Separate, Not Equal

The tale of the haves and have nots is an all-too-familiar narrative in America. For the past 35 years, real wages haven’t budged for the majority of flag-waving, red, white, and true blue believers in the land of the free.

An interesting variation on our economic duality was offered up by reporters, Nick Timiraos and Kris Hudson, in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal. They write that our economy is now “two-tiered,” and companies selling consumer goods are paying attention to this, in order to better reach those with the pay to play.

Timiraos and Hudson offer up the example of Quadrant Homes, a Seattle-area builder that used to build starter houses for $269,000, with a marketing slogan, “More House, Less Money.” Quadrant, however, recognized that their customer base—middle-class homebuyers looking to get into their first homes—was weighted down with debt and credit issues. The company is now going after those in the economy who have done well, offering amenities like “vaulted ceilings and gourmet kitchens.” They’ve also adopted a new marketing tagline; “Build Your Way,” for consumers who want and can afford choices beyond a mere tar paper shack. Continue reading

Another Weather Event

Monday was so peaceful—the proverbial “calm before the storm.” Actually, the weather puppets were fear-fogging first thing, but since I was out the door at 4:30 am to go swimming, I paid them no mind.

In our age of social media, things like snow events, major storms, and certainly, blizzards of “historic proportions,” all have a tendency to go viral. I tried to steer clear of Twitter and Facebook, but I couldn’t help taking a peak at the Twitterverse late in the day, as I was wrapping up my workday from home.

Posting about snow and snowstorms is something I’ve done on several occasions. During Snowpocalype 2013, I actually took the JBE on the road and provided live storm reports out in the elements. I won’t be doing that during this storm. Being out on the roads with people who have no sense about how to drive in snow, with whiteout conditions, which are likely to occur, isn’t worth the trouble.

January is considered one of the winter months in Northern New England. It snows in the winter. And sometimes it snows more than a few inches. Continue reading

Journalism Takes a Hit

After just eight issues, Portland’s newest alt-weekly, DigPortland, is no more. For the purposes of self-disclosure, I did write one article for the fledgling publication, and my name is listed as a contributor.

There’s always a curve and an evolution with any new publication, especially one that publishes under the alt-news banner. Each issue seemed to be building off the previous one, and it felt to me like there was a definite transition from prior issues (and prior publications) covered in town, like #Ferguson and race (the Samuel James feature, in what was the “old” Phoenix was stellar and one of my favorites), dumpster-diving, and I even got to take umbrage with an event masquerading as an energy panel that was simply promoting the build-out of natural gas, tied to fracking. Where else could a freelancer have that opportunity save for an alt-weekly that was tacking a course that allowed reporting with an edge. Continue reading

Facebook Isn’t Real

When I had a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday job, it was a given that I’d see the same people on a regular basis. For most of us older than 40, being at work for the better part of your waking hours has been the norm.

As the world changes, and work as many of us know it continues evolving, our time toiling for the man doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll have this same kind of face-to-face interaction. While many of us are freelancing these days, many others are telecommuting and working from home. You have interactions with people via telephone, email, and even social media, but rarely do you spend significant amounts of time in the presence of other human beings. It’s possible to do work for others and never once meet them in-person.

Preferring our phones over other people.

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Back It Up

I try to spend one day each week doing research at a local library, either for an article I’m working on, or for potential ones. As a freelancer, research helps in generating new ideas and keeping stories in the pipeline. I also get to read what others are talking/writing about.

The internet certainly allows you to do your research from home. There is a downside to that method, however. I also find corresponding value in getting out into the real world occasionally. Working at home is great and all, but at some point, the walls begin closing in, especially during January and February. I even think my weekly research trips spur creativity and productivity. An added plus is that going to a physical repository of books and information—i.e. a library—gets me away from my screens for a bit. Continue reading


Red and blue, black vs. white, rich against poor, America is a divided country and has been for the past 50 years. Our politics reflect that and politicians, both conservative and liberal have used this to their advantage in seeking support from voters.

I am a child of the 1960s. I have lived my life during a period of turbulence and decay.  I have spent time on both sides of the ideological divide. Something has always seemed “off,” even though like other American schoolchildren, I was peppered with the same public school indoctrination into American exceptionalism, being taught that we live in a “land of opportunity,” and that equal access to the “American Dream” is our birthright.

The first presidential campaign that I vaguely remember was the one taking place in 1968. I was six years old and just beginning school. The Republican nominee that year was Richard Nixon. He had been vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower. He had also been the Republican nominee in 1960, losing to Kennedy. Pundits considered Nixon, “one and done.” Continue reading

Happy for Dr. Oz

When you’re a freelancer, whiling away your hours as a solitary figure, trying to collect a few shekels and interest an editor (or three) in your work, it helps to have a few online resources in your corner. Mediabistro is a new (old) friend of this sort.

Mediabistro offers resources for freelancers and other media professionals. They publish blogs analyzing the mass media industry, like FishbowlNY. They offer a host of other benefits too that provide far more value to me than let’s say, Maine Writers and Publishers.

I decided to re-up with Mediabistro a month ago, and I’m already reaping benefits, not the least is that FBNY (their tagline is, “Turning the Page For New York Media) offers up daily blogging prompts, if I want them. Like yesterday—if not for this FBNY post extracted from the core of America’s elite media center, the Big Apple—I never would have known that old “friend” Dr. Oz had a good year in 2014. I am so happy for the good doctor, and an apt exemplar of America’s hustling culture. Oh, and so happy for him that Oprah gave him his big chance. It’s a given that if Oprah deems you important, then you most certainly are. She’s one of America’s king (and queen) makers that’s for sure.

Dr. Oz, practicing good hygiene, while toasting Oprah.

Continue reading

Hunkering Down

January is the longest month of the year. By “longest,” I mean it’s cold, dark, and 31 days (compared to February’s 28, or 29 during leap years).

For active types, remaining engaged becomes a challenge. Running outside, biking on the frozen roadways, and other outdoor activities conducive to warmer temperatures get put on hold.

It is true that you can substitute cross-country skiing and snowshoeing for running, which is great when the snow begins piling up.

January is also a good month for hunkering down.

Peddling, but not going anywhere.

Peddling, but not going anywhere.

I’ve put my road bike on the indoor trainer in the basement. The beer fridge is well-stocked, and I’ll be making comfort foods like homemade granola, and an ethnic favorite of mine, sauerkraut. Continue reading

Music by Year

Another 12 months have passed. I recapped my reading during that period on Tuesday with my list of books. As I mentioned in that post, 2014 was a decent year for me as a writer with a new book, and host of bylined articles for a variety of publications.

When I’m writing, I like to listen to music—not always—but more often than not. What I enjoy listening to remains eclectic. I’m not sure I could assign a category to all of it. However, I’ve stayed true to a musical genre that I first latched onto following leaving behind theological structures that weren’t working for me. This was back in 1984. Then, my radio oasis was a commercial station in Chicago, WXRT, that played a pretty wide selection of music and bands. I first heard Husker Dü on their station, along with fellow Minneapolis rockers, the Replacements. Their late-night Friday night program, “The Big Beat,” opened me up to all kinds of new music with dissident elements, including Billy Bragg. Continue reading