comics, des moines, humor, Media, People, politics, Unemployment

HOT SHEET: 3 unsettling thoughts in the age of unease post #election2020 plus new comics recommendations

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, 24th Street Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: The major news organizations seem to agree Joe Biden won the presidency in the general election earlier this month.

But do you trust it?

The typist does not.

No, the ol’ Paragraph Stacker does not subscribe to the unfounded claims the election was rigged or interfered with.

He just doesn’t think getting Donald Trump out of the White House will be as easy as voting him out.

Trump demonstrates no respect for norms or even basic human decency. This is a guy who threw paper towels at Puerto Rican survivors of a deadly hurricane.

This is a guy who essentially ordered border patrol to kidnap the children of refugees and then failed to reunite them with their families.

Why would anyone expect him to follow something as beautiful and profound as the peaceful transfer of power?

The typist keeps asking his buddy, a former Army CID man, if Trump can just lob a nuke at some country he has disdain for to bring the whole house down.

The friend of Hot Sheet says the armed services only obey lawful orders.

Are there some Trump loyalists who will try to keep him in power even after all the recounts are done and the lawsuits settle and the Electoral College is certified?

No, the typist does not trust it at all. And he won’t trust it until Biden’s hand is on the Bible and Trump is either going out on Marine One or being dragged away by federal agents.

ITEM TWO: A buddy asked the ol’ Paragraph Stacker if he truly thought Biden will make a great president.

Great? Whose to say? Biden faces a historical clusterfuck. COVID-19. Economic woes. Racial unrest. A world that wonders if America is truly as awful as it has behaved.

The typist looks at like this: For the past four years, the country has been a bus driving down the Rockies in the middle of a blizzard with a guy whose never driven before drunk on whisky and far gone on cocaine at the wheel.

Biden will be a guy with a clean driving record, who keeps his hands at 10 and 2, wears his seatbelt and won’t tolerate any horsing around in the aisles or in the back of the bus.

That’s the minimum one would expect from a bus driver, but compared to the last guy, it’s a dramatic improvement.

His presidency could still be a historic disaster given the issues he faces. But at least he had a concept of how to govern and a plan that doesn’t include cheap red hats and dog whistles to racists.

ITEM THREE: The most pressing issue that faces the lame duck president and Congress is an economic stimulus.

The country is slathered in coronavirus and the winter is expected to be worse yet. States across the country are expecting another shut down.

Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell took turns trying to best one another in a grandstanding contest over the stimulus since the first expired in July.

The result is the only person who made a move to help the unemployed since the stimulus was Trump. His assistance wasn’t enough by half and didn’t last long enough, but credit where it’s do, it was something.

That our national legislative bodies are so impotent and callous to the struggles of millions of Americans is almost as shameful as the Trump presidency.

Of course this issue is personal to the ol’ Paragraph Stacker, who lost his job in May in the midst of the pandemic.

To quote Hannibal Smith from an episode of “The A-Team:” “It’s always darkest before it goes completely black.”

ITEM FOUR: Belated new comics Wednesday recommendations:

  • Star Wars Vol 1: The Destiny Path — Marvel Comics are great at telling “Star Wars” stories. They are better at it than Disney is making “Star Wars” movies. Disney owns Marvel. Maybe they should consult. Anyway, “Star Wars” comics have been delightful since the brand returned to Marvel from Dark Horse in 2014. This volume picks up the story of the heroes of the original trilogy moments after the end of events in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Luke is traumatized at losing his hand and learning Darth Vader is his father. Han is gone. Lando is still a mystery. The Rebellion is at a low point. This is rich storytelling ground and Charles Soule is the kind of writer to mine it to maximum potential.
  • Jack Kirby: The Forever People — Jack Kirby is the greatest artist in the history of comics and one of the greatest writers. He co-created with Stan Lee almost every character that eventually became a box office blockbuster. He left Marvel for DC Comics there and told some of the greatest stories of his career, creating a mythos called the Fourth World, home to the New Gods and the DC Universe’s greatest villain, Darkseid. The Forever People shows Kirby tapping into the youth movement of the area, with a group of traveling heroes fighting Darkseid’s effort to expand his tyranny from Apokplipse to Earth. The heroes fall somewhere between the Scooby-Doo gang and the rebels from “Easy Rider.” They can combine their powers to form Infinity Man. The dialogue is dated, but it’s like catching a crazy genre flick at the bottom of one of your Netflix queue. You’ll be surprised by how entertaining it really is.
Major League Wiffle Ball

