Tailgunner Ted, asswipe:

I will endeavour (not in the Baby Morse sense of the word) to write a sentence about that image using the words the CDC is supposed to ban:

I wonder if there’s science-based or evidence-based proof that Junior was dropped on his head by a transgender nanny before or after he was a fetus; if so, it could explain his entitlement and hatred of diversity and vulnerable populations.

Whatever you do, please do not diagram that sentence; even Faulkner would think I was a long-winded motherfucker, scare the piss out of me, and insert a copy of the Carlin list where the moon don’t shine. I live in fear of paper cuts, y’all.

Back to the Seven Words The CDC Can Never Say. There has been major push back from the medical and scientific community. The CDC director even took to the Insult Comedian’s favorite medium:

It’s a pity that she didn’t tweet this out instead:

Jesus tits. What stupid cunt came up with the seven dirty words, 2017 list? They’re moronic motherfuckers and shit-eating, piss-drinking cocksuckers. They can fuck off.

I didn’t count the characters but I think it’s under 280. Who fucking cares? All I care about is the English language and the ability of medical professionals to do their jobs without being censored by the anti-science warriors of the GOP. They should piss off and return to fighting the war against Christmas.

As promised, George Carlin gets the last word with a 1978 variation on the Seven Dirty Words theme:

Fuckin’ A.

The False Choice

Ugh, stop it: 

Even by the loose standards of the hospitality business, where rowdy drinking sessions after shifts and playful sexual banter are part of the culture, employees described Mr. Friedman’s restaurants as unusually sexualized and coercive.

Ten women said that Mr. Friedman, 56, had subjected them to unwanted sexual advances: groping them in public, demanding sex or making text requests for nude pictures or group sex. Many others also said that working for him required tolerating daily kisses and touches, pulling all-night shifts at private parties that included public sex and nudity, and enduring catcalls and gropes from guests who are Mr. Friedman’s friends.

Look.

I have worked lots of places in my life. Most of them environments where people were under stress. Most of them “unconventional” workplaces. Most of them glorified foxholes where everybody was filthy and exhausted and boundaries got blurred and we all spent too much fucking time together convincing ourselves we were under siege.

Newsrooms. Kitchens. Tiny nonprofits where literal disease outbreaks were taking place and the ceiling was literally falling in. Larger nonprofits where the hours were beyond scary and there was a new crisis every three days.

At those places, under those circumstances, people said things that would not pass muster at a white-shoe law firm. People slept with each other, broke up and got their drama all over everything. People were mean sometimes and dumb sometimes and people got overly invested in things they didn’t have standing in which to invest.

And at no time, in any of those places, did anyone take out his dick.

Not for nothing but men pretending not to know when they are being creepy is the oldest dodge on earth. Women, you see, can actually tell the difference between an off-color joke and “show me your tits, I want to come all over them.” A few people will react to the former but absolutely nobody wants to be told the latter in a meeting about quarterly returns.

“Loose standards” doesn’t cover A RAPE ROOM in the back.

We are setting up a thing where the only two possible workplace environments are “terrible sterile Intertrode cubicle hell” versus “constant drunken orgy of dubious consent,” and since no one on the planet wants the former it’s assumed they’ll cheerfully accept the latter. It’s a lot harder to reject the premise entirely and say there is also “being a fucking grown-up and not bullying or touching anyone don’t wanna be touched” as an option.

I know that seems like crazytalk but there are “loose standards” and then there are “rape standards” and maybe we can just keep the loose part.

A.

‘Hastening its decline would be a mistake’

Too late: 

Those still putting digital advertising ahead of paid digital subscriptions are in danger of extinction. The smartest ones will continue to manage down the print business so as to optimize the profitability it can contribute until it is no longer profitable. Hastening its decline would be a mistake.

I was thinking about brand identity and brand loyalty the other day apropos of absolutely nothing but the ongoing demand to make the newspaper something other than a paper full of news. Make a series of micr0-sites! Publish directly to Facebook! Pivot to video! Pivot to longform! Put everything online! Put nothing online! Spin around in circles until you’re dizzy and hold your breath until you’re blue, but make damn sure you’re on top of the latest trends at all times so that people have no idea who you are or what you stand for!

GAAAAAAAAH.

