heart’s grown brutal

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it. Right now, today, we have about twenty thousand National Guard troops in Washington, DC to protect our government from our president. We have been forced to mobilize a military force larger than the military response we have stationed in Afghanistan or Iraq in order to insure that the insurrectionist followers of Donald Trump won’t disrupt the inauguration of the legitimately elected President of the United States.

That is completely fucking insane–and yet here we are. We’ve arrived at this unnerving moment of history because Trump, supported by sycophantic Republicans in Congress and in coordination with a nexus of unhinged right-wing anti-government cranks and conspiracy theorists (fueled in part by Russian social media disinformation trolls), refuses to acknowledge he lost the 2020 election. Even though Trump has apparently abandoned the demented fantasy that he might somehow, magically, still be declared the winner, he hasn’t yet abandoned his lies about the election being ‘stolen’. That lie hangs in the air, fouling any hope for reconciliation.

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare

Billy B. Yeats wrote that in 1922. Ireland, after a couple of years of open warfare against British troops, had signed a treaty with the United Kingdom, granting independence to all but six of Ireland’s counties. The failure to establish full independence sparked the Irish Civil War, between those who insisted on full independence and those who were willing to accept partition in the hope that it would someday lead to a united Ireland. It led to Irish people fighting against “Irish soldiers of an Irish government set up by Irishmen.”

The poem is called The Stare’s Nest by My Window. Apparently in the west of Ireland ‘stare’ was the local term for a starling. I’d read the poem a number of times and loved the language of it, but it wasn’t until I was living in DC and had the chance to hear the poet Seamus Heaney read it aloud, that it actually made sense to me.

William Butler Yeats

When he wrote the poem, Yeats was living in a 16th century tower called Thoor Ballylee. Outside his window, honeybees were building a comb in the crevices of the crumbling masonry near an abandoned starling’s nest. Yeats uses all that as a metaphor for the Irish Civil War. The old tower is falling apart, the nest where mother starlings brought “grubs and flies” to feed the nestlings is empty, but bees are still at work creating a home filled with the sweetness of honey.

My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

Outside his tower, in the real world, Irishmen were killing Irishmen. Yeats acknowledges that violence in the poem — “somewhere / A man is killed, or a house burned.” “Last night they trundled down the road / That dead young soldier in his blood.” He pleads for peace and rebuilding, for restoring the masonry of civil society, in a repeated refrain. “O honey-bees / Come build in the empty house of the stare.”

This is where we find ourselves now, here in the United States. We’re badly divided, but unlike the Irish in 1922, we’re not divided by competing notions of independence; we’re divided by willfully ugly lies, deliberately ugly rhetoric, and ugly conspiratorial fantasies created, spread, and often repeated by prominent Republicans.

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love.

The masonry holding our society together has been eroded, often intentionally, by those who want to create uncertainty and fear in order to stay in power. Our hearts have grown brutal; our hate seems stronger than our love. We desperately want/need it to be repaired. I believe–I want to believe–it’s possible to repair the damage. I see all those troops camped out in the ornate halls of our government, and the possibility of Americans fighting Americans fills me with dread and sorrow. Like Yeats, I feel we are “closed in, and the key is turned / On our uncertainty.”

I have no clear idea what will happen over the coming months. I have hopes; I have fears. I take some small comfort in knowing that countless others throughout history have felt similar hopes and fears. The fact that we’re able to read their writing today is proof that folks generally muddle through somehow.

Here’s the entire poem, probably in violation of some copyright somewhere.

The Stare’s Nest by My Window (1922)

The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We are closed in, and the key is turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house burned.
Yet no clear fact to be discerned:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

A barricade of stone or of wood;
Some fourteen days of civil war:
Last night they trundled down the road
That dead young soldier in his blood:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

nashville police and the christmas day bombing

I’m hearing/seeing a lot of variations on this theme:

Unbelievable. Anthony Warner’s girlfriend reported he was making bombs in an RV eighteen months ago and the Nashville Police Department did nothing. If he’d been black or brown, they’d have found a reason to arrest him.

