Dec 31, 2008

Stone steps

The accidents that made us

Sarah Anne was not German, not really, but if you had believed her you would have believed she’d come up with the whole country herself. She was insanely proud of the place and the people and would always, for any reason, argue for German superiority.

Sarah Anne was the daughter of immigrants, but was born in the U.S. and lived in the U.S. like every other citizen. She lived in the suburbs, drove a sedan, spent time online, and rented me a basement room. I think she maybe spent a year in Germany, after college, with her fiancé, but even that might have been the exaggeration of a three-month vacation with a very bored boyfriend. But none of that mattered, the only truth was she had a fetish for all things German, a fixation, and she wouldn’t let go.

First thing, when I moved in, she gave me some picture hangers. “These are better,” she said. “They’re German.” She told me I should throw away my mattress and get a German bed, which is basically a pallet and a pad. “I have a bed,” I said, and Sarah Anne said, “Well it’s awful. I have the German kind. It’s a lot better.” Sarah Anne believed in German superiority, and would always think it was important to say. Germans had better cars and clerks, washing machines and anything engineered, better houses, better desserts, better manners, better words, and better weather. Germans had a better way of drinking water, better beer, better transportation, better education, better towns and better traditions. I can’t remember all of the better German things, but basically, for Sarah Anne, everything German was always superior. If she had been a planet, Germany would have been her sun, because she just went around and around and around it.

I tried to not talk to her, and when I had to talk to her I tried to not say things like, “stick a braut in it lady, your family immigrated, OK? You have nothing to do with Germany.” But for Mary Anne, the accident of her heritage was very important. She hung on to it, thinking it gave her something important, thinking it gave her access to something right.

Martin Heidegger believed thinking was better in German. Philosophy, he thought, thorough thinking and the sort of thoughts that are deep enough and sturdy enough to bear to the real weight of thinking, they have to happen auf Deutsch.

This was a very German thing to think. This is the logic of the compound word: Singularity over multiplicity; unity over diversity. In German, it’s better to have one huge, long word to express an idea. The complicated compound is preferred. It’s better than having a swarm of ant-like words crawling all over a thought. In German it is better to be right than flexible, and precision is preferred to synonyms.

When this came up, in the seminar I took on Heidegger, none of us English-speaking philosophy majors considered it serious. What we wanted to know was how far this dumb idea, this linguistic prejudice, affected (or infected) Heidegger. None of us gave even a suspicion of credence to the idea that we were barred from thinking because of the language of our births. It was just not an idea we could consider. Not just because it meant we would never think thoroughly, but because the concept of linguistic superiority seemed so obviously absurd. We couldn’t just oppose the idea, because for us the question couldn’t be about German superiority, but would have to be about why the hell someone would think this. The idea that truth is only accessible in a single language was as unacceptable to us as the Jim Crow rule about “a drop of Negro blood” or as unacceptable as attributing Jewish paternity to Satan – We couldn’t even consider the idea in order to reject it, couldn’t consider it even possibly true, and couldn’t even accept the conditions of asking it as a question.

This, I know now, is part of the character of English. The language was born out of two languages dwelling together, developed as Norman boys tried to woo Saxon girls, as Saxon cows were sold for Norman meals, as unified language systems were cracked and scrambled. English is a language with at least two words for everything, from the third person of the trinity to excrement. English is a language of multiplicity, diversity, and flexibility. The greatest English writers are the ones who make up new words and new grammars, who take the language and bend it and beat it and batter it, believing not in Germanic rigidity, but in rhythm, uproar, and delicious riot. The language has flourished with ages of global trade, as an international language, in part, because it’s better when it’s mixed up. It’s better when it’s expanded with mutation and “misuse,” experimentation and play. So to be born into English means it’s impossible to think one language is somehow superior, or uniquely related to the nature and structure of being.

But we didn’t choose this idea, or come up with this idea, and we couldn’t escape it. Heidegger couldn’t unthink his thoughts on thinking, English-speaking philosophy students can’t take that idea seriously, and I can’t prefer compound-word contusions. I have nothing to do with it, anymore than Sarah Anne had anything to do with Germany.

We are stuck here. These are inescapable accidents. We are and always will be who we are, stuck in the language spoken before we spoke, before we were even conceived. We do not get a say about these things, and if we did, we could only speak with the language we knew.

The danger, though, is not in being bound by the gravitational force of our language, but in thinking we’re free. The danger is in thinking we have slipped the bonds, escaped our orbit and sailed clean away. What we do – what I do – is take credit for choices which were decided by accident before I was born. But there is no breaking orbit, and Sarah Anne didn’t engineer German engineering, and none of us can escape the accidents that made us.

Dec 29, 2008

Shutter grain

"He had closed his store permanently and was at home all day now. He and Miss Rosa lived in the back of the house, with the front door locked and the front shutters closed and fastened, and where, so the neighbors said, he spent the day behind one of the slightly opened blinds like a picquet on post, armed not with a musket but with the big family bible ... until a detachment of troops would pass: whereupon he would open the bible and declaim in a harsh loud voice even above the sound of tramping feet, the passages of the old violent vindictive mysticism which he had already marked as the actual picquet would have ranged his row of cartridges along the window sill."

-- William Faulkner, in Absaolm, Absalom!

Dec 26, 2008

Watching the sky

My Germany photos will be here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielsilliman

Dec 24, 2008

Hope incarnate

That a baby born out of wedlock, a boy born in the middle east, a placenta-covered, fleshy, helpless and screaming child is the intervention of God.

Dec 23, 2008

Train to Tübingen

The sun doesn't come out, on the train ride south. It doesn't come up, break through, shine forth. There're tracks and factories, farmland and frayed frostings of left-over snow, and the train goes south in the morning, into the morning of the first day, but the sun doesn't come.

On the Frankfort platform, platform six, the day is gray. Moving south, into some trees that are tall and thin and let the light filter in, the day is gray but the gray gets lighter, washing out until it's just translucent dingy sky.

A boy helps his mother into a long plush coat. Two women have their mullets dyed hot pink in exactly the same spots. Someone, somewhere, has coffee, and the smell comes down the length of the moving train. Two girls, behind me, talk all the way and I eavesdrop only as a technicality, since I don't understand any of this. The boy across from me kisses the girl with the big nose for four stops straight, without breathing, and then when she gets off, she looks at him through the window and smiles. She gives a self-conscious little wave.

I wake up when my book falls to the floor. I wake up knowing I'm on a train, but not knowing where the train is, or where it's going or where it's been. My book -- a little hardback -- starts to slide with a turn and I touch it with a toe, holding it. Somewhere, somebody laughs. I assume it's at me. Though logically it can't be, I assume.

