Tag Archives: news

Sláinte

23 May
So I hear your country kinda looks like this again.

So I hear your country kinda looks like this again.

Roughly two months ago, I was in a gay bar in Dublin. Oh, the foreshadowing.

It was St. Patrick’s Day. Two of my hostel mates and I had met a local named Jonathan after we scaled a building to get a better view of the parade. “I come every year,” he said. “When my parents stopped taking me, I just started taking myself.”

In our post-parade quest for water [me], a bathroom [me], and Guinness [everyone else], we eventually wound up at what I’m going to call “one and a half gay bars.” The first one was not so much officially so, but happened to be around the corner from the pink lamp-lit, two-dance-floored, loud-and-proud gorgeously-bar tendered watering hole that made no pretense about its primary clientele.

But back to that first bar. It’s the one I’m more interested in, right now. Because it wasn’t explicitly a gay bar. But it also wasn’t explicitly not. The patrons we were milling about with wore suits, jeans and t-shirts, tight crop tops and skinny jeans (yes, both sported by all genders), green tutus and crinkly ribbon wigs and even a St. Patrick costume. The bar was your typical mahogany-bedecked, low-light mellow-ambiance run-of-the-mill “stop in for a pint” kind of place. It had your most stereotypical, straight-laced sallow-faced business men drowning their work day worries and your most stereotypical, flamboyant queers spilling a bit of whatever-that-pink-liquid-is all over your shoes as they sacheted past. And they had everyone who fit in between.

And, to paraphrase Jonathan, the bar honestly didn’t give a shit.

While it would have been anathema to show up in even just that only-mildly-sacrilegious St. Patrick’s costume as little as a year or two ago, Jonathan told us, now, it was just accepted for what it was – just like the clientele. People had just sort of got over themselves about it all. Gay, straight, a long-dead saint resurrected for the sake of some Guinness, it was all just taken as normal now. Because the bar and the people in it had looked around, nodded, and all just sort of collectively decided that yes, this, this was Ireland. Or at least Dublin. Even on days when the city wasn’t erupting in a parade of pride over itself.

Which is what appears to be happening right now. As it should. As it better. Yes.

Sláinte, Ireland.

p.s. Northern Ireland – you’re pretty much surrounded by rainbows. Hurry the fuck up.

Katmandu

26 Apr

The world falls out from under you.

They said you were prepared for this. The drills, the talks, even the seismological understanding. But apparently your buildings were put through no such rigor, born at a different time.

You are buried now.

You know help will come. It’s come before, to find people under the rubble of the lives they thought they’d prepared for. It’s all a matter of how angry you can be – will your heat show up on their scanners? Too much cold, uncaring detritus around is the real threat. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

This is what they prepared you for.

You know that elsewhere, feet still walk on firm foundations, the blessings that come with their more monotone landscapes. Fewer ups and downs, no sharp shadows at twilight to make you wonder about the curves and edges of the world around you. Safety.

You know you will be on their commercials. What – a week at most, this time?

Send help.

Send money.

Send you.

No – not that last one. It’s too dangerous for that last one. You risk other people’s lives and business meetings.

You understand.

They will try to sacrifice. Ten dollars, ten cents. Any little thing helps, but you will not be dug out of here with the shovel of other people’s well-meant quarters. Lives are bought in time and effort. It’s a pity now much you have to pay for that, nowadays.

But still, you understand. You understand why they can’t send more. They need that money. For their bread. For their gas. For their kid’s new start-of-school pencil box. These are what they build their foundations out of, and who are you to deny someone else what they need to ensure their world rocks a little bit less when they hear of disaster and misfortune?

A teacher calls about a scraped knee.

A lover calls to break a heart.

A boss calls to kill a career.

The news chatters in the background about an earthquake in Katmandu.

They will gather their children with their sturdy new pencil boxes close to them and clutch at the steadiest thing they have, eyes watering over with gratitude at this small foundation, while they wonder – what if that were me?

You wonder what it would be like to be clutching that pencil box right now.

Beside you, your hands try to curl into claws but they can’t because the debris of ages ago’s poor planning and yesterday’s shit luck prevents you from moving. The world crashed into itself, a byproduct of trying to stand up straight on too unstable a spine. It’s the way it’s always been. It will be again, somewhere.

It’s just you, this time.