It sounds bad, doesn’t it. Really bad. I mean, Nashville police officers could have prevented the Christmas morning bombing if only they’d done what the police are supposed to do. Right?

Well, no. Here’s the problem with that. Folks are evaluating this case through a lens of known guilt. We KNOW Anthony Warner made a bomb in his RV, drove it into the city, blew it (and himself) up. We’re criticizing the police for not knowing in August of 2019 what we know right now. It’s like complaining that somebody bought the wrong Lotto ticket after seeing what the winning Lotto number is. Okay, that’s an unfortunate analogy; I’m not suggesting detonating a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device is anything like winning the Lotto. What I’m saying is the odds of knowing the winning Lotto number before the drawing is 1 in 292,201,338, but the odds of knowing the winning number after the drawing 1 in 1. We’re basing our understanding of an extremely improbable event after learning the probability was 100%.

Let’s look at what actually happened and evaluate the behavior of the police based on what they knew at the time. On August 21, 2019 MNPD received a report that Pamela Perry was suicidal and sitting on her porch with two handguns. Police arrived and found her with two unloaded pistols. She told the officers the firearms belonged to her boyfriend, Tony Warner. She didn’t want the guns in her house. She also told them Warner was making bombs in an RV parked behind his house, which was located about a mile and a half away. The officers called for an ambulance which took Ms. Perry to a mental health facility for an evaluation.

Based on what they knew at the time, the incident could have ended there. The officers could easily have dismissed Perry’s bomb-making claim as the delusions of a suicidal person. I mean, the police have a long history of ignoring the complaints of folks with mental health issues. Or they could have dismissed her allegation as baseless accusations made by an angry, unstable woman in an unhappy relationship. Again, the police have a long history of not listening to women and dismissing their concerns. I’m not saying that would have been appropriate; I’m just saying knowing only what they knew then nobody would have been surprised if, after the ambulance drove off with Perry, the officers had just continued with their routine patrol.

But they didn’t; they actually followed up on the claim. They spoke to the attorney (who was also the person who reported Perry was suicidal). He told them Warner had spoken about bomb-making and military stuff. So they went to Warner’s home and saw that there was, in fact, an RV parked in back yard behind a fence. There was no answer at the door, and they lacked any exigent circumstance to climb the fence and invade the privacy of a citizen. They didn’t even have enough information to ask a judge to issue a search warrant. All they had was the accusation of a suicidal person who was undergoing a psych evaluation at that very moment. So they informed their supervisors of the incident and sent a report to MNPD’s Hazardous Devices Unit.

The next day the Hazardous Devices Unit checked Warner’s police record — nothing but an old marijuana case (for which he’d been placed on probation). That could have been the end of the matter too. Knowing only what they knew then, nobody would have been surprised if the report was filed away and treated as a low priority. But they didn’t. They got in touch with the FBI, who had no record of Warner.

At that point, knowing only what they knew then, they let it go. All they had was 1) a claim by a possibly mentally ill person that her boyfriend, who had no serious criminal record, who had no known ties to violent groups, who was gainfully employed and owned a home in a decent suburb was making a bomb in an RV, and 2) he actually owned an RV. That’s it. That’s all they knew. There wasn’t any reasonable legal grounds to expend policing resources on any further investigation. So they let it go.

Had he been innocent, that would have been the end of it. And remember, in the US we’re all operating under the presumption of innocence. We don’t have to prove we’re innocent. Totalitarian regimes operate on an assumption of guilt.

But as we know now, Warner wasn’t innocent. He was doing exactly what his former girlfriend said he was doing.

The folks who say, “If he’d been black or brown, they’d have found a reason to investigate and/or arrest him” are correct. If he hadn’t been a suburban white guy with a job, the police might have leaned on him, pressured him, intimidated him. They might have cobbled together some excuse to barge into his home and search his property. But we’ve spent much of this year demonstrating against the casual, routine violation of the civil liberties of people of color. Are folks really suggesting the police should treat everybody as badly as they treat POC?

