Archive for the ‘High-falutin’ literary matters’ Category

It can happen here

November 5, 2016
Impressionist, que no? I shot it through the window. Hey, it's raining out there. You want I should get a camera wet for free?

Impressionistical, que no? I shot it through the window. Hey, it’s raining out there. You want I should get a camera wet for free?

We’ve finally gotten a little rain after the second warmest October on record, and maybe one of the driest, too; more than a quarter inch of precip’ below normal.

As with most things, this is both good and bad.

The good? When things are wet, they often fail to catch fire. Also, water is nice for drinking, bathing and growing things to look at and/or eat.

The bad? Sitting as it does at the bottom of a cul-de-sac at the western edge of a mountain range, El Rancho Pendejo is already a little on the dark side, as is my outlook most days. And when the sun goes away for a spell, things in these parts can get blacker than a sleeping MacBook’s display.

So with each fresh poll the equivalent of a cherry bomb in a chicken coop I’m getting a mild case of The Fear as the 2016 election staggers to a close.

Anybody who tells you s/he knows that all will be well in the end is full of shit to the sideburns. Americans are already pretty la-di-da about exercising their franchise, our least-difficult path toward effecting change, armed insurrection being slightly more onerous (or so I’m told). And the GOP has been busily scratching that oh-hell-why-bother itch by turning what should be the simple act of casting a ballot into the sort of customer-service experience we already enjoy in the private sector.

Here’s Charles P. Pierce on the voter-suppression battles being waged from coast to coast.

Here’s Ari Berman of The Nation on the reduction in polling places following the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here’s The Guardian reporting on the upshot of Insane Clown Pussy’s call for his shock troops to monitor what he’s said will be a “rigged” election.

Can't it? We'll see.

Can’t it? We’ll see.

And so on. Look around, you’ll find more examples.

The Republic has weathered a lot of storms, and this may be nothing more than an especially nasty stretch of rough weather before the sun pops out again.

But I keep thinking back to the old Red Lewis novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” which I read ages ago, and which the Berkeley Repertory Theatre turned into a play, which wraps tomorrow.

If you haven’t read the book, do so. The language is a little dated, and it can seem wildly over the top at times. But so can this election, and yet there it is, happening right before your eyes.

“It Can’t Happen Here” certainly opened the eyes belonging to writer-director Tony Taccone, who called the parallels between the fictional struggle and Election 2016 “shocking; they’re honestly shocking.”

“What it says, what it really puts out there is, if you become complacent or lazy or you think that the issues that are being discussed in Washington, the politics doesn’t have an effect on your lives, you’re wrong. You’re wrong. The decisions that are being made — by the Congress, by the Supreme Court, by the local legislature, by your city council — affect your life,” Taccone said.

“And it is in your interest to understand as best you can what those issues are, to try to find a voice and agency inside of those issues, to find a community and help them to build a dialogue,” he added. “And my God, if that isn’t the lesson of the last nine months, what is?”

So you think it can’t happen here? Read the book, take a good look around, and get back to me.

Creative class warfare

June 21, 2014
The Turk' enjoyed some backyard time while I cleaned a bike in honor of the summer solstice.

The Turk’ enjoyed some backyard time while I cleaned a bike in honor of the summer solstice.

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Just ask the Turk’, who enjoyed a little outside time in the Mad Dog Media Botanical Gardens, a.k.a. “Weedpatch,” as I washed a bike in honor of the solstice.

Shortly thereafter it began raining off and on, with thunder for flavor, and the feline outings, bicycle riding and Old North End Garage Sale took back seats to working and earning.

Speaking of which, I can see I’ve been going about the latter activities all wrong. Clarity is so 15 minutes ago. If a guy could only learn to deploy with a straight face semantically null phrases such as “further leverage,” “cultural and creative assets,” “place of choice,” “launching new ideas” and “preserving our rich cultural heritage,” why, People of Money would write us fat checks for doing absolutely nothing beyond talking authoritatively and incomprehensibly out of our asses.