I get off the train when everyone gets off and go to try to read the map. This is some sort of end, or anyway the cars all emptied here. The sky is variegated in versions of gray. The edges are turning like bad milk in coffee. I'm trying to see if I missed my stop and have to go back. The sign doesn't say where we are, in the agat type lists of locations and little boxes. But then I hear it.

I don't believe it. But I hear it. I turn around, not knowing where to look and, exhausted so I'm having trouble even seeing, I'm sort of shuffle-stomping, looking, I'm sure, like a blind elephant, and then there she is. Beth with a big grin. Beth bundled up until all I can see is her big smile and giant eyes and then she hugs me and says, "you're here. I can't believe it. Oh you're here."

Dec 17, 2008

Delta Flight No. DL0116


from Waking Life

It's a familiar feeling. Like swimming in spring, plunging into the water after winter, I remember this.

The room returns to anonymity, as I pack. My presence is put away, my permanence peeled back, and then there's just a couple bags in the corner. A couple things in a couple of bags and this is it. Now I own nothing but this. Now I've put everything away except some essentials, and most of those I'll hand over and let someone else handle, letting them loose and losing control.

There's freedom here, with my couple of bags and my print-out stand-by ticket, but only as I give up, let go, and let myself get carried away.

Traveling is like an exercise in learning to recognize control is an illusion, a self-delusion, something silly I imagine to make myself seem safe and seem like the center of things. But traveling, by bus or by plane, with friends or strangers, means the chance to let myself be free.

Morning comes through the window while I'm packing and this is the day. I didn't make it happen and couldn't make it go away. To myself I say, "here we are."

Here I let go. Here I let myself drift away, surrendering to the sky and the security guy and schedules I have nothing to do with. Here I trust things to work out, even though I have no control. Here I have no say, except for surrender, for unmoored hope, and for how I tell the story.

Dec 15, 2008

The 10 books I'm taking to Germany:

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
Blade Runner, by Philip K. Dick (in German)
Dissemination, by Jacques Derrida
Go Down, Moses, by William Faulkner
Light in August, by William Faulkner
The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, by John Caputo
Sanctuary, by William Faulkner
Selected Poems by Robert Creeley
The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
Ordered everyone to come out
(My last crime story)

A men held for an $80,000 ransom was freed from a Clayton County mobile home, five days after he was kidnapped out of his Duluth apartment.

Clayton and Gwinnett county police -- detectives, SWAT teams, crisis negotiators, and uniformed patrol -- surrounded the 404 Fleetwood Trail trailer at a few minutes after midnight Friday. Gwinnett County Detective Sgt. Eddie Restrepo got on a bullhorn and ordered everyone to come out with their hands up.

Three men came out of the pink, tin-sided mobile home, the 37-year-old hostage and two men, who were allegedly holding him against his will, 20-year-old Salvador Ernesto Salgado and 19-year-old Juan Torres Tobar.

The short-lived siege ended a five-day long kidnapping, 48 miles away from where it began.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily: Gwinnett kidnapping ends in Jonesboro seige

Dec 12, 2008

Homicides to Date

The press got all the facts (more or less), it got too many of them. But it never found a way to report meaningfully about death, which of course was really what it was all about.
                  -- Michael Herr


After two-and-a-half years as a crime reporter, this is the final tally of my dead.

... 98, 99, 100.

This was some way to keep track, a sticky note and a quote from Michael Herr, some feeble sort of system to make things succinct, even if it didn't really sum up anything.

My first murder victim was Michael Sendars, who was shot in the head with a .45, while smoking weed. The last, number 100, was Alesha Merritt, found strangled and dead on the floor of her bedroom.

In between one and 100, the names slip, scatter like animals in front of a fire, and all I have are the colorless numbers and little, unshakable details.

... 75, 76, 77.

The details come in rushes of remembering, unlike the long line of numbers. They come in flustered flocks, each free from the other but connected somehow. They come -- they come, each trying to carry the whole of the horror of murder.

I remember buttons, popped off and leading through the carpet, like a raped Gretel's bread crumbs. I remember the woman's head was wrapped with an ace bandage, before the house was burned down around her. I remember the man tried to say something, but only blood came out. No one could say what was in the note the murdered man wrote to his girlfriend. I remember the mattress covering the body, the wire hanger scratches in the baby's throat, the way the dead driver's car crashed into a pond, and I remember the black spot, where the body was burned near the "No Dumping" sign. I remember the man beaten with bricks, and his family said he wasn't homeless. I remember the man who asked the hooker for help, but she ran. I remember no one in the old motel thought it important to report the screams.

50.
51.
52.

I can't remember all their names. It seems like I should, like something as searing as death should be unforgettable, like tragedies should be unique, tragedies shouldn't suffer the losses of memory and time. It seems like I should curate the 100 names, though I know I can't and don't really think I'm supposed to. I just say is as an approximation of the guilt.

I turned it into a rite, writing about the murdered. I made it a religious ritual. It was a way to pray for the dead. It was a way to wish for resurrection, to believe the gospel, and hope for the salvation of this swamp of human shit.

It was a feeble sort of system.

I suppose it made this work seem more important than it really was. I know it left me with this sort of weight, heart palpitations and hunched shoulders. What I wanted to do was make people cry, make people empathize and wish, somewhere down where they weren't really thinking about it, for grace that's gratuitous. I don't know if that's even possible, though. I don't know, and I guess I can't know, if I succeeded.

... 18, 19, and 20. 21. 22. 23.

I'm done now. Two-and-a-half years, and at the end of today I'll get up from my desk, and walk away. I'm done now, and this is what I can say, I reported on 100 murders. I counted them, and I tried to write their stories so it'd break your heart.

Dec 10, 2008

All these things

Makayla Denise Valley, only a year and a half old, was apparently punched repeatedly until she died.

Her head was bashed into a hard surface, until her brain began to bleed, and her liver ruptured, leaking red-brown into her belly until it was swollen and distended in the autopsy photos shown to the jury in the murder trial.

The jury of nine women and five men saw more than a dozen photos of the dead baby Tuesday, as the murder trail of Philanders Lamont Bowie moved past alleged confessions and questions of lies to scientific evidence. A 27-year-old from Louisiana, Bowie allegedly wanted to stop his girlfriend's child from crying, and beat her to death in 2005.

He has been charged with child abuse and murder. His former girlfriend, Candace Jakes, testified against him last week. She has not been charged with anything.

In the first autopsy photo shown to the jury, as Medical Examiner Laura Darrisaw testified, Valley was spread-eagle, naked except for her diaper, bloated and covered in red and purple bruises. In other photos, showing the dead baby's stomach and face, the scattering of bruises seemed to be uncountable. In a final photo, left lingering on an overhead projector as the jury took a morning break, the child's skin was starting to look like plastic, in death, and the stomach was opened to the deep, disturbing red of the fatal wound.