The problem with our current Media Business Model Conversation is not that nobody knows the answer. Ten years ago nobody knew the answer and that was okay. Now the problem is that everybody knows the answer and everybody’s wrong if their answer involves pivoting to anything other than journalism.

Corporations can only dream of the kind of brand loyalty news organizations have pissed away over the past 15 years as they chased quarterly returns and cut to achieve them. Rebuilding that takes investment in journalism but more than that, it takes time. These organizations have been in communities for decades, in some cases centuries, so we have to think in those terms for our investment.

We’ve had 15 years of experimentation with various stupid “trends” invented by a class of consultants making salaries the likes of which journalists could only dream, and they’ve gotten nowhere. They haven’t even made the quarterly returns better.

We should put a couple hundred years into doing journalism. That got us somewhere.

A.

Sunday Morning Video: The Smithereens Live In Jersey

The Smithereens liked to say they’d play anywhere they could get an audience. This set proves that. The emcee reminds me of Linda Richman of SNL fame. It’s a pity that she didn’t say the Reens were like butter.

Saturday Odds& Sods: Blues Before and After

Lucky Dare-Devils by Reginald Marsh.

I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster all week.  I was on top of the world, ma, with Doug Jones’ win and then on the bottom with Pat DiNizio’s passing. I prefer to be somewhere between those two extremes: it’s exhausting y’all.

They shot a Dixie Beer commercial in my neighborhood yesterday. I hate film crews. There’s always some officious twerp with a clipboard yelling at people. I had to deal with clipboard guys in my past life as a Jackson Square business owner. I learned that if you gave them an inch they’d take a country mile even if you were in the city.

One time a clipboard guy wanted to plug into my shop electricity.  No way: the wiring in the Upper Pontalba was dodgy and one could blow a fuse merely by plugging a space heater in the wrong outlet. When in doubt, demand compensation. That usually runs them off but on one memorable occasion they bribed me. It’s the Louisiana way, y’all.

FYI, Dixie Beer was purchased recently by local plutocrats/Saints owners/GOP donors Tom and Gayle Benson. Every time old Tom farts, the local media wets itself. I yawn in disinterest myself although the family fight over his empire was quite entertaining.

We’re staying in New Jersey this week with our featured image and theme song. The featured image is a painting by Reginald Marsh who grew up in Jersey and the theme song comes from the Smithereens. Anyone shocked by the latter? I thought not.

I hope that y’all don’t get the blues before and after the break because it’s time to jump. Skip the Dixie Beer: it’s swill.

Continue reading

Graduation Day

“Scars are souvenirs you never lose. The past is never far.”
– Goo Goo Dolls, “Name”

“My parents’ basement.”

Those three words kept coming up this week as I met with student after student who planned to graduate Saturday.

The phrase has become a metaphor that indicates success or failure, with fear driving 20-somethings desperately away from it.

Am I going to find a job or will I have to live there?

Will this job pay me enough or will I have to stay there?

My dad keeps telling me I can’t move back in there, so I need to figure something out fast.

I visit my parents’ basement once a month, as Dad and I pack up our tubs for the monthly card show. I limbo my way under and over stacks of bobble heads, posters, cards, statues and other sports monstrosities that my mother would love to see us set on fire, as I help him pack our wares. My parents’ basement is full of nothing but good thoughts and wonderful vibes for me now.

Dad will often say, “You got a minute? C’mon down to the basement.” The rough translation of that statement is: “I bought some more shit we can sell at the show, but I had to hide it from your mother.”

However, half a lifetime ago (literally), that fucking basement terrified me.

Finishing school and looking for a job wasn’t easy. It was impossible.

EVERYONE else already had a job or had a line on one while I seeing rejections pile up in my mailbox every day.

EVERYONE else was coasting through some bullshit yoga class to complete their degree requirements while I was working at the student paper, working at the city paper and finishing up ridiculously difficult courses I managed to put off somehow.

EVERYONE else had a career path and a life plan. I had a job back at the garage whenever I wanted it and no real life to speak of.

My path seemed to lead to my parents’ basement.

No matter how old I get or how well I do or where I go in life, I will never forget that fear and how it eats away at everything around it. It’s why my door is always open this time of year and why I mentor students on everything from how to avoid looking like Mike from “Swingers” when they are pursuing a job to how to explain to their parents how the hiring process works.