No, not really. What they’re saying is police should have violated Anthony Warner’s civil rights. Not everybody, just him. Why? Because we know he’s guilty. It’s easy to deny the rights of guilty people.

But here’s a horrible-wonderful thing about civil liberties: they apply to everybody, the guilty as well as the innocent. They have to apply to the guilty in order to protect the innocent, because we don’t always know who is guilty or innocent.

If we want to stop future Anthony Warners, the answer isn’t to give the police more power or to encourage them to ignore civil liberties. If we want to stop bomb-makers, we should make it more difficult to buy and sell (and re-sell) the common ingredients necessary for making bombs. It’s fairly easy to buy the ingredients to make a triacetone triperoxide explosive (I haven’t bothered to check, but I won’t be surprised to learn Warner had purchased significant amounts of hydrogen peroxide and acetone — the primary ingredients of TATP). If we can limit the monthly amount of Sudafed (“Provides Powerful Sinus or Cold Relief!”) an individual can purchase, we can do the same with bomb-making ingredients.

DISCLAIMER: I spent seven years as a criminal defense investigator. I’m not accustomed to defending the police. But I try to be consistent. The Nashville police followed the law. They didn’t let us down. We were let down by legislators and regulators who are in the pockets of pharma-chemical lobbies.

a short list of things i’d like to see in 2021

In the last week of December in 2018 I cobbled together a list of things I’d like to see in 2019. Last year, I did the same thing — a list of things I’d like to see in 2020. I figured, what the hell, I might as well do it again this year. Sure, I didn’t actually get to see any of the things on either list, but that’s not really the point. I don’t actually expect to see any of these things happen in 2021; I’d just like it if they did.

Consider this to be an addition to or an extension of the two prior lists, because I’d still like to see those things. I’ll repeat a few items from the two previous lists because I’d still very much like to see them. Anyway, here, in no particular order, are some things I’d like to see in 2021:

— A memorial to the hundreds of thousands of folks in the US who died from Covid-19.
— Better and more ubiquitous public transportation (buses, trams, teleportation booths) that reached poor, working class, and suburban communities.
— More bat houses. Bats are cool.
— Universal selective service in the US. Not necessarily military service, but a couple years of compulsory national, state, or local service (2019).
— The return of clotheslines. Best (and most picturesque) way ever to dry clothes.
— Federal support for states that pass Idaho Stop/Delaware Yield laws for bicycles.
— Speaking of which, I’d like to see cyclists stop putting speakers on their bikes. If you want to listen to music when you’re cycling, buy some goddamn earbuds.
— Brett Kavanaugh busted for DWI (2019, 2020).
— A global ban on leaf blowers. Leaf blowers are NOT cool.
— A complete rewriting of the last season of Game of Thrones. I mean, c’mon.
— Donald Trump and his family of grifters and traitors in handcuffs (2019, 2020).
— Turtle ponds in new neighborhoods. Turtles are cool.
— A minimum wage that would allow a single person to hold one job and be able to support a family.
— Speaking of work, a new Works Project Administration that paid folks to build, repair, and beautify US infrastructure, and that hired artists of all types to contribute. Maybe tie that in with the universal selective service? Yeah, that would work.
— The patriarchy smashed into tiny shards, those shard ground into dust, that dust buried deep in the earth, the earth above it salted so that nothing will grow there for a thousand years (2020).
— Trees. I’d like to see more trees planted. All types of trees in all types of places. I like trees. Trees are cool.
— Reality Winner released from prison (2020).
— Small tax rebates for folks who allow/encourage wildlife to live in/on their suburban homes. I’m talking rabbits, opossum, squirrels, chipmunks, bats (of course), probably birds, groundhogs. I’ve no idea how that would actually work, but I like the idea.
— And, of course, actual usable pockets in women’s clothes. It’s 2021, for fuck’s sake (2019, 2020).