ITEM LAST: There’s a lot of horrible stuff in the world right now, but the Hot Sheet wants to leave you with a bit of the bright side of life. Few places bring as much instant joy as the short video platform TikTok. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker discovered the account for Major League Wiffle Ball (@mlw_wiffle). Who knew there was such a thing? The highlights are fantastic, heavy on pitchers with crazy arm angles spinning Wiffle Balls in physics-defying arcs that either baffle batters or end up smashed for home runs. The whole thing is delightful and recalls the glory days of childhoods past when the bikes filled driveways and kids batted-in ghost runners and argued balls and strikes until the street lights flickered on and mother’s voices called them home.

There are a million stories in Daniel P. Finney’s baggy khaki slacks. This has been one of them.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, Faith and Values, humor, Iowa, politics, Pop Culture, Unemployment

HOT SHEET: Apple buys Charlie Brown and drives another nail in network TV

Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighbored Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: The typist doesn’t like to brag, but when he called his insurance company the other day, he was specially selected to participate in a survey after his business was concluded. Things are looking up.

ITEM TWO: The holiday classics “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will not be on ABC-TV this year. Instead, they will be on streaming service AppleTV+.

A couple of thoughts: First, fuck you, Apple. You greedy hustlers didn’t need to shake down parents and kids for $5 a month just so they can see holiday staples. Your company may make pretty things, but you’re still pretentious assholes.

Second, if network TV can’t afford the rights to cartoons that are both more than 40 years old, what the hell is left? There’s only so many rehashed game shows and garbage soft-core porn reality shows — we’re looking at you, “The Bachelor” — humans can take.

At this point, the networks are a football delivery service with a few sitcoms between games.

ITEM THREE: Mark Twain said: “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

Millions of us lost our jobs in the pandemic. Our government failed us. They lied to us about compromise and they played us all as pawns in their political power game.

But if these assholes maintain control after the election, our country failed itself and gets the government it deserves.

ITEM FOUR: As a service to the Des Moines metro youths who will brave the COVID-19 wilds of Beggars’ Night, Item Four will publish four jokes for them to memorize and recite in order to receive candy:

Q: What did the egg say to the frying pan?

A: You crack me up.

Q: How do bulls write?

A: With a bullpen.

Q: How do you get an alien baby to sleep?

A: You rocket.

Q: What did the hurricane say to the island?

A: I’ve got my eye on you!

ITEM FIVE: No, it is not too much to ask children ages 5 to 13 to memorize and recite a silly joke like those above. We’re not asking for a tight 5 for the Funny Bone. Tell a riddle. Get some candy. It’s a nice, innocent tradition.

ITEM SIX: New comics Wednesday recommendations:

  • STRANGER THINGS HALLOWEEN SPECIAL — With the pandemic, it may be a while before we see the series again. Enjoy a spooky one-shot for the season that spawned a show with two great seasons and one “meh” outing.
  • SILVER SURFER: BLACK TPB — One of artist Jack Kirby’s trippiest heroes gets a fresh, poppy book that looks like it needs to be read under a blacklight.
  • ARCHIE AND KATY KEENE TPB — Archie Comics committed to fresh takes on their classic characters about the time the CW series “Riverdale” launched. Katy Keene isn’t the brand name that Archie, Jughead, Veronica and Betty are, but their revised predecessors were good enough to give this a look.

ITEM LAST: This week marked the first days of the reduced schedule at Jethro’s Drake. The restaurant is now closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Monday was, of course, Monday Night Football. It would’ve been nice to have a beer and watch the game.

Tuesday was the first game of the World Series. Again, a nice barbecue pork sandwich and green beans would have been a fine accompaniment to the Fall Classic.

Alas, yet more dreams snuffed by the pandemic.

The typist is worried. Hot Sheet is told this move is temporary. But not all Jethro’s survive.

The company tried a pizza and Italian joint in Altoona. It crashed and burned. The first sign of trouble was closing on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The idea that replaced it, Bigfoot, similarly struggled and took Mondays and Tuesdays off before actually crashing and burning.

The biggest problem Jethro’s Drake faces is Drake University. COVID-19 put off fall sports at the school. Winter sports are undecided.

People come to Jethro’s Drake because of all the things at the Knapp Center, Harmon Fine Arts Center and so on.

The survival of Jethro’s Drake is symbiotically related to life at and around Drake. With the students going home for good at Thanksgiving, the near future is bleak.

