Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tequila Sunrise, NAU homecoming morning, Flagstaff, Arizona: an anthropological study



Today is Tequila Sunrise in Flagstaff, Arizona, when the downtown bars open at 6 a.m. for homecoming. My first sight, when I walked out my door at 7:26 a.m., as I took in the bright yellow fall colors of the morning sunlight, was a kid across the street in a black T-shirt and sunglasses, throwing up. Then he took a selfie of himself. Then a black car pulled up in the alley where the party was going on, already thumping before 6 a.m., and about 20 coeds in mini-skirts came out of the vehicle like a clown car. This must all be documented. I might have my only beer of the year at daybreak. The long black clown car, no doubt picking up the girls in the pre-day dark, has its headlights still on, parked in the sunrise.

Down San Francisco Street toward downtown, rivers of people moving with me. Startled even more awake by the blaring of the music at the Southside Tavern. The bouncers all wearing shades, all much older in their babysitting mission. Cops everywhere, four riding bicycles, two running on foot, race across San Francisco ... every train going by, say every 10 minutes, sounds their horn in violation of the usual railroad policy when going through town.

Everyone seems to be energized, but dazed, in "Why am I not sleeping" looks. Already, in my first five minutes, I've seen two arrests. Loaded into a Department of Public Safety vehicle, highway patrol. No selfie. Three blues, one brown. They are out early, in force, for a little duck hunting.

Outside the Green Room, there is a waiting line out the door and down the block. More train horns, a dangerously loud beat of pop music is coming from the bar. ID checked. One guy with a fake, maybe 18, maybe, turned away. I plunge into the cavernous melee with sunglasses on, can't see a thing but the Blue Oyster Cult of stage lights. My shoes come untied as someone bumps into me, then someone steps on my shoelace and that foot is stopped in its tracks as I stumble forward. I almost fall over as I notice the place is way too hot for my morning leather jacket.

In the artificial night of this place, with only daylight coming through the front door, all of the boys and girls are just standing around, and then deeper into the cave, people are dancing, somewhat. Everyone is drinking. Yelling at each other. Every now and then someone does a half-hearted move to the beat. It's been thirty years since I've been able to hear a conversation in a bar.

This is not wild abandon. This is mass conformity.

I go deeper into the crowd, into the swill of pheromones, raging hormones, a little wobbly, slow as a turtle, due to knees injured playing high school football, Should have known then. Should. Have. Known. Guy goes "Woe buddy" like I was one of the drunks. But I keep my distance. Don't want to be associated with this body of humanity, all wired up in the ether of cell phone traffic. Get bumped into again and again as the next generation races through. But I am still standing. My rehabbed knees holding me up, In fact, seems to be one of my better days. Little pain. Must be the beer.
But my first alcohol of the year, and surely the last, doesn't taste any weirder than any other time of the day.

I move even closer to the music. Oh God, the vibration, as people sing to a thumped-up version of "Wonderwall," originally for Oasis, but now turned up for the rave. Usually, by 9 a.m., I would be listening to the softer, acoustic Ryan Adams version. The music's endless bounce causes my groin to buzz, or am I born again?

Must remember not to lean on counters. My leather jacket sticks to these rare surfaces like fly paper.
As each moment passes in the pandemonium, I drink my beer of the year ever more quickly. Living in the moment is impossible here. The energy is immortal and headstrong. I feel the gotta-get-outta here fast urge as a single round bright stage light, 10 times brighter than the moon, ignites a song with the endlessly repeated line, "Lose your mind. Lose your mind. Lose your mind."

I go outside and talk to the smokers, trying to ask questions. But asking a college kid if beer tastes any different at 6 a.m. is like asking a fish how it feels to swim.

So I head back up stream, against the furious flow and increasingly staggering people on the way to the Green Room. The alley is paved, but alleys are great in old style mountain towns, and Flagstaff beats them all with murals painted on the outside of the building walls and a lot of posters up for coming events. I take notes near a garbage can. It's full of empty, ripped open boxes for 100 percent pure beef burgers, Red Bull and Budweiser.

Asked a guy my age about being out and about with people three times our junior. He says the Tequila Sunrise event, a tradition for decades, was "much worse" in 1978, when he graduated from Northern Arizona University. More fights, he says. More trouble. Losing your mind is now apparently more harnessed, more perfected now.

More cops around now, he says.

Must remember not to jaywalk. The dogs are out, feeding. I was warned not to let anybody throw up on me. So far, so good.

