Category Archives: Big Damn Heroes

Not Everything Sucks

Deadwood is still with us and so is David Milch, who I’d take a bullet for and laugh about it: 

Still, the studio’s faith in Milch never wavered. It just wanted him to focus on more potentially lucrative projects, and persuaded him to create a new series, “John from Cincinnati,” set in a California surfing community, a collaboration with Kem Nunn, a novelist whose books can be found in the surf-noir section. It lasted only one season, a consequence generally attributed to a plot-coherence deficit. In the years that followed, Milch remained fiercely industrious. He created “Luck,” set at the Santa Anita Park racetrack and starring Dustin Hoffman, which was shut down in its second season after multiple horses died during filming. Milch also made a pilot—the only episode shot—for an HBO series called “The Money.” (Milch described it to me as “King Lear meets Rupert Murdoch and family.”) Two other HBO projects never progressed beyond the pilot-script stage: adaptations of Peter Matthiessen’s novel “Shadow Country” and “Island of Vice,” a history of Theodore Roosevelt’s tenure as the police commissioner of New York City. Earlier this year, HBO’s “True Detective” aired a new episode written by Milch and Nic Pizzolatto.

What I love more than anything in this world are masters of the craft who still go out and fuck up all the time. Like they could just sit around on their Greatest Hits and chill knowing they’ve created something eternal, but they’re like, “Hey, why don’t I go make this person-shaped hole in the wall, this sounds interesting.”

Do as much stuff as you can for as long as you can. God damn what a life.

A. 

Not Everything Sucks

This man is out there making gorgeous music, that speaks to how hard and hopeless everything seems, and how you get up and do the damn job anyway.

I had the good fortune to meet him at a show last fall, during a torrential downpour, like a 7-year rainstorm. He was playing a show in the upstairs of a small bar on the north side of the city and I got there like an hour early because I’m a huge dork so that gave me plenty of time to try not to look like a huge dork and think of things to say to him, and all I came up with was “thank you, I’m pretty sure this is making the world worth living in right now.”

A.

Not Everything Sucks

Some people are making newspapers for people in prison: 

It was the publication of that essay that led to me walking through the office doors of The Marshall Project two months later—having finally won parole—to talk with their staff about my experiences. That conversation led to me joining their team and to the creation of News Inside—a collection of TMP’s award-winning journalism that relates directly to incarcerated lives. In the past month, we began distributing the pilot edition of this print publication to prisons and jails; to date it is circulating in 30 facilities in 19 states.

I wanted to share our rich articles with my information-poor former community, particularly those who believe study is a chance for redemption, who sacrifice sleep and risk a misbehavior report to pore over textbooks under shaded lamps after lights-out, who struggle to find resources to expand their minds.

A.

So We Mailed Some LEGOs to Alaska, Guys!

Every time I ask you guys I think this time it’s not gonna make a dent and oh boy did you ever make a dent:

You’re all just so great.

A.

In Loving and Awed Memory of Tom Butler, First Draft Krewe

You ever get shown up thoroughly by someone twice your age?

Tom Butler and his wife June did that to me in 2007 in NOLA. Longtime readers may remember we assembled a bunch of Internet people who’d never met (pictured above) to go to New Orleans to gut a house in the aftermath of Katrina. Tom, second from left up there, absolutely kicked my ass.

He and June, beside him as always, hauled out barrow after barrow, bucket after bucket, of filth from this roach-ridden rotting hulk of a flooded home in 90-degree heat and 90 percent humidity, working dawn to dusk with hardly a break to make this busted thing a home again. I needed a long lie-down after about two hours of swinging a sledgehammer and all Tom did was keep working. He smiled the whole time.

Tom passed away this morning. He was generous, kindhearted and true, and helped where he could, always. Our condolences to June and her family, and Tom, I hope, is somewhere finally resting up.

A.

LET’S MAIL SOME LEGOS TO ALASKA

I dunno if anybody else is struggling right now but I AM. Holy balls, am I ever.

The world is a dark miserable shitass place and being on Twitter is losing its goddamn charm as all I ever see is people attacking each other over who’s really a Bernie bro and who humped their cat and who has the WORST ideas for revamping local news and who I used to love yesterday who now has to be cancelled because he has revenge or rape or race-war fantasies.

And I do not have a hot take on any of it. I’m just annoyed by everything. Once upon a time I would have enjoyed laughing at Cat Humper Twitter as much as I did David Cameron Dead Pig Humper Twitter, but lately my overarching reaction is just to be really, really tired by everyone’s antics. Which is not productive. Or helpful.

