Archive for September, 2016

The Sparta, Newark’s Introduction To Trans Culture

September 30, 2016

The latest reincarnation of Newark’s Sparta restaurant will sing its swan song at the coming out celebration of the currently-being-renovated Crystal Ballroom, 31 West Church, Friday, September 30. Analysis finds this appropriate enough, completing the cycle of life or wheel of karma (depending on your conviction). In the 9-26-16 Advocate (The Sparta looks for aid one more time) Barrett Lawlis reports: “The restaurant opened in 1900 as a combination restaurant and candy store. It has a storied history, often closing and reopening over the years. In 2012, Chris Ramsey opened the Sparta with the plan to use [it] for more than a restaurant: to use it as a transitional workplace.” Indeed, anyone from out of town looking for a good place to have breakfast (or lunch) would have had The Sparta as one of many choices in downtown Newark prior to the roundabout dig. The storefront signs, and those inside, gave all indications of an enterprising restaurant. Service was provided, and there was always coffee. Sometimes the out-of-towner might be struck by the slim pickings to be had to go with the coffee, or the ambiguous staff service when ordering or paying. The unfamiliar diner might sometimes be surprised by the establishment’s varied ambience – sometimes busy restaurant with an energetic and boisterous “meeting” taking place in the center, sometimes an almost classroom structure of instruction accompanying a customer’s request, other times an Edward Hopper “Nighthawks” tableau in the middle of the day. And then there was the variation in environment – from various community activisms posted to art and music venues. Should the unfamiliar customer venture to inquire as to any of these things, she would be summarily educated that The Sparta was not what it appeared to be. Rather, it was the establishment upon which something entitled Project Main Street found place in Newark. She would be informed that where she stopped to get a meal (and coffee, did we mention coffee?) was really a transitional workplace for Project Main Street; that much of the staff and management were volunteers, that The Sparta self-identified as a community center, and this was an enterprise where the customer did not always come first. Repast completed and back out on the streets again, she might be scratching her head, wondering why there was no signage of such to be seen from the street. Analysis finds that the days of The 3B School of Beauty, where the customer knew upfront that her hairdo was going to be part of a learning process, disappeared with the school. Ready or not, Newark has received an introduction to trans culture.

Advertisements

Irony, Thy Name Is Newark

September 27, 2016

Reporter Sydney Murray writes “Filmmaker Michael Moore took to social media Sunday night to ask why the Midland Theatre wouldn’t let him film a live show about the upcoming presidential election.” (Michael Moore denied Midland Theatre show 9-26-16 Newark Advocate) The Midland itself gives many, varied and different self justifications, like “But officials at the Midland said in a post on its own Facebook page that the reasons for the denial of Moore’s request came down to the same three criteria they apply to all shows: timing, audience and finances.” The “Moore” interesting reasons come at the end of the article (of course). “But the Midland’s own social media response takes exception with Moore’s claims that he was banned from the theater. In addition to [Midland Theatre Executive Director Nancy] Anderson’s statements, the Midland Theater Facebook post said since Moore is a filmmaker and the show was not a film, it was unknown what the actual show would be, and whether or not there would be audience interest. Finally, the post says the performance was going to be a free event, but since the Midland still needed to staff the event and pay other fees, it was not a financially smart decision to host the show.” The irony of all this will not be missed by the engaged followers of the current rebranding of the new and hip gentrification called downtown Newark. After all, come the spring and downtown Newark will be turned into an independent film festival hub (Newark FAMFEST), centered primarily at The Midland, not profitable but funded just the same by outside contributors and dealing primarily with documentaries and Newark selfies. (Whew!) And who, dear reader, has had a more enormous impact on documentary film production (and town selfies) than Michael Moore? Irony, thy name is Newark.

 

