26 July 2015


1100 by Jeff Hess

No, not in the 2016 election, though I think Sanders would trounce Cruz there, but in a perfectly legal debate on the floor of the United States Senate.

Bernie Sanders could participate in a one-on-one, leftwing versus right debate with Ted Cruz during the presidential primary, without violating restrictive rules set by the Democratic and Republican national committees. The two senators would just have to face off at their workplace, the US Capitol.

The first debate of the extended primary election will see the top 10 Republican candidates in a field of 16 face off in Cleveland on 6 August, in an event hosted by Fox News. Both parties have made clear that if candidates appear in unsanctioned debates, they will be barred from any official debates.

But staffers for both the DNC and RNC confirmed that the restrictions on presidential debates do not apply to debates held on the floor of Congress.

Sean Spicer, the chief strategist for the RNC, told the Guardian: “Senate business would not be a violation.”

Now that would be a bit of CSPAN I’d watch.

25 July 2015


1700 by Jeff Hess

Felonious Munk might be the comedic twin to Ta-Nehisi Coates. This week I’ve begun reading Coates second book—I’ve long been a fan of his blog posts and magazine articlesBetween The World And Me.

Coates is a brilliant writer and thinker and I was only on page seven when I was compelled to stop, re-read and re-read again. Here is what brought me up short.

Americans believe in the reality of race as a defined, indubitable feature of the named world. Racism—the need to ascribe bone-deep features to people and then humiliate, reduce, and destroy them—inevitably follows from this inalterable condition. in this way, racism is rendered as the innocent daughter of Mother Nature, and one is left to deplore the Middle Passage, or the Trail of Tears the way one deplores an earthquake, a tornado, or any other phenomenon that can be cast as beyond the handiwork of men.

But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming the people [Coates here is referencing the people noted by President Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, JH ] has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy. Difference in hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organize a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible—this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.

At the tip of that hierarchy we Americans place The English, who are, themselves, a lesser inbred mongrel people awash in Pictish, Gaelic, Anglo, Saxon, Norman, &c. bloods ruled by a marginally exclusive line of aristocrats. Have you ever wondered why we go to such pains to link every president, including President Barack Hussein Obama, to English monarchs?

The essence of being white is the self delusion, regardless of your station in life, that your particular heritage imbues you with some measurable quality of superiority over others. Or, as illustrated by a story told me by a friend regarding an uncle’s assessment of his station in life: I may be poor, but at least I’m no damn nigger.

Racism allows us to feel better about our shitty lives by pretending we’re not at the bottom.

24 July 2015


1000 by Jeff Hess

My first Fortress of Solitude, my first man cave, was in the basement of the house where I spent my teenage years. My best friend Don Ritenour and I worked the transformation in a few days over the summer of 1972, transforming what had been a basement playroom into a bedroom sanctuary that I didn’t have to share with my younger brother.

In typical teenager fashion the room was dark and I burned a lot of candles while I listened to my Cat Steven’s eight-tracks—Sitting is still a meditative favorite—and tried to figure out the universe.

While I still spent a great deal of time that summer in the woods and fields west of Marietta, Ohio, I remember an attempt to create garden in my dark hold. I had this idea of collecting interesting fungus, mushrooms, and transplanting them to a box so there would be life and growth there below the ground. I failed.

Reading Oliver Burkeman this morning—Nature And Nurture—gave me some insights to that experiment.

Office workers who glimpse a tree or two are both happier and more productive; in one analysis, of a university building in Oregon, workers on the greenery-facing side took 19% fewer sick days. If you’re treated in hospital for bipolar disorder, the evidence suggests, you’ll be discharged several days sooner on average if your room is naturally lit. Pupils do worse in tests in windowless classrooms. Even looking at photographs of natural scenes lowers blood pressure. Taking things to a seemingly absurd extreme, German researchers reported last year that merely seeing a green rectangle for two seconds led to measurable improvements on creative tasks, compared with rectangles of white, grey, blue or red.

What’s going on? The green-rectangle researchers thought it might be some subconscious association with the idea of growth, and therefore creativity. But the dominant explanation remains that of “biophilia”, coined by EO Wilson, which he described as our “urge to affiliate with other forms of life”—probably because we evolved to function best in nature-rich settings. As Lance Hosey points out in The Shape Of Green, there’s even one version of this idea, called the Prospect/Refuge Theory, according to which we’re happiest looking out at nature from places of safety, with a good view of predators and no need to watch our backs. Perhaps seeing the woods from your kitchen window can be more enjoyable than tramping through them.

