not falling for it, nope

— So, did you see Mitt Romney the other day.
— No, thank Jayzus, what’d he do now?
— Marched with Black Lives Matter.
— C’mon.
— No, he did.
— Was he lost?
— No, he was marching with BLM.
— Mitt Romney?
— Mitt fucking Romney.
— Did he have, like, an armed guard?
— Looked like it was just him.
— Five bucks says he had one hand on his wallet.
— No, he was…
— And the other hand on some poor Black guy’s wallet.
— …actually marching with Black Lives Matter. I’m not making this up.
— Was he toting a sign that said ‘All lives matter’?
— No, he…somebody asked him why he was marching and he said…and I’m really, truly not making this up, he said something about violence and brutality, and then he said it was “to make sure that people understand that Black lives matter.”

— Mitt Romney?
— I know, right?
— I mean, just a few months ago Pete Buttigieg was still saying ‘All lives matter’ and he’s a damned Democrat.
— I don’t know how to explain it. He took a selfie of himself in the march.
— Okay, that’s just…Mitt Romney took a selfie in a BLM march. I did NOT see that coming.
— We live in curious times, my friend.
— Did he say the death of George Floyd was ‘a tragic mistake’ or ‘an unfortunate event’?
— He called it a murder.
— Bullshit.
— Straight up called it a murder.
— Are you sure this was Mitt Romney?
— I swear on my signed first edition of Neuromancer.
— I don’t know quite what to make of this.
— It sorta kinda gives me hope. I mean, there’s a
— Stop it. Just stop. You’re not going to trick me into having hope. Fuck you.
— But, what if…
— I’m not listening I’m not listening Neenah neenah neenah just fucking stop.
— Okay.
— I’m not falling for it.
— Okay.
— I’m not.
— …
— God damn it.

all democrats have are dildos

I’m a relatively fortunate guy. I manage to get by without having to work a straight job. One of benefits of that is I have the freedom to piss away chunks of time reading news sources/websites/blogs of all political stripes, from rabidly leftist to rabidly conservative. I figure that’s the only way I can have a somewhat accurate understanding of what’s taking place in the U.S.

This morning I plunged into FreeRepublic again. Much of the discussion revolved around four topics: 1) Comrade Trump, 2) Hillary Clinton, 3) guns, 4) Jeebus. Here are a few of the things I learned, in no particular order:

— Trump is “being too successful at too many things, and they need to derail or stop him from having any more successes. After all, if he’s successful at anything or all things, what are democrats going to run on? So, democrats need to make sure that issues don’t get resolved in order for them to run on those issues as remaining problems.”

— “No one has been stronger on Russia than President Donald Trump.”

— “All of the major television networks use their prime time entertainment shows to push a pro-gun control agenda.” Proof? “You never see a good guy with a gun defending himself or a third party.”

— Former CIA Director John Brennan and others are apparently “threatening the killing of Donald Trump” by saying he committed treason. “Americans have to get behind their President and defend him from these people who are trying to pul a regime change in Washington.” However, attempting regime change wouldn’t be wise because “These COMMIE IDIOTS do NOT want to go to War with the GOP! We have all the guns + Military + Special Forces All Democrats have are dildos.”

— “Trump needs to do two things immediately: first, take a 2 week vacation. Second, invite Putin to DC and watch more leftist heads explode.”

— Hillary Clinton and/or her minions murdered Anthony Bourdain. Why? Apparently because Bourdain was going to reveal information about Harvey Weinstein, who’d raped Bourdain’s lover and therefore Hillary had him killed. Also she probably killed “the dead lady found in HumaWeiner’s apt building trash chute.”

— After the 2018 midterm elections, “The Democrats are going to make the move to confiscate everyone’s firearms.”

— There is passionate debate about whether or not the resurrected body of Jesus had blood in it.

— The media “opposes any attempt to preserve the American people in some meaningful form. It aids and abets enemies of the United States. It sides with fanatical ideologies waging war on America. It opposes the outcome of any election that its political allies don’t win.”