On An Aspirin Regimen

September 16, 2016

The appeal that Donnie Trump has for many voters is that he is a businessman, ostentatiously big business. Repeatedly, in media street and diner interviews one hears “it would be a good thing to have a businessman in the White House (not a politician).” In Newark, Grow Licking County, a public/private partnership administered by the Licking County Chamber of Commerce (the largest such in central Ohio) but funded by the county government, is lauded as the success driver for attracting “jobs” to this area (business knows business!). Another public/private partnership in Newark is the Canal Market District Farmers Market, an updated enhanced version of a previous Chamber sponsored market. The new Farmers Market is touted as a success by the Market, the Chamber and local politicians. Customers are reassured that all the vendors have been thoroughly checked out by the Market master and can be trusted to provide safe and reliable products. Central Ohio consumers like to know where their food is coming from, we are told (by the same market master). After all the Dole produce recalls, Chipotle contamination and Jeni’s Ice Cream repeated shut downs, it is heartening to hear that someone is being stringent in requiring that food be handled properly. After all, food is a very BIG business. 9-15-16 Carey Gillam posted “FDA Finds Monsanto’s Weed Killer In U.S. Honey” (Huffington Post). Some excerpts: “In examining honey samples from various locations in the United States, the FDA has found fresh evidence that residues of the weed killer called glyphosate can be pervasive – found even in a food that is not produced with the use of glyphosate. All of the samples the FDA tested in a recent examination contained glyphosate residues, and some of the honey showed residue levels double the limit allowed in the European Union, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. There is no legal tolerance level for glyphosate in honey in the United States. Glyphosate, which is the key ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s Roundup herbicide, is the most widely used weed killer in the world, and concerns about glyphosate residues in food spiked after the World Health Organization in 2015 said its cancer experts determined glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.” “In addition to honey, the records show government residue experts discussing glyphosate found in soybean and wheat samples, “glyphosate controversies,” and the belief that there could be “a lot of violation for glyphosate” residues in U.S. crops.” “In the records released by the FDA, one internal email describes trouble locating honey that doesn’t contain glyphosate: “It is difficult to find blank honey that does not contain residue. I collect about 10 samples of honey in the market and they all contain glyphosate,” states an FDA researcher. Even “organic mountain honey” contained low concentrations of glyphosate, the FDA documents show.” “The FDA routinely looks for residues of a number of commonly used pesticides but not glyphosate [an herbicide]. The look for glyphosate this year is considered a “special assignment” and came after the agency was criticized by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2014 for failing to test for glyphosate.” “Like the FDA, the USDA has dragged its feet on testing. Only one time, in 2011, has the USDA tested for glyphosate residues despite the fact that the agency does widespread testing for residues of other less-used pesticides. In what the USDA called a “special project” the agency tested 300 soybean samples for glyphosate and found more than 90 percent – 271 of the samples – carried the weed killer residues.” “Both the USDA and the FDA have long said it is too expensive and is unnecessary to test for glyphosate residues. Yet the division within the USDA known as the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) has been testing wheat for glyphosate residues for years because many foreign buyers have strong concerns about glyphosate residues. GIPSA’s testing is part of an “export cargo sampling program,” documents obtained from GIPSA show. Those tests showed glyphosate residues detected in more than 40 percent of hundreds of wheat samples examined in fiscal 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.” Monsanto, the business, markets Roundup in conjunction with Roundup ready seeds as intellectual property, requiring a signed contractual agreement to abide by company terms for its use (much as software is sold). Too many instances have been recorded of transgressions, intentional or unintentional (like the wind blowing pollen unto a neighbor’s field producing traceable varieties in violation of the intellectual property agreement), where Monsanto, the business, has sued to protect their brand. Where have we seen that before? Currently Monsanto is being bought out by Bayer, the aspirin folks.