It’s why I have a stash of napkins in a drawer behind me, so I can snag one and hand it to the sobbing kids who get rejection after rejection, as their friends celebrate what are seemingly perfect jobs that just dropped out of the sky on them.

It’s why I tell them the story of the guy who fell in the hole, even though I probably already told it to them once before and I’ve told it five times already that day.

It’s why I don’t understand the consternation of faculty who mutter about the “kids today” or the politicians who refuse to support either group because “when I was a kid…”

Every year, the gap in age between me and my students increases. The distance between us never does.

I never forget: My parents had a basement too.

“Is the view pretty good from the cheap seats, A.J.?”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Because it occurs to me that in 25 years, I’ve never ONCE seen your name on a ballot. Now why is that? Why are you always one step behind me?”
“Because if I wasn’t you’d be the most popular history professor at the University of Wisconsin.”
-The American President

If you ever felt the need to be murdered by a frenzying septuagenarian, just tell my mother, “You know, those who can’t do, teach.”

She spent 45 years in grades 3 through 8 teaching kids in a factory town. She taught poor kids, broken kids, kids nobody thought of. She taught literal generations of kids, with students becoming parents of her students and then becoming grandparents of students.

The kids who never left Cudahy.

She taught mostly reading and social studies, history and English. Math and science really weren’t her thing. She poured her time and energy into engaging projects, plays, musicals and more, just to give those kids a chance to love learning and take a bow.

The role of administration was never beyond her reach or ability. She had a wide array of talents that went beyond the classroom. She just never wanted to do any of them.

She knew what she was supposed to be doing: Teaching kids.

When I got the chance to teach a class of my own, I found that feeling. I was 22 years old and I was standing at the front of that room and I just felt it.

I was still working as a journalist, so I didn’t have to make a decision to leave the field at that point. I was just trying to pay tuition and rent. One job did one thing, the other did the other.

My first “grown-up job” was at Missouri, where I would work with students in the newsroom and teach in the classroom.

The next gig: advise a student newspaper, teach in the classroom.

Every job, I split the baby. Stay attached to the field in which I taught and yet teach students desperate to enter the field.

And yet I knew and I still know.

I’m a teacher, no matter what else I do.

“Gunny, I fucked up. I got Profile killed.”
“It was his time and when it’s your time I don’t give a damn how fast you run, your time is up.”
“I could have gotten them all killed.”
“But you didn’t, so just don’t make the same mistake twice.”
– Heartbreak Ridge

The kid showed up in the doorway of my office in a rush, his face still red from the cold outside. He had a look of fear and his physical anxiety manifested itself in what could charitably be called a “pee-pee dance.” The student who was in my office shooting the bull with me recognized the worried look and departed with a, “So, I’ll see you Saturday after graduation, right?”

She knew I would and I also knew that I’d be seeing this nervous young man there as well. Even more, I had no idea why he had this look of a kid who got caught stealing a porn mag by his parish priest.

This guy had it made. His grades were good enough to sail through the final week with no worries. He had a job lined up to start after the first of the year doing news and sports on TV in one of the better broadcast markets in the state. He had been ready for this since his sophomore year where I taught him the difference between facts and opinion and why using the word “very” was just as useful as using the word “damned.”

“I really fucked up that last assignment for you and I need to know how not to let that happen again,” he said.

I pulled up the file and, sure enough, a robust grade of 45 percent sat at the bottom. The cause for most of the point loss? He misspelled two proper nouns in his story.

That grade didn’t matter to him in any meaningful way as far as the university, his degree or his GPA was concerned. It was that idea of failing something in a way that could REALLY cost him.

We talked at length about fucking up. I relayed a few of my own, including a doozy where I managed to make two fact errors in the first sentence of an “exclusive” story.

Fucking up happens, I told him. The point is to avoid fucking up when you could have easily avoided fucking up.

Don’t assume you know how to spell the name.

Don’t guess that it’s a street, not an avenue.

Don’t presume you know which of the guys robbed the bank and which one caught the robber.

Make sure the guy is actually dead before you write his obituary.

I could tell he was getting it, but then he asked another important question: Even if I do all that, I’m going to fuck up at some point. What then?

Learn from it.