Daniel P. Finney is a bad boy for breaking her heart. He’s free, free falling.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, People, Pop Culture, sports, Unemployment

HOT SHEET: Big Ten to play football in the pandemic and, you know what, who really gives a damn anymore?

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: The Big Ten Conference reversed itself Wednesday and decided to play football this fall after previously punting the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first decision was made based on public health policy. The second decision was made based on money. The Hot Sheet, honestly, just doesn’t give a damn. Play football. Don’t play football. Whatever. The players want to play. Those who don’t can opt out. The players’ parents marched in Big Ten states across the land in favor of their sons’ playing football. They’re not having fans in the stands, which seems to be the biggest risk. Iowa and Iowa State athletic departments are going broke without football money. Iowa cut programs and jobs and instituted pay cuts and furloughs. Iowa State faces a $30-million shortfall. America is a bottom-line country and football is a big part of the bottom line at some of America’s most prestigious institutions … and whatever the University of Nebraska is. Society has bigger mackerels to microwave than whether young, healthy men play football in the pandemic. So, by all means, play ball you brave and bold young men. Wash your hands after every play and try to keep the spit out of your eye.

ITEM TWO: Black Lives Matter activists wish the public held social justice in as high regard as football. If institutional racism garnered the same attention as instant reply, we might actually achieve equity in America.

ITEM THREE: If you live in Polk, Dallas, Black Hawk or Linn counties, you can now belly up to the bar until a 2 a.m. closing time again. Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted restrictions that bars stop serving by 10 p.m. She kept the restrictions in COVID-19-slathered Story and Johnson counties, home to the Iowa State University and the University of Iowa respectively. The typist suggests the governor lift the ban in Story and Johnson counties, too. If the college kids are packing the bars too tightly, enforce the order with fines on the bars. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker believes bartenders, servers and others who make their living at bars and taverns deserve to survive this hellish period. Besides, the sporadic closure of bars felt like “make it up as you go” policy that didn’t stand up to scrutiny. Does COVID-19 magically awaken at 10:01 p.m. and become more infectious?

ITEM FOUR: Unavailable due to COVID-19 pandemic.

ITEM FIVE: Congress remains incapable of even a granule of compromise and thus remains deadlocked in eternal brinksmanship on the matter of a second stimulus. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, promises to get a deal in place before they break for the November election. Forgive the typist his skepticism. Election years are godawful affairs that pander to the worst common denominator. No politician up for election is appealing to the best and brightest of our fractured culture. But know this: Hot Sheet will monitor the action or inaction of Iowa representatives on the matter of unemployment and second stimulus and vote accordingly, regardless of party affiliation.

ITEM LAST: Wednesday brings new comics to the shelves at the local pop culture emporiums. Hot Sheet offers these recommendations to followers of funny books:

  • Batman: Curse of the White Knight, hardcover, DC Comics, $30. In a world where the Joker (Jack Napier) is sane and Batman is viewed as a public menace, what kind of dirt will smilin’ Jack dig up on the Wayne family history?
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes, trade paperback, Marvel Comics, $16. The typist enjoys the Gamerverse comics even though he isn’t a gamer. He would prefer a regular ongoing to flesh out the characters than these shorter offerings. Still, it’s better than trying to crack the code on the ongoing mainstream titles, which are usually terrible.
  • X-Men/Fantastic Four: 4X, trade paperback, Marvel Comics, $16. The X-Men have created a mutant paradise. Franklin Richards, son of Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, is one of the most powerful mutants in the world. The mutants want Franklin to join them in paradise. There may be some disagreements.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five or the Children’s Crusade: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, hardcover, Arcane, $25. The Hot Sheet adores the late Kurt Vonnegut’s prose, but has never been able to make sense of his most highly regarded novel. The early pages of the graphic novel adaptation prove promising that the typist will finally uptake and understand at least some form of this literary classic.

Let’s close the book on this one. Donate if you can. It helps your poor, unemployed grad student typist more than you can know.

Be kind and behave.

Dismissed.

What, did you think Daniel P. Finney was going to take a different photo every time he posted a Hot Sheet? He’s got a lot going on you know.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, Faith and Values, humor, mental health, Movies, News, Podcasts, Pop Culture, sports, Unemployment

HOT SHEET: Bye, bye Kardashians; Hawkeyes and Cyclones sports broke; wireless society lies and why Bob Woodward is a shameless self-promoter

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Station.