I have never again sought a subterranean stronghold. (Although I am thinking in this moment on my years within the steel walls of the USS Bainbridge and how important spending time topside became.) I prefer to work in rooms filled with natural light and, when the temperatures are not too hot or cold, really like working on our back deck where I can look up to see all that transpires in our Wee Meadow.

24 July 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

23 July 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

I firmly believe that getting a four-year (or six-year) education in Journalism or Writing is time and effort better spent elsewhere. If my graduate self could have had a beer or two with my new freshman self the single piece of advice I would have imparted was that a good editor can teach you all you need to know about writing in a few weeks. The rest is all practice.

That is why James Rhodes’ piece (via Zen Pencils, thank Gav) resonates with me. What he says about playing the piano directly links to writing a novel.

What if you could know everything there is to know about playing the piano in under an hour (something the late, great Glenn Gould claimed, correctly I believe, was true)? The basics of how to practise and how to read music, the physical mechanics of finger movement and posture, all the tools necessary to actually play a piece—these can be written down and imparted like a flat-pack furniture how-to-build-it manual; it then is down to you to scream and howl and hammer nails through fingers in the hope of deciphering something unutterably alien until, if you’re very lucky, you end up with something halfway resembling the end product.

Rhodes goes on to deliver what I consider a dangerous piece of advice for writers:

What if rather than a book club you joined a writer’s club? Where every week you had to (really had to) bring three pages of your novel, novella, screenplay and read them aloud?

Why is that dangerous? While writing groups are good for shaming you into producing work to read at the weekly sessions they can bury you in worthless advice from people who don’t know more than you do. The only opinions concerning your work worth a tinker’s damn are those of people willing to, based upon their evaluation of your writing, cut you a check. Never trust family members, close friends or the random stranger when they tell you how good you are. They have an agenda, a good one, but an agenda nonetheless.

Be suspect, as well, of criticism you pay for. I have received good and bad advice from agents and writers more published than myself over the years. Learn to tell the difference.

Rhodes concludes with a reference to the title of his essay.

The government is cutting music programmes in schools and slashing Arts grants as gleefully as a morbidly American kid in Baskin Robbins. So if only to stick it to the man, isn’t it worth fighting back in some small way? So write your damn book. Learn a Chopin prelude, get all Jackson Pollock with the kids, spend a few hours writing a Haiku. Do it because it counts even without the fanfare, the money, the fame and Heat photo-shoots that all our children now think they’re now entitled to because Harry Styles has done it.

Charles Bukowski, hero of angsty teenagers the world over, instructs us to “find what you love and let it kill you”. Suicide by creativity is something perhaps to aspire to in an age where more people know Katie Price better than the Emperor concerto.

My own best advice: be willing to walk down Main street naked.

23 July 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

zenpencils 150722

Gav writes:

James Rhodes is a British concert pianist. Largely self-taught, Rhodes has released five best-selling albums and is known for his refreshing performances that ignore the usual formality and tradition of classical music. Rhodes never performs in a suit, holds his concerts in non-traditional venues and entertains the crowd with stories about famous composers and how they affected his own life in between pieces. You can watch his insane talent on display in a number of videos on his YouTube channel.

The passage used in the comic was taken from a column Rhodes wrote for The Guardian in 2013. It’s one of the most fantastically motivating articles I’ve ever read and I highly recommend you read the entire piece.

As a starving novelist, I understand…

22 July 2015


1700 by Jeff Hess

roldo glenville 150722

Another police car video of the arrest of a black woman that led eventually to her death, supposedly a suicide days later in a Texas jail, once again dramatizes the lack of professionalism in police departments throughout the nation.

Sandra Bland, a 28-year old woman in Texas to start a dream job at a black college, three days later was found hanging in a Texas jail.

The inability of the officer caught by the dashboard camera to act reasonably and professionally, calls attention to both the dictatorial nature of police response and inability to perform a simple policing act. A changing lanes infraction ends in the death of a young woman. Really unbelievable.

We here in Cleveland have seen this ineptitude in the 137-bullet car chase ending in two deaths and the killing of Tamir Rice in what amounts to an execution. And the nation has seen the same often enough to claim a crisis in respect and/or trust.

[The Counted marks 18 killed in Ohio and 644 in the whole United States so far in 2015; that is nearly four times the number murdered by homegrown terrorist Timothy McVeigh in 20 years ago. JH]

Similar unnecessary—and often deadly—confrontations around the nation now have become commonplace as police and citizen videos expose what before remained hidden.

It is becoming an epidemic requiring a radical solution NOW. There cannot be peace in American cities if this continues.

