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.

Uncategorized

How’s it going, Dude? Not too good, man. Not too good.

Down, down, down, down, select … no, it’s just down.

I’m exhausted.

This year feels like a rolling fistfight and every day feels like I’m going to go down for the count for good.

I started the year by writing the obituaries for the best teacher I ever had, Drake University’s Bob Woodward, and the best writer anyone ever knew, Ken Fuson.

Then came pneumonia. COVID-19 arrived. The world shut down. The greedy corporate hustlers took away my job and ended my journalism career of 23 years.

That was all by May 1.

It all blends into a fetid soup after that. I continue to look for a job in the pandemic. I failed to find one.

I returned to graduate school at Drake with the idea of becoming a teacher. The classes gave me purpose early on, but the Zoom meetings drain personality out of everyone.

I am surrounded by bright, sharp minds, but the whatever sliver of the brain that craves face-to-face interaction is powerful.

I feel disconnected and estranged from people who are learning the same lessons as me at the same time because of the distance required by COVID.

And then there is the struggle to manage my longtime issues with mood disorders of depression and anxiety.

I take my meds. I meet with my therapist. And I lean, oh how I lean, on my friends.

I call some of them every day. I exhaust some of their patience with my incessant calling.

The impotent Congress, overrun by soulless grandstanders such as Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell, let any effort for a stimulus fail and let people like me and 22 million other Americans twist in the wind.

“Get another job,” the occasional wiseass says to me.

I’d love to. I spent nearly a quarter century doing a thing that is on the verge of being extinct. Since 2001, half of all the journalist in the country have lost their jobs.

I have applied for jobs every week since I lost my job, sometimes multiple jobs a day. I got two callbacks and one interview.

All I do is worry. It eats up my days and keeps me up at night. Will the new Congress get off its fucking ass and pass a stimulus? Will I sell everything I own and end up living in YMCA housing? What if I get the COVID?

And I can’t fight the feeling that I failed.

They tell you it isn’t personal when they lay you off. It’s not about performance.

And I know this. I know it’s about money. I made too much. I worked for 23 years and made a decent living, but my experience would have been worth at least a third more 25 years ago. I was born at the wrong time.

It sure as hell feels personal when they take your job away.

I’m insecure, probably more than most.

I never felt good enough. I always felt like a second-stringer who got a cup of coffee with the big leaguers.

Sometimes I let myself think I was halfway worth a damn, but in the end, I was trashed like a used coffee filter.

And I feel like a failure because I’m still unemployed, living off unemployment.

I know how society looks at people like me. I’m sucking off the government teat. I’m a drain on society. I’m a loser.

And you know what? That’s how I feel, deep down inside. I’m feel like a loser. A broke, 45-year-old loser.

That’s harsh.

And maybe it’s more than a little whiny.

But I’m not a person who does well putting a cork in his feelings. Right now, I feel pretty bad.

I hurt. I’m sad. I’m scared. And I need to get it out. I just want to acknowledge it. This sucks.

Am I gonna be OK?

Sort of.

I’ll get up Monday and go to school. I’ll write my papers. I’ll apply for jobs. I’ll do the best I can to survive and hope one day I’ll be able to relax enough to live.

I’ll be back with the jokes tomorrow.

Daniel P. Finney once wore a kilt to a friend’s wedding. He’s not been the same since.

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.

Crime and Courts, des moines, humor, Iowa, mental health, People, sports

HOT SHEET: Typist begs Congress to pass COVID stimulus; an ice cream thief named Fudge; suspect slathered in Crisco; and spider vs. Spider-Man

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

ITEM ONE: The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg brings anxiety to the typist for more reasons than the potential future ideological makeup of the court. The demagoguery and hypocrisy certain to mark the decision to replace Ginsberg before the presidential election will dominate the Senate and further hamper efforts to pass a stimulus bill before the pre-election October recess. The typist is one of 96,500 unemployed Iowans and 13.6 million Americans unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic. President Donald Trump’s use of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to provide a $300 boost lasted six weeks, but those funds ran out Sept. 14. Congress battled to a standstill before Labor Day recess on a stimulus package. One would hope that even the most brazenly extremist of Congressional leaders would want to brag about passing a stimulus to help struggling Americans during the pandemic. Alas, the ol’ Paragraph Stacker has lost all faith that his elected representatives have anything but petty bickering in their ineffectual repertoires.

ITEM TWO: Seriously Congress, especially Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Reps. Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer, Dave Loebsack and Steve King from Iowa, pass a goddamn stimulus. People are hurting out here. The typist is one of them. Get it together and make something happen. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker has never felt so hopeless or helpless in his life – and he lives with chronic depression and acute anxiety. The election is coming. Representatives will be held accountable. The typist regularly refers to Sen. Ernst as “Dollar Store Sarah Palin.” But if she played a role in getting a stimulus passed, the typist could be persuaded to vote her way even if he disagrees with most of her positions. Similarly, Rep. Axne could lose a vote if she isn’t seen to be doing all she can to make the stimulus happen. The typist believes this Congress the most useless assemblage of lawmakers in American history. Prove me wrong.

