Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Greensburg, KS


There've always been regional disasters. And then recovery. In 2007, the city of Greensburg, KS, was leveled by a tornado (that's a picture of Greensburg). A year later, the city was well under recovery, using green energy. From a Smithsonian article in 2009: Governor Kathleen Sebelius heard that Greensburg was planning to rebuild green. At a Topeka Statehouse news conference, she announced, "we have an opportunity of having the greenest town in rural America." The leaders of Greensburg decided to do one better: They wanted the greenest town in America, rural or urban.

And last week, here's a quote from an article about citizens of Greenburg:

The town has changed. There are new stores, homes, and a school, all in a town that's had to rebuild from scratch, like so many other towns across the country will now have to do.

The students’ bake sale raised $1,400 for tornado victims in Oklahoma and North Carolina. Undoubtedly, Alabama will be added to that list.

"We felt like that's a good way to give back, to teach our children to give back because of all that was given to us,” said first grade teacher, Laura Prosser.

It's that support that the school district educates its students, not only through books, but through helping other victims get back on their feet.

"We want to make sure we're a resource for anyone that's been through something like this,” said Kiowa County Superintendent, Darin Headrick

It’s a way of embracing their past to help those with a future, similar to their own.

The problem right now, for Alabama, isn't recovery. The problem is survival--there's no water, no shelter, no food, no fuel. So if you can give, please do. The Red Cross, which I've personally seen in action, is taking donations--you can specify that your money go to assist the recovery in AL.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

News item from the old country

I just read an interesting news piece from my hometown paper, and thought it needed improving. Especially since the original link has been taken down.

Naked Man Charged with Burglary
Published: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 5:04 p.m. [I assume the modification four minutes after posting this article was to fix a comma splice]

TOWN CREEK -- A naked man claiming to be Jesus Christ broke into a residence where a woman and her young children were late Monday afternoon and took all of the photos [Thomas Kinkade paintings] off the walls before he was taken into custody, officials said.

Jeremiah Wade Buxton, 29, 7079 Lawrence 59, Moulton, is charged with third-degree burglary, third-degree criminal mischief and indecent exposure [in Alabama, 'indecent exposure' means 'a guy was caught in the presence of a lady without wearing his wife-beater'], Town Creek Police Chief Jerry Garrett said. [In Alabama, 'Town Creek Police Chief' means 'brother-in-law of the mayor'.]

Garrett said the residence was on Lawrence 141.

“We got a call about a naked man on the porch of a residence and before I could get there [before I could finish my Moon Pie] a second call came in that the man had broken into the house where a woman and her two small[ish] children were,” Garrett said.

He said the woman and her children ran from the house and were not harmed. [Since the Benedryl had not yet kicked in, the children were still conscious enough to run. The mother even had time to set the VCR to record Judge Judy.]

Garrett said he and an officer from Courtland located him in the back of the house. [Garrett was very confused--why was he, Garrett, suddenly 'discovered in the back of the house' by an officer from Courtland? What was Courtland? Why did Courtland have officers? Why was he, Garrett, in the back of a house when there was a naked Messiah inside the house stealing Thomas Kinkade art? Garrett considered these questions. Garrett seriously considered these questions. Then Garrett glanced at the creek, visible from his place in the back of the house. He thought, 'How did that creek get there, and why is there a Courtland, and why does Courtland have a police force?' Then Garrett thought, 'It's like we're back in older times and I'm on horseback goin thru the mountains of a night. Goin thru the pass in the mountains. And then there's this guy from Courtland, his gun in a holster just as it should be. And a guy named Jesus Christ, pulling bad art from the walls of a dreadful house in a town with a creek so pathetic the town couldn't even bring itself to name itself after it. The town just calls itself Town Creek, and I guess it would've called itself Town Street if there had been a street here before there had been a town. I'm at the back of the house. And I'm woke up. And there's an officer beside me, from Courtland.' And I think to myself, 'Not again!']

“He [the Messiah] finally stuck his head around a corner [the upper head came around the corner before the lower one] and we saw him and he was naked,” Garrett said. [There was, one must presume, no sign of the purloined Kinkade art.]

The chief said as officers tried to talk with Buxton, he [the Messiah, a.k.a. Buxton] started claiming that the house was his and he was Jesus Christ. ["We knew he was not Jesus Christ," Garrett said. "Jesus Christ said his Father's house had many rooms. This house had only two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. Since Jesus Christ and his Father are the same person, by transitive power I knew that if this were really his house, there'd at least be an add-on, maybe a room over the garage or something. And some Kandinskys, maybe even a few van Goughs."]

“He said he was in heaven and he had cleansed himself of the old person,” Garrett said. “I asked why, and he said that was part of cleansing and he got rid of his old clothes.”

[Three days later, the clothes raised themselves from the dead and hanged themselves from a clothes line. It was the first miracle of the cleansed. Not long after, the miracle of the bleached and of the sorted followed.]

Monday, April 11, 2011

On the fourth anniversary of Kurt Vonnegut's death

During my freshman year of high school, fresh off an assigned (and traumatic) reading of Elie Wiesel's Night, I was presented with a choice: Ayn Rand or Kurt Vonnegut.

True! I was literally presented with a literary choice. A friend, a young woman my age with bushy brown hair and a wealthy pedigree, mentioned that she was reading Atlas Shrugged. Since at the time I was toying with heterosexuality and found it kind of hot that someone--anyone, really--was reading a three-pound book, I'd decided I had a crush on this young woman. I decided perhaps the best way to nurture this ill-conceived forced crush was to get into the authors she was interested in. Ayn Rand? Certainly. I'll give it a shot.

And did!