As before, I’m sure there’s lots of other stuff. This is just off the top of my head; this is me killing time before I go run some errands.

What about you? What would you like to see in the coming year?

pioneer cemeteries

A week ago I posted the following photograph of a dirt road leading back into field that held a pioneer cemetery. It sparked a number of folks to ask a perfectly reasonable question: Dude, what the hell is a pioneer cemetery? I asked the same question the first time I came across a pioneer cemetery. I’m here to give y’all the answer.

Road to Sams pioneer cemetery

Let me amend that. I’m here to give a couple of answers. I mean the obvious answer is simple: a pioneer cemetery is a plot of ground where pioneers are buried. But that leads inevitably to the question: Dude, what the hell is a pioneer?

Let’s start there. The term ‘pioneer’ comes from the French pionnier, which originally referred to a type of specialized foot soldier — troops who were furnished with digging and cutting equipment and sent into new territories to prepare the way for an army. The root term is much older, medieval Latin, pedonem, which meant ‘foot soldier’. That’s also the root for the term ‘pawn’. In chess, pawns always move first; they’re essential, but disposable. The same applies to pioneers; they go first, they’re essential, but disposable.

Sams pioneer cemetery is located on the rise by the trees.

In the US, the term ‘pioneer’ has a vaguely heroic connotation. I suppose that’s warranted because it takes a sort of courage — or maybe desperation — to take your family into unknown territory. And that’s what the early US pioneers were. They weren’t soldiers; they were mostly families of immigrants and first generation Americans. At the time, they were called settlers, or homesteaders, or sodbusters. They were families who loaded up wagons with their few possessions and pushed into largely unmapped territories, fording rivers and streams, in the hope they could find land they could farm. When they came to land they felt was promising, they stopped. They chopped down trees and built cabins out of the logs. They cleared trees and stones from the land by hand or with the help of livestock and created fields for crops. They planted and harvested, and they died and were buried.

Sams pioneer cemetery.

Pioneer cemeteries are plots of land, often on family property, that these small, loosely formed farming communities agreed was sufficient to bury their dead. They’re the graves of the thousands of unremembered, ordinary people who turned wilderness into settlements.

We have to acknowledge the pluckiness of these pioneers, but we also need to be aware there was a very deep ugliness in what they were doing. In the US, pioneers were the leading edge of the concept of Manifest Destiny. The idea was promoted initially by John O’Sullivan, the son of an Irish immigrant. He wrote it was the new nation’s “manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” In essence, manifest destiny was a nice way of saying the expansion of white Europeans and their culture across the continent, displacing or killing the native tribes who’d actually lived there for centuries, was not only inevitable, it was also justified by god.

Raridon pioneer cemetery in the middle of a field.

There you have it. The pioneers were intrepid settlers struggling to create a life for themselves. And they were also sanctimonious invaders who were comfortable with the idea of pushing the indigenous people off their land, stealing it for themselves, and killing those natives who resisted.

That’s who the pioneers were — settlers who were almost as expendable as the natives they dislodged and supplanted. But not everybody buried in a pioneer cemetery was an actual pioneer. The pioneers created the conditions for permanent settlements; permanent settlements inevitably bring disputes; disputes require some forum for resolution. That means a bureaucracy, and bureaucracies demand definitions.

The Enterprise pioneer cemetery has only a single marked grave, a simple cross by a tree.

Which brings us back to the original question: Dude, what the hell is a pioneer cemetery? The bureaucratic answer depends on where you live; different states have different legal definitions of ‘pioneer cemetery’. In Iowa, where I live, the law defines it as a cemetery in which there have been no more than twelve burials in the preceding half century. In neighboring Nebraska, a pioneer cemetery is defined as an abandoned or neglected cemetery that was founded or situated on land “given, granted, donated, sold, or deeded to the founders of the cemetery prior to January 1, 1900.”