You know what is?

MAILING LEGOS TO ALASKA. 

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Not Everything Sucks

People are racing dogs across Alaska and other people are raising money for the schools along the way:

A.

Not Everything Sucks

The MERL had a bat in its library:

A.

Not Everything Sucks

There are people sending books to kids in prison: 

Liberation Library provides books to youth in prison to encourage imagination, self-determination and connection to the outside worlds of their choosing. We believe access to books is a right, not a privilege. We believe books and relationships empower young people to change the criminal justice system.

Go, learn, and donate if that’s within your power.

A.

The Women Have Always Been Here

Yep: 

Before lifelong activist Florence Reece took the stage to sing her now-iconic labor anthems, she sat at the kitchen table writing those songs from the perspective as a mother and wife—and as a union agitator. “Unofficial social worker” Edith Easterling leveraged her local knowledge, and the federal resources she gained access to as a staffer for the anti-poverty program known as Appalachian Volunteers, to launch her own personal war on poverty at home in Pike County, Kentucky, with the Marrowbone Folk School—and saw her daughter Sue Ella follow her footsteps straight into the civil rights movement via multiracial youth organizing efforts. When Appalachian health activist Eula Hall opened the Mud Creek Clinic and Dr. Elinor Graham taught mountain women how to self-administer breast and pelvic exams and provided information on birth control, they were enabling poor women to take control of their own bodies and make their own childbearing decisions.

Discussions of women’s movements that leave out poor and lower-middle-class women who have always had to work and fight and scrap and “resist” for what they needed drive me bonkers. We have these “lean in” moments where it seems like it’s all about our personal fulfillment and our private desires, instead of about the baby eating or the roof getting fixed. Women have had to fight for those things long before (and will long after) the slogan-embossed tote bags wear out.

A.

Real Antifa

It’s almost like everything Fox says is wrong: 

“I think pretty much everything is overlooked except fighting and doxxing,” Spencer Sunshine, an activist who does counter-organizing against the far right, tells me. “There is a huge amount of other work that people can – and do – do! Some of these actions include removing fascist propaganda, making anti-racist flyers and stickers, doing educational work about white nationalist organizing, raising money and doing direct support for imprisoned anti-fascist activists, aiding the victims of far-right violence, holding memorial events for murder victims and genocides, and pressuring local businesses to refuse to allow fascists to use their space.”

Of all the horrors of the past 2 years (holy hell, how has it been 2 years), the most incomprehensible to me has been the general mainstream suburban white opinion that those who fight Nazis are somehow wrong or gauche or something.

A.

Lookit What You Did!

Thanks to your generosity, First Drafters, you paid for Christmas gifts for 85 KIDS. The money you raised for the St. Hyacinth Food Pantry bought gift cards, toys, games, mittens and other necessary stuff for the children whose parents shop there each month.

I’m heading up tomorrow to help them sort through some more donated things, but this is the nicest part: They’ll all get something new and nice for the holidays, thanks to you!

They’ll be able to go get a snack or a treat or something frivolous with their friends without having to worry about it for once. That kind of freedom is delicious when you don’t always have it.

You rock, all y’all.

A.

Big Gavel Energy

I’m not one for body language analysis when the shit that comes out of Trump’s mouth-anus is so horrific but honestly, the way he turns away from Nancy while she’s talking and looks at Chuck like, “women, amirite?” should be in some kind of Man-seum.

At this point not only am I okay with keeping Nancy “Big Dig Energy” Pelosi as leader, I will not rest until she is QUEEN. To sit there calmly while President Fucknut waves his hand at her to literally dismiss her, spews nonsense about a border wall, and says “I’m proud to shut down the government” like he’s not making campaign ads for his 2020 opponent until the end of time … well, that’s restraint I don’t have.

Everything about this is an illustration of a competent woman in a business meeting with an idiot man and his idiot enablers (Chuckles included, for not decking his ass) but it’s also, you know, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES telling the incoming Speaker of the House that she sucks, which is not how anything should work.

A.

You Can Run On For a Long Time

I thought of Sue and Kim this morning: 

They were standing by a lamp post, this middle-aged couple. They could have been my parents, in another life. They could have been yours.

