The Phoenix Files

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

WOW with Kim Cooley: Kim Visits the Folks at Kimberton Chiropractic

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Financial Focus with Fred Hubler Episode 9: Tax Tips for a Recession

Friday, February 20, 2009

Joe on The Street: Joe Rooney talks to the members of PABA about stimulus package

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Barry Cassidy's Council Report for 3.18.09

New Financial Focus with Fred Hubler Episode 8

Monday, February 16, 2009

Correspondence blog continued


Slow down, my friend. Some of us went to state schools.

This post will be an attempt to answer some arguments, expand upon others, and introduce others still for future consideration.

I’ll start with your conclusion. I would whole-heartedly agree that we as yet don’t have the vocabulary to define those issues that direct the themes of the new pop culture. That, I think, is part of the point. You’ll notice in my first post that I was having some difficulty defining what is relevant to today’s consumers of pop culture, but that I had no problem pointing out what was not relevant. (Truth be told, I started that post as a cheap and easy vehicle for a swipe at Hornby. Little did I know that I would be asked to defend my ramblings.)

Lessons to be learned? Most certainly, but regarding which crises? Those that have been minimized by economic opportunity throughout the Western world? Or those crises that have arisen or persisted through our economic and cultural journey from Victorian age, though modernism and into post-modernism? (I would like to point out for the record that you and I can only be talking about those of us who live in Westernized, liberalized society. We’re the ones driving the popular culture you and I consume, and quite frankly, are the only ones bored enough to give this much thought. I wish that the six or so billion people for whom this conversation doesn’t apply were in on the fun, because it might mean that a lot of their problems [hunger, political freedom, basic security] had been solved, but unfortunately that’s not the case. God, that sounds patronizing.)

I would argue that, not unlike the U.S., much of Europe also has a race problem (see the suburbs of Paris, the south Asian minority populations in Britain, the Middle Eastern immigrants of the Netherlands, etc.) Europe CREATED our race problem, to be quite honest. Though that race problem often manifests itself as a class issue (poverty), I would further argue that the problem would resolve itself (via every American’s favorite word: opportunity) if racial barriers were lifted. Let’s be honest about the situation: Jim Crow is as alive in France as it still is in some parts of Mississippi (way to stay vigilant, Department of Justice!).

These are serious issues, indeed, but unfortunately I don’t think that the French have the capacity to comprehend the blues, so I don’t look for them to create a relevant pop culture medium to express their concern.

Whether British pop culture producers and consumers decide to let go of their obsession with class is, of course, up to them. I don’t want to give the impression that good work on class has never been done. It certainly has, and it certainly has by Brits (The Clash, anyone?). I just don’t think works that feature white, educated American or British protagonists facing class battles have much to say about the world as it presently exists.

For our part, though our issues with race are far from resolved, at least Americans managed to move ourselves to the point where an African-American could be not only a serious contender for the highest leadership position available, but obtain it. Now if only Britain could start electing bag ladies to Parliament…

I think the more interesting, and indeed important, discussion is this: What, exactly, is that confounded, indefinable issue that has us throwing class into the gutter?

Could it be that we’ve finally figured out the point of The Wasteland? (I’m claiming Eliot as an American, by the by. He was born here, so he’s ours). Is it that we’ve finally found ourselves among “a heap of broken images, where the sun beats/And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief/And the dry stone no sound of water.”? Is it that we’ve swung away from a discussion of our interactions, economic and social, with each other to a new movement of self-examination? Eliot was pointing out, among other things, that we find ourselves lost in a place where the old explanations no longer make any sense, and all of the old comforts are no longer available. The indefinable is the issue.

I find this whole idea, that what we face now as a society is not an inability to interact with others, but is an inability to define, understand and, therefore, accept what’s happened to us as human beings while we were off pursuing other things (wealth, power, God, love, whatever), fascinating. The question is not whether we are, because who can answer that without being glib? The question is what we are as individuals, and the authors, musicians and artists that seem to hold my attention more are the ones who seem to recognize that. I really don’t care how much money is in my bank account (that would seem obvious to anyone who knows what those of us in this line of work make). I do care that what defined the world for our parents, our parents’ parents, and so on, no longer makes sense and I’m at a loss for anything that does.