"This is not a normal child," said Darrisaw, an expert in children's autopsies. "This is a severe beating that this child had."

Darrisaw testified the Valley suffered "multiple strikes with a fist," and had "just lots of bruises" on her face, head, back, arms, chest and stomach. "This is not like a boxing match, going 10 rounds. This is a child, who sustained all these things with a short time, and then dies."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Jury sees photos of dead baby, in murder trial

Dec 9, 2008

I guess I believe the experts, when they say journalism is dying. I don't have any evidence they're wrong. But, sitting here in a newsroom, I realize that I don't care. So what if it's dying? So is the sun. So are the Biblical withering grass and flowers. If the industry, and everything on paper, really does eventually pass away, it doesn't change anything.

I'm usually a pretty pessimistic person, but when I think of journalism, I have a hard time being gloomy. You know why? Because this is a fantastic job.

Maybe it's just me, but I love being a reporter, and if people ever stop reading papers, I'll thank them for having read them at all. Because being a reporter has been great.

Read the final column @ the Clayton News Daily: Thanks for reading

Dec 8, 2008

But just blinked

Mills also urged the young murderer to make things right.

"My plea this morning is that you ask God to forgive you," she said. "I forgive you, but your heart has to be right if you want to see God in peace. However, I am not a judge in the courts, or of this world. But one thing is for sure, God will have the final say. All that he requires of me is to forgive and love and I openly say that I forgive, whether you ask for it or not."

Winslow, wearing an olive-brown suit and shackles, didn't say anything, but just blinked.

The 17-year-old has been arrested and brought to juvenile court at least once a year since 2002, when the then-11-year-old was charged with battery, according to court officer, Michael Richards. Winslow has had charges of battery and assault dismissed, according to court records; has been sentenced to probation on charges of trespassing and burglary. A few years ago, Winslow walked away from a car wreck that killed two other teens, who had allegedly been fleeing from police in the stolen ride. They died, but Winslow only suffered a scar on his right eye.

"Jeffrey Winslow is a danger to himself and to the community," Richards said, during the sentencing. "This officer is not sure if the detention can change Jeffrey, but for three years, he would benefit. He would have around-the-clock guidance and supervision."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily: 'His blood yet screams for justice'

See also:
Winslow guilty of murder
4 said to connect juvenile to murder
Juvenile murder trial starts
Mourners talk of lure of 'fast money'
Judge: Prosecutors can't have another delay
Judge rules again DA is 'negligent'
DA: We weren't 'negligent'
Juvenile murder trial would be first of its kind
Murder suspect to be tried as juvenile
Facing indictment delay, murdered boy's mother asks for justice
Teen murder suspect to be tried as adult
Teen murder suspect could be charged as adult
Arrest made in Flint River teen's murder
Family struggles to deal with murder, funeral costs
Police seeking information about shooting suspect
The ways we measure

Joel said it so I couldn’t quite tell how big of a boast it was. We were standing in the farmers market, where the Christmas trees were cut and stacked, fluffed and set up for sale, and Joel pointed at the one he had standing in the corner.

“The tallest tree on the market,” he said.

The tree was scraggily on the one side, untrimmed and shaggy up high, with gaps between the branches below. But the tree was tall. It was up above the edge of the roof, jutting green past the rain gutter in a long, waving, waggling stem.

He said “on,” not “in,” and I don’t know if he meant the farmers market, the rows of sheds and this imported forest of fresh-cut trees, or if he meant the market in some more abstract sense. Did he mean this square of cement, this competition of Christmas tree farmers outside Atlanta, or of all the hillsides of Frasier Firs in North Carolina?

We all choose how we want to be judged, but who was measuring, in his mind?

Was he waiting for the approval of the customers, the young families or the fancy ladies or the wholesale buyers? Was he waiting for me?

“Look at that top,” Joel said. “It’s got to be … four or five feet above the roof.”

He was overestimating, though. Exaggerating. It was only about three feet past the roof, and that was a wild wiggle a Christmas tree farmer would trim, on a shorter tree.

But this one was the tallest tree. This one was reaching up where none of us could reach. And even if it was a little ugly, even if this measurement was a little Freudian, in the cheap connotation of compensation, if height was what mattered, than this tree was the tallest.

If I accepted that, judged it like that. Then none of the other stuff mattered. If I saw as a tree, and didn't worry about what it meant or make it all literary, then the questions wouldn't persist and this, the tallest tree, would just be.

(How did it grow this tall? Did he always know this is what he was doing, or did he just let it grow, ignoring it in some corner, some shadow? Was it a conscious decision, to hold himself to this standard, or did it seem like there was no other way to measure?)

I looked up at the tree and he looked up with me. I held a camera and Joel had a orange chainsaw. We were quiet, and the tree leaned into the building and into the sky, and we watched it, appreciatively, just looking at the way it didn’t really seem to belong here.

“How tall is it?” I said.

“Twenty-two feet,” he said.

“And how tall are you?”

“Four-foot-nine,” he said.

Tree Farmer

Dec 6, 2008

"What kind of shit is this?"
      - Candace Jakes, responding to a photo of her abused and murdered baby

Dec 4, 2008

Odetta, who gave voice to the Civil Rights movement with her powerful and dynamic singing, who said “The folk songs were — the anger," and who wanted to sing at Barack Obama's inauguration, died on Tuesday at the age of 77.

May she rest in peace.

Dec 3, 2008

Babu Sassi

Up near the top of the tallest building in the world, a crane operater lives in his crane. They call him "the Indian on top of the world," and he's something of a cult figure, a legend, like a cross between Mr. Kurtz and John Henry.

It's an act, they're saying at my new favorite blog, of revolution. Because "Sometimes just making yourself at home is revolutionary."

Dec 2, 2008

In This Spot
In This Spot

Standing in the spot where her son died a year ago, Janice Williams cried.

The winter wind flattened the tears as they traced down her cheek to her chin. She wiped them away. Standing there in front of a boarded-up gas station, in front of discarded tires and torn-apart pumps, she held tightly to a framed photo of her son, and she cried.

"My son was laying out here and all I could see was his feet," she said, and then she apologized for crying. "I'm just upset," she said.

David Nave, Jr., 19, was shot and killed at the vacant Shell station on Tara Boulevard, near the Mt. Zion intersection, on Nov. 27, 2007. He was shot three times by sheriff's deputies, who shouted "Stop running!" before they fired the fatal shots into Nave, according to witnesses. The day of the 19-year-old's death, Sheriff Victor Hill got on TV and said the shooting was justified, but now, a year has gone by and Williams is still waiting to see the evidence supposedly supporting that conclusion.

