11 February 2018


1900 by Jeff Hess

180211 zits test anxiety no pressure

I have to wonder how much better students would be if we started teaching meditation in kindergarten. We could do that, but then we might just be medicating rather than eliminating the problem.

11 February 2018


1800 by Jeff Hess

In his most recent novel—Robicheaux—James Lee Burke’S police officer protagonist, Dave Robicheaux ponders anger, serenity and the real world:

How do you handle it when your anger brims over the edge of the pot? You use the shortened version of the Serenity Prayer, which is Fuck it. Like Voltaire’s Candide tending his own garden or the British infantry going up the Khyber Pass one bloody foot at a time, you do your job, and you grin and walk through the cannon smoke, and you just keep saying fuck it. You also have faith in your own convictions and never let the naysayers and those who are masters at inculcating self-doubt hold sway over your life. Fuck it is not profanity. Fuck it is a sonnet. p. 249

Few people aspire to, let alone attain, this kind of clarity.

This evening I’m pondering the connections between Dave Robicheaux and Don Draper.

11 February 2018


1700 by Jeff Hess

180211 doonesbury garry trudeau jake paul vine you tube followers logan paul

You know you’re a slacker when Edgar Zonker Harris has a stronger work ethic than you do. Sadly, I know from experience with my students that Zipper’s fantasy is all too real for those who think that what they see on You Tube is real.

11 February 2018


0800 by Jeff Hess

I first read The Road To Wigan Pier a little more than seven years ago after reading Christopher Hitchens rightly praise the writings of George Orwell. The 4,861-word essay, Down The Mine, written in 1937, is an excerpt from Wigan.

Orwell begins:

Our civilization, pace Chesterton, is founded on coal, more completely than one realizes until one stops to think about it. The machines that keep us alive, and the machines that make machines, are all directly or indirectly dependent upon coal. In the metabolism of the Western world the coal-miner is second in importance only to the man who ploughs the soil. He is a sort of caryatid upon whose shoulders nearly everything that is not grimy is supported. For this reason the actual process by which coal is extracted is well worth watching, if you get the chance and are willing to take the trouble.

The same, of course, can be said about The United States, but because we developed petroleum resources much earlier than Great Britain, coal continued to play a significant role in that nation’s economy long after it had begun to decline here. For that reason, I imagine that many more British citizens have intimate recollections of coal than we do. I knew a bit about coal. The father of one of my good friends and the father of one of my high school girl friends both drove coal trucks to local power plants and factories. I also have vivid memories of what the acidic dew could do to the paint job of a car if you left it out over night. None of that, of course, compares to experiences of the men who went to the coal face every day.

When you go down a coal-mine it is important to try and get to the coal face when the ‘fillers’ are at work. This is not easy, because when the mine is working visitors are a nuisance and are not encouraged, but if you go at any other time, it is possible to come away with a totally wrong impression. On a Sunday, for instance, a mine seems almost peaceful. The time to go there is when the machines are roaring and the air is black with coal dust, and when you can actually see what the miners have to do. At those times the place is like hell, or at any rate like my own mental picture of hell. Most of the things one imagines in hell are if there–heat, noise, confusion, darkness, foul air, and, above all, unbearably cramped space. Everything except the fire, for there is no fire down there except the feeble beams of Davy lamps and electric torches which scarcely penetrate the clouds of coal dust.

When you have finally got there—and getting there is a in itself: I will explain that in a moment—you crawl through the last line of pit props and see opposite you a shiny black wall three or four feet high. This is the coal face.

This is the Stygian chamber that the likes of President Donald John Trump could never imagine. (Yes, I know that such mines are an extreme rarity today with mechanization and mountain-top blasting the norm.) What Orwell did here, and for the rest of the essay, is write what journalists ought to write about: the places where the average citizen never goes, and would never, in all likelihood, never want to go, but must see and understand.

You cannot see very far, because the fog of coal dust throws back the beam of your lamp, but you can see on either side of you the line of half-naked kneeling men, one to every four or five yards, driving their shovels under the fallen coal and flinging it swiftly over their left shoulders. They are feeding it on to the conveyor belt, a moving rubber, belt a couple of feet wide which runs a yard or two behind them. Down this belt a glittering river of coal races constantly. In a big mine it is carrying away several tons of coal every minute. It bears it off to some place in the main roads where it is shot into tubs holding half a tun, and thence dragged to the cages and hoisted to the outer air.