Policing must change. Drastically.

The times call for extraordinary police recruitment procedures and rigorous training of potential police that stresses attention to service rather than authoritarian controlling. Police face stressful situations. Those they contact are also under Continue Reading »

22 July 2015


1200 by Jeff Hess

It’s been a busy week in Wally World: the Universe’s source of cheap plastic crap from China. On The Writing On The Wal—the blog USA Today says should be on its readers’ radar—I continue my singular work dedicated to drawing back the curtain on the Bentonvile Behemoth’s corporate disinformation and other flackery.

THE CHICKENS MAY BE BACK FOR WALMART… Just as the cost of acquiring a new customer is a magnitude greater than that of retaining an existing customer, Americans, and Walmart, are learning that bringing jobs back to the United States will be… Keep reading…

HOW IMPORTANT IS A ONE PERCENT TAX…? A sales tax of one percent means buyers pay a penny on the dollar, a dime on $10 and a whole dollar on $100. Is that enough to make customers shop elsewhere? Does such a tax confer an unfair disadvantage… Keep reading…

HOW WALMART FIGHTS BELOW THE BORDER… San Antonio, Texas-based grocer H-E-B has long competed with Walmart in Texas, but 18 years ago, after Walmart took a six-year lead by forming an alliance with Mexican retailer Grupo Cifra, H-E-B… Keep reading…

WALMART AND AMAZON DESERVE EACH OTHER… If there is a company I dislike as much as Walmart then the winner of that distinction is Amazon. So, I take perverse delight when the two monsters face off in grudge matches… Keep reading…

WALMART SHRUGS…? In reading about Walmart Labs—Igor not included—I discovered the tidbit that Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Jeremy King is a fan of Objectivist and Libertarians’ sociopathic pixie dream girl, Ayn… Keep reading…

WALMART, AMAZON AND JET…? OH MY…! Just when the grudge match between Walmart and Amazon is heating up, a third contestant, Jet, dives in swinging. Sarah Halzack, in Jet is here. Let the price wars begin for The Washington Post writes… Keep reading…

WALMART GETS ENTITLEMENTS…? In reading yet another story about Walmart battling local governments, this time the matter involved on-again, off-again, on-again liquor permits in Pomona California, I came up short at in the third paragraph… Keep reading…

Previously on Walmart Wednesday

22 July 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

17 July 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

In other Badawi news: This could be Raif’s chance – ask for his freedom.

16 July 2015


1600 by Jeff Hess

guardian 150716

The Guardian today offers five lessons for organizing taken from a meeting sponsored by 350. The lessons are all good and I think they may be universally applied to all causes.

  1. You don’t need to be an expert to get involved
  2. First give yourself legitimacy
  3. Put your ego aside
  4. Plan for reinvestment
  5. Have hope—and keep going

If you’re inspired and want to start or join a divestment campaign, don’t worry. 350.org have created a new how-to guide. It’s been designed to help you pick a target, choose your tactics, engage your decision makers – and ultimately win your own fossil fuel divestment campaign.

Central to the divestment case is that we’re not talking about giving up fossil fuels today or even tomorrow. What we are saying is the we need to put our investment dollars not in finding and extracting more carbon from the ground—to do so would push us past the tipping point in terms of Global Warming and Climate Change—but rather investing those funds in renewable and alternative energy sources.

Keep Carbon In The Ground…

15 July 2015


1200 by Jeff Hess

It’s been a busy week in Wally World: the Universe’s source of cheap plastic crap from China. On The Writing On The Wal—the blog USA Today says should be on its readers’ radar—I continue my singular work dedicated to drawing back the curtain on the Bentonvile Behemoth’s corporate disinformation and other flackery.

WALMART WOULD MAKE JOE STALIN PROUD… Under the communist regime of Joseph Stalin, workers were encouraged, seriously encouraged, to work off the clock for the good of the party. This meant working after their shifts, working on weekends… Keep reading…

DID CHUCK NETZHAMMER SET WALMART UP…? When I first heard the story of Walmart refusing to make a cake decorated with the Confederate battle flag but then agreeing to create an ISIS battle flag in icing I immediately thought of James… Keep reading…

WALMART SAYS JUMP…! So, this morning I registered on Walmart’s Jobs in U.S. Manufacturing Portal. I’ll cruise around on JUMP later today and let you know what I find… Keep reading…

WHO BUYS BETTER-QUALITY AT WALMART…? Walmart’s re-invigoration of the Made in the USA campaign has attracted attention downunder where writer Nick Carey thinks: Wal-Mart is taking its ‘Made in America’ initiative to the extreme. (Not… Keep reading…

