Thursday, August 31, 2006

new york city!


I'll be reading at the Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem on October 11.

Here are the other dates so far:

October 7
The Big Read
St. Louis (Clayton, MO, actually)

October 26
Prairie Lights Bookstore
Iowa City

November 1
Tattered Cover

November 7
Unity Temple / Rainy Day Books
Kansas City

November 15-16
UofL Malcolm X Debate Program &
Carmichael's Bookstore
Louisville, KY

Still working on DC, Baltimore, Chicago and Seattle.

garden update

As usual, the gardening season has been triumphant and disappointing.

I let the tomato plants nearly dry out, and most of them haven't recovered, even with last week's massive rain. I think I put too much nitrogen on the peppers, so I got a lot of leaves but not enough peppers. And I got done in by the zucc and cuc killing bugs again, though I managed to get a few decent zuccs before the droopy end. Eggplant died, bigtime died. And I just plain ignored beans, which was stupid because I have seeds for purple ones.

But then, I done real good on the colorful annuals. They's pretty. And the new rose bush settled in and made itself at home -- it's now on it's third bloom. My thyme-and-stepping-stone experiment's going nicely. And, most amazing, I had a rosemary plant survive the winter, which is something my grandpa couldn't manage to do in his slightly more northern climate (I talked about his battles with rosemary at his funeral).

Oh yeah, the habaneros have been the culinary surprise of the summer. Hot fire! I'm a salsa-making freak (more on that later).

I'd like to spend the better part of every day out there. But I need some more plants or money or both. And maybe a little more time. The yard's getting there. But there are still a loy of areas that need filling in.

Well, signing off until the season-end report (unless those lettuses and turnips get me all inspired, which they probably will, I hope)

Click that picture up there for a flickr documentary.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

elle review

My book is going to be among Elle magazine's "Must Read" selections in November. I'm not allowed to post the whole thing, but the highlight when they say:
it’s a rambunctious, irresistible 500-page doozy.

Pretty sweet!

library journal

The Library Journal review is out:
Miller, Joe. Cross-X. Farrar. Oct. 2006. c.496p. ISBN 0-374-13194-5 [ISBN 978-0-374-13194-4]. $26. SOC SCI Journalist Miller's engrossing first book considers in depth the lives and competitions of Kansas City Central High's debate team. While nondebaters might want to dog-ear early pages that explain techniques and terminology, the technical bits are subsidiary to a provocative underdog tale. Jane Rinehart, the devoted, beleaguered coach, champions her students without support from the school administration or the debate community. Her debaters, dominantly senior Marcus and sophomore Ebony, are keen-witted kids who thrive in debate largely because their environment doesn't afford them anywhere else to thrive. Central typifies poorly cared for, predominantly black schools in disintegrating neighborhoods. Tournament encounters with teams from wealthy prep schools demonstrate a hard truth: intelligent, high-capacity students rise up in the inner city just as in the suburbs, but few are as fortunate even as Marcus and Ebony. Miller begins as a reporter and becomes an actor, increasingly fascinated by debate, attached to the kids on Central's debate team, and dismayed by the injustice of their situation. He takes a formal role as assistant debate coach and works with Ebony and debate partner Geoffery on a novel, race-conscious strategy that reverberates across the debate community. Recommended for most libraries.-Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Worthington Libs., OH


I'm a bit behind on the news (not paying attention). I didn't find out until yesterday that Survivor will have four teams -- one white, one black, one Hispanic, one Asian -- competing against each other on a deserted island for a big prize. Reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. The show's producers are stoking the racism fire for the sake of good ratings. Shame on them.

I have to disagree on this one. For one, it's pretty much an accurate representative of our world. We're divided by race. (Actually, it would be more accurate if the whites were given a bunch of tools and food that the other contests don't have, and if the others were shackled in some way.)

Second, this format will actually increase the so-called minority representation on a reality show. Unlike every other reality show that's ever aired, the cast won't be limited to one token black. In my book, that's way, way worse.

Lastly, it's provocative. And, on matters of race, I think we need to be continually provoked.