"I just don't understand why this had to happen, when he was doing so well," Williams said.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Questions unanswered, a year after shooting

Nov 29, 2008

'Sometimes they call me 'Ugly Man''

A big man in a Santa suit, he rode his little-bitty bike down to Wal-Mart.

Warren Brewer is 69 and he has a big, scraggly white beard. He owns two "Santy Claus" suits, one he "just growed out of," and one he "just growed into."

He had the new one on, that day, and he was going, he said, "to have all the babies seeing Santy Claus." So he took out the tiny bike he calls "Rudolph," and he peddled down Valley Hill Road to the Riverdale Wal-Mart. He rode down the hill on that little tiny bike, and then he came up a rise. Being so big, on such a small bike, he pulled on the handles and flipped over backwards, and landed on his rear.

There were a crowd of children there, and all of them laughed.

"I got up and said, 'That was a pretty good trick, wasn't it!'" Warren recalled. "I wanted to cry, 'cause it hurt, but you don't have to tell anybody that. I jumped up and said, 'That was a pretty good trick, wasn't it!'"

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily: The Santy Claus of Eunice Drive
Using a false name

Lester, he used to say, when he was in a confessing mood, he would say, “The only thing I ever did was fight with the cops.”

Lester was a grunt. He was proud of that. If you asked him, and sometimes even if you didn’t, he would tell you, he was just a grunt. He would tell you, no one listened to him and he had nothing to do with how fucked up everything was.

He used to smoke with the cigarette cupped in his hand, so if the boss rolled by where we were standing, he wouldn’t see Lester's smoke. Lester wasn’t supposed to smoke during jobs. But he did, because he was a grunt and he prized his little acts of defiance. He was actually the foreman, but still, that's what he'd do. He had this stringy hair, greasy down around his ears. He was missing teeth, from fights, and he had a long list of criminal conviction, all of which he characterized as misunderstandings. All except the one he admitted to.

"I did fight with the cops," Lester would say.

I’d ask him, “What about the other stuff? Driving drunk? Disturbing the peace? Using a false name?”

And he’d say, “Fucking authorities man.”

One of the characters invading Iraq in Generation Kill, suggests shooting an officer. It’s meant literally, a little bit, but pitched as an unfunny joke about how impossibly fucked up everything is. It’s meant as an expression of an anger and impotence. It's perfect “grunt.” It reminded me of Lester, that helpless frustration at incompetent bosses.

Generation Kill tells the Iraq war experience of grunts. Which is how we always tell our war stories. This Iraq war movie is like the last one from the last war, Jarhead. It's like almost all the Vietnam war movies and all the “Greatest Generation” kitsch, the WWII movies and mini series specials and documentaries. It’s democratic. It’s populist. This is how we always see ourselves: We are grunts.

Sometimes, we will act like this is very visionary and brave, to tell the war through the people who fought it. But we always do that, and it allows us to avoid all the really problematic questions, like responsibility. We don't know how this all got started, because we're just the grunts. The world was this FUBAR before we got here and we’re doing what we can, but we’re not the bosses, we’re not the authorities and nothing is really our fault.

I don't know why we persist with this idea of ourselves, now that we're the world’s lone superpower. We keep telling that story, with us as the grunts, even though it's really ridiculous. We keep telling it, maybe because it allows us to deny responsibility. We’re like the burnt-out hippie who owns the Fotohut in That ’70s Show, somehow incapable of realizing we’re the boss. Ownership is sort of incomprehensible. We’d rather think of ourselves as stupid, than in charge, and we take offense at the implication we’re not grunts.

Tracy, he used to do that -- get mad at me for implying he was an authority. He would be reprimanding me, getting angrier and angrier as he thought about how I was an impertinent punk, and I would try to calm him down with a respectful, “Yes sir. Yes sir.” Then he's get so mad his chest would squeeze and he’d squeak, “Don’t ‘sir’ me, Daniel. I work for a living.”

Of course, he didn’t work for a living. He sat in his musky office sneaking cognac, letching after students, and thinking of new ways to casually mention he had once spent an afternoon with William F. Buckley.

But if you asked him, and sometimes even if you didn’t, Tracy would tell you he was a grunt.

What about the other stuff? The Latin and Greek, the opera-singing wife, the position at a private school? “Fucking so-called authorities, I would say.”

Even those of us who aren’t close to being grunts insist we are. It’s almost like a mass delusion, some sort of confusion that’s come to define us and now, if we lost it, we would lose our minds. Call it democracy as self-deception. It’s populism as perpetuated amnesia: I don’t know who I am, but I don’t remember having anything to do with fucking up the world. I’m just a grunt.

That was the genius of the Bourne trilogy, I think. It’s the only really successful depiction of this post-Cold War consciousness. Rather than repeating the pathology, Bourne captures it. He, like us, doesn’t remember how he got here, has blocked out the memory of what he has to do with it, and is increasingly angry to have been put in this situation. He, like us, only admits to fighting with the cops, fighting back. But even as he says it, he knows and we know it’s ridiculous. Then, of course, in the last scene he’s told that actually he asked for this. He volunteered. He’s a willing participant, and can’t hide behind these petulant antics.

No one’s fooled by our stupid self-descriptions, eventually not even us – We know this innocence is really pretty damn faux. We've been using a false name. We're not grunts. We're not innocent. Maybe we need more movies about generals, but we should figure out how to take responsibility.
Jumble and surprise

Renaissance of cute
World-saving puns
Interview w. Shephard Fairey
The pirates' pictures
Pirates, pirates, pirates. This jail is full of pirates. This whole city is pirates.
Anomalies in the sky = dark matter?
Robots are more ethical as soldiers
The vexing, Napoleon Dynamite problem
"a letter by itself is nothing... words/words that go bang/the most significant is to dare.''
Helvetica on the subway
Life w/ Roland Dahl
Zadie Smith: 'novels attempt to cut neural routes through the brain'
City of shards: Beirut by Elias Khoury
The problems with James Woods
Pictures of punks; '76 - '84, London
Life Magazine photos now on Google
Cotton map/election map
Torture and the problem of "statelessness."
Why are you honking?
Urban alienation is a (regressive) myth
Beat letters
Is sadness healthy, distinct from depression?
Gender specific children
An essay unwritten
Why mailmen hoard mail
Revisiting Johnny Cash's prison performances
Consequences of gay marriare
10 problems with evangelicals
Squares live longer
In a world without stories...
Shakespeare wrote for money
MetroCard alibi
Obama, Ayers & Gross
Germany short on Santas
In defense of Drudge design
Zizek is Evil
Household landscapes
The man and his car
Victimhood is more comfortable than power
Crime is a symbol of our freedom

Nov 26, 2008

A ritual, a record of all the rain
Rainfall average

The record is in the feed store, hanging on the back of a post, in back of the counter.