ITEM ONE: Word reached Hot Sheet early Wednesday that the reality TV series “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” will end after 20 seasons in 2021. Oh, how one longs for the the halcyon days of yesteryear when all we cared about was the ridiculous bullshit spouted by rich dilettantes. The typist admits ignorance that the show remained on a broadcast schedule. That the series finally concludes — hopefully forever ridding our screens of this vapid and indulgent bunch of hedonists — means that there is yet another reason to look forward to 2021.

ITEM TWO: COVID-19 continues to leech the lifeblood from the Iowa and Iowa State athletics. The Big Ten’s decision to move football, the moneymaker for big college athletic departments, forced Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta to cut 40 job and order furloughs for non-contract employees in his department. This follows the ending of the men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis, and men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams to ease budget woes for the Hawkeyes. The virus similarly saddled the Cyclones, who cancelled plans to admit fans at football games due to the pandemic, with a $30-million budget shortfall that may close CY Stephens Auditorium, cause 10% pay cuts, and potentially cut sports. The typist knows the woes of unemployment in the pandemic and wishes speedy reemployment for all. Brave heart, fellow travelers.

ITEM THREE: When your typist was a young man, the futurists talked of a cashless society. They meant money would eventually be all digital transactions, no paper or coins. Though much has changed, you can still buy a hamburger and fries with a $10 bill and get paper and coin in return. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker notes this because the term “wireless” is recklessly thrown about in the present century. This sounds terrific until we look at the electrical outlets in our houses, cluttered in the extremis with adapters and cords for smartphones, tablets, computers, AirBuds and other essential gadgetry of the age. The cords strangle us as we desperately seek juice for our fading batteries. The desk submits “wireless” is false advertising. They should call it “temporarily un-pluggable.”

ITEM FOUR: The pandemic proceeds as the brutal bummer of the century. This constant state of concern and confusion may induce decidedly darker thoughts as days grow shorter. The desk reminds readers to monitor their depression levels on the DEPCON — that’s depression condition — scale. DEPCON 1 is no depression and DEPCON 5 is hospitalized for suicidal ideation. To combat serious DEPCON, the ol’ Paragraph Stacker has issued a list of movies to distract you based on level of depression.

  • DEPCON 5: “The Big Lebowski”
  • DEPCON 4: “Beavis and Butt-head Do America”
  • DEPCON 3: “Batman” (1966)
  • DEPCON 2: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”
  • DEPCON 1: “Airplane”

ITEM FIVE: The desk received his fourth solicitation from the Center for Voter Information in his mailbox containing voter registration information. The Hot Sheet acknowledges the organization means well by encouraging voter registration in the age of COVID-19 and with a president who openly courts Russian interference in the democratic process. Still, the typist worries the multiple mailings might confuse people into requesting an absentee ballot more than once and potentially voting twice. Iowa law classifies this as election misconduct and it’s a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum of a $7,500 fine. Hot Sheet supports all ways to vote — and would go as far as to make Election Day a national holiday and voting a legal requirement of all citizens. But let’s not gum up the works with duplicate paperwork.

ITEM LAST: Wednesday, Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward revealed a recorded interview from February in which President Donald Trump speaks directly to the deadliness of the oncoming coronavirus pandemic. About a month later, Trump downplayed the virus to the public. Social media exploded with the usual rage and anguish upon Woodward’s revelation. The typist is not surprised that the president is a liar. The typist, however, remains baffled that people are still surprised the president is a liar. Hot Sheet instead condemns Woodward for sitting on this definitive confirmation of the president’s betrayal of the American trust until it was time to release his latest book, “Rage.” This reduces Woodward to another shameless profiteer on the misery of his country. Perhaps if the public had heard Woodward’s tape of Trump earlier in the pandemic, they might have done a better job listening to public health officials and ignoring the ignorant hate machine in the Oval Office. Alas, given the state of political discourse and our collective confirmation bias, people trade more in fear and loathing than truth. This breaks the ol’ Paragraph Stacker’s heart that such is the state of the republic.

Daniel P. Finney just can’t even right now.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way poking fun at the passing parade.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, News, Newspapers, sports, Unemployment

ROLL CALL: Pandemic makes fools of Iowa’s top officials

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake University Station:

ITEM ONE: Iowa State University reversed it’s dunderheaded plan to have 25,000 fans at the Cyclone’s opening football game next Saturday in Ames during the COVID-19 pandemic. ISU President Wendy Wintersteen punted after “receiving feedback from the community.” No word on whether the Center for Disease Control plans to release news that one of the symptoms of coronavirus is making public officials look foolish.