Put simply, we need to face this stuff and talk about it. Ignoring the fact that we're already divided, throwing token blacks and Hispanics and Asians into our favorite TV shows -- that does no good. But if sagging ratings can motivate the folks at Survivor to do the unthinkable, to display the reality of who we are for all of us to see, and that sparks a dialogue, then that's a good thing.

My fear, though, is that the PC finger-waggers have already cut off the conversation. So far, the debate is framed like this:


Oh, that's nice. I feel so much better.

Now we can all go back to our little segregated worlds and feel good about the progress we've made.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

snack time

i'm there

I haven't been to a protest for a long, long time. Not since college, I think. But I'm definitely going to this one.

Not so much to protest the president. He's an obvious target. No, I'll be there to protest Ward Parkway.

In fact, I think I'll ask a bunch of students if they'd like to join me. We could make picket signs with pointed messages about Kansas City's de facto segregation. (And, of course, one that says simply, WARD PARKWAY SUCKS!)


Sunday, August 27, 2006


I wish that the good folks at C-SPAN would maintain an online archive of every minute of video they air. I wish they'd make it all searchable and downloadable. It drives me crazy when I catch a really good talk on Book TV, and I get totally absorbed in it, but it's so dense with information and wisdom I feel the need to go back and listen again (or, better still, I wish I could take it to Central and play it for the debate squad), but I can't, because it's vanished into the cable vapors.

Happened this weekend. Yesterday, I caught former CNN bureau chief Charlayne Hunter-Gault talking about her book New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance. And today I heard a blistering speech delivered by Michael Eric Dyson, to promote his recent Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster.

Wish I could have them both for keeps. But fragments are all I possess.

Hunter-Gault admonished the Western media for only focusing on the negative in Africa. She said we love to parachute into Africa when something horrible is happening. But then when Africans start to find solutions to their problems, we think the stories are done, and we pack up and go home. The problem with this, she said, is that we miss opportunities to learn from Africa. Case in point: in the years since apartheid, now that the journalists have mostly moved on, that country has been breaking a lot of ground in affirmative action and racial reconciliation -- ground we couldn't quite reach. Why aren't we following this story? Her answer seemed to be, at least in part, that we're letting our preconceptions guide us instead of "coming in straight." In other words, we already know what the story is on Africa: It's a place of misery and turmoil. Stories that don't fit this framework simply aren't seen.

And Dyson's speech was a tour de force. Man, I wish I had an Mpeg of it so I could play it for the debate squad. He would be such a great debater, the way he rattles off such dense prose without a script. He covered so much territory it was impossible to remember all but the tiniest pieces of it. I got the main thrust, of course -- its message of rage at the racism that mires our nation. For a while I had my laptop on my lap, hoping to type quotes to share with you all, but he spoke so fast, and I was so mesmerized, I couldn't really get anything down. I was hoping I could find a link onlinr, to share it all with you, but...

Come on, Mr. Lamb! Let us search and download.

Friday, August 25, 2006

super dog

Gobo is officially one of the cutest dogs in the literary world!

Kansas Citians may recall his first (and only)published article. Now he's gone global, having been deemed one of the literary world's cutest dogs by's Galleycat!

Here's the proof!!

(The writer, Ron Hogan, also said some very kind words about Cross-X. As in, he throws in a few acronyms that are very, very flattering. They refer to some pretty well-known awards, in case you're scratching your heads.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Earlier today I asked one of my teacher friends, "So did you read the Star today?"

"Yeah," she said. "So they spent $90,000 to find out that the district sucks. I could've told them that."

"I think it was a brilliant move," I countered. "David Smith is a shroud dude."

I laid out my theory: The board swallowed hard and lived through five miserable years with Bernard Taylor for the sake of bringing a semblence of stability at the top of the command chain. This establishes -- God willing -- a tradition of keeping superintendents around for more than a school year. It makes superintendent staying power a priority.

With this ethos in place, they brought in a ball-buster -- Anthony Amato. Hopefully he won't be easy to fire after he comes in and takes a flamethrower to 12th and McGee (and I've heard he's already got it turned up full blast, and folks at central office are fuh-reaking out).