Sue and Kim. He retired after 33 years working for the state. She still worked for the state, on a temporary contract that kept getting extended. They’d had pay freezes for half a dozen years, when they didn’t have pay cuts. They weren’t getting wealthy on their pensions. They weren’t sporting $60 haircuts. They lived in a small town. They were trying to hold on to what they had.

Behind them, around Madison’s beautiful Capitol, people walked with kids and dogs, and cops watched from their bikes and horses. A man in a Badger costume danced on the steps. A man with an accordion played.

“This is where we were 18 months ago when the protests began,” Kim said. “We thought we would finish where we started.”

I hope they were there last night. I hope they stayed up til morning. I hope they saw the moment they were looking for all those years ago.

There were a lot of things I wanted to happen last night that did — get ready for subpeonas, you dogfaced tangerine fascist — and lots that didn’t — Ted Cruz is still in Congress which seems insane to me. But mostly what I wanted was a win for all the thousands of people who stood at the Capitol building in 2011, in the dark in the rain in the snow in the cold, against impossible odds, against the certainty of loss, facing the whole apparatus of power and holding back defeat with drums and songs and kindness and hope.

It’s hard to describe if you didn’t see it. I know seven years is a lifetime ago. But I’m German Roman Catholic and I grew up in Wisconsin with people who were raised in the shadow of the Great Depression. When we want to hold a grudge, we make it a story and we teach it to our children and our children’s children, and until the day I die I will be telling you about the roar.

The Capitol in Madison is made of marble, with a rotunda three floors deep. Thousands strong, and it echoed, like the hammer in a forge, pounding, the kind of sound that rattles your ribs and rises in your throat.

At first it was just the teachers. Then the steelworkers. Then the firefighters. Then the ironworkers and the police officers and the corrections workers, the prison guards came not to make sure the doors were locked but to throw them open. Everyone came. Old women with walkers. Mothers with small children. Everyone, and the sound never stopped, not even in the middle of the night, rumbling down from the basement rising up to the rafters, and it seemed impossible that it would ever fall silent.

It did. The bills to gut worker protection and punish teachers passed. The recall failed. Another attempt to unseat him failed. Scott Walker had his way with the University of Wisconsin and gave away the store to Foxconn and presided over unprecedented racism as the state went for Trump with a vengeance.

If you had told me six months ago that last night was possible I’d have called you a liar. But I’d have forgotten the roar. Seven years is a lifetime but last night, as the vote totals flipped back and forth, it was all I could hear.

I hope Sue and Kim heard it. I hope they and the thousands of others who stood up all those years ago heard it and raised their voices and, in the predawn hours of a victory so long in coming, sang along.

A.

Go Tell That Long Tongue Liar

I voted last week, voted early, to get it out of the way and not have to worry about getting up early or staying out late. I’m coming to the end of a serious hell-period at work and Mr. A is leaving tonight for a week overseas, and the time change is fucking with Kick’s sleep in a way it never has before, and it didn’t seem sensible to leave this to chance.

I didn’t expect it to make me feel like a superhero or anything. I’ve been in the streets every other weekend, family beside me, against misogyny and family separation and the general garbage fire of the world. We are not un-engaged right now. Kick insisted we bake cookies for the volunteers at the local Dem organizing office, insisted her father deliver them.

I didn’t expect voting to make me feel like a superhero; these small things don’t feel like enough. A friend might have to leave the country. Another found swastikas spray-painted in the park where his children play. The synagogue in Pittsburgh, a friend’s father prays there. This is about faces I see every day. Faces I want to continue to see.

My new OB-GYN mentioned to me that if I wanted to get an IUD I should do it soon. While they were still easy to obtain. We both thought about Mike Pence, and shuddered.

To so many people quoted in these Trump supporter stories, the rage seems so abstract: They think someone somewhere is getting something free and they don’t like that. The caravan is miles away. Football players are kneeling, but only on TV. Their taxes have gone up but they can’t tell you by how much. They’ve heard things, think they’re at risk, like the people in Chicago suburbia scared shitless after 9/11: there is no danger here at all.

The small things I can do — vote, donate, take my kid to rallies, write letters, write posts — don’t seem like enough. But I have to believe, as we all hold our breath today and think and wish and work and love, that we are building muscles we can use for years to come.

I went looking for this video this morning, from the 2011 protests in Wisconsin against Scott Walker and Act 10.

I remember all the carping after we lost the recall election and lost the election against Walker again, all the worry that “we” had done this wrong, had talked too loud, run this person or that person and that’s why we lost. We should have had better ways to do this then, and it’s impossible to say that’s wrong. But it’s also possible to say that our rage today is built on those bones.