Voter ID

September 14, 2016

“Evictions still on rise in Licking County despite recovery” headlines reporting by Jennifer Smola for The Columbus Dispatch (9-13-16). Smola writes that “The number of eviction cases filed in Licking County Municipal Court has steadily increased each year since 2010. Last year, the county logged 1,078 cases, an increase of 8.6 percent from a decade earlier, in 2006, before the Great Recession. The county is on track for a similar number this year, with 712 cases. The eviction hearings occur once every two weeks, and a court date late last month had 82 eviction cases — the most this year.” Later she reports the irony that “Regionally, mortgage delinquencies and foreclosure rates are down, according to a report last month from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which covers Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky. But despite those improvements, roughly 50 to 70 percent of low-income renters struggle with housing costs, the report said.” Bear in mind, dear reader, that Analysis has repeatedly covered the success story narrated by Tim Bubb and Grow Licking County. See his 2015 year in review (“A look back and ahead for Licking County” Newark Advocate 1-10-16). Indeed, overall unemployment places Licking County under 5%, within the state’s rate. And nationally the recovery is begrudgingly working, making the rich richer and the poor statistically not growing. So what gives with the growing evictions given the jobs are there along with “consumer confidence”? Smola considers “Despite low unemployment rates and reports of economic growth, the picture of recovery isn’t always as rosy as it’s portrayed to be, [local Newark activist David] Greene said. Wages remain low, and many jobs that are available locally are only part time, temporary or seasonal, he said.” Analysis reveals this to be an incomplete (and unsatisfying) explanation. A Wall Street Journal graphic from 6-21-16 (“Not Just the 1%: The Upper Middle Class Is Larger and Richer Than Ever” Josh Zumbrun) lists the various percentages of “class” population in the US. The poor (under $30,000 per year) at roughly 20%, the lower middle class (30-50,000) 17%, the middle class (50-100,000) comprises 32% and the upper middle class (100,000-350,000) at 29%. The rich (over 350,000) displace 2%. The 20% poverty rate has remained essentially flat lined for the last 50 years, yet evictions in Newark are growing. In a PBS Newshour article entitled “There’s less middle in the middle class as income inequality grows, Pew analysis finds” (5-12-16) Kai Ryssdal (Host & Senior Editor, PBS Marketplace) says “If you stop seven people — 10 people on the street, probably seven of them would say I am the middle class.” This is borne out by the WSJ “class” distinctions of “upper” middle class, middle class, and “lower” middle class instead of upper, middle and lower. Rich, middle class, and poor is how the politicians in this election year have divvied up the masses. More on this later. Ryssdal confirms Greene, but more completely: “Wages have been stagnant in this economy for decades now, right, which means incomes and household wealth are stagnant, which means there is more income inequality. And when you have income inequality, you have more going to the low end, you have more going to the high end, and those drivers of prosperity in America [the middle] are getting, as you said in the beginning, hollowed out.” The Pew findings, along with the WSJ article, find that although the poor and the rich have maintained the same percentage of population, the middle class (the middle) has shifted with roughly 2/3’s getting richer (increasing the percentage of the “upper” middle class) and 1/3 getting poorer (increasing the “lower” middle class). Not noted within the Fed report is that rents have been following the middle class, with landlords erring on the side of upward mobility in setting rents. More people today cannot afford rent though there aren’t statistically more “poor”. Politicians (Dem as well as GOP) have remained fixated on the rich, poor, middle distinction. With the poor remaining in stasis, no emphasis is placed on measures to create affordable housing. It is easier to speak of “jobs” as the solution. The 2/3 of the middle class that benefitted from the recovery would likewise explain the “base” that has materialized and supported the presidential candidacy of Donnie Trump. These folks have the most to lose with any political maneuvering that would integrate the “lower” middle class with the poor (creating an overall 37% of the population within a lower class status, in need of public support programs). It is this appeal to the fear of losing the gains accrued within the Obama recovery that drives the Trump candidacy. After all, the reality of loss is certainly manifest within the evictions suffered by those who did not benefit from the Obama recovery, the 37% in the lower class. Losses in the middle and “upper” middle class would not be found here, but rather in the Fed’s mortgage delinquencies and foreclosure rates. No wonder voter ID is such a huge issue. “If you stop seven people — 10 people on the street, probably seven of them would say I am the middle class.” But how many would identify as “upper’, middle or “lower” class?

Lest We Forget

September 9, 2016

The international news this week is of the outrage expressed by a Norwegian newspaper (Aftenposten) blasting Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg. The newspaper had been running an inquiry into the impact that images have on war utilizing this online platform. Zuckerberg had censored the Nick Ut photo image of a naked Vietnamese girl running terrified from the napalm bombing that had burned off her clothes. Facebook defends the decision by saying the platform cannot distinguish between images of naked juveniles. They are all considered equal. The paper’s front page editorial finds such carte blanche treatment of images to be frightening. Analysis finds the entire matter to be analogous, if not a reenactment, to considerations of race here in the US, specifically policies of affirmative action and Black Lives Matter. The response to Black Lives Matter is the knee jerk “All Lives Matter” while to affirmative action policies it is that to be considered equally requires a disregard of difference. The similarities and resemblances are uncanny. Approximately 100 years ago a European named Walter Benjamin addressed this question in a rather oblique manner, but what he had to say definitely bears on this. In an essay entitled “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” Benjamin considered the difference between an original and the various printed copies that were immensely popular at the time. The Columbus Museum of Art recently ran a show of Picasso’s work from this time. In its little gallery store are many incredible reproductions (copies) of artworks that people buy and hang up at home. All the reproductions are “equally” saleable, one no better than another. Benjamin alludes to aura in his attempt to differentiate the material images (one original, one a copy). The copies have no aura, or only that of a mechanically (technically) reproduced material while the aura of an original is its history and nuance found in the work having been expressly (and intimately) created by the artist, and the object’s continued material involvements after that (provenance). That was a hundred years ago. And yet today we have Facebook acting without regard to what an image is about, its “aura” (digital or otherwise). “All Lives Matter” likewise categorically dismisses the nuance of history and the “provenance” of a people. The algorithms that Facebook relies on to make its determinations treat all zero’s and one’s as equal (to zero’s and one’s). What Analysis finds frightening is that this form of “equality” (the equality of mathematics found with algorithms) is embraced and has gained acceptance by so many Americans who likewise value and insist that history not be dismissed. Does 9/11 possess an “aura” or is it best described by an algorithm?