There is, I think, something weirdly admirable about a bureaucracy making a deliberate decision to recognize and honor the ordinary people who lived and died in small farming communities dating from the late 1700s. The bureaucracies may not care about the individual pioneer cemeteries, but they care about the notion that there are people buried and memorialized in remote, semi-forgotten patches of land.

This pioneer cemetery could only be reached by steep path through overgrown brush under a canopy of old trees. Yet it was beautifully cared for by a local Boy Scout troop.

Most of the pioneer cemeteries I’ve visited are lonely places on patches of farmland or meadowland. They’re generally located on a low hill, most often with a small grove of trees. Some are only accessible by overgrown paths, or by vehicles with high ground clearance. A few pioneer cemeteries are well-tended; most aren’t. Many are overgrown with grass and weeds. Most have gravestones that are damaged, weathered, unreadable.

But all of them are full of stories. There are graves of soldiers — Civil War veterans, veterans of the world wars. You can tell by the dates which ones died in uniform. There are graves of wives who outlived their husbands, graves of mothers who died in childbirth, graves of the children they bore. There are lots of graves of infants, often with the number of months or weeks they lived.

Trester pioneer cemetery

All cemeteries and graveyards tend to be quiet. Pioneer cemeteries are more than quiet. They’re silent. And yet they’re full of stories. Untold stories. Forgotten stories. The first person buried in what would eventually become the Slaughter pioneer cemetery was eight-year-old Hester Slaughter, who died of ‘the fever’ in the summer of 1846. She was buried in a corner of the family farm. There was no lumber mill in the region, so there was no sawn lumber to make a casket. Instead, the family split the trunk of a tree that had been chopped down to clear the land; they hollowed it out, placed poor Hester inside, closed it back up, and buried her. A total of 69 people would be buried in that small plot of land, including three Civil War veterans and a veteran of the War of 1812.

Among them is Bluford Sumpter, who served in the 39th Iowa Regiment in the Grand Army of the Republic during the Civil War. We don’t know the details of his story, but we know the 39th was active from November 24, 1862, to August 2, 1865. We know they were involved in a great number of battles and skirmishes. We know the 39th helped chase Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest (who would survive the war and help found the Ku Klux Klan) into Tennessee and suffered many casualties. We know they eventually deployed with Union General William Tecumseh Sherman in his brutal and savage march across the South that essentially ended the war. We assume Bluford Sumpter survived the war (since it was uncommon then to ship bodies home for burial), but there are no dates on his tombstone, so we don’t know when he died. We only know he was eventually buried in the Slaughter cemetery in Jasper County, Iowa.

Slaughter pioneer cemetery in the grove of trees in the middle of a field.

Also buried nearby is William Wimpigler, who has his own story. Wimpigler served in the Iowa 48th Battalion during the Civil War, He was one of the Hundred Days Men — a troop of volunteers raised in Midwest during the final days of the war; they agreed to serve one hundred days in order to free experienced troops for combat service. The 48th spent its hundred days at the Rock Island Barracks in Illinois, coincidentally guarding Confederate prisoners taken during Sherman’s campaign.

Both of those Civil War veterans are buried near eight-year-old Hester Slaughter in her hollowed out log coffin on what was once an unused parcel of her family’s farm. Every grave has a story. But we only know about those stories exist because the graves exist, and we only know those graves exist because some unnamed person in a bureaucracy decided it was worthwhile to officially recognize and record the existence of pioneer cemeteries.

That unknown bureaucrat has a story too. We all do. Few of them get told, but all of them are worth telling.

reading the comments

A friend sent me a message this morning:

Read something about Trump and the Sup.Ct last night and made the mistake of reading the comments and couldn’t get to sleep for longest time. People are so hateful. Didnt you write something recently about not reading the comments.

My first thought was How am I supposed to remember stuff I might have written? I mean, I write a lot of crap every day. Sometimes several times a day. Much of what I write on social media is off the cuff and barely thought out. On the other hand, I’m one of those putzes who almost always reads the comments. So yeah, I probably did. It sounds like something I’d write.