And finally, just to add a little extra juice, to fan the flames of the revolution, they commission a study that declares in no uncertain terms what everyone knows, but which the previous administration worked so diligently to hide: The district sucks.

They ain't learnin' them kids nuthin, so to speak.

And it's not just Dave Smith who deserves praise. I think the current board might well be the best since Brown v. Board, and I've studied pretty near all of them. It's my sense that every single member sincerely cares about this city's kids, and wants to do what's right. They disagree from time to time. But, for the most part, they've kept things stable. And, more than anything, we've needed a stable foundation.

For the first time ever I actually feel some hope for this district. And this $90,000 failing report card is an important early step.

You can't get well if you refuse to accept that you're not well.

Monday, August 21, 2006


For the past few weeks I've been listening to an unabridged recording of Truman while I work in the garden -- an interesting experience after having read Sherry Schirmer's brilliant A City Divided.

I'm at the part in the book where Truman goes to the Senate, so I've just listened for an hour or two about his ascent by way of the Pendergast Machine. It's interesting. At times I find myself actually admiring Boss Tom because, unlike the club-members who now run our city, he managed to break more than a few crumbs off the corruption cake for the poor. (Can you picture someone like Steve Glorioso helping down-and-out neighborhood schlubs score decent jobs? Those days are long gone, my friend.)

On the other hand, I'm irritated with how cavalierly McCullough deals with the issue of race in his Pulitzer-winning biography. He throws in a few sentences about how the Pendergast crew -- the Goats, as they were known -- deigned to dole out a favor or two to Negroes every so often, which was apparently unprecedented in this old Jim Crow town. But other than that the historian pretty much ignores the racism that has shaped the landscape of this city more than any other force.

McCullough writes almost adoringly of the wildness of this city in the early 20th Century -- the gambling and prostitution and drug dealing that was so accessible. Meanwhile, Schirmer bears down on this with cutting insight. She shows that Pendergast and his cronies calculated the availability of these nefarious delights so as to contain them to the black part of town, which was itself detained by racist covenents, as well as straight-up terrorism (when blacks dared move to white neighborhoods, their homes were bombed). No mention of this by McCullough. Indeed, he reports that Kansas City was safer than ever during the Pendergast years.

And when recounting the brief ascent of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, he focuses on their anti-Catholic nature, not their lynching ways. He scolds Truman for paying $10 bucks to join the group, and then lauds him a paragraph later for backing out.

And when reporting Truman's liberal use of the N-word as a young man, McCollough so refrains from judgement that he seems to almost adore of his subject's a quaint country ways. When I heard those parts I found myself wondering, How will we get from here to the integration of the armed forces?

We're divided in so many ways. We even have different histories.

But, as Truman himself liked to say -- quoting Andrew Jackson, I think -- to the victor go the spoils.

(And, of course, it helps to cheat.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

johnny appleseed

clash u.s. tv debut

i'm on a joe strummer kick

I'll probably be posting a few more things like this...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

snakes on a plane

Attention all KC Blogosperians!

Would one of you please tell me if there's anywhere in Kansas City to experience this:
Should you see Snakes on a Plane? Yes, but if you weren’t in Theater 16 on Thursday night you’ve already missed the greatest showing there will ever be of this movie. I invited my friend Mike to the show, and he brought a printout of the Snakes on a Plane Participation Script. Well before showtime, he helped the audience learn the key lines: anytime the asian bad guy finishes a sentence, yell “…in bed!”; anytime a sentence ends in “snakes,” yell “motherfucking snakes!”; anytime Samuel L Jackson yells at someone, add “...bitch!” for emphasis; etc. It was a little like a Rocky Horror Screening, except that nobody had seen the movie yet. So when the entire theater found out that adding “in bed” actually works for damn near everything the asian guy says, it was hilarity topped with the joy of discovery.

I wouldn’t trust any reviewer who wasn’t in a theater with the electric atmosphere and audience participation I experienced last night. The story of SoaP’s development and production has been one of collaboration between the filmmakers, the fans, and especially Sam himself. For this movie to work that collaboration must extend to the screenings as well. Putting the burden of the entertainment on the film itself is a dereliction of duty by the audience. So print out the wiki, bring some rubber snakes, and do your part!