— Trump apparently has access to information that was on Anthony Weiner’s hard drive and he’s going to “wait on the first case to come to a close, conviction – plea – acquittal, and declassify that one, exposing all the BS they’ve been up to, all their ‘secret methods’, etc, I think heads will start exploding.”

I suspect some of you will be tempted to write me and say, “I say Old Sock, hold on a moment, I don’t think that’s quite correct.” Or “I say Old Sock, haven’t you something better to do with your time?” Or “I say Old Sock, I’m afraid this doesn’t make a lick of sense.” Or “I say Old Sock, what’s with all this exploding heads business?” Or “I say Old Sock, are you okay? Are you having a stroke? Do you smell burnt toast?”

First, stop calling me Old Sock. Second, the difference between reading FreeRepublic and having a stroke is that the latter is easier to recover from.

Also, for the Democrats reading this, here’s a picture of Wall Street’s Charging Bull covered with dildos, being ridden by a shirtless Vlad Putin wearing a hat. You’re welcome.

save the date

So I’m walking down this alley, right? Walking down the alley, minding my own business mostly, and in the back of this building–it looks like it might have been a garage space at one time, or maybe some sort of small manufacturing enterprise that went toes up–on one of the boarded-over broken windows, I see this:

Save the date

Sometimes I see things and they don’t quite register in my brain until a few seconds later. I took maybe five or six steps and then my brain belatedly kicks in. Dude, my brain says, did you see that? And I’m all ‘Yeah, I saw it.” And my brain says Well? And I say ‘Okay’ and me and my brain turn around and retrace those five or six steps.

save the date2

And sure enough, my brain was right to insist we turn around. There it is. Save the date. (Okay, there’s also a cast-off blouse or jacket, stained with what appears to be blood; I didn’t examine it too closely because 1) I wasn’t about to pick it up without a pair of latex gloves and 2) I really do not want to be seen standing in an alley holding a bloody jacket in my hands.)

Save the date. I’m just taking it for granted that this isn’t like ‘Save the Whales.’ I don’t think the date is in any danger or is in any way threatened. I’m assuming whoever wrote that is suggesting I don’t make any plans for the 19th day of July because…because why?

Let’s just assume this (this what? Is it an invitation? an announcement? a command?) is a savvy niche marketing strategy, that it’s a direct approach targeting the ‘folks who wander down alleys’ demographic. And while we’re assuming, let’s also assume it’s not targeting a ‘folks who don’t mind standing in alleys holding bloody jackets’ demographic. That leads us inevitably to this question: Uhhh…what the fuck?

I realize this is a small broken window; there isn’t room to include a detailed account of what’s going to take place on that date. But a hint would have been nice.

So I go online to see if I can determine what’s happening on the 19th of July. There’s a Taylor Swift concert in Philadelphia. Wrong city, wrong demographic. Somebody named Tracy is getting married. But probably not in that alley (although that would be a wedding I’d definitely attend). There’s a synchronized swimming competition. Doesn’t sound like a likely candidate. There’s a bull riding event in Florida and a group called Train is appearing in Indianapolis on their Mermaids of Alcatraz tour. Nope, that’s not it. The Red Sox are playing the Dog-Ass Yankees at Fenway. That’s always a good time. And in Des Moines there’s a muscle car auction at the State Fairgrounds and the Civic Center is hosting a student performance of The Princess and the Pea. Probably not events you’d advertise in an alley.

I’m willing to save the date on my calendar (if I owned a calendar, which I don’t, but that’s not the point, is it–the point is this: ‘Why am I saving the date?’ A related point may be ‘Do you really think folks who wander down alleys are also folks who keep engagement calendars?’). I may have to return to the alley with a bit of paint and a brush and use one of the remaining boarded-over broken windows to request more information.

Okay but why am I
saving the date?

