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, humor, Iowa, Media, mental health, News

HOT SHEET: Constipated Congress, Moleskine anxiety, CDC gaffes and in praise of profanity

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

Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020

ITEM ONE: The typist made the mistake of reading the news Monday. He recommends against it — especially if you are prone to anxiety and depression. The stories he perused related to the possibility of a new stimulus package and enhanced unemployment. Both national issues relate directly to the typist, who is unemployed after COVID-19 and corporate hustlers killed his 23-year career in journalism. The news remained grim and stupid. Hot Sheet says “grim” because Congressional leaders and the White House have not even begun resuming talks on the issue despite assurances from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that a deal could happen by the end of September. We write “stupid” because typist finds little hope that our constipated Congress can do anything in the interest of the American people as a whole. An optimist might think both Republicans and Democrats would like to finish their campaigns by pretending they acted swiftly in the midst of a national emergency to help the people they serve. But the typist is not an optimist. He is a romantic who has been exposed to too much reality. Thus, he believes Congress would rather go into the home stretch waggling their fingers against opponents of the opposite party than accomplishing anything.

ITEM TWO: Two lines from “The Big Lebowski,” the typist’s favorite movie:

THE BIG LEBOWSKI: You don’t go out looking for a job looking like that? On a weekday?

THE DUDE: Is this a … what day is this?

ITEM THREE: The last bloom of American innocence fell today when the two people who actually believed Republicans would avoid brazen hypocrisy in the nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice during a presidential election year fainted. Pity the poor, isolated souls who must now realize that the only thing politicians care about is more power for their team. To rehash, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, nominated Merrick Garland for an opening on the Supreme Court with nine months remaining on his second term. GOP senators refused to hold hearings on the matter because the presidential election loomed. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, led the charge saying such filibuster-esque behavior had been the practice of the Senate for 80 years. So, with about nine weeks left before the 2020 presidential election, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. The same Republicans now say they will fast-track any nominee from Republican President Donald Trump. The angry fist-shaking has dominated the social media sphere since it become clear fairness and scruples — even adherence to one’s own bullshit — is not a mark of Republican leaders. Just for local point of reference, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa’s Dollar Store Sarah Palin, is also on Team Fast-Track. The typist wishes we could get either Iowa senator to show as much interest in fast-tracking a stimulus.

ITEM FOUR: Unavailable due to COVID-19 quarantine. Item Four wants the public to know it is asymptomatic and resting comfortably at home.

ITEM FIVE: Hot Sheet’s Reno, Nevada, bureau chief recently sent the typist some school supplies. The package included a Moleskine notebook. Though he joyously received the gracious gift, Moleskine notebooks generate a certain anxiety in the ol’ Paragraph Stacker. Moleskine products rank as the finest stationery stock one can buy. Their books possess such elegance, the typist feels nothing he has to say at that moment is worthy of marring the perfection of the creation. This is why most of the notes he takes in his post-journalism career are on the backs of envelopes.

ITEM SIX: On the matter of office supplies, the typist notes that the box of 50 letter-size envelopes he bought when he was in college has finally been extinguished. If he buys another box of 50, he believes it will last him until the grave.

ITEM SEVEN: The Centers for Disease Control said COVID-19 could be transmitted through the air. The next day officials said it couldn’t. Judas H. Priest on a palomino pony! We are seven months into this pandemic. It would be nice if the one agency who is supposed to know what the fuck is going on actually did. This kind of low-rent bullshit is why some people are running around Wal-Marts screaming about having to wear masks. Get it together, CDC.

ITEM LAST: If it seems like the typist is cursing a lot, it’s true. He is. The typist is angry and profanity is the language of anger. To the typist’s mind, it’s also the language of comedy. Yes, retired English teachers, the typist is smart enough to know other ways in which to express himself. He chooses profanity because he likes it. He is also unemployed. If someone hires him, even part time, he’ll happily use only Sunday school words. But for now? Fuck it.

Daniel P. Finney plays air keyboard to “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” by Bryan Adams.

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, 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, 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.