Via Owen

the waning days bachelorhood

This one is for the benefit of the giddy folks back home: Today I went shopping for wedding dresses with Allie. The one that I really liked only came in black or blue. No, I don't think that's a sign.

At one point I found myself waiting while Allie tried on dresses. I was sitting in a little chair beside a mirror, with my little baseball hat on, watching women shop. It reminded me of when I was a little boy and my mom dragged me to shopping malls and forced me to wait while she shopped and tried stuff on. To bide the time I used to fantasize about owning the mall and turning it into the coolest house in the world. Today I passed the time by wondering what it would have been like to be at the corporate board meeting when they gave the go-ahead for mannequins with hardened nipples. What a moment that must have been.

Friday, August 18, 2006

cold case

Last night, Allie and I watched the ABC Primetime JonBenet sensationalism special. I don't believe this John Mark Karr guy did it. It just doesn't add up. I still stand behind what I've said all along: The Silver Fox did it. True. He died a year before the murder. But still.

Anyway, this seems as good an occasion as any to truck out my Patsy Ramsey story.

In 1996, a few months before the crime, I was in a continuing education painting class at the University of Colorado with the soon-to-be-famous mom. I didn't know who she was at the time, but she left a lasting impression on me.

This was a beginning painting class, and my fellow students and I were so unskilled all we could manage were some muddy streaks across our canvases.

Except for Patsy. She painted a picture of flowers on a porch that was not spectacular but it was good enough to prove that she had some painting experience.

Yet she walked around at the end of class holding up her painting for all to see, asking each one of us, "What do you think of my painting? It's the first one I ever did."

So odd, I thought. Here's this woman in an expensive sweater, the kind with 3D embroidered flowers, lying to me, a $12-an-hour-twenty-something stranger, for approval.

In the ensuing weeks I would abandon any hope of mastering realistic oil painting. I began smearing the luscious colors all over the canvas with my fingers and with paper towels. Meantime, the guy at the next easel started coming to terms with his sexuality by way of a paint brush. One week he painted an optimistic picture of a landscape in Spain -- site of his honeymoon. The next week he came in with the same picture, only now with a man's leg spread across it and a giant red cock dangling down. For the rest of the time all he did was paint penises, and all I did was smear paint. His marriage eventually fell apart, I eventually started smoking pot again, and we became pretty good friends.

But I'll always remember that first night when he and I let go and embraced our paint therapy. Patsy sidled up beside us and regarded our work. She forced a smile and nodded. "Interesting," she said. She didn't show up for the next class, nor any thereafter.

Months later it was the class's teacher who informed me this was the now-famous mom. And still more months later that her painting of flowers on a porch made the news.

Larry Schiller's ponderous, disorganized book about the case was released, and I read in it that there was a painting of flowers on a porch among the things in the basement room where JonBenet's body was found. I was working at the Boulder Weekly at the time, so I wrote up a short little bit about the story I've just shared with you. Apparently, the cops read it, because within hours the class's teacher got a call from the homicide detectives, and she answered questions about whether or not Mrs. Ramsey used duck tape, or something like that.

And the point of all this, I suppose, is only to prove, unequivocally, that Charlie Rich killed JonBenet.

my odds

The Lulu Titlescorer says "The title cross-x has a 31.7% chance of being a bestselling title!"

Considering the number of books that are released each year, those are pretty good odds.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

book meme

3 O'Clock in the Morning tagged me with a meme. So, here goes:

1. One book that changed your life.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, because it inspired me to buy a watch, among other things.

2. One book you have read more than once.
Franny and Zooey. Which reminds me, I think I owe Memyi an e-mail. Sorry, let that one slip. Oh well,m good reason to select her for the obligatory tag-you're-it.

3. One book you would want on a desert island
Survive on a Desert Island

4. One book that made you laugh
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

5. One book that made you cry
No book has made me cry, I don't think. Only movies. I did feel a bit weepy, though, when my favorite character in The Corner died.