WALMART MAKES A BUSINESS DECISION… This story about Elaine Glidewell and a class ring she ordered from a Walmart in Forth Smith, Arkansas, is why I don’t get all warm and fuzzy when Walmart takes a right action… Keep reading…

MOODY’S, YES THAT MOODY’S, LIKES WALMART… Hold onto your wallet, no, seriously, hold onto your wallet, credit rating agency Moody’s goes all counter-intuitive and likes Walmart. From The Motley Fool this morning… Keep reading…

ENGAGING IS NOT HIRING… So, 18 corporations band together to engage, not hire an average of 5,556 young people each over the next three years. Lots of public relations bells and whistles, not a lot of even marginal substance. Big Whoop… Keep reading…

WALMART SUED FOR GENDER DISCRIMINATION… Walmart has been better than many in implementing fairness policies on a number of issues including same-sex marriage and benefits. There are still a few bugs in the system and, unfortunately… Keep reading…

Previously on Walmart Wednesday

15 July 2015


0600 by Jeff Hess

Two days after I wrote about the kind heart of Roeland Park, Kansas, police officer Mark Engravelle and his actions in a Walmart parking lot, we get this story about Engravelle’s evil and unqualified brother, Deputy Frank Serio and his actions in a Walmart parking lot.

An Orleans Parish sheriff’s deputy shot at a suspected shoplifter Tuesday afternoon (July 14) while working an off-duty security detail at the Walmart store on Behrman Highway, authorities said.

No one was struck by bullets fired from Lt. Frank Serio’s weapon, authorities said. The suspected shoplifter, identified by police as 34-year-old Austin Thompson, is in custody and facing charges of attempted theft and aggravated assault of a police officer, New Orleans police said.

Phil Stelly, a spokesman for Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office, said Serio attempted to stop a suspected shoplifter when he saw that individual reach into his waistband while crouched between parked cars. Serio, fearing for his safety, fired four shots at the individual, Stelly said.

Now comes the outragious bit:[The suspect] pulled a silver object from his waistband when confronted by the deputy, [NOPD 4th District Commander Shaun] Ferguson said, prompting the deputy to open fire. That object turned out to be a cellphone, Ferguson said.

Yep, Serio, chasing down a shoplifter, drew and fired four shots at the shoplifter when he mistook a cell phone for a weapon. What ought he have done? First, take cover; second, call for assistance; third, do all he could to clear civilians from any potential field of fire; and finally, demand the suspect drop whatever he had in his hands, raise his hands where the deputy could see that his hands were empty and step out from cover.

If that isn’t policy for the Orleans Sheriff’s department then there is a serious problem there.

This is not the first time such events have unfolded at this particular Walmart.

The Behrman Highway Wal-Mart was the scene of another deputy-involved shooting in February of 2014, when a sheriff’s deputy working security at the store fired at a suspected robber’s car.

14 July 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

There is no topic, perhaps, that Roldo Bartimole has written about more in the past 30-plus years than the great cash sucking sound of Cleveland’s sports team owners.

14 July 2015


0600 by Jeff Hess

This morning I got the warning that Adobe Flash Player was unsafe. I did a little checking and found:

Mozilla has added all versions of Adobe Flash up to the most recent version to the Firefox blocklist.

Security researchers have discovered vulnerabilities in recent versions of Adobe Flash that have not been patched yet by Adobe but are exploited in the wild. In particular, several exploit kits are already making use of it to serve crypto-ransomware to systems running Adobe Flash.

In an effort to protect Firefox users from harm on the Internet, Mozilla has added the current version of Adobe Flash and all previous versions to the browser’s blocklist.

The blocklist lists browser extensions, plugins and other components that are blocked automatically by Firefox either directly or sometimes in the case of plugins, by setting them to “ask to activate”.

The Flash vulnerability affects all versions of Flash on Windows, Linux and Macintosh systems.

Firefox displays a warning message on its plugins management page that Flash is vulnerable. As you can see on the screenshot below, Shockwave Flash has been set to “ask to activate” and not blocked permanently.

Yet another reason why I continue to stick with Firefox. I expect the problem will be remedied shortly.

14 July 2015


0300 by Jeff Hess

Check out Undercurrents News Networks…

13 July 2015


0900 by Jeff Hess

I’ve re-read Jon Schwarz’s two-part interview with Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) this morning and I’m growing increasingly dissatisfied with Sarbanes’ Government By The People Act. Perhaps he’s being pragmatic, but I find the assumptions regarding money in politics offensive.