At Beaver and Aspen streets, there are barricades for pedestrian traffic. People are milling around, but mostly standing in clusters, while loose singles, guided by smart phones, find their friends and greet them excitedly, like they haven't seen each other for twenty years. There are people smoking and watching from upstory windows overlooking the street. This is all supposed to end at noon, but the stillness of the crowds in the line seems to indicate some kind of mid-morning entropy.

And the soul, at what moment is it reborn? At birth. At death? When you finally get into the latest hot spot to feel of the overwhelming wash of hip-hop amid a mob of people the same age?

Finally, I rest far from the crowds, sitting in a courtyard of shops, boutiques, eateries and bars right off Route 66. There is a guy playing flute for tips along the road. There is peace. A slight wind. Autumn leaves blowing around. Two crab apples fall off a tree. Then there more horn as the train goes by. Then there are cars going by turbulatin' their anxious energies up and down the Mother Road. Then a guy sits nearby, and he's on his phone, saying "I'm too drunk. I can't understand you. I'm at Rooftop Solar. yeah, Rooftop Solar." But there is nothing called Rooftop Solar around, and we are at street level.

Vamped up girls carry each other up and down the street, two drunk for two legs, by weaving wobblies with four. The sun is close to noon height. The inebriated are melting before my eyes. Doesn't the underworld have rules for this?



Saturday, August 20, 2016

What works, what doesn't, as a voice in the wilderness of social media and the blogosphere

William Blake never got a break ... until he was near death.

The problem isn't the poetry, it's the medium. Most of the greatest poets who are internationally recognized pre-date color TV. Dylan, Lennon, Springsteen and later Leonard Cohen took poetry and carried it across the airwaves on a musical vehicle a book of poetry could never attain. In terms of popularity, who cares? Sure, poets are minimized in comparison. If there was an Incredible Hulk of poetry, how bad would that be? A small press poet is something to be. Their art is no less meaningful despite a competitive environment that has relegated the poetry book medium into the arcane shadows of the dispossessed. As Blake wrote, "It is not my job to reason or compare. My job is to create." If I can move a room full of 20 people, then I have made a wave in the turning of the world ... In other words, a pin-prick fraction of eight billion souls is still a shitload.

~

Using social media as a news gathering source has its drawbacks. It's hard to get people to write. They just hit "like" and move on. This after I posted the following on Facebook: I'm doing an article on the National Park Service centennial and I'm looking from people about their recent experiences at National Parks, as well as related issues, such as encroaching development. Looking for quotes, so please give me a hand ..." The only response I got was a like from a new friend in Timor, Indonesia.

~

It happened: The Mythville blog finally surpassed 100,000 visits. My story and interview with Gordon Lightfoot finally pushed it over the edge. Thank you, whoever you are, 100,000th visitor ... You've made a lone voice in the wilderness of the web a happy man today ... http://mythville.blogspot.com


Just looked at some of the reports on Trump's rally in North Carolina, and Jared Yates Sexton, who has turned tweeting crowd commentary into an art form, has noticed a new form of behavior. After the GOP candidate blames the media for his sinking in the polls, people like to stalk the area cordoned off for reporters covering his campaign to shout insults and take photos of journalists, as if they were trying to intimidate them. As Sexton tweeted tonight, "I heard several people talking about wanting to hurt the press, several mentioning a civil war if Trump loses. This is building in a hurry."

~

Trump got his first intelligence briefing this week. On page one on the list of threats was a warning about a madman in the U.S. stirring up hatred in large gatherings, threatening political assassinations and nuclear war. Trump ran out of the room, in terror, retreating to his tower.

~

Who owns America's film companies? Up to a few years ago, 20th Century Fox was owned by Rupert Murdoch, but now is apparently still under that empire's wing, owned by Fox Entertainment Group. Columbia Pictures is owned by Sony. Paramount Pictures is owned by Viacom, owned by the family of Sumner Redstone, a long-time Democrat who nonetheless endorsed George W. Bush for president because he said it would be better for his business. That industry, in turn, has turned into a forum for supposedly "serious" films with a heavy post-9/11 heroism vibe, comic book blow outs, yuppie training films posing as comedies, and, getting back to the topic, buddies with guns. Anyhow, these major corporations have very little interest in artistic undertakings. They are casting out their nets for the blockbuster bucks. Clearly, a key engine for the dumbing down of America. P.S. Paramount's blockbuster attempt, a remake of "Ben Hur," is tanking this weekend. It's as if Hollywood has completely run out of ideas and now they are paying for it.