It is impossible to watch the ‘fillers’ at work without feeling a pang of envy for their toughness. It is a dreadful job that they do, an almost superhuman job by the standard of an ordinary person. For they are not only shifting monstrous quantities of coal, they are also doing, it in a position that doubles or trebles the work. They have got to remain kneeling all the while–they could hardly rise from their knees without hitting the ceiling–and you can easily see by trying it what a tremendous effort this means. Shovelling is comparatively easy when you are standing up, because you can use your knee and thigh to drive the shovel along; kneeling down, the whole of the strain is thrown upon your arm and belly muscles.

The next time you’re at the gym, think about how fit and tone those fillers were. Orwell concluded with:

There are still living a few very old women who in their youth have worked underground, with the harness round their waists, and a chain that passed between their legs, crawling on all fours and dragging tubs of coal. They used to go on doing this even when they were pregnant. And even now, if coal could not be produced without pregnant women dragging it to and fro, I fancy we should let them do it rather than deprive ourselves of coal. But-most of the time, of course, we should prefer to forget that they were doing it. [Emphasis mine, JH] It is so with all types of manual work; it keeps us alive, and we are oblivious of its existence. More than anyone else, perhaps, the miner can stand as the type of the manual worker, not only because his work is so exaggeratedly awful, but also because it is so vitally necessary and yet so remote from our experience, so invisible, as it were, that we are capable of forgetting it as we forget the blood in our veins. In a way it is even humiliating to watch coal-miners working. It raises in you a momentary doubt about your own status as an ‘intellectual’ and a superior person generally. For it is brought home to you, at least while you are watching, that it is only because miners sweat their guts out that superior persons can remain superior. You and I and the editor of the Times Lit. Supp., and the poets and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants–all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel.

Yes, the conditions in 2018 are not what they were in 1938 or 1918 or 1838, but still billions of humans work in conditions not much better—and too often much worse—to make our pleasant lives so, well, pleasant.

Consider the men (and women, think Catherine in Émile Zola’s Germinal) who toiled to provide the electricity that powers the espresso machine making your Quad Grande, Non Fat, Extra Hot Caramel Macchiato Upside Down. (I’m sorry, anyone who doesn’t drink their coffee black should just get a smoothie or a milkshake to chase down a couple of NoDoz tabs.)

Anytime we think we are self-made we play the fool because we stand on a global pyramid of backs bent to labor that we never see.

History is vital


Coming next week: North And South….

10 February 2018


2000 by Roldo Bartimole

(Welcome Scene readers. Lest you be confused, this is just the teaser for Roldo’s 5,000-word, two piece, Part I of which—50 YEARS—FREE TO SPEAK WITHOUT RESTRICTION—appears below. Part II will be published at 5 a.m. on Wednesday. JH)

How could 50 years have passed so quickly? Starting in 1968 with Point Of Viəw, Vol. 1, No. 1 and all of a sudden it’s 2018. How did it happen? What made it happen?

Sometimes you just can’t let go. I find it difficult. It’s been a journey of Cleveland for five decades.

Carl Stokes, George Forbes, Dennis Kucinich, Michael White, Frank Jackson, Art Modell, Mike Polensek, Nick Mileti, Dick Jacobs, Mary Boyle, Alex Machaskee, Sam Miller, Al Ratner, Mary Rose Oakar, Tom Vail, Ralph Perk, James C. Davis, Tim Hagan, CEI, United Way, Squire-Sanders, Jones-Day, the Plain Dealer, the Press, Cleveland police. How many more make up this period?

They and so many more all helped make 50 years a tough, demanding but useful way to spend a life-time of work.

There’s a time, however, to sum up.

There will be a summing up—from Bridgeport, Conn. to Cleveland, Ohio—the tell of a journey of, as another has said, Shaming of Devils and Telling Truth to Power.

The journey of a reporting career covering five decades of Cleveland political, civic and philanthropic history from one man’s perspective will be following in Have Coffee Will Write.


10 February 2018


1900 by Jeff Hess

Yeah, we’re so screwed…

10 February 2018


1800 by Jeff Hess

I’m forwarding this to all the teachers I know. Feel free to spread the word.

The deadline is May 1st.

From the desk of Ralph Nader:

What do an exploding car, Taylor Swift’s assailant and a killer building material all have in common? Wrongdoers were brought to justice with tort law and trial by jury!