6. One book you wish you had written
Mountains Beyond Mountains.

7. One book you wish had never been written
I'm not like that.

8. One book you are currently reading
None, honestly. I'm between.

9. One book you have been meaning to read
Dream Boogie

10. Tag five people.
Pom, Sheri, Mark, Leena, Jessi

let's rock again

It was a bit disconcerting to watch the scenes in Let's Rock Again where Joe Strummer doggedly promotes his band, the Mescalero's, as if he were just another hack trying to earn a couple of bucks. We see him knocking on doors at a radio station somewhere in New Jersey, almost begging to be let in, and for the dimwitted DJ to play a song off of his brilliant new album, Global a Go-Go. We see him on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, handing out flyers that he made himself with a Sharpie. Only one person recognizes him, and they don't seem to care.

It's like, Good God! He's one of the most important people in the history of rock, and he's forced to hustle like a windshield washer in Manhattan!!

Still, Joe's ever in good spirits. The film's website says it's "a story about never giving up." Strummer proudly claims to be nothing more than a hack. He says he's played to an empty room. He says he's been from the bottom to the top and to the bottom again, and he's grateful for the ride. His goal is for his album to break even.

But then the tour winds up in New York, and all the arty dignitaries show up backstage -- Jim Jarmusch, Steve Buscemi, Matt Dillon, and a bunch of other cool-looking important people whose names I don't know. You need a city that big, it seems, to get enough people together to make it seem as though quality translates into popularity, to find a few hundred people who agree with you on the things that make life just a little more than worthwhile.

At one point, Strummer says all he wants is for people to go out and buy one thing that's weird, do one thing to break out of the routine. And in the film's closing minutes Strummer manages to persuade the New Jersey DJ to deviate from the computerized playlist and spin one of his new tracks, one of my favorites, "Johnny Appleseed." He gets another station to do this as well, despite the DJ's protests.

"It's a toe-tapper," he exclaims as the song is playing. He opens the studio door, sticks his head out and yells across the station's office, "You've got a toe-tapper playing now!"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

sacred institution

Allie and I were in the supermarket checkout the other day and I noticed that the newspapers were all ablaze with new that Angelina has left Brad. And I thought, My god! It's not gays who are a threat to the institution of marriage. It's these damned celebrities.

Anyone out there up for a Constitutional ban on movie-star nuptuals?

(Added bonus: It might ensure that the rich and beautiful die lonely; a fair trade-off, methinks.)


What a thrill it was to open the Elkhart Truth this morning and see the headline:
Goshen's Miller has hat trick in NLC victory

Along with a glorious photo (that, unfortunately, was placed below the fold):

I can't say I was thrilled with the story, though. There were no quotes from the star herself. And for some reason the reporter wasted a full four paragraphs in the lede talking about how bright the sun was.

If I had been on the assignment it would have gone something like this:
The sun was no match for Joe Miller's cousin, Nora. The Junior from Goshen High almost single handedly destroyed the hapless Chargers of Elkhart Memorial with three awe-inspiring goals.

I was there for a lot of the second half, and let me tell you, it was an absolute blow-out. Most of the time Goshen kept the ball deep in Charger territory. I witnessed Memorial manage just one good shot at the goal -- which, as luck would have it, bounced pitifully off of the cross-bar and into the confident control of the Redskins.

But this drive was such an anomaly that one suspects it was a calculated act of benevolence on the part of the good Christian girls of Goshen, who know better than to completely destroy the self esteem of their opponents.

I was there for the third goal in Nora's historic hat trick. There was such pandemonium in the stands that I could manage only an obscure photographic document of the moment:

Here's a close-up:

Of course, the Truth had far better pictures:

Nora scores the first of three goals in a complete and total annihilation of Elkhart Memorial.

Nora celebrates the first of three.

Nora dashes the hopes and dreams of yet another Memorial Charger.

There are other members of Nora Miller's team.