It's dark brown, like the color of thick gravy, and has been there for 69 years, grease-pencil boxes marking the months, across, and the years, down. It's hanging there, unobtrusive, a ritualistic record of all the rain that's fallen on this town.

Willis Swint, a quiet man with a white mustache twisted up into handlebars, keeps this record every day. Each morning, he measures the precipitation and he checks the temperature. He does it at the same time, at 8 a.m., exactly, every day, like it's always been done. He calls it in to the National Weather Service, as he's been doing since he graduated from college, and as his father did before him.

Then, as regular as a priest in prayer, he marks the data down on the chart on the back of the wooden post.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily: Keeping the weather record

Nov 25, 2008

Ugly turkeys

As chicks, they're chirpy and innocent, fuzzy puffs, all wobbly-legged and wide-eyed. Baby turkeys are like little balls of cuteness, but they get ugly pretty quickly.

Adult turkeys, their heads and necks are hideously naked. Skin hangs from their faces in fleshy globs and a fat noodle of flab swings off their beaks, wrinkled and flaccid. In happy holiday drawings, the skin on a turkey's head is always red, but that's not right. It's pink, discolored, pale, and red in splotches, red like the color of a slapped baby.

Adults, they peck each other's feathers out, smell of musky feces and waddle grossly.

If you watch enough generations of these birds, watch as they grow, as they turn from innocent to repulsive, you get so you see how they were always ridiculously ugly. If you know turkeys, you get so that when you look at an egg, you're not deceived by the innocent symbolism of potential. You see the coat of crusted mud, caked with molted feathers.

Read the full column @ the Clayton News Daily: The terror of turkeys

Nov 24, 2008

Tom Gish, who pulished The Mountain Eagle of Whitesburg, Ky., weekly with the moto "It Screams," who fought corruption with 'watchdog' journalism, and has been called rural America's best journalist," died on Friday, at the age of 82.

May he rest in peace.

Nov 23, 2008

Wheel of future


I am leaving the Clayton News Daily on Dec. 12, exactly two and a half years after I started.

I really value the time I spent there, though I'm still having trouble thinking about it, expressing what it was, or explaining what it was like. I know that it's going to disturb me for a long time to come. At this point, the experience still feels really private and misunderstood, and I don't even really know how it matters.

The week after I leave the paper, I am moving to Germany, where my fiancee is working for the next four or five years. This is a challenge, for me, and there's some part me that has been panicing constantly, but I'm also really thrilled, to be doing this, and I know that I need this.

There's a lot I still don't know and it hasn't quite happened yet, but the wheel's been spun.

Nov 21, 2008

Things I didn't know
and was surprised to learn, this week:

1. More than 100 members of the IWW were convicted on charges of harming the war effort, during WWI. It's not clear they did anything more than oppose it.

2. Charles Darwin, curious about species migrations across oceans, spent some period of time floating stuff in salt water. He started with seeds -- flowering cabbages and stuff -- but before he was done he was floating dead dogs and birds in these vats of salt water he had all over his house.

3. Alger Hiss was targetted as a Communist by the Associated Farmers when he was at the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, because he was working on New Deal Policy, before any of the Whittaker Chambers stuff.

Nov 18, 2008

The Godoys can't think of it as a mistake.

It's too horrible, too awful, to have been an accident, when their 16-year-old son was shot in the head.

The Clayton County Police said it was unintentional, and Makonnen Sheran, a friend of Anthony Godoy's, wasn't charged with murder, but with involuntary manslaughter.

But Anthony's father and mother, Oscar and Bettie Godoy, can't accept that.

"He shot my son," said Oscar Godoy. "He executed my son -- he shot him in the head. If it's an accident, you're not going to point it into the head and shoot ...

"'Oh it was an accident,' that makes it like he had nothing to do with it. He shot my son."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Family struggles with son's death

Nov 15, 2008

Before that bullet

They used to be neighbors. They knew each other, had close friends in common, and were supposed to be going to the same party.

The two men, both young fathers from the northern end of Clayton County, were connected before the one, Jerome Burgess, drove the car used in the drive-by killing of the other, Dana Varner.

They were connected before that bullet.

Burgess, a 19-year-old, also known as "Oops," is accused of being an accomplice to the Oct. 26 shooting of Varner, a 16-year-old who was standing on a Riverdale sidewalk when he was shot down with an assault rifle fired from a moving vehicle.

According to police, Burgess is a gang member with "an abandoned and malignant heart."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Mother, sister, defend accused killer
Shameless joy

Kalani Frazier came dancing and singing onto the stage like a cymbal crash of exuberance.

Through the glittery curtain and into the spotlight, she came out with delicious decadence and flagrant, shameless joy.

This, Frazier told the audience, is "Cabaret."

Outside, there might be an economic crisis, but inside is "Cabaret." Outside, the world might be coming to an end, but inside, there's theater and dancing, almost-naked girls. Outside, there might be repression, depression, and recession, but inside, in "Cabaret," you can forget all that.

"Im Cabaret, au Cabaret, to Cabaret," sang Frazier, backed by a chorus of dancing girls in the opening musical number of the Clayton State Theater's presentation of "Cabaret."

Read the full story at the Clayton News Daily: Life is a 'Cabaret'

Nov 13, 2008

Fantistically horrid phrase from the humana lady:

There is telephonic counseling for the claims utilizer.

Nov 12, 2008

HAROLD

In the corner, a cockatoo was talking.

"Up! Up!" he said, which seemed like a weird preposition to repeat. A woman eating crackers said the bird can say other things. She said he can say, "I'm a pretty bird," but the cockatoo didn't cooperate, and called out, "Up! Up!"

The other birds chattered, squawked and screamed. The people milled about and muttered, examining the birds and their lists, at the avian auction on Saturday.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily: Birds put up for bids at state auction

Nov 11, 2008

Veterans Day

BILLY
One more time

The Romo brothers ran into the store, according to the police investigation, and the one brother ran into the back and shot Samuel Richardson to death.There was a short struggle, a shot, and Richardson was dead.

The other brother stopped, up front, and stuck a gun in the face of Jarret Lockhart, threatening to hurt him if he didn't do what they wanted. Lockhart didn't try to stop the armed men. He didn't try to fight them. He just tried to get out of there.

"He tried to run from the business," Lt. Linda Lash wrote in her arrest warrant affidavit, "but he was shot twice in the back. He fell to the floor, and before both Hispanic males fled, they shot him one more time."

The final shot was directly into Lockhart's face. The bullet went through one cheek, Lash said, and out the other.

Witnesses told police they saw Lockhart crawl out of the store, covered in blood, collapse on the sidewalk and ask for help.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Motive still unknown in fish house shooting

Nov 8, 2008

Orval
ORVAL

KITSMILLER
Orval explains how pineapple handgernades explode

Orval Kitsmiller. O-R-V-A-L. V. Yeah. Kitsmiller: K-I-T-S-M-I-L-L-E-R.

