Randomness #1

After more than 12 years of blogging, I’m not sure what it is that I want to write about anymore. For more than a decade I’ve written about books, politics, self-help, workforce development, aging—and a host of other topics. Lately, I’ve been posting frequently about America’s spiral downward towards something less than we are as a nation. Honestly, I don’t know what we’ll be as a nation  in another five years, let alone 20. I’m guessing I won’t be enamored with the visual.

I don’t want to write about that today. Politics is off the table, too—I’ve decided to take a break from weighing-in on anything political.

Sports is a topic that many people like to talk and debate. These days, it often seems like the flipside of politics, at least in the greater-Boston market.

So for today, I’ll just pick a few random things I’ve observed over the past week. Continue reading

A Change is Gonna Come

When I launched this website back in 2012, I never intended it to be overtly political. The Jim Baumer Experience was me attempting to establish my personal brand, and this site (and blog) have played a part in that process. Life is a lot different these days.

Work is now a combination of freelance opportunities, with other fairly interesting part-time gigs rounding out the mix. I’m not sure how I want to write about all of that, at least not in the context of this blog.

Politics lately has taken up more of my blogging time than I intended. Over the past few weeks, I’ve made a valiant effort to reason and write about what’s going on from where I sit. Basically, it’s gotten me nowhere. How can you reason with people who have lost their minds and lack any historical context for anything that they believe?

What is it that I really love to do and would spend most of my waking hours engaged in if making money and paying bills weren’t the bane of my mortal existence? The answer would be, write. And likely, it wouldn’t be writing about politics, either.

I won’t promise that you’ll never see another political post here at the JBE, but I can say that you won’t be seeing one in the near future. Continue reading

Rust Never Sleeps

Just because all the news that’s fit to print emanates from Manhattan in no way means that New York City is the epicenter of the information universe. In fact, the traditional centers of news and commerce might actually be some of the last places that receive the memo that American greatness is in its twilight fade.

I like getting my communiques from other places, with names like Flint, Michigan, Youngstown, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana. These once great manufacturing hubs are examples of what happens to empires when the middle’s hollowed out. Of course, politicians feign interest in some of these places simply because it’s the silly season and they’re out on the stump for votes and gathering super delegates.

No movies, today (Gary, Indiana).

No movies, today (Gary, Indiana).

Belt Magazine publishes longform, investigative journalism—another tradition from America’s past that’s all but disappeared—about the Rust Belt. And as Belt’s founder, Anne Trubek, notes, while many national publications have picked up on a few trends highlighting “revitalization” and “cool hipster breweries,” these are simply one “pole” of a larger narrative, one that also must address our urban ruins, like parts of Detroit. Continue reading

Amazon Was Here

Retail is a mixed bag across the country. Malls in smaller cities are struggling, as former anchor tenants like Sears and J.C. Penney have closed stores, and many smaller shops have shuttered. Larger retail has shifted to shopping complexes anchored by a Walmart or other big-box store. Drive through any community other than Portland and notice the abundance of unfilled retail space.

The late, great Bookland Store sits vacant at Cook's Corner, in Brunswick.

The late, great Bookland Store sits vacant at Cook’s Corner, in Brunswick.

Smaller malls and shopping centers were popping up all over the place in Maine three decades ago. This pretty much sealed the deal for Mom and Pop small hardware stores and other locally-owned shopping options. Now, many of those same strip malls and retail havens have multiple vacant storefronts. Continue reading

Sitting on Our High Horses

Politics often turn into morality plays. Each side sees their cause/candidate as morally superior to the other. That’s particularly problematic when the choice is a binary one.

In my opinion, it’s a shame how historically illiterate we’ve become. We seem to have forgotten our past. It shouldn’t be too hard to look back 50 years and see parallels between a candidate like Donald Trump, with appeals made to white, working-class people, and a Democrat (who later ran as an third party candidate) like George Wallace.

Of course, the brain-addled, responding like dogs to a whistle, immediately whip out their “racist” or “fascist” signs when presented with Wallace’s name because they’ve been trained to do so. Partly this is due to the small-minded lacking the ability to go any broader than that. You shouldn’t feel too bad. Wallace got the same treatment 50 years ago from the same groups of people, mainly the elite media, liberals, and other high-minded types.

There are several books that look at Wallace much more broadly than do leftist media heroes with an agenda—like Rachel Maddow at MSNBC. She’s probably one of the best at taking a thimble worth of history and turning it into that night’s hour-long screed against her chosen villain. Here’s the CliffsNotes version: Republicans were stupid before and now, they are stupid again.

Even Amy Goodman, who I once thought had some journalistic integrity, seems intent of painting with a brush designed to obfuscate rather than illuminate. Ah, the American media—mainstream or the alt-variety—as useless as they’ve ever been. Continue reading

An Angry Nation Awaits

I remember J.C. Watts as a nimble quarterback, running Barry Switzer’s Oklahoma Sooners’ wishbone offense around the same time I was firing fastballs past opposition hitters. This was 1979 or 1980, and OU played a brand of football that valued the run and a quarterback that ran first and passing was secondary. Much different than today’s throw-happy college and pro games.

Watts would later go on and play in the Canadian Football League after college. What he’s best known for however, is his time as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he represented Oklahoma’s 4th district from 1995 until 2003. A Republican and a conservative, Watts was the only African-American during the mid-1990s who did not join the Congressional Black Caucus.

It’s interesting how important it has become for blacks like Watts to toe some kind of political line and align monolithically with Democrats. They are supposed to be liberals, and favor government giveaways and all manner of shibboleths that have become the equivalent of commandments over the past 50 years.

I caught Watts being interviewed Wednesday morning by Greta Brawner on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal program. The topic was Trump and the damage that Il Duce is inflicting on the party that Watts is still a member of.

A former athlete and most recently, a politician, Watts is also an ordained minister. He’s articulate and soft-spoken—qualities that Mr. Trump hasn’t exhibited at all during his scorched earth tour for president. Continue reading

My Mind’s Made Up

Politics makes otherwise decent people take leave of their senses. Nowhere is this truer than during the horserace leading up to presidential elections. Discussions of religious matters comes in a distant second, I think.

I was reading something in the blogosphere and the writer mentioned that “Irrationality is the foundation of our national politics, fueled by subjective preferences.” I would agree.

What other explanation is there for the constant haranguing of the other side on Facebook? “My candidate is better than your candidate,” and vice versa. Liberals malign conservatives, and conservatives bash liberals. Back and forth it goes. There is a certain smugness that accompanies one’s choice, also. Continue reading

Publishing Progression

When I got into publishing, it was mainly a method to get my first book to market.  I started out knowing very little. At the time, indie publishing (what most call, “self-publishing”) wasn’t being embraced by the likes of Amazon and others, because it hadn’t yet become a lucrative income stream for them. But self-published books have been around since books first rolled off Gutenberg’s press.

Printing's come a long way since Gutenberg's time.

Printing’s come a long way since Gutenberg’s time.

What once was the domain of legacy presses and authors who couldn’t get a book deal, now finds writers like Jamie McGuire landing on the shelves of major retailers and books like Andy Weir’s The Martian (originally self-published) are being made into Hollywood movies. Continue reading

The Graveyard Shift

The last time I worked overnights, I was in my 20s and living in Indiana. I was employed by the Indiana Department of Corrections at the time.That periods seems like eons ago.

I’m now moonlighting as a funeral attendant. Some people still call them undertakers. Some of the duties are as you’d imagine.

The last 24 hours have been particularly hectic in the funeral business.


Sometimes I get to drive the coach.