The American Museum of Tort Law is excited to announce our Tort Law and Democracy Essay Contest. We invite all students grades 9 -12 to participate. A prestigious panel of experts – many of them law professors – will judge the entries.

As a result of jury verdicts, and the work of trial lawyers representing specific victims, the country as a whole is safer and more aware: Products have been improved, or removed from the market; civil rights have been protected and defended; and the environment is cleaner. These two – tort law, and trial by jury – are more important than ever in protecting our citizens from corporate wrongdoing and governmental overreach.

The American Museum of Tort Law, founded by Ralph Nader, is the only Museum of its type in the world. It celebrates the importance of tort law as a way to empower people to right wrongs; and the importance, too, of trial by jury. Tort law – the law of wrongful injuries – is truly law of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is the law that protects (or compensates) people from injury or death caused by negligence, reckless or intentional wrongdoing. It protects people from corporate wrongdoing, from dangerous and defective products, toxic environmental disasters, unsafe medicines and foods, and a host of other dangers. Juries serve as the conscience and voice of the community, and exemplify the power of citizen involvement in our government.

The Topic: “How Tort Law and Civil Trial by Jury Protect All Americans”

Who is eligible: All high school students, grades 9 through 12, in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

First Prize: $1000, and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Museum in Winsted Connecticut for the presentation of the award by Executive Director Rick Newman, and noted consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

Five runners-up: $500 each, and a book signed by Ralph Nader.

Fifty best remaining essays will receive Certificates of Honorable Mention.

Registration: The cost to enter is $15 (may be waived – see Rules), and all contestants will receive a large facsimile of the Declaration of Independence*, the document that started our country.

The Essay:

  • 750 to 1500 words, not including citations and bibliography
  • All submissions must be emailed by May 1st, 2018
  • Questions? Email us.

    Register to enter here.

    You can’t win if you don’t enter…

    10 February 2018


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    180210 non sequitur wisdom

    9 February 2018


    1800 by Jeff Hess

    DISCLAIMER: Oliver Burkeman, writing in Don’t knock Donald Trump for playing so much golf. Here’s why for The Guardian, starts out this weeks column making, what I think, are outrageously positive observation about President Donald John Trump and golf courses. I think you would do well to skip the first five sentences and begin reading with: One of the most beguiling answers

    What caught my eye was the description of cognitive quiet. Burkeman writes:

    The result is what the Kaplans [academics Rachel and Stephen] called “cognitive quiet”, in which the muscle of effortful attention—the one you use to concentrate on work—gets to rest, but without the boredom you’d feel if you had nothing to focus on. This helps explain why nature’s benefits aren’t restricted to, say, trips to the Grand Canyon or Great Barrier Reef. Those places seize your whole attention, whereas your local park may seize just enough of it to let the rest of your mind relax.

    What comes next—especially in light of recent conversations I’ve had with students regarding multi-tasking, smart phones and listening to music while studying—is brilliant.

    Think about attention like this, and it becomes clear how irresponsibly we usually treat our own supply of it. “To concentrate on a task, you need to block out distractions,” as the design and technology expert Richard Coyne has written—and “once that blocking function gets worn down by fatigue, you are more likely to act on impulse, to shirk tasks that prove too challenging [or] to become irritable.” But all too often, we respond to concentration fatigue by trying to concentrate on something different: email, social media, TV—“things that are more engaging but less challenging”. No wonder that doesn’t work: it’s like taking a rest after lifting dumbbells by lifting different dumbbells. Nature, by contrast, lets us switch modes. To quote Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park, it “employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquillises it and yet enlivens it”.

    To quote Meg Ryan: yes, Yes, YES!

    9 February 2018


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    Secretary of State Rex Wayne Tillerson statement here boggles the mind. I cannot imagine any politician rolling over in such total submission to a foreign threat. Even if getting fucked is inevitable, you still go down kicking and screaming, fighting to the end.

    This is what he told Fox News:

    I don’t know that I would say we are better prepared, because the Russians will adapt as well. The point is, if it’s their intention to interfere, they are going to find ways to do that.

    This is something that, once they decided they’re going to do it, it’s very difficult to preempt it.

    Can you, could anyone, imagine Tillerson delivering a similar message to Exxon’s board of directors?

    I don’t know that I would say we are better prepared, because British Petroleum is going to take business away from us. The point is, if it’s their intention to interfere, they are going to find ways to do that.

    This is something that, once they decided they’re going to do it, it’s very difficult to preempt it.