I was with Patton's Army in North Africa from 42 to 45. I was with General Eisenhower in Korea, 50 to 53. I stayed out for about six months. There were no jobs or anything like that, and they told me I could maintain my rank of corporal, so I said I guessed I'd do that.

I don't know why. There just wasn't any to be had.

I got a job as an apprentice machinst at an ice cream plant, but that didn't go too well. Didn't work out. So when they told me I could maintain my rank, I went back into the Army and stayed 'til I retired.

I was in the CCC. You probably don't know what that is. FDR's CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was for work for the depression. We were planting windbreaks in Kansas when the war started, and they said if you only had six months left, you could get out to join. So everybody was 'that's what I'm going to do, I'm going to join.' So they said, 'what about you Kits?' and I said I guessed I would too.

I went in as a tank driver. There was a surpluss of tank drivers in North Africa, though, so I drove the duece and a half. Like that one over there, did you see it? It was like that. I hauled ammo and supplies to Patton and his army.

Yeah we used to do that. In North Africa. I remember, we used to go fishing with hand gernades. You'd just throw them in. You had to get back though. They were the pineapple hand gernades, about like this, and the frags didn't care who they hit. They were frags, they didn't care. You had get back. That's what I would do.
Stripped away

In 33 minutes, the last of the lie was stripped away. Where once even his ex-wife and closest friend believed it, Douglas Yutaka Rhoades confessed to the lie in court, pleading guilty to impersonating an FBI agent.

Rhoades, a 42-year-old Jonesboro man, told those closest to him he was undercover with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, tasked to investigate cyber crimes, child pornography and rogue agents.

He had a metal badge with his photo on it, signed by bureau founder J. Edgar Hoover, and marked with a large, gold shield. He had a Glock handgun he put in the console of his minivan every day when he left for work. He had DVDs of child pornography, bags of candy and children's clothes -- all, he assured his family, part of the investigation.

He "did falsely assume and pretend to be an officer," according to the federal indictment, but the elaborate lie fell apart.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily: 'His life was a lie'
Around + purging the political links

From the top
96 point type
Election symmetry
Russian aggression?
They got your number
8 greatst election movies
Is fiction inherantly capitalist?
There is no arc: the end of Opus
The end of the Black Mafia Family
'Jean-Claude Van Damme made me cry'
Limbaugh logic suffocating conservatism
Studs Terkel and the radical idea of the long memory
Does Libertariansim make sense anymore?
Studying the DNA of grizzly bears in Mont.
Nadar gets kicked even more to the margins
How campaigns are like megachurches
How Ted Stevens can vote for himself
Top satirical campaigns for president
The legacy of Luther in Wittenburg
Why won't Nader won't go away?
Please return missing quote marks
Is political activism cool again?
Hey boomers, we get it now
Why don't war heros win?
The great American mosey
Walter Benjamin forever
Lessons of Lou Dorfsman
Today I saw a child die
Just say no to robocalls
Writer and living novel
dumped (photographs)
Outlaw Bible Online
Andre Bazin 1 & 2
The study of ugly
Ugly future
Sy Hersch

Nov 6, 2008

things seen
THINGS SEEN: One of the Murder Trial Doodles
A way out through confession

In his interviews, the detective starts out by saying he "just needs the truth," and then he adds a sense of seriousness by telling the interviewees they're "flirting with a felony." The detective increases the pressure on interviewees, and then gives a little, offering a way out through confession.

When witnesses persist in saying they know nothing, Martin starts stating things he "already knows," even though some of those things he doesn't know, can't prove, or are simply lies designed to elicit the truth.

Hicks characterized the interviews as something like psychological coercion, and accused Martin of feeding his witnesses the pieces of the story he wanted, then threatening and bribing them to put the pieces together.

"You're telling him what you want to know, and he's giving it back to you," Hicks said.

Martin countered that his interviews cut through the falsehoods and the fears, getting witnesses to admit what really happened.

"He looked like a person who wanted to tell me something," Martin said of one key witness he interviewed. "He wanted to tell me, and every time, I had that feeling from him and something was blocking him, whether he was scared or he was involved ... He was wanting to tell me something ... I told him, if he gets arrested, he'd be sitting down in Reidsville penitentiary and he'd be wishing, down the road ... he'd be wishing he'd talked to me."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily: Four said to connect juvenile to murder

Nov 5, 2008

In the breezeway of building M

Edward "Boo Man" Mills was shot in the back, according to the medical examiner.

The bullet hit him in the back, on his left side, and struck a rib. The bullet broke the rib, then hit his left lung, deflating it, and tore through his 17-year-old heart.

He died on the ground in the breezeway of building M, at Williamsburg South Apartments in Jonesboro.

When Mills was wheeled into the medical examiner's office at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Decatur, the dead teen had a hole in his back and an exit wound in the middle of his chest.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily: Juvenile murder trial starts
The 44th President of the United States
photo by Callie Shell

"It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America."

Nov 4, 2008

Vote

Nov 2, 2008

Humility in the art of the possible

There wasn’t more than a paragraph about Adlai Stevenson, in the little picture book of political history. But the picture did it. He was sitting there, Adlai Stevenson the presidential candidate, with a hole in the sole of his shoe. And I wanted to vote for him.

Stevenson and his liberalism were long gone, by the time I knew what politics was and was cramming American history at the public library. There was nothing about my Christian and Conservative understanding of the world, which would naturally draw me to Stevenson. There was no automatic affinity there, but I was moved.

It seemed to me that the photo showed someone who was optimistic, even idealistic, and yet aware of reality. The image showed someone who cared enough to wear a hole in his shoe, and yet someone knew what it was like to have that hole.

I was probably reading too much into the image, accepting too much of the stagecraft at face value. I remember it now not to say Adlai really was that way, but because it does capture what was and is important to me in politics. It’s important, to me, that my politics not be poisoned by either cynicism or ideology. I don’t want to disregard the way things really are, and I also don’t want to let limitations leave me paralyzed.

Which was really what I identified with in American Conservatism. As articulated by Kirk & Co., Conservatism carried a sort of central humility. It meant knowing who humans were, and not attempting to remake the whole world while disregarding social history. The response to a revolutionary move wasn’t, in this conception, to defend the status quo, preserve the power structure, or generally react, but, rather, to oppose the violence of make-overs, recognize the disguises of ideology, to be cautious and full of self-doubt.

There were two very concrete moments when I realized my conception of Conservatism was way out of snych, and the practice of Conservatism appalled me: 1) A young Republican leader aggressively opposed the idea that poor people should be helped, just not by government. He viewed the poor as lazy pariahs and “welfare queens.” 2) A College Republican argued that while proof of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction had not been offered, invasion in preemptive self-defense is right because we “trust the president.”

