Is there a better way to try out my new 70-300mm lens than from the dark nosebleed seats at Louder than a Bomb 2017?
Spoiler alert: No there is not. There is also no better way to support this work than to donate here.
Veronica and I attended an event Thursday night at Chicago’s DuSable Museum. Performances at the boundary between hip-hop and traditional poetry poured out of these vibrant young people. These high school students had much to say about poverty, racism, sexual and community violence, the high school life of a heavy teenage girl, police misconduct, school underfunding, and much more.
Stephanie delivered “broken English” a loving tribute to her father, Mexican-born, who has worked so hard to support his four children: “In my father’s face, you do not see a criminal. You do not see a rapist. You do not see a drug dealer…. He might come from a different place, but he is right where he belongs. He is the best that Mexico has brought.”
Surprisingly, President Trump was not real popular with this group of Chicago young people. Stephanie reminds the President: “This land was never yours to begin with,” to cheers.
Anthony delivered a striking “Man-bot” meditation on masculinity and sexuality. “We are engineered for fake strength.” (Bonus badly-shot video below the fold…)
Got a new 70-300mm lens today for my Sony a6000 camera. I just pointed it at the moon and snapped on manual: 1/500 sec, ISO640, f16….
(I’ve kept this story anonymous, but my friend gave permission for the below account.)
We have a close family friend whose mother was recently hospitalized. Our friend talked with her mom many times by phone every day, but decided to wait a few days to actually fly in. She doesn’t have the money or the vacation time to constantly fly back-and-forth. She took the calculated risk of waiting because she wanted to be present at discharge to help her mom move into a rehabilitation facility, which the doctors believed was the best option.
But her mom took an unexpected and drastic turn for the worse three nights ago. Our friend jumped on a 6am flight Wednesday, but her mom passed away before the plane landed. She never got to say goodbye to her mom, whom she deeply loved.
There is no villain in the above story of human tragedy. It’s the next part that really makes me sick.
Our friend took a cab straight to the hospital. She wanted to find out what she needed to do, and she had arranged to meet another loved-one, delayed but en route. When our friend arrived at the hospital, the staff simply deposited her in her mother’s hospital room. There, on the bed was her mom’s body, sealed in a zippered bag.
That’s right. Hospital staff left our friend in that macabre scene all alone, with no one offering her any consolation or checking on her in any way for more than two hours. She sat there in anguish and regret, calling me and others on her cellphone to secure whatever long-distance emotional support she could find, on possibly the worst day of her life.
I’m sure staff shortages and other challenges played some role in this episode. That explanation is no excuse. People die regularly in hospitals. Loved-ones regularly grieve when this happens. The grittiest and most low-tech facility can respond humanely, can establish sensible procedures to ensure that no one is left to grieve alone when they need human contact. That’s elemental.
We typically rank hospitals based on their technical proficiency. (This public hospital seems average on various national indices.) Failures in the cardiac cath lab are measured and harshly noted. Failures of human proficiency and simple unkindness receive less systematic attention.
We spend more than $3 trillion on health care. Yet we still fail to treat many people decently in their most agonizing and tragic moments. We can do better.
An article in Foreign Policy brought back old memories of the Eastern European dissidents who so rightly inspired me in my Cold War liberal youth. The article concerned the fortieth anniversary of Charter 77, the great manifesto by Czech dissidents such as Vaclav Havel. These men and women bravely stood against malignant Soviet/Russian nationalism imposed from without. No less important, they stood against the corruption of language and the “Get over it” undignified compliance with untruth imposed from within.
Havel’s great essay, “The power of the powerless” includes a famous gut-punch passage that suddenly seems horribly pertinent to our present day.
THE MANAGER of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment’s thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?
I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life “in harmony with society,” as they say.
Another paragraph down, Havel offers another insight about how that stupid little sign offers ideological cover which allows that grocer to turn away from his own obedience to a despicable regime. Those of us instructed to get over it, not to endanger our prosaic connections by emphatically denouncing President Trump’s latest depredations, might learn from this as well.
Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient,” he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. The greengrocer would be embarrassed and ashamed to put such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation in the shop window, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome this complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the greengrocer to say, “What’s wrong with the workers of the world uniting?” Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high. And that something is ideology.
Just some pics…
I and several thousand other people are here early in McCormick Center, waiting for President Obama. We’re listening the warm-up act of Eddie Vedder and the Chicago Children’s Choir, followed by BJ the Chicago Kid with the national anthem. They all rocked the house—though in fairness it wasn’t the toughest crowd I’ve ever seen….
I am sitting in the press pen, sneaking into a spot nominally reserved for NBC News. I’m about 25 feet from Anderson Cooper. A gentleman, Mr. Cooper graciously let me take his picture. At least he would have, had I not nervously screwed up my fancy camera. He has a better seat. Still, I’m here with my White House press pass, my three cameras, a laptop. A tripod I don’t have permission to set up. I’ve hit the big time.
This is a poignant moment, the end of a sweet journey for many here. My own journey began 9 ½ years ago, when a friend invited me to a small Chicago party on behalf of Senator Barack Obama’s unlikely presidential campaign…. A man I hadn’t heard of, David Plouffe, was the headliner of this small party. He was there to talk campaign strategy. He got hard questions from a skeptical small crowd. Senator Obama was thirty points down in the polls. He was way behind in money. and in name recognition. He was a black guy with a…well you know the list…
I don’t for a moment believe President Obama has been the perfect president or the perfect steward of the Democratic Party. He was still very good. With virtually zero Republican help, his policies pulled our nation out of the deepest recession in generations. He rescued the auto industry. He brought health insurance to twenty million people. His soldiers killed bin Laden. He avoided war with Iran. He did many less noticeable things, too, such as building a Justice Department we can be proud of for its work on civil rights and disability.
He is one of the most worthy men ever to assume the presidency. The Obamas represent our country with such grace, humanity, and integrity. The contrast between President Obama and the grifting demagogue who will replace him defies belief.
President Obama has been the best and the classiest President of my lifetime. I’ve never regretted for one second the thousands of hours I’ve spent supporting his efforts.
Like millions of others, I just ache to see him go.
More here, from my piece at the Huffington Post.