And, as always, I've compiled a full flickr documentary of the event.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

the delicious bounty of god's green earth

Today, Allie and Lora and I went to the farmer's market and bought armloads of beautiful food. Click the photo above for a flickr ducumentary of our adventure.

conley reunion

On Saturday the Conley clan reunited. It was a great day, partially documented in photos. One of the highlights was delicious Indiana corn:


A few weeks ago, Allie was poking around on the internets for pictures of cattle dogs. She came across a clearing house site with t h o u s a n d s of images. Fascinated, I set out to find Gobo's twin.

Trying to be clever, I started in the G's, with the name nearest Gobo's alphabetically. And, wouldn't you know, his twin was right there.


Actually, Google is sort of like a puppy version of Gobo.

We were thrilled! Allie employed here investigative reporting skills (Googling Google) and found Google's parents, in New Mexico. So we had Gobo send Google an e-mail via Dogster.

And now they're friends.

And here's a picture of a random dog that looks just like Gobo:

And here's a pug named Gobo:

Friday, August 11, 2006


Pit bulls are big news in Kansas City right now. Apparently some old woman got mauled so now area governments are clamoring to ban the breed. The logic is lost on Allie and I. We've yet to meet a pit bull that isn't sweet. Allie's friends are miffed too. One writes:
There seem to be two or three pit bull attacks on people every year in Kansas City, always leading to cries of outrage. But every day when I pick up the newspaper, I read story after story about brutal attacks, stabbings, bombings, cell phones down women's throats and rapes committed not by "dangerous" pit bulls, but by men. Maybe we should round them all up to be euthanized! (I'd be labeled as a man-hater, but it makes about as much sense as killing dogs that never did anything wrong.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

flying liquids

Allie and I are flying to Indiana tomorrow. Allie said twice today that she's a little scared, because of this big terrorist attack that was supposedly foiled in England.

I ain't scared.

Every time I get in my car and head off to Price Chopper for soy milk I run better odds of dying than by terrorist attack on a plane flying out of KCI.

Besides, I'm not sure yet if I believe that they really did foil an attack. Like, what's to stop them from making it all up just to look good and justify their budgets.

And, of course, there's the possibility that it's all a conspiracy just to keep us scared. Kind of like the never ending war in 1984.

I am a little miffed, though, that I won't be able to carry a water bottle on the plane. I wasn't necessarily planning to. But still.

I have this weird feeling they're going to keep prohibiting things on planes until we won't be allowed to bring anything. We'll have to buy new clothes everywhere we go, and then leave it all behind when we return. And we'll be sedated, straight-jacketed and stacked like logs in the cabin.

Yep. That's what's gonna happen. That's The Man's plan for all of us.

blogging and booking

My friend Mark at About.Com broke news Sunday about a new blog venture Holtsbrinck Publishers will launch this fall, but M.J. Rose is getting credit for the scoop after posting a skeptical piece about it this morning.

I think Rose raises some good points. But I don't agree that writers shouldn't blog. I've found it to be real helpful to fend off block. I've also come to believe it can be a good addition to an all around marketing strategy, though I don't think that should ever be the goal of a blog.

I learned that the hard way, I guess.

For a while last year -- right around this time of year, in fact -- I was working the whole blog thing full steam. I was trying to do real reporting. I had a couple of stories I was following and I'd succeeded in boosting my hit count. But I got sick of it real fast, and went back to blogging about whatever the hell I wanted to. Much happier with it now.

I haven't thought or cared about hit counts for the better part of a year.

So then along comes this Holtzbrinck thing, and I've been invited to be one of the venture's beta testers (Holtzbrinck owns FSG). The official launch will be October 1 -- three days before my book's release.

Good timing. I keep lucking out with stuff like this. I've also been asked to participate in a new Author Channel at Bebo.Com that'll also launch on October 1. I'd never heard of Bebo.Com. But this Author Page is going to have ads, so they'll be driving folks to my page, which is apparently some kind of My Space thing. Not sure how many Bebo subscribers buy hardback books. But it can't hurt.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

i voted

In the ballot box today I was confronted with a daunting choice. For one of the Jackson County Legislator seats it said "Convicted Felon Career Patronage Goon Henry Rizzo vs. Blank." Actually, it just said Frank Rizzo, and below him was a blank that said "Write In."

So I wrote in "Anyone Else."