My second thought was Dude, there’s a search function on the blog, why don’t you use it? And then I thought Why don’t I use it? So I used it. And hey, whaddayaknow? Turns out I wrote two things about the comments. Neither of them was recent, but still.

The most recent was in April of 2017. I’d written a thing about the Fearless Girl sculpture on Wall Street. It was the only thing I’ve ever written that actually went viral. It got a shit ton of comments, so I wrote about the comments. Not exactly about the comments, but about the fact that ordinary people were arguing and debating works of art. Which I think is really a pretty cool thing for ordinary people to do.

The living embodiment of the Comments section.

The other thing I wrote was almost exactly four years ago — October of 2016. And it was weirdly appropriate. It was about the reasons people give for NOT reading the comments. And it was also about Comrade Trump and his supporters. Here’s the last line of the post:

Donald J. Trump, his campaign, and his supporters are the living embodiment of the comments.

That’s a pretty good line. Still true.

the difference between grief and mourning

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead.

The grim and sorrowful constellation of thoughts and emotions we’re experiencing right now, that’s grief. The word comes from the Old French term grever meaning “afflict, burden, oppress,” which is from the Latin gravare, which meant “to make heavy.” Grief is heavy; it weighs us down.

The outward expression of grief, that’s mourning. Mourning has a more complex origin. It comes from a Proto-Indo-European root which, because of linguistic convention, is usually written as *(s)mer. It refers to the act of remembrance, reflection, recollection. Mourning is how we use our memories and understanding of the dead to gradually reduce the awful weight of our grief.

Grief is what we feel; mourning is what we do.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead, and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about that. Our grief is both personal and communal. We grieve for what she means to us personally, we grieve for her family and friends, we grieve for what her death might mean for the concept of equal justice under law in the United States. It’s good that we grieve; it’s right that we grieve.

But our grief is less important than how we mourn her — how we collectively express our grief and how you as an individual will express your grief. Is making RBG your Facebook icon enough to lighten your grief? Will wearing your Notorious RBG t-shirt alleviate your grief? What about voting, will that help? What about getting others to vote? Volunteering to drive others to the polls? Donating money or labor to a candidate? What about calling both of your senators on Monday, and asking them NOT to vote on a successor to RGB’s seat until after the election/inauguration? Will that do it?

Here’s a True Thing: your grief is your grief. Nobody gets to tell you how to express it. Nobody gets to tell you the proper way for you to mourn. Nobody gets to tell you how much you have to mourn or what that mourning should include. Nobody gets to tell you what RBG would want from you. Mourn her in your own way.

But mourn her. Right now, it’s enough to grieve. Right now, it’s okay to give into your grief. Let yourself fully experience your grief. Then start actively mourning.

Obscure and Semi-inappropriate Addendum: That Proto-Indo-European root *(s)mer is also the source of the name of Mimir, the Norse god who guarded the Mímisbrunnr, the Well of Wisdom. Mimir, not surprisingly, was known for his judgment, his sagacity, his knowledge. None of that, unfortunately, prevented him being beheaded in the battle between the Æsir and the Vanir (don’t ask; we’re talking Norse mythology, so it’s complicated). After the battle, Odin found Mimir’s body and collected his head (as gods do). He did some sort of god-thing to Mimir’s head so he could tote it around with him and continue to get Mimir’s advice.

Metaphorically, we can do the same with RBG. We can carry our memory of her around with us. We can ask ourselves ‘What would RBG do?’ and then try to do it. That’s proper mourning, right there.

knuckles dobrovic is slightly dislocated

The whole Knuckles Dobrovic thing began in 2013 when I reluctantly and grudgingly realized there was some artistic value to Instagram. I created the Knuckles alias as a way of investigating Instagram without having my name associated with it. I thought it made sense back then, but sounds really silly now. So I started putting a thing on a glass-topped table on the deck and photographing it. It became a project. Things on a Table. I did that for about a year.