People say, “I already can’t stand these politicians, why would I want to underwrite your campaign?”

I say, “Look, I know you don’t like politicians, but you’re paying our salary. Would you prefer that my salary be paid for by Halliburton or Goldman Sachs?” The answer would be no, because they know that there would be a conflict on doing my job on behalf of the people. But how different is it if the salaries of all my campaign workers are being paid by Halliburton and Goldman Sachs? My campaign’s the way I get to Congress in the first place and how I keep coming back. So how isn’t that a conflict of interest?

It’s your choice. You’ve got to decide whether you want to own this system or not. Somebody’s going to own this government. It ought to be us, not Wall Street, the oil and gas industry and all these big corporations.

Sarbanes’ choices are faulty. He makes a choice to take money from people he would rather not. The solution is not more money from other sources, the solution is for people like Sarbanes to stand up and say no.

Money from lobbyists and corporations is the crack of politics. Sarbanes need to take advice from Nancy Reagan and just say no. If Bernie Sanders can take that stance, then so can any other politicians with an ounce of integrity.

13 July 2015


0800 by Jeff Hess

I’m watching Gillian Anderson in The Fall on Netflix at the moment and I’m taken with how Anderson’ character plays with the undercurrent of misogamy that runs through each episode.

13 July 2015


0700 by Jeff Hess

If all you knew about police officers in my country was what you saw and heard in the past year or so in our media (including Have Coffee Will Write), you would be convinced that they were a bad lot. Yes, plenty of problems exist, many of them deeply systematic, but most police officers are good people doing a tough job.

Like Roeland Park, Kansas, officer Mark Engravelle:

A mother of six girls was stopped at a Roeland Park Walmart for stealing diapers, baby wipes and clothes.

Officer Mark Engravalle was called to a Walmart store in Kansas to investigate a shoplifting report, he found Sarah Robinson and her six children in the parking lot. Engravalle and his partner noticed that the three youngest of the woman’s five daughters—a 4-year-old and two 2-year-olds—weren’t wearing shoes.

The crying, dirty, barefoot children touched Mark Engravalle’s heart. “I just want to have a place for my girls”.

“They thought I was going to take their mother to jail”, he said.

“I have been taken aback by the profound response and the positive nature that people have for this woman and her children”, he said. Robinson thought she was going to be thrown in jail and be separated from her girls, but what the officer did wasn’t what she expected. Donations are pouring in through the police department, and people who are willing to help are welcome to drop by the station to bring goods for the family.

She said she has since been swamped with requests from the public who have offered to donate food and clothing to the family.

The story gets better.

13 July 2015


0500 by Jeff Hess

trashed 150713

John, Derf, Backderf writes:

I’m happy to report that Trashed is delivered and in the can. All 240 pages of it. Took a bit longer to put the finishing touches on it, as it always does, and MAN am I sick of looking at these pages, but it’s completed at last. Here’s the wraparound cover (above). I especially like how designer Pam Notorantonio tucked the barcode right into the truck’s hopper.

I’m recently returned from Book Expo New York and the American Library Association convention in Frisco, where I passed out crappy proof copies like candy.

And the first review is in! Damn book isn’t even printed yet, and Kirkus Reviews gave it a “starred review”! That’s not one star, like a movie critic would give to a lousy film, that’s starred as in “we like this book!”

“Indie comics stalwart Backderf returns to the scabrous humor and pointed commentary of his earlier work. A one-time garbageman himself, Backderf has a clear affinity for these hardworking stiffs and their travails. An entertaining ode to the odiferous realities of getting by.”

Heidi MacDonald at Comicsbeat also declares Trashed to be “hilarious and disgusting.”

And these are based on the positively dreadful, mistake-and-typo-ridden proof copy. Abrams was in such a rush to get it out by these two events, they just used my first draft. I hadn’t even spellchecked anything, which is painfully obvious, as I have apparently lost the ability to correctly spell any word longer than two syllables. I’ll be building a bonfire out of any copies remaining once the real book comes out. That’ll be the end of September (I hope).

There are plenty of text novels that don’t run 240 pages, a movie version of Trashed would run four hours. I can’t begin to imagine the hours necessary to draw 240 pages and I have to wonder in the universe of graphic novels, what tiny percentage have reached and passed that number?

My days of attending Comic Con are long past so I’ll have to pre-order from Mac’s Backs and wait for the release with the rest of the mortals, but in my West Coast youth I think I might have gone all dark superhero to grab one of those positively dreadful, mistake-and-typo-ridden proof copies.

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