You imagine that out there, the world is still shaking for you. Fear, anger, desperation at the rubble that provides too much metaphor for how humanity has built itself. They will fight for you, out of their own emotions.

You smile, a quiver of hope small enough to force its way past the crushing deoxygenation.

Maybe it will be enough, those other people’s movements.

But for now, you are still.

Ferguson

14 Aug
source

source

source

This is my home.

Well, that is, in an extended sort of way. I grew up in St. Louis, on the other side of town. Or rather the other “quarter” of town, because that is always how St. Louis has been divvied up, based on its socioeconomic populations. There’s West County, the safe, predominantly upper-middle and upper class white suburbia of St. Louis. Then South County, the older part of town populated by the lower-middle class echelon of African Americans and elderly white folks – unless you hit the “West End,” the posh upper class carved-out part of downtown. Then East St. Louis, the portion of my city responsible for putting us at #1 on the US’s Most Dangerous Cities list some years back. And finally, NoCo. North County. Ferguson.

Ferguson was essentially another SoCo. A mix of lower-middle class folks that in St. Louis constituted the “average African American,” “white trash,” and “old fogies.” My paternal grandmother lived there for most of her life. For me, it was a place to visit. Not a place to live. But still, it was a place that while I was in high school my mother would have only required me to call her when I got there and when I was leaving, not every five minutes, as would have been the case with downtown or East St. Louis.

Ferguson was not supposed to be that much of a time bomb.

I have never particularly loved my city. In fact, come the close of high school, I did every damn thing I could to get myself out of it. The Midwest, it’s such a closed-in place. The same sights, same ideas, same issues. All just sitting there. Caged in the bound middle of the country. Stewing. I ran away to the West Coast, where people colorful and vibrant in every sense of the words filled the streets.

The Midwest has always frightened me. It is a place of putting up white picket fences to hide the blood pooling in our yards from the wounds we all carry. It is a place where racial tension continues to draw and quarter our city, literally, and yet nobody will talk about it.

It’s a place where a wrong (i.e. “liberal”) word can get you hit by you father and a wrong movement can get you shot by a stranger.

It’s a place where everyone dresses according to the rules of their sector. Different branches of the same store will carry different types of clothing, depending on whether they’re catering to the prep kids of West County or the blinged-out teenagers of SoCo.

It’s a place where trusting the police force is a crapshoot. It’s all one big algorithm, hinging on variables like skin color and county location and whether or not you happened to be driving a particularly nice car. My grandfather was once head of security for much of downtown; it was always his mission to diffuse any issues with the least amount of conflict necessary. He wanted to calm people, not create statements. It was people he worked to keep safe, over buildings or signs or ideology.

Apparently not so, these days.

My city resounds with the cry of “I am big and you are little. I am right, and you are wrong.” It is a presumption that has always terrified me the most about that Arch-bound city. Walk under that Arch, and you must subscribe to a certain level of conformity. Break from that conformity, even just gathering to say that you don’t agree with the way something is going down, and – well, I guess we’re seeing now how that plays out.

I am right, and you are wrong.

Stay on your side of this line, and I’ll not say you’ve threatened mine.

My city is divided into four quarters. Apparently now we’re killing to keep people in them.

I’m sorry, Ferguson. I didn’t ever think we’d treat you this badly. The whole point of calling something a “quarter” is to indicate it’s needed to make up part of a whole.

Despite all its posturing, my city has not been whole for quite a while now.

Ain’t Nobody Got TIME For That

18 Dec

TIME logo

Lovely readers, I have a confession. I kind of hate news. I am a writer, a creative writer, not a journalist. It’s not so much that I hate knowing what’s actually going on in the world that’s of any importance – that I highly value – but honestly, the majority of news sites are either really just celebrity gossip columns or the articles could all sport one headline, “Terrible Thing Happens in This Place.” Bombing. Another bombing. Car crash. Oh hey, that war in that place is still going on. Yup. Not much has changed. For the most part, my newspaper from today looks the same as my newspaper from yesterday, and from last week, and from last year. Go back five years and maybe the country and politician names will have changed, but it’s all just the same crap of people blundering around the world and being idiots to each other.

However. There are a few news sites that’ll make me perk up my mental ears and listen to what they’re saying. Buy their newspaper from a stack at Starbucks, click on that link that showed up in my facebook feed, spend a boring lecture browsing their articles on my cell phone…

You know. The big names. New York Times. Scientific American. National Geographic. Smithsonian. TIME Magazine.