ITEM TWO: Speaking of public officials who continue to look poorly prepared in the pandemic, President Donald Trump issued an executive order for an extra $300 to those unemployed because of COVID-19. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the Hawkeye State up for the bonus, but nearly a month later the beneficiaries bank accounts are as empty as Trump’s unconstitutional order.

ITEM THREE: Iowa is one of the hottest spots in the nation for coronavirus spikes. COVID-19 cases are up 81% in the last week, per the Washington Post. The state trails only South Dakota in per capita increase over the same period. Reynolds responded by closing bars and nightclubs. But restaurants that serve booze are still open. Can the good governor explain what magic ingredient in food keeps the coronavirus away from restaurants? The ol’ Paragraph Stacker suspects that the said additive is the powerful lobby of the Iowa Restaurant Association. This is not to say the desk wishes restaurants and bars shuttered. Lord knows those businesses and their employees have suffered enough in this rancid year. Rather, the desk advocates public policy that makes sense and feels less willy-nilly.

ITEM FOUR: The White House coronavirus task force dubbed Iowa a “hot spot” for COVID-19 outbreaks and encouraged a statewide mask mandate, according to the local Gannett Outlet Store. This column previously poked fun at Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie’s citywide mask mandate, but we now admit we were wrong in the face of this new data. Reynolds should issue the order. Her coronavirus policy largely appears to be moves to placate her buddy Trump and a pathological inability to admit her errors. Some might tell her that the White House task force on the coronavirus works for Trump. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker worries she might not know that.

ITEM FIVE: School districts continue to grapple with the Iowa Legislature’s back-to-in-person-school mandate. A friend tells the ol’ Paragraph Stacker that Carlisle started the year with seven teachers on coronavirus quarantine the first day. Ames, in COVID-19 slathered Story County, is online only. West Des Moines and several other districts went with a hybrid model. Des Moines lost a longtime teacher to the virus, per KCCI, though a reader wisely notes the teacher had not been with students for some time. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker reminds parents that they all have the option of taking their kids online only and right now, that seems like a damn good idea if you have the resources to make it work. Don’t expect any help from your state government, which has neutered local control of schools and kowtow to Trump’s high body count, low common sense style.

ITEM SIX: Sen. Joni “Empty Suit” Ernst continues to prove her mettle as a Trump backup singer. At a campaign stop in Waterloo, Senator Do Nothing babbled a conspiracy theory that the U.S. pandemic death toll was inflated, per the Washington Post. But experts — smart people who use actual data — say the death toll likely is underreported because the largest cities lacked the ability to count their dead. Here’s hoping Iowa’s Dollar Store Sarah Palin receives irrefutable data from the ballot box in November so she can go back to her favorite pastime: pig castration.

ITEM LAST: This column is more political, and decidedly more leftist, than the usual paragraphs issued from this desk. Don’t be fooled. Your friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker has not joined anybody’s team. The desk opposes stupidity and ignorance regardless of its form. This collection of sentence slinging might please the overzealous lefties who suggested I supported white supremacy a few weeks back. But this column shall surely elicit at least one “cuckold” comment from the irascible righty rage machine. So it goes. I will say this in response to all extremists inclined to such chatter: Honorable people disagree.

The desk is clear. Let’s roll.

Behave and be kind, my friends.

Daniel P. Finney covers novelty stocking caps for ParagraphStacker.com.

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Iowa, Media, Newspapers, People, Unemployment

I shall teach

I shall teach.

I am 45 years old. I’m out of work. There’s a global pandemic. Nothing seems right with the world.

And the only trade that seems more troubled, more affected by society’s idolatry and hedonism than journalism is education.

Well, reporters, teachers and cops. They’re all tough jobs in any era.

I’m too old and too fat to go wheezing around town after the city’s scofflaws.

But I damn well know writing.

So, I shall teach.

I believe writing is a primary form of self-expression and the mastery of it can lead to a happier, healthier life.

If nothing else, you can impress people by hiding what you don’t know through artfully stating what you do know.

Being full of shit is an employable skill.

Yes, I shall teach.

But first I shall learn.

Monday begins the new semester at Drake University. I will be a graduate student in the School of Education.

I’m in a master’s degree program. My adviser and I have mapped out an aggressive course of study.