By far the biggest response I got this week, other than a good number of hits for my archived article about Gordon Lightfoot at Mythville, was a kind of honest assessment of how I managed to tame my Facebook feeds: "A lot of people are posting about how they get nasty comments on Facebook, mostly due to their political views. But I weeded these people out years ago by unfriending anyone writing angry words in caps. My friends are mostly poets and humanists, teachers, professors and publishing people. Back in those days of political flaming on Facebook it was like shooting ducks in a barrel. Now, I kind of miss the action. Of course, there are members of my family who refuse to friend me. I'm the crazy poor liberal living in the woods." The bottom line:  You want the love? Then be unabashedly personal.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Militarized police tactics incite fear, then anger, then violence in terrorized U.S. communities



     The government may think twice about arming radical militias in the Middle East, but when it comes to distributing weapons within our own shores, we seeming to be willing to arm the forces of terror to the teeth. According to the Defense Logistics Agency, a federal program called 1033 delivers surplus military equipment to civilian police forces across the Unite States: pistols, automatic rifles, armored vehicles, some capable of surviving blasts from land mines. While MRAPs may have utility in Afghanistan and Iraq, if land mines become a problem in the U.S., it's unlikely, in the social disorder, that civilian police departments will do much to protect anyone. But hey, they are great toys, right? What can be more "peace officer" than an urban assault vehicle crashing through your porch and into your living room? That is certainly the cumulative effect for Americans, on either the right or the left, when such images march into your home on the television screen.
     This is what it can be like in certain segments of America. In the poor neighborhoods, in those places where the communities aren't gated, the power dogs rage. The police are running hot. Their violence is unrestrained. There will be a knock on your door. Maybe. More likely they will burst in. With more force and menace than any street gang might dare. What the hell, after all, Team Swat in America is above the law. They will shout something at you, the precursor for what's to come. They will drag you out of your car. You might say, "What? Why?"
     By that point you are the criminal. Ask one question and you are resisting arrest. Next thing you know eight soldier looking dudes in Desert Storm gear are slamming your face into the sidewalk, the door, hood of your car. They are in bullet-proof vests. Wearing khaki. Not much use in an urban landscape, but certainly intimidating. They point a Taser gun at your chest. They want to know, where's so and so, who you have never heard of. They want your identification. If you refuse in any way, their aggression only gets worse. You stutter, stumble with your thoughts, wondering how this could be. A citizen, on the street? No. No. No. The guns are pointed at you, potentially, any moment of the day, as the overwhelming force overcomes you.
     Now, if we break this behavior down, we have to get back to the dogs again. Anyone who has been around them much knows that if you get three or more swirling around in a group, their mood switches into something more aggressive. Doesn't take much to get them barking and nipping at each other. This is the problem with overwhelming force. Maybe they are in a line, dressed in riot gear for a peaceful protest: The more you get, the more likely something bad is going to happen. Call it pack behavior.
      And now they are armed like the military, all dressed up in hand me downs from various Gulf wars, Middle-Eastern interventions, and the overall look is that of an occupying force. This has been the kick-ass first, ask questions later policy of law enforcement since 9/11.


      But, in the social media environment, with tactics and agent overkill exposed before a national audience of people outraged by the war zone presentation in Ferguson, Missouri, maybe something good can come of it? Maybe in the shrill mechanical noise of the First Amendment being cancelled by the St. Louis County army bullhorn telling protestors to go home, maybe in the pyrotechnics of anti-crowd devices, in the ghostly images of shadows running through smoke, of television camera crews running from tear gas canisters, maybe in all of that dystopian detail, maybe out of all that the media-military-industrial complex might start asking more questions. Maybe, after many dozens of them are spread around in a viral revelation of what's really going on, these videoed instances of police brutality and anti-protest overreach will get the attention of the silent majorities of citizens tired of watching the U.S. Constitution going down the drain. Maybe someone will try to restrict the hand-me-down policy. This is being called for by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who is seeking to restrict the Pentagon's "1033 program"
    Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Well, actually, it's pretty unlikely. As long as the culture of violence is the unchecked feature of law enforcement, riots in the wake of police shootings will continue to be a symptom.
    There certainly were some firsts in the Ferguson case. After the worst night this week, Aug. 13, 2014, President Barack Obama spoke out, the governor of Missouri decried this vision of a "war scene," the state police took over the situation, and the next thing you know, white-shirted officers are walking in front of the daylight marchers as if they are protecting them, and the Missouri statie in charge, Ron Johnson, is giving streams of people in the street hugs. It was quite a reversal. Until the next night. After police had released a video of the slain teen, Michael Brown, robbing a local market, the community reaction seemed to indicate the police was trying to send out signals to assassinate the memory of someone they had killed, that the punishment did not fit the crime. More than anything else, since small markets and convenience stores have been targeted by looters; it all seems to say that the citizenry's sentiment over the daunting power structures of police and property, in an age of increasing economic disparity, has reached the tipping point.
     How the repositioning of force across the country might occur over the long term is anybody's guess. But a paradigm shift is needed. Perhaps state and local politicians might heed the call to resist accepting armaments more suitable for World War III into their arsenals. Might good a good place to start. The heavily armed lines of police-soldiers in the streets may be an organic outgrowth of life during wartime, but it certainly gives the appearance of an a yet another reactionary elitist put down. Perhaps if the powers-that-be put more thought in the kinds of images they are projecting, seeking alternatives to violence. After all, the best way to invite an attack is to build a fort. Open your fist, and extend your hand in peace.

