Friday, October 19, 2012

A Joke From God*

" fossils have ever been found to substantiate evolution, which would certainly be strange if evolution was true, because a lot of fossils have been found, and more every day."
--Jennie Whitmer, the Democrat News, October 10, 2012

The above editorial appeared in the Democrat News, a Lee Enterprises newspaper, published in Fredericktown, Missouri, in the October 10th issue. That's October 10, 2012, for those who might be wondering.

I only mention it because amazingly there were no outraged comments left on the newspaper's site (one mild one), no scandalized townspeople rose up to demand that the paper be shut down, that its editors be fired. No one threatened to spit in the publisher's face, show 'em the county line, send them back to Iowa. No science teachers either from the public school system or the community college extension organized to confront the Democrat News' advertisers, to threaten boycott and otherwise hold them responsible for this outrage to common sense, the public good, and most especially their own job security.

No one started a thread on Topix or called the publisher a dumb bitch. No wives of scientists rushed to science's side regretting they or science itself had ever been previously mentioned in the newspaper. Nine days later the paper's points of distribution seem to have remained unperturbed. No reports of vandalizing the newspaper as a result of publishing Jennie Whitmer's column have reached my ears and certainly no bellicose shouts of “Burn It!” or “Shut it Down.” No one on the Democrat News' writing team has resigned from fear of negative association, boycott or other retribution, as unfortunately was the case with several quislings on The Crier's masthead. As far as I can tell the Ad Rep hasn't cut his ties and slithered away. No one has attacked Ms. Whitmer's sanity, questioned her motives, tried to shame her for her disrespect to human intelligence, or crowed about wanting to put her happy ass on a plane to Afghanistan. Letters to the Editors did not pour over the paper's transom on South Main; no abusive phone calls were received by the DN's local staff or at corporate headquarters in Davenport.

Even with no sidebar attributing this woman's point of view to a wishful fantasy in an alternative universe, no local loudmouth boutique owners, renowned slumlords, or other disagreeable members of prominent Fredericktown families have distanced themselves from the newspaper. Nor have they risen to the defense of human reason, or publicly apologized to their children for allowing outside influences to confuse them momentarily with an anti-science viewpoint. No self-appointed town leaders have gone on their Facebook spewing vitriol towards those that allowed Lee Enterprises to set up shop in Madison County in the first place. No reporters from Cape Girardeau have schlepped up to Fredericktown to get the "convoluted story" straight and "demand answers." No seasoned corporate media columnist from Chicago has devoted his column and a supplemental blogpost to analysis of its content. No astonishingly lazy reporter from the Riverfront Times in St. Louis has spiced up a rehash of something she gleaned secondhand from the Chicago media columnist, getting numerous details flat out wrong.

The city's Zoning and Planning Commission has not put it to a vote not to allow interviews to go forward with the Democrat News about its citizen survey and 20-year plan as a result of the scandalous ignorance demonstrated by Ms. Whitmer (assuming they would trouble themselves to report on it). The corporate newspaper has not been craftily banned from having a table at a community business event. Local county and city elected officials are not stonewalling, refusing interviews, hanging up on DN personnel when contacted for interviews, etc.

Why not? I mean fair is fair. From what I can tell Jennie Whitmer attended a program somewhere called “Stories of Evolution” and then presented the stories not as they were presented to her, but without asking anyone's permission, offered her own take on those stories. How "unimaginably disrespectful" to the accomplishments of the stories' originators, some of who may have been marines or who may know a marine or may have at one time talked to a marine! So why the difference in response, why is the one met with apoplectic hysteria and another with calm resignation, even amusement or a perverse pride ("only in Fredericktown!")?

I really hadn't planned or desired to devote even one more pixel on this blog to my newspaper's encounter with mob rule in Fredericktown, Missouri. But when God (*greater ontological dignity) hands you a joke so rich, it's downright heretical not to publish the punch line.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Poetic, A Place of Passion

Painting by John DeBold, Image by Steve Hull

What a brilliant party last Saturday night at Poetic Skate Shop in Farmington where a buoyant crowd gathered to fund raise for a new half moon pipe to be installed in the back room. Half moon pipe to be installed in the back room! The pipe will be tucked in between two walls, so there will be a “wall ride” as owner Adrian Ware termed it, where they just might do the occasional “sticker slap” contest (the winner's whoever slaps the sticker highest).