If all goes well, I’ll be student teaching in a year and hitting up Des Moines-area districts for a full-time gig at middle schools and high schools come January 2022.

I am not a tourist in education. This is not a placeholder. This is the second half of my working life.

I’m middle-aged. I gave 23 years to journalism. I’ve got another 22 years to work before I earn Social Security.

I was a journalist. I will be a teacher almost as long. That will be a good life, a life spent in public service — especially the second half.

I graduated high school thinking I would become a teacher. I remember asking my high school principal to save me a job when he gave me my diploma in spring 1993.

I planned to be a history teacher when I enrolled for classes at Drake that fall.

Then I got a job covering football for the campus newspaper. That began 27 years of getting paid to stack paragraphs.

That run ended in May. You know the story: Pandemic plus corporate cutbacks equal the end of careers.

I’ve dwelled on the end too long.

It’s time to get up, dust off and take a bold step in a new direction.

Yes, I shall teach.

Reset. Back to school at middle age.

There’s no institution that has served me better than Drake. It has always been there for me when I needed to grow and regenerate.

First, I was an undergraduate and learned my passion for my first trade.

Then, about 15 years back, I was out of work in journalism (this is a theme of the industry in the 21st century), and I worked at Drake in public relations.

And now, in the middle of my working life, I come home to Drake yet again. There must be a reason why I’ve lived in the neighborhood since I came back to Des Moines in 2004.

I’ve already contacted the campus newspaper editor about work. I need to embed myself amongst our youth and understand how they think, how they uptake and process information.

I expect to learn from my students far more than I’ll ever teach them. I might as well start by getting to know the loads of students around me at Drake.

I don’t want to be just a teacher. I want to be a great teacher.

I realize I’m an old man by the standards of youth. It feels strange as hell to be a rookie in my 40s.

But not entirely unfamiliar. The last few years of my journalism career consistently felt like I had gotten off the bus in the wrong neighborhood.

I didn’t know where I was, what I was doing or who I was doing it for. The trade was a mess and the people who struggled the most often were those who had practiced it the longest.

The advantage teaching has over journalism, one of many I hope, is that you always know who you serve: The students.

Right now, I am a student again. Well, that’s not quite right. I’ve always been a student. Good journalists study people and society.

I was a good journalist, even if the greedy corporate hustlers eventually decided they could do better without me.

I will strive to be a good teacher.

All it takes is everything I’ve got.

And when that’s gone, I’ll find some more and give it that, too.

Yes. I shall teach.

Daniel P. Finney, winner of invisible cat’s cradle competition

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

humor, Iowa, Media, mental health, News, People, Pop Culture, sports, Unemployment

2020: Apocalypse Slow or the derecho and the damage done

I thought the apocalypse would be faster.
The Death Star shows up in orbit and “BOOM.”
The deity returns. The faithful rapture. The sinners burn.
Thanos collects the infinity stones. Snap. Half the universe turns to dust.

But 2020 indicates an apocalypse is merely a steadily increasing series of indignities ultimately ending in madness.

The latest example of this ill-fated year came earlier this week when something called a derecho decimated the Midwest with a trail of death and destruction across a 770-mile, 14-hour trek from South Dakota to Ohio.

Wind gusts measured at 122 mph, the equivalent of a Category 2 Hurricane.

The storm snapped power poles, uprooted trees, rended corrugated metal buildings and stripped roofs and generally smashed around like the Incredible Hulk in a particularly foul mood.

Many Iowans are well into their fourth day without power. Some utility companies say it may be up to three weeks in especially decimated areas such as Cedar Rapids and Linn County.

This is another below-the-belt punch in a year that has battered our collective groins like the men in “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

We Iowans can take harsh weather.

Blizzards? Meh.

Century floods? Been there, done that.

Tornados? Scary, but we cope.

But a derecho?

It’s rare for Iowans to have to learn a new word for weather. Most of us think “thunder snow” is made up.

2020 was already the year of COVID-19, the global pandemic that cancelled everything.

Adults worked from home which, after six months, feels like living at work.

The pandemic put more than 30 million people out of work, including your friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker.

This led Congress and the president to engage in fruitful talks to come up with a stimulus plan that benefited struggling America.

Nah, I’m totally kidding.

They did what they always do: Lock down in partisan bickering that accomplished nothing except give politicians a chance for demagogic bloviation in front of the flaccid press corps.