That loss, those losses, felt like dying, and we said at the time, pay attention, this is what’s coming for all of you. It gave us a language to use to resist, and if we prevail tonight and in the coming days, if we rise up like that again and lose and lose and keep losing those losses will pile high enough for us to climb.

The small things I can do don’t feel like enough, and that’s because by themselves, they’re not.

A.

Do Something Right Now

Well, who DOESN’T feel helpless this morning?

Friend of Blog Jude points us to this fundraiser being held in Madison, Wis. for the Trans Law Help Center, a volunteer legal aid clinic helping people dealing with the Trump administration’s ever-erupting volcano of bullshit.

If you can’t attend, I’ll match the first $100 in donations to the center, run through Community Justice Inc, just link to a pic of your receipt in the comments. Fuck the fascists.

A.

People Have Always Fought Back

In the worst times, people fought back: 

 The Bund created youth groups, newspapers, illegal schools, and a courier service that transmitted news across occupied Poland; the latter’s operatives exchanged information at soup kitchens that the Bund set up as cover. Money came from New York-based organizations like the Jewish Labor Committee (founded by Vladeck), smuggled by Jewish girls pale enough to pass as Polish gentiles. Later, that money paid for hiding places and guns. After October 1940, when Nazis began herding Warsaw’s Jews into the Ghetto, the Bund organized the teeming tenements into committees dedicated to cultural, as well as physical, survival.

[…]

The Bund’s long relationship with Polish socialists allowed them to breach the ghetto walls, sneak in Polish resistance soldiers, and provide the world with some of the first accounts of the Nazi genocide, through the testimonies of Zalman Freidrych and Jan Karski. Through these networks, news filtered out, and weapons flowed in. In April 1943, three months after the first brief battle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, one final arms shipment smuggled by Bundists got through the Ghetto walls.

How many Nazi troops died in that doomed revolt is still disputed. Three hundred, according to Bundist Marek Edelman, who assumed command of the ZOB, after its first leader committed suicide to avoid surrender. Sixteen, claimed the SS commander Jürgen Stroop, who had every reason to suppress the true figures. What is known is that it took the most feared military force in Europe three weeks to subdue 750 starving, inadequately-armed captives. Even then, the ghetto fell not to fighting, but to fires, set by German flamethrowers and incendiary bombs. Some 13,000 Jews died in the rebellion. In London, Artur Ziegelboim, the Bund’s representative in the Polish parliament in exile, took poison in a futile attempt to rouse the world from its indifference. The words of his suicide note read: “I love you all. Long live the Bund.”

Emphasis mine. Read the whole thing.

A.

Not Everything Sucks: Free Food Edition

Whenever Black Lives Matter does anything in downtown Chicago, where, you know, people pay attention to stuff, the local newspaper’s highly paid scolds bitch that the young activists never “protest in their own communities” and ask where their attention is to the problems people in Chicago’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

Right here, you smug jackwagons: 

The location of the food box was picked when members of Black Lives Matter Chicago, who at the time were volunteering at the Bronzeville Community Garden, learned people in the community were going hungry, Ethan said. So they decided to commit to stocking the box with food. He said already there’s been a great deal of positive community feedback.

A.

We’ve been showing up. Every damn day.

This kind of thing spread across the Twitters during the hours when it looked certain, instead of just likely, that the GOP was going to put a rapist on the Supreme Court:

And, I’m sorry, but no, they would not have shut down the country.

They would have shut down one hallway of one Senate office building, and occupied one suburban office park, and the national media led by Fox News and talk radio would MAKE IT SOUND LIKE they had shut down the country.

That’s what happened in 2000 and the way I know it would go else-ways for Dems is that I was at the Iraq War protests. Ignoring the media disparity to slag on the only viable opposition party as being insufficiently brave is not great, here.

I’m sick and fucking tired of this meme among Democrats that Democrats aren’t doing anything to stop this. Cory Booker tried to get himself and his colleagues frickin’ expelled, to stop this. Kamala Harris walked out of the hearing, to stop this. Maizie Hirono literally called bullshit, to stop this. Diane Feinstein, who is 400 years old, pinned Lisa Murkowski to the wall and yelled in her face, to stop this. None of it MATTERS without power.