Except at the same time another person--a young man with wavy blond hair and James Joyce glasses, with a unique fashion sense and a serene face, suggested I try Vonnegut. He said it in an off-hand way after a class discussion of the Holocaust during which I expressed my shock and horror over Wiesel's story: "Marc, you should try Kurt Vonnegut."

Rather than explain I was already embarking on the journey to discover 'Who is John Galt?' I simply swallowed. "Vonnegut," I repeated. "Got it." His eyes were blue, which is to say they were all the things blue eyes need to be: deep, curious, reflective, cool, mystifying to those of us with muddy brown eyes. "I've read..." Trailed off.

"Hm?"

"Read, like, this thing he wrote. For an introduction for a collection. Of Mark Twain. He used to be Kurt Vonnegut, junior, right, but he says in the introduction that he devoured the junior in a fit of Freudian cannibalism."

"Kurt Vonnegut, jr. That's right."

While I continued my forced crush on the young women, and continued my half-hearted attempt to get thru Atlas Shrugged, conspicuously balancing the tower of Rand on my knee each morning before school, I also slipped Vonnegut's best known work--Slaughterhouse Five-- in my bookbag, and when I tired of both the forced crush and the dense Rand prose I'd switch. I'd pull out Vonnegut and place the book low in my lap, bending over the small slim paperback while using my left hand to cover the front of the book. So for a few days, here's what I'd read:

Rand: "Every man builds his world in his own image," he said. "He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice. If he abdicates his power, he abdicates the status of man, and the grinding chaos of the irrational is what he achieves as his sphere of existence – by his own choice."

Vonnegut: "'I think the climax of the book will be the execution of poor old Edgar Derby,' I said. 'The irony is so great. A whole city gets burned to the ground, and thousands and thousands of people are killed. And then this one American foot soldier is arrested in the ruins for taking a teapot. And he's given a regular trial, and then he's shot by a firing squad.'"

Rand: "She was speaking with a swift, bright certainty, conscious of nothing but the joy of performing her natural function in her natural world where nothing could take precedence over the act of offering a solution to a problem."

Vonnegut: "Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt."

Here's what I got out of my short-lived concurrent reading of Rand and Vonnegut: Vonnegut knew language, and Rand didn't. Also, Rand didn't know humanity, and Vonnegut did. I also learned I was incredibly, naturally crushing on the young man with the blond hair and the complex blue eyes, and didn't give a damn about the rich young woman with the bushy hair. After a few days of dueling books, I gave up on Rand and devoured Vonnegut. I moved from one of his books to the next, and then moved back again, reading them all, then again, then picking my favorites and reading them again.

Favorite Vonnegut quote (from The Sirens of Titan): "The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be to not be used for anything by anybody. Thank you for using me, even though I didn't want to be used by anybody."

Favorite Rand quote: "."

Interestingly, last Saturday I was walking along West 35th St. to meet Greg at his new office. I was behind two young people, maybe 17 or 18, a young guy and girl. They were holding hands, and talking in the braying, brash, slang-infested language of urban youths. The young woman--who did, in fact, have bushy brown hair--was wearing a hoodie. On the back of the hoodie was this, airbrushed onto the black knit fabric:

And, yeah, I smiled. And thought about how much Vonnegut meant to me in high school and how much he still means to me. And then I met up with the tall, thin young man with the wavy brown hair and the dark brown eyes that do all the things brown eyes are supposed to do.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

So Tired of Hearing About Small Business Owners Hating Democrats

Here's what I learned from my family-owned business: some bosses really want to take care of the people making them money, and some people are just interested in making money.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire centennial was last week--on March 25, 1911, 146 garment workers died in a terrible industrial accident. The workers died either by jumping to their deaths, or by the collapse of fire escape stairs, or by leaping down elevator shafts, or by burning to death on the factory floor.

The workers were mostly young women. Immigrants. Teenagers. The previous year--1910--the workers of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory had gone on strike, had tried to form a union. A year later, they were dropping to their deaths on Greene Street.

I took a walking tour of Greenwich Village once, and when we got to the location of the old Triangle Shirtwaist Factory building (known then, ironically enough, as the Asch Building), the walking tour leader said this: "Now if you'll look over my shoulder, you'll see a spot of death and doom. That, ladies and gentlemen, is where young women plummeted to their deaths. Imagine, if you will, the billowing dresses highlighted by the fire of the burning building as one by one each young woman hurled herself from the eighth floor window into space. Imagine, if you will, the wet thud of those billowy young women hitting the sidewalk."

The place was once known as the Asch Building. It's now the Brown Building. I do not think that's an improvement.

Anyway. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was owned by Isaac Harris and Max Blanc, two men so terrible in running a company that they'd charge employees for mistakes made in the production of their product. They also charged employees for the materials required to make the product--needles, thread, machines, etc. Fortunately this was 1911, so Issac and Max didn't bother to charge employees for the contents of the break room since there was no break room. Max and Issac's employees worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, without benefit of a break.

Max and Isaac were terrified the young girls they paid $2/week would steal supplies so they posted TSA-like thugs to search each woman. There were two exits from the factory: Greene Street and Washington Place. Max and Isaac locked the Wash Place exit, and posted TSAish Thugs at the Greene Street exit. When the fire hit, the Greene Street exit was the first to burn.

For nearly 100 years, there's been a Mitchell Printing. Mitchell Printing will never be Standard Oil. It'll never be Triangle Shirtwaist, either. Mitchell Printing has several exits. Employees will have a few options to run for their lives.

Incidentally, Triangle Shirtwaist ceased to exist after the immolation of nearly 150 employees.

It only lasted 20 years. Mitchell Printing, which is nearly a century old, has yet to kill an employee.

Some companies aren't concerned with employee safety. Some are.

I'd like to think my own family business, small though it is, is determined to take care of its employees. Take responsibility.

What amazes me is people employed by others do not make the same assumption.

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

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