Toward that end I’m pleased to announce the formation of the Caramillo Street Collective for Creative Obfuscation, whose sole purpose it shall be to talk shit for money. I know, that sounds an awful lot like what I already do, but trust me, this is a radical departure from business as usual at Chez Dog. It’s a means of further leveraging my cultural and creative assets from my place of choice to launch new ideas that preserve my rich cultural heritage.

Somebody owes me $20K now.

• Speaking of talking shit: Here’s Timothy Noah on the ethics of dog-crap disposal.

Ass, grass or gas: Nobody rides for free

November 9, 2013

It’s that time of year again, when I start ringing up editors to inquire whether come the new year they will keep flinging good money after bad by continuing to accept contributions from Your Humble Narrator.

This process always involves a bit of give and take — the editor explains what s/he wishes to take from me, and I tell the editor where and how I plan to give it. A good old time is had by all, often at the top of our lungs, and before long the spreadsheets, knuckle-dusters and restraining orders are set aside and we all go back to earning our meager livings.

bite-meAnd meager is all I ask. My needs are simple, not unlike myself, and I retain no illusions about the freelance rumormonger’s position on our long list of must-have items in the 21st century. (Hint: It’s more than a couple of folds down from the top of the page.)

Today, there is no more writing, illustration or photography — it’s all “content,” and a smart fella can get that anywhere.

Just ask Evan Williams, Twitter co-founder and Innertubez gazillionaire. Now one of the guiding lights behind a newish venture, Medium, Williams has moved beyond the 140-character limit in search of “thoughtful, longer-form writing,” says Matt Richtel of The New York Times.

Well, not all that far, perhaps. To be sure, Williams wants more characters for his new enterprise, but he’s offering the same level of compensation — to wit, nothing. Writes Richtel, 745 words into this paean to long-form work: “A few writers are paid, with their work solicited by a small editing team, but most are not.”

Do tell.

Medium employs some 40 folks; I assume that they are taking home paychecks, though being an Innertubez gazillionaire, Williams — whose personal fortune recently ballooned by nearly $2.5 billion, thanks to his 10.5 percent share of Twitter — may not require anything so mundane as compensation for whatever it is that he does.

Well, I do, and thus you should not expect to see my byline over at Medium anytime soon.

I don’t object to writing for free. In fact, I’ve done and continue to do plenty of it.  I kept a journal for a decade or so; covered cycling for free at The New Mexican (where I was paid for editing) just to get it in the paper; and have been blogging gratis for longer than I can prove (the archives back at the old home place date to 1992).

But it seems Williams is after something a little deeper than the product of a guy who is interested primarily in keeping the old editorial muscles loose by jotting down whatever comes to mind, just for the hell of it, without interference from editors, publishers or advertisers. Though precisely what that something is, the story never quite says.

There is chin music aplenty, however. Long form. Rationality. Nourishment. Holistic. The one thing that seems certain is that whatever it is that Williams wants to sell, he is not willing to buy.

Sounds irrational to me, even assholistic. Hey, yo, Williams! I got your long-form nourishment right here, pal.

Have a ‘Heart’

August 2, 2013
Ed's first collection of his Denver Post columns.

Ed’s first collection of his Denver Post columns.

Ed Quillen left the party way too early.

Every time some greedhead with a talent for skinning the rubes floats a Barnumesque balloon full of canned farts and damned little else, I miss Ed and his quiver of curmudgeonly arrows.

Here’s one Ed aimed at tourism back in 1993:

“Tourism is the biggest industry in the world, and apparently it functions like any other industry — if there’s a conflict between telling the truth and making money, so much the worse for the truth.”

Writing of the perils of “health-care rationing” in 1994, Ed said:

“Here’s some news for our protectors in the U.S. Senate — unlike you, with your excellent, government-funded health plan that covers everything, most of us already have rationed health care. It’s rationed by what we can afford, or by how much our insurance companies will pay.”

And in discussing a plan to raise Colorado’s gas tax by a nickel per gallon back in 1987, Ed said the only problem he had with the concept was that it was about $9.95 short of what was needed.