It wouldn’t be vandalism. It would just be an appeal for clarification. Right?

self evident truths

I spent some time looking at the portraits from the Self Evident Truths project before I read the ‘About’ section. I like the photographs. They’re simple, unfussy, comfortable, direct, wonderfully relaxed portraits of ordinary people. I like them a lot.

On the landing page, the portraits scroll by at an unhurried pace — about the pace you’d expect if you were strolling through town and looked casually at the people coming toward you on the sidewalk. It’s pleasant and smile-making to just sit for a while and look at the faces that pass by.

self evident truths 2

Then I read the ‘About’ page. These are the first few lines on that page:

In 2010 iO Tillett Wright began a project called Self Evident Truths, photographing anyone that felt like they qualified to fall on some part of the LGBTQ spectrum, from bisexual, to transgender. Shot in simple black and white, in natural light, with no makeup or styling, the photos were intended to humanize the very varied face of gays in America today.

Intended to humanize. I read that and thought ‘We need to humanize gay folks?’ That notion seems so out of date. It feels like something activists would say in the 1990s.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the portraits. I love the foundational concept — I find something oddly pleasing about portraits of ordinary people categorized in some way. I’d love to see portraits of people who work in grocery stores, or people who are in bowling leagues, or people who frequent swap meets, or people who keep lists of the birds they see. I suspect they’d all look fairly similar to the people we see in the Self Evident Truths project.

But I can’t imagine shooting portraits of birders or bowlers or grocery store employees in order to humanize them. It’s 2013 — do we really need to humanize LGBTQ folks?

self evident truths 1

If the Montana legislature is any indication, then yeah, I guess maybe we do.

Yesterday the Montana legislature voted on a measure to strike an old Montana law that criminalized “sexual contact or sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex.” The Montana Supreme Court ruled that law was unconstitutional in 1997, but the law remained on the books despite regular attempts to have it removed. Why? Because some Montana Republicans apparently felt that if they voted to remove the law, they’d get some of the gay on them. And you know, that stuff is hard to wash out. Or something like that.

This year was different. This year Montana Democrats garnered enough support to have the unconstitutional law stricken from the criminal code. The vote was 38-10. That’s right, ten Republicans still voted to retain the law even though it’s unconstitutional and even though it can’t be enforced. Lawdy.

Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled them unconstitutional, there are still at least a dozen other states with anti-sodomy or anti-homosexual laws on the books. There are elected legislators in at least a dozen states who are so afraid of gay folks that they refuse to remove blatantly unconstitutional laws from their criminal codes.

But I still disagree with iO Tillett Wright and the Self Evident Truths project on this issue. I don’t think we need to ‘humanize’ gay folks. I think we need to humanize the people who hate gay folks.

self evident truths 3

Visit the Self Evident Truths site. Visit their shop. Buy prints of the portraits. Buy ‘We Are You’ t-shirts. Donate to the project if you can. But work to humanize bigots and assholes. Gay folks are already okay as they are.

Editorial note: When I say ‘gay folks’ I mean everybody in the LGBTQ mishpocha; I just get weary of the acronym. Also? It’s already totally fucking obvious, but for the record let me just point out that all the photos are from the Self Evident Truth project.

unasked questions

I love a mystery. I love a mystery so much, I’ll often go out of my way NOT to solve them. Once a mystery is solved, then it’s obviously no longer a mystery.

Yesterday my companion and I stood for a moment on a bridge and watched a young man repeatedly throwing stuff into the river. I assumed it was something like bits of dried bread, maybe to feed the fish. She thought it might be corn or some sort of grain. It wasn’t at all clear. Not a huge mystery, but enough to make me want a closer look.

We followed the stairs down to the river and I asked the young man what he was throwing into the river. He said, “Candy.” He showed me his knapsack, which contained a plastic shopping bag full of small individual-sized packets of M&Ms. He also had a box filled with packets of some other candy.