Racial unrest spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody forced our nation to take a long, hard look at itself and a lot of people found our guiding principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be empty platitudes.

We can’t visit our elders, who are the most vulnerable to catch and die from the virus.

Our go-to distractions from national misery are cancelled or jumbled up.

Some college football conferences are playing in the spring. Some are playing in the fall. Some aren’t playing at all.

The NFL is busy trying to figure out how to make more money off of all it.

They cancelled the Iowa State Fair.

I’ll type that again for clarity: They cancelled the Iowa State Fair.

There is no greater sign of the apocalypse.

My fellow East High School alumni were so discombobulated by the disruption in their annual gathering at the Bud Tent that they scheduled a series of alternative East Side Nights just to make sure they kept their Busch Light-to-blood ratio at proper levels.

Nobody wants to detox in a pandemic.

I don’t really believe the world is ending.

But this is a one thing after another after another after another.

A week or so ago, I went to make a deposit in an ATM. The first one I hit was out of order. The second ATM didn’t take deposits. The third one, the one closest to my home, had been hit by a truck and would be out of service all summer.

That feels very 2020.

At this point, if it started to rain fire and locusts devoured the fields, I would shrug and say, “Well, that’s 2020.”

The year shows no signs of improvement. The virus marches on and deaths are on the rise. Congress remains impotent.

And, oh yeah, the presidential election is in November.

The current president has suggested he might not leave office if he is defeated.

Maybe that’s more empty banter.

Or maybe that’s for real.

If nothing else, we’ve learned that our government basically runs on the honor system and we, as citizens, have foolishly entrusted its function to dishonorable people.

Regardless, the lead up to the election is sure to be filled with bile, lies, fear and loathing. And those are just the campaign ads.

A friend suggests Nov. 4 through Dec. 31 could be the most frightening period of the year.

I don’t think he was kidding.

In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s right.

And that really does scare me.

Daniel P. Finney, area bald man

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, Iowa, mental health, News, People, Unemployment

No time is a good time of day when you’re unemployed

Photo by Dan Meyers via Unsplash.

The daytime is the worst.
All my friends are at work.
I am at home.
Unemployed.

Driftless.

Listless.

Purposeless.

I stare at job boards. I apply. I call. Any news? Any openings?

Maybe it’s a special day where I’ll get a form letter rejection via email.

And, oh, look at that inbox: The only job I managed to get an interview for since the old shop discarded me writes to tell me they went another way.

My self-esteem is crushed out like like a cigarette butt in an ashtray.

The summer is nice.

I go to the pool on the days my spine doesn’t feel as if it is being twisted like the handle of a black pepper grinder.

But it is August. The days grow shorter.

It feels like my feet are nailed to the floor while time hurtles forward. Everyone else moves on with their lives. I’m stuck like a wind-blown reed.

I know I’m not alone. I’m one of nearly 170,000 unemployed Iowans and as many as 30 million unemployed Americans.

But the days are lonely. There is nowhere to go. There are no people to socialize with.

I never married. I’m too hard to get along with. There’s too much about my mind and body that is incompatible with companionship.

That is for the best. I feel like I fail myself every day I don’t get a job. I don’t know if I could take the strain of failing a wife or children.

Sometimes I allow the madness into the house. I turn on the news. It isn’t really news anymore. Maybe it never was. It’s just partisan sniping designed to make people angry and afraid.

Anger and fear are primal emotions. They motivate you to keep watching and keep checking for status updates. The news, as it is these days, is poison that we drink like Busch Light.

I let the news-cancer in for a few moments to try and glean facts from the cacophony of misinformation. Will the government pass a stimulus? Will they put aside their pettiness and petulance long enough to help the 30 million suffering?

The answer ranges from the negotiators are “far apart” to “close to a deal.” The truth is the reporters and the commentators don’t know a damn thing.

But they have to update websites.

They have to broadcast.

They have to spin.

They have to build their brand.

The thought of the state of the trade I gave so much of my life to fills me with bile, rage and anguish.

So I turn away and wait for happy hour.

I don’t mean the bar.

Happy hour in unemployment runs from 4 p.m to 6 p.m., when my friends end their workdays. I can call. They can text. They chat.

I call my friend in Reno. We chat by video. She isn’t much for phone talk. She indulges me for a few minutes each day.

I call my friend in Urbandale. We used to eat dinner once a week. I haven’t been able to see her since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

I call my friend in Memphis. He’s my best friend. The pandemic intensifies his work stress.