It seems to me that since the beginning of the Iraq war, “Conservatism” has been a very anchorless concept. Certainly, since Reagan, there’s been an elision in the idea, as the Conservatism we know is a composite. But at least since the Newt Gingrich era was replaced by the George W. Bush era, the character of Conservatism has been wildly adrift. What the idea means and how it can be measured has been redefined and redefined, though humility hasn’t been part of the conversation at all.

At one point, during the Republican primary debates of this year, the party pretty much said torture of suspected enemy combatants is a non-negotiable part of the idea of Conservatism. Sarah Palin described Conservatism as a refusal to "blink." Maybe the clearest moment, for me, was when McCain answered the question about evil. He said "defeat it," without offering any sense of Solzhenitsyn's caveat, that the line separating good from evil runs through human hearts. McCain, instead, fulfilled Kirk's definition of imprudence, "for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away."

Barack Obama's answer was different. I thought his answer, ridiculed as lilly-livered and weak, was marked by marked by maturity and humility, rather than hubris. He actually echoed the Solzhenitsyn statement, and displayed that awareness of failings, sense of caution, restraint, and deliberation.

"Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil’s been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil. In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good."

In every unscripted sentence I have heard, Obama displayed this cautionary approach and his very careful thinking. His political practice has held this tenant of humility. I heard it ridiculed by the Conservatives who now own the Republican party, but I personally identify with the parsing, the hesitating, the careful consideration. That’s not a weakness, I don’t think, but a strength.

Joe Klein, the author of Primary Colors, points to this in a piece for Time Magazine. Obama, he writes, introduces a "quality to American politics that we haven't seen in quite some time: maturity."

"He seemed to be thinking in my presence, rather than just reciting talking points, and it took him some time to think through my question about gut decisions. He said the first really big one was how to react when incendiary videos of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's black-nationalist sermons surfaced last spring. 'The decision to make it big as opposed to make it small,' Obama said of the landmark speech on race relations he delivered in Philadelphia. 'My gut was telling me that this was a teachable moment and that if I tried to do the usual political damage control instead of talking to the American people like ... they were adults and could understand the complexities of race.'"

If this is liberalism, what Obama is doing, then I buy it. It is, actually, realistic and optimistic. It is opposed to cynicism and doesn’t ignore reality. His politics really captures what’s important to me in politics. I think it’s the best of the art of the possible.

I was flipping through some behind-the-scenes photos of the Obama campaign when I found it. He’s talking on the phone, there are papers everywhere. He’s leaned back, shoes up on a table, and there are holes in the soles of both of them.

Nov 1, 2008

For All Saints Day

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.
                  - Dylan Thomas

Oct 29, 2008

Farmers Market Pumpkin Man

Farmers Market man
What that meant

Home alone, a 39-year-old woman called her sister to say she'd been shot.

Geetha Kittrell Huggins spoke to her sister by cell phone, but the sister didn't immediately understand, didn't quite comprehend what that meant, "shot," so Huggins said it a second time.

She'd been shot. She'd been shot in her arm and her side and she was bleeding badly.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily: Woman killed in home burglary

Oct 28, 2008

Cloaked in confusion and metaphors

The scariest dream I've ever had was just of red.

I've dreamed of falling, dreamed of murder, dreamed of earthquakes and of the ground eating people. I've awakened frightened of inanimate objects, of turning into a monster, of paralysis, and of walking around without clothes. But the one that terrified me most, out of all the years of nightmares, was just an opaque red.

Like an empty field filled with sulfur smoke, like a blank wasteland tinted by blood, it was just me and red nothing, and I was on the ground, in the fetal position, trying to fold up into myself.

I don't know why. I don't know where the subconscious terror came from or why it emerged from the muddle of sleep in that mask of vagueness. But then, fear is like that. It isn't rational, it doesn't appear in well-lighted rooms, and it always comes cloaked in confusions and metaphors.

Read the full column @ the Clayton News Daily:
What are we afraid of?
Bill, the Boy Who Thought He Could Fight Them All
a story from the Clapping Carnival Rasp project

A boy named Bill was bound-up by snakes, when he woke up one morning. One snake was wrapped tight around his feet. It was like a python. A second one was around his neck, squeezing and slithering, and a third snake’s face was in Bill’s face, its tongue tasting the inside of his nose.

Bill screamed, like anyone would scream, if they were startled awake by snakes. He tried to kick the one snake free, and tried to snatch the other away from his neck. He snatched and kicked but nothing happened. Then he noticed the giant spinning spider. Hanging above his bed, spinning and spinning a spider with empty eyes and saw legs was coming down from the ceiling, coming down at his head. The boy named Bill opened up his mouth to scream, to shout for his mother, but the snake was choking him and when he gulped at the air, all there was there was a dry, red-dye fog. It filled the room and his mouth. It tasted like milk and day-old dirt.

Bill beat back the snakes with a yelp. He rolled away from the descending spider, falling off of his bed. He landed on all fours, and then he felt crickets crunch under him. He felt hordes more attack him, eating away at his skin. He felt their feet, a million feet, and they were tearing at him. There was like an army of them, and they were singing. It was a weird song and they sang, “Munch munch. Munch munch. Bones and flesh and eyes to crunch. Munch munch. Munch munch. A bunch of boy to eat and tear, we eat him ‘til he isn’t there. Munch munch.”

A boy named Bill ran into his mother’s kitchen, yelling, “Don’t eat me.” His mother was in some other room and she said, “Bill? Did you eat you pill, Bill? You know you’re supposed to every night.” But Bill grabbed a rag and a box of matches, and rushed back in to fight them all.

He lit one edge of the rag catch fire and then swung it, flung it into the middle of the room, onto the bed and the pile of messed-up sheets. The flame flickered and then caught. The little bonfire burned and then started sucking everything into itself. There was like a whooshing inhale and the snakes were sucked into the fire, and the fire crackled. Then there was a burning inhale, and the bed sheets and the bed, the crickets and the crickets’ song, all of them were dragged into the fire by some invisible force of fire, and all of them burned with screaming. Bill laughed. Bill clapped his hands. Bill knew he could beat them all. But then the fire started pulling at the walls and pulling at Bill, so the boy ran to find and fight all the things he had to fight. He ran back into the kitchen and grabbed a big butcher knife, and then he ran outside.