“Is this for the fish?” I asked. He spoke in a half-whisper, saying something that included the word fish, but I couldn’t quite understand him. He seemed mildly reluctant to look at me, but was certainly polite and patient and quite willing to answer questions. Rather than pester him, though, I simply said “Enjoy yourself,” and we continued down the walkway along the river.

Looking back at one point, I noticed him standing and watching us. I held up the camera in what I hoped was a universal ‘Can I take your photograph?’ gesture and waved to him. He waved back, which I chose to interpret as ‘Sure, go ahead.’

The whole thing seemed a wee bit odd, but I figured the guy was possibly developmentally disabled or maybe stoned. Either way, it was no big deal and we continued to walk along the river.

On the walk back, the young man was still there. As we approached he pulled on a bright blue jacket and I decided I was going to ask if I could shoot his photo. Before we got to him, he stepped onto the small sand bar that had formed along the walkway and began burying some things. Digging small holes with his hands, dropping in whatever he was burying, filling the holes, then patting them down tidily.

He’d just finished burying the final thing when we arrived. “Would you mind if I took your photograph?” I asked. I was going to give him my name and hand him my card and explain why I wanted to take his photo — but he just stood up, returned to the walkway, turned and stood there. Like Gort awaiting orders from Klaatu.


I just took the one shot. “Can I ask your name?” I said. He spoke very softly. “Sakim.” I showed him the photograph and he smiled. “That’s good,” he said.

I wanted to ask him about the candy again. I wanted to ask him why he was throwing candy to the fish. I wanted to ask him what he was burying in the sand and why he was burying it. But if you ask questions, you get answers and I’m not convinced the answers would have been nearly as intriguing as the questions.

from the world of the batshit crazy

A couple times a week I visit a few extreme right wing conservative websites. I tell myself it’s because it’s important to try to understand people with whom you disagree–even if you disagree strongly. And I believe that’s true. But it’s also true that I visit those sites because they make me laugh. Sometimes they’re so wildly illogical that you have to wonder if they’re actually parody. Maybe some sort of performance art.

Sometimes, of course, those sites are just sad and pathetic. And sometimes there is so much hate and rage behind the posts that it’s a tad frightening. And then there are the times when they become so batshit crazy–so divorced from anything remotely resembling reality–that they generate a sort of out-of-body, hallucinatory experience.

Today was one of those days. It all begins with a White House photograph showing President Barack Obama wearing a pair of glasses while napping on a sofa. But wait, you say, the president doesn’t wear glasses. So why is he wearing them? And why would he wear them when napping?

Because those aren’t just any old pair of glasses. No sir, no ma’am–according to a few right wing bloggers, those are the very glasses worn by Malcolm X on the day he was assassinated!

How did the president obtain those glasses?

From his mother, obviously. There is speculation (and seriously, I’m really not making any of this up) among some of the more lunatic right wing Obama-watchers that Malcolm X was actually the president’s biological father. If a person is capable of believing that, then it’s only a short walk down Loopy Street to believing Obama’s mother was present in the audience on the day Malcolm X was murdered. And if she was there, then…

…the pandemonium that ensued when Malcolm was shot dead on that stage could have left Stanley Ann Dunham ignored while the slain leader’s distraught wife and family members hurried to the hospital…. Did the President’s mother grab these glasses for safe keeping to give them to her son? Was she ignored, forgotten? Were these glasses all she could take away from that horrible scene?

If it’s possible, then it must be true! There’s no other logical explanation for the president to be wearing a pair of glasses while taking a nap! His mother, teenage lover Stanley Ann…unable to follow Malcolm to the hospital because of Malcolm’s wife and child, is left behind, grief-stricken and horrified. And then, almost as if by magic, there, amidst the hideous chaos, are his eyeglasses. His precious, signature, tragically broken eyeglasses. So of course she took them to give to her three year old son, because he’d need them in the future when he’d be napping as president. Any mother would do the same.

What…you want even MORE proof? Here it is:

When Malcolm was shot at the Audubon Ballroom, 21 February 1965, as usual, he was wearing his eyeglasses.