Eventually I started an Instagram account using my real name, but I’d grown absurdly attached to the name Knuckles Dobrovic. I decided I’d keep that account and us it strictly for photo projects. Because I tend to over-analyze things, I came up with some basic parameters for all future Knuckles projects: 1) it’s got to be simple (which means I won’t have to do a lot of planning or a lot of post-processing), 2) it’s got to be organic to my life (which means it’s something I can photograph during the course of an ordinary day — whatever that is), 3) it’s got to have at least one intellectual component (which is more accurately described as a pretentious bullshit element), and finally, 4) it’s got to be able to keep my interest over time.

After ‘Things on a Table’ I turned to Double Exposures of My Feet on the Earth and then to the Hundred Appropriated Google Street View gig. When that was finished, I felt no hurry to find another project. Some idea would eventually roll up in a ball and get my attention. That’s how these things work, mostly.

Yeah, no, not this.

Then, of course, Covid-19 showed up and parked its fat ass in the center of our society. At some point I decided the next Knuckles gig should reflect the strange new Covid reality. I tried a 16:9 moody landscape concept. Broad landscapes as a way of dealing with an increasingly closed in life. But no. Besides, it felt too similar to the Google gig. I also tried reworking a lot of old unseen street portraits in a high contrast are-bure-bokeh-ish style. The idea was to remember life without masks, but do it with a harsh, garish, blurry aesthetic that was sort of alienating. But, again, no. I really like that style, but no. Not now. Maybe someday I’ll come back to that.

Yeah, no, not this either.

But I kept noodling around semi-randomly. Taking new photos and playing with them, looking at old photos (which is something I almost never do) and smooshing them around a bit. Then one restless night I took an old photo of some lawn chairs in a suburban yard, diddled with the color a wee bit, digitally sliced it in thirds, then re-arranged the pieces.

Okay, this might work.

I liked it. It was a mundane, familiar scene but it felt a wee bit out-of-sync. It felt somewhat disjointed and almost (but not quite) unbalanced. Which is sort of how the world seems right now. So I tried with another photo. A bar that wouldn’t be seeing any customers this year.

Yeah, okay, this is starting to work.

The bar was still exactly as it was before the pandemic, but now it was just a tad off-color and slightly dislocated. Which seemed like an obvious title for the gig. It seemed like the approach would be elastic enough to use for almost any sort of photographic style. Landscapes, interior shots, still lifes, street photos.

Okay, that’s it. It’s a project.

It wasn’t until I took a rather busy photo of last year’s Planned Parenthood book sale, chopped it up, and re-organized it that I became confident the gig would probably work. I’ll almost certainly continue to use some old photos in the gig, but I expect I’ll be shooting a lot of new stuff with half an eye on the Slightly Dislocated idea (but only half an eye; I don’t want to be searching for material). I expect I’ll be stopping my bike sporadically to shoot something like this:

Slightly Dislocated — goal

This project may, of course, turn out to be awful. It may become predictable or repetitive, it could turn out to be dull–for the viewer or for me. Hell, as unlikely as it seems, the pandemic might come to a quick end (yeah, that’s not going to happen) and the entire concept of Slightly Dislocated may become out of date. I’ve no idea how long I’ll keep this up, but for now I’m having fun with it.

wake up, america

This question was actually asked and answered at Comrade Trump’s Covid news briefing last week.

Question: Mr. President, at the crux of the theory is this belief that you are secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like something you are behind or a believer in?
Trump: Well, I haven’t — I haven’t heard that. But is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? I mean, you know, if I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it.

The question was about Q-Anon, of course. Everybody is talking about Q, curious about Q, focused on Q. Think about it, though. Is it actually believable that Trump is secretly working with law enforcement to stop Hollywood celebrities and Democrats from stealing European children from Episcopalian churches for perverse sexual rituals and Satanic cannibalistic feasts?

No. No, the Truth is the Q-Anon conspiracy theory is just a silly distraction devised by alien agents embedded in the Dip State to keep you from looking at real conspiracies.