When Allie was confronted with the same choice, she wrote "Goofus." And for another similarly uncontested seat she wrote in, "Gallant."

I'm so proud of her.

canning documentary

Allie and I drove 75 miles southwest of KC yesterday to Gordon's Orchard in Roscoe, MO, to buy a peck of peaches. Actually, two and a half pecks, plus a peck of nectarines. Today I canned six quarts. Click on the above photo image for documentary proof.

Monday, August 07, 2006

election day

My favorite political line lately has been, "Five years as an investigative reporter in Kansas City has totally destroyed my faith in the Democratic Party." But now I realize you don't even have to work to become disillusioned. All you have to do is be a registered voter during primary season, and just sit back and watch the sleeze ooze through the mail slot. When you have campaigns this nasty -- all to within the same party -- you know the issues aren't what's at issue. This is a dog fight to see who gets the corruption spoils.

The worst of the slanderous mailers have been for the race to represent us in the Missouri House, between incumbant John Burnett and J.J. Rizzo. We got this one on behalf of Rizzo:

It says it was paid for by a group called Save Northeast. It's bankrolled almost entirely -- to the tune of $10,000 by a cat named Larry Shouse, who works for Shouse & Raithel Attorneys, which is listed as operating out of an apartment in Midtown. Some company called CAW Enterprizes kicked in another $1,500.

Can't help but wonder what would make a man plunk down ten grand for a really lame slam campaign against a lowly state rep, on behalf of a little-boy son of a felon. I ran Shouse's name through the Missouri court docket database and saw him listed as the defendent in a whole bunch of breach-of-contract cases, but I didn't dig any further. He should sue himself. Talk about a lame attack campaign. Strip clubs are hardly a nuisance in our neck of the woods. They're all safely set aside in industrial zones on the meth-infested peripheries of the Northeast. For ten large you'd think you'd get some real dirt.

Meantime, John Burnett's attack on little JJ seems on point. I don't know if it's true, but the problem Burnett ties his opponent to -- predatory lending -- is a HUGE problem in our community. I should've taken a picture of the most recent slander mailer sent on behalf of Burnett, because it's equally ridiculous. It's covered with pictures of blood-thirsty wolves, and a little tiny super-dark image of J.J. guffawing like a dork.

Also should've scanned JJ's big positive mailer for himself. It's almost a negative campaign attack in its own right, because every single picture of it is so absurdly staged. Not unusual for a campaign postcard, true, but because JJ looks all of fourteen all the usual smiling-with-old-folks-and-black-people shots seem especially fake.

As it stands, the only other thing I scanned was this classic slam on Charlie Wheeler:

The best thing about it is it prompted the Star to actually print the words "liver spots" (well, on it's blog, but still). No way I'm voting for this coot. Not since he got the nod from Freedom Inc. I've come to realize that an endorsement from the city's oldest black political group is actually proof that the candidate is a sucker who doesn't have the slightest clue how to relate to blacks. (I should probably vote for Sanders in this deal, but I'm leaning toward the crazy black guy.)

Then there's this refreshing mailer from ole Patrick Dobson:

It offers the story of Pat's walk to Helena, Montana. Not sure what that has to do with Jackson County politics. I think he's trying to say he's a human being. Not exactly the message I get from his fellow Democrats' materials.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

my cool mennonite grandma

Apparently I worried my grandma with my earlier post bemoaning the Floyd Landis scandal, because today I got this e-mail from her:
I considered calling you, but decided I could say it better in writing.

In church this morning I ran into Dr. Sam Yoder, prof. emeritus at GC who was an Amish kid who wanted an education and ended up with a phd and a reputation for scholarly research on the Amish. I told him you were having a hard time dealing with disappointment over the Landis affair. He said " When folks bring it up to me I tell them that the conservative Amish-Mennonites have a high level of testosterone. They usually have ten or twelve children. Landis's father says, If Floyd had stayed in Farmersville(?) married a good conservative girl and had a big family he wouldn't have to worry about testing high for testosterone." I like that way of looking at it; all humans are fallible and somtimes the best way to deal with a fellow human's downfall is to accept that everyone makes mistakes and the higher you reach the more glaring the fall.