Every time you fuck up, you pay a price. It might be physical, it might be mental, it might be financial, but it is a price you must pay. You get something in return for your payment, and that’s wisdom.

Thus, in perhaps the least wizening way I could, I explained to him the truth:

“You’re going to step on your dick from time to time. I’d rather you do it here, on an assignment than out there where you might get fired or worse. The reason I put such a high penalty on certain things is because I want those things to hurt so bad that you never do them again. The reason I spread your grades out in this class so widely is that when you do fuck up that badly, the fuck up won’t kill you. That’s how you learn.”

He smiled.

“You going to graduation on Saturday?”

“Yep. See you there.”

“Did Chris Columbus say he wanted to stay home? No! What if the Wright brothers thought only birds should fly?…”
“I’m not any of those guys! I’m a kid from a trailer park!”
“If that’s what you think, then that’s all you’ll ever be.”

The first time I heard someone called a “fig” or a “Figgie,” it was spat in such a way that I honestly thought the “I” was actually an “A” lost in dialect. The term was based on the “FG” notation next to students’ names in their enrollment and it stood for “first-generation.”

At that university, the idea was that you should come from a lineage of people that had all gone to college, particularly that college. If you at least had some semblance of educated parentage, well, OK, but figgies?

Fuck ‘em.

Had it not been for my mother’s passion for teaching and almost vengeful determinism to disprove her father’s statement she’d “never be anything more than a housewife,” I would have been a fig. Dad picked up an associate’s degree at some point, but my grandparents were factory workers, police officers, “steno gals” and homemakers. They came from immigrant homes where learning English was a massive accomplishment and feeding the off-spring was almost always a challenge.

Mom told stories of her grandmother sifting rat droppings out of the government flour she received during the Great Depression. Dad told stories of his grandfather picking mushrooms on the way to church and packing a postage-stamp-sized garden full of sustenance for the family.

My wife’s grandparents dropped out of school to work jobs, one of them doing so about the same age my daughter is now.

To be a fig in those days would have been bragging rights mixed with a pipe dream.

George Carlin once noted that he loved seeing a blade of grass that pushed its way through a crack in the sidewalk. It’s so fucking heroic, he noted. Against all odds, pushing against an immovable force, this little speck of life wove its way out from the ground beneath and refused to quit until it saw the sun on its face.

This is why I always tell the kids I teach that they need to walk at graduation. Sure, you can make the argument that it’s 20 seconds on a stage where someone mangles your name, someone else hands you an empty diploma case and a third someone shakes your hand, but misses the point.

You did it. You beat the odds. You worked for this.

It wasn’t a given or a birthright. It wasn’t an item you threw in your grocery cart: Eggs, milk, diploma.

Every blade of grass that gets through the concrete deserves at least a moment of sunlight.

“He was a small horse, barely 15 hands. He was hurting, too. There was a limp in his walk, a wheezing when he breathed. Smith didn’t pay attention to that. He was looking the horse in the eye.”
– Seabiscuit

Saturday morning, I’ll be sitting in my office overlooking the relatively paltry arena that serves almost all of our indoor sports teams. The parking lot will fill and people will wander toward various entries in the building.

Parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives.

They come from the various outposts of our state, places you don’t think about when you hear the name “Wisconsin.”

Crivitz and Cadott. Oconomowoc and Oconto Falls. Fall River and River Falls. The closest you get to “foreign students” around here are the kids who cross the Illinois or Minnesota border to play sports for the institution.

It’ll be the first time in nearly a decade that I’m not going to be at that ceremony. The doctor says my back is too bad from a recent injury to sit for three hours. So, I’ll watch them go in and wait.

I’ll grade papers, write book chapters and make sure to get up and stretch every half hour. Then, when one of the students who almost cried when I told him I couldn’t sit through the event texts me that things are wrapping up, I’ll don the ridiculous regalia I break out a couple times a year and trek across that parking lot.

I’ll shake hands with parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. They’ll tell me about the times the graduate came home or called home and wouldn’t stop talking about me or something weird I did and we’ll all laugh.

The parents will worriedly look me in the eye and ask if I think their son or daughter will get a job or they’ll thank me for helping the kid find post-graduation employment.