Ahem, about TIME Magazine… for years, it’s been a interestingly written purveyor of impactful news across culture, technology, and current events. If an article came from TIME, it was legit. Probably. Often enough for name “TIME” to carry some weight.

But today, today I had to unfollow TIME on facebook. Because for the past few months, 99% of the TIME posts promoted to my newsfeed have been utter crap.

Okay, sure, maybe some of them were worthy of a giggle or a two-second “aawww.” Something about a puppy. A family rapping their Christmas card. I dunno. I assume those would have been if I’d actually clicked on them.

But I don’t follow TIME for giggles and aaww’s. I follow TIME for news. You know, the important stuff. I don’t give a crap about what Miley Cyrus has to say about her break up, whenever the hell that was, and I’d appreciate it if my supposed news page didn’t keep sticking shit like that on my feed.

Based on the comments I’ve seen on promoted TIME facebook posts over the past few months, it’s not just my feed that’s been infested. There are dozens – possibly hundreds, if I actually cared to look through all the contentless fluff that much – of other disgruntled commenters telling TIME that they’re unfollowing, unsubscribing, un-fuck-why-did-we-ever-think-that-TIME-was-legit-ing.

And I understand why. Please, I hear enough about sad puppies or happy puppies or neurotic puppies from all the animal rescue pages I follow. I can probably keep up with Miley Cyrus just as well by unthinkingly glancing at tabloid headlines while I’m in the checkout line at the grocery store.

But… I’m not content to just flip TIME off and call it a day. Because TIME has produced quality content for so long, and I don’t want to just give that up. I mean, if you actually pay to get their magazine, or browse their website, or even actually visit their facebook wall, there is still real content. The time we readers actually do have time for. Or, you know, make time for during boring lectures. But for whatever reason, TIME’s social media person has decided that apparently it’s more important to promote “trending” fluff than information of actual consequence. So all the crap flows onto people’s facebook feeds, and none of the hard stuff gets featured, resulting in a massive distortion of TIME’s image and content procurement.

Uh, yeah. I’d really like that to stop.

So, I emailed TIME’s editor. Did some search engine hustling and managed to find one generic email address to write my concerns to. And then, I decided that perhaps said editor hearing even more well-spoken complaints (instead of just angry “fuck you’s” left as facebook comments) might be useful. Might actually change something. It might not, but hey, at least then I’ll still know that I wasn’t just sitting back on my ass wishing TIME would get their shit together without actually giving them any impetus to do so.

If you honestly don’t care about TIME, that’s fine. I mean hey, throw a Wall Street Journal at me and I’m just gonna wrinkle my nose and chuck it back at your head. But if you do care about TIME and want to voice your opinion, I’ve tried to remove some of the energy barrier to doing so for you. I’m not calling for some massive movement, I’m just offering help to those who would like to at least get their own opinionated fingers wagging.

Ooookay. So, I’ve posted the message that I sent below. Feel free to copy-paste it into your own shiny new “compose email” box and send it as is. Warning, it is written in me-speak. I mean, one of the more professional dialects of me-speak, but it’s still my own voice. So. You could also change the wording a bit – or entirely – if ya want to. Yup yup.

Damn this is getting long. Okay, I’ll just plot the rest of the info below. Go ahead and check it out if you, too, are displeased with TIME’s recent content shift and want to tell the magazine – ain’t nobody got TIME for that.

 

Email: letters@time.com

Message:

Dear Editor,
Up till just recently I’ve been an unabashed fan of TIME. But since approximately two months ago, on TIME’s Facebook at least, it seems that TIME is diverging from its old reputation of “source of legitimate newsworthy, culturally poignant information” and has started to become just another tabloid magazine, full of trivial GIF’s or cutesy posts, like the “Christmas card family rap.” My feed has been flooded with uninteresting fluff and “entertainment” (a.k.a. celebrity gossip) pieces, like the “article” about Miley Cyrus’s break up statements. There are still noteworthy pieces linked to from the TIME Facebook wall, but few to none of those actually get promoted to followers’ news feeds. I’ve noticed from the comments on posts that other readers are feeling the same way, and that most of us eschew this change from news to nonsense. A quality, impact-based distillation of content would be much appreciation.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
(Your Name Here)