A gas tax of $10 per gallon, he argued, would reduce street crime, air pollution and penny-ante tourism while giving a boost to carpooling, public transportation, cycling, walking, and something called “telecommuting,” which he confided was “how this column gets from Salida to Denver.”

“Raising the tax won’t even be a good start, though,” Ed concluded. “Get it up to $10 a gallon, and see how Colorado prospers while becoming a vastly better place to live.”

All these examples of Ed’s savvy come from his Denver Post columns circa 1985-98, compiled in the 1998 book “Deep In the Heart of the Rockies.”

Ed left us last year, but his words remain. And a new collection of Ed’s work from 1999 to 2012 is being assembled by daughter Abby Quillen, along with her husband, Aaron Thomas, Ed’s friend and colleague Allen Best, and friend of the DogS(h)ite Hal Walter of Hardscrabble Times, among others.

The book is a Kickstarter project, and if they don’t raise the minimum funds needed (a pittance of $5,500), the book won’t happen. I think it’s a thing worth doing, and have kicked in a couple of bucks.

Abby hopes to use the proceeds to fund a memorial bench, and perhaps a scholarship in Ed’s name for students interested in journalism or Colorado history.

But perhaps the best memorial to Ed would be the book itself, a reminder that the smart guys will not always be around to slap the hands of the hucksters trying to pick our pockets, or worse, and that we will have to start paying attention and raising a ruckus on our own behalf.

Going places

October 1, 2010
The Air Force Academy as seen from the New Santa Fe Trail.

The Air Force Academy as seen from the New Santa Fe Trail.

People often ask me how I can bear to live in a stony-broke garrison town full of Bible-thumpers, Birchers and boneheads, a place that can’t afford to keep its streetlights on unless you care to adopt one, where economic development seems confined to the crucial tattoo, pawnshop and medical-marijuana sectors and nearly half the respondents to a recent survey think we’re headed in the wrong direction (unless you’re ripped to the tits and pawning your deployed sister’s iPod to get some fresh ink).

I ask myself the same question every time I venture out of our little enclave northeast of Colorado College. Here the streets are wide, the trees tall and the neighbors friendly. It feels like the sort of small-town America that probably never existed beyond the confines of a black-and-white TV screen — until you head north, east or south and experience the real Bibleburg in full color, 3-D, with SurroundSound, a collaboration between Steve Spielberg and Terry Gilliam with an assist from Stephen King.

So mostly I don’t do that. Beyond the once-weekly dash north to Whole Paycheck my north-south peregrinations are generally restricted to cycling along the Pikes Peak Greenway/New Santa Fe Regional Trail, which offers a 35-mile auto-free roundtrip if taken south and a 60-mile out-and-back if ridden north. I used a portion of the trail for a time trial to the North Gate of the Air Force Academy on Tuesday and failed to medal even though I was the only contestant.

Greater cosmopolitan Bibleburg as seen from Palmer Park.

Greater cosmopolitan Bibleburg as seen from Palmer Park.

East I head mostly never, having learned in the Seventies that the real Bibleburg stops somewhere around Hancock Avenue, about six blocks from here. But I will venture in that direction as far as Palmer Park, a trail-rich, 730-acre reminder of what that side of town looked like before Bibleburg dropped trou’ for the developers. I spent an hour and a half there yesterday trying to remember how to ride a mountain bike.

This is a survival mechanism learned from Ernest Hemingway, Jim Harrison and other word-slingers who often longed to be somewhere other than where they were. “Do not scorn day trips. You can use them to avoid nervous collapse,” writes Harrison, who should know.

In fact, I feel a day trip coming on as we speak. I just put new tires on the Nobilette and I am so out of here.

Symptoms of being 55

September 8, 2009

How to tell that you are officially a geezer: You have a chat with a sportswriter colleague who tells you in all honesty that he has never heard of Ring Lardner. It’s enough to make a guy take a cold plunge and hang by his eyeteeth on a hook in a closet while counting 50 in Squinch. You know me, Al.