They’ll marvel at the grandeur of the ceremony or the pomp and circumstance that surrounds them, never mind it’s far less than I’ve seen at most places and the whole place still smells like last night’s basketball game.

And they’ll ask me questions and tell me stories about this freshly minted college graduate we both know.

But before we part company, I’ll look them in the eye and I’ll tell them the truth.

It was an honor to teach their loved one.

Friday Guest Catblogging: Ornamental Kitty

It’s time for the Other Scout to play a return engagement here at First Draft. She was a mere kitten when last we featured her; now she’s old enough to be messed with by her humans, Christy and Greg.

 

Only A Memory: Pat DiNizio, R.I.P.

The Smithereens: Pat DiNizio, Jim Babjak, Mike Mesaros, Dennis Diken.

I typically take celebrity deaths in stride. This one is different and not just because Pat DiNizio disliked being called a celebrity. As far as Pat was concerned, he was a regular guy who was lucky enough to have lived his dream singing his songs and playing with his best friends, The Smithereens. Pat’s luck finally ran out at the age of 62. He was never too old to rock and roll but he was too young to die.

I first heard the Smithereens on MTV back when they played videos and were where the cool kids hung out. I never gave a shit about being cool but I enjoyed the music and Behind The Wall Of Sleep blew me away. It’s a perfect rock song with some of Pat’s best lyrics:

“Well, she held a bass guitar and she was playing in a band. And she stood just like Bill Wyman. Now I am her biggest fan.”

Rock and roll genius pure and simple.

The Smithereens were one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. It was why I kept going back for more. Their live sets were as fun as their lyrics were thoughtful. At the center of it all was Pat and his supple and marvelously expressive voice.

Pat and his bandmates prided themselves on being regular guys who enjoyed engaging with their fans. The first time I saw the Reens, I talked to them after the show. They were so warm and friendly that I asked if they were really from Jersey. Pat’s reply: “Fuckin’ A, we’re from fuckin’ Jersey.” It’s hard not to like a guy like that.

Pat had a place in New Orleans at one point during a fallow period for the Reens. He and I frequented the same bakery/coffee shop in the Quarter, La Marquise. It was catty-corner from Jackson Square. (La Marquise ain’t dere no more, alas.) We spoke a few times but I have the New Orleanian’s reticence about bothering well-known people when they want to be ordinary. I wish I’d tried a bit harder. Oh well, it’s Only A Memory:

One of the most interesting of Pat’s many side projects were the house concerts. That’s right, you could hire him to come and play a solo acoustic show in your living room. The late Ashley Morris and I kept talking about doing one either in his backyard or my living room. We never got around to it before Ashley died. This is one of the tunes we wanted Pat to play:

Pat’s voice and his songs always had a dash of sadness amidst the exuberant and flashy playing by the Smithereens. That’s why their music has resonated with me for all these years. Additionally, one can say without a trace of irony that they were a band of brothers as you can see from this statement from Dennis the drummer:

One reason that I’m gutted by this news is that the Reens were my peers. We grew up on opposite ends of the country listening to the same British rock music: the Beatles, Stones, Who, and the Kinks. The Beatle influence is obvious but the way the Smithereens carried themselves was more like the Kinks: regular guy rockers with a chip on their shoulders. Here’s a clip wherein Pat tells a funny story about the first time he heard a Beatles classic:

The thing I admired most about Pat and his bandmates is how they stayed together and stuck it out in good times and bad. A  2004 piece in the Failing New York Times tells the story of a rough gig as an opening act:

Their first major gig was opening for ZZ Top at William and Mary College in Virginia on July 4, 1986. As Mr. DiNizio tells it, the audience was 25,000 strong and drunk with anticipation. Problem was, they were anticipating Ted Nugent, who had canceled. Upon taking the stage, the Smithereens were pelted with insults, shoes, batteries, underwear and gallons of cheap beer for the better part of an hour.

“I was completely soaked from head to toe,” Mr. DiNizio said. “But we had the will and experience not to leave that stage. That was the strength of the band. That’s been the credo of the band. You never give up. You never give up.”

Pat never gave up. He just ran out of time. Something Reens lead guitarist Jimmy Babjak said in that same article rings true on this sad week:

“We have the same mentality as the old blues singers. You do what you do, until you die with a guitar in your hands.”