I named Palahniuk in my original post as someone who’s work I have paid attention to for a number of reasons. One of those was a line that stuck with me the moment I read it, one that says a lot about what I think we now face: “Our Great War is a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives.” A little emo? Yeah, but he’s right. And what I love more about that line than the observation is that there are no answers contained therein. Hell, there aren’t even answers contained in the book it comes from. He doesn’t even try to offer any. In fact, he goes out of his way to create a character that’s so lost he ends up biting his own critique. What does that say about us?

What does it mean that more and more of us no longer take comfort in the basic political and economic luxuries afforded the West, those comforts that kept our parents and our parents’ parents from waking up at 3 a.m. screaming? In the clearest example of what cable television can do to talent, one of my favorite political maxims was generated by a man who Comedy Central made out to be a boorish lout. Doug Stanhope has a bit about the disillusion comes to when you think about what bureaucracy has done to the basic social contract. I paraphrase, kinda: “They say, ‘Give a man to fish, he eats for a day.’ Teach a man to fish… and he has to get a fishing license, but he doesn’t because it costs too much and the line’s too long. We aren’t free. We’re born free, we get screwed out of half of it and we wave miniature flags to celebrate that fact.” What does the fact that I get where he’s coming from say about me, or the group of people in the club during the recording of that bit that burst into thunderous applause?

(This is the one and only blog post, hopefully ever, that will have quoted both T.S. Eliot and Doug Stanhope.)

Skip, I think you nailed it with “slim hope.” The two modes of thought about what drives the world are utterly divergent. Gender, race and class are poor yardsticks for measuring what holds the human race back these days (I confess, I stole that thought from an Against Me! song). Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe there is something definable in what moves the world in the post-modern era. But if we are still, as we humans have ever been, chasing “absolute truth,” doesn’t it make sense that we’d be unable to put a name to it? Have we finally figured out that there is no such thing? Are we scared yet? I am.

I’ll leave you with that. Before I sign off, I do have to point out that I really am enjoying this. It makes me feel like good old Dr. Sam Johnson. Now there was an Englishman with something to say.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Into the Vacuous

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Conversations with Nick: Class Issues in Popular Culture

Dear Nick:

Thanks for your February 9 post. How can I help get you out of your editor’s chair for just long enough each week to write regularly? You have a fan here. And I’m not alone.

I will for quite a long time owe you conversational royalties for the line about good writers as “people who can use the English language in ways that we should want to remember.” I especially appreciated the use of the imperative there.

[Note to readers of this open post: No, Nick does not sign my checks, so don’t even think that I have any other agenda here than the one plainly stated. Ahem.]

Now to your central point, as I understand it, that “within the structure of our popular culture, class has been obliterated. We, regardless of our income, watch the same shows and films, listen to the same music, go to the same clubs (in atmosphere, if not exactly the same ones), do the same drugs, etc.” British authors, as you say, “won’t let this idea go.”

Two things.

Thing one: they can’t, and they probably won’t. Because for good or ill the issue remains a constitutive element of the very cultural air breathed there, popular and not — with the same sort of effects as CO concentrations over London have on the public health. With the same historical sources, and probably just as long-lasting.

Thing two: in that sense, class issues in the UK probably have their closest US analog in race. With the same sort of long-lasting distortions of any notion we might otherwise harbor of our common humanity.

Okay, three things.

Thing three: I’ve often wondered, as you do, about why we play and replay, to significant box offices, viewership and readership those scenes with Lord Larry — PBS is now even now assembling UK productions of some classic screen texts as “The Complete (or is it “Compleat?”) Jane Austen — when, after all, the Lord Larrys and our heroines’ predicaments have long since turned to vapor.