    The board, of course, would fire Tillerson’s ass so fast he’d leave the company like he was shot from a gusher.

    Jim Carrey has an idea…

    8 February 2018


    1800 by Jeff Hess

    Then there’s Cadet Bone Spurs

    8 February 2018


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    Arbitration clauses in contracts have gained a high profile in recent months because of how corporations have used them for years to protect the identity and very existence of sexual predators, serial sexual abusers, molesters and rapists in their employ from exposure by their victims. The problem with arbitration, however, runs deeper and is far more insidious because corporations have learned to insert them everywhere—particularly in the above mentioned End User License Agreements—as a run around of the Seventh Amendment to our Constitution which reads:

    In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars [Adjusted for inflation, $500 would probably make more sense today, JH], the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

    Corporations have their swamps of lawyers craft language so dense, so opaque, that consumers are guaranteed to just click “I agree” or quickly scrawl their signature so that they can escape mental torture of attempting to make sense of the legalese. Perhaps the simple phrase: In exchange for this sparkly pretty I agree to cheerfully take it up the ass, should appear at the top of all documents, but I’m thinking that people would still sign.

    Following the egregious Equifax security breach, Ohio’s senior senator Sherrod Brown fought back but much remains to be accomplished. Ralph Nader has a few ideas.

    Nader, in What is Stalling Wrongful Injury Lawyers?, writes:

    Up against four decades of megacorporate erosion of wrongfully injured Americans’ access to our courts, trial lawyers are wondering what use is left of the Seventh Amendment, our constitutional right to trial by jury?

    Indentured lawmakers pass laws blocking or obstructing harmed individuals who are simply seeking fair compensation for their medical expenses, wage loss and suffering as a result of actions committed by their wrongdoers. Corporations, with their fine print consumer contracts, are eluding justice for some serious crimes by employing compulsory arbitration clauses, which preemptively force victims into closed, private arbitration (in lieu of trial by jury) and block the wrongfully injured from getting their day in open court.

    It’s unavoidable. Chances are you sign such clauses regularly without ever knowing it. Everywhere, lawsuits, jury trials and verdicts are diminishing in the midst of population growth and ever more invasive technologies, drugs, chemicals, and many other products—all with the very real potential to suffer from dangerous defects, and all bearing built-in immunities for the guilty parties, should these Continue Reading »

    7 February 2018


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and these, and most of all… This…

    George Orwell had this to say on the subject of military parades in general, and goosestepping in particular:

    One rapid but fairly sure guide to the social atmosphere of a country is the parade-step of its army. A military parade is really a kind of ritual dance, something like a ballet, expressing a certain philosophy of life. The goose-step, for instance, is one of the most horrible sights in the world, far more terrifying than a dive-bomber. It is simply an affirmation of naked power; contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face. Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is ‘Yes, I am UGLY, and you daren’t laugh at me’, like the bully who makes faces at his victim. Why is the goose-step not used in England? There are, heaven knows, plenty of army officers who would be only too glad to introduce some such thing. It is not used because the people in the street would laugh. Beyond a certain point, military display is only possible in countries where the common people dare not laugh at the army. [Emphasis mine, JH] The Italians adopted the goose-step at about the time when Italy passed definitely under German control, and, as one would expect, they do it less well than the Germans. The Vichy government, if it survives, is bound to introduce a stiffer parade-ground discipline into what is left of the French army. In the British army the drill is rigid and complicated, full of memories of the eighteenth century, but without definite swagger; the march is merely a formalized walk. It belongs to a society which is ruled by the sword, no doubt, but a sword which must never be taken out of the scabbard.

    And we all know that the president, bone spurs and all, really wants to swing his sword…

    6 February 2018

    61-01-19, 69-07-16, 81-04-12, 18-02-06 AND…?

    1800 by Jeff Hess

    I am a child of the American space program, of humanity’s exploration of the final frontier. My generation will be defined by what President John Fitzgerald Kennedy called our choice:

    to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win…

    I watched the launches of Alan Shepard on 19 January 1961; of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin on 16 July 1969; of John Young and Robert Crippen on 4 April 1981 and today I watched Starman blast into space with Douglas Adam’s sage words affixed to his dash.

    At this moment I stood and cheered.

    My one wish now is to be alive when the first human sets foot on Mars…

    6 February 2018


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    So, back on 18 July, I contacted Senator Robert Jones Portman regarding the Republican plan to leave millions of Americans and tens-of-thousands of Ohioans swinging in the healthcare wind by repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement.