Adrian explained to me that the pipe will be fabricated from pool coping which is like marble, ergo “there's more stuff to skate on it, and it sounds better when you grind it. Kids can come in here, especially when it's raining, learn some new tricks and then take them out to the streets. And it's free, whenever the shop's open the kids can come back here and skate. Helmets and waivers for the kids under 21. They're always welcome to skate here.”

Adrian Ware
 (Image courtesy of Farmington Chamber of Commerce)

I asked guest Rusty Brotherton what skating meant to him. “It means everything! I've been doing it since I was 5 or 6 years old, it's what I'm all about. It's hard to put it into words. It's a lifestyle, I found it, I enjoyed it, loved it and have never looked back at anything else. I love all of it, the freedom, the true freedom, zig-zagging back and forth, and having fun. You can go as fast as you want down a hill. You can go to any random place and have a conversation with another skater, a stranger, and it's an instant connection. It's like a brotherhood.”

Cody Hardie, 17, goes to Central High School and lives in Park Hills, and says he's been at the shop every single day since it's opened. Having had a back injury in the past he gravitated to skate boarding. “I'm not worried about injuries in skating,” he explained. “You set goals, but you're not competing with other people, you're besting yourself. It's one of the most peaceful sports.”

I asked Cody what it means to have a shop like this in the area. “It's fantastic! We don't have to get cheap knock-offs at Walmart. It's a great relief to have access to top-of-the-line merchandise. Adrian's a cool guy. He orders the best stuff, goes out of the way to get the stuff for you.” Rusty added that “Adrian's opening up professional skating opportunities. He got me out there to the point where certain companies will say I want this dude to ride for me. He does this for other kids too.” Cody said the shop's “a cool place to meet other people. When it rains, people come from all over. Today there were some kids up here from Poplar Bluff.”

We all came out of the back room where we'd gathered to watch painter John DeBold put the finishing touches on his wall art, Pop Art-inflected images he'd created for Poetic of a screamin' red rooster and a cupcake skull named Sweet Tooth. The main room, where more of John's artworks hung, had filled up with stylish young people, and even before the musicians played the energy was charged. “Skateboarding, art and music go together like peanut butter and jelly,” Adrian quipped. He's planning on having bi-weekly evenings at the shop where people can hang out and talk and see a new art show like the current solo show featuring John's paintings and drawings, maybe listen to some live music. “I want to bring the kids here the best things I've experienced with skateboarding in the city. So far, we've got two kids sponsored from a company in New Jersey.”

Poetic Skate Shop in Farmington, MO, Photo by Steve Hull
Spirited groups of three, four, and five mostly young men were actively looking at and talking about John's work, moving up and down the exhibit, pointing back and forth to various images, animatedly discussing what they were seeing. How many Dumbo and Chelsea gallery shows have I been to where people don't extend even more than a cursory glance to what's before them on the walls, like the art is besides the point? At Poetic Skate Shop in Farmington, Missouri, they were reaching for it!

I shared with Adrian the thought that young people don't really need all this discipline frustrated adults were always looking to impose on them. Rather they need challenge; and if challenged, they'll happily discipline themselves. To which he immediately replied, “Exactly. These kids have got each other's backs. If one kid needs something for his skateboard but he's short a few bucks, out come the wallets.”

There was talk that the next show just might include Steve Hull's photographs matched musically with a reggae dub. Everyone's welcome, especially men my own age in need of reminding what the exuberance of spine-tingling freedom feels like in zig-zagging motion. And please feel free to reach into your own wallets and peel off a couple of freshly-minted twenties for the cause--installing the half moon pipe in the back room at Poetic, and putting some sweet and toothy smiles on some random kids' faces.

Poetic Skate Shop is located at 1 North Jefferson Street in Farmington, MO. Soloists, bands, artists and shoppers can reach proprietor Adrian Ware at 636-359-1325.