I have a hunch, but I’d like your take on this, that we simply do not know how to give proper names to the contemporary forms that distortions to our common humanity take under the influence of fundamental social divisions. We knew the shape they took then, though, and perhaps there’s a slim hope that we’ll learn something about now from the then. Or take strength from our heroines, less victims than fighters.

And so, here, we will watch replays of “From Montgomery to Memphis” a few more than a half-dozen times this month.

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Financial Focus with Fred Hubler

Monday, February 9, 2009

Elevating Discourse Since 2009

Good Morning: I was disappointed to open the Editorial Page of today's Phoenix to see that you saw it fit to give column space to a man that denies the man made existence of global warming and that something should be done to fix the problem. It is sad because I have followed the markedly conservative bend in the Ed. Page and I believe that all common sense has been lost by your staff and your parent company. Because my expectations are so low for the trash syndicate writers you choose to print, I would not be surprised to open the paper on Monday and see a piece that is headlined "False Claims of German Jews on their Treatment in the 20th Century" or "African Americans Overreacting to Perceived Rascism by KKK" or "Shoe Wearing and Non-Pregnant Women Chastized for Working Outside the Home". It is all crazy and need to stop. I have a dog that eats his own feces. It is a gross habit but he just sneaks off when I am not looking and chows away at a big pile of his own (or other dogs) waste. Every once in a while, perhaps a couple of times a week, he gets too much or a bad batch and vomits it all over the floor. It is a smelly mess that is mixed with real food and water. A hot steaming puddle of slop that makes me feel ill because I just witnessed a helpless little thing puke dog shit. I usually can't get the smell out of the house right away. Feces, stomach fluid, and that fake bacon smell that they put in dog food is not a mixture you want for a potpourrii. It lingers for a while. You have to find the right cleaner and plenty of paper towels. You don't want to get that vile mess on your hands. It was the same feeling I shared when I read your paper today. I will be posting this email on my blog. If you choose to respond, I will post your response. As for reading your paper, there is no sense. There is nothing that you cover that anyone wants to read. Do you need to have the lady with the face transplant on the front page of the website? There was a time that I bouth the paper 3 times a week and actully read it (Monday, Wed, and Thurs. or Skip, KWill, and Rettew)

(signed by)
Mr. E. Toohey

Our Response:

MAN-BEAR-PIG IS REAL! I'm super cereal guys.

Posted by,
Buford T. Justice and E. Bo. Gain

See we can use fake names too! (And ours aren't pretentious)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New Financial Focus with Fred Hubler

Monday, February 2, 2009

The I's Have It

I’ve learned many important lessons during my time here as the Online Editor of Phoenixville Newspapers from people I have come to consider both mentors and peers, as well as those whom I hold in lesser regard. One lesson that I have found to be the most valuable came as a result of feeling professionally slighted. The lesson deals with the difference between integrity and reputation. There is an old saying: “Reputation is like glass, easily broken but next to impossible to mend.” This is a lesson that I have tried to take to heart in all of my endeavors in life.
However, what I have come to learn in these past few months is that the importance of reputation pales in comparison to one’s integrity. The reason for this, I have come to understand, is due to the fact that in life we are often confronted with decisions that put us at odds with the “majority.” I put the word majority in quotations because another lesson I learned through the sometimes painful process of life is that “majority” does not always mean what the greatest number of people in a community agree is a common good, but rather what serves the interest of those at the head of the table.
Sometimes we are placed in a position that we must make a decision that throws itself in the face of prudence, the consequences of which can reverberate through our lifetime. One such consequence is the irrevocable tarnishing of our reputation. This can often be a bitter pill to swallow, one that turns our stomach and can create both disappointment and resentment from those whose opinions truly matter.
But in the silent solitary moments which we take to survey the road we have traveled, reputation is only the slightest of considerations. What I have found to be the Polaris of our journey is what remains of our integrity. When we tally the mistakes and regrets we have inescapably accumulated, that we can look ours in the mirror and know that Shakespeare’s words still hold sway: “to thine own self be true.”

Posted by
J. Matthew Byrd

Barry Cassidy's Report to Borough Council

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