Zoo-Anon — Have you ever noticed how many seemingly innocent buildings in zoos have locked doors? Locked, with prominent Keep Out signs. Some are even reinforced with padlocks. What are they hiding? What’s going on behind those closed doors? What…or who…are they keeping hidden away from public scrutiny? Could there be secret rooms lined with stacks of cages holding European children stolen from Episcopalian churches? Are those children being sold to Hollywood celebrities? Or Democrats? For perverse sexual rituals and Satanic cannibalistic feasts? It’s no coincidence zoos are stocked with tranquilizer dart guns. Wake up, America.

Hue-Anon — Why are there so many multi-colored flags out there? You’ve seen them. Some are variations on the Stars and Stripes, but with curious and unorthodox colors. Some are passed off as Pride flags or flags of supposed ‘sports’ teams, or even national flags of countries with ridiculously improbable names (like Ruritania or Peru). Isn’t it more likely that many of those ‘flags’ are actually coded messages? Messages hidden in plain sight, recognizable to agents of the Dip State traveling incognito, transporting European children stolen from Episcopalian churches to be delivered to Hollywood celebrities and Democrats for perverse sexual rituals and Satanic cannibalistic feasts. Keep your eyes open, don’t accept any flag except Old Gory. Wake up, America.

Roux-Anon — Have you noticed how many so-called ‘chefs’ are foreigners? Not just foreigners, but supposedly French? Why? Are we to believe France–a nation whose relationship with armpit hair is questionable–produces the world’s best cooks? Have you ever actually met a real French cook? Probably not. And yet the myth persists and the myth is grounded in the preparation of a thickening agent used in cooking. It’s called a ‘roux’ but it’s literally nothing more than flour mixed with some form of rendered fat, perhaps. Why did they have to make up a French-sounding world for that? More importantly, where does that fat come from? Could it be the baby fat of European children stolen from Episcopalian churches for the perverse pleasure of Hollywood celebrities and Democrats for perverse sexual rituals and Satanic cannibalistic feasts? Why do you think ‘French cuisine’ is so expensive? Learn to think for yourselves. Wake up, America.

J. Crew-Anon — This clothing retailer recently announced it would apply for bankruptcy protection. Why? They claim it’s because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the president assures us that children are virtually immune from Covid. Isn’t it more likely that European children stolen from Episcopalian churches are sold to J. Crew as slave labor after they’ve grown too old for the perverse pleasure of Hollywood celebrities and Democrats for perverse sexual rituals and Satanic feasts? Isn’t it more likely the company is closing its doors for fear that President Trump and Attorney General Barr are on the verge of arresting the executives of J. Crew and holding them in a Manhattan jail until they are murdered by ninja assassins hired by Hollywood celebrities and Democrats? Follow the logic. Wake up, America.

Gnu-Anon — A pony is an odd-toed ungulate. A gnu is an even-toed ungulate. Why is this important? Hollywood celebrities and Democrats are fiendishly clever. They needed an easily identifiable symbol that can be worn in public–a symbol which would allow them to recognize others of their sexually perverse Satanic cannibalistic ilk (yes, they are an ilk). Ordinary decent people might wear a polo shirt with the traditional emblem of a polo pony on the front. If you look closely at the next Hollywood celebrity fund-raiser for a Democrat, you’ll notice some of those polo shirts actually feature a galloping gnu. If you pay attention, you’ll hear them exchange a ritual greeting. “Hey buddy, how’s it going?” What this really means is, “Hello fellow conspirator, have you any European children stolen from Episcopalian churches available for perverse sexual rituals and Satanic cannibalistic feasts?” This is happening right in front of your eyes. Wake up, America.

Jew-Anon — This is a false flag conspiracy theory. (Not in the Hue-Anon sense, but in the sense that it doesn’t make any sense, if that makes sense.) Does anybody really believe Jews would engage in a conspiracy of any sort? I mean, they’ve never even been able to put together a professional football team. Don’t be stupid.

The Truth is out there. All you have to do is look for it. Wake up, America. Wake up.