ITEM THREE: Saturday’s absence of college football games with local or personal interest resulted in viewing experimentation by the typist. To wit, the typist attempted to use YouTube TV’s “Catch Up with Key Plays” option when he tuned in late to the University of Central Florida at Georgia Tech contest. The typist expected a version of the Major League Baseball “condensed game,” which appears on the sport’s app and website soon after completion of a ballgame. Instead, YouTube TV delivered an opening kickoff return by Georgia Tech followed by six consecutive commercials. The commercial wave finally broke only to return to inconsequential plays. The typist gave up on the condensed game and relegated it to the “good idea, bad execution” file.

ITEM FOUR: From 2014. Iowa City police arrested a man stealing $501 worth of cakes, cash and containers of ice cream after hours at a Cold Stone Creamery ice cream store, reports the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The suspect’s name? Conor P. Fudge.

ITEM FIVE: From 2014: Rock Island, Illinois, police arrested a slippery suspect Monday. Officers found the naked man carrying a pair of shorts and covered in Crisco, reports the Quad City Times. The suspect told officers he took off his shorts because they were too big and would not fit. He slathered on the Crisco because “he was looking for a place to party.” A search of the suspect’s shorts produced five grams of what officers believed was methamphetamine.

ITEM LAST: A wolf spider the approximate size of a half dollar made the fatal error of squatting in the basin of the typist’s tub. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker reacted swiftly and smooshed the life out of the creature with a facial tissue and flushed it to oblivion. The typist noted some irony, however, that when he sat down to answer nature’s call, he picked up a Spider-Man comic to read.

Let’s close the book on this one. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and donate if you can. It really helps ease the pain of lost expanded unemployment benefits.

Daniel P. Finney covers confectionary crime 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.

des moines, Iowa, Unemployment

Writer no more? That looks like my future

Photo by Joshua Hoehne via Unsplash

When I worked at my old shop, I joked about how arcane the craft of journalism was. One of my oft-repeated lines was being a practicing journalist in the 21st century is like being an endangered species that is still actively hunted.

Ha, ha.

I had many such jests.

A newspaper newsroom is like living in a hospice without the fentanyl drip.

Journalists are like village blacksmiths looking for an anvil to pound out horseshoes while everyone else is driving around in cars with prefabricated polycarbonate thermoplastic panels.

Or my favorite: Journalism is like riding bareback on a dinosaur to the La Brea Tar Pits.

Jokes tend to have a sliver of truth to them. I am learning the hard way just how accurate my old barbs were.

I’m a writer. I call myself a paragraph stacker or sentence slinger mostly as a joke, a twist on saying “reporter” or “writer” all the time.

But I am a writer. It’s the only way I’ve ever made a living. I thought that would always be true.

It looks less likely to be so.

I’ve applied for scores of jobs in unemployment. I looked for jobs that focused on writing. There were a few.

I discovered people don’t really want writers. Well, they do. But they also want photographers, videographers and editors, website designers, print designers and the ability to field strip and clean a SIG Sauer MPX while changing the oil in a Ford F-550 Super Duty.

OK. I made up the last two things, but the all-in-one hire is the popular choice on the job board.

This depresses me for several reasons.

Photographers and designers are tradesman in their own right. They practice an art all their own. To suggest that any person can do all those things with any degree of excellence is to ignore both the value of experience and the difficulty of the crafts.

But what really makes me sad is I think that most of the positions that list writing as an important skill just tack that on at the end. What they really want is a web designer or videographer who can string a few sentences together.

I wrote my first professional story when I was 17 years old. Ever since then, I’ve been paid to be a writer. I worked on that craft for 27 years, 23 of them full-time.

I feel like I’ve reached middle age and have tremendous experience in getting an ox to pull a plow while everyone younger than me — and a few older — speed by on the latest John Deere equipment.

I am envious of recent journalism school graduates. My alma mater, Drake University, teaches journalism students how to write apps for phones, make video, edit video and all kinds of other things.

They graduate from college more prepared for the work I’ve been doing since I was 17.

I can still beat them in paragraphs. But no one really cares about writing. I keep up with my favorite baseball team on the Major League Baseball app. I find the writing on there to be awful, well below the standard of the brand.

Then I realize another thing about me that is outdated is a sense of standards. Journalism gave up on that when they fired their copy editors.

Writing that is riddled with clichés — the kind my early editors excised with glee and mocked me for including — is now commonplace.

The reality is very few people read beyond the score. They just want to know who hit home runs and how many strikeouts the ace pitcher had.

In the loathsome vernacular of fantasy sports, I’m evaluating writing on advanced metrics, but the readers are just looking for a few paragraphs. There is no quality comparison.

I don’t mean to offend the handful of this column’s loyal readers. I know they care about quality of writing because they tell me they do.

They also complain to me about other writers at my old shop, which I think is bad form. I don’t work there anymore and even if I did, I would not talk about a colleague’s work. They are responsible for their own stuff.

Some people are generous enough to donate money to keep this website and podcast going. But that has waned. The data shows people just aren’t interested in these columns anymore.

Soon I will have to make some tough choices about my life and future. Senate Republicans seem hell bent on making unemployed Americans like me and 13 million others twist in the wind as the expanded unemployment benefits end July 30.

If that goes away, things will get very tight around Camp Daniel very quickly.

I’m thinking about going back to school to become a teacher. I’m exploring all the grant options and financial aid assistance.

I think I might make a good teacher.

But I don’t think I’ll be a writer anymore.

The world doesn’t seem to want them.

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.