Monday, January 6, 2014



Rand Paul: Mr. Macro Insensitivity

One has to really admire U.S. House of Representative Rand Paul for telling anyone willing to listen that anyone receiving unemployment benefits past 26 weeks is some kind of malingerer, because living that way is so much fun. Shows real gumption, what some might call gall, yes, but inspired.

He's a real little Lord Fauntleroy. Truly profound, academically speaking. He's the Tea Party's appointed "intellectual," as he speaks from the mighty heights and tipsy perspective of a Kentucky bourbon-sucking state, the security of having a politician dad. He's as streetwise as a college professor might expected to be as he comes from the embryonic magic bubble of the elite, asking the suddenly impoverished to avoid the disservice of having the too-big-to fail economies of a global catastrophe, a world, basically, gone cash-free, to pull themselves with their own bootstraps and ignore the facts of life, just as he has.

As an politician, which now means infotainer, he's a natural. He goes up on the stage of one-thousand points of light; and when he speaks, no doubt seeking donations for the cause of the now-launched 2014 political season, he has become one of the first great voices for the Tea Party, ah, Libertarian, bellweather: a kind of gift that keeps on giving.

That polls fails fail to reflect this gift, this talent for saying completely insensitive things bound to ignite a far greater opposing public outcry ... that this gift isn't reflected in the current polling, which lives only in the moment (happily, there is nothing to vote on today) should come as no surprise.

Glitch in "Obamacare"? No worries, folks. Concerns on that score eleven months from now depend upon the rolling storm of the moon, the sun, the stars. Want to overload the judicial system with a giant class action lawsuit over surveillance society, good luck! Both ex-presidents Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Richard Nixon will need to be listed as defendants for a whole world hell-bent on listening in for any signatures of terror and fear. Surely, cutting the unemployment checks for millions of Americans will get the radical right plenty more votes. Nobody ever remembers cold treatment like that over the Holidays. Sure. Sure. Sure.

Like I say: The gift that keeps on giving.

Because it's so much fun having your livelihood jerked around by a bunch of sycophants of corporate-nation state privilege. It's so nice to be among the floating decoys amid the big bad karmanomic sea of the unfortunate, trying to keep your sanity intact while these walking historic aberrations with full medical and economic armor, silvery, gold and intact with their boquets of red, white and blue, arguing "No, we don't need to change, you do." And if the luckless earth kidnapped by a cold-blooded band of lawless lawyers in Congress won't inspire you, the urgency of impending homelessness, maybe even a wish to die, will certainly calm you down and make you a prime candidate for that job that doesn't exist.

It's so nice to look forward to that once-a-week call to your state's make-sure-your-not-a-deadbeat zombie unemployment hotline. Which says it's a federal prison waiting for you if you do not answer honestly that you sucked, again, this week at life, that you applied for at least three paying tasks which your are, quite obviously, being such a loser, bad at.Your personal responsibility for the global war on terror, the international bank bailout, and yes, the Kennedy assassinations, Reaganomics (I and II) being so visibly acute. You, as children, should have known better. It's so fun hoping that, since you can't afford a land line anymore, you have to stand for three hours at the last pay phone in America in some dirt-poor apartment complex, your ear burning red from the Depression era jazz on hold, to speak to an actual human being about WTF!

With any luck, a distant dog bark won't create the incorrect signal when you are on that telephone line, because that might either create a sonic bump causing a sound that is the exact opposite answer of your sad situation, or, perhaps, with an even stronger sound, perhaps a passing jet noise, the need to start over, your jittery self an emotional wreck as you stand there, alone, by the phone.