Until November, giving speeches is all they CAN do. They do not command the U.S. military and they hold neither legislative house (yet). If every single Democrat walked out of Congress right now and sat down on the courthouse steps and vowed to stay there til the end of time, Republicans would … still have the votes to do everything they’re doing, plus all the TV cameras for them to call Democrats babies.

Dem legislators and activists held a whole ass protest on the steps of the courthouse Friday, anyway, not that anyone covered it with a fraction of the urgency they lend to a Republican county commissioner bitching about his taxes.

As for rank-and-file Dems, the outside-the-Capitol leadership? Well shit, every goddamn weekend and just about every weekday there’s a rally, a protest, a march. Against separating families, against mass incarceration, for racial justice, against voter suppression. There was a whole-ass Women’s March, fucking twice. Right now in Chicago there’s a hotel workers’ strike going on. There is no shortage of fights.

Women, especially black women, have been out here fighting the fights and running the races, registering people to vote, while Dem-bros lament the lack of, I dunno, physical barricades. And if there were physical barricades, you bet your ass women would be on them first.

Women are on them now, walking literal gauntlets to get reproductive healthcare, so let’s not forget whose bodies we’re advocating we throw on the wheels. A bloody revolution sounds like a fuckload of awesome fun if you’re not the one who’s gonna bleed.

There are a lot of people who aren’t fighting at all, much less fighting on our side. They’re the ones who need to be mobilized, not the people already at the front, raising their voices as loud as they can, despite the Fox News-following national press cutting their mics.

A.

My Boyfriend John Kerry Has a Book Out and is Thus Everywhere

Globe. Twitter.  Colbert, where he was just idiotically charming and inspiring as usual:

He’s 18 feet tall and I love him so much. I love how boringly passionate he is about the actual, you know, COUNTRY, and his job, and all the ordinary stuff you’re supposed to care about when you work for us.

I’m so glad he talked about trying to bring McCain onto the ticket in 2004, because I feel like that was a real chance to stop what’s happened since, and not enough people recognized it at the time. Fuck, I will never be over the 2004 election. We fought so goddamn hard and goddamn did we lose.

And let me just say, this is not the place for shit-talking Kerry nor, quite frankly, any other potential 2020 candidate as UGH GOD NO (even if said candidate is Bernie or Hillz). For starters, literally nothing a Democrat is doing right now in order to stand up to the president is bad, and after that, the earth is caving in NOW. The people throwing dynamite into the chasm hope we’re all out here on Left Twitter screaming at each other about 2020, so we won’t notice there are kids still in cages.

Hillary shouldn’t go knit and Bernie shouldn’t shut up and Kerry and Biden and every other Democrat shouldn’t go away. I’m sick of the chorus of nay-sayers for EVERYBODY.

Look. We’re gonna get who we get in 2020. We’re all gonna fight like hell for who we want and then we’re gonna get who we get and in case you think I’m just mouthing at you here are my votes in the presidential primaries in order as I remember them: Bill Clinton, John McCain (trying to stop Bush), Howard Dean, Chris Dodd, Bernie Sanders. I have never gotten what I wanted at the top of the ticket, never even once, and I know a hell of a lot of other people in the same exact boat.

Denis Leary had a joke about how dumb it was to ban gay people from serving in the military, went something like, “You want to fuck other guys? Here’s another guy and a gun, go!” That’s kind of how I feel about potential presidential candidates. I LOVE BERNIE! Here’s Bernie and a bunch of voter registration forms, go! I love Cory Booker! Here’s Cory Booker and a phone bank, go! I love Kamala Harris! Here’s Kamala Harris and some yard signs, go!

Nobody’s too old or too young or too conservative or too liberal or too socialist or too ANYTHING right now.

We need more loud and proud voices from the left AND center-left of American politics right now. We need more of literally any point of view that isn’t the Trump/Ryan/McConnell complex. I don’t want to see anybody shouted down right now. I want us all out there at the top of our lungs saying my candidate thinks what’s happening is crap and so do I and so do all my friends and we’re gonna vote.

It’s too early to tell people to shut up. We’ve barely started talking.

A.

ps. For more on the not-at-all-controversial topic of “whatever, I will vote for a pile of dogshit with a D after its name for every office in the land from now until the end of time,” see this piece from before the 2016 election. Been banging this drum for a while.

pps. Seriously, lay off Kerry, he very nearly unseated an incumbent Republican president during wartime, and until recently he was trying to keep us out of nuclear war even though nobody was paying him to do that, you ungrateful childish fucks.