Soon, dinnertime comes for friends.

And the silence falls.

Families tend to children and household tasks.

Bedtime arrives for older families.

The night grows old and gives way to the small hours of the morning.

This is the best time.

Everyone is asleep. I stay awake. I watch old TV. “Hill Street Blues” and “Miami Vice” are favorites. Sometimes I watch cartoons, “The Transformers” and “G.I. Joe.”

They remind me of the days before adult responsibilities, when play was work and the worst part of the day was being sent to bed early or eating pickled beets.

I stay awake while everyone sleeps. I am calmest during these hours. It’s odd, but when the silence falls on the day, this is when I feel most a part of my community.

We are mostly idle in these hours. I am awake to savor the unity, even if no one else realizes it but me.

Soon the sun will squeeze through the vertical blinds and lay bright diagonal lines across my carpet.

The workday begins. Friends rub sleep from their eyes and go to jobs. I check the job boards. I apply for a few jobs. Then I take a long nap and let the world go by without me.

It’s the only way I can take it.

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

News, Unemployment

Are you a ‘doer’ or an ‘achiever?’ The answer may determine your future employment

Photo by 傅甬 华 via Unsplash

The job search drags on with zero positive signs. I paid a company to read my resume and offer feedback. They said I sound more like a “doer rather than an achiever.”

I relayed this statement to Mom 2.0, the retired east Des Moines hairdresser.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” she said.

I’m not sure, I said.

From the context, I would guess that “achievers” are preferred over “doers.”

I disagree with the distinction.

In my old shop, I was assigned stories to write. I optimized the files for search engines. I arranged for photos and video. I made deadlines.

I met or exceeded the standards of the shop and the trade as a whole.

Does that make me a “doer” or an “achiever?”

It seems like pointless semantics.

I did the work.

I achieved my goal.

I think the “doer vs. achiever” dichotomy comes from the bent minds of corporate America, a way to denigrate the great and good “doers” of our workforce.

The kind of person who prefers an “achiever” over a “doer” is the kind of jerk who says “lead, follow or get the hell out of the way” as if it were a fresh call to action rather than a trite cliché.

But let’s unpack this farther. Let’s say “achievers” are leaders, the upwardly mobile rising stars who seek to transform organizations with their emerging brilliance.

Fine.

What about the followers?

You need some of those, right?

You can’t have an army of all generals. You need some privates and corporals to get things done.

I prided myself on being a guy who got things done. I took assignments big and small and got them done, done well and on time.

That somehow makes me lesser in the eyes of potential employers.

Of course it does.

Everything I’ve learned during this stint of unemployment is how inhuman our work life truly is.

Companies long ago gave up on having actual people read resumes and interview people. They turned that job all over to software that combs through resumes with an algorithm.

When the obituary for America is written, the cause of death will not be the failure of humans to govern themselves, greed, the COVID-19 pandemic or even global warming.

No, America was murdered by algorithms.

From Facebook and Twitter to Google, the entirety of marketing is an attempt to pander to or trick algorithms into putting products in front of consumers who are busy taking their selfies in front of Rome ablaze.

The resume critique suggested I quantify my work achievements. Whenever possible I was to attach a number to statements about my work.

I did not work in sales, although at the end, it sure felt like I did.

This is what I did for most of the last 23 years: I talked to people on the phone, looked at documents and wrote down what they said.

Sometimes I went to an event, like a homicide or fire, and talked to people who were there. I wrote down what they said and put it in story form.

There are no numbers for this. I suppose I could somehow figure out how many stories I wrote for my old shop. But what difference does that make?

I could have written a million stories, but if 998,000 of them were garbage, who cares?

Quality over quantity, right?

Wrong.

Quantify everything.

It is the way of the algorithm.

It is the way of the achiever.

All hail the great Achievers!

My favorite movie is the Coen Brothers’ “The Big Lebowski.” In the movie, a blowhard who poses as a wealthy philanthropist brags about his achievements.

In the end, viewers learn the blowhard actually receives an allowance from his daughter, an artist who controls the estate of her wealthy late mother.

The achiever was a bum. He wasn’t even a “doer.”

I think I probably am a “doer.”

I’ll wear that label with pride despite the contempt the achievers have for people like me.

I like it, in fact.

Doers don’t preen. They don’t have their eyes on the next promotion.

They just want to get the damn job done.

Here’s to the doers, my people and my tribe.

Daniel P. Finney, independent journalist

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.