And nobody did it better than Pat DiNizio. I’ll give him the last word with an appropriately titled song from the band’s last studio album:

Long live rock, be it dead or alive.

When The Law AND The Facts Are Against You…

poundtable_gohmert copy

time to pound the table, as the saying goes. So, while we’re all pretty relieved that at some point Roy Moore presumably will announce he wants to spend more time with his children, the wingnuts march on…a net neutrality vote by the FCC is scheduled for today, a deal is in the works to move the mother of all horrible tax legislation out of the conference committee…and in the House Judiciary Committee, die hards are pushing their latest nothingburger, a bizarre claim that a couple of FBI agents who were removed from Robert Mueller’s investigation last summer managed nonetheless to irreparably taint the investigation because, heaven forbid, they thought Donald Trump was…a pretty appalling human being.

Appalling…In other news, they agreed the sky is blue. And that grass is generally green.

I’m a little young to really remember Watergate as it happened, but can vaguely recall — and my memory is helped by books, television retrospectives, etc. — a few Nixon defenders stuck around to the bitter end, offering ever more desperate, implausible theories, explanations…anything to, if not exonerate Dick, at least excuse him, or excuse him enough. Until the tapes removed all doubt.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth by the likes of Louis Gohmert and others yesterday is starting to have that same sound if not same smell. And with the special election in Alabama…well, I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but maybe, hopefully, enough people are finally getting it.

Besides, the FBI agents dismissed from the Mueller investigation were exchanging anti-Trump text message on or around the time when, on national television, he quite literally defended the size of his penis. Eww.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Saddlebum

Watching Roy Moore astride Sassy inspired this week’s selection. I suspect that the Saddlebum was a better rider than Judge Pervert.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – Less is Moore edition

Hi, people – I got permission to do my post quite a few days early – I’ll take off next Monday as penance.

Let’s drop in on last night’s Freeperville live election thread, shall we?

Vanity – Turnout, Turnout, Turnout….vote for Judge, Roy Moore. [LIVE THREAD]
Posted on 12/12/2017, 4:00:51 AM by JLAGRAYFOX

It’s really quite simple…..An American citizen, woman or man, is innocent until proven guilty by a judge, jury of their peers and a solid conviction of said accused crime.

Allegations & Accusations carry no meaning whatsoever, until they are duly proven to be true & factual in a recognized court of law.

FrankenNoShit

Alabama, voters, cast your votes today for Judge, Roy Moore, a good, honorable, religious man, an American patriot, who loves his country and all the people in it. This, my friends is a “Critical Path Election”!!!

You, your family, your loved ones, your great state of Alabama, your country, the USA, POTUS, Donald J. Trump and your “Future” rests in the hands of your vote today!!! Go, Judge, Roy Moore, Go, POTUS, Donald J. Trump, Go, Steve Bannon…on to victory over those politicians, Democrat, “Doug Jones”, etc., whose policies would hurt & destroy this great American Republic!!

1 posted on 12/12/2017, 4:00:51 AM by JLAGRAYFOX
popcorn
To: dontreadthis

 

Let’s hope. We need a win. We have been losing seats right and left since the election. Many in Oklahoma and other red areas. That needs to stop and hopefully today will be the win we need to stop the bleeding.

32 posted on 12/12/2017, 7:59:30 AM by napscoordinator (Trump/Hunter, jr for President/Vice President 2016)

…or open up the wound a lot wider.

To: JLAGRAYFOX

 

I love the smell of liberal tears!

44 posted on 12/12/2017, 11:52:00 AM by Boardwalk

DO you, now?
To: Boardwalk
57 posted on 12/12/2017, 12:28:51 PM by Enchante (FusionGPS “dirty dossier” scandal links Hillary, FBI, CIA, Dept of Justice… “Deep State” is real)
That is SO precious!
To: JLAGRAYFOX
Wish I could vote.Praying for a Moore landslide.

64 posted on 12/12/2017, 12:50:05 PM by lysie
“Suffer the little (female) children to come unto me”?
To: JLAGRAYFOX 

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

That’s easy for you to say…

This election has me more on edge than I was in November. Lots of sleepless nights and higher Blood pressure.

Good thing they can’t deny you insurance now for your pre-existing conditions, huh?