    We’ve tried to play nice with the insurance companies, but their for-profit model has no place in healthcare. They’ve had their chance, now we need to be talking single-payer/Medicaid for All, which Aaron Godfrey—the candidate I’m supporting for Ohio’s 16th congressional district—is calling for.

    Today, after nearly seven months had passed, I got this response:

    Dear Jeff,

    Under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, individuals and families continue to face higher health care costs and fewer choices for health care providers. Small businesses continue to pay more money for insurance premiums that could have otherwise been used to hire more employees or provide better pay for those they already employ. The Ohio Department of Insurance has reported a 91% average cost increase in Ohio individual insurance market premiums since Obamacare went into effect. Insurance companies, saddled with costly and cumbersome regulations, continue to pull their health plans from the individual market. Furthermore, it was uncertain at times this year whether the Obamacare Marketplaces would remain viable for Ohioans, when Anthem and Premier pulled out, leaving 19 Ohio counties without a single insurer offering coverage in the markets. While the state was able to work with insurers to return to the markets, many Ohioans are still without choice, with 42 counties in the State projected to have only one insurer left in the markets next year. This is a problem not just in Ohio but across the country. Approximately one-third of the counties around the United States now only have one insurer. Given this situation, repealing Obamacare without a replacement is not an option at this time. We need to fix our health care system to ensure everyone has access to affordable and quality coverage.

    My goal has always been to create a more workable health care system that lowers the cost of coverage, provides access to quality care, and protects the most vulnerable in our society. The initial draft proposal of the Senate’s bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), included some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual market but I did not feel that the initial BCRA draft accomplished these larger goals and my concerns over the Medicaid policies in the proposal remained. I rolled up my sleeves and worked with my colleagues to make changes to the BCRA and find solutions that work for Ohioans and Americans. The final product included several of my proposals: $45 billion to address the opioid epidemic, a glide path to the traditional Medicaid payment structure to avoid pulling the rug out from under Ohioans on Medicaid expansion, an additional $100 billion in funding for states to provide low-income Americans with access to quality and affordable health care, and the ability for states to use Medicaid dollars to lower the costs of health care for low-income individuals.

    Unfortunately, even with these promising changes to the BCRA, the bill did not have the support to pass the Senate. In an effort to move the process forward, I supported legislation that would have led to a House-Senate conference in an effort to come together, solve our differences, and find agreement on a final product that would benefit our state and country. My colleagues and I remain committed to finding a pathway forward, whether that be through the most recent proposal by Senators Graham and Cassidy or through the bipartisan conversations on market stabilization efforts, and I will continue to work to ensure that Ohioans can access affordable health care.

    Although it has, at times, been a frustrating process and I am disappointed that the Senate has not been able to proceed towards a House-Senate conference, we must not lose sight of the fact that, for many Ohioans, the status quo is unacceptable. I know some may want to throw in the towel and do nothing, but I don’t believe that is the responsible course of action. Doing nothing would leave some Ohioans stranded without health insurance and everyone with higher costs.

    We can do better, and I’m not giving up. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle toward common-sense solutions on behalf of Ohio families to increase choice, bring down costs, and protect our most vulnerable. I hope the Senate Finance Committee will announce a series of health care hearings and we can do this process the right way. People are rightly frustrated. We must come together as an institution and do better for Ohioans—and all Americans. As your Senator, I will make this my priority for years to come.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. For more information, I encourage you to visit my website. Please keep in touch.


    Rob Portman
    U.S. Senator

    Me thinks the senator needs to hire better, or more, staff.

    5 February 2018


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    180205 for better or for worse dogs forgiveness

    4 February 2018


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    I’ve been a life-long—since I was 17—practitioner of various forms of meditation and I’m convinced of the efficacy of the practice. Reading William Little’s Mindfulness courses at work? This should have us all in a rage in The Guardian, however, gave me pause. Little wrote:

    A couple of friends who live in Denmark came over at Christmas. When I asked if they would ever move back to Britain, they looked horrified, saying they were infinitely happier in their jobs in Denmark than they ever were here. I said they must be practising mindfulness on repeat to be that content at work – yet they had never heard of it.

    Clearly in Denmark they treat the causes rather than the symptoms. Workers leave work at 4pm on the dot, get paid generously, have less income inequality and pay more taxes. (After that conversation, I now have to use mindfulness to push the thought of Denmark and how happy everyone there is out of my mind.)