He could beat them all. He yelled out, “Yeaaaaaah!” And he waved his knife around. He ran down a little hill, through a stand of small trees, and he attacked a farting car. The little green and yellow car went “pffftttt!” and Bill went, “Yeaaaah!” and stabbed both the back tires. He felt really good. All his life, he’d been scared. All his life, things had been attacking him and now, he knew he had to fight back. Know he knew he could win. He ran up to the gas station, on the corner, in the reflection of the window there was a man shouting swear words at him and calling him names and sticking out his tongue, so Bill bashed in the window. Then the man was gone. Inside the store a four-foot nest of eyes gave him a look. So Bill stabbed one eye and another eye and another, jabbing the knife in hard until the slit gushed purple eye juice and then the nest collapsed into a puddle of broken glass. The gas station owner, a tall man with a Buddha hat, said “Beeeel? What are you doing, Beeeel? Is there ah probleem here? Do not smash my wine display. Go. You bad boy. Go. You must go out of my store.”

A boy named Bill ran into a gas station parking lot, shouting like a maniac. He kicked over a shopping cart, and then kicked it three times and shouted three times. He waved his knife in the air and shouted like he’d never stop. He danced and laughed because now he knew he could win. He could fight back and fight them all and he could win.

He danced like Michael Jackson, and then he did an Irish jig. He ran in place like he’d made a super bowl touch down, waving his arms like Rocky on the stairs, and then he spun around and yelled "Whoooo!" Bill spun around, and then the deputies shot him.

One time, two times, three they shot him. The bullets slithered like snakes through the air and then they hit him, there and there and there, and then a boy named Bill was dead.

Oct 25, 2008

STIPPED OUT PUMP
A torn-down, stripped-out gas station
& the scene of the officer-involved, fatal shooting of a mentally ill teen


1. Why exactly should it be considered a compliment to be called a poet?
2. What is the other side's best impulse?
3. Why are political partisans humorless?
4. How did "socialism" come to equal "government intervention"?
5. Why do I always come back to philosophy and theory, when I really believe in stories and images?
6. What philosophical question should be regularly asked?
7. How does redemption happen?

Deep glamour
Why are politicians marriages so awful?
Buckley on his own
Why is 'asshole' a strategy for the new atheists?
Every girl wants to marry a pirate
Contest: Rebranding books
The conservative collapse
10 reasons for a bigger, better beard
Peter Pan and the God-Man
Worst romance novel covers of last year
Politics of political portraits
Ebert on Bette Davis' cigerette
Where pundits become pundits
Questioning Bukowski
_ There is, after all, a certain indignity in fighting the class war for 107 years only to find one’s chosen style of governance employed on behalf of the other — which is to say, the very upper — class.
_ since that night, and especially since his death in 2003, Johnny Cash has become for some the craggy patron saint of redemption
Working for the working-class vote
Cop reporter answers questions
Obama & Baldwin: After the death of the father
Elietist: words
Talking head affiliation quiz
"Socialist" is not an epithet
Robocop on a unicorn
The decline of journalism is journalists fault
Does conservatism end in conspiracy-mongering?
Political hypocracy
Every man a Derrida?
Everyone still gets Derrida wrong
Beautiful movie posters
Solar close-ups (the sun is quiet)
Will Tarantion mess up the Holocaust?
Gilliam: Count of surrealism
The Lee Atwater boogie
Fact checking, is it just white noise?
Graphs that lie
Point about lingusitic distinction of instructions here
Recruiting the youth to monasticism
New York cheat sheets
Joe Biden's role
No demographics, only lifestyles

Oct 22, 2008

Dethroned Cotton

A stray field of cotton. It looked like it was lost.

It looked like something forgotten from when it was important, symbolic, a source of strength. It was growing in a rolling field down a back road, behind the race track. The pavement ends and turns to gravel -- gray rocks too thick for traction in the middle, rutted troughs of mud on the sides -- and the road comes down a ditch, goes up through some trees, and opens up onto the cotton.

I'm not sure why it's there. There's probably enough to harvest and pay for the seed and the time, but not when you compare it to the cost of the land.

There's still more than a million acres of cotton grown in Georgia and each acre, on average, produces 800 pounds of white puffballs, after the extraction of lint, oil and seeds. More than a million acres, but not around here.

Old people have told me the cotton crops left here when the machines made big flat fields better than small curvy ones. The farmland left here when there was more money to be made in working at the airport, or the ford plant, and farms were offered up to developments. The people who remember people who used to farm, they left like a decade ago.

What's weird, though, isn't that it's just there. What's weird is the way cotton means something, but actually doesn't any more, the way symbols gone through a gin and been cleaned of all it’s weight, leaving it real but insubstantial.

The cotton calls up slogans and songs, ad campaigns and short hand descriptions of a region, a culture, a way of life. King Cotton, cotton balls get rotten, look away Dixie land. When cotton's king and men are chattel, Eli Whitney, ante bellum, down South/back home, George Washington Carver could've beaten the boll weevil, but didn't even try ... But I bounced around on a rut-riven road, thinking I should of turned the other way but anyway wanting to see what's here, and the cotton field is just a field of short plants, with these little blossoming balls of dirty white puffs.

They're just puffballs. Absorbing sun. Not really signifying nothing.

Oct 21, 2008

Satan, as played by a Georgia Baptist

Do you remember saying all that Jesus stuff gives you the creeps?

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
'Going through hell' at Corinth Baptist
The backwards souls

I was wandering around the city recently, waiting for something, and I found my way to a downtown library. In the reading room upstairs, there was an old man sleeping. He looked a little like the old man with the story about the backward soles. He was slumped over in a chair where the sun would come in and warm his back and his neck. He had a book, "No Country for Old Men," open to a random page, and he smelled of urine.

To me, though, he didn't seem any more lost than the rest of us.

Read the full column @ the Clayton News Daily: The lost men
The Tarantino detail

Right now, the woman who tops the Most Wanted lists is a 29-year-old with acne. She killed two people with a shotgun, dumped the bodies in a dumpster, was convicted and sent to prison 101 years, and then escaped. It is not clear how she escaped. The federal law enforcement agency’s press release doesn’t include that detail, which is unimportant.

The woman is, however, currently “at large,” “on the lam,” “on the run,” and “most wanted.” She has a red and blue tattoo of a target on right butt cheek.

Oct 18, 2008

A national mood oscillating

Loren Coleman said the hoax was "definitely a very big deal," and the biggest Bigfoot hoax in the last decade, if not the last century. He said the scenario is only really comparable to the Francois de Loys hoax of 1929. Coleman believes both hoaxes captured a national mood oscillating from gullibility to skepticism, and points out that both hoaxes happened right before a major economic crisis.

"There's a gullibility, and then this aggressive skepticism," Coleman said. "It's almost as if people felt the stock market was a hoax, or the housing market was a hoax. People can look at this Georgia situation and get into all the questions: Why was I fooled? What was it about this? Was it just me? Was I just that gullible?"

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
'Bigfoot' hoax sells for $250,000 -- maybe