Yet when he was wheeled out, his eyeglasses were off.

Then –

No eyeglasses on Malcolm’s body at the wake.

No eyeglasses at the funeral.

Whatever happened to Malcolm X’s eyeglasses?

Now that we have the White House photo, above, it may not be a mystery after all.

Satisfied now? Malcolm X was Barack Obama’s biological father. How do we know that? Because despite the fact that there’s an unfortunate lack of evidence that Ann Dunham and Malcolm X were ever in the same town at the same time, he and President Obama sorta kinda look alike (I swear, I am NOT making this up). Malcolm X was assassinated and his glasses mysteriously disappeared. How do we know that? Because they’re not in a photograph of the crime scene, and any disappearance is mysterious by definition.

But since there’s now indisputable photographic evidence that non-eyeglass-wearing Obama is clearly wearing glasses while napping, and since he’s indisputably the love child of Malcolm X and since Malcolm X’s indisputable glasses are indisputably nowhere to be found, surely there can’t be any dispute. Those MUST be the glasses of Malcolm X.

Welcome to the world of the batshit crazy.

not quite yet

In the 1930s the Banner Coal Company explored “an unusually good grade” of coal in central Iowa, just a few miles south of Des Moines. The vein was rather shallow, buried beneath only forty feet of soil and shale. The shallow depth and the fragile ‘roof’ made mining the coal problematic. Traditional mining techniques wouldn’t work. So the company resorted to the open pit process.

Open pit mining wasn’t new. The practice had been used in the U.S. for a century–since the 1830s. The Banner Coal Company knew how to wrench the most product from the earth with the least fuss (and the most profit). They brought in the largest electric dragline excavator in the country (spectators traveled for miles to watch the massive machine at work) and for the next two decades they hauled coal out of the pits. It was the largest strip mining project in Iowa history.

By the mid-1950s, the coal was gone–and when the coal was gone, the coal company went with it. They sold the land–some 220 acres–to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which intended to turn the area into a wildlife management area. The operative term there is intended.

Half a century passed without much being done. The pits slowly filled with groundwater. Natural flora grew wherever there was enough soil to support it. Growth on the waste-rock and tailings was spotty to say the least, and the only plants that grew were brought there by wind and wildlife. But the wildlife came, drawn by the water. It came, settled, made nests, created dens. It wasn’t just animals–kids were also drawn in by the deep pools of dark water (that attraction almost certainly heightened by parental warnings against the place).

In addition to the 80 acres of former-pit-turned-lake, the landscape is dotted with strange little pocket marshes and hidden sloughs where turtles and frogs squat with cranky blackbirds and condescending herons. In 2002 the Department of Natural Resources finally decided to turn the site into a state park. They built bicycle trails (for both casual cyclists and adrenalin-crazed mountain bikers), they set up picnic tables, added a boat ramp, and brought in other amenities.

Despite the work that’s been done, the area still has an odd, semi-feral, almost post-apocalyptic feel. There’s a sense that Nature is patiently and unceasingly trying to overcome the damage done by thoughtless humans. Trying, but it’s been a struggle.

I feel strangely at ease here. As much as I despise the damage done by the Banner Coal Company, I can’t get too pissed off at them. In the 1930s they had little knowledge about the long term effects of this type of mining operation. In their ignorance, they created a landscape that feels wounded–even mutilated. And yet it’s a very compelling landscape, partly because of the harm that was done and partly because of the organic regrowth that hasn’t quite been able to repair the damage. Yet.

I like that yet. It’s a good yet. A comforting yet. Some day this area will lose its post-apo air. It’ll just be an unusual lake. Some day. But not quite yet.

the evolutionary process

Well. I suppose it’s a good thing that Bosch believes in evolution. That certainly puts the company ahead of the entire field of Republican presidential candidates.

But perhaps this is a way to make evolution palatable to those Republicans? Maybe they’ll accept the science if it suggests women were created by god to do laundry—and evolution has made them fit to do it in heels.