It's so nice to go month after month to the internet to see if some kind job creator can lift you out of your disgrace, Mr. Big Bootstraps, since for a long time you had been wondering if your e-mail account had been locked inside some kind of cyber-bubble, your hundreds and hundreds of job apps for strange (probably illegitimate Craigslist "employers") to answer. It's so much fun listening to the latest lecture from professor Rand Paul about this.

Oh yeah, it's a hee-haw good old time.

Among other things, Douglas McDaniel is the author the book, "Human Search Engine."

Monday, November 25, 2013





What would you do if you were the Pope? Dunno? Well, I've been thinking about it. If only because while I live lost in the great desert of the West right now, I once lived near a far off imaginary town by the sea ... let's call it "Salem, Massachusetts" ... and while I was there I was convinced by a friend to seek the counsel of a fortune teller in a big city, let's call that big blob of civilization "Boston," and this sage crystal ball and Tarot card reader told me that in a previous life, I was the Pope. 

Sure, I said back, you say that to all of the guys. It appeals to our patriarichal natures, our paternal peccadilloes, our massive insecurities that tell us, if we know anything at all about the world, we are incredibly small, and that due to these flaws, we like the idea of having the power to burn evil doers at the stake, thus, saving them. We like to launch overseas wars, calling them crusades. We like to pray about just about anything that comes off the top of our heads to large numbers of amazed, receptive people. We like the good business practice that comes from being the middleman.

Kinda like Rush Limbaugh, but with something covering our bald heads. Because we like big hats, too, we older guys do. The bigger the better is what we think. Keeps the head warm. Older guys granted the power to say any silly thing that comes off the top of our heads also like to write big important books as thick as a brick. Limbaugh himself, just the other day, told his massive, terrified audience, that he had just written a book about pilgrims, who had some strange ideas. Strange enough to feel the need to cross the great imaginary ocean -- let's call it the "Atlantic" -- in order to practice a dour, somewhat paranoid thing called puritanism.



I found Mr. Limbaugh's little puritanical book pitch for the kiddies far more interesting than what another similar radio-ready fat cat, Glenn Beck, had: a radio show advertising "Biblical Money Code," whatever that is.

Mr. Limbaugh describes himself as "Talent on loan from God." Pretty Popey, eh?

What Rush was selling on his show, besides his children's book about pilgrims, which turns out, is not that thick, was home security and internet identity theft stuff from "SimplySafe.com" and "Lifelock.com." That latter product, apparently, protects people from online identity thieves. However, it fails to mention what happens when this electronic life locking operative gets sucked up for apparently random reasons by the National Security Agency's out-of-control zombie-technology sucker. Big fish do eat bigger fish. It's just what big fish do. Even in online life, where we are all naked as sin, fish food for the mighty search engines of progress, and suckers for fools given permission to pray about anything they want on radio shows, such as riots before the conventions of political opponents, failures for health care programs for the poor, chaos to reign in the streets, so on and so forth.

When Limbaugh comes back on the air, also broadcast from a far off imaginary place by the sea -- let's call it "Florida" -- what comes off the top of his big head are fear-based baits pitting social security recipients against food-stamp recipients, kinda like the Hatfields and McCoys of the welfare state. And then, everybody gets mad and scared and keeps on listening to Limbaugh.

Yep, Limbaugh is a pretty entertaining guy. He talks of education and uses words like "commentate" in the same breath. Funny voice in the head is Rush, who decries the "low information voter" and then promotes, over and over, his skinny book about pilgrims. He also says a book store that placed his children's book display out front was "leftist leaning." What I never heard on his radio show, which promoted, between this fear-bait, as well as his message to the kiddies about pilgrims, of course, was some rational explanation for the Salem witch trials. "I wrote this book for kids," says Rush. "To try to counter the crap these kids encounter in school." Education "crap" wasn't very well explained, either. Yep, there was low information about that.

Nothing about the witch trials, surely. Such gaps, such gaps, between the here and the there.

I didn't even want to write anything about Mr. Limbaugh, witch trials or locks on life when I started this. Sorry. Especially if there are any kids reading. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Witch trials are even scarier than witches themselves. I just wanted to say something about people who like to pontificate about great issues to folks who can barely conceive of fantasies heard from the remote, desert lands of the West.

What would I do if I were Pope? I would turn off Rush, first, then try to figure out what "Biblical Money Code" is, and explain that in a really thick-as-a-brick children's book. Amen.