Unbearable

September 2, 2016

There is an old story, whose ethnic origins are irrelevant, about a genetically deformed man at the birth of his first child. The ambivalence of his experience was what pervaded the recent “FED UP!” opioid addiction rally in Newark, 8-31-16. The pain, actual physical gut wrenching pain, of Ohio’s opioid addiction epidemic was to be expected (and was palpable). It only follows considering the contemporary take that this is a disease, and we eschew illness for exactly that reason (never mind that Woody Allen says germs are our friends). The event turned out to be a generic Komen-race-for-the-cure-Pelotonia disease event bringing folks together in a positivity rally (Woody Allen was right?). Even Newark council person Jeremy Blake enthusiastically led the group in a rather extended pep cheer of New-Ark (and spoke all things wonderful about Newark). Many of the speakers admitted they were preaching to the choir, sharing their grief with those who knew, and that those absent, not wishing to experience pain even vicariously, were the ones who needed to hear. The deaf to the message also passed through the event, rushing to their parked cars after a day’s work, not wishing to experience anything having to do with opioid addiction, even for a minute. The chief of police spoke of the new law enforcement conversion to considering addicts as sick people in need of rehab/recovery. Though he spoke of the financial cost benefits of such an approach (less incarceration, less crime), he was mum on the illegality of illness (is any other disease illegal?). Others were much more specific about the economics involved, lambasting state legislators for caving to Pharma’s lobbying against producing prescription medication that cannot be broken down (to snort or shoot) but only ingested as intended. The argument echoes that of Pharma’s failed resistance to ephedrine regulation: economically unfeasible due to increased costs. Phrased otherwise it would be that contributing to eradicating the opiod addiction epidemic would cut into company profits (opioid addiction is good for the bottom line). The Rob Portman syndrome was present in the form of his spokesperson touting his election year concern and efforts without noting what another speaker pointed out – there are 3-4 week wait times for admission into rehab/recovery facilities in Ohio. Without that, all the Komen race for the opioid addiction cure efforts fail. But if you have insurance, then …(Portman opposes the Affordable Care Act which begins to address the lack of comprehensive health care insurance in this country). The tit-for-tat, do I/don’t I want the child to be like me/not like me of the old story had Analysis looking for cultural/historical insights. That addiction is a disease (albeit an illegal one that winds up with most sufferers in jail) assumes or presupposes health (something the rally insisted about assuming for New-Ark). Are we healthy? Opioid addiction as a disease effectively implies that health is threatened by this malady. In terms of medicine, maladies are treated with medication – drugs. If you are ill, you take a pill, the least painful remedy. Yet the remedy is the malady, all connected by an aversion to pain. Analysis finds the dog chasing its tail, the man not knowing whether to view the newborn or not. Should he wish for it to suffer his disfigurement, or not? One thing is clear. The sparsely attended rally (for a region of well over 50,000) was precisely that because in this day of “brand” emphasis, all things pain are not a big draw. You don’t want your “brand” associated with unpleasantness. And pain is definitely unpleasant. Analysis finds the evolution of cultural disposition to opioid addiction quite relevant. For the greater part of western history, it was associated with a kind of “demon” possession. Odysseus steered clear of the island of lotus eaters knowing full well that once there, he and his crew would be captive to their seduction and never return home. Christians associated it with being in the throes of the devil. Infidel moderns ascribed it as an escape from the brutality of industrialized society (there’s that pain again). In the 80’s it received acceptance as part of Pop culture, with media expose’s of celebrities and icons, and films, music and reading material including drug use with tattoos, piercings, surf boards and advertising art. Of course, celebrities didn’t wind up in jail. Those not in the 1% fueled the profit margin of the prison industrial complex (opioid addiction is good for the bottom line). Today, opioids are as ubiquitous as tobacco once was (an addiction that is NOT illegal). Opioid addiction is seen as a disease, a despoiler of our otherwise happy and healthy society. Like the man in our story, Analysis finds it unbearable to take a look.