    Little is writing about the fad of late of business’ encouraging, even sponsoring, mindfulness practice during work hours, not to help workers, but to increase profits.

    Mindfulness meditation is being offered at some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Google, GlaxoSmithKline and KPMG, to cut workplace stress and boost productivity. With workplace stress costing UK businesses £6.5bn a year, it’s no surprise that companies are investing in mindfulness: business magazines and HR journals are open about how it can boost profits. And research has shown how mindfulness reduces sunk-cost bias, where business leaders obsess about lost causes at the expense of more pressing concerns and decisions.

    Yet mindfulness experts, aware that the technique could be used to turn us into placid worker drones, are taking rearguard action. Mark Williams, the founder of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, said that seeing more clearly what is happening in their lives could make employees more subversive and critical. In other words, businesses may be cultivating an army of mindful rebels. But he said that three years ago—so where’s the revolution?

    Good question. If meditation doesn’t help us to see the way out, is it really helping us?

    I read Dan Harris’ 10% Happier last month and I’m expecting his latest—Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-To Book—to come in this week. Harris’ story, and subsequent proselytizing, revolves around how mindfulness mediation saved his career, and possibly his life, but is that a good thing?

    What do you think?

    4 February 2018


    0800 by Jeff Hess

    For me, the two most magical places in the world are libraries and bookshops. I still own the first two books I bought with my own money—the Modern Library editions of Walden And Other Writings Of Henry David Thoreau, edited by Brooks Atkinson (1965 edition) and The Complete Works Of Lewis Carroll with illustrations by John Tenniel and introduction by Alexander Woollcott (1940)—from a small bookstore at Putnam and Front streets in Marietta, Ohio. I don’t remember the name of the shop, but I do recall that owner had a thick, eastern European accent and also sold beautiful chess sets.

    All of this is prologue to George Orwell’s own remembrances of working in a secondhand bookshop in London: Bookshop Memories, published on 1 November 1936.

    Orwell begins his 2,037-word essay:

    When I worked in a second-hand bookshop–so easily pictured, if you don’t work in one, as a kind of paradise where charming old gentlemen browse eternally among calf-bound folios—the thing that chiefly struck me was the rarity of really bookish people. Our shop had an exceptionally interesting stock, yet I doubt whether ten per cent of our customers knew a good book from a bad one. First edition snobs were much commoner than lovers of literature, but oriental students haggling over cheap textbooks were commoner still, and vague-minded women looking for birthday presents for their nephews were commonest of all.

    (I wonder how at-home Orwell might feel in my own favorite used bookstore: Mac’s Backs?)

    The browsers afforded Orwell the opportunity to observe those grazing from the stacks the blind. Of particular interest to me were those described by Orwell’s as the paranoiacs.

    …there are two well-known types of pest by whom every second-hand bookshop is haunted. One is the decayed person smelling of old bread-crusts who comes every day, sometimes several times a day, and tries to sell you worthless books.The other is the person who orders large quantities of books for which he has not the smallest intention of paying. In our shop we sold nothing on credit, but we would put books aside, or order them if necessary, for people who arranged to fetch them away later. Scarcely half the people who ordered books from us ever came back. It used to puzzle me at first. What made them do it? They would come in and demand some rare and expensive book, would make us promise over and over again to keep it for them, and then would vanish never to return. But many of them, of course, were unmistakable paranoiacs. They used to talk in a grandiose manner about themselves and tell the most ingenious stories to explain how they had happened to come out of doors without any money–stories which, in many cases, I am sure they themselves believed. In a town like London there are always plenty of not quite certifiable lunatics walking the streets, and they tend to gravitate towards bookshops, because a bookshop is one of the few places where you can hang about for a long time without spending any money.

    Over the years I’ve frequented many bookshops without observing a similar phenomenon and I think we can thank Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Carnegie: Franklin for inventing the lending library in 1731 and Carnegie for building 2,509 libraries (including my first public library in Marietta, Ohio (built for $30,000 in 1912), where I spent many, many hours) in the United States (1,689) and the United Kingdom (660).

    Orwell closes with an observation that wonder at.

    The combines can never squeeze the small independent bookseller out of existence as they have squeezed the grocer and the milkman. But the hours of work are very long–I was only a part-time employee, but my employer put in a seventy-hour week, apart from constant expeditions out of hours to buy books–and it is an unhealthy life. As a rule a bookshop is horribly cold in winter, because if it is too warm the windows get misted over, and a bookseller lives on his windows. And books give off more and nastier dust than any other class of objects yet invented, and the top of a book is the place where every bluebottle prefers to die.