Unfortunately if Moore loses there will be a push to moderate and abandon the MAGA agenda even more, especially with Amnesty. So this really could be another make or break election for the country.

109 posted on 12/12/2017, 4:05:29 PM by qam1 (There’s been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that’s left is the bill to pay)

Follow me below the fold for the good stuff.
You know you wanna….

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Fuck Yeah, Alabama: A Perfect Political Storm

Doug Jones campaigns with Corey Booker. Photo via NY Magazine.

I never thought that I’d write the phrase “fuck yeah, Alabama,” but it fits the morning after Doug Jones’ remarkable upset victory in the Alabama special election. The key word in that sentence is special; everything came together in a perfect political storm to give Democrats their first victory in an Alabama senate race since 1992 when Richard Shelby won before switching parties after the GOP wave election of 1994. Shelby’s refusal to vote for Moore was part of the perfect political storm. It signaled that it was okay for business conservatives to write in Nick Saban or even vote for Doug Jones.

I had a good feeling about the race for the last few weeks. I knew it was going to be close and hoped it would turn out well, which gives me the right to say I told you so to people who *assumed* a Moore win was inevitable. Repeat after me: nothing is written.

It took a perfect political storm for this to happen. I think some bullet points are in order. I promise not to  go power point on your asses.

  • Doug Jones was the perfect candidate to run against Roy Moore. It reminded me of the contrast between John Bel Edwards and David Vitter in the 2015 Gret Stet Goober race. Jones was Mr. Clean facing off against Judge Pervert. It was perfect casting: Hollywood couldn’t have done better.
  • Doug Jones ran as a liberal, not as either a Blue Dog or a Berniecrat. Jones staked out advanced positions on gay rights, criminal law issues, CHIP, and abortion. BUT he didn’t make specific commitments on other issues that might have cost him the election in Crimson Tide country. Alabamians did not suddenly become liberals last night but they opened the door a crack for Doug Jones to walk in and prevail.
  • Roy Moore was a dreadful candidate. He’s extreme even by Alabama standards and lacks the sort of charm or charisma that could smooth off his rough edges. The sex scandal fatally wounded his campaign with voters suffering from Trump fatigue. One might call them Romney voters: suburban business Republicans who don’t like the Insult Comedian’s style and tone.
  • Donald Trump is an orange anchor who will sink GOP hopes in surprising places in 2018. His full-throated support for Judge Pervert did not pay off. Trump is now o-2 in this Alabama senate race: both Big Luther and Big Pervert lost. His support is not transferable and will sink enough Republican candidates in 2018 for Democrats to take control of both houses of Congress. Most people *really* do not like the Insult Comedian and his rude, rude ways.
  • The big winners last night were black voters, especially women. They turned out at presidential election levels to support Doug Jones and take a stand against president* Pussy Grabber and Judge Pervert. Thanks for helping to save the Republic, y’all.
  • The much derided “identity politics” works. Team Jones was able to assemble a coalition that could win in other southern states. The Fifty State strategy lives.
  • It was a victory for investigative journalism. The WaPo story crippled the Moore campaign and left him afraid to campaign. Wuss.
  • Richard Shelby’s intervention helped defeat Judge Pervert. Write-ins constituted 1.7% of the vote. Jones’ margin was 1.5%. Repeat after me: it was a perfect political storm.
  • Is Steve Bannon on suicide watch? If so, does anyone give a shit?

Judge Pervert’s election eve appearance was typically tacky and characteristically cowardly. He refused to concede and muttered ominously about a recount after the military votes are counted. An automatic recount kicks in at 0.5% and Jones’ winning margin is 1.5%. If there’s a recount, Judge Pervert and his army of delusional bible thumpers will have to pay for it. They should also pay for riding lessons:

Last night was clearly a turning point in the battle against Trumpism. It shows that, given the right circumstances, a Democrat can win in the reddest of states. It should not, however, be over-interpreted: it took a perfect storm to make it happen.

It’s been a good news, bad news sort of morning for me. I woke up to the terrible news that Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens had died. I’ll write about Pat’s passing later today or tomorrow. I tried not to let it harsh my post-Jones victory buzz but it put music on my mind. I’m going to close this celebratory post with some songs with Alabama in the title.

Fuck yeah, Alabama.