To which I replied:
I'm not in the throes of despair over it; I was just commenting on the situation. Interesting insight, though. But it contradicts the only Mennonite joke I know: "What's the difference between a Mennonite man and a mouse? A mouse has hair on his chest."

Then, from her:
How do we know Adam was a Mennonite?

because only a Mennonite man would be more interested in an apple on a tree than the naked woman beside him.


Last night, Allie and I had a delightful date at the Wyandotte County Fair.

Thanks, Toast!

the clash

I spent a few hours yesterday wishing I were my uncles' age. On Friday I watched Westway to the World and it made me jealous of anyone old enough to have seen the Clash in concert. I don't think either of my uncles ever went to one of their concerts. But I'm jealous just the same.

I have to settle for my junior high memories. I want to say my Uncle Pete turned me on to them. He gave me a Clash T-shirt that he made in a college screen-printing class. I wish I still had it, because it was a one-of-a-kind design.

I don't think I was old enough to truly appreciate the Clash. My uncles were perfectly poised for the band's arrival. They'd been a few years too young for the climax of the 60s, and had come of age during its depressing aftermath -- from Altamont through Kent State and Watergate to Reagan's speech in Kansas City and my dad's death in Mexico in 1976. Their era was the dawn of post-modernism, and the Clash had the best version of it -- not a snide sniping of the so-called truth a la The Sex Pistols, but a sort of unified opposition to "truth." Multiculturalism, pragmatic urban resistance, DIY.

As a junior high punk, what mattered to me was that the Clash were the opposite of Elkhart, Indiana. They were a way to be different. And they sounded and looked cool. Still do, captured on video from their marathon concert series on Broadway in 1980, Joe Strummer beating the hell out of his guitar with the determination of a 1920s labor rights activist. How awesome would it have been to be standing in the third row at one of those shows?

By the time I caught up with the Clash in the early eighties, they were already practically split up. The only album release I could anticipate was Combat Rock. I bought it as soon as it came out and it wasn't half bad, despite its commercial success. According to the film I just watched, the band all but broke up during the photo shoot for the cover of that album. I was there when the Clash were the sensation of MTV, along with Duran Duran. Kind of like my uncles in the 60s. I showed up to the party a little too late.

But then every generation seems to have its musical moment. I did get to see Nirvana open for Dinosaur Jr. at the Gothic Theater in Denver just a few months before Nevermind was released. I'd never heard of them before, and I was totally blown away. It was like the whole concert hall melted into the band and became a massive throbbing beast, totally controlled by Kurt Cobain's brain and shaggy blonde hair. I bought Nevermind the day it was released. I was probably the first student at the University of Colorado to own a copy. And I played it nonstop at work, turning hundreds, perhaps thousands of other kids on to the hot new sound.

So I was there for that revolution. So I guess I can say I've really lived.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


News of Floyd Landis's downfall totally bums me out. Not only because of our shared heritages, but because cycling is just about the only sport that still excites me. The Tour de France is especially compelling because it's such a Herculean challenge (and because it's dang purty to watch them rolling through all those French countrysides). It's a pinacle of human achievement, kind of like art in that way. So when a scandal like this happens, I honestly feel as though I've been robbed, if not of my faith in humanity (because that would be cliche), then certainly of my pride in it.

Oh well, there's still debate. They have a doping problem there -- especially on the college circuit -- but it's not of the performance-enhancing variety.

Friday, August 04, 2006

november 7

I'm officially on the calendar. Hope to some of you all there.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

more gobo


My friends Joel and Jocelyn got married on the same weekend that Floyd Landis supposedly won the Tour de France. Though Joel and Floyd share a similar heritage I'm fairly certain that Joel was not juiced up. Not unnaturally, anyway.

Here are some kiddie folk oggling the delicious cake.

The ceremony was so sweet and touching that I leaned over and whispered in Allie's ear, "We should have one of these." And ever since... well, let's just say plans are in the making.


My kinfolk on my mom's side gave me and Allie a gift certificate to a flower shop. I bought a rose bush root. Allie planted. And now it's blooming all pretty like.