    But the real reason why I should not like to be in the book trade for life is that while I was in it I lost my love of books. A bookseller has to tell lies about books, and that gives him a distaste for them; still worse is the fact that he is constantly dusting them and hauling them to and fro. There was a time when I really did love books–loved the sight and smell and feel of them, I mean, at least if they were fifty or more years old. Nothing pleased me quite so much as to buy a job lot of them for a shilling at a country auction. There is a peculiar flavour about the battered unexpected books you pick up in that kind of collection: minor eighteenth-century poets, out-of-date gazeteers, odd volumes of forgotten novels, bound numbers of ladies’ magazines of the sixties. For casual reading–in your bath, for instance, or late at night when you are too tired to go to bed, or in the odd quarter of an hour before lunch–there is nothing to touch a back number of the Girl’s Own Paper. But as soon as I went to work in the bookshop I stopped buying books. Seen in the mass, five or ten thousand at a time, books were boring and even slightly sickening. Nowadays I do buy one occasionally, but only if it is a book that I want to read and can’t borrow, and I never buy junk. The sweet smell of decaying paper appeals to me no longer. It is too closely associated in my mind with paranoiac customers and dead bluebottles.

    I wonder what Orwell would think of Amazon?


    Coming next week: Down The Mine…

    3 February 2018


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    180203 ohio anti-protest law fracking fossil fuels first amendment

    I have long made the case that the single most important amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the 21st—proposed on 20 February 1933 and ratified less than nine months later (on 5 December) by the extraordinary process of specially selected State Ratifying Conventions—because only the 21st nullifies a previous amendment with 15 simple words: The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed. If anyone thinks it can’t happen here, you have another think coming.

    Alleen Brown, reporting in Ohio and Iowa Are the Latest of Eight States to Consider Anti-Protest Bills Aimed at Pipeline Opponents for The Intercept, ledes:

    Lawmakers in Ohio and Iowa are considering bills that would create new penalties for people who attempt to disrupt the operations of “critical infrastructure” such as pipelines. The bills make the states the latest of at least eight to propose legislation aimed at oil and gas industry protesters since Donald Trump’s election.

    How is it that legislators who worship at the altar of our second amendment are so glibly prepared to gut the first?>

    In a word: money. Brown explains:

    The bills were proposed less than a week after the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, which has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, finalized a model policy titled the “Critical Infrastructure Protection Act,” which calls for more severe punishment for those who trespass on facilities including oil pipelines, petroleum refineries, liquid natural gas terminals, and railroads used to transport oil and gas.

    We have a long history in the United States of institutional violence against protesters and we should all remember that the great socialist leader Eugene Debs was imprisoned under the Sedition Act of 1918.

    What makes Ohio vital? Take a look at this map showing how the Nexus, Utopia, Rover, Tennessee and Columbia pipelines slither across the state. The companies, particularly Wealth Energy Transfer Partners, wants to ensure that the profits fossil gas flows. Brown continues:

    The Ohio bill includes clauses specifically dedicated to barring drones from flying over infrastructure projects. During the height of protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, a small number of Native American drone pilots used drones to monitor the progress of construction and the activities of police, as well as to publicly document an indigenous aerial perspective of events.

    Ohio is home to the controversial Rover pipeline, which is also owned by Energy Transfer Partners. Rover’s builders have repeatedly spilled massive quantities of clay-based drilling mud as they’ve bored under waterways, leading environmental regulators to halt construction multiple times.

    The bills are part of a nationwide trend of states pushing legislation to quiet disruptive protests that beyond fossil fuel development, have centered on themes including police violence, white supremacy, and anti-immigrant policy. According to a database created by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, 56 bills that would restrict people’s right to peaceful assembly have been introduced in 30 states since the 2016 election.

    Many of the bills would impact protesters fighting oil and gas infrastructure, but those explicitly framed by lawmakers as addressing fossil fuel protests have been particularly successful, making up the majority of the bills that have actually become law. Bills aimed at infrastructure protesters have passed in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.


    Vince Grzegorek reporting in Ohio Bill Would Target Pipeline Protests for Scene, has also picked up the story.

    2 February 2018


    2100 